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Liverpool Cathedral Organ Appeal


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This popped up in an RSS feed - undoubtedly of interest to board members:

 

Organ Appeal at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

 

The downside of having 10K+ pipes is that restoration doesn't exactly come cheap!

 

I see you can play it for 30 minutes for a mere £500!

 

http://www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk/conte...s/TheOrgan.aspx

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Guest Cynic
(£300 of which will go towards the organ appeal)

 

So where does the other £200 go? :D

 

 

Caution: Cheeky and frivolous

[sorry, but I simply can't resist it.]

 

Maybe the other £200 is to pay for the services of two assistants to help you with the stops when you play.

This is how this organ is sometimes used in performance!

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Perhaps not the ideal time to launch an appeal... or am I just letting the media influence my confidence?

Have to agree wholeheartedly. The legacy of enormous instruments will become an even greater headache than it is now. Little did the benefactors who paid for these organs and when it took 10 men to carry the collection plate to the altar, realise that in the 21st century these churches would have minimal congregations and simply not have the financial clout to easily maintain organs. Has Liverpool tried contacting Sir Fred Goodwin, late of RBS?

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Guest Cynic
presumably, if the money is raised, David Wells will undertake the work on the organ ?

Colin Richell.

 

Since a large amount of the work (according to the website) is to be the re-voicing of the reeds, the question should be asked, are there plans to return the chorus reeds to the pressures they were on before H&H did their work for Noel Rawsthorne in the 1970s? I could understand if that was the plan. However, my bet is that we will get Chorus Reeds Version 3, [shades of Ely!].

 

OK, I'm being Cynical, and maybe it's just me, but are more and more big places with big ideas just thinking of a number when they launch these appeals? There was the seemingly ridiculous £4m appeal for Canterbury, of course, though a second organ was to take part of this money. At Redcliffe, considering there were to be no new pipes and (one hopes) no re-voicing of anything major, the figure quoted would almost have paid for a replacement instrument! At Hereford, the latest work cost a great deal more (even allowing for inflation) than the more major work done for Roy Massey in the 70s. I could make this a very long list, but a few examples should show the trend.

 

I have two fears:

1. that having plenty of money to play with will see more existing (and therefore in many cases historic) work swept away. A replacement soundboard, for instance, is not necessarily always an improvement in the long run. Replacement electrics and leatherwork, fine! One firm currently in vogue tends to take away the traditional winding when they rebuild. This makes for a very stable result if you're looking at things from an engineering point of view, but it often produces inherently dull results musically.

2. that these high profile (way over the top) sums may deter ordinary parishes from thinking that they can ever afford to have overhauls etc. of existing large jobs.

 

This is not how things used to work. How things used to be - and all firms used to do it - is that only those things that needed to be replaced got replaced. Much work was done on site and budgets were planned along pretty frugal lines even when the organ was in an important place. This did not lead to many botched jobs, actually. What now happens is that the enormous sum pays for large amounts of the organ to go off site, radical rearrangement of chests (not always to advantage c.f. Malvern Priory) and re-jigging of things which already work perfectly well. Large amounts are also set aside for advisers, who in some cases do not seem able to steer the projects enough to avoid problems. Once again, I could list examples but this would become invidious and some advisers are friends of mine. I ask: If one chooses a good quality firm, how much interference does one want from an adviser anyway? How much, for instance, do H&H need to be told how to refurbish one of their own jobs that they hold in very high regard? What you need an adviser for is to help draw up coherent, well-argued plans and then sign the job off on behalf of the purchaser when it has been properly completed.

 

As for who should do the work at Liverpool, this organ has been under the care of David Wells for many years, whether he was working for Willis at the time, then with H&H or later under his own name. If you're asking whether he should be trusted to do this work, I have no doubts of this at all, but then there are other firms who are equally expert at dealing with instruments of this period. Whatever happens, please let there be as few changes as possible! Sometimes what is lacking is sufficient humility to recognise that one is dealing with a masterpiece, even if the style is not to everyone's taste.

 

I have heard comments to the effect that some much-favoured UK firms currently end up turning the tonal effect of each organ they work on into 'yet another' of their own jobs. This is not how it should be. HN&B used to do this - scattering minimally-nicked fluework about amongst good-quality existing material - culminating in very 'fifthy' (I nearly wrote 'filthy') mixtures. Look what happened to them....and to the organs that they worked on! We do not need all our organs to start to sound the same...even if the voicing was of the highest quality imaginable. Uniformity ends up by being dull.

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This is not how things used to work. How things used to be - and all firms used to do it - is that only those things that needed to be replaced got replaced. Much work was done on site and budgets were planned along pretty frugal lines even when the organ was in an important place. This did not lead to many botched jobs, actually. What now happens is that the enormous sum pays for large amounts of the organ to go off site, radical rearrangement of chests (not always to advantage c.f. Malvern Priory)

 

I would have to disagree here, where the end result is an infinite improvement on the ramshackle arrangement on what was there before hidden behind the console.

 

and re-jigging of things which already work perfectly well. Large amounts are also set aside for advisers, who in some cases do not seem able to steer the projects enough to avoid problems. Once again, I could list examples but this would become invidious and some advisers are friends of mine. I ask: If one chooses a good quality firm, how much interference does one want from an adviser anyway? How much, for instance, do H&H need to be told how to refurbish one of their own jobs that they hold in very high regard? What you need an adviser for is to help draw up coherent, well-argued plans and then sign the job off on behalf of the purchaser when it has been properly completed.

 

I do agree with much of what else you say in your post, particularly in your cynicism of some 'consultants' and 'advisers', some of whom appear to 'favour' certain preferred builders.

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Guest Stanley Monkhouse

It is nothing to do with me in one sense, but as a member of the general public to whom the appeal is directed, and an organically savvy one at that, maybe it is in another. Paul, as usual, hits several nails on the head. Let's hope not only that the reeds will be restored, but also that the pedal mutations and things will be too. And to me it's surprising that the big open woods disappeared. Where are they? How is it that they were needed once, but not no more? Is it relevant that NR seemed to like scrapping open woods (Kendal, Liverpool Lady Chapel, and other places)?

 

The Liverpool organ would not be quite so expensive to run if people didn't fiddle with it so much. And add bits and pieces here and there with pipes sticking up here and there - all for the sake, so it sometimes seems, for sticking its tongue out at the RAH - mine's bigger than yours so there. Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon, but really, adding the echo organ just creates, as someone has so rightly said, a problem for later generations. It is the organ version of what has happened to the economy: ego satisfaction today leads to tears tomorrow. End of rant.

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And to me it's surprising that the big open woods disappeared. Where are they? How is it that they were needed once, but not no more? Is it relevant that NR seemed to like scrapping open woods (Kendal, Liverpool Lady Chapel, and other places)?

 

Possibly the most remarkable thing about the Liverpool organ which many overlook is that it was designed for a building which did not yet exist. It was installed and voiced in a building which, at the time, was only a fraction of the size it is today. At the time of its installation only the Quire and east transept were built, it is a testament to Henry Willis 111's skill that very little has been altered to compensate for the vast increase in cubic area which organ now fills with sound.

 

Regarding the open woods (or open basses in 'Willis speak'), the larger of the 2 open woods was an extended rank from 32ft to 4ft if my memory serves me correctly, the smaller open wood was an independent 16ft stop. At the time of the H&H restoration it was considered that the upper registers of the larger open wood developed too much 'roll' in the space of the completed building so were removed leaving 2 independent open woods at 32ft on the south and 16ft on the north.

 

Conversely, some of the mixture work was altered to produce a greater impact in the space.

 

I wasn't aware that the chorus reeds were altered at all, but will stand corrected if someone can verify this.

 

Having heard how Ian Tracey feels about the Liverpool organ, I would be most surprised if there are any changes to the original materials. I couldn't imagine a safer incumbent for the Liverpool organ.

 

DT

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So, there is still nothing new under the warm british sun !

 

(Spent millions to demonstrate one can do "better",

and repeat after 30 years when the next "genius" comes...)

 

I fully agree with Paul's comments.

 

Pierre

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Since a large amount of the work (according to the website) is to be the re-voicing of the reeds...

 

When I first read this, I assumed that this was to be re-tuning rather than re-voicing.

 

Could I ask why the reeds should need to be re-voiced? I thought that this organ was very well voiced as it is, and that everyone was happy with it.

 

Interesting to hear about the changes to the open woods, though. I didn't know that.

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Guest Stanley Monkhouse

Mr Thornton writes: 'At the time of the H&H restoration it was considered that the upper registers of the larger open wood developed too much 'roll' in the space of the completed building'

 

'It was considered' - by whom? This comes down to the point that Pierre has often made that tastes change. I have no axes to grind either way, except to note the swings and roundabouts of outrageous fashion. 2 open woods were considered necessary in Trinity College Cambridge, and then were not. Also King's. Also Newcastle cathedral. Also York. Also Leeds PC (or are they still there there?). They are still considered necessary in Durham and Westminster Abbey. I could go on. I remember Norman Sterrett in 'The Organ' complaining about the 'hoot' of the Exeter Octave Wood 8, but it's still there, as is such a stop at Carlisle and other places. It comes back to the ego of the consultant. And there's another thing that occurs to me. Our susceptibility to high and low pitched sounds changes as we get older. If my inner ears are anything to go by, high pitched sounds become more distressing to the ear the older I get. If this is a common phenomenon, the age of the consultant presumably affects his or her prescriptions for upperwork and voicing. How old was Alan Gray/Arthur Harrison/George Dixon when they specified a Great 32 and two open woods for Trinity? and so on. A field for research, the interface of neurophysiology and organ building ...!

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And there's another thing that occurs to me. Our susceptibility to high and low pitched sounds changes as we get older. If my inner ears are anything to go by, high pitched sounds become more distressing to the ear the older I get. If this is a common phenomenon, the age of the consultant presumably affects his or her prescriptions for upperwork and voicing.

Well, this is a subjective reaction and I have no idea whether it is a common, but I should not be at all surprised if it were so. It is well known that one's ability to hear high frequencies decreases with age. Older birdwatchers, for example, often complain that they can no longer hear the high-pitched songs of species such as Treecreeper and Goldcrest. But, like any other age-related deterioration, this will not affect everyone at the same age or to the same extent. I have no difficulty yet in hearing top C on a 1' stop; I wonder when I should expect the rot to set in. Yet I am definitely less tolerant of high pitched Mixtures stops than I was when I was young and this might well be a product of this aging.

 

On the other hand, however, I am still a long way from liking Open Woods. The stop (nearly) always reminds me of Beecham's quip: "The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes". It would be an interesting experiment to play any note from the bottom fifth of an average Open Wood and see how many organists could sing the note back to you accurately in a higher octave. I am sure many would find it difficult and I suspect the rest would do it more by listening to the harmonics than by detecting what the fundamental is. Is there any other instrument where its player tolerates indeterminate mush as a matter of course? I guess it's an incurable product of the values I acquired when I was young, but for me the music comes first and the sound of an organ is its servant, not vice versa.

 

Then again, I am one of those heretics who believe that anything over about 80 stops is a wasteful extravagance and that, if a church needs more than that, it probably need two organs. So whether Liverpool has Open Woods or not is not something about which I feel inclined to get exercised. There is, of course, no hope of me ever entering the great organ loft in the sky. I am damned to perdition, doomed to play one-manual continuo organs forever.

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I have heard comments to the effect that some much-favoured UK firms currently end up turning the tonal effect of each organ they work on into 'yet another' of their own jobs. This is not how it should be. HN&B used to do this - scattering minimally-nicked fluework about amongst good-quality existing material - culminating in very 'fifthy' (I nearly wrote 'filthy') mixtures. Look what happened to them....and to the organs that they worked on! We do not need all our organs to start to sound the same...even if the voicing was of the highest quality imaginable. Uniformity ends up by being dull.

 

You've raised a couple of very interesting points here. 'turning the tonal effect of each organ they work on into 'yet another' of their own jobs'. I am not sure there is anything new here, it's a common thread throughout organ building history that this happens. I understand that this is a bad thing if it's badly or inadequately integrated - jonny half a job never worked. Firms in the past extensively worked on previous material to ensure that it did integrate, and hence, we don't notice because they did such a good job, and in many cases, the styles were not as dramatically different as romantic/symphonic treatment against quasi neo baroque.

 

'We do not need all our organs to start to sound the same...even if the voicing was of the highest quality imaginable. Uniformity ends up by being dull.' This is a different point, and to me, extremely pertinent. In the 19th Century builders were working from different standpoints, some with a German bias, some with French influence, some still doggedly English. Each of them produced a distinct and recognisable sound which we tend to lump together as 'Victorian symphonic or Romantic' depending on who, how and when. Remember 1840 and 1900 are both Victorian, and there was an amazing metamorphosis in instruments tonally between these dates. In fact we could say the same for 1940 to 2000.

 

However within whatever period, builders had a distinct style. An 1880 Willis, Hill, Walker and Bishop organ will all sound distinctly different. This is what I think we lack now. Responsibility must lie with both the builders and the advisors, and also to some extent with the customers who for example ordered a Willis etc organ because that was the sound they wanted. They all now sound so similar that I don't think it applies nearly as much now; yes you can tell a difference, but only if you are initiated and listen properly at an appropriate distance to determine this characteristic. I am a firm believer that voicers hear too much on the machine, and not enough from 50/100 etc feet away.

 

As I have said here before, until we start to look for a way forward, builders are prepared to develop house styles that clearly differ and don't just look backwards to look forwards, advisors are prepared to give them the flexibility to do it, and customers are prepared to take a 'risk', I'm not sure where we will end up, but I do feel it could be even more uniformly dull than it is now. It's not for nothing that houses are painted beige inside before sale. Apparently it offends no one, is readily accepted and can be lived with day to day. Well bland homogeneity offends me. Lets have some gold, silver, orange, purple, yellow etc. It worked for Messiaen, it could work for others too.

 

AJS

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However within whatever period, builders had a distinct style. An 1880 Willis, Hill, Walker and Bishop organ will all sound distinctly different. This is what I think we lack now.

This may be a dumb question since I know nothing of the organ building trade, but how many voicers are there today compared to 100 years ago and could this be a factor in the equation? I imagine the major firms have in-house skills, but I understand that many smaller concerns subcontract their voicing. (Then there are those who merely slot secondhand ranks into an instrument without any attempt at revoicing them to blend - but we'd better not go there).

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This may be a dumb question since I know nothing of the organ building trade, but how many voicers are there today compared to 100 years ago and could this be a factor in the equation? I imagine the major firms have in-house skills, but I understand that many smaller concerns subcontract their voicing. (Then there are those who merely slot secondhand ranks into an instrument without any attempt at revoicing them to blend - but we'd better not go there).

 

I know where to start, but perhaps with more relevancy, I don't know where to finish, so it's best I don't start.

 

AJS

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I know where to start, but perhaps with more relevancy, I don't know where to finish, so it's best I don't start.

 

AJS

 

Are there really 26,500 + members of this board now, or has something gone wrong with the numbering system?

Richard

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Mr Thornton writes: 'At the time of the H&H restoration it was considered that the upper registers of the larger open wood developed too much 'roll' in the space of the completed building'

 

'It was considered' - by whom? This comes down to the point that Pierre has often made that tastes change. I have no axes to grind either way, except to note the swings and roundabouts of outrageous fashion. 2 open woods were considered necessary in Trinity College Cambridge, and then were not. Also King's. Also Newcastle cathedral. Also York. Also Leeds PC (or are they still there there?). They are still considered necessary in Durham and Westminster Abbey. I could go on. I remember Norman Sterrett in 'The Organ' complaining about the 'hoot' of the Exeter Octave Wood 8, but it's still there, as is such a stop at Carlisle and other places. It comes back to the ego of the consultant. And there's another thing that occurs to me. Our susceptibility to high and low pitched sounds changes as we get older. If my inner ears are anything to go by, high pitched sounds become more distressing to the ear the older I get. If this is a common phenomenon, the age of the consultant presumably affects his or her prescriptions for upperwork and voicing. How old was Alan Gray/Arthur Harrison/George Dixon when they specified a Great 32 and two open woods for Trinity? and so on. A field for research, the interface of neurophysiology and organ building ...!

 

 

In fact there are two Open Woods on the organ at the Birmingham Oratory. The 32ft extension is taken from the smaller of the two O W's.

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