Colin Harvey Posted February 6, 2009 Share Posted February 6, 2009 (My excuse is I'm bored and back at home after skiing for 2 weeks...) I remember making some rather strong comments about the organ at Christchurch Cathedral - some, which on re-reading, are perhaps rather too acerbic. But what is one to make of a modern germanic organ with a neo-french-classical specification inhabiting an historic English organ case specially altered to accomodate this organ? What was the thinking behind that? I wonder what type of organ we would build there today? The Rieger is a child of its time - the voicing and disposition are orientated somewhat vertically, the overall layout is clear Werkprinzip. Since the time Rieger built the Christchurch organ, thinking about organs has moved on. Today, the better builders aim to create an organ that is less about making a statement and more about building an organ which is in harmony with its surroundings and heritage. With a stronger focus on looking into the past to find the future, and acceptance once again of the English style and romantic organs, I wonder what we could end up building in Christchuch today? Would we not want to build an organ that is at home in the organ case and surroundings and provide the practising musicians of the Cathedral with an organ eminently suitable for its functions accompanying the professional choir, congregational singing as well as be a superlative organ for performance of all schools of classical organ music? Delving into the history of the organ, here are the key points in the organ's history: c. 1680: Father Smith builds an organ Gt 220.127.116.11.2.II.III.8.4.IV, Ch 18.104.22.168.8(?) 1848: Gray & Davison enlarge and improve the organ: http://npor.rcm.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?...ec_index=N11007 1870: Gray & Davison rebuild the organ: http://npor.rcm.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?...ec_index=N11008 After that, the organ is thoroughly rebuilt by Willis in 1884. The organ is further rebuilt by Willis & Son in 1910 and by H&H in 1924, eventually leaving little of the original organ in a recognisable state. I started wondering what if the Smith Organ were to be recreated with a G&D style rebuild to make the romantic repertoire more accessible? Wouldn't this give an organ that is more at home in the case and also be more easily and pleasurably used for services? I used the scheme of 1870 as my starting point: in many ways the 1870 scheme was a conservative rebuild (some would have found it very backward in 1870 - I'm not surprised it was rebuilt 14 years later by a more progressive builder) and augmentation of the Smith organ. So I decided to augment it a little further with a Solo organ in a consonant style and make a few little tweaks, as might have happened if G&D had been invited back in 1870 to add a Solo organ and to iron out a few of the less desirable anachronisms (as seen today). Hopefully the Smith concept still remains intact as the core of the organ, while the G&D work moves the organ solidly into the Victorian Romantic territory. Great Organ 1. Double Diapason 16 2. Open Diapason 8 3. Stopped Diapason 8 4. Principal 4 5. Flute Harmonique 4 6. Twelfth 3 7. Fifteenth 2 8. Sesquialtera III 9. Mixture II 10. Trumpet 8 11. Clarion 4 12. Cornet IV Swell Organ 13. Double Diapason 16 14. Open Diapason 8 15. Stopped Diapason 8 16. Salicional 8 17. Voix Celestes 8 18. Principal 4 19. Flute 4 20. Fifteenth 2 21. Mixture II 22. Cornopean 8 23. Oboe 8 24. Clarion 4 Choir Organ 25. Keraulophon 8 26. Dulciana 8 27. Stopped Diapason 8 28. Principal 4 29. Flute 4 30. Fifteenth 2 31. Cremona 8 Solo Organ 32. Clarabella 8 33. Gambe 8 34. Flute d'amour 4 35. Corno di Bassetto 8 36. Grand Ophliechide 8 Pedal Organ 37. Grand Open Diapason 16 38. Grand Bourdon 16 39. Grand Principal 8 40. Grand Trombone 16 Couplers Solo to Great Solo to Swell Solo to Choir Solo to Pedal Swell to Great Swell to Choir Swell to Pedal Great to Pedal Choir to Great Choir to Pedal 8 Pistons to Great 8 Pistons to Swell 6 Pistons to Choir 4 Pistons to Solo 8 Pistons to Pedal 8 General Pistons Multiple levels of memory (do we still need to count them these days? I would expect over 50 levels for the generals at least, several hundred shouldn't be that much more expensive today) Reversible pistons to couplers, Grand Ophliechide, Grand Trombone. Toe pistons to replicate Great and Swell, Swell to Great, Great to Pedal, Solo to Great, Grand Trombone Toe pistons for Swell and Great/pedal divisions. The usual Gt & Ped combinations combined and generals on swell toe pistons. Pipework & Specification As one can see, the Great organ is pretty much as Father Smith left it, with the addition of a 16' Open Diapason (stopped bass, probably - although aren't the front pipes down to GG?) and a 4' flute. Likewise, the Choir organ is intended as Smith left it, with the addition of a later Keraulophon and Dulciana. The Swell organ would be G&D style, possible a rebuild of an earlier swell division, along with the Solo organ and Pedal organ. The pipework would be near copies of Smith and G&D pipework, getting as close as possible to pipe construction and design, scaling, materials, treatment, finish, etc, as possible. I would expect study trips to investigate period organs, including overseas if necessary (e.g. Edam to look at the 1664 Barent Smit organ) to inform all aspects of this organ. It would be ideal if there were actual period Smith and G&D pipes on loan in the metalshop while the pipes are made for the pipemakers to use them as reference templates to make the new pipework. I'm not decided on mixture compositions and my research here is a bit sketchy - the Great Sesquialtera would probably have been 17.19.22 in the bass, most probably breaking to 12.15.17; the Great Mixture may have been 26.29, breaking back maybe several times to something like 12.15; the Cornet was apparently always 4 ranks, would have probably been mounted and at 22.214.171.124, working with the Stoppped Diapason; the Swell mixture would probably have been 19.22, breaking back to 12.15. Layout The Great organ to be in the front of the main case, with the Swell organ behind and mounted slightly higher. Passage board between Great and Swell. The Solo organ to be mounted horizontally in a swell box on top of the Swell organ, with the soundboard vertical (aka Leeds Town Hall) and all pipes horizontal. Venetian shutters to the front and top of the Solo box. The Solo organ to be on a higher wind pressure than the rest of the organ. The Choir organ to be in the Chaire Case. The Pedal organ to be behind the swell boxes, basses in the centre. The paneling either side of the Pedal organ to be pierced to assist egress of sound. A passage board behind the swell box with access up to the solo division and tops of the bass pedal pipes in front of the pedal chest. Bellows & Reservoirs underneath swell and pedal windchests. Key Action I would expect the action to closely follow period Smith and G&D practices as far as possible, giving the impression of playing a genuine G&D/Smith hybrid, with period visual appearance, materials, feel, pluck, etc. However, I would not expect the builders to forego modern design advances, such as the calculation of weight, allowing variations in pallet size, gearing, etc, to maintain manageable weights at the keys. Similarly, I would allow refinements to allow for variation for seasonal movement, etc. Therefore the organ would be predominately mechanical action, although I would allow period assistance methods (e.g. Barker lever) if they are the most appropriate solution to ensure an effective musical experience for the organist. Wind System Straight up and down traditional. I assume G&D would have provided generously sized double rise reservoirs in place of Smith's wedge bellows. Concussions could be used as well. The wind could be raised by electrically operated feeder bellows rather than a fan, if feasible, like Bill Drake's examples. Console & player aids, stop action The console would, as far as practical, be designed and finished to give the impression of sitting at a small 4 manual Victorian G&D organ. Details such as stop head design, key dimensions, materials, finish, etc, would be informed by period examples as far as possible. The jambs could well be angled, if there is evidence G&D and their contemporaries would have done this in 1870. However, I would allow variation from period practice for good reason. For example, the relationship and dimensions between manuals, pedalboard and bench could also be informed by RCO, BDO and ISOB standards. Similarly, with the pedalboard: while I would expect it to appear and feel like a period Victorian pedalboard, it would be acceptable for its critical dimensions (such as width and pedal spacing) to be informed by modern standards so a visiting organist doesn't come to grief on it. To allow for modern expectations and use, I've allowed a generous modern provision for pistons - much more so than G&D would have allowed!! I think I would be prepared to forego a mechanical stop action (naturally based on G&D principals) for an electronically controlled system, although I would be delighted if it controlled pneumatic motors rather than solenoids at the console and windchest. At the console, the pistons should sit comfortably in the style and ambiance of the console - I would certainly not expect the modern fashion for ever-smaller piston heads, which would jar here - but it would be delightful if there were turned brass piston heads aka early Willis. Naturally, all the controls for the levels of memories and the blower controls, etc could be hidden from view in a small drawer underneath a stop jamb, rather than jar unnecessarily on the stop jambs themselves. Comments and Issues I'd imagine this organ would be quite capable of most styles of music: Early music would be well served here, French Classical is quite possible as well with a cornet, cremona, plein and grand jeux (although a petit grand jeu is missing - one will have to use the choir cremona or swell reeds without a tierce - but good compromises should be possible). While there are choruses for Bach and enough trio cominations, some organists today might look in askance without a Schnitgerian Pedal Reed, a choir mixture and terz - but to them I say go and play Bach at Romsey Abbey! We have a classic 4 manual romantic English organ, which should happily serve the romantic schools quite well enough and there should be enough to cope with the 20th century repertoire as well. Of course, it would be very at home accompanying Choral Evensong, where it should lend a distinguished, varied and accomplished voice - in fact, some may hold up the specification as almost tailor-made for choral accompaniment. I suspect the issue with the organ here is space, in that there isn't very much of it in the gallery. The current organ is very compact and the G&Ds of old tended to be quite crowded. The proposed Swell organ here would take up a lot of space - especially depth. Hence the idea of putting the Solo on top of it, en chamade, although the bottom octave of pipes could well require mitering or a shared stopped bass for the Gambe and Clarabella. This position will also give the Solo division an advantageous position to project over the top of the organ. I find it rather satisfying considering recreating one of G&D's most celebrated and unique experiments of the en chamade Solo division at Leeds Town Hall. A further advantage I can see is to make the solo box very compact, which should give it good qualities for projection and enclosure, contrasting to the effect of the rather different, larger Swell organ's box. An issue I see with the position is that the Solo box shouldn't be visible above the Great organ case from the floor - I'm hoping the pediments of the two central towers of the main case frontage and the position of the solo box sited some way from the front of the organ case, along with the darkness above a fairly high case, will obscure it sufficiently. Naturally, I would intend to restore the Great organ case to its original height without a Swell organ directly underneath the Great as it is at present. However, the issue of the depth of the organ will still persist with a pedal division (however minimal) behind the Swell organ - the sound will have to come out round the corner, down each side and over the swell box. I have kept this division minimal for good reason - not only space but also the bass pipes get their sound round corners (like the swell box in front of it) better than upperwork. I suspect a 4' and pedal mixture would be next to useless in this location so why bother? People will have to accept this is a dependent pedal division and apart from adding pedal towers, I don't see a way round it. Hopefully this small pedal division can be fitted in without too much crowding so the sound has a fair chance of getting out but it'll still need to be fairly assertively voiced. However, hopefully this division should provide a bass line underneath the manuals and would be fairly easy to control in every day use. The action to the solo organ could prove interesting. It would have to go beneath and up behind the swell organ, then through a square to operate a soundboard mounted at 90 degrees on high wind pressure (maybe 7 or 8 inches). The run behind the swell box would be very long and could be affected by seasonal movement while momentum might be an issue here. Maybe this would be an opportunity to recreate a Barker lever action or some other suitable period action? If the swell organ were to be pneumatic, I would happily countenance the idea of sub and super octave couplers but not with mechanical action. Perhaps one way around this would be a barker lever to the Great organ but I'm not sure how Father Smith inspired pipework would sit atop it. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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