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Hele Tubas


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Earlier today I commended the Solo Tromba on the 4-manual Father Willis in Windsor Castle as a fine example of a Tuba which is (or, rather, was) in no way fat and ugly. This in turn brought to mind another Father Willis organ that no longer exists - Plymouth Guildhall - because the loud Solo reed on this organ too was called Tromba (as were several other Willis "Tubas"). It would be nice to think that it was as fine a stop as the Windsor one, but alas we shall never know. In 1904 Hele & Co discarded the stop and replaced it with a new one with double harmonic trebles. The organ was extensively rebuilt in 1924, when the wind pressure of the Tromba is quoted as 16". I have heard a very old recording of it from the 1930s and it sounds absolutely awful. The sheer volume of it compared to the rest of the organ is offensive, let alone the tone quality, which is smooth and gross. This is exactly what I would expect from John Hele, whose organs always seem to me not so very far removed from the Hope Jones aesthetic. (Just my impression; there might be a topic for a thesis there!)

 

Anyway, this in turn got me wondering what other Hele Tubas survive. Offhand, I can't recall having encountered any. Are there any?

 

I wonder all this merely out of macabre curiosity.

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"The sheer volume of it compared to the rest of the organ is offensive, let alone the tone quality, which is smooth and gross. This is exactly what I would expect from John Hele, whose organs always seem to me not so very far removed from the Hope Jones aesthetic"

(Quote)

 

Quite interesting!

 

Pierre

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Don't get your hopes up, Pierre! :( They are not so extreme. Hele was not quite so averse to upperwork for a start. Nevertheless, fat flutes, enormous Open Diapasons and, sometimes, thin viols - one suspects a certain sympathy. The 4' Gambette seems to have been a Hele speciality.

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My point is here: every time people told me about "dreadfull" organs,

if I happened to pay a visit, hear the thing and run trough the archives,

I ended up with interesting discoveries, even, sometimes, beautiful

organs whose only sin was to be out of fashion.

This does not mean -of course- there were never really bad ones, of

course there were; there were some fairly, or very good, which I did

not like at all, but this is completely meaningless.

 

Pierre

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My point is here: every time people told me about "dreadfull" organs,

if I happened to pay a visit, hear the thing and run trough the archives,

I ended up with interesting discoveries, even, sometimes, beautiful

organs whose only sin was to be out of fashion.

This does not mean -of course- there were never really bad ones, of

course there were; there were some fairly, or very good, which I did

not like at all, but this is completely meaningless.

 

Pierre

 

Hi

 

NPOR lists the following organs with Tubas that Hele either built or worked on (I can't check the origins of all the Tuba ranks!):-

K00023, N11273 (Tiba retained in more recent rebuild - but might be a new stop); N12628; N12772; N11318; N17430 (probably revoiced by R&D);

 

There are a few others listed as well - some destroyed, and the others I've not included in the list above because the Tuba is likely to have been by another builder.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Oh they're not all bad. I've come across one or two quite interesting ones.

 

Yes - the former Holy Trinity, Buckfastleigh was quite pleasant, and St Luke's was OK in its way. Both gone now, one through fire, one through toaster.

 

I know it's not a Tuba exactly, but the 32' at Winchester...? Hele's only one, I gather.

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Yes - the former Holy Trinity, Buckfastleigh was quite pleasant, and St Luke's was OK in its way. Both gone now, one through fire, one through toaster.

 

Yes, I agree about the organ which stood at Holy Trinity. A fine, moderately-sized 2 decker which had been transplanted from somewhere else. I held the fort there briefly when they were between organists and I was between jobs, and enjoyed it very much. I remember the organ at the old St. Luke's chapel seemingly being held together by string! I know there's a toaster in the new chapel now, but was the old organ destroyed?

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I don't think I knew this one. Which St Luke's chapel would that be?

 

St Luke's Buckfastleigh (down in the town ctr) - now converted into a very effective multi-purpose day centre/hall/church which seems to suit the job well. My memory of it is 8884, 88848, 16 8 but I think someone local (MF?) added a 2' at some stage.

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Try the following, Vox:

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=K00023

 

I have played this instrument on a number of occasions - it is not bad, really. I think that the Tuba was added by Hele & Co. (as opposed to Lance Foy). However, I shall ask Lance, when I contact him to ask whether he has received our 'new' re-engraved replacement draw-stop.

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Ah, I'm pleased you highlighted this organ, for this Tuba was precisely the one my eye lighted on as perhaps being the most likely candidate to be a genuine Hele example.

 

I am not sure I have the correct church in mind, but is this not the organ of which it is said that the best place to stand in order to hear it at its best is on the deck of the MV Scillonian III?

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Ah, I'm pleased you highlighted this organ, for this Tuba was precisely the one my eye lighted on as perhaps being the most likely candidate to be a genuine Hele example.

 

I am not sure I have the correct church in mind, but is this not the organ of which it is said that the best place to stand in order to hear it at its best is on the deck of the MV Scillonian III?

 

This is possibly the place. As you might expect, I did not try the Tuba when I was practising, so I cannot say for sure....

 

However, I did take a few photographs of the organ (and the church), which may be found on this (and the following) page of my website:

 

http://pub21.bravenet.com/photocenter/albu...amp;album=33146

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Thanks for that, Tony. I did trawl through the three manual Heles on NPOR, but didn't feel I could tell whether any of the Tubas were still as Hele left them.

 

Hi

 

Yes - that's always going to be a problem - a few surveys have quite detailed info as to what was added or removed when, but the majority don't because no-one has told us.

 

As one of the editors, I can still access the old "search by stop name" option, so I was able to refine the search to all organs having Hele as a builder and containing a Tuba - but there's still no garuntee that the existing Tubas are by Hele - or have not been revoiced.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Thanks for that, Tony. I did trawl through the three manual Heles on NPOR, but didn't feel I could tell whether any of the Tubas were still as Hele left them.

 

Hi

 

Yes - that's always going to be a problem - a few surveys have quite detailed info as to what was added or removed when, but the majority don't because no-one has told us.

 

As one of the editors, I can still access the old "search by stop name" option, so I was able to refine the search to all organs having Hele as a builder and containing a Tuba - but there's still no garuntee that the existing Tubas are by Hele - or have not been revoiced.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Try the following, Vox:

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=K00023

 

I have played this instrument on a number of occasions - it is not bad, really. I think that the Tuba was added by Hele & Co. (as opposed to Lance Foy). However, I shall ask Lance, when I contact him to ask whether he has received our 'new' re-engraved replacement draw-stop.

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, I'm pleased you highlighted this organ, for this Tuba was precisely the one my eye lighted on as perhaps being the most likely candidate to be a genuine Hele example.

 

I am not sure I have the correct church in mind, but is this not the organ of which it is said that the best place to stand in order to hear it at its best is on the deck of the MV Scillonian III?

 

 

 

I'll try and comment on both of these posts.

 

I knew this organ very well before the Lance restoration as I played it several times a week for a good few years: St John's being on my way home from school and where I had organ lessons. It's an interesting history. As I was told, the first organ (church built in 1880/1) was a 1 man, 6 stopper by Walker (who had done other work in the town). This then was incorporated into the Heard (of Truro) organ, but I can't remember whether it had 2/3 mans then. However, Hele gave it a major overhaul in 1931 (church jubilee) and the trombone/tuba is theirs. I "think" it is/was on 9" wind and makes a glorious sound-not at all thick and cloying.

 

The organ as I knew it had 30 stops. There were no oct. cplrs on the ch, and the Sw had a 16' bourdon and not the 4' flute. the pedal was O Wd 16, Bdn 16, Trbne 16. Apparently there was a Violoncello 8' which stood in towers at either side and in the middle, outside the loft arch. These were removed in the 1931 rebuild on the instruction, so I was told, of the churchwardens because it spoilt the view eastwards!!!

 

A little more history: the ch Naz 2 2/3 was added in the '60s replacing a vox humana which was in its own box. This was done at the request of the then organist Mr Jack Retallack who had been a boy chorister there (along with my grandfather and his two brothers), assistant organist and then organist form 1955 until about 1998 at a guess. He had been to London and played one afternoon in an empty RAHall, liking the sound of the Naz he determined to have one at St John's! He also paid for the electro-pnue. piston action added in the '60s.

 

At some point also the Gt dulciana was replaced or cut down to make the 12th.

 

This was always claimed to be the best organ in Pz. The church is certainly the best ecclesiastical building and the acoustic was good. I was saddened to see that (after I had left the area) it has been carpeted from end to end!

 

As for hearing organs from the Scillonian...this must be the organ now in St Mary's-the one with the fine granite tower, though built like a preaching box (anglo-catholic since at least the beginning of the 20th C). The old organ in there (look it up on the BIOS register) was also very fine but it was replaced following a fire in 1985 which destroyed the roof, east-eand and the organ in the west gallery. The replacement was the old Wolker form the University church of St Mary, Oxford. It jyust doesn't work-it's FAR too big. The Oxford church is large and it stood on a choir screen. At Pz it is in a much smaller building and in a W gallery so that all the sound is sent east in a not very long building. Who ever gave permission for this work?!! It astounds me. I have heard that since St Paul's church has closed a good deal of pipework from there has been transferred to St Mary's to be incorporated and replace some current stops when funds are sufficient (St Pauls had a Robson rbuilt Hele c 1933, 3man 29stops and again rather nice with a fiery, Frenchy gt trumpet 8').

 

As for other Hele work I know: Exeter St David's has a good 3man Hele but it has had some alterations and no tuba; Sacred Heart Exeter, anothe fine Hele with another very fiery gt Trpt and one of the best ped trombones-absolutely life-like. In Cornwall there is All Ss, Falmouth; again a little altered but a lot of original good Hele work. The aoustic in there is large and plays tricks. It is behind the ch stalls on the Sth side in a transept of this long tall building. It doesn't sound too big here at all but near the back of the church the ch clarinet sounds HUGE and so woody, also the sw diap sounds like it should be the gt no1 diap!

 

Well I better stop now. Hope that's of some interest!

 

F-W

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Two things I forgot to mention in my above post:

 

Apparently the organ at All Ss Falmouth was a favourite of G Ormond, organist at Truro cathedral from c1929-1971.

 

At St John's, Pz until J Retallack retired sometime in the late 1990s there had only been 3 organists in the church's history, butthe first I have never been able to verify. Perhaps someone here might know?

 

When the church opened in 1881 it is said that the organist was a Dr Air(e)y who wasn't around that long-perhaps a year or two and then left the area to go to Romsey Abbey. IS this true?-I don't know. He was succeeded by Mr George Sellers who was succeeded by J Retallack in 1955. Quite a record really!

 

F-W

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Thank you so much for this fascinating background. And thank you for setting me right about the Penzance churches. I now recognise that it was indeed St Mary's that I was thinking of with the loud organ.

The problem with St. Mary's is not just that it's staggeringly loud, but also that the balance is problematic - the Swell Clarion is as loud as the Tromba, for instance. The choir is in a gallery next to the console on the south side of the organ (itself on a west end gallery) and accompaniment is a very tricky business, given the proximity of the organ and the distance from singers to congregation.

 

At St John's, Pz until J Retallack retired sometime in the late 1990s there had only been 3 organists in the church's history, butthe first I have never been able to verify. Perhaps someone here might know?

I can't verify it, but I was organist there for a year 2004-5, and was given to understand that this had been the case.

 

I must admit that I found the instrument very frustrating. The (fairly recent - 1990s?) electric part of the EP action was very uneven and unreliable, as was the winding, and some of the voicing (particularly the muddy Swell and totally unblending Choir upperwork/Nazard) was fairly unmusical. The instrument needs a thorough overhaul and work to take the voicing back to the original standards. Can't comment on the Trombone as it was far too loud with the little door to the console open, but with the door closed, you can't hear the pedal fluework!

 

St. John's is a beautiful building, but the Low Church ethos has led to carpet, padded chairs, worship songs etc. which has killed off a good part of a very promising acoustic.

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Do you mean that the Trombone is extended from the Choir Tuba (which I note is borrowed on the Pedal)?

No. The console on this instrument is accessed by means of a passageway from the rear, emerging through a little door in the casefront. The Trombone is located next to the passage just inside the door, but the pedal fluework is buried at the back of the organ. To stand a chance of hearing the fluework in balance, the door needs to be open, thus leading to Trombone-induced deafness when drawn.

 

IMHO the Tuba was no different than a thousand others in similar instruments, and had no particular Hele-like characteristics (beyond its general bland dullness :rolleyes: ), even supposing that it was Hele pipework. The instrument was originally Heard of Truro, and the most recent rebuild by Lance Foy was paid for privately by Retallack, the last of the long-serving organists.

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