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Fitting Huge Organs Into Small Places


Guest Lee Blick
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Guest Lee Blick

Have you been to a church or venue where there is a big organ, much larger you would expect for the size of the building? I am talking about pipe organs here (not digital or hybrids)

 

Tell me about them.

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Have you been to a church or venue where there is a big organ, much larger you would expect for the size of the building? I am talking about pipe organs here (not digital or hybrids)

 

Tell me about them.

 

 

Oh yes. Several.

Don't knock it!! Commonly, people say that size isn't important, as far as pipe organs are concerned (frankly) size can be very useful. Our stops are like an artist's pallette. You can't mix using colours you don't have!

 

If I had to pick one example of a real surprise, it is in the tiny Cotswold Church at Ilmington, not far from Stratford. It started life as a DIY job; as I understand it, the project failed and someone then forked out pretty decently and Nicholsons made a good job of it (this must be getting on for twenty years ago now). As you enter the church, there is no sign of an organ at all. You anticipate an organ-substitute, possibly a mouldy harmonium. You go round the corner from a small medieval nave into the South Transept and there it is, taking up roughly half the volume of said transept - a complete three-decker with more or less everything you would expect to find in a major parish church. A thoroughly nice job, wish it were mine.

 

St.Clements Oxford used to have a large five manual - this has been reduced to a four since I knew it. Spoilsports!

 

Not wanting (you understand) to rub this in and make other people jealous of my space: where I am currently re-building my house organ, the barn boasts a space 20' by 40' long with more than 16' into the roof pitch. My project is planned for 129 stops. Don't tell me I would be just as well off with 9 or 10! I don't want to know. If I am lucky and I squeeze all my organ material in, there will be a space about 12' square left with the eight manuals of the two consoles in it, the rest will be solid organ, more-or-less floor to ceiling.

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Guest Barry Williams
Have you been to a church or venue where there is a big organ, much larger you would expect for the size of the building? I am talking about pipe organs here (not digital or hybrids)

 

Tell me about them.

 

St Jude's Thornton Heath. Willis III, totally enclosed and simply gorgeous.

 

Barry Williams

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St Jude's Thornton Heath. Willis III, totally enclosed and simply gorgeous.

 

Barry Williams

 

 

Not arguing with you, Barry, [God forfend!] but to head off any of our readers who decide to travel South to see this marvel...

 

the Willis III left St.Judes quite a few years ago now. I believe that its first staging post in a journey away from these shores altogether (if rumour is correct) involved Carlo Curley buying it outright. He has since sold it on, I believe.

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Guest Lee Blick
Oh yes. Several.

Don't knock it!! Commonly, people say that size isn't important, as far as pipe organs are concerned (frankly) size can be very useful. Our stops are like an artist's pallette. You can't mix using colours you don't have!

 

If I had to pick one example of a real surprise, it is in the tiny Cotswold Church at Ilmington, not far from Stratford. It started life as a DIY job; as I understand it, the project failed and someone then forked out pretty decently and Nicholsons made a good job of it (this must be getting on for twenty years ago now). As you enter the church, there is no sign of an organ at all. You anticipate an organ-substitute, possibly a mouldy harmonium. You go round the corner from a small medieval nave into the South Transept and there it is, taking up roughly half the volume of said transept - a complete three-decker with more or less everything you would expect to find in a major parish church. A thoroughly nice job, wish it were mine.

 

St.Clements Oxford used to have a large five manual - this has been reduced to a four since I knew it. Spoilsports!

 

Not wanting (you understand) to rub this in and make other people jealous of my space: where I am currently re-building my house organ, the barn boasts a space 20' by 40' long with more than 16' into the roof pitch. My project is planned for 129 stops. Don't tell me I would be just as well off with 9 or 10! I don't want to know. If I am lucky and I squeeze all my organ material in, there will be a space about 12' square left with the eight manuals of the two consoles in it, the rest will be solid organ, more-or-less floor to ceiling.

 

Has this design some way been inspired a certain Mr Bournias? :lol:

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I remember attending a final organ recital in the Wagnersaal of the Musikverein in Vienna. The organ (III/35), built by Rieger in 1982 took up the whole of one wall in what was really a large room rather than a real hall. My memory, of that event long ago, is that the room seated about 30 people.

 

Looking on the web, I see that the organ was moved in 1991 to a new venue, the Anton-Heiller-Saal in what was the Ursulinerinnen Monastery, where the organ and church music department is now based. I can't find information on the size of this hall, but I assume it is also a largish room as all the larger spaces retain the names they had when I was a student there. Can anyone help here?

 

An example of large not having to equate with overpowering for the space.

 

If you are visiting Vienna, it is worth attending Mass on Sunday morning if the church music choir is singing. Beautiful church, gorgeous acoustics. (St. Ursula, in the first district, organ built by Hradetzky in 1968)

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Has this design some way been inspired a certain Mr Bournias? :blink:

Without doubt, no. I think one might reasonably surmise that only 129 stops - no disrespect here, cynic - is surely much too small to satisfy such lofty ambitions. Would the aim not be to create by far the largest organ in the British isles? Would not its mighty Pedal division be underscored by an incomparable Eclair 64'? And how could two mere 4 manual consoles suffice, when a certain little chapel in Rome - name of St Peter's, I think - was to be blessed with one of 10? B)

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Mentioning a 64' stop (hypothetical though it may be) reminds me of a story - quite probably apocryphal, but one never knows ... - that when Sid Noad lowered the pitch of the Sydney Town Hall organ in the late 30s, he had considerable difficulty regulating the 64' Contra-Trombone. Some of the pipes, it is said, spoke as half-length 128' monsters. Now there would be a lofty ambition!

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Have you been to a church or venue where there is a big organ, much larger you would expect for the size of the building? I am talking about pipe organs here (not digital or hybrids)

 

Tell me about them.

 

 

========================

 

Hah! Beaten to St.Jude's, Thornton Heath.....that was huge for a small-ish church.

 

There are two in Manchester.

 

Firstly the cathedral, which isn't really a big building at all, but it's a fairly huge cathedral organ.

 

Then the Town Hall, which is a very modest building with a 5-manual.

 

I think Hull City Hall must also fit into the equation somewhere, because it is not a very large hall, but the organ is enormous, with 7,500 pipes.....5th or 6th largest in the UK?

 

As I play a rather small organ, I think I should distance myself from this topic!

 

MM

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Mention of the Isle of Wight on another thread brought to mind this organ, which presumably still exists. The church is a fairly typical country church - it is by no means large (there are no good photos on the net; the one halfway down this page gives the best impression). The organ was, I believe, the largest on the IoW and quite horrid; it sounded distinctly "under-voiced" and underwhelming. Acoustically the church was completely dead - the sound came out of the pipes and immediately fell flat on the floor - so any builder here would have been fighting a losing battle.

 

Back in the 60s the church had quite a decent organist - chap called Reginald Ridett. He and Arthur Starke from nearby Monk's Farm used to arrange impressive summer recitals here. Many of the big names of the day played.

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Not arguing with you, Barry, [God forfend!] but to head off any of our readers who decide to travel South to see this marvel...

 

the Willis III left St.Judes quite a few years ago now. I believe that its first staging post in a journey away from these shores altogether (if rumour is correct) involved Carlo Curley buying it outright. He has since sold it on, I believe.

 

I think it's now in Japan.

 

AJJ

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Does anyone else know St Thomas the Martyr in the Haymarket, Newcastle? http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N04095

 

A very modest sized building but the organ is very exciting to hear. A little less satisfying to play due to the very remote position of the console and a long delay! Having said that I still enjoy practicing there several times a year, when getting ready for something that needs more than the two manuals offered by my own church's Nicholson.

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This is squeezed rather ingeniously into a 'difficult' shaped chamber in a smallish church. The whole effect however is surprisingly good - not only for 'repertoire' but also for the High Anglican liturgical effects required here.

 

AJJ

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Does anyone else know St Thomas the Martyr in the Haymarket, Newcastle? http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N04095

 

A very modest sized building but the organ is very exciting to hear. A little less satisfying to play due to the very remote position of the console and a long delay! Having said that I still enjoy practicing there several times a year, when getting ready for something that needs more than the two manuals offered by my own church's Nicholson.

 

Aha! Thank you for this link, Charles.

 

I have now found another Harrison organ whose console possesses curved stop-jambs. This makes five. (The Royal Festival Hall, Manchester Cathedral, The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, Coventry Cathedral and now the Church of Saint Thomas the Martyr, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.) Does anyone know of other H&H organs which have this feature?

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Aha! Thank you for this link, Charles.

 

I have now found another Harrison organ whose console possesses curved stop-jambs. This makes five. (The Royal Festival Hall, Manchester Cathedral, The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, Coventry Cathedral and now the Church of Saint Thomas the Martyr, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.) Does anyone know of other H&H organs which have this feature?

 

Possibly also the Colston Hall?

 

AJJ

 

Or after some quick research (and not being able to deleate the above) - perhaps not!!!

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This is squeezed rather ingeniously into a 'difficult' shaped chamber in a smallish church. The whole effect however is surprisingly good - not only for 'repertoire' but also for the High Anglican liturgical effects required here.

Is the Vox Humana really in its own swell box which is in another swell box within the main box of the swell division, therefore under three "leves" of expression? Like, wow!

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Does anyone else know St Thomas the Martyr in the Haymarket, Newcastle? http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N04095

 

A very modest sized building but the organ is very exciting to hear. A little less satisfying to play due to the very remote position of the console and a long delay! Having said that I still enjoy practicing there several times a year, when getting ready for something that needs more than the two manuals offered by my own church's Nicholson.

I made a good recording there a few years ago ( will have to listen to it tonight) with the organist, Martin Charlton, and as you say, the cosole is at the opposite end of the church nearly, makes visiting organists very wary B)

Peter

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Is the Vox Humana really in its own swell box which is in another swell box within the main box of the swell division, therefore under three "leves" of expression? Like, wow!

 

Yes - as are various other bits and pieces (Swell and Solo reeds and some of the celestes - if you check the spec. this becomes clearer) under double expression - a Schoenstein speciality. There is an amazing recording of this organ (now unfortunately out of print) on the PRO ORGANO label - solo organ music and choir items showing its complete spectrum together with some superb organ playing and choir work.

 

AJJ

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Possibly also the Colston Hall?

 

AJJ

 

Or after some quick research (and not being able to deleate the above) - perhaps not!!!

The 1980/81 console at Huddersfield Town Hall has curved jambs. Alas, it doesn't look as though the "Borough Organist" post, so successfully filled by Gordon Stewart there for many years, is to be continued. Shame.

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Possibly also the Colston Hall?

 

AJJ

 

Or after some quick research (and not being able to deleate the above) - perhaps not!!!

 

I think you were right first time Alistair - this is a slightly better shot http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/jayanne/bdoa/Co...0Organ%201.html

 

And have a look at the third picture down on this page - http://www.ronnykrippner.com/5.html - you can see the curvature of the right hand jamb.

 

Graham

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I think you were right first time Alistair - this is a slightly better shot http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/jayanne/bdoa/Co...0Organ%201.html

 

And have a look at the third picture down on this page - http://www.ronnykrippner.com/5.html - you can see the curvature of the right hand jamb.

 

Graham

 

Thanks Graham - I put it down to my eyesight at first - and I should really have gone to the Bristol & District Organists Association site first as I am actually a member!

 

AJJ

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Possibly also the Colston Hall?

 

AJJ

 

Or after some quick research (and not being able to deleate the above) - perhaps not!!!

 

No - you and Graham are correct (if this does not sound confusing).

 

The photograph is misleading - I have a monochrome version, taken flat-on, in Laurence Elvin's book The Harrison Story. The Colston Hall organ definitely has curved jambs on the console - I had forgotten about this one.

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The 1980/81 console at Huddersfield Town Hall has curved jambs. Alas, it doesn't look as though the "Borough Organist" post, so successfully filled by Gordon Stewart there for many years, is to be continued. Shame.

 

 

==========================

 

 

It's difficult not to avoid getting political when you see something like this.

 

I suppose they'll still be having pop-concerts; so we can rest assured that art is not dead in Huddersfield....or Bradford, or Halifax, or Sheffield, or most places, coming to think of it.

 

I wonder what they'll all sing when they're in retirement homes?

 

B)

 

MM

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Aha! Thank you for this link, Charles.

 

I have now found another Harrison organ whose console possesses curved stop-jambs. This makes five. (The Royal Festival Hall, Manchester Cathedral, The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, Coventry Cathedral and now the Church of Saint Thomas the Martyr, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.) Does anyone know of other H&H organs which have this feature?

 

St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne

 

T. C. Lewis 1891, restored by H&H with new console with curved stop-jambs. Also had a HN&B console before this one.

 

Josh

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