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Guest Patrick Coleman
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Guest Patrick Coleman

A long time ago, a comment was made here to the effect that Walker re-used a considerable amount of the previous Vowles pipework in the splendid instrument at Bristol Cathedral. I wondered if anyone was in a position to elucidate?

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According to the leaflet about the organ dating from 1990 ..

 

"All of the soundboards and internal mechanism were new - as was more than half of the pipework. All that was retained from the old organ was the best of the pipework and the 1685 case-fronts, now arranged side by side in the two adjoining bays of the North Choir aisle. The Gothic Choir 'case' of 1860 was removed, but stored in the hope that it might one day screen a remote Echo or Nave section. It remains in the bottom of the organ today"

 

Later in the same document (written by Ian Bell, but incorporating information from previous publications by Hubert Hunt, Clifford Harker and Malcolm Archer) we are told that "pipework by Renatus Harris survives only in the display pipes, which form the bases (sic) of the two smaller Great Diapasons and the small Principal; parts of the Great and Choir Stopped Diapasons are probably by Seede. All other pipework is Vowles or later".

 

The writers also suggest that one of the reasons that the organ is "tonally quite superb" arises from the need to "balance the new work to (sic) the more restrained old pipework, retained from the earlier organs.."

 

This confirms the comment, but doesn't really add much detail ........

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  • 4 weeks later...
According to the leaflet about the organ dating from 1990 ..

 

"All of the soundboards and internal mechanism were new - as was more than half of the pipework. All that was retained from the old organ was the best of the pipework and the 1685 case-fronts, now arranged side by side in the two adjoining bays of the North Choir aisle. The Gothic Choir 'case' of 1860 was removed, but stored in the hope that it might one day screen a remote Echo or Nave section. It remains in the bottom of the organ today"

 

Later in the same document (written by Ian Bell, but incorporating information from previous publications by Hubert Hunt, Clifford Harker and Malcolm Archer) we are told that "pipework by Renatus Harris survives only in the display pipes, which form the bases (sic) of the two smaller Great Diapasons and the small Principal; parts of the Great and Choir Stopped Diapasons are probably by Seede. All other pipework is Vowles or later".

 

The writers also suggest that one of the reasons that the organ is "tonally quite superb" arises from the need to "balance the new work to (sic) the more restrained old pipework, retained from the earlier organs.."

 

This confirms the comment, but doesn't really add much detail ........

After the Eucharist at Bristol Cathedral last Sunday (not the Sunday just gone, but the one before) I had a conversation with Paul Walton who is the cathedral's assistant organist. I gather that the cathedral's website is currently being redone (long overdue, IMO) and there will be some more detail on the organ when the new site is up.

 

Paul told me he is aware of this thread and the new site will, I gather, give details as to the age of the pipework in the organ.

 

HTH,

 

Dave

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After the Eucharist at Bristol Cathedral last Sunday (not the Sunday just gone, but the one before) I had a conversation with Paul Walton who is the cathedral's assistant organist. ...

Dave

 

Strange - I had thought that someone had posted to the effect that David Bednall is the new Assistant Organist at Bristol Cathedral? (If this is the case, it is still slightly odd, since I had understood that he left Wells Cathedral in order to return to academia - and study composition.)

 

Does anyone know exactly what is correct here, please?

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Strange - I had thought that someone had posted to the effect that David Bednall is the new Assistant Organist at Bristol Cathedral? (If this is the case, it is still slightly odd, since I had understood that he left Wells Cathedral in order to return to academia - and study composition.)

 

Does anyone know exactly what is correct here, please?

David Bednall's title is Sub organist, and Paul Walton is Assistant Organist. Slightly confusing, I agree.

 

Dave

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Thank you, Dave - but why does Bristol Cathedral need what amounts to two assistants?

Good question. To be fair, the organists have time off each year and have to deputise for each other. Mark Lee is the main organist and so Paul Walton is usually in the organ loft during the Sunday Eucharist. So I suppose that D.B would stand in for P.W if P.W wasn't around to play during the Sunday services, for example.

 

Dave

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Thank you, Dave - but why does Bristol Cathedral need what amounts to two assistants?

For the same reason as at Wells (where they have an AO and 2 organ scholars) and many other cathedrals with two choirs - one choir rehearses while the other is singing evensong. I imagine it also helps to ensure that staff can have a regular day off and everything still be covered. The standard and availability of organ scholars is also difficult to predict - this would ensure consistency. I don't think Bristol Cathedral has an organ scholar at the mo, but will double check and get back...

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For the same reason as at Wells (where they have an AO and 2 organ scholars) and many other cathedrals with two choirs - one choir rehearses while the other is singing evensong. I imagine it also helps to ensure that staff can have a regular day off and everything still be covered. The standard and availability of organ scholars is also difficult to predict - this would ensure consistency. I don't think Bristol Cathedral has an organ scholar at the mo, but will double check and get back...

 

This seems sensible from a practical point of view - although I had not considered the possibility of one choir rehearsing whilst another sang. However, it must make it rather more expensive: two professional assistants as opposed to one assistant and an organ scholar. Still, as you say, it is virtually impossible to predict how competent each year's organ scholar will be.

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This seems sensible from a practical point of view - although I had not considered the possibility of one choir rehearsing whilst another sang. However, it must make it rather more expensive: two professional assistants as opposed to one assistant and an organ scholar. Still, as you say, it is virtually impossible to predict how competent each year's organ scholar will be.

As I thought - Bristol hasn't got a scholar this year, hence Dave's involvement, 3 days a week, as Sub Organist.

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Guest Patrick Coleman

To return to the topic, I attended Holz Gedeckt's lunchtime recital at Bristol today and found an excellent exhibition hidden away behind the organ almost out of sight. There it made clear that (basically) Vowles used the Harris pipework and added to it; and Walkers used the Harris and Vowles pipework and added to that. Still not clear on any alterations in voicing and regulation - perhaps that would only be guesswork considering that 100 years have elapsed!

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For the same reason as at Wells (where they have an AO and 2 organ scholars) and many other cathedrals with two choirs - one choir rehearses while the other is singing evensong. I imagine it also helps to ensure that staff can have a regular day off and everything still be covered. The standard and availability of organ scholars is also difficult to predict - this would ensure consistency. I don't think Bristol Cathedral has an organ scholar at the mo, but will double check and get back...

 

 

I may be wrong, but I've a feeling the title was changed from "Organ Scholar" to "Sub Organist" around four or five years ago when a candidate who had already spent a few years as an organ scholar in two different establishments didn't want to be seen taking yet another organ scholarship and asked could the title be changed! ;) I suppose that it allows a certain flexibility, depending on who is around - if a fairly decent player (such as David Bednall) is around, it is fitting for him to be styled "Sub Organist" - it would be silly to refer to him as "Organ Scholar".

 

NS

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I may be wrong, but I've a feeling the title was changed from "Organ Scholar" to "Sub Organist" around four or five years ago when a candidate who had already spent a few years as an organ scholar in two different establishments didn't want to be seen taking yet another organ scholarship and asked could the title be changed! ;) I suppose that it allows a certain flexibility, depending on who is around - if a fairly decent player (such as David Bednall) is around, it is fitting for him to be styled "Sub Organist" - it would be silly to refer to him as "Organ Scholar".

 

NS

 

 

If so, have they got these terms the wrong way round?

 

I am thinking of places like Westminster Abbey and St.Paul's.

There the Sub Organist is no.2 and the Assistant Organist is no.3.

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You are quite correct, in that when they did not have a suitable candidate as organ scholar, they gave the title 'sub-organist'. However it then reverted to 'organ scholar'. This year there is no organ scholar, and it would be very strange for DB to be referred to as 'organ scholar'. But I do not think it is a permanent situation in that I'm fairly sure it's not a decision to have a 'sub-organist' in addition to an assistant organist. Hence the names being that way round.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest Patrick Coleman
As predicted in earlier posts the new Bristol Cathedral web site http://www.bristol-cathedral.co.uk/index.php?id=32 provides a lot more information about the organ that I have not seen before, particularly regarding the extent of the Vowles pipework retained in the 1907 Walker rebuild.

 

Thanks for this - I had noticed when looking for Tuesday lunchtime recitals.

 

The obvious follow-on question is: if, as seems likely, the Bristol Cathedral organ is one of the finest of its type, should not Vowles, rather than Walkers, take at least some of the credit?

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Thanks for this - I had noticed when looking for Tuesday lunchtime recitals.

 

The obvious follow-on question is: if, as seems likely, the Bristol Cathedral organ is one of the finest of its type, should not Vowles, rather than Walkers, take at least some of the credit?

 

I think that the Walker rebuild of 1907 was fairly comprehensive. I further suspect that the instrument was largely revoiced in the 'Walker' style of the time, since it sounds similar to one or two other Walker instruments of a similar vintage.

 

Perhaps Ian Ball can shed further light on the subject.

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I think that the Walker rebuild of 1907 was fairly comprehensive. I further suspect that the instrument was largely revoiced in the 'Walker' style of the time, since it sounds similar to one or two other Walker instruments of a similar vintage.

 

Perhaps Ian Ball can shed further light on the subject.

'Fraid I can't be more precise than "a lot of Vowles". It is 12 years since I was there...and at the time people seemed more interested in the amount of surviving Harris and Seede pipework, and whether conserving the pneumatics (some notes having 12 possible points of adjustment) was wise. Perhaps Manders can shed some light on the pipework question?

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I think that the Walker rebuild of 1907 was fairly comprehensive. I further suspect that the instrument was largely revoiced in the 'Walker' style of the time, since it sounds similar to one or two other Walker instruments of a similar vintage.

 

Somewhere in our files there is a proposed specification from Walkers, with annotations by Hubert Hunt (organist at the time), which indicate certain stops 'not to be revoiced'. I'll have a look for it when I've got more time, but I'm sure it includes the Great Small Open and Small Principal, and possibly the Swell Open and Principal as well. There is also an article that Hunt wrote for a local paper which mentions the old stops remaining as before, saying something like 'neither improved nor ruined according to your point of view'. There's no evidence that Walkers did what Willis did at Wells, so I assume the basic chorus ranks sound pretty much as they did pre-Walker (except for the removal of the tierce in the Great Mixture). However, contrary to some old specifications which have either the Swell or Great Clarion (they disagree) as being old pipework, when I did the pipework analysis that's on the website, Cawstons were adamant that all the reeds are entirely Walker.

 

Paul Walton

Assistant Organist, Bristol Cathedral

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Somewhere in our files there is a proposed specification from Walkers, with annotations by Hubert Hunt (organist at the time), which indicate certain stops 'not to be revoiced'. I'll have a look for it when I've got more time, but I'm sure it includes the Great Small Open and Small Principal, and possibly the Swell Open and Principal as well. There is also an article that Hunt wrote for a local paper which mentions the old stops remaining as before, saying something like 'neither improved nor ruined according to your point of view'. There's no evidence that Walkers did what Willis did at Wells, so I assume the basic chorus ranks sound pretty much as they did pre-Walker (except for the removal of the tierce in the Great Mixture). However, contrary to some old specifications which have either the Swell or Great Clarion (they disagree) as being old pipework, when I did the pipework analysis that's on the website, Cawstons were adamant that all the reeds are entirely Walker.

 

Paul Walton

Assistant Organist, Bristol Cathedral

 

Here is the specification of the organ as rebuilt by W.G. Vowles, in 1860:

 

PEDAL ORGAN (CCC to F, 30 notes)

 

Open Diapason 16

Bourdon 16

Principal 8

 

CHOIR ORGAN (GG to G, 61 notes)

 

Stopped Diapason (treble) 8

Stopped Diapason (bass) 8

Dulciana (gamut G) 8

Principal 4

Flute 4

Piccolo 2

Clarinet (Tenor C) 8

 

GREAT ORGAN (GG to G, 61 notes)

 

Open Diapason No. 1 8

Open Diapason No. 2 8

Stopped Diapason

Clarabella (gamut G) 8

Principal No. 1 4

Principal No. 2 4

Twelfth 2 2/3

Flfteenth 2

Sesquialtera IV

Mixture II

Trumpet (CC) 8

Clarion (CC) 4

 

SWELL ORGAN (Gamut G to G, 49 notes. Keys to GG acting on the Choir Organ)

 

Double Dulciana 16

Open Diapason 8

Stopped Diapason 8

Principal 4

Harmonic Flute 4

Twelfth 2 2/3

Fifteenth

Mixture II

Cornopean 8

Trumpet 8

Hautboy 8

 

COUPLERS

 

Pedal Octave

Choir to Pedals

Great to Pedals

Swell to Pedals

Swell to Choir

Swell to Great

Swell Octave to Great

 

ACCESSORIES

 

Three composition pedals to the Great Organ

Three composition pedals to the Swell Organ

Two composition pedals for Great to Pedal

 

In 1860, the Choir Screen was removed and the organ, after rebuilding and enlargement (to the above specification), erected on the north side of the Quire, in the third bay east of the tower. At this time, much old pipe-work was retained from the former instrument, including the G.O. reeds and the lower portions of the diapasons and principals on the same clavier. However, several substitutions and additions were made, and the action was entirely renewed.

 

The instrument was tuned to a form of unequal temperament tuning until 1867. In 1882, a pneumatic lever was added to the G.O. and its attendant couplers, the work again being undertaken by W. G. Vowles. In 1901, electric blowing was provided.

 

The only other alteration to the 'Vowles' organ took place in 1894-5, when the entire instrument was taken down and re-erected one bay further west. For a time, the organ was left in a dismantled condition, while an unsuccessful attempt was made to collect sufficient funds for a thorough rebuild.

 

More later (it is now 00h40).

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