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'Light the blue touch paper, and retire to a safe distance.......' :D
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

Oops, have I put my foot in it? I'll take these as a "yes" then.

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

Richard

 

There appear to be 1324 members. The numbers are, presumably, nominal rather than cardinal - like a bank account number. There is no particular need for them to be consecutive.

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Oops, have I put my foot in it? I'll take these as a "yes" then.

 

No, please don't be concerned, you haven't put your foot in anythng (as far as I know), rather come perilously close to banging a large nail on the head with an even larger hammer, which in one particular sense leads to a great deal of collective pain.

 

AJS

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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.

 

A lot of very good points are raised in Cynic's excellent post, far be it from me to reply to any of it though, although someone at the Cathedral itself may like to enlighten us.

 

What I can say is how I have found this instrument, my observations of it. Firstly the Tuba Magna lost its roundness in the 1977 work. It isn't the same stop it was, there is no other way of putting it. The mixtures are not the same, the fizz has gone, I can hear few if any Tierces now. I could before 1977. The chorus reeds are more polite, the Pedal 32s have lost much of their crack (as has Canterbury), in fact the whole job has lost its "crack", attack, boldness. It does not sound at all what it did prior to 1977, it sounds smoothed out. It is not my place to start pointing any fingers, so suffice to say I don't know why.

 

 

So often organs are tinkered with, and often with builders the trouble is that they think they are above original schemes, voicings and so on, that they know better than original builders how a organ should sound and how it should be voiced, altered etc. Because a stop list looks familiar on paper, does not mean it is the same in reality. Of course, these are all general comments, and my comments about Liverpool Cathedral organ are simply my own opinion, based on how I have found it over the years.

 

Others may feel different.

 

R

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And why not have it returned to its original specifications ?

At least then, it would regain its historical value, which is

big anyway, that the results please everyone or not...

 

(Just a thought from Southern Georgia...)

 

Pierre

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Guest Cynic
A lot of very good points are raised in Cynic's excellent post, far be it from me to reply to any of it though, although someone at the Cathedral itself may like to enlighten us.

 

What I can say is how I have found this instrument, my observations of it. Firstly the Tuba Magna lost its roundness in the 1977 work. It isn't the same stop it was, there is no other way of putting it. The mixtures are not the same, the fizz has gone, I can hear few if any Tierces now. I could before 1977. The chorus reeds are more polite, the Pedal 32s have lost much of their crack (as has Canterbury), in fact the whole job has lost its "crack", attack, boldness. It does not sound at all what it did prior to 1977, it sounds smoothed out. It is not my place to start pointing any fingers, so suffice to say I don't know why.

 

 

So often organs are tinkered with, and often with builders the trouble is that they think they are above original schemes, voicings and so on, that they know better than original builders how a organ should sound and how it should be voiced, altered etc. Because a stop list looks familiar on paper, does not mean it is the same in reality. Of course, these are all general comments, and my comments about Liverpool Cathedral organ are simply my own opinion, based on how I have found it over the years.

 

Others may feel different.

 

R

 

This summarises my present opinion of the organ. Richard is too polite to suggest why the sound of the organ has changed. No one has ever accused me of being too polite; I speak without fear or favour (and upon occasion without brain either, frequent visitors to this forum know this by now).

 

Around the same time as the work was done at Liverpool, the same firm [H&H] restored the Willis 3 West End organ at Westminster Cathedral. Although no pipework was replaced and (so far as I know) no wind-pressures were changed, it was generally thought by people who knew the organ before that some of the impact had gone from a number of stops, in particular the Pedal Bombardes. This change has now been reversed.

 

Taste of the times led Noel Rawsthorne to ask for tonal alterations to the monster Willis at Liverpool in 1977. Sorry, but at the moment I cannot turn up a reference for David Thornton, but I assure him, wind-pressures were reduced, some reedwork was revoiced. I am not criticisng Noel Rawsthorne, a player whom I always idolised as I took up the organ. [One of the single most exciting performances I ever heard in my youth was his version of the Durufle Toccata at Liverpool; I loved his Bank Holiday 'dos' too]. Fashion is a dangerous thing, however. There ought to be an article in canon law that prohibits any organist from having a voice when it comes to unnecessary (arbitrary)alterations to their own instrument. How many instruments would be more interesting and less molested now if that had been the case in the last forty years!

 

Tierce mixtures are a feature of the work of The House of Willis and the wholesale removal of these must have changed the character of the choruses, even if nothing else was done. IMHO The correct policy was adopted by Roy Massey and H&H at Hereford, where the Willis (Great) Mixture IV was left exactly as it was and a second IV was added alongside. This way, players who favour the original concept can enjoy it if they want. At Liverpool, we are talking about the most important instrument we have from the first half of the 20th century. It should never have been interfered with! With an organ of any size, an imaginative player can always steer around odd idiosyncrasies. Goodness, Professor Ian Tracey has to be one of the most imaginative players we have in the UK - no problem there! Put it all back, that's what I say.

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I was co-incidentally at Liverpool last Sunday. The organ is just incredible. Can someone please tell us definitively what is going to be done? It would be nice to think that the original Dulcianas would be put back on the Choir instead of the silly neo-baroquery. I doubt it though.

 

Sunday was the first time I had heard the Central Space organ. I understand that this was mostly done with second hand Willis II pipes, again can somebody confirm? The mixture especially sounds dead wrong to me.

 

All inside information gratefully received!

 

Bazuin

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I have been biting my tongue and at the risk of saying something I shouldn't. . . .

 

'Re-voicing' , like 're-build' are words which mean many different things to many different people. The readers of the Liverpool Echo which ran the article which started this thread, will interpret them quite differently to people on this forum. The plan, as I understand it, is to thoroughly clean the reeds, and re-regulate their speech. The resonators are full of dust and debris due to the various major building works which have gone on in the last 6 years, quite apart from the general build up of dust since their last cleaning. The reeds will then be re-regulated for speech i.e. even volume and tone throughout the compass. AFAIK there are no plans to change the character of the reeds.

 

Bazuin, were you there a.m.? The sparrow mass is a strange piece isn't it? I forget the exact details of the cental organ pipes but there really isn't any difference between them and those of the main organ. One of the Principal pipes actually has the signature of Henry III on it. I must say I am surprised you don't think the mixture works well. What was it that didn't sound right? It is always going to sound 'brilliant', especially in the treble as it is VI ranks but when I have heard it down the building I thought it fitted in very well. On Easter Monday I.T. played the Healey Willan Gelobt sei Gott, on just Central Space Organ and Tompette Militaire and it was quite simply electric.

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Firstly the Tuba Magna lost its roundness in the 1977 work. It isn't the same stop it was, there is no other way of putting it.................The chorus reeds are more polite, the Pedal 32s have lost much of their crack

 

I gather that the Tuba Magna has been moved around somewhat.

 

Legend has it that when the organ was first installed (in the much smaller building) the Dean complained that it sounded much too loud, so it was relocated somewhere within the depths of the south chamber.

I'm fairly certain that its present position is at the bottom of the south transept case, speaking through square openings directly into the transept. I'm not sure whether David Wells or H&H moved it. Having sung in quite a few very large diocesan services over the last few years, it certainly leads congregational singing (as does the new central space diapason chorus which Bazuin has mentioned). But, I'm sad to say that I personally find this stop coarse and uneven, unlike the fine Tubas 16/8/4.

 

As for the 32s, the enclosed trombones 32 & 16 on the north side seem to have far more 'crack' than the bombarde rank.

 

DT

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"It would be nice to think that the original Dulcianas would be put back on the Choir instead of the silly neo-baroquery."

(Quote)

 

YESSSSS, and do not forget the Dulciana Mixture on top of it, with its 3 1/5' rank in the treble...

 

The today Mixtures might seem good for people who do not have 2599 Mixtures nearly the same

50 Miles round them, and nothing else.

With their tierce and septieme ranks, the original stops should beat Notre Dame, Paris,

in the matter of presence. Like NDP, it was meant to fill a difficult room, not to excel

in "Ti-tu-ta-ta-ti-ta-ta" pseudo (1) "polyphonic textures" and others ideas of that kind.

 

Pierre

(1)- Why "pseudo" ? Because Mixtures were rarely really meant for polyphony in the

baroque period, save some early styles. They often opacify rather than the reverse.

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Bazuin, were you there a.m.?

 

No pm, women's army and timber corps service, spectacular stuff.

 

"I forget the exact details of the cental organ pipes but there really isn't any difference between them and those of the main organ. One of the Principal pipes actually has the signature of Henry III on it. I must say I am surprised you don't think the mixture works well. What was it that didn't sound right? It is always going to sound 'brilliant', especially in the treble as it is VI ranks but when I have heard it down the building I thought it fitted in very well."

 

The problem is that it isn't meant to be heard down the building, it's meant to drive the singing in the central space. I was sitting directly opposite and found the mixture pretty overbearing. Because the the pipes are located fairly low (I think there's a window directly above?) the effect is strangely intimate to the point where the chancel organ disappears. What I also thought was funny was Ian Tracey's way of accompanying the hymns, often very staccato. In the past, pre-central space organ, I understood why he did it. But with the central space organ in your right ear it's very off-putting. Apologies to Ian Tracey, of whom I am an enormous fan.

 

Bazuin

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... The mixtures are not the same, the fizz has gone, I can hear few if any Tierces now. I could before 1977. ...

R

 

According to an extremely good authority, you could not have done so. Apparently, the tierce ranks were removed (by order of Goss-Custard) almost before the job was completed.

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And why not have it returned to its original specifications ?

At least then, it would regain its historical value, which is

big anyway, that the results please everyone or not...

 

(Just a thought from Southern Georgia...)

 

Pierre

 

But it would be virtually impossible to ensure that the voicing and the aural effect was as originally completed. With regard to your comment about the dulciana chorus, I understand that it was removed because it had simply fallen into disuse.

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According to an extremely good authority, you could not have done so. Apparently, the tierce ranks were removed (by order of Goss-Custard) almost before the job was completed.

 

Perhaps you might be more specific about your authority. Maybe it was the flat 22nd ranks Goss Custard suppressed, now there I might have agreed with him - a septieme can be a pretty anti-social thing! I am as sure as I can be that the main mixtures still had a few Tierces in them quite recently. Put it this way, I have here a recording made by NR from before 1977 and I can definitely hear the Tierce Mixtures in that. They may not be ideal for Bach - and we'll argue about that until the cows come home - but in the tout ensemble, they're great. IMHO The slightly opaque Trombas need that spice to enrich them.

 

Nobody here has ever suggested that Tierces are inappropriate in French organs. Is that because they are more wide-scaled, or just that we recognise that French organs were not particularly designed to play Bach? Providing your Tierce ranks are properly in tune, a small-scaled 17th can add an awful lot. I imagine pcnd occasionally adds his to the fuller combinations? I do. :rolleyes:

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Perhaps you might be more specific about your authority. Maybe it was the flat 22nd ranks Goss Custard suppressed, now there I might have agreed with him - a septieme can be a pretty anti-social thing! I am as sure as I can be that the main mixtures still had a few Tierces in them quite recently. Put it this way, I have here a recording made by NR from before 1977 and I can definitely hear the Tierce Mixtures in that. They may not be ideal for Bach - and we'll argue about that until the cows come home - but in the tout ensemble, they're great. IMHO The slightly opaque Trombas need that spice to enrich them.

 

Nobody here has ever suggested that Tierces are inappropriate in French organs. Is that because they are more wide-scaled, or just that we recognise that French organs were not particularly designed to play Bach? Providing your Tierce ranks are properly in tune, a small-scaled 17th can add an awful lot. I imagine pcnd occasionally adds his to the fuller combinations? I do. :rolleyes:

 

Tierce mixtures are mandatory in Bach since this was what he had under his fingers

in 90% of the organs he ever played.

 

-The Tierce in french organs.

 

During the Renaissance and early baroque period, the french Principal chorus

knew tierce ranks, be it in Ripieno organs (there is a description in Arnaut de Zwolle

of a such organ, with all ranks seperated like in italian or english organs, with

a 4/5' rank), or sometimes in the Blockwerk kind (Dijon).

 

When the flemish masters worked in France (Langhedul & Co), they introduced

there the "chorus Sesquialtera", typical of the flemish, dutch and british kind, that is,

1 1/3'- 4/5' in the bass, then a break to 2 2/3'- 1 3/5', Principal scales, to be used

within the Principal chorus.

Later Mersenne described a "Tiercelette" 4/5' rank, so it became an isolated rank.

 

During the 17th century a move took place towards the exclusion of the tierce from the

Principal chorus and its developpment to the extreme, on the other hand, in the Flute chorus:

3 1/5' rank on the Great or Bombarde manual, Tierce 1 3/5' on all the manuals, plus several Cornets, all wide scale but

different from each others, from the gentle, mellow, singing Stop on the Positif up to the bold,

loud Grand Cornet on the Great, just behind the Montre.

 

So it was clear: a Principal Chorus without Tierce ranks, played with no reeds whatsoever

(save the Pedal Trompette of course), and a big Flute chorus, crammed with tierces,

to which one can add the reeds.

 

Do not believe those french quint mixtures were intended for the polyphony; quite the reverse

is true. The "Plein-jeu" was meant for solemnity -imagine the priest entering the church followed

by a procession-, and was played in chords. Do not expect any "Ti-tu-tah" there.

 

And so the french baroque organ ended up divided in two parts, exactly at the time the german one

made the reverse way, that is, the fusion of the "Engchor" and the "Weitchor" in an integrated ensemble.

 

The neo-baroque made a *mixture* with that, and produced an organ vaguely "german", but divided

in two, with french-like quint mixtures (after Dupré's Diktat) meant for....Polyphony, with no possibility

to add a tierce (Neo-baroque Sesquis are flutey soloists, not the real baroque thing!) in it.

 

In fact the Tierce choruses were not really meant for polyphony, but rather for climaxes.

In a baroque organ from central germany, you'd better either use a "Grand jeu" kind of

registration, also with the reeds, either restrain to 8-4-2, or 8-8-8-4-4-2 2/3'-2' (and all

what can be done within thoses boundaries).

 

We are far from the quint mixtures which have been glued onto post-romantic big jobs,

but I guess some people will understand why they drive me mad...

 

Liverpool has not been build for neo-baroque re-interpretation of Bach "The Singer machine way",

but rather for the Vierne Mass. PAM; PAM-PAMPAM-PAM....There, like in Notre-Dame, the Septiemes

aren't anti-social, but to the point as filling helpers.

 

Pierre

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My wife and I attended David Poulter's Bank Holiday recital today.

We picked up some literature about the restoration project, it didn't go into great detail, but listed some of the costings.

I quote from the document:

 

'As a matter of urgency immediate renovation work and re-voicing of the reeds will cost in the region of £90.000 and £95.000 respectively. A further £90.000 will then be required for less urgent general renovation work, together with a massive £200.000 for major cleaning, which has not been undertaken for some thirty years. An additional £86.000 would allow us to realise the Echo Organ, promised on the original specification'

 

Here is the spec. of the Echo Organ as originally planned:

 

Salicional 16 pedal

Echo Bass 16 pedal

Fugara 8 pedal

Dulzian 16 pedal

 

Quintaton 16

Echo Diapason 8

Cor de nuit 8

Carillon 8 TC

Flauto Amabile 8

Mute Viole 8

Aeoline Celeste 8 F

Celestina 4

Fern Flote 4

Rohr Nasat 2 2/3

Flautina 2

Harmonica Aetheria III 10.12.15

Chalumeau 16

Trompette 8

Cor Hamonique 8

Musett 8

Hautbois d'Amour 8

Voix Humaine 8

Hautbois Octaviante 4

 

Interesting, I wonder where they would site the division and if it would be anything like the original plan.

 

DT

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According to an extremely good authority, you could not have done so. Apparently, the tierce ranks were removed (by order of Goss-Custard) almost before the job was completed.

 

 

No!

 

R

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Ian Tracey told me this himself. I saw no reason to disbelieve the titular organist....

 

 

Sorry and all. All goodwill aside (and I respect both pcnd and Professor I.T.) I just had to check this because I was completely sure it was wrong! Just for once, I have the proof to hand. Chapter and Verse follows:

I have in front of me the 1965 booklet 'The organs of Liverpool Cathedral' written by Noel Rawsthorne.

 

Pedal Organ

Mixture 17.19.22

Fourniture 15.19.22.26.29

 

Choir Organ

Cimbel 29.33.36

Dulciana Mixture 10.12.17.19.22

 

Great Organ

Mixture 12.17.19.21.22

Fourniture 19.22.24.26.29

 

Swell Organ

Sesquialtera 10.12.17.19.22

Mixture 15.19.22.26.29

 

Solo Organ

Cornet de Violes 10.12.15

 

Bombarde Organ

Grand Chorus 5.8.12.15.19.22.26.29

 

It will be seen that (very sensibly) most divisions had both a quint mixture and a tierce mixture, in some cases, there were multiple tierce ranks in the latter! In one single case, there was a Septieme too. Interestingly, the small specification in use on the two-manual central space console at the time gives only one mixture per division and in every case the stop selected is the Tierce mixture. As I said previously, this accords completely with the style of the House of Willis.

 

At that time (1965) there was only one mixture in the Lady Chapel organ, this was an Echo Mixture 17.19.22 in the Swell.

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There are much differencies, though, with the original scheme (as given by Emil Rupp):

 

-The Pedal Mixture has been brough one octave higher, and lost its Septieme rank.

 

-The Pedal Fourniture remained as it was, save the 2 2/7' rank replaced with 1/2'.

 

-The Great Mixture lost its 10th.

 

-The Great Sesquialtera dissepears (to the Swell, modified?) and is replaced

with a new Fourniture (very high pitched...)

 

-The Dulciana Mixture is original (but...Lost its chorus), with a Cymbel added

 

-The Swell Lieblich Mixture (a rarity, maybe an Unicum!) dissepeared

 

-The Solo Cornet de viols is original

 

So what vanished ? The elements that provided:

 

1)- Gravity and filling

 

2)- Originality and personnality to the organ.

 

As there are no "Truths" in organ design, going back to the original specification

would have us ending up with both an efficient and an historical organ of great

significance.

Again, it seems Notre Dame de Paris was the model to beat here.There could have been

less interesting models, isn't it ?

 

Pierre

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Sorry and all. All goodwill aside (and I respect both pcnd and Professor I.T.) I just had to check this because I was completely sure it was wrong! Just for once, I have the proof to hand. Chapter and Verse follows:

I have in front of me the 1965 booklet 'The organs of Liverpool Cathedral' written by Noel Rawsthorne. ...

 

I also have a couple of edtitions of this booklet. I asked Ian Tracey why the information printed was at odds with the description he had given me, but I cannot recall that his answer was anything other than that of expessing his own puzzlement.

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There are much differencies, though, with the original scheme (as given by Emil Rupp):

 

 

 

... -The Great Sesquialtera dissepears (to the Swell, modified?) and is replaced

with a new Fourniture (very high pitched...) ...

 

 

Pierre

 

Just one small point. I am not sure that a mixture commencing 19-22-24-26-29 at C1 could be described as being 'very high pitched'. I am fairly sure that I have read of instances af old Dutch (and possibly German) organs which contained cymbal-type compound stops which began at 29-33-36 and even higher. Given time, I shall attempt to locate the information.

 

In the meantime, I am also puzzled about the apparent discrepancy of the history of the Liverpool mixtures.

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