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The Best Cases


Peter Allison
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I always think that the case housing the Walker in St Chad's Cathedral Birmingham is very impressive.

I never knew the instrument in there before 1993, but have seen pictures of it... row of grey chimneys and a chamade sums it up... so, if nothing else, it's a huge improvement! B)

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  • 5 weeks later...

Hi Peter,

 

Having been away for some time, apologies for resurrecting a topic which has been off-the-boil for a while.

 

I too have always considered Beverley to be one of our finest cases, and remember a photo being the frontplate in a long-lost book on organs as a child.

As someone who has always had a keen interest in church architecture, I rank Beverley as my second favourite Gothic building (after Lincoln of course); just like Dr Hill's case and George Gilbert Scott's screen the whole building is a model of elegant proportion. The case and screen compliment the building perfectly.

 

However, I have two major reservations about the appearance of the Beverley organ:

1. The HNB console badly spoils the graceful silhoette, especially when viewed from the nave. It's a pity that Woods didn't reset it flush within the case during their rebuild, as at Lincoln or Southwell. After all, there's nothing inside a solid-state console, just look how shallow the mobile console at Liverpool is.

2. The mass of organ material (swell, solo, pedal) strewn in the south choir aisle and peeping over the top of the stalls is hideous. Beverley Minster is the Cathedral that never was, which other Cathedral is so marred by such an unencased spawl of organ bits?

 

Any opinions?

DT

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The last time I played Beverley, well before the re-build, every time you pressed a piston the TV camera went on the blink - it was an interesting service!

 

 

St. George's Hall, Liverpool must surely rank at the top of the list for imposing case and a stunning setting. The hall itself is opulence itself and the organ, quite apart from being an astonishing instrument, looks amazing. Shame (to put it mildly) it is in the state that it is.

St John's, Tuebrook liverpool is another stunning case - fabulous Hill organ, likewise Arundel Cathedral and Manchester Holy Name. Beautifully coloured front pipes.

The flamed copper front pipes of the Tickell organ in St Barnabus Dulwich are very impressive. I also have a particular affinity with the cases in Oakham Parish Church and Douai Abbey, also by Tickell.

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2. The mass of organ material (swell, solo, pedal) strewn in the south choir aisle and peeping over the top of the stalls is hideous. Beverley Minster is the Cathedral that never was, which other Cathedral is so marred by such an unencased spawl of organ bits?

 

Any opinions?

DT

 

 

Ripon? Hereford? Both have "sprawl" in the choir aisles. Salisbury has 32' dull grey tubes and awful aperatus next to it in the North Transept. Admittedly, these are not as messy as Beverley, but the effect to the passer-by (knowledgeable or not) must be heath-robinson-esque!

 

Best wishes

Richard

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Ripon? Hereford? Both have "sprawl" in the choir aisles. Salisbury has 32' dull grey tubes and awful aperatus next to it in the North Transept. Admittedly, these are not as messy as Beverley, but the effect to the passer-by (knowledgeable or not) must be heath-robinson-esque!

 

Best wishes

Richard

I think that's a bit harsh on Hereford, there are a few exposed pedal trombones in the South Aisle, nothing more. Not a great architectural feature I would admit, but hardly "sprawl". The 32' basses at Exeter are more intrusive than these.

 

What about the apse division at Tewkesbury? Its not near to floor level so may get away with it more easily, but its visual beauty in no way matches its aural quality (which is sublime).

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The 32' basses at Exeter are more intrusive than these.

 

Not at all! Nicely hidden away 'round the corner in the transept, and a source of interest to tourists who often ask whether or not they work!

 

Oh, unless you mean the new 32' reed....!

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Rochester Cathedral is particularly fine, and what's inside makes a particularly fine sound too!

Personally I'm not at all sure I like the Roman fasces look, but I suppose the relative narrowness of quire arch did impose some restrictions on the design.

 

As for the sound, the loud stuff is certainly exhilarating in a grab-you-by-the-collar-and-hurl-you-down-the-nave kind of way, but - with apologies to our hosts - I don't find much subtlety. I find the tone quite hard-edged. It's certainly not the most gracious organ for choir accompaniment.

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Not at all! Nicely hidden away 'round the corner in the transept, and a source of interest to tourists who often ask whether or not they work!

 

Oh, unless you mean the new 32' reed....!

 

This rank is not that visible. Unless one is looking for it, I suspect that most visitors fail to register its presence, unless it is pointed-out to them.

 

I find the cameras and TV system more obtrusive - the former somewhat spoiling the waist of the case.

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This rank is not that visible. Unless one is looking for it, I suspect that most visitors fail to register its presence, unless it is pointed-out to them.

 

I find the cameras and TV system more obtrusive - the former somewhat spoiling the waist of the case.

 

Mostly agreed. The average visitor would probably not notice it but anybody who looks around the Cathedral with rather more of a discerning eye would. I only know this as, when it was installed, it was a non-organist friend who asked me what was now "sticking up by the organ". I couldn't answer, until I'd visited to see for myself.

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Mostly agreed. The average visitor would probably not notice it but anybody who looks around the Cathedral with rather more of a discerning eye would. I only know this as, when it was installed, it was a non-organist friend who asked me what was now "sticking up by the organ". I couldn't answer, until I'd visited to see for myself.

 

Fair enough. However, this organ desperately needed this rank and there was nowhere else it could go. Various other sites had been suggested - and subsequently rejected; for example, placing these twelve pipes behind the 32ft. Contra Violone (the lowest sixteen pipes stand in the South Transept). This would have resulted in blocking the door into the Chapter House link stairs, since the 32ft. flues would have had to stand further forwards.

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The flamed copper front pipes of the Tickell organ in St Barnabus Dulwich are very impressive. I also have a particular affinity with the cases in Oakham Parish Church and Douai Abbey, also by Tickell.

The copper flaming at Dulwich has gone off a bit with age and the pipes now just look a bit dirty - there are finger marks all over them. They need a good clean and polish!

 

However, it is a successful modern case and perfect for the building so deserves a mention here.

 

Ken's done some good cases - Oakham and Douai deserve a mention as you say, as does Cheltenham Girls' School. Some of his cases can look a bit "samey" - it quite often looks like he re-uses the case design from his last organ and just tweaks it in CAD for its new situation. This seems especially prevalent for parish churches. But there's nothing new in this, from the stock organs by Walkers &c in the 19th Century and the frequently somewhat repititive cases in the 18th Century by people like Griffen, etc, who must have used standardised designs.

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I'm surprise that nobody's mentioned Chester Cathedral, very much a forgotten back-water.

I particularly like the contrast between the gilded pipes, limed oak woodwork, and the rather sombre new red sandstone of the cathedral.

Also, the pedal basses are fairly unobtrusively placed against the north wall of the north transept.

The choir is a bit less successful behind and above the choir stalls to the south, it would be musically and aesthetically better placed in a reduced form (this term is something of anathema to organists!) back in George Gilbert Scott's little case on the screen. :rolleyes:

 

DT

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I suggest the Aberdeen University Chapel organ as a new case fully enclosing an organ for a visit from here. Not seen by many because its distance away from other musical centres, I think it deserves a glance or further study. It is a Pulpitum position and thus has 4 sides. Seen from so many angles it has to complement the famous mediaeval choir stalls too. This is a modern essay for a splendid old situation. Here's a link King's College Chapel, Aberdeen Make of it what you will.

Best wishes,

Nigel

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I've always had a fondness for the Milton organ in Tewkesbury Abbey, looking quite delicious now on its new raised gallery! There's also an exquisite little gem of a Georgian case in the now redundant church of Saint John the Baptist in Lancaster - which reminds me - let's not forget the newly restored Waring & Gillow case in the Ashton Hall in Lancaster!

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I'm very surprised to see Chester Cathedral described as a "forgotten back water". No disrespect, David. Maybe because I live here but it is well visited, and I'm sure many contributors have either heard or played it. If ever you're in the area, recitals every Thursday at 1.10 (plug, plug!). One criticism of the case is that it would look better if the pipes didn't poke out at the top, but I'm not sure how it would look if they didn't.

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I have never seen Chester "in the flesh", but I must admit my first reaction to seeing photos was to wonder whether the case was made for an organ with a different pitch standard, i.e. shorter pipes; however, a closer look soon dispelled that idea. Not, however, one of the most gracious cases, though maybe it looks better when you're actually there.

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I'm very fond of Truro, although that's technically "caseless!" Happy memories of Chester too; also on my list would be Durham, Selby and York (main case, at least).

 

Also saw Carlisle in the flesh for the first time the other day; found it quite pleasing on the eye from both sides, but I'm not sure I liked the sound all that much. (The Positive doesn't blend terribly well with the rest of it - curiously enough, we have the same problem with the Main Organ at Kendal PC!)

 

Beyond these shores, two of my absolute favourites are in the South East of France, on which I've given recitals in recent years: St Barnard, Romans-sur-Isere, and its near neighbour St Antoine l'Abbaye. Nigel Allcoat has performed and recorded many times on the latter instrument, which can be seen here:

 

http://orgues.free.fr/stantoine/index.html

 

whilst the former instrument can be seen and heard here:

 

http://www.onetruemedia.com/otm_site/view_...tm_medium=email

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