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Tewkesbury Abbey


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I went to today's lunchtime recital in Tewkesbury Abbey today, given by Anthony Gritten of RNCM.

 

The programme:-

 

Sortie in G Minor (Lefébure-Wely)

 

Prelude, Aria and Passacaglia (Richard Francis) This was the world premiere performance of this piece, written in 1976 and resurrected last year, played in the presence of the composer. A super piece, which I hope will soon be recorded.

 

Suite Pour Souvigny (Guy Bovet) This suited the organ in the Abbey beautifully with plenty of chance to hear the many different colours of the Milton Organ. The antiphonal possibilities with the main and Apse organs were nicely exploited.

 

Next week's recital at 13.00 is by Andrew Kirk of St Mary Redcliffe.

 

On Saturday 4 October at 19.30 there is an Organ Gala Concert with the chance to hear all 3 organs in use - sounds like a good excuse for a weekend break in this lovely town...I never tire of the Abbey - the standard view from the nearby car park is stunning and even without a great recital is well worth the trip from Stratford-upon-Avon.

 

P

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I'll go back one day to Tewkesbury.....For the *other* organ!

 

(Not to say the Milton's isn't "good"!)

 

Pierre

 

This one, Pierre? :rolleyes:

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N12493

 

I must say, I can't wait to hear the Grove again - I did actually play it once, in c. 1975. Mmmmm!

 

Peter

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.....A synthesis organ like there are -still?- some unique

specimens in Britain.

Pierre

 

Wouldn't that be an interesting starting point for a new instrument - the 'Grove' that is.

 

AJJ

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I'll go back one day to Tewkesbury.....For the *other* organ!

 

(Not to say the Milton's isn't "good"!)

 

Pierre

When were you last in Tewkesbury as a matter of interest, have you heard the Milton & Apse since the Kenneth Jones rebuild? Its a pretty super instrument now, much more imposing than it was in its Walker guise.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Forgive me if I've mentioned (er, 'ranted about') this before.

 

The Grove organ is one of the few in this country which really deserves international attention. I'll never forget playing Franck on it back when I was a teenager. Hard work, but well worth it.

 

The tragedy is that it's in a building which by widespread agreement has one of the best acoustics in the British isles, and yet it's buried away in a transept, behind a parclose screen. Hear it from the nave and it has no impact at all; hear it close-up and it's exciting but there's no space for the sound to develop. There's nowhere it sounds right. And it looks bl***y ugly.

 

Now if there was only a lottery grant to move it to the west end in a new case ...

 

... drool .... I'm thinking Vierne Messe Solonelle ....

 

Ah well, at least we can be thankful that it wasn't flooded last summer. And no dishonour intended to the Milton organ, of course. Tewkesbury is a lucky place indeed.

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Indeed, I was very worried with this flooding....

The bad situation and lack of a case might explain why

this organ has not been "bettered" -yet-. So maybe it's

better so , somewhat buried, for some times more, up until

we are sure any works won't be spoiled with strange ideas.

 

Pierre

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Forgive me if I've mentioned (er, 'ranted about') this before.

 

The Grove organ is one of the few in this country which really deserves international attention. I'll never forget playing Franck on it back when I was a teenager. Hard work, but well worth it.

 

The tragedy is that it's in a building which by widespread agreement has one of the best acoustics in the British isles, and yet it's buried away in a transept, behind a parclose screen. Hear it from the nave and it has no impact at all; hear it close-up and it's exciting but there's no space for the sound to develop. There's nowhere it sounds right. And it looks bl***y ugly.

 

Now if there was only a lottery grant to move it to the west end in a new case ...

 

I seem to recall there were plans back in the seventies to move the organ to the west end, with a new case designed by the architect, Lawrence King. The late Michael Gillingham advised on the project. I believe there were objections, presumably from the CFC (or whatever it was called in those days) and the case went as far as Consistory Court, but, alas, no further.

 

Maybe someone else has a more precise recollection.

 

JS

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

Nicholas Plumley Esq. has just finished writing a guide/history of all the organs in Tewkesbury Abbey which will shortly be available. He has delved and unearthed much in the past couple of years. Hang on .........

Best wishes,

Nigel

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I seem to recall there were plans back in the seventies to move the organ to the west end, with a new case designed by the architect, Lawrence King. The late Michael Gillingham advised on the project. I believe there were objections, presumably from the CFC (or whatever it was called in those days) and the case went as far as Consistory Court, but, alas, no further.

 

Maybe someone else has a more precise recollection.

 

JS

Yes, I believe it is true that a plan to move the organ to the west end was considered, but rejected because it would have obscured the west window. Messe Solennelle would be problematic however as the Grove is not at concert pitch.

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Yes, I believe it is true that a plan to move the organ to the west end was considered, but rejected because it would have obscured the west window. Messe Solennelle would be problematic however as the Grove is not at concert pitch.

 

Aw, you ruined my day-dream! How far from concert pitch is it?

 

Fair enough, but the west window argument never seems very convincing to me ... it didn't seem to be that much of a problem at Haarlem, Groningen, Luneberg, Freiburg, St-Eustache, Rouen, St-Denis, St Sulpice, Albi, St Maximin, Hamburg, Toulouse, Zwolle, Antwerp, Alkmaar ...

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I'm with the Abbey authorities on this one. The West Window is simply glorious, one of the (many) crowning glories of this most beautiful of buildings and I would hate to see it covered however much the Grove organ needs to be moved - and it does!

 

I've just returned from Cynic's quite superb lunchtime recital in the Abbey and cannot adequately say how much I enjoyed it. Great to meet you too, Paul. The CDs are about to get their first airing!

 

P

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Yes, I agree. However fine the Grove might sound from the west wall its not right the right thing to do in this building. The sad fact is that the Grove needs a new home. The Abbey is certainly a part of its history, but the reverse is not really true in any meaningful way. The Milton IS the Abbey organ and always has been. The Grove is a curiosity in an imposing setting. It deserves better - it deserves a location where it has a purpose. This it will never find in Tewkesbury.

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I'm going to be very, very unfashionable now and say that I'm rather sorry that Huskisson Stubington's scheme never came to fruition. Whilst not a repertoire-based scheme, it would have been a rather marvelous instrument, I suspect. In Stubington's time, to my understanding, the Milton was a bit of a mix-and-match and rather small as the main instrument, the Apse was rather more substantial than it is now (why the reduction in registers?), and the Grove needed renovation (as it did again only a short while after its 1980s renovation). Whilst the Milton has now been made a larger, coherent whole, the Apse has been shorn of much of its pipework, and the Grove (which I found to be a splendid instrument despite its limitations) has languished in the shadow of the Milton.

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I'm going to be very, very unfashionable now and say that I'm rather sorry that Huskisson Stubington's scheme never came to fruition. Whilst not a repertoire-based scheme, it would have been a rather marvelous instrument, I suspect. In Stubington's time, to my understanding, the Milton was a bit of a mix-and-match and rather small as the main instrument, the Apse was rather more substantial than it is now (why the reduction in registers?), and the Grove needed renovation (as it did again only a short while after its 1980s renovation). Whilst the Milton has now been made a larger, coherent whole, the Apse has been shorn of much of its pipework, and the Grove (which I found to be a splendid instrument despite its limitations) has languished in the shadow of the Milton.

Well a lot of what you say is true. Pre Kenneth Jones the Milton was a damp squib. A very fine damp squib of some historic interest, but nevertheless a damp squib. The Apse was an absolute delight, In the reworking of the Milton and Apse I would agree that the Apse has lost some of its former character, but certainly overall the combined result is to provide the abbey with a very fine 4-manual instrument, in my opinion by some margin the finest instrument in the county.

 

The Grove, as I noted in my previous post, is not at concert pitch, therefore Stubington's scheme would have required substantial alteration to the Grove to make it possible.

 

I rather regret the passing of the old (now owned by cynic) console & loft. It made you feel quite clever to play at such a huge console (where so little was actually connected to anything), and the intimacy of the old loft with its gun-hole openings for visibility into the quire was quite unique.

 

The problem with the Grove is that is of no possible liturgical purpose. The Abbey is a huge structure for a town of the size Tewkesbury to support and its visitor profile is not great. The Grove has already suffered one long period of silence and repeats of this are IMHO inevitable, Tewkesbury cannot reasonably be expected to pay for the maintenance of an organ which is of no practical purpose. Does not the instrument itself deserve better than its occasional use as an unreliable and difficult recital instrument?

 

If the Grove is to have a long term future it either needs independent financial support, to keep it in its present location as an historic curiosity, or a new home where it can have a real purpose.

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