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Westminster Cathedral Apse Organ - Which "lewis" Built It?


GrossGeigen
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Paul Hale, in his latest contribution to Organists' Review (St. Etheldreda's Church, Ely Place, London) asserts that J. F. Bentley, architect of Westminster Cathedral, "regularly worked with the organbuilder T. C. Lewis, most notably at Westminster Cathedral in the first decade of the twentieth century, where they installed a twin-cased Apse Organ..."

I know that "old man" T. C. Lewis was still, shall we say, "dabbling" in Organ building in 1910 ( a good decade or so after his association with Lewis & Co Ltd effectively ceased) but is there ANYONE who can confirm who built the Apse Organ, Thomas Christopher Lewis himself, OR, Lewis & Co Ltd ??

If the organ was built by Lewis & Co Ltd, the job number should be plentifully teeped here & there within the instrument, even allowing for the (regrettable?) 1984 alterations. A 1910 Lewis & Co that I know well is, for example, job no 828.

Furthermore, Paul Hale describes the Apse Organ as having a "strange" stoplist - I have never heard anything other than complimentary remarks regarding the "effect" of this stoplist.

Any information appreciated !

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Paul Hale, in his latest contribution to Organists' Review (St. Etheldreda's Church, Ely Place, London) asserts that J. F. Bentley, architect of Westminster Cathedral, "regularly worked with the organbuilder T. C. Lewis, most notably at Westminster Cathedral in the first decade of the twentieth century, where they installed a twin-cased Apse Organ..."

I know that "old man" T. C. Lewis was still, shall we say, "dabbling" in Organ building in 1910 ( a good decade or so after his association with Lewis & Co Ltd effectively ceased) but is there ANYONE who can confirm who built the Apse Organ, Thomas Christopher Lewis himself, OR, Lewis & Co Ltd ??

If the organ was built by Lewis & Co Ltd, the job number should be plentifully teeped here & there within the instrument, even allowing for the (regrettable?) 1984 alterations. A 1910 Lewis & Co that I know well is, for example, job no 828.

Furthermore, Paul Hale describes the Apse Organ as having a "strange" stoplist - I have never heard anything other than complimentary remarks regarding the "effect" of this stoplist.

Any information appreciated !

 

I guess everyone must be on holiday! Interesting question which I cannot answer just now, tho I am sure I have something tucked away with a possible answer somewhere.

 

On the same subject tho, I was in Westminster Cathedral a few weeks ago. If you walk up the North Aisle of the nave, and into the central altar area, but staying on the North side, up high on the transept wall (I know there isn't a a real transept!), are what appears to be a few ranks of pipes set back in a shallow gallery (metal and wood).....

Does anyone know what that is about? Is it connected to the Apse organ?

Richard

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I

On the same subject tho, I was in Westminster Cathedral a few weeks ago. If you walk up the North Aisle of the nave, and into the central altar area, but staying on the North side, up high on the transept wall (I know there isn't a a real transept!), are what appears to be a few ranks of pipes set back in a shallow gallery (metal and wood)..... Does anyone know what that is about? Is it connected to the Apse organ?

 

I think you will find that this organ is by "The Positive Organ Co."

The NPOR has the details at http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=E00824 (where this was possibly one of two by this builder).

What I did not know is that there was a Norman and Beard organ in the Chancel at one point.

 

PJW

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I think you will find that this organ is by "The Positive Organ Co."

The NPOR has the details at http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=E00824 (where this was possibly one of two by this builder).

What I did not know is that there was a Norman and Beard organ in the Chancel at one point.

 

PJW

 

Hi

 

I would be surprised if the "Positive Organ Co" instruments remain in the Cathedral - I would guess that they were short-term installations - and info about them is pretty scarce. Maybe an e-mail to the current organist would answer the question. You'll note that there's no "state" on the NPOR records for these instruments because we don't know what happened to them.

 

As to the N&B, several firms at the time had organs available for hire - usually in the hopes of obtaining the contract for the permanent installation. (BOA says that it was temporary).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I know that "old man" T. C. Lewis was still, shall we say, "dabbling" in Organ building in 1910 ( a good decade or so after his association with Lewis & Co Ltd effectively ceased) but is there ANYONE who can confirm who built the Apse Organ, Thomas Christopher Lewis himself, OR, Lewis & Co Ltd ??

If the organ was built by Lewis & Co Ltd, the job number should be plentifully teeped here & there within the instrument, even allowing for the (regrettable?) 1984 alterations. A 1910 Lewis & Co that I know well is, for example, job no 828.

Can you elaborate on the way T C Lewis was "dabbling" in organ building in 1910? His earliest proposal (dating incidentally from that year) was for a large organ in several parts divided between the Apse and Tribunes. Largely for financial reasons, only the Choir Organ in the Apse (i.e. the 'Apse Organ') was ever built. Other writers do specifically mention 'Lewis & Company' - not T C Lewis - as the builder. As you say, the firm had reformed without him in 1901. If the Apse organ was built in 1910, by what means would T C Lewis have built the instrument?

 

People who could provide definitive answers are Stephen Smith who maintains this peerless website which includes this authoritative article on the Grand Organ; Christopher Gray (of BIOS) who wrote "The Highest Style of Art": An introduction to the life and legacy of T.C.Lewis (1833-1915) in the BIOS Journal Vol 22 (1998); or even David Wyld whose firm, I believe, now holds the Lewis books.

 

Good luck.

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The Apse (East) organ at Westminster Cathedral is certainly by Lewis & Co. Ltd, (not T.C. Lewis). The firm adopted this name in 1884, when it became a limited company.

 

I recall that the late Harry Coles was always quick to point out that Southwark Cathedral's Lewis organ, built in 1897, was by Lewis & Co. God help anyone if they said it was by T.C. Lewis and Harry was within ear shot!

 

Perhaps a difference between the Westminster and Southwark instruments is the involvement of T.C. Lewis himself? At Southwark, there is no doubt that he was invloved. However, I would question if he had any involvement at Westminster in 1910 - following his enforced retirement from the Lewis firm in 1901.

 

Although Westminster's Apse organ bears the Lewis & Co. name, it has never struck me as being particualrly "Lewis", either in terms of its stop list or its voicing - but that's just my opinion. The fact that it works as well as it does is arguably due to its elevated position (the Apse is raised) and the building's fabulous acoustics.

 

I was interested to read the quote from Paul Hale's article in The Organ. In particular, his comments about the collaboration between Westminster's architect J.F. Bentley and T.C. Lewis for the Apse organ's divided case. I doubt this was the case (no pun intended). Bentley died in 1902 and the organ wasn't installed until 1910. The two men certainly were great friends and may have discussed the matter but who knows for sure?

 

Furthermore, although the received wisdom is that the Apse organ was divided from the outset, the fact is that it wasn't. Actually, the whole instrument - console, chests, pipes, etc. - occupied a central position at the back of the Apse. It is possible that the action was pneumatic or even tracker. To divide a tiny organ of barely a dozen stops would not make sense, surely?

 

The pipes were on display, as there was no casework. It was an ugly instrument to behold. A screen was erected behind the high altar, perhaps in an attempt to hide it from view of the Faithful?

 

The divided Apse organ only came into being in 1926 when Willis III built the vast Apse console, which controlled both the Grand and Apse organs. It was sited on the spot where the Apse organ used to stand, i.e. centre/rear of the Apse. The Choir stalls and the organ cases were, in a manner of speaking, built around the new mega-console. Prior to this, the Choir stalls were a somewhat temporary affair, which may have even been movable.

 

I have pieced together the above details by looking at many old postcards of Westminster Cathedral and by working out their dates from known facts (e.g. when the Cross or the Stations or the Baldacchino were installed). I think this is the first time I have made public this information.

 

Kind regards,

Stephen D. Smith

Webmaster, organrecitals.com (www.organrecitals.com)

President, Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society (www.acchos.org)

Honorary Curator of the World's Largest Organ (www.boardwalkhall.com/organs.asp)

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The Apse (East) organ at Westminster Cathedral is certainly by Lewis & Co. Ltd, (not T.C. Lewis). The firm adopted this name in 1884, when it became a limited company...I think this is the first time I have made public this information.

 

Kind regards,

Stephen D. Smith

Webmaster, organrecitals.com (www.organrecitals.com)

President, Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society (www.acchos.org)

Honorary Curator of the World's Largest Organ (www.boardwalkhall.com/organs.asp)

Many thanks for this fascinating post.

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