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Christ Church, Cheltenham - A French Connection?


Guest Hector5
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Guest Hector5

I have just received an email out of the blue from a French organ builder (Jean Baptiste Dupont) looking for spare parts for a Nicholson organ. Attached are photos of the console of Christ Church, Cheltenham. Does anyone know what is going on? Is this a new trend? Kern has retored (or is currently engaged in) the organ of the West London Synagogue. The console looks tired and there is a stop missing from the Solo jamb. VERY strange stoplist!!

 

Is anyone aware of what's going on??

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Guest Hector5
Unless I am missing something Hector, there are no photos attached!

Richard

 

 

No - on the email sent to me by the French organ builder, goodness know's why!

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The console of the organ in Christchuch Cheltenham certainly is fairly tired. The specification, as you say, is very odd, with too many single rank mutations instead of proper mixtures and, from memory, no strings on the swell. Its a shame because it should be a fine instrument but really its a bit of a mess. It suffers from those horrible Nicholson double-touch pistons which make it difficult to control. Its also rather difficult to hear from the console (as a result of overhanging galleries) and sounds far louder in the church than what the player perceives.

 

Paul D. may well comment, he was organist at Christchurch some years ago... (long after these changes were imposed upon the organ I hasten to add).

 

I hadn't heard of any work being planned or done on the instrument, it certainly is ready for it as its not 100% reliable in various ways. If I pick up any local knews or gossip I will certainly pass it on....

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Guest Hector5

The console of the organ in Christchuch Cheltenham certainly is fairly tired. The specification, as you say, is very odd, with too many single rank mutations instead of proper mixtures and, from memory, no strings on the swell. Its a shame because it should be a fine instrument but really its a bit of a mess. It suffers from those horrible Nicholson double-touch pistons which make it difficult to control. Its also rather difficult to hear from the console (as a result of overhanging galleries) and sounds far louder in the church than what the player perceives.

 

Paul D. may well comment, he was organist at Christchurch some years ago... (long after these changes were imposed upon the organ I hasten to add).

 

I hadn't heard of any work being planned or done on the instrument, it certainly is ready for it as its not 100% reliable in various ways. If I pick up any local knews or gossip I will certainly pass it on....

 

/quote]

 

If anyone wants copies of the photos, feel free to PM me.

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Guest Cynic
The console of the organ in Christchuch Cheltenham certainly is fairly tired. The specification, as you say, is very odd, with too many single rank mutations instead of proper mixtures and, from memory, no strings on the swell. Its a shame because it should be a fine instrument but really its a bit of a mess. It suffers from those horrible Nicholson double-touch pistons which make it difficult to control. Its also rather difficult to hear from the console (as a result of overhanging galleries) and sounds far louder in the church than what the player perceives.

 

Paul D. may well comment, he was organist at Christchurch some years ago... (long after these changes were imposed upon the organ I hasten to add).

 

I hadn't heard of any work being planned or done on the instrument, it certainly is ready for it as its not 100% reliable in various ways. If I pick up any local knews or gossip I will certainly pass it on....

 

'Paul D' responds as suggested:

 

As to what is going on there now and The French Connection

[imagine Manuel's voice (Fawlty Towers)]

'I know n o t h i n g!'

 

At one time and another, Christ Church has been unusual in that a very low-church, evangelical tradition has been supported by excellent music and a choir up to the most demanding of cathedral deputising. The Simeon Trust are involved, some of you will know what that means!

 

I enjoyed quite a bit of my four years there (1991-95) and always hoped that the more irksome members of the large and enthusiastic choir (architypical backseat drivers) would eventually come into line. They didn't. Life's too short.....I moved on.

 

As to the organ, a large Hunter was rebuilt into a complete and 'traditional' four-manual 1950s Nicholson, which was inaugurated by Fernando Germani.

In the 1970s it was modified by Trevor Tipple of Worcester (a former Tonal Director of Nicholsons now in business on his own) to a very unorthodox specification drawn up by a lovely eccentric organist/clergyman Revd.John Beck (who later had similar but less unconventional modifications made to the organ at Cirencester Parish Church by that great artist John Coulson). Even though there were 60+ stops on the Christ Church instrument, as left by John Beck the Swell had no Oboe and no strings but practically every conceivable mutation and a mixture that would sound excessively high-pitched to Arp Schnitger; the Great had no proper 8' Diapason that could be played, though the pipes were still in the case! The major force at 8' was a phenomenally pervasive (and mounted) Quintade 8'. The only manual that behaved normally was the Solo, and at one stage I had plans for what pipework to install on the blank slides in it.

 

Ah well....

 

there's money! A lot of God's elect regularly frequent the church and some may well tithe so anything is possible!

 

Paul D.

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"Beck the Swell had no Oboe and no strings but practically every conceivable mutation and a mixture that would sound excessively high-pitched to Arp Schnitger; the Great had no proper 8' Diapason that could be played, though the pipes were still in the case! The major force at 8' was a phenomenally pervasive (and mounted) Quintade 8'."

(Quote)

 

:lol: :lol: :lol:

 

This said, such things we have by the dozens in Belgium.... :(

 

....With a side effect: the revival of the romantic organ!

 

Pierre

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'Paul D' responds as suggested:

 

As to what is going on there now and The French Connection

[imagine Manuel's voice (Fawlty Towers)]

'I know n o t h i n g!'

 

At one time and another, Christ Church has been unusual in that a very low-church, evangelical tradition has been supported by excellent music and a choir up to the most demanding of cathedral deputising. The Simeon Trust are involved, some of you will know what that means!

 

I enjoyed quite a bit of my four years there (1991-95) and always hoped that the more irksome members of the large and enthusiastic choir (architypical backseat drivers) would eventually come into line. They didn't. Life's too short.....I moved on.

 

As to the organ, a large Hunter was rebuilt into a complete and 'traditional' four-manual 1950s Nicholson, which was inaugurated by Fernando Germani.

In the 1970s it was modified by Trevor Tipple of Worcester (a former Tonal Director of Nicholsons now in business on his own) to a very unorthodox specification drawn up by a lovely eccentric organist/clergyman Revd.John Beck (who later had similar but less unconventional modifications made to the organ at Cirencester Parish Church by that great artist John Coulson). Even though there were 60+ stops on the Christ Church instrument, as left by John Beck the Swell had no Oboe and no strings but practically every conceivable mutation and a mixture that would sound excessively high-pitched to Arp Schnitger; the Great had no proper 8' Diapason that could be played, though the pipes were still in the case! The major force at 8' was a phenomenally pervasive (and mounted) Quintade 8'. The only manual that behaved normally was the Solo, and at one stage I had plans for what pipework to install on the blank slides in it.

 

Ah well....

 

there's money! A lot of God's elect regularly frequent the church and some may well tithe so anything is possible!

 

Paul D.

Paul,

 

I remember some of your time at CCC because my Gran used to live just down the road from it. I remembeer one occasion when an Uncle of mine got married in the church and the organ sounded fine then. I stood not too far behind you when you did the opening piece for that service, which was the prelude on "Nan Danket" by SKE.

 

I haven't gone into the church for some years though. But a look at the website of the church doesn't mention any work on the organ. And nor, BTW, does the NPOR mention the work by Trevor Tipple that you mention earlier.

 

Dave

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I have just received an email out of the blue from a French organ builder (Jean Baptiste Dupont) looking for spare parts for a Nicholson organ.

 

I would imagine that Organ Tuning Services of Stratford-upon-Avon would have some spares suitable for Nicholsons' instruments. I believe he acts as a sort of spare parts dealer...

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Guest Cynic
I would imagine that Organ Tuning Services of Stratford-upon-Avon would have some spares suitable for Nicholsons' instruments. I believe he acts as a sort of spare parts dealer...

 

 

To the best of my knowledge this is correct. I understand that he was offered the whole of the old Llandaff Cathedral instrument, the whole of the Worcester Cathedral instrument (bar a single Hope Jones Viole rank) and all the four-manual Willis that used to stand in Holy Trinity Coventry. He has an awful lot in store! I gather that much of the stock is kept in wooden sheds (no harm in that) and lock-up garages. Some years ago I enquired after something only to learn that (allegedly) some of his stock had recently been torched by the locals.

 

However, if anyone wanted to return the organ in Christ Church, Cheltenham to its 'echt' original state, what they should be looking for is old Hunter material, not 1950s Nicholson!

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Guest Cynic
Paul,

 

I remember some of your time at CCC because my Gran used to live just down the road from it. I remembeer one occasion when an Uncle of mine got married in the church and the organ sounded fine then. I stood not too far behind you when you did the opening piece for that service, which was the prelude on "Nan Danket" by SKE.

 

I haven't gone into the church for some years though. But a look at the website of the church doesn't mention any work on the organ. And nor, BTW, does the NPOR mention the work by Trevor Tipple that you mention earlier.

 

Dave

 

Must have been on Grandmothers' Day.

[bTW Your uncle was in my choir - he joined while I was there.]

 

PS Thankyou for saying that the organ sounded fine. I am a great believer in large organs. [Don't quote me out of context!] With enough stops you can usually fake what you don't have. One of the four general pistins was set up with a 'normal' hymn noise, this included all the choir 8's and the Solo 8'and 4' flutes coupled to the Great with the miniscule Principal 8' (the original no.3 diapason) but without the Quintade.

 

Caution: Off at a tangent!

On the subject of faking it, one of my favourite organs for Romantic music is that monster in Norwich Cathedral. Almost anything on the Secondary Great has to be faked because there are only two 8' flues. One is a small Diapason the other a 'John Norman Special' - calling itself Stopped Diapason. This stop is of massive (alien) scale and has so many initiation characteristics of different kinds that it is a real challenge to describe in words. Imagine a very old toothbrush with bristles bent and angled in all directions simultaneously - this would be an aural equivalent. If you draw this stop in anything but early Baroque or Neo-classical works it sticks out, even when practically every other stop on the organ is drawn. For literally years now, anyone accompanying on this manual has been obliged to couple the 8' Harmonic Claribel from the Solo organ to avoid using it.

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  • 3 weeks later...
To the best of my knowledge this is correct. I understand that he was offered the whole of the old Llandaff Cathedral instrument, the whole of the Worcester Cathedral instrument (bar a single Hope Jones Viole rank) and all the four-manual Willis that used to stand in Holy Trinity Coventry. He has an awful lot in store! I gather that much of the stock is kept in wooden sheds (no harm in that) and lock-up garages. Some years ago I enquired after something only to learn that (allegedly) some of his stock had recently been torched by the locals.

 

However, if anyone wanted to return the organ in Christ Church, Cheltenham to its 'echt' original state, what they should be looking for is old Hunter material, not 1950s Nicholson!

Lordy! I remember this organ from my time in the choir there. A very strange set up indeed having a choir of cathedral ability in an evangelical church veering towards the "happy clappy" by the time I left. I always remember as a choir we processed to the stalls from the baptistry at the back of the church, where the organ was all but inaudible - the tuba was just about the only thing you could hear and full organ was incredibly muted! No wonder when you consider they crammed the instrument into the north transept with half the gallery cut away at the back. I can only imagine what it must have sounded like when it was in the west gallery and spoke down the nave! I seem to remember the harmonic flutes on the Solo being from the original Hill and still there. I also remember some very odd voices that appeared to have been added in the name of 'baroque-ising' the instrument (when they stripped it of anything 'romantic' and relegated it to the Solo, namely the clarinet and strings/celeste), the Rohr Quintade of which immediately comes to mind, which was so coarse and 'breathy' that it defied description! The 12th harmonic was so pronounced that you really only needed to add the tierce and the 4ft and you virtually had a cornet separet. The only times I've heard such pronounced twelfths is from the 16ft bourdon's resulting from the hands of some rather artless voicers.

There are some plus points though! The Posaune on the Great I seem to remember being very clear and quite free in tone - which was a lovely foil to the Tuba Mirabilis, and the 32 Sub Bourdon, which had an incredible presence considering how it was in the area of the organ where the flower ladies though nothing of using it as a notice board, and even using the mouths of the pipes as extra shelving! Amazing how some of those pipes spoke when they were full of Pledge and dusters, but then this is the fate of many an organ I fear.......

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  • 1 month later...

In order to precise the topic: Mr Dupont is no Organ-builder; his E-Mail was

intended as a private one.

He is not involved with the Cheltenham organ in any way; the pictures he sent

were from several different organs, and the parts he is in search of are for

his own, private organ.

 

Pierre

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The organ is not the work of Trevor Tipple, it was undertaken by Nicholsons but Trevor Tipple did regulate the new pipework for them which was obtained by the Rev Beck. The pipework was secondhand, but Trevor Tipple has told me it was of a very high quality.

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  • 1 month later...

I used to sing in the choir at Christ Church before it got all too happy clappy, and remember the organ very well. The Rohr Quintade on the Great was an odd stop, and the only 8' that was usable really was an 8' Principal. The Harmonic Flutes on the Solo I believe were from the original Hill organ, and the Swell was seriously lacking in many ways - no Oboe, and the strings put on the Solo instead. You were stuffed if you wanted to get Romantic and use the Celeste against the Clarinet as they were both on the Solo! The whole thing wasn't helped by being buried in the "North" transept with the rear half of the gallery cut away in a vain attempt to allow the organ to speak. The choir used to process from the Baptistry at the west end of the church, where you could hardly hear a thing - even the Tuba Mirabilis was muted down to a Cornopean in its effect! It would be wonderful if funds would allow the organ to be "de-baroqued" as it were and returned to it's original position in the west gallery so it can speak down the length of the church once more - this would also improve the whole appearance of the west end by filling the aching void that was painted a pale blue as I remember, and screaming to have an organ back in its place!

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