Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Harrison Harmonics


Recommended Posts

As time goes on, I find I have more and more respect for the Compton firm's work. There was real innovation and a way of breaking the mould, which I'm not sure has really been seen since in this country. We should remember that it was common on Compton adverts for them to say words to the effect that, if you want something cheap then look elsewhere, and I think that the philosophy of manufacture underpinning this was lost by the production of cheap extension organs, mainly facilitated by the massive reduction in costs of the development of electrical components and the labour required to put them together.

 

The cheap alternative tarnished the original brand. Now however, with modern developments we could marry the quality with the price control and achieve the best of both worlds.

 

AJS

 

Hi

 

You can't blame Compton (and certain other firms) for seeing and responding to the ever-present market for budget price organs. I suspect that's why Compton developed their electronic add-ons as a stand-alone instrument. The market still exists - these days it's, in the main, filled by the cheaper end of the digital organ spectrum. Prioer to WW2 it was often populated with larger 2mp reed organs.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi

 

You can't blame Compton (and certain other firms) for seeing and responding to the ever-present market for budget price organs. I suspect that's why Compton developed their electronic add-ons as a stand-alone instrument. The market still exists - these days it's, in the main, filled by the cheaper end of the digital organ spectrum. Prioer to WW2 it was often populated with larger 2mp reed organs.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

Well, you can if they turn out not to be budget-priced in the long run. Not that this applies to Compton, of course, whose instruments seem to have lasted rather well, on the whole.

 

Paul

Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, you can if they turn out not to be budget-priced in the long run. Not that this applies to Compton, of course, whose instruments seem to have lasted rather well, on the whole.

 

Paul

This is part of the point. Compton organs were not cheap, and with good reason if you look at the amount of labour required to manufacture them with the materials and techniques available at the time. Ladder switches and then solid state negated a lot of this, and in many cases, things were done cheaply because they could be. The original ethos of a different technique produced to a high standard was lost. What we lack now is anyone who can run to the same high standards using that technique. The cost saving over a standard disposition instrument of the same size is self evident, and this is where the strength could now lie. Even though Comptons manufactured a budget range, I really think we should not lump the major works of the firm in with that of the budget unit organs that followed post war, although some of them by Walkers, Manders etc were perfectly good musical instruments.

 

I can think of a quote from Michael Gillingham from about 25 years ago saying something to the effect that Compton extension organs were a curiosity, and that we can do so much better by producing small independent rank instruments instead. This is a very traditional point of view, and very easy to support from a traditionalist standpoint. To a greater extent the organbuilder's side can agree with this - of course the organist wants as many stops for his money as he can and extension is a way he can have it. On the other hand, the church musician and businessman looks at a missed opportunity, and a chance to do better for a client. Witness the thread on Nottingham, supported by Tony's view above. We can face the challenges of the competition, and the reasoning behind the choices made, but trotting out the same mantra with the same product is not always a solution. You can have high quality extension organs that last, and do their job admirably. We have enough Comptons still around to prove it.

 

AJS

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
I believe the Leicester Cathedral Harmonics IV (17-19-21-22) was replaced with a quint mixture (19-22-26-29) in 1972. I partly agree that the new English style Trumpets of 1998 do not have much impact but they certainly blend. I played the organ reasonably frequently when I was a pupil at Leicester Grammar School in the 1980s which was then next door to the cathedral. I rather liked the Trombas and their ultra-smooth tone - they had character. The Quint mixture is more versatile but it would have been beneficial to have had both mixtures.

 

I like the Harmonics and find it anything but useless if voiced well and in a sympathetic acoustic.

 

I was brought up on this Cathedral organ when a teenager under the tutorship of Dr George Gray who knew the instrument through and through. Therefore it was a memory that I treasure as he taught how to use it in the ways that brought it into existence. The first time I ever heard the Harmonics was listening to the previous person's lesson whilst I waited in the Nave; it was the semi-quaver runs that just precede the final magisterial pedal entry of BWV 545 - which used the enormous pedal reeds; the Great Trombas being brought fully on for the final cadence. All (now I have lived a little!) being redolent of an 'Edwardian' style, of which the organ was a prime example, albeit constructed sometime later. It was quite impossible to 'go Baroque' but everything was a unity. (As somebody else has commented - take one thing a way from the total scheme, and all falls apart. How very true.) Therefore, with a new organist who brought an entirely different approach to playing such an instrument (I had lessons with him when George retired), it just didn't work - hence the new mixture coming along on the Gt and a Larigot plopped on the Choir!) This was all at a time when a new generation of players was emerging. I seem to remember the craze of taking off a Large Open Diapason and replacing it with a Quint Mixture. Didn't this happen at King's College, Cambridge? Recordings of continental organs (and the emergence of the ability to travel reasonably), made some folk feel inadequate with their instruments as they strove for clear polyphony - frequently with dire results for another generation to rectify or throw out.

At Leicester (when the Quint Mixture appeared), the Large Open lost its leather! When the last rebuild happened and the Trumpets added, the Trombas were packed away and they are still within the curtilage if the Cathedral as far as I know.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

P.S. When I had my first lesson with Fernando Germani, he insisted that on British organs the Reeds on the Gt came before the adding of the Mixtures which in a way is how the Harmonics were intended to be used, I think.

Link to post
Share on other sites

"the Trombas were packed away and they are still within the curtilage if the Cathedral "

(Quote)

 

It is to be hoped they are stocked properly. Because they will be wanted again

in the years to come. If they are not sold to the continent in the meantime.

 

Pierre

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

This is rather interesting because I am researching re-instating the Harmonics at St Peter's Bournemouth. It was ousted by Rushworth and Dreaper in 1976 in favour of a quint mixture of astoundingly poor quality - it's made from old Dulciana pipes chopped down, and still marked Dulciana. The composition has been altered several times since in attempts to make it more satisfactory. It seems to do nothing that the Swell's enormous 5-ranker doesn't already do perfectly well.

 

Mark Venning wrote of it - "In 1914 the Great Harmonics had the classic composition: C 17. 19. 21. 22 / treble f# 5. 8. 10. 15. The scaling of these ranks was artfully contrived." Quite what he means by that I don't know, but I plan to find out!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Simply ask him to rebuild it ! as the firm is still there, without any

historical break, there should obtain no problem to put Harrison's organs

back in order.

 

Pierre

 

We can't afford it!!! And, with the exception of St Albans, none of their recent voicing work which I have seen has impressed me, either in terms of timbre or evenness (and even St Albans isn't perfect where evenness is concerned).

 

There's no point in pretending it's a Harrison organ any longer; it's had Rushworth, HN&B, Keith Scudamore and Lance Foy at it since then. I don't think Harrison's would be interested in turning up to do a mixture - they'd want to do the whole job or nothing (or at least I hope they would).

Link to post
Share on other sites
We can't afford it!!! And, with the exception of St Albans, none of their recent voicing work which I have seen has impressed me, either in terms of timbre or evenness (and even St Albans isn't perfect where evenness is concerned).

 

There's no point in pretending it's a Harrison organ any longer; it's had Rushworth, HN&B, Keith Scudamore and Lance Foy at it since then. I don't think Harrison's would be interested in turning up to do a mixture - they'd want to do the whole job or nothing (or at least I hope they would).

 

Hi

 

Surely someone like Terry Shires would produce the pipework in the relevant style for your current organ builder to install.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Link to post
Share on other sites
This is rather interesting because I am researching re-instating the Harmonics at St Peter's Bournemouth. It was ousted by Rushworth and Dreaper in 1976 in favour of a quint mixture of astoundingly poor quality - it's made from old Dulciana pipes chopped down, and still marked Dulciana. The composition has been altered several times since in attempts to make it more satisfactory. It seems to do nothing that the Swell's enormous 5-ranker doesn't already do perfectly well.

 

Mark Venning wrote of it - "In 1914 the Great Harmonics had the classic composition: C 17. 19. 21. 22 / treble f# 5. 8. 10. 15. The scaling of these ranks was artfully contrived." Quite what he means by that I don't know, but I plan to find out!

 

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

 

 

The whole point of the Harrison (and Skinner) 'Harmonics' was to act as a tonal bridge between the smooth tone of Trombas and the naturally brighter sound of the flue chorus.

 

If the reeds have been re-voiced as Trumpets/Posaunes (or such), the the 'Harmonics' register will achieve nothing.

 

Having lived with a large 4-manual Arthur Harrison instrument for a while, I know that merely tagging on a Quint Mixture to the Great is a big mistake; especially if it not regulated and voiced to match the already refined voicing and regulation of Arthur Harrison.

 

I can quite understand why a Great Mixture adds not a great deal when the Swell Mixture is coupled, and so I wonder if a Tierce Mixture, without the Septieme 1.1/7th rank, would not be a nice option; adding a degree of colour to the Swell Mixture, and at the same time, a touch of reediness without actually drawing the reeds.

 

Just a thought for what it's worth.

 

It doesn't have to be a 17th sounding rank of course, and 19.22.24.26. would be interesting.

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

After having asked the original question on this topic some while ago, I had rather lost sight of it. Thanks for the information above - very interesting.

 

Take one part away, and the whole falls apart. So true!

 

I must confess that, quite a number of years ago (when this sort of thing was far less frowned upon, and I was younger and even more foolish than I am now), I was a member of a church group which became interested in a large 1930-ish Harrison after a casual enquiry from one of our number gave the impression that its owner might have been happy to sell the beast. (Whether this was in fact the case, I can't say for sure since, ultimately, the "plan" fizzled away as being impractical, before any offer was made.) But, ah!, the remodelling schemes we hatched... And of course, the first things to go would have been the Great Trombas and Harmonics, to be replaced by more sociable Trumpets.

 

All I can say now is that we were very misguided ... and I am glad that (at least, when last I heard) the instrument was still in existence, with its original specification, if not in the best of condition.

 

Rgds

MJF

Link to post
Share on other sites
After having asked the original question on this topic some while ago, I had rather lost sight of it. Thanks for the information above - very interesting.

 

Take one part away, and the whole falls apart. So true!

 

I must confess that, quite a number of years ago (when this sort of thing was far less frowned upon, and I was younger and even more foolish than I am now), I was a member of a church group which became interested in a large 1930-ish Harrison after a casual enquiry from one of our number gave the impression that its owner might have been happy to sell the beast. (Whether this was in fact the case, I can't say for sure since, ultimately, the "plan" fizzled away as being impractical, before any offer was made.) But, ah!, the remodelling schemes we hatched... And of course, the first things to go would have been the Great Trombas and Harmonics, to be replaced by more sociable Trumpets.

 

All I can say now is that we were very misguided ... and I am glad that (at least, when last I heard) the instrument was still in existence, with its original specification, if not in the best of condition.

 

Rgds

MJF

 

This very idea is exactly what we began to think in Belgium since about 2000.

Welcome to the 21st Century, an Epoch that will maybe be saved by the ability

to doubt about ourselves.

 

Pierre

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...