Jump to content
Mander Organs
David Thornton

Manchester Cathedral

Recommended Posts

To be honest, it's rather surprising that nothing major has yet happened to Manchester's organ since its last major reconfiguration in the 1950s. One of its predessors lasted only eleven years in the building - they got a new organ by Nicholson in 1860 and a decade later replaced it with a Hill that evolved into the current instrument. The Nicholson got sent to Bolton, and if I understand the NPOR correctly, ended up being moved yet again, this time by Nicholsons in 1994 to become the "new" organ in Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral.

 

The different heights and designs of raillings front and back to the screen does pose a problem for case design - I doubt many people would be thrilled to see a return to Hill's screen case: http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch.cgi...N06095&no=1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It can be done though - the design of the ill-fated Walker organ case in the early 90s was lovely; the proposed Tickell case design altogether more stunning and in perfect harmony with the building. However, many architects prefer windows to organ cases, or demand modern 'statements' that will date quickly. Let's hope all the ducks line up nicely at Manchester. The results should be wonderful.

 

My two-penneth on the current instrument, for what it's worth, is that whilst the aisle cases cannot be seen from the centre nave, they are obvious from everywhere else in what is basically a broad, square building. Hideous grey wardrobes. Tonally, I always liked most of the organ, but the Great is the poorest division. Very little to love there. Significantly, it's the division that's been tinkered with the most, with only limited success. I understand that the current proposals include integration of more current pipework than just the 32-foot curtain shakers in the Jesus Chapel :)

 

As an aside, it's a great shame the 1860 Nicholson was put in the wrong place in Manchester - it is a wondrous machine in every respect. It's also a pity for old John Nicholson that many people assume the instrument's current sound (in its new home at Portsmouth) is down to the modern Nicholsons. 90% of it isn't, I remember it well from its Bolton days. And the Solo Ophicleide was originally intended as a chamade reed for Manchester, but got lifted up in a last minute change.

 

IFB

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is there a stoplist for this out and about yet - or a view of the case design?

 

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is there a stoplist for this out and about yet - or a view of the case design?

 

A

I don't think it's in the public domain yet, no.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anyway, at least, the argumentation used to sale the idea of a new organ

could have been printed 10,000 times, and issued regularly since about 1500,

whenever "needed"; Standard operating procedure, standardized claims.

 

Pierre

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it's going to be another interesting debate this! Worcester Cathedral scenario all over again. Having played the existing Manchester Cathedral organ and the new Tickell instrument in Worcester Cathedral, I hope the results are just as successful at Manchester after the new organ is installed. If they are, which I'm sure they will be, then all the arguments will soon die down I'm sure of that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the Cathedral's website there is a virtual tour which includes a panorama from the organ loft. Clearly visible is a ladder, whose purpose seems to be to allow somone to see (or be seen) over the top of the pulpitum screen into the quire. Judging by the wear on the bottom 4 rungs, this has seen regular use. Is this a relic from pre-CCTV days or does it still serve any useful purpose?

 

DP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On the Cathedral's website there is a virtual tour which includes a panorama from the organ loft. Clearly visible is a ladder, whose purpose seems to be to allow somone to see (or be seen) over the top of the pulpitum screen into the quire. Judging by the wear on the bottom 4 rungs, this has seen regular use. Is this a relic from pre-CCTV days or does it still serve any useful purpose?

 

DP

:lol: Was never there in my time. Could it be that the cameraperson put it there to photograph the quire/east end??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think you have touched on a problem with modern British organs, that seems to have no current resolution. They are, for very largest part well designed and made, and as machines, competently executed to a world class level. But they have, to my ears, no character. I think the problems extend to differences in the manufacture and treatment of pipe metal before the pipes are made and the grades and scalings chosen to achieve the desired result, the quality and nature of the timber used in wooden pipes, the layout of instruments, disposition of soundboards, choice of winding system etc. The Romantic organ, or the baroque organ or whatever is a synthesis of all these things and more.

 

The things you identify have some part, obviously. However, manufacture and grade of pipe metal is but the tiniest detail; so, so much is done by the voicer - it's not about getting a pipe on speech and sticking it in the organ. An artistic voicer can get huuuuuuge variety out of a pipe such as you probably wouldn't believe. Their craft is one which, in my view, not enough people take seriously; it is they, not the pipe maker or anyone else, who have control over every sound the organ makes from the start of the note to the end to the duration to the way it blends to the way it interacts with other stops to the way it responds to flexibility in the wind supply. Pretty much all you have left after that is the action.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The ladder is to enable the poor old organbuilder to get on top of the screen, and thus to the top level of the great, after being trussed up in a full rigged safety harness! Not a pleasant experience but a damn site easier than moving 100 chairs and going in through the bottom, as it were. . . . . . Can't wait for the new Tickell!

Shame the curtain is behind the Jesus Chapel altar, hiding the wonderful Pedal 32s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hopefully I am not the only one who thinks this is neither "excellent" nor "exciting" news? A very sad situation as far as I am concerned!

 

And: very creative writing on the account of the cathedral officials (on the Catheral's website):

 

"(But,) over the years, the musicians have managed to make it sound like a silk purse, even if it continues to look like a sow’s ear".

 

So, the only reason the organ ever sounded "like a silk purse" was due to the musicians, and not to the instrument itself. Quite an insult to its designer and builder!

 

And, as far as the "looks" of the instrument are concerned, it is almost invisible from most parts of the building, so how can it "look like a sow's ear"? I wonder if a new case on the screen can improve the east/west view in the cathedral.....

 

Dave Lazoe.

 

==================

 

I'm inclined to agree; not because I think it is the best organ in the world, but because I can't think of a better build-quality or potential longevity. The fact that not a lot has been done for half a century and more, is evidence enough.

 

It's so long since I heard or played the instrument, (when it still had the big Tuba written into the specification by Norman Cocker of "Tuba Tune" fame), I forget what the Great Organ sounded like.

The rest of the instrument was that rich blend of romantic-symphonic and orchestral tone, on which the Harrison company built their reputation, and in that particularly strange, square building, with a quite dry acoustic, the effect is entirely musical if a little unfashionable.

 

What annoys me, is the fact that just over the pennines, an organ of similar size and pedigree, at Leeds PC, has been improved tremendously over the last few decades, and now stands alone as a very fine musical instrument capable of most things, and speaking into the worst possible acoustic.

 

It's so easy to throw out what is potentially very good for the sake of fashion, and if the Great Organ is less than perfect, a new Great would surely solve the problem, without throwing out so much that is good?

 

As for an organ sounding bad merely because of its' appearance, then the organ at Leeds should be the worst sound in the world.....but it isn't.

 

I tend to think that most congregations are a visual disgrace, but I wouldn't want to throw them out because of it.

 

I think those big, grey boxes could look quite nice painted pink, with little animals and flowers decorating them, or perhaps, (for the more robust of mind), images from the Hubble telescope.

 

That would go down well in Manchester.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I found the comments about the design of the present organ interesting. I didn't know that Allan Wicks had modified Cocker's scheme. For its date, it was amazingly progressive. St. John's College, Cambridge received a lot of accolades, but Manchester was in many ways more advanced. Perhaps, for any number of reasons, it didn't all work out so well. I've only heard it in the building once, and then not enough of it to form an opinion.

 

There used to be a website called 'Dream Organs', the originator of which has now gone to play the Great Compton in the Sky, but it contained a good deal of information about Cocker's organ schemes, including what he wanted at Manchester (several instruments around the building, some of them electronic, with a master console of a size to impress a Southern Baptist, the work to be done by Compton and Harrisons' jointly).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the mechanical side of the instrument is pretty dire. It is a typically complicated electo-pneumatic action from the time when organs were conceived as pneumatic instruments with a bit of electrickery on the side. Consequently there are abundances of pill box motors, internal purses, change over machines and Harrison internal pnuematic actions, all of which are extremely complicated and well beyone their sell by date. The work involved in putting all this right is as major as starting again.

There is much that is good about the organ - the French Horn in particular is a wonderful stop, and so versatile being in the box.

I fully applaud the decision to transmogrify some of the better ranks into the new job.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
the mechanical side of the instrument is pretty dire. It is a typically complicated electo-pneumatic action from the time when organs were conceived as pneumatic instruments with a bit of electrickery on the side. Consequently there are abundances of pill box motors, internal purses, change over machines and Harrison internal pnuematic actions, all of which are extremely complicated and well beyone their sell by date. The work involved in putting all this right is as major as starting again.

There is much that is good about the organ - the French Horn in particular is a wonderful stop, and so versatile being in the box.

I fully applaud the decision to transmogrify some of the better ranks into the new job.

 

Thanks for the information regarding the action.

I will be interested to see which of the existing ranks are to be included in the new organ.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I found the comments about the design of the present organ interesting. I didn't know that Allan Wicks had modified Cocker's scheme. For its date, it was amazingly progressive. St. John's College, Cambridge received a lot of accolades, but Manchester was in many ways more advanced. Perhaps, for any number of reasons, it didn't all work out so well. I've only heard it in the building once, and then not enough of it to form an opinion.

 

There used to be a website called 'Dream Organs', the originator of which has now gone to play the Great Compton in the Sky, but it contained a good deal of information about Cocker's organ schemes, including what he wanted at Manchester (several instruments around the building, some of them electronic, with a master console of a size to impress a Southern Baptist, the work to be done by Compton and Harrisons' jointly).

 

=====================

 

 

The "Dream Organs" web-site., from the talented pen of the late Juian Rhodes, still exists:-

 

http://web.archive.org/web/20020629042210/...mes/cocker1.htm

 

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would contend that the 'brustwerk' stops on the Solo are actually quite useful. Just a thought; can one detect any stylistic influence when comparing the design of the Manchester Solo division (1957) and that of the remodelled Chester Solo division (1969)?

 

 

I agree there.... I wonder how it compares - the Chester organ is a wonderful instrument, but the solo really lets it down essentially now being a dogs breakfast of a 'quasi' positive. It was never conceived as and orchestral solo like the manchester organ originally was, but a return to to something suitable 19th C sounding would be a big improvement when that instruments finally gets rebuild.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...