MusingMuso Posted December 29, 2007 Share Posted December 29, 2007 I'm sure that everyone the list will be well aware of the Hill/Gauntlett revolution, and the introduction of the "German Method," which saw the introduction of independent pedal organs and the manual compasses we would recognise to-day. Outside London, there were a few notable instruments which resulted from this re-thinking of the British organ; the most notable being perhaps the one which was almost solely responsible for the formation of the British Institute of Organ Studies; the Hill organ which once stood in Great George Street Congregational Church, (just down the road from the Rushworth & Dreaper/Willis works), Liverpool, and which I must have been one of the last to play prior to the destruction of both church and organ. (Take the rouble to read the horrific circumstances of this organ's destruction) http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N10844 However, there are at least two other organs from around the same period; both of which remain sufficiently intact to be quite recognisably early William Hill organs; both of which demonstrate the influence of the same Hill/Dr.Gauntlett revolution. The first is in some ways the least interesting, but it was an organ I knew well in my mis-spent youth, and which the local organist's association often visited. This was the very substantial instrument (with a fine mahogony gallery case) which stood in the absolutely huge Eastbrook Hall Methodist Church, Bradford, West Yorkshire. When the hall closed, there were great fears for the future of this instrument, for although quite large, it was never a very big sound; especially in a building where perhaps 2,000 people would sing the lusty hymns of Wesley. In fact, it was an organ which owed much to the more gentile sound of Gray & Davison, or the even gentler sound of Samuel Green. http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D04935 This was, of course, the organ which was almost miraculously rescued, just in time to avoid a fire which destroyed the interior of the than redundant Eastboook Hall; of which only the facade now remains as part of a new development. The re-built and re-furbished instrument, which had previously been electrified and slightly altered by Marshall & Sykes, was installed and further re-built as close to the original specification, under the guiding eye of Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite, at the methodist Chruch, Cambridge. A much smaller building than that at Bradford, the organ now sounds splendid, and an important piece of organ heritage was preserved. The second William Hill instrument, of enormous historical importance, is that which still remains silent in the parish church of Low Bentham, (Diocese of Bradford) between Ingleton and Lancaster on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N10979 Graced with one of the most beautiful organ-cases ever made in Britain (check out the photographs), this instrument really is a national treasure, and was built as a chamber organ for a Leeds gentleman by the name of Mr Walker Joy, who had strong connections with the music and organ at Leeds Parish Church, where William Hill substantially re-built and enlarged the old Greenwood organ already there. Somewhere in the midst of this, the name of S S Wesley crops up. Another name which crops up around the same time, is that of Edmund Schulze, and the building of the great music-room organ for the Kennedy house at Meanwood. This was followed by other instruments, including a large number of ranks supplied to other organ-builders, which were then installed as prized items. One such, was the complete Echo organ at Leeds Parish Church, which in my youth, stood moodily silent on a gallery opposite the main instrument: by then a huge 4-manual Harrison & Harrison warhorse, which stood (and still stands) inside that hideous organ enclosure which has all the grace of a Victorian answer to a Hindu shrine, but without the statues, bright colours, flowers and provocative poses! This was the organ-case, so wonderfully described (I think( by Clutton), as "that weird mass of carving." http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N02793 Of course, in addition to the Hill/Gauntlett "German Method" and the Schulze/Brindley & Foster collaboration, it is almost certain that the names of Mendelssohn and Prince Albert, as well as any number of establishment figure in the musical world, should be included. Leeds, like Manchester and Birmingham, was an hugely important manufacturing city, with enormous wealth canted towards churches, municipal munificance and grand gestures on the part of those who were patrons of churches, the arts and monuments to civic-pride. One only has to go to the model industrial village of Saltaire (where the reed organ museum is located), to witness the enormous care which certain people took in providing for the greater comfort and civilisation of people. On the other hand, taking the more cynical view, it probably averted revolution! This is all well and good, and the names involved above have all been well-documented, but clearly, Leeds, Doncaster and the Eastern side of the Pennines were of very great importance, not only in terms of organs, but in the building of railways; some of which found their way to Leipzig,all the way from Doncaster. Of course, the story of "North Country organ-builders" was covered by the late Lawrence Elvin, but one builder remains something of an enigma. William Hill/Elliot had employed various notable later organ-builders who set up on their own, and two of those names would have to include (if I recall correctly) Ward of York, Denman of York (a former Hill foreman) and a certain Mr Bown, also of York. (The latter two were unsuually fine organ-builders, who worked to very high standards). It would also, I believe, include the name of Issac Abbott, who was a thoroughly good organ-builder in the later Hill style, which had by then eschewed the Tierce mixtures and followed the Schulze/German school of almost exculsively quint choruses. Abbott built some magnificent instruments, of which only a few remain, and of which perhaps the best example is that at Queensbury PC, nr.Bradford....a substantial 3-manual instrument with a pedal reed added around 1970 (?) by Philip Wood, (now Wood of Huddersfield) but taken from another Abbott organ in Rotherham. This splendid instrument is one of the most musical of all from the Victorian era. http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N03403 However, I am constantly baffled by the fact that the later style of the Abbott firm, under the title of Abbott & Smith (Leeds), rarely seems to get a mention, and yet, they were absolutely towards the top end of the pile tonally. As a company, they built a huge number of instruments, and re-built many of the larger and more important instruments such as that at Leeds PC and elsewhere. They also installed the aforementioned Hill organ at Bentham PC. Anyone who has ever played an Abbott & Smith organ, will know immediately how good they are tonally. Even the later instruments; clouded as they were by the move towards the Edwardian late-romantic orchestral style, are never at all unmusical, in spite of the heavier and more devotional tones. There was one organ by them, which spoke into the magnificent acoustic of a church in Bradford designed by Temple Moor, which had nothing above 4ft and not a single mutation rank, but which sounded glorious in spite of it. The one real weakness of their organs was in the use of the most advanced pneumatic-actions, which usually means that they are in various states of disrepair to-day, where they still exist. Like so many organs from the period, this was the Achilles-heel which doomed many of these splendid instruments to the scrapheap or an uncertain future. It is perhaps not generally appreciated that the organ in St.Paul's Hall, Huddersfield University, was not the first large organ to grace that particular building. In my youth, I would sometimes go to hear or play the original Abott & Smith instrument, and always, there were smiles all around as the beautiful sounds washed around this very resonant church: something which could also be heard at All Soul's, Blackman Lane, Leeds, as recorded on LP by Simon Lindley many years ago. Much as I admire the current organ in what is now the University of Huddersfield concert hall, I can assure anyone that whilst it may be excitingly different, it is no better than what was there before. Another unusually fine organ is another rare example of Issac Abbotts work, at Ossett PC, where the orchestral reeds are almost the equal of anything by Fr Willis or Harrison. http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N02935 http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N02615 Sadly, there has never been a real record made of this very important organ-builder, and yet, due to the sheer number of organs they built in the North of England (and elsewhere), their legacy remains important; especially when one stumbles across one of their smaller tracker-action instruments, which continue to give sterling service, when many of the pneumatic-action instruments have been discarded or stand silent for want of repair. http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/ESearch.cgi? Abbott & Smith Perhaps the main problem is that the company of Abbott & Smith was absorbed into the interests of Wood,Wordsworth & Co., and following a fire, any records which might have existed went up in smoke. So on the basis of this weighty discourse, what does anyone know of Abbott & Smith, and have they ever had experience of organs built by the company? MM Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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