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Tony Newnham

Municipal Organs Under Threat

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Hi

 

Reading the Liverpool organ day thread started me thinking on how many town hall/former town hall organs are languishing, either out of use completely, or little used and under-appreciated.

 

St George's Hall, Liverpool seems to be a prime example. There's a virtually untouched Hope-Jones original at the former Battersea Towen Hall (at least there's hope for that one), and here in Bradford, the organ in St. George's Hall, Bradford hasn't been heard for many years.

 

Just how many others are there? And can we expect cash-strapped loacl authorities to do any thing? If not, what's the solution?

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

Reading the Liverpool organ day thread started me thinking on how many town hall/former town hall organs are languishing, either out of use completely, or little used and under-appreciated.

 

St George's Hall, Liverpool seems to be a prime example. There's a virtually untouched Hope-Jones original at the former Battersea Towen Hall (at least there's hope for that one), and here in Bradford, the organ in St. George's Hall, Bradford hasn't been heard for many years.

 

Just how many others are there? And can we expect cash-strapped loacl authorities to do any thing? If not, what's the solution?

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Theres a Binns in Wednesfield Town Hall thats rarely heard, I understand its condition is not good, it looks as if its one the the neglected instruments. It would be interesting to try and compile a complete list of such organs.

 

Barrie

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Hi

 

Reading the Liverpool organ day thread started me thinking on how many town hall/former town hall organs are languishing, either out of use completely, or little used and under-appreciated.

 

St George's Hall, Liverpool seems to be a prime example. There's a virtually untouched Hope-Jones original at the former Battersea Towen Hall (at least there's hope for that one), and here in Bradford, the organ in St. George's Hall, Bradford hasn't been heard for many years.

 

Just how many others are there? And can we expect cash-strapped loacl authorities to do any thing? If not, what's the solution?

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Look at what they achieved in Scotland at the Usher Hall and the Kelvingrove. The good things about these two were because so little was done to them in the 60s and 70s, they were left untouched (eg no horrible mixtures and mutations added and orchestral stops left etc.) and so restorations have been very successful. (Irritating that they wouldn't be remotely accommodating in terms of generals or settable pistons at the Kelvingrove, especially as you only get a couple of hours max for practice). The daily recitals in Glasgow have been a revalation for the gallery attending public up there and has raised the profile enormously. Once work in the Usher Hall has finished on th building, they can get back to the great work they were doing too.

 

The Liverpool instrument is a crying shame, and especially the fact that it is the city of culture makes it worse. They would argue (being one of the loony leftie counclis) that the organ doesn't have enough broad appeal, and that there aren't any votes in it. Am I being too cynical?

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To their shame Warrington have lost interest in the Parr Hall Cavaille-Coll, I've heard they want to carry out alterations to the Hall and the recitals that used to be held there have ceased. Very worrying.

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Look at what they achieved in Scotland at the Usher Hall and the Kelvingrove. The good things about these two were because so little was done to them in the 60s and 70s, they were left untouched (eg no horrible mixtures and mutations added and orchestral stops left etc.) and so restorations have been very successful. (Irritating that they wouldn't be remotely accommodating in terms of generals or settable pistons at the Kelvingrove, especially as you only get a couple of hours max for practice). The daily recitals in Glasgow have been a revalation for the gallery attending public up there and has raised the profile enormously. Once work in the Usher Hall has finished on th building, they can get back to the great work they were doing too.

 

The Liverpool instrument is a crying shame, and especially the fact that it is the city of culture makes it worse. They would argue (being one of the loony leftie counclis) that the organ doesn't have enough broad appeal, and that there aren't any votes in it. Am I being too cynical?

 

Hi

 

I have a suspision that "lack of broad appeal to the community" is at least part of the problem here in Bradford.

 

Tony

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Theres a Binns in Wednesfield Town Hall thats rarely heard, I understand its condition is not good, it looks as if its one the the neglected instruments. It would be interesting to try and compile a complete list of such organs.

 

Barrie

 

It's Darlaston Town Hall - easy mistake as Wednesbury, Darlaston and Wednesfield all merge into one unless you know the area really well!!

The Binns is lovely, but in a very poor state, well at least that was the case when i last went in 2003. They were very happy for people to play it at that time, and i don't think the hall is voerly busy...

It still has the original 'setter' system, but I can't remember much detail about that.

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Does anyone know whether Kidderminster Town Hall still has recitals?

 

AJJ

 

Yes - Thursday lunchtimes according to the WOA newsletter:

May 8th: (ooooh that's today!) Trevor Tipple

June 5th: John Swindells

July 3rd: John Wilderspin

Sept 4th: Marcus Huxley

 

Tim Morris (Organist at St Georges Kidderminster) is the Town Hall Organist...

P.

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Yes - Thursday lunchtimes according to the WOA newsletter:

May 8th: (ooooh that's today!) Trevor Tipple

June 5th: John Swindells

July 3rd: John Wilderspin

Sept 4th: Marcus Huxley

 

Tim Morris (Organist at St Georges Kidderminster) is the Town Hall Organist...

P.

 

Thanks - 'glad to hear. I lived up that way in the early 80s and the hall/organ was used quite a bit.

 

A

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The setter system Paul is the same as St Marys Shrewsbury, there are Drawstops over the department they control you set what you want and pull the appropriate drawstop out and its set. No4 piston on the Great and Swell at Shrewsbury was not adjustable.

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It's Darlaston Town Hall - easy mistake as Wednesbury, Darlaston and Wednesfield all merge into one unless you know the area really well!!

The Binns is lovely, but in a very poor state, well at least that was the case when i last went in 2003. They were very happy for people to play it at that time, and i don't think the hall is voerly busy...

It still has the original 'setter' system, but I can't remember much detail about that.

 

 

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

 

 

This will be the Binns patent pneumatic setter-system as described comprehensively by Sumner in "The Organ."

 

I mentioned this recently, but it involves a very clever square activated by inflating pneumatic motors, and a sort of toggle arrangement of which I cannot recall the exact details.

 

Basically, stops for a particular registration were drawn, and then a setter knob was pulled at the same time as the appropriate combination pedal was trodden on. This set the combination for that particular pedal. The great thing about this system, which I got to know well at a church in Bradford (St.Clement's), is the fact that it can actually be changed "on the fly" so-to-speak, mid-piece or mid-accompaniment. I found it invaluable in psalm accompaniment, for instance, when playing on the Swell and re-setting the Great/Pedals combinations at the same time.

 

Binns was a clever man!

 

MM

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Hi

 

I have a suspision that "lack of broad appeal to the community" is at least part of the problem here in Bradford.

 

Tony

 

 

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

 

I have the far greater suspicion that the organ is a pile of musical junk.

 

Don't let the Willis name fool you. It was originally something else made locally, and even after Willis had a go at it, it was a strangled sounding thing of little merit, with only heavy pressure reeds making their presence felt in the hall. That was before they fitted all the awful curtains and thick carpets, and when the hall had a superb acoustic (one of the best in the UK). The council must have enjoyed ruining that, and turning the place over to pop-concerts.

 

As St.George's Hall was one of the very first places in the UK to show movies, it has ended up being a theatre rather than a concert-hall. With a bit of imagination, they could have housed a big Wurlitzer to better effect than the horrid instrument which silently languishes there.

 

Oddly enough, it was on this organ that I heard Germani!

 

Even that was a let down, and I suspect that he didn't like the instrument one bit.

 

MM

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The Liverpool instrument is a crying shame, and especially the fact that it is the city of culture makes it worse. They would argue (being one of the loony leftie counclis) that the organ doesn't have enough broad appeal, and that there aren't any votes in it. Am I being too cynical?

 

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

 

To be fair to Liverpool, I don't think it has a "loonie left council" at all these days.

 

Have they given up with the recitals there, which were going quite well a few years ago?

 

I'm surpised they don't allow local organists to demonstrate the organ at specific times, when the hall is open to the public to wander around and marvel at.

 

The problem with so many town-hall venues, is that they seldom tap into local talent, which is often there in abundance.

Many good amateur musicians would be delighted to demonstrate an organ for free, just as many of the less well known theatre organists sometimes do.

 

The trouble is, people think "Town Hall" and think only of the halcyon days of Germani, Dupre and Goss-Custard, when they should be thinking "community" and "community involvement".

 

It goes right across the board in UK society, with people being discouraged from doing almost anything.

 

Go to America, and people love to entertain in open spaces, without expecting to be paid for it. If people did half the things they did on the streets in America, we would have the health & safety experts running around like mad-things; clip-boards and prohibition-orders in hand.

 

I expect they would ban recitals at Liverpool on the grounds of noise-pollution, possible hearing-damage and the perils of negotiating staircases and sitting on a balcony.

 

The world has gone mad!

 

MM

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Guest Cynic
The setter system Paul is the same as St Marys Shrewsbury, there are Drawstops over the department they control you set what you want and pull the appropriate drawstop out and its set. No4 piston on the Great and Swell at Shrewsbury was not adjustable.

 

 

This was because these were 'full' settings, sensible selections they were too.

[i was organist at St.Mary's Shrewsbury for four years in the 80s.]

 

The adjustable piston system was excellent, in that it was trouble free and still working 70+ years after manufacture but it took up an alarming amount of room! Very occasionally unsupervised visitors would draw the numbered stops (at the top of each jamb) just to see what would happen. One would end up with a re-set combination, or no combination at all. No worse than any other system that cannot be locked, I suppose.

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

 

I have the far greater suspicion that the organ is a pile of musical junk.

 

Don't let the Willis name fool you. It was originally something else made locally, and even after Willis had a go at it, it was a strangled sounding thing of little merit, with only heavy pressure reeds making their presence felt in the hall. That was before they fitted all the awful curtains and thick carpets, and when the hall had a superb acoustic (one of the best in the UK). The council must have enjoyed ruining that, and turning the place over to pop-concerts.

 

As St.George's Hall was one of the very first places in the UK to show movies, it has ended up being a theatre rather than a concert-hall. With a bit of imagination, they could have housed a big Wurlitzer to better effect than the horrid instrument which silently languishes there.

 

Oddly enough, it was on this organ that I heard Germani!

 

Even that was a let down, and I suspect that he didn't like the instrument one bit.

 

MM

 

Hi

 

I'm aware of the organ's origins - not that I've ever heard it - I've only been in the city 5 years. I've heard mixed views about it - but mainly onthe negative side - but at least one eminent organist suggested trying to get it rebuilt.

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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It was I who started this thread some weeks ago, when I asked if anyone had any information about the organ in Dover Town Hall, which had been out of use for many years.

no-one responded so presumably people are happy to allow it to die as with many other town hall instruments.

I cannot see that replacing a pipe organ with a Wurlitzer would change attitudes at all.

Colin Richell.

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I cannot see that replacing a pipe organ with a Wurlitzer would change attitudes at all.

 

 

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

 

 

Perhaps no-one lives in Dover or knows anything about the place, other than Vera Lynn singing about the white-cliffs. I don't think the lack of response has anything to do with indifference.

 

Anyway, returning to Bradford; apart from the fact that a Wurlitzer IS a pipe organ, I wasn't really thinking of changing attitudes.

 

Three reasons sprang to mind when I wrote that. Firstly, there was a Wurlitzer available (which is going into a hall just a few miles away in the same council area), secondly, it would have cost them nothing (amateur enthusiast installation to a very high standard) and thirdly, after what they did to the acoustic at St.George's Hall, Bradford, a theatre-organ would probably the only thing which would be heard down the hall.

 

The fourth reason, as stated previously, is the simple fact that what is there already is simply awful, and the council will NOT provide money for it. (They'd rather have a mirror-pool in front of the town hall, and give everyone a chance to reflect on the double-standards of arts provision in Britain to-day).

 

There is a fifth reason, in so much as the city has a huge hole in the middle of it, where re-development appears to have ground to a halt.

 

The long suffering folk of Bradford could do with something to make them smile, and a theatre organ rising from the pits would be almost symbolic.

 

MM

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

 

I have the far greater suspicion that the organ is a pile of musical junk.

 

Don't let the Willis name fool you. It was originally something else made locally, and even after Willis had a go at it, it was a strangled sounding thing of little merit, with only heavy pressure reeds making their presence felt in the hall. That was before they fitted all the awful curtains and thick carpets, and when the hall had a superb acoustic (one of the best in the UK). The council must have enjoyed ruining that, and turning the place over to pop-concerts.

 

As St.George's Hall was one of the very first places in the UK to show movies, it has ended up being a theatre rather than a concert-hall. With a bit of imagination, they could have housed a big Wurlitzer to better effect than the horrid instrument which silently languishes there.

 

Oddly enough, it was on this organ that I heard Germani!

 

Even that was a let down, and I suspect that he didn't like the instrument one bit.

 

MM

 

There's a video on

, for those that wish to see but not hear the organ.

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I did contact Dover Council regarding the fate of the Town Hall organ. The gist of the response was that they'd love to see it restored, but unless funding was made available from third parties it wont happen.

 

I'll check to see if I still the actual response

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Hove Town Hall had a 4-manual Willis with an unusually large proportion of reed stops. In the early 1960's the council proposed to sell it, and I was one of the people who campaigned unsuccessfully for its retention. It was sold to a London school where it is still in service.

 

In 1966 the Town Hall caught fire and was completely destroyed.

 

And the moral of this story .....

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I have recieved a short e-mail from Mr. Ian Tracey, which I am sure he would not mind sharing, which goes:

Dear Peter,

 

Many thanks for that -I was havign to fight quite a bit with things going off and notes not playing, and then the cipher.... but, as always, the old lady still sounded good!

All contributions gratefully received.

All the very best and thanks again,

 

so now that Liverpool is the city of the moment (culture), maybe some kind, thoughtful and very rich donor may come forward and spend a bit, to gain a lot on what I have been told by others, is among the largest and best of the "civic hall" instruments that we as a nation have (and I do not even live there) Is this what the industrialists of yesteryear used to do ?

I heard that a few years ago, Carlo Curley was taking a foreign chap round Newcastle city hall organ with a view to puchasing said instrument, wether that is true or not, I do not know

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Hove Town Hall had a 4-manual Willis with an unusually large proportion of reed stops. In the early 1960's the council proposed to sell it, and I was one of the people who campaigned unsuccessfully for its retention. It was sold to a London school where it is still in service.

 

In 1966 the Town Hall caught fire and was completely destroyed.

 

And the moral of this story .....

 

 

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

 

I feel a song coming on.

 

Is there a moral to this story, I wonder?

 

Many organs have risen from the ashes, I feel sure. In trying to save one of the big Manchester Wurlitzers, the Lancaster Theatre Organ Trust stored it in various places, only to have the original console go up in smoke. The new replica 4-manual must have cost a few bob.

 

Of course, if fire doesn't do the trick, other things present hazards.

 

The poor old ATOS (American Theatre Organ Society) (London chapter), having campaigned for years to have a superb Wurlitzer released from the concrete tomb which encased it, and having been successful, set about restoring it to its former glory.

 

Very briefly, it was heard at the opening concert, and sounded as good as anyone recalled. Within a few weeks, the theatre flooded, and now ANOTHER organ restoration is in progress!

 

It's just a vale of tears, isn't it?

 

Slightly off-topic, the 19th century organ which once graced Settle Town Hall in the Yorkshire Dales, was relocated to Hellifield PC many decades ago. I seem to recall that this was originally a Wilkinson instrument. The last time I went into the church, about 40 years ago, it was still playing nicely. It even had a 1ft stop......a bit of Victorian baroque, if ever there was such a thing.

 

MM

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Hove Town Hall had a 4-manual Willis with an unusually large proportion of reed stops. In the early 1960's the council proposed to sell it, and I was one of the people who campaigned unsuccessfully for its retention. It was sold to a London school where it is still in service.

 

In 1966 the Town Hall caught fire and was completely destroyed.

 

And the moral of this story .....

 

 

Here it is now.

 

AJJ

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It was I who started this thread some weeks ago, when I asked if anyone had any information about the organ in Dover Town Hall, which had been out of use for many years.

no-one responded so presumably people are happy to allow it to die as with many other town hall instruments.

I cannot see that replacing a pipe organ with a Wurlitzer would change attitudes at all.

Colin Richell.

 

This all came up in a thread a year or so ago. I talked (typed) about Dover Town Hall and Colchester Town Hall organs:

 

http://www.mander-organs.com/discussion/in...ester&st=20

 

Peter

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It's Darlaston Town Hall - easy mistake as Wednesbury, Darlaston and Wednesfield all merge into one unless you know the area really well!!

The Binns is lovely, but in a very poor state, well at least that was the case when i last went in 2003. They were very happy for people to play it at that time, and i don't think the hall is voerly busy...

It still has the original 'setter' system, but I can't remember much detail about that.

I played this instrument a couple of years ago, rather briefly. I understand that it had recently had some work done on it, and it sounded not too bad, a bit out of tune, and rather cramped - it's located at the back of the stage, and the proscenium arch obscures the view of it severely. It is indeed under threat, as the council appear intent on closing the hall completely. My brother-in-law is the Rector of Darlaston and lives opposite the hall, so I'll get more info if I can and let you know.

 

Regards to all

 

John

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