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Early English Choir-swells


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On page 39 of the May 2008 Organists' Review mention is made of a two-manual organ at All Saints', Haslingfield, Cambs in which the tenor C Swell manual was completed with a Choir bass to GG. It seems that this arrangement implemented when the organ was rebuilt here since, in its previous home in Ely, the compass was the normal C on both manuals. The form the restoration took may well have been informed by internal evidence, of course; I have no information on that.

 

In any case, I assume that there were sound historical reasons for implementing this Swell-Choir arrangement, but I would be interested in knowing more details. I do know of one early two-manual organ that had such an arrangement: the James Parsons organ of 1735 for St Andrew's, Plymouth. Here the Swell ran from middle C upwards. Given that a Choir Organ at this time was used much of the time to provide a left-hand bass for a right-hand solo on Great or Swell, it seems quite a neat way of saving money if funds were short.

 

Does anyone know of any other early examples of a sort compass Swell being completed with a Choir bass, please?

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On page 39 of the May 2008 Organists' Review mention is made of a two-manual organ at All Saints', Haslingfield, Cambs in which the tenor C Swell manual was completed with a Choir bass to GG. It seems that this arrangement implemented when the organ was rebuilt here since, in its previous home in Ely, the compass was the normal C on both manuals. The form the restoration took may well have been informed by internal evidence, of course; I have no information on that.

 

In any case, assume that there were sound historical reasons for implementing this Swell-Choir arrangement, but I would be interested in knowing more details. I do know of one early two-manual organ that had such an arrangement: the James Parsons organ of 1735 for St Andrew's, Plymouth. Here the Swell ran from middle C upwards. Given that a Choir Organ at this time was used much of the time to provide a left-hand bass for a right-hand solo on Great or Swell, it seems quite a neat way of saving money if funds were short.

 

Does anyone know of any other early examples of a sort compass Swell being completed with a Choir bass, please?

 

Hi

 

The Haslingfield organ originated from a church in London, and only had a Tenor-C swell, as was common at the time. The arrnagement at Haslingfield is actually a bit of a compromise - the "Choir Bass" is actually derived from the Pedal department, which was added to allow the organ to fulfill its role as a 21st century church organ, whilst retaining its historic character.

 

The "Choir Bass" arrangement was very common in the days of Tenor C swells. The bass octave (or octave and a ahlf on GG-compass organs) would be permanently coupled to the bass keys of the Choir organ. Hence the terminology.

 

Another common arrangement was to use independant Stopped Diapason pipes outside the Swell box for those bass notes - or sometimes to duplex an existing Stopped Diapason from the Great or Choir.

 

There are several examples that still survive, but many more where the organ has been "modernised"with a full-compass swell (as the Haslingfield organ had at Ely). I've seen some similar arrangements on NPOR - but with the number of surveys I've entered and edited over the past few years, I can't remember specifically which organs have this feature.

 

C00876 on NPOR has the organ's original stop list, and following the links traces the history. There is a booklet available (presumably from Jose Hopkins) of the history on the organ (it's mentioned on the NPOR notes).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

[quote name=Tony Newnham' date='Jun 2 2008, 10:15 AM' post='37674'

 

The Haslingfield organ originated from a church in London, and only had a Tenor-C swell, as was common at the time.

Tony

 

This rather lovely organ now has found its third home. As Tony says, it originated from a London church and that was The Church of the Holy Trinity, Westbourne Terrace/Bishops Bridge Road W2. It was a grand neo-Gothic edifice at the northern end of the road next to Paddington Station. At the southern end is Sussex Gardens and St James' church. Both were spired but Holy Trinity was the grander of the two. It was plaster vaulted and had a splendid reverberation of around 5 seconds.

Holy Trinity Church

The Haslingfield/Ely organ was perhaps in the small West Gallery from where it would have sung with great ease. Its replacement was a monumental Lewis which was restored by HNB with the most outstanding pneumatic action. When the church was closed, not one leak or sound alerted anyone that the blower was on. I was the last organist of the church and a group of us played and sang most Sundays to our heart's content when we were students throughout London: Michael Headly (Amsterdam now), James Lancelot (Durham Cathedral), Christopher Tinker (Sedburgh School) Paul Spicer (Lichfield/Birmingham) all had some connection either playing for services or giving concerts. Michael George the eminent Bass/Baritone was a regular member of the choir. My last assistant (now Dr Tom Corfield at Derby Cathedral) never started because of the closure. There was also a boys choir of 14 drawn from the locality who for a time joined me at St Martin-in-the-Fields. I cut my musical teeth there in Paddington. Only last night I was reminded by Paul Hale of the time a bevy of illustrious musicians were almost arrested in the church the day after it was declared shut by the Parish Priest and we slipped in at dead of night having traveled in a taxi convoy from Westminster Abbey where we were on an RSCM course. Nobody could be charged as I had the key and let them in! This Lewis was sold and lost much of its 'zaz' when it went into the Corn Exchange in Ipswich. Elsewhere on The Board I have previously talked about how Germani wanted to purchase it for his Villa north of Rome but found that it had been sold the previous week.

Memories indeed!

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The "Choir Bass" arrangement was very common in the days of Tenor C swells. The bass octave (or octave and a ahlf on GG-compass organs) would be permanently coupled to the bass keys of the Choir organ. Hence the terminology.

Thanks, Tony. I wonder, then, whether the NPOR entry for the Parsons organ I mentioned has got the Swell starting on the right C (Middle C is c1, right?) Or maybe the Sperling Notebooks are incorrect?

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Thanks, Tony. I wonder, then, whether the NPOR entry for the Parsons organ I mentioned has got the Swell staring on the right C (Middle C is c1, right?) Or maybe the Sperling Notebooks are incorrect?

 

Hi

 

I've no reason to think it's not accurate. With organs, you can talk in generalities, and fiddle G or TC swells were the most common short compasses - but there are always exceptions. Since the organ has been rebuilt, there's no way of checking, but the infomration is from a reliable source.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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