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Wind Pressure For An English Tuba

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Guest Cynic
Our fellow contributor Cynic has much more knowledge of the Downside organ than I do, but as I understand it there is an enclosed Tuba on the Solo, but also an unenclosed Tuba on the Bombarde division. It would be interesting if Paul can tell us something about the character of and differences between these two stops.

JC

 

 

Glad to respond and sorry to argue, but I don't think there is a single unenclosed pipe at Downside. There are relatively few ranks, so what John has heard is probably the same Tuba played with box open and box closed! It certainly can be reduced almost to a French Horn when one shuts the box, indeed the Tuba has an enclosure to itself. It is certainly one of the smoother Tubas.

 

My personal Tuba favourites are the Willis ones, especially Blenheim Palace and the Mander Tubas at Eton College and (most recent) Magdeburg Cathedral which is, like the best Tubas to my mind, 'a shaft of gold'.

 

There are 31 ranks altogether in the Downside Compton:

Chamber A has three reed ranks - Clarinet, Posaune and Tromba - these serve Great Choir and Pedal

Chamber B has four reed ranks - Orchestral Oboe, Hautboy, Horn and Trumpet - these serve the Swell and Solo divisions - most ranks are also playable on the pedal.

Chamber C Tuba

 

The organ is nursed by Roger Taylor of Burrington, Bristol. To the best of my knowledge, the organ has never been cleaned or overhauled so all reeds remain as originally voiced and there is not a bad note anywhere in them so far as I can recollect!

 

PS Off at various tangents:

I started having organ lessons at the age of 12 with American, Walter Hillsman on the Willis/Rushworth four-manual at New College Oxford. The Tuba there was by Father Willis, it was superb, bright and enclosed. I think this determined my taste in Tubas for ever after. I wonder what became of it. According to Maurice Forsythe-Grant's book, all pipework not reused (strings) or retained for historic reasons (Dallam) went into the melting pot. In the case of that Tuba this was a great shame. Father Willis is on record as saying that he considered enclosing a Tuba spoiled it, but if the stop is bright enough, I find them particularly useful when enclosed. In my recent recording at Liverpool Met I used the solo Tubas a lot (with the box shut), particularly to cover up for the current deficiencies in winding to the Great reed stops.

 

Recently the Tuba at Malvern Priory was enclosed by Nicholsons. This I consider to be a mistake because its commanding voice is much missed, it used to be one of the organ's most impressive features. I was present at TT's opening recital and afterwards the chat appeared to be more about the apparent disappearance of the Tuba than anything else!

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The organ is nursed by Roger Taylor of Burrington, Bristol. To the best of my knowledge, the organ has never been cleaned or overhauled so all reeds remain as originally voiced and there is not a bad note anywhere in them so far as I can recollect!

Might that be a benefit from the enclosure?

 

On Graham's recording, the organ sounds superb throughout. But then, they usually do when played by him.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Guest Cynic
Might that be a benefit from the enclosure?

 

On Graham's recording, the organ sounds superb throughout. But then, they usually do when played by him.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

 

I agree, though I believe Priory had great trouble with it, much editing and playing about to get the sound right. Fortunately we made our recording later and knew what their two problems had been. First, each manually operated stop gave off a small audible click so we tried to set our whole programme to be piston only! Second, Priory pointed their microphones directly at the case, and we pointed ours at the roof above it - All the shutters of the two main boxes face upwards - the pipework essentially fires against the stone vault.

 

I agree that this was an splendid choice of organ for Whitlock - he played this organ himself when it was new. I would contrast that with Graham Barber's otherwise excellent recording from Coventry when he plays the Howells Sonata there!

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As for an opinion - in general, they are unenclosed and often need a health warning attached to the stop. Some in England might be heard in Rostock when the wind is from the West.

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

Oh, and I thought it was the steam tug visiting our city harbour occasionally... :rolleyes:

 

But I can tell you about some stops in Germany, too - still far from an English tuba - where the players should have the license to kill (or thrill) before pulling them...

 

As it shimmers through, my original question has to do with the certain organ I serve at, and of course the idea is not to search after a church-blaster, but merely for a stop, that can carry a tenor c. f. through full congregational (plus descant) singing without destroying it, and here and there a "Tuba tune" or Voluntary appearance...

 

The "blaster" job I'd leave to real chamades (hidden on the roof, in this case), but using them for some Cocherau cascades only (what else would be left to do with them?) is maybe too little value for the effort. But if somebody would donate them...

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...Graham Barber's otherwise excellent recording from Coventry when he plays the Howells Sonata there!

Wasn't his recording of the Howells Sonata from Hereford? (Or has he recorded it more than once?)

P.

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Guest Cynic
Wasn't his recording of the Howells Sonata from Hereford? (Or has he recorded it more than once?)

P.

 

 

I beg his pardon (and yours of course, gentle readers) - it was a Priory CD (that's why I thought it was GB)

but it was Christopher Bowers-Broadbent.

 

Mea culpa....

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Are there examples of enclosed tubas? In general, they are unenclosed, aren't they?

Opinions about it?

Generally they are unenclosed, yes, but, as has been mentioned, there are enclosed examples. Two more I can immediately recall are the IVP foghorn at St Andrew's, Plymouth, and the IVP Skinner at Winston-Salem. The Plymouth stop loses very little by being enclosed (though the cynic in me says that this is because it is so lugubrious that it has little to lose). Here the enclosure is useful when accompanying choirs. With the Solo box wide open the stop is too loud to balance the choir + accompaniment and the ability to throttle it back a bit is very handy. For a west end organ with no choir accompaniment role I would see no benefit in enclosure.

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And why is the Harmonics blocked Off ?

 

Pierre,

 

The Harmonics isn't blocked off, just the flat 21st rank is (gummed paper over the mouths).

I suppose this was done to leave a chorus mixture which could be used to top the 8/4/2 diapasons, which of course Harrisons never intended the Harmonics to do!

 

Listen to Arthur Wills' Great Cathedral Organ Series LP from Ely, played on the then untouched Harrison, the 3 Trombas blot out everything except for the 32 Bombardon.

 

DT

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Are there examples of enclosed tubas? In general, they are unenclosed, aren't they?

Opinions about it?

 

There are, of course, the 16' and 8' enclosed tubas (on 15" pressure, I think) at York Minster.

 

They are demonstrated (briefly) on the new Priory DVD discussed on another thread on this site, and don't seem to suffer unduly from their enclosure!

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"The Tuba there was by Father Willis, it was superb, bright and enclosed. I think this determined my taste in Tubas for ever after. "

(Quoted from Cynic)

 

This is the kind of hands-on knowledge we need on the continent in order to avoid erring

for years before to get something that works really.

We need some examples on-line, of several different styles, to "have them in the ears"!

 

Pierre

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Are there examples of enclosed tubas? In general, they are unenclosed, aren't they?

Opinions about it?

 

Nobody has so far mentioned what is arguably the main purpose of our Cathedral organs - the accompaniment of the Cathedral choir during the daily office. Think of all those wonderful settings which cry out for a fine 'trumpety moment' - Stanford in A Nunc, Darke in F Communion, Howells Coll Reg Communion, Murrill in E Glorias, Finzi God is gone up & Lo the full, Matthias and recent works too numerous to mention.

 

 

The 'climactic' type of solo reed, whilst appropriate for leading the singing of a massed congregation in the nave; a most effective example being the unenclosed Tuba at Hereford - very loud at close quarters since being move into front portion of the case, is certainly not appropriate for the accompaniment of what is a quite small Cathedral choir (only 6 men). At Hereford there is also an enclosed Tromba on the solo which is used for this purpose, this stop has about the same output in volume as the Great Trumpet, but is more like the Tuba tonally.

Similarly, at Ripon the unenclosed Tuba 8 is too loud to use with the choir, so the enclosed Tuba 16 is used an 'octave up'

At Manchester, the unenclosed Tuba Mirabilis with it's pipes laid flat on the screen was ridiculously loud and was removed 'before' (I think) the console was relocated to the screen, the enclosed Orchestra Tuba is a fine stop - not very big but a good accompanimental voice.

On some instruments, York and St. George's Hall Liverpool spring to mind, there are historical reasons for the enclosed Tubas. At both venues these enclosed ranks were old - at York they were Hill stops and at St. George's the original Father Willis, the Mirabilis stops on both instruments (very much louder) were added in th 1930s.

At Lincoln, Salisbury and St. Paul's Father Willis put in modest Tubas at 8&4, the 8 can be used with the choir, together both will top full organ nicely without blotting everything else out.

 

The only very large building where there is only and enclosed Tuba is Peterborough, an it sounds quite big if I remember correctly.

 

DT

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Pierre,

 

The Harmonics isn't blocked off, just the flat 21st rank is (gummed paper over the mouths).

I suppose this was done to leave a chorus mixture which could be used to top the 8/4/2 diapasons, which of course Harrisons never intended the Harmonics to do!

Listen to Arthur Wills' Great Cathedral Organ Series LP from Ely, played on the then untouched Harrison, the 3 Trombas blot out everything except for the 32 Bombardon.

DT

 

I believe that the LP in question was from 1967. In 1962 Arthur Wills had the Gt and Ped reeds revoiced on lighter pressures. Whilst the knobs may well have remained with the same engraving the sound was frenchified and whilst they do blot everything out I do not think they can be classified as Trombas. This was an LP that made a great impression on me at the time with its (nearly) all French programme.

PJW

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Thanks, David, for this posting! (And to the other contributors as well...)

First because of the knowledge and second because of the basic idea. In fact, I love accompaning, to congregation or choir, and would always look for sounds capable of doing this. My love for Anglican church music is based on annual listening/watching of the DVD "Carols from King's", where the Tuba appears as Tenor voice to congregation and choir setting within "God bless you, merry gentlemen", If I'm right. Then there is my CD of the Westminster Abbey Psalms, and my own impressions from attendance there at mattins and eucharist some years ago, where I experienced this special quality of the "Anglican organ", as I would call it, to embed a hymn into a large variety of coulours and to let it stand in the focus of the listener/congregation member.

But I'd like to return to the topic, too, and to search for the "low pressure" variants of the tuba :blink:

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On some instruments, York and St. George's Hall Liverpool spring to mind, there are historical reasons for the enclosed Tubas. At both venues these enclosed ranks were old - at York they were Hill stops and at St. George's the original Father Willis, the Mirabilis stops on both instruments (very much louder) were added in th 1930s.

At Lincoln, Salisbury and St. Paul's Father Willis put in modest Tubas at 8&4, the 8 can be used with the choir, together both will top full organ nicely without blotting everything else out.

 

According to the documents, the enclosed tubas at York were by Walker in 1903 and, if so, I doubt they were retained for historical reasons. I suspect their value, in being enclosed, is more to do with flexibility.

 

This got me thinking, though. If your sources say they are Hill, I wonder whether old pipes were used/adapted by Walker in 1903.

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In my experience, I have found that Harrison Trombas from the 1st half of the 20th century vary considerably.

At Bedford St. Thomas, Leigh, near home - a typical substantial 3 manual job, the Trombas are as loud and as tonally intense as many a Tuba. I have found a similar situation on other Harrison jobs of a similar style and vintage. Also Ripon and Ely used to be like this - once the Trombas are on, you might as well put the rest of the great stops in, you certainly couldn't hear them.

However, other jobs - Halifax and Boston to name 2 which I have experience of, have much more restrained Trombas (including the 16ft) which are quieter, a bit more free tonally and blend with the fluework somewhat better.

I don't think you can draw any pattern from Harrison's practice.

 

DT

 

Whilst there may be a few examples which are quieter and which have some harmonic development, there was a discernable pattern. These stops were often voiced on 300mm w.g. (although those at King's College Chapel, Cambridge speak on a pressure of 450mm. There are (or were) many examples which tended towards the former description; you mentioned Ripon and Ely (I have a copy of the recording of the Ely organ from the Great Cathedral Organs series), there was also Worcester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey (again recorded in the same series) - and York Minster, for which we have the testimony of Dr. Francis Jackson; Newcastle City Hall also contains G.O. Trombe ranks, which speak on a pressure of 375mm. There is also Crediton Parish Church (G.O> reeds still extant), Saint Peter's, Bournemouth (a colleague used to have lessons on the old organ) and a number of others in which those who know (or knew) these instruments spoke of the opaque and very powerful tone of the G.O. reeds.

 

In any case, it is possible that the G.O. reeds at Halifax and Boston have been revoiced at some stage. The organ at Halifax was rebuilt with alterations by Walker in 1968 and again in 1976. Given the prevailing change in tase at that time (and in comparison with other work by the same firm in the 1960s), I doubt that they left the G.O. reeds as Arthur Harrison finished them. That at Boston has been altered three times (although in each case, H&H undertook the work), 1940, 1953 and 1987 - the latter occasion involving 'slight tonal changes'. I note that the reeds on the G.O. at Boston (may) now speak on a pressure of 250mm.

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Regarding enclosed tubas, you could not do better for an example than St Mary's Southampton - here the 32' (full length) 16' and 8' Tuba is enclosed in the choir box, with the 32' virtually 'en chamade' pointing directly at the organist over the other side of the chancel!

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Forgive me if I am repeating anyone's earlier post, but I have a very special spot for all three of the Durham Tubas. "Baby" Tuba on the Solo is very broad in tone but easily controlled by the box, whilst the Bombarde Tuba and Tuba Clarion are big brutes, originally Father Willis and magnificent! The 32 and 16 Ophicleides also on the Bombarde defy description, but suffice it to say that in 1970, the 16 Trombone was extended downwards to give a second 32' redd in the form of the Double Ophicleide. In James Lancelot/Richard Hird's book on the organ it is described as invaluable for those occasions "when a mere ff is required".

 

Charles

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Forgive me if I am repeating anyone's earlier post, but I have a very special spot for all three of the Durham Tubas. "Baby" Tuba on the Solo is very broad in tone but easily controlled by the box, whilst the Bombarde Tuba and Tuba Clarion are big brutes, originally Father Willis and magnificent! The 32 and 16 Ophicleides also on the Bombarde defy description, but suffice it to say that in 1970, the 16 Trombone was extended downwards to give a second 32' redd in the form of the Double Ophicleide. In James Lancelot/Richard Hird's book on the organ it is described as invaluable for those occasions "when a mere ff is required".

 

Charles

 

For the sake of accuracy, the Trombone was extended down to provide a Double Trombone 32ft. - there was already a Double Ophicleide 32ft. as the larger of the two reeds.

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For the sake of accuracy, the Trombone was extended down to provide a Double Trombone 32ft. - there was already a Double Ophicleide 32ft. as the larger of the two reeds.

 

Oh damn. Yes that was exactly what I meant! Blame it on the half-term switch off of the brian!

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Oh damn. Yes that was exactly what I meant! Blame it on the half-term switch off of the brian!

Do not worry - my brain does this occasionally, even if it is not half-term.... Talking of which, Amsterdam on Tueday - huzzah!

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According to the documents, the enclosed tubas at York were by Walker in 1903 and, if so, I doubt they were retained for historical reasons. I suspect their value, in being enclosed, is more to do with flexibility.

 

This got me thinking, though. If your sources say they are Hill, I wonder whether old pipes were used/adapted by Walker in 1903.

 

I've got the 1997 booklet about the Minster organ, possible you have too; Solo Tubas 8&16 appear on the 1859 Hill spec, the 1903 Walker spec also indicates these stops but the booklet doesn't credit them as being Hill. However if you compare the 2 specs there are considerable similarities - for example the 4 Great reeds, but again, not much material is credited as being Hill.

I would guess that much more of the pipework in the Walker organ was from the Hill instrument, albeit revoiced.

 

As to historical reasons, well, organists (and I suppose builders) are always very reluctant to get rid of good stops when it comes to a rebuild. ;)

 

DT

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Oh damn. Yes that was exactly what I meant! Blame it on the half-term switch off of the brian!

 

 

But I have n't switched off for half-term ! In fact I have been quite assiduous in reading posts of late.

 

Brian Childs

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But I have n't switched off for half-term ! In fact I have been quite assiduous in reading posts of late.

 

Brian Childs

 

Yup, and welcome back too! ;)

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I've got the 1997 booklet about the Minster organ, possible you have too; Solo Tubas 8&16 appear on the 1859 Hill spec, the 1903 Walker spec also indicates these stops but the booklet doesn't credit them as being Hill. However if you compare the 2 specs there are considerable similarities - for example the 4 Great reeds, but again, not much material is credited as being Hill.

I would guess that much more of the pipework in the Walker organ was from the Hill instrument, albeit revoiced.

 

As to historical reasons, well, organists (and I suppose builders) are always very reluctant to get rid of good stops when it comes to a rebuild. ;)

 

DT

 

Yes, I do have it and, yes, there are many similarities.

 

It would be nice to think that these tubas do originate from the Hill rebuild - and, of course, you may well be correct in that they were re-used - but if that were the case I am surprised that the authorities at York do not claim their historical provenance. On the other hand, I'm sure I read somewhere that these were the second and third tubas ever to have been made after the first at Birmingham TH, which would suggest much earlier than 1903. I would really like to get to the bottom of this.

 

I have wondered about other stops at York possibly being older than the documents state. For example, the booklet you refer to states that there are three stops (Open Wood 32' and 16' extension, and Open Diapason 32') from the Elliot and Hill 1829 build, yet elsewhere (can't remember where offhand) I have read that there are five or six such stops.

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