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St Mary's Shrewsbury


OmegaConsort
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I am sure this organ has appeared before in other posts, but I thought I would tell you a short story.....

 

I found myself in Shrewsbury last weekend, and popped into St Mary's (the church was made redundant in the '80s but is still open, and well preserved as a "living" church).

I approached a charming lady guide and mentioned that I played the organ, and without hesitation, she told me to go and play!

I then spent half an hour on a wonderful old 4-manual Binns - pretty much in original condition. Here is the NPOR spec for those who don't know it:

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N04612

 

I can't find a website for the church, but this (http://www.stchadschurchshrewsbury.com/stmarys.html) gives some information.

 

What a wonderful organ and a truly supurb building. The flutes and amazing choice of reeds (loud and soft) left me in raptures! I just wish I had brought my shoes(!) and some music with me.

The instrument is in pretty good condition considering it's history (Pedal bottom D doesn't work) and I got the impression it was used regularly but not often.

 

If you find yourself in the area, I do urge you to visit St Mary's and if the charming lady guide is on duty, ask if you can have a go, but do treat the old dear gently (the organ that is!) - you will not be disappointed (assuming you don't go looking for mutations).

As I came down the spiral stairs from the console, I noticed a list of organists from the church - our very own "Cynic" was the last organist when the church was made redundant!

Lastly, try to find a moment to take a look at the East End Window - that too is worth a visit

Best wishes

Richard

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I haven't come across the expression '"living" church' before in the context of an otherwise redundant building, but assume that it comprehends something along the lines of community / council upkeep for historical purposes. Is this correct?

 

You mention that the instrument is in 'pretty good condition considering its history' (being made redundant in the '80s), so I would naturally have thought that there wouldn't be sufficient funds to keep it in really good shape. However, the information on NPOR refers to proposed alterations on which there was no apparent progress as at October 1993, which (since it post-dates the building's redundancy) nevertheless implies an ongoing interest in the instrument such that one might even imagine funds one day becoming available.

 

Now, I could very well have misread or misinterpreted something, so I'd appreciate you putting my confusion out of its misery!

 

Rgds

MJF

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I haven't come across the expression '"living" church' before in the context of an otherwise redundant building, but assume that it comprehends something along the lines of community / council upkeep for historical purposes. Is this correct?

 

I think that is what this fabulous Willis comes under in Edinburgh. I don't think the church is used for worship anymore. A pity.

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I haven't come across the expression '"living" church' before in the context of an otherwise redundant building, but assume that it comprehends something along the lines of community / council upkeep for historical purposes. Is this correct?

 

You mention that the instrument is in 'pretty good condition considering its history' (being made redundant in the '80s), so I would naturally have thought that there wouldn't be sufficient funds to keep it in really good shape. However, the information on NPOR refers to proposed alterations on which there was no apparent progress as at October 1993, which (since it post-dates the building's redundancy) nevertheless implies an ongoing interest in the instrument such that one might even imagine funds one day becoming available.

 

Now, I could very well have misread or misinterpreted something, so I'd appreciate you putting my confusion out of its misery!

 

Rgds

MJF

 

I was indeed the last appointed organist, serving from 1980-84. I and my wife recussitated the choir somewhat in the teeth of the opposition which came in the form of clergy. Since I had offered my services unpaid (I was Head of Music elsewhere in the town) they could not really gain-say this. Contrast that attitude with that of the congregation which was small but immensely loyal. So loyal, in fact, that they (The Friends of St.Mary's) open it virtually every day, serving coffee etc. to visitors. The last vicar (now departed this life) had been clearly put in to close the church (he had another parish, All Saints, Castlefields, where his vicarage was) - at one stage there were at least four town centre churches that were threatened with closure under the same 'pastoral measure'. Only St.Mary's and St.Julian's (now a craft centre) were actually closed in the event, mostly because the others had vicars who fought alongside their congregations to work out something.

 

The saddest part of this is that St.Mary's is absolutely in the centre of the historic and much visited town and these days it would be easy to think of a practical ministry - during the week maybe - rather than closing it. We were told that the church would cost much too much for us (PCC) to be able to contemplate. In fact, St.Chad's (outside the medieval town walls) has ended up costing far more to restore. As has been remarked above, St.Mary's is not just slap bang in the middle, but is an extremely beautiful building.

 

Under Redundant Churches Fund rules, St.Mary's can be used for worship on a maximum of three occasions per year. To the best of my knowledge the organ was being maintained by Oakes of Stoke on Trent (I looked after it myself while I was organist) and I believe a certain amount of repair work was paid for by the RCF. William Smallman (a previous organist of St.Chad's) keeps an eye on the instrument and plays when music is required.

 

Fond though I was of it, this instrument is more of a curiosity/important survival than a satisfying musical masterpiece - the reason is that it is skyied up twenty-five foot off the ground with hardly any opening into the chancel and none at all into the nave. From downstairs it sounds potentially magnificent but very distant. The specification and character from the console are virtually identical to the large Binns organs at Rochdale Town Hall and The Albert Hall, Nottingham. Both those instruments are a big thrill to listeners, St.Marys is no thrill at all...... Unless you play it, of course! Playing it is like flying a bomber with all the doors open.

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I think the alterations suggested on NPOR originated from a leaflet about the organ written by J Eric Hunt a former organist of the church, this was published in the late 40's early 50's in an attempt to raise money for the work to be carried out by Harrison and Harrison. I know the late Sam Baker longed for the organ to be lowered to allow the sound to fill the church, but even during his tenure the cost was prohibitive.

 

The organ is well worth a visit and if you can play it, the soft stops, barely audible in the church are exquisite at the console.

 

The other glory of the church is the east window which is breath taking.

 

Barrie

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I knew this organ in the 1960s when the church was in full use and Sam Baker was DOM. And I'd agree it's well worth a visit, yes, as I recall better at the console - the sound didn't really get out due to the organ being stuffed into a chamber.

 

Another of my favourites in Shrewsbury is the 1911 3-manual Hill at the Abbey Church. Here there's plenty of space around and above it and this to me sounds very good in the church. It was never completed; last time I played it a few years ago it was very tired. The church website says they're planning to rebuild it, but it has said that on and off for years and nothing's happened yet. But worth a visit if you can get on it.

 

R

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I knew this organ in the 1960s when the church was in full use and Sam Baker was DOM. And I'd agree it's well worth a visit, yes, as I recall better at the console - the sound didn't really get out due to the organ being stuffed into a chamber.

 

Another of my favourites in Shrewsbury is the 1911 3-manual Hill at the Abbey Church. Here there's plenty of space around and above it and this to me sounds very good in the church. It was never completed; last time I played it a few years ago it was very tired. The church website says they're planning to rebuild it, but it has said that on and off for years and nothing's happened yet. But worth a visit if you can get on it.

 

R

 

I was organist and choirmaster there too! [One of the many organists who served Revd.Ian Ross in the 1980s and 90s] - your friend and mine, Monsieur pcnd is another.

 

I was told fairly recently by a Director of Music who has since moved on to St.Chad's that H&H were about to rebuild The Abbey organ (and frankly he ought to know) but I'll believe it when I see it.

 

The old HN&B makes an elegant if unexciting sound. My strongest memory of the organ (other than of the rather sad stumps which are all that can be seen of the prepared-for stops) is the fact that the whole instrument shakes all the time that the blower is on. Because of The Severn's propensity to flood dramatically from time to time, the whole organ including blowing plant is elevated some four foot or so above floor level and the vibrations from elderly blower bearings travel really well. And no, I don't think this movement would bring pleasure even to lady organists.

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I haven't come across the expression '"living" church' before in the context of an otherwise redundant building, but assume that it comprehends something along the lines of community / council upkeep for historical purposes. Is this correct?

 

You mention that the instrument is in 'pretty good condition considering its history' (being made redundant in the '80s), so I would naturally have thought that there wouldn't be sufficient funds to keep it in really good shape. However, the information on NPOR refers to proposed alterations on which there was no apparent progress as at October 1993, which (since it post-dates the building's redundancy) nevertheless implies an ongoing interest in the instrument such that one might even imagine funds one day becoming available.

 

 

I am sorry MJF - it wasn't very clear was it! Some of my comments have been cleared up on replies after yours, but what I meant was, the lights were on, there were candles on the altar, all the furnishings were still in place, and nicely polished, it was sunny, warm, a pleasant welcome and the place felt "lived in"!

 

NPOR lists proposals that (having played it) clearly never happened, although at some point the blowing equipment has had an overhaul, and I think I read somewhere in the church that David Wells had carried out some "patching up" in the '90s.

 

I would agree completely with Cynic's comments concerning how it sounds at the console - it blasts you completely (especially the tuba and Gt OD No 1). The pedal reed is a bit on the soft side though. I didn't hear it from the floor, but can see why it might sound weaker from down there - the entire instrument is elevated by 20 feet or so, and boxed in.

 

Best wishes

Richard

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I am sorry MJF - it wasn't very clear was it! Some of my comments have been cleared up on replies after yours, but what I meant was, the lights were on, there were candles on the altar, all the furnishings were still in place, and nicely polished, it was sunny, warm, a pleasant welcome and the place felt "lived in"!

 

NPOR lists proposals that (having played it) clearly never happened, although at some point the blowing equipment has had an overhaul, and I think I read somewhere in the church that David Wells had carried out some "patching up" in the '90s.

 

I would agree completely with Cynic's comments concerning how it sounds at the console - it blasts you completely (especially the tuba and Gt OD No 1). The pedal reed is a bit on the soft side though. I didn't hear it from the floor, but can see why it might sound weaker from down there - the entire instrument is elevated by 20 feet or so, and boxed in.

 

Best wishes

Richard

From what you and Cynic have said, St Mary's sounds far more alive than a number of supposedly "active" churches that spring to mind in my little corner of the world.

 

Now I haven't spent a huge amount of time in the UK, and therefore know nothing at all of the rules of Redundant Churches Fund (and a lot else, besides), but I was reading a little the other day of royal and non-royal peculiars, and it sounds rather like a number of the good folk of Shrewsbury might be very happy to have St Mary's as their own little peculiar, beyond diocesan intervention.

 

Rgds

MJF

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Well, of course, were it to come up for sale there is nothing at all to stop an interested group of persons (who may be, or include, musicians) buying the building and its contents, and using it to mount 'performances' of non-sacramental services to whomever would be interested in attending. Such performances might include liturgically correct Matins, Evensong, Compline, etc., perhaps?

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I was organist and choirmaster there too! [One of the many organists who served Revd.Ian Ross in the 1980s and 90s] - your friend and mine, Monsieur pcnd is another.

 

I was told fairly recently by a Director of Music who has since moved on to St.Chad's that H&H were about to rebuild The Abbey organ (and frankly he ought to know) but I'll believe it when I see it.

 

Yes - it would be wonderful to see this instrument restored and completed. The abbey authorities almost purchased a redundant 32ft. rank from a church in London shortly before I was appointed. Unfortunately, they could not raise the £2 - 3,000 which it would have cost.

 

Even in its incomplete state, this organ made a glorious sound in that beautiful building.

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Well, of course, were it to come up for sale there is nothing at all to stop an interested group of persons (who may be, or include, musicians) buying the building and its contents, and using it to mount 'performances' of non-sacramental services to whomever would be interested in attending. Such performances might include liturgically correct Matins, Evensong, Compline, etc., perhaps?

That's not dissimilar to the situation I had in my last church in Bristol, a quarter of a century ago now - a church with no priest, but with an excellent choir, a very serviceable organ and an unlimited budget for music (organist's pay excepted, alas!) Choral Evensong every Sunday evening, replaced once a month by a Choral Eucharist celebrated by a retired and invariably sherry-sozzled priest who we imported especially. Musically it was as near Utopia as I could ever have hoped to get.

http://www.mander-organs.com/discussion/in...post&p=8714

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The ideal (possible) re-use for St.Mary's came up for discussion while I was still on the P.C.C. there. This was before the Pugin R.C.Cathedral on Town Walls had been refurbished. It was seriously suggested that St.Mary's be offered to the R.C.s for use as their cathedral. To me (and to very many other people) this seemed an entirely logical thing to do - it had been of course been a catholic church for a while before Henry VIII came along!

 

I will never forget the clergy response - this came as quite a shock because the tradition at St.Mary's (very much encouraged by our two priests) was as Anglo-Catholic as you can get. The curate said he 'would rather see the church burned to the ground than given to the Catholics'. Things change: the vicar went on (some years later) from being a Canon of Lichfield Cathedral to becoming a member of the church of Rome!

 

I call myself 'Cynic' for a reason: in my personal experience, there are some truly unchristian elements in the CofE and they are not all on our side of the altar rail!

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I was told fairly recently by a Director of Music who has since moved on to St.Chad's that H&H were about to rebuild The Abbey organ (and frankly he ought to know) but I'll believe it when I see it.

 

That's interesting, because over the past few years Principal Pipe Organs and later Trevor Tipple were two names mentioned as possibles for the work. At the time one of them told me that lack of funds appeared to be a major issue here.

 

R.

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I was told fairly recently by a Director of Music who has since moved on to St.Chad's that H&H were about to rebuild The Abbey organ (and frankly he ought to know) but I'll believe it when I see it.

 

That's interesting, because over the past few years Principal Pipe Organs and later Trevor Tipple were two names mentioned as possibles for the work. At the time one of them told me that lack of funds appeared to be a major issue here.

 

R.

 

.... And unless some philanthropist (like Andrew Carnegie) were to appear on the scene, this is likely to remain a major issue for years to come.

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..and a nice Binns Chamade too! Looks like here - the NPOR picture is pre Chamade.

 

AJJ

 

 

What tasteful changes

 

 

not!

 

 

e.g. I'm not against nazards, not in any way, but how can anyone think a Nazard is more useful on a Great division than a 4' flute?

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What tasteful changes

 

 

not!

 

 

e.g. I'm not against nazards, not in any way, but how can anyone think a Nazard is more useful on a Great division than a 4' flute?

I heartliy concur with this sentiment; particularly since it looks as if the original flute was a Harmonic Flute 4ft. In any case, without a 4ft. flute, a Nazard is even less use.

 

I can also see little point in the Choir Mixture (19-22). The only vaguely diapason-toned rank in this department is a Geigen Principal 8ft. There is only one 4ft. - and this a Suabe Flute. Surely a good (reasonably wide-scaled) Flageolet 2ft. would have made better sense.

 

Neither would I have added a Trumpet en Chamade (sic) - particularly since the builders were unable to decide which language to employ, in order to name it. Having seen a good quality photograph of the case after this addition, the rank looks to be similar to that at Saint John's College Chapel, Cambridge - and Dunster Parish Church (the case of which I drew for one of my A' level art works). If this is the case (and I realise that it is not necessarily advisable to judge a stop from a photograph), I doubt that it either blends or improves the overall ensemble.

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And I've just been reading about this:

 

http://www.binns-schulte-orgel.de

 

Paul

 

 

The Germans seem to be ready customers for 19c romantic English instruments rescued from redundant churches and chapels up and down the land. There are a couple of firms specialising in the import of what often seem to be undistinguished hymn machines. Nevertheless, their typically bold diapasons, generous flutes and keen strings seem to be a big hit over there.

 

The organ mentioned above - somewhat remodelled in translation from Putney to Bonn - has been dubbed "Die Queen am Rhein".

 

Our sister site Orgelforum is currently hosting a debate on the merits of these instruments and sees British influence as a welcome antidote to the so-called 'Clairon-Doppelflöte-Clone-Carousel', aka the German/French symphonic style.

 

One contributor wonders if this is just a passing fad. How many German organists, he says, are likely 'to include Whitlock, Hollins, Brewer, Stanford, Vaughan Williams, Fletcher, Harwood, Harris, Drakeford(?), West, Calkin (?), Rowley or Jackson' in their repertoire?

 

Perhaps the most interesting development to watch will be the new organ for the Mercatorhalle in Duisburg, where the Town Council, in its official tender specification, prescribes substantially British characteristics for the new instrument. (See the Achtung! Tuba! thread in Jan 2008 for more detail).

 

 

 

JS

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Please forget about those (f?)rigid, typical 20th century "Repertoire" ideologies,

for a moment !

This Chamade is an huge mistake, no doubt. Eine richtige Tuba ist durch nichts

zu erzetzen, as I always said.

Just think of this; after decades of Mendelssohn played on coughing Gedackt-

4-2- schreiende Quintzymbel, without 16', a Schulze-influenced british organ

is a big relief. It is like the tale of the fool who stops slashing his head with an hammer

to say: "It's so good when I stop it".

 

Pierre

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..and a nice Binns Chamade too! Looks like here - the NPOR picture is pre Chamade.

 

AJJ

 

It is indeed this one. The quoted post from Orgelforum.de referred to the imminent release of a sample-set of this organ for Hauptwerk - a very welcome addition to the HW stable, from which a large English organ has been sadly lacking up till now. For more info see here: http://www.lavenderaudio.co.uk/oic/

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