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Sheffield Cathedral And The Cavaille-coll Orgue


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The Town Clerk of Warrington sent the following out as a Tender Specification on the 10th February 1970 (I have copied this down exactly as writ - all spelling, capitalization, punctuation etc.)

:

1. The existing Cavaille-Coll console to be removed - refurnished and closed off at Pedal Board level, and to incorporate the Pedal Board, as a complete mobile unit, for preservation and exhibition.

 

2. The existing action to be dismantled and removed together with all unnecessary ancillary and auxiliary mechanisms.

 

3. A new console to be provided to accommodate the departments and sounding stops as at present existing.

 

4. All parts of the organ to be thoroughly cleaned and examined. repair and make good, as necessary, the soundboards, bellows, and chests, trunking, reservoirs and conveyances.

 

5. The pipe work to be thoroughly cleaned, repaired where necessary and all pipes adjusted to speak correctly.

 

6. Wind pressures to be maintained as at present set for the various departments and sets of speaking pipes. The wind generating apparatus to be checked and adjusted to ensure adequate correct supply for the various requirements, with silent operation.

 

7. New action throughout to be provided of the latest electro-pneumatic principal with screened and self-cleaning action contacts.

 

8. The necessary static transformer apparatus to be incorporated of adequate capacity for instantaneous response.

 

9. The new console to be recessed into the lower part of the panelling of the frontal screen, and blended into the casing - at the fourth tier level of the platform- the keyboards to be exhibited to the auditorium. The music desk to be set in relation to the upper keyboard, to facilitate ease of "Conductor and Hall contact" through a mirror placed immediately above the Music Desk. The Desk to be of maximim width and to accommodate large scores.

 

The Console to be provided with suitable closing protection doors and to be equipped with a full width stool, adjustable for height.

 

The three keyboards, together with Radiating and Concave Pedal Boards to be of a type familiar to modern and British Organists and generally to recognised R.C.O. recommendations and requirements.

 

The compass of the manuals to remain as at present, viz: CC-G 56 notes

The compass of the pedals to remain as at present, viz: CCC-F 30 notes

 

The Drawstops to be of positive on-off action and incorporated in drawstop jambs set at 45 degrees. The left-hand jamb to contain the stops for the Swell organ in two vertical rows together with the stops for the Pedal organ, similarly set in two vertical rows. The right-hand jamb to contain the stops for the Choir organ set in two vertical rows together with the stops for the Great organ set in two vertical rows. Couplers to be incorporated with the departments they augment.

 

Drawstop faces to be lettered in black for sounding Stops - Reeds to have an additional Red spot or other mark.

 

Coupler and non-sounding drawstops to be lettered in red.

 

Selection Pistons to be all fully adjustable through a complete Setter switchboard placed conveniently to the player and available for operating during playing.

 

Balanced Swell pedal to be fitted to Swell organ - with indicator.

Balanced Swell pedal to be fitted to the Choir organ - with indicator.

Balanced General crescendo pedal to be fitted with Indicator.

 

Coupling of manuals to pedals and manuals to manuals to be through the Electro-pneumatic action and not by mechanical connection to pull down the respectively coupled keys.

 

Four rocking tablets to be incorporated in the left-hand keycheeks to operate the Ventil switches controlling the Reeds of the four departments.

 

To accommodate both British and French practice a tilting tablet (or other suitable type switch) to be incorporated to reverse the middle and bottom keyboards from Great and Choir to Choir and Great.

 

10. All passageboards and flooring inside the organ chamber and adjacent thereto to be made good.

 

11. Tuning : On completion of the work, the Instrument to be tuned to pitch as at present - A-440.

 

12. All work to be carried out to the satisfaction of the Corporation's Organ Consultants and the structural and auxiliary work to the satisfaction of the Borough Engineer and Surveyor.

 

13. All materials and workmanship o be guaranteed for a period of ten years.

 

14. Optional additions (to be shown separately)

 

a. Great Organ - additional 2ft Stop (Fifteenth) derived from No.9 Plein Jeu

b. Choir Organ - additional 1 1/3ft Stop (Larigot) derived from Nos.7, Echo Mixture

c. Swell Organ - additional 2 2/3ft Stop (Nazard) derived from No.8 Mixture.

****************

I would welcome the views of others, but I think that this was drawn up by an organist, not anyone with any organ building knowledge of any importance. I do have my own ideas as to who this person is.

 

Henry 4 persuaded them to keep the Cav.-Coll console but unfortunately he also did what they demanded, action-wise, and has since been kicked for it. Hardly fair I think.

 

B)

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Very interesting file !

 

And yes, all organ-building firms with a long historic record have the

same problems: to be judged after past "mistakes" -or rather: today seen as such-

comissionned by people who "knew the Truth", and obeyed to in order

to keep the business running.

Even a radical guy like myself, I would do exactly the same today

if I was in charge of an organ business. You can say "no" up to a point only,

and this point you do not decide, but rather the accountant, or -worse-

the bank.

 

Pierre

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Thanks for posting this up David. Interesting stuff!

 

Yes, that so much of the specification is given over to the design and details of the console yet there is so little else on the remainder of the organ speaks volumes... I'm never quite sure being prescriptive like this on the tasks to be carried out in a tender invitation is such a good thing. In this case, this is the sort of specification I would give a plumber, not an organbuilder!

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12. All work to be carried out to the satisfaction of the Corporation's Organ Consultants...

 

And there you have it.

 

The precise-ish wording of the basics (e.g. cleaned and examined, repaired as necessary) and the reasonably methodical approach, fairly economical with words, indicates to me someone who has at least managed a major project before, or someone who has a clear idea of who they want to do the work and has made the tender document fit with what the report from that firm might say.

 

Having couplers with the departments they augment (rather than a row of rocking tablets) presumably isn't Willis style of the time?

 

I am trying to think of whose consoles I have seen with black stops, red couplers and red dots on reeds. I know who very much liked rocking tablets in the key cheeks, though. (I wonder if the pistons were to be square as well?)

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The Town Clerk of Warrington sent the following out as a Tender Specification on the 10th February 1970 (I have copied this down exactly as writ - all spelling, capitalization, punctuation etc.)

:

<_<

 

I have yet to actually read through this catalogue of works in one go without being connected to my blood pressure gauge. I should like to know to whom the first part of #12 refers. Looking into Council minutes should provide answers?

A sad day.

 

N

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Guest Patrick Coleman

Thanks to DW for this fascinating information. Could it be reasonably suggested that at the time the refurbishment of the original action was considered unfeasible? It was quite common at the time for TP actions to be electrified as they reached the end of their useful life and as the cost and intricacy of refurbishment was compared to the convenience of electrification.

 

Would Willis 4 have been ready to refurbish the Barker levers - or would he have been relieved at being asked to electrify?

 

Another interesting question would be whether from a practical point of view (that is, apart from the authenticity issue) the organ is better/worse for the then new action - for the player, the listener, and the people footing the bill for maintenance.

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The huge Aubertin-Gaillaird organ at Thann (which Nigel A knows well) has a very clever, entirely contemporary Barker action. It also has mechanical/pneumatic pistons adjustable at the console; you hear lots of little metal pins drop into place when you press Set.

 

The interesting thing about that instrument is that the stop and key action all work on high-pressure compressed air, rather than a supply from the blower. This made so much sense when I first saw it that I wondered - why hasn't this been happening for years? Leak-free joints, switches, valves and tubing have been made for the compressed air industry at low cost for donkey's years.

 

Indeed I do, David. It is an instrument of heroic size - in every sense. It was not done with lashings of finance and this essay in producing a stupendously sounding instrument must surely set a benchmark because of it. The console is idiosyncratic - but like many older instruments, a few days makes you completely happy. With the advent of transport and players moving from place to place so easily, the 'house style' of console was bound to appear. There is the story about one Council/Consultant member for the new organ at the RCO in Birmingham when continental designs were 'on the table' saying that he didn't mind who built it so long as it had a Harrison & Harrison console.

There is something wonderfully terrifying in feeling and hearing things happen in mechanical consoles that I find strangely reassuring. Clunks, thumps and typing-pool clatter from Barker lever instruments add a frisson that electric just doesn't. Playing Vierne II on an authentic horseshoe arrangement and rows of metal levers down below looking for all looking like the Victory before a broadside, is a moment to cherish - as is the hernia after doing an English dash for an expression pedal that is roughly 10 past 2.

Thann though, does not have many of those features. But the combination system is a fun and useful alternative without the console being connected to the National Grid. The Progressive Mixture (10 ranks?) is extraordinary. The Tutti, marvellously alarming to the neighbouring town. The richness of Fonds that the makers have created in a wonderful acoustic (one must extol that), makes one believe again that Romantic instruments can be made and resurrected in such a way after insensitive and reckless 'restorations' in the 1970's or thereabouts. It was a most happy few days I had there for my concert and hope very much to return. It is 30 mins from Mulhouse-Basel Airport and my tickets were £48 return. All exceptional value.

 

Best wishes,

N

 

The Gaillard/Aubertin Team Romantique are doing Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs at this very moment in Paris and they have recently had another blistering go at the organ in Boulogne Cathedral with sensational results (by all accounts).

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(1) Thanks to DW for this fascinating information. Could it be reasonably suggested that at the time the refurbishment of the original action was considered unfeasible? It was quite common at the time for TP actions to be electrified as they reached the end of their useful life and as the cost and intricacy of refurbishment was compared to the convenience of electrification.

 

(2) Would Willis 4 have been ready to refurbish the Barker levers - or would he have been relieved at being asked to electrify?

 

(3) Another interesting question would be whether from a practical point of view (that is, apart from the authenticity issue) the organ is better/worse for the then new action - for the player, the listener, and the people footing the bill for maintenance.

 

I've put my numbers in above Patrick:

 

(1) The costs of electrification would have been, far and away, greater than addressing the state of the original action - which was essentially purely mechanical, with the Barker machine operating from the Great keys.

 

(2) Another letter in the file is from HW4 writing to the "Organ Retention Committee" - sorry, I'll go into this one in a minute! - saying:

 

"...the replacement of a few parts by new ones will give a further 100 years of life." He did his best to convince them that it could simply be overhauled and left as it should be. In my opinion, from the tone of all of the stuff in this file, letters to and from the Council and other 'interested parties' this was being driven from the point-of-view that this was an old-fashioned instrument which, being French, was alien to the interests and convenience of English players - specifically one, the Consultant.

 

Answering the latter part of this question - HW4 was certainly not averse to the idea of electrification in almost all cases but in this particular case he did offer them alternatives.

 

(3) In all respects WORSE. There is no advantage whatever as regards the costs of maintenance or regarding the facility to players.

 

Now to the "Organ Retention Committee" (details from the job file again):

 

Attempts to Dispose of the Parr Hall organ are nothing new and the reason for the sudden flurry of activity in 1970 was that in 1968 the Council announced that the organ would be disposed of - they had also done this in 1945, after the end of the War. Understandably, there was (as there has recently been) an uproar and various local musical bodies started a fighting fund which raised over £9,000 and it was this money which, having been given to the Council, was used partially to cover the costs of this work.

 

DW

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Guest Patrick Coleman

HA!

 

Really fascinating.

 

Apart from anything else, it does appear as if the Council were playing ducks and drakes with the issue, as I believe them to be currently, possibly as a result of too many conflicting interests. From our own discussions with them two years ago, it seemed clear that they were keen to clear the hall of it so as to recover the space. The 'keep the organ' lobby (which seems to include Terry Waite in its number) obviously wants its retention, but from our own experience of attending a Paul Hale recital there in 2007, only a handful of people actually turn up to hear it in action. (We could raise ten times the number to hear Paul play our crumbling Vowles in the back end of nowhere). There also seems to be a lobby that would only want it to go to a prestige venue (which I think is where our interest really fell down).

 

Perhaps they are hoping for a generous benefactor, as the rest of us are!

 

If their adviser has already suggested that they love it or let it go, then he must be a most frustrated man!

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There is an interesting recording of this organ, where the programme notes have the following to say:

 

"In 1969, the Warrington Corporation decided that an estimated restoration of the instrument costing a modest £9000 would not be a viable proposition. Through the staunch efforts of a specially formed Cavaille-Coll Organ Retention Committee (under the chairmanship of Gordon Fletcher) the corporation gave an undertaking that, if the money could be raised, the organ would be retained in the Parr Hall. (...) Considerable interest was aroused and eventually the corporation decided to add to the sum raised (...) replacing of the worn-out, irreparable 'Barker-lever action' with new electric action. (...) It is of course a matter of regret that the Barker action had to be dispensed with ... in the event perhaps the only realistic step was taken; and the Willis electric action is certainly very fine."

 

An article named "A Queen in Distress", from the Organist's Review, Oct 1971, by Gilbert Kennedy, is also mentioned. Perhaps this might shed more light as to thoughts and opinions at the time.

 

The general tonal effect as captured on the recording has much in common with the similarly-specified but decade-later organ at St. Francois-de-Sales, Lyon, the most marked differences being attributable to the very different acoustics - predictably more resonant and warmer in the bass in Lyon.

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I can't speak from personal experience of the Parr Hall organ, never having heard it, but if it sounds anything like the 1903 Mutin-Cavaillé-Coll at Notre-Dame de Metz (which has a very similar specification to the Parr Hall C-C), I certainly would like to hear Anglican Chant, Stanford, Howells, etc, played on it. Metz has all the necessary ingredients including a large Open Wood (though obviously called something different) and a fine "full swell" with 16-8-4 reeds and mixture.

It suited Howells "Master Tallis" remarkably well.

 

My observation on accompanying Anglican chant on this organ was a thought as a result of playing it fairly recently. I agree, the sounds available are wonderful - there are quiet stops of great beauty on this organ - and tonally they certainly would fit the bill quite adequately. But the real issue is the C-C console. There are of course no pistons, there are foot operated ventils bringing on groups of stops in the usual C-C way, and the console is laid out in terraced row of stops as you would expect. Certainly as psalm accompaniment is practised in many cathedrals, this style of console would present considerable practical difficulties with choral accompaniment, and whilst not totally impossible, the subtleties of registration expected would be very difficult to achieve, and I would think very frustrating to most players. Yes, you can do it well enough on traditional English consoles with angled draw-stop jambs and hand registration - earlier generations of organists did it perfectly well and many still can, but to translate this to the Warrington console is another matter altogether and would in my view be a very different challenge. Mind, I did hear the suggestion that perhaps it could be restored with the C-C console and Barker lever action and have added to it a modern electric conventional British console for service accompaniment...

 

R.

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Mind, I did hear the suggestion that perhaps it could be restored with the C-C console and Barker lever action and have added to it a modern electric conventional British console for service accompaniment...

 

R.

 

 

Gross! That's like saying that one should add a little electric console at Adlington Hall in case the bride wants Dieu parmi nous...

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There are of course no pistons, there are foot operated ventils bringing on groups of stops in the usual C-C way, and the console is laid out in terraced row of stops as you would expect. Certainly as psalm accompaniment is practised in many cathedrals, this style of console would present considerable practical difficulties with choral accompaniment, and whilst not totally impossible, the subtleties of registration expected would be very difficult to achieve... I did hear the suggestion that perhaps it could be restored with the C-C console and Barker lever action and have added to it a modern electric conventional British console for service accompaniment...

 

A similar suggestion was thrown out of the water at Romsey in the 1970s and 80s by all the builders who tendered (the hosts, Mark Venning, Grant Degens & Bradbeer and John Norman). One might reasonably expect the response to be even more conservative (with a small C) now.

 

Umpteen good arguments exist, not least that players should only use an instrument in the manner it was intended to be used. Fitting an English console and umpteen pistons make possible things which the instrument's creator would not have recognised.

 

There are already many types of console in the UK; angled jambs, flat jambs, tab stops either flat or in horseshoes, with or without double touch; illuminated rocker switches as favoured by Allen, Compton illuminated buttons and probably many more (I've seen at least two Alfred Hollins consoles with a row of on buttons and a row of off stops). There are jambs laid out in one, two, three and four vertical rows. There are consoles with reeds at the top and others with reeds at the bottom (Metzler for example).

 

Can we not just respect this instrument as it is designed to be, and approach it on its own terms? Anyone serious about psalm accompaniment (and I speak as an enthusiast) or any other type of accompaniment will find that all the necessary tools for making music are there.

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The thing that strikes me about Doncaster was that the reconstruction plan represented, in the broadest context, an already very dated restoration philosophy which recognised only the original material as being of historic importance. In the Netherlands, such an approach has long been abandoned and a better compromise could surely have been found at Doncaster which served both the organ's evolved state and its Thuringian roots. The result was indeed a victory for Consolitis.

 

It is worth re-stating that historic organs must always take precedence over the transient nature both of liturgical and performance practices.

 

Bazuin

 

 

I don't quite understand all of this, Bazuin...Certainly, 'The result was indeed a victory for Consolitis,' but I am wary of anything which is regarded as 'dated' or indeed 'state-of-the-art' or 'forward-looking.' This makes me one of those who are never satisfied, of course.

 

The point about the Doncaster organ is that it's not so far from its original state, and that a radical restoration would give us the biggest surviving organ by one of the best and (in England) most influential nineteenth-century builders. As you may know, the present situation was dictated by financial constraints, and lack of will. Doncaster is a miserable place, and it is a miracle that its wonderful church is still operating at all. Think Eindhoven in January.

 

Surely you can't argue that 'In the Netherlands, such an approach has long been abandoned'? What about the Concertgebouw in Haarlem? Or the arguments about the Aakerk in Groningen?

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"I don't quite understand all of this, Bazuin...Certainly, 'The result was indeed a victory for Consolitis,' but I am wary of anything which is regarded as 'dated' or indeed 'state-of-the-art' or 'forward-looking.' This makes me one of those who are never satisfied, of course."

 

It is simply the case that international restoration philosophy, in general, now has more respect for historic material from different eras than was the case 25 years ago.

 

"Surely you can't argue that 'In the Netherlands, such an approach has long been abandoned'? What about the Concertgebouw in Haarlem? Or the arguments about the Aakerk in Groningen?"

 

Two completely different cases. The Der Aa Kerk (assuming the later additions are kept which seems highly likely) neatly illustrates my point. The quality of the changes made to the Haarlem organ (including electrification of the action and some neo-baroque additions) by Adema (probably) cannot be compared in quality with the solo organ added to the Doncaster organ by Norman and Beard in 1910 (especially as this addition did not come at the cost of original material - the solo at Doncaster consisted of borrowed stops until 1910). At least there would be a more compelling reason to preserve the latter.

 

Each case has to be judged on its own merits of course but the days when a late 18th century Rugpositief was removed when the early 17th century organ are now officially over I think.

 

Bazuin

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There is an interesting recording of this organ, where the programme notes have the following to say:

 

"In 1969, the Warrington Corporation decided that an estimated restoration of the instrument costing a modest £9000 would not be a viable proposition. Through the staunch efforts of a specially formed Cavaille-Coll Organ Retention Committee (under the chairmanship of Gordon Fletcher) the corporation gave an undertaking that, if the money could be raised, the organ would be retained in the Parr Hall. (...) Considerable interest was aroused and eventually the corporation decided to add to the sum raised (...) replacing of the worn-out, irreparable 'Barker-lever action' with new electric action. (...) It is of course a matter of regret that the Barker action had to be dispensed with ... in the event perhaps the only realistic step was taken; and the Willis electric action is certainly very fine."

 

An article named "A Queen in Distress", from the Organist's Review, Oct 1971, by Gilbert Kennedy, is also mentioned. Perhaps this might shed more light as to thoughts and opinions at the time.

 

The general tonal effect as captured on the recording has much in common with the similarly-specified but decade-later organ at St. Francois-de-Sales, Lyon, the most marked differences being attributable to the very different acoustics - predictably more resonant and warmer in the bass in Lyon.

 

I have tried, without success, to obtain a copy of the article 'A Queen in Distress' by Gilbert Kennedy. The Archive of Organist's Review were unable to find a copy and Gilbert Kennedy's widow thought that her copy had been mislaid when moving house.

Can anyone please help me to obtain a copy of this article?

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quentinbellamy said:
Curious....

 

Never thought I'd say it, but a similarly primitive console doesn't seem to bother the organist of Saint Sulpice . . .

 

Could it be that nowadays playing the organ has become more of a matter of playing the pistons/sequencer etc. ?? :unsure:

 

Concerning the Parr Hall Cavaille-Coll Great Organ:-

Gilbert Kennedy wrote an article 'A Queen in Distress' for The Organists' Review in October, 1971. In it, he said 'All that is needed to get the best out of her is an understading of the French console, a little love and a little patience. Playing this organ is a great experience'.

After he had played the Parr Hall Great Organ for the first time in 1970 (still with the old and worn Barker levers) he said 'her voice was wonderful and it was love at first sound'. He decided there and then that he would do his utmost to save her and a demonstration recital was planned for 16th October, 1970. He played (with no ciphers or mis-haps) to a large enthusiasic audience, and gave a second recital the following January.

The Warrington Corporation of 1968/9 had decided that it would not be worthwhile to spend £9,000 required to restore the Parr Hall organ and they were considering selling the organ for scrap for £105. This decision produced such an outcry among organists in the North West, that the Cavaille-Coll Organ Retention Committe was set up in Warrington to discuss ways and means of saving the organ, and an appeal was launched to raise money for the restoration. The Warrington Corporation gave an undertaking that if the £9,000 could be found, they would retain the organ in the Parr Hall.

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On the subject of the Parr Hall CC organ being installed at Sheffield, I remember that David Sanger told me that he was advising on this project, he came to Chester Cathedral to do a recital last March and we had a pint the night before. It's a while ago now so I can't remember everything he said but he talked about a European firm that was about to be given the contract for the restoration and installation work... but I just can't remember who it was, obviously it didn't register with my British ears very well, but the key thing he definitely said was that they had an unbroken history with Barker Lever action. And I think he suggested that this firm was the only one in the world with that status.

 

Does anybody here know to which company this might have been referring to? He kept re-emphasizing the importance of the Barker Lever being restored by a firm with excellent knowledge of this system and told me about a Willis organ somewhere which had had its Barker system disconnected after an otherwise respected builder in the UK hadn't known what to do with it.

 

The other thing he mentioned, if I remember rightly, was that a comparatively very large sum had gone out to this European builders to come and quote on the project. To me, this would seem as if Sheffield were very serious about getting the organ, and to me he seemed very certain that the project was a go-er.

 

I believe all is now quiet about this proposed restoration / re installation. Has anyone taken over where David left off as an advisor?

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On the subject of the Parr Hall CC organ being installed at Sheffield, I remember that David Sanger told me that he was advising on this project, he came to Chester Cathedral to do a recital last March and we had a pint the night before. It's a while ago now so I can't remember everything he said but he talked about a European firm that was about to be given the contract for the restoration and installation work... but I just can't remember who it was, obviously it didn't register with my British ears very well, but the key thing he definitely said was that they had an unbroken history with Barker Lever action. And I think he suggested that this firm was the only one in the world with that status.

 

Does anybody here know to which company this might have been referring to? He kept re-emphasizing the importance of the Barker Lever being restored by a firm with excellent knowledge of this system and told me about a Willis organ somewhere which had had its Barker system disconnected after an otherwise respected builder in the UK hadn't known what to do with it.

 

The other thing he mentioned, if I remember rightly, was that a comparatively very large sum had gone out to this European builders to come and quote on the project. To me, this would seem as if Sheffield were very serious about getting the organ, and to me he seemed very certain that the project was a go-er.

 

I believe all is now quiet about this proposed restoration / re installation. Has anyone taken over where David left off as an advisor?

 

I was discussing this scheme with Sheffield's Director of Music Neil Taylor very recently and I understood from him that everything is going ahead smoothly. We didn't discuss firms, but he did say that Ian Bell has been appointed the Cathedral's advisor. Co-incidentally, he has been also the adviser to the Parr Hall authorities so he would be excellently placed to ensure the instrument's safe passage, re-erection and restoration. One of the major works involved is the 're-development' of the West end of the cathedral, currently somewhat of a 1960s eyesore - I hereby apologise to the architect if he's still alive for my lack of appreciation for a much misunderstood art-work. The Cavaille-Coll case is Gothick in oak, most of the rest of the cathedral would be in sympathy with this, just not the West end as it currently stands! Amongst other things, I believe a (new) gallery position is being considered.

 

Hope this helps.

 

At the very least, you can say that the people of Sheffield deserve a Cavaille-Coll since the one they had (and appreciated) was lost not by poor management but by fire-hazard.

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I was wandering as to how well the voicing of the Parr Hall organ would work in Sheffield Cathedral as it will be coming from a softly furnished hall to a cathedral with acoustics at the opposite end of the scale. I remember GTB describing the challenges the voicing posed in his biography of the present Temple Church organ when it was installed. In fairness, they seemed to get the end result right of course!

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... but the key thing he definitely said was that they had an unbroken history with Barker Lever action. And I think he suggested that this firm was the only one in the world with that status.

I'm just guessing here, but the one firm that pops up in my head who constantly built large organs with Barker levers might be Kuhn of Männedorf (Switzerland). IIRC, they used Barker action in their organ for Basle Minster in the 1950ies (recently relocated to Moscow and replaced by an architecturally interesting Mathis), as well as in other post-war projects. Kuhn also have an excellent report of restorations.

 

There is small possibility that Marcussen kept working with Barker actions, but I am not quite so sure about that.

 

The French firms turned to electric or e-p more or less completely, as did all major German companies (most of which went for t-p around 1900 anyway). One certain company which turns out huge French-style organs regularly uses Barkers as well, but they are too young to have an "unbroken history" with the times when Barker lever originated.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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I'm just guessing here, but the one firm that pops up in my head who constantly built large organs with Barker levers might be Kuhn of Männedorf (Switzerland). IIRC, they used Barker action in their organ for Basle Minster in the 1950ies (recently relocated to Moscow and replaced by an architecturally interesting Mathis), as well as in other post-war projects. Kuhn also have an excellent report of restorations.

 

There is small possibility that Marcussen kept working with Barker actions, but I am not quite so sure about that.

 

The French firms turned to electric or e-p more or less completely, as did all major German companies (most of which went for t-p around 1900 anyway). One certain company which turns out huge French-style organs regularly uses Barkers as well, but they are too young to have an "unbroken history" with the times when Barker lever originated.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

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

 

I'm going to be in bother with this one, but what exactly is the point of installing a new Barker-Lever action to the organ at Warrington, or Sheffield if it were to move there?

 

Is it superior to all other forms of action?

 

The answer must surely be that it isn't. It is an action which offers no direct connection between key and pallet, and has no musical advantages whatsoever.

Top resitance it may have, but then, so do the best EP and pneumatic actions.....think Wurlitzer (superb) and J J Binns (pretty darned good).

 

The downside of the Barker-Lever (if it really was invented by Barker!), is the clunk, clunk, clunk of noises off.

 

Were it theatre, a chamber concert or public oratory, the manager would call the police and have the action charged with a public order offence.

 

"Exact restoration," when the original is long gone, is surely just an expensive indulgence which delights no-one but the restorer and the historian. As for the aesthetic appreciation, it isn't exactly the sort of thing that is visible to view to be appreciated by all, is it?

 

The exact same argument raged at St.Bart's, Armley, where the original proposal was to "restore" (ie: create anew) the original Barker action, but sound headed Yorkshiremen knew that the Binns pneumatic-action, for the better part of a century, had worked superbly, during a period of incredible pollution and a harsh chemical environment. (The church at Armley was NOT built of black stone).

 

I argued at the time of the Armley project, that nothing could be better than the refurbishment of the old Binns action, which is what was done in the end; as much to save cost as to restore what I believe to be a far superior action over the original.

 

Don't get me wrong, because I'm not the sort of person who would stuff a diesel engine into an old steam-train and generate chemical "steam" to impress the tourists, but an organ is first and foremost a musical instrument, and not just a piece of aesthetic memorabilia.

 

In any event, the later Willis floating-lever was probably a better action: not that this powers the organ at Parr Hall.

 

Why, in the 21st century, would anyone want to make every voluntary below 'fff' sound like "Riverdance?"

 

Why choose a builder from outside the UK, when perfectly capable organ-builders in the UK, (such as our kind hosts), could do it just as well?

 

I'm all for Europe and European co-operation, but we eschew our own at our peril, if what they do is of similar quality and effectiveness.

 

As for Sheffield Cathedral, it isn't a "veritable sea of reverberation" and it isn't a vast building. The Cavaille-Coll would sound OK in there, I feel sure.

 

I'm sure Neil Taylor would make good use of a Cavaille-Coll instrument at Sheffield, but if it were to go there, would they be moving the choir into a new west gallery?

 

If not, they would have a problem I suspect, because the nave is quite separate from the rest, just like Bradford Cathedral where Neil was organ-scholar in the days of yore. In fact, possibly the only time he ever enjoyed the perfect acoustic was when he took over at Holy Joe's when I departed for London, and when he went to London, I eventually slipped back onto the organ-bench again! It's ages since I've seen him, but we did almost collide in a corridor at the Royal Albert Hall some years ago.

 

MM

 

(I don't care what's under the bonnet! Does it go well?)

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I'm going to be in bother with this one, but what exactly is the point of installing a new Barker-Lever action to the organ at Warrington, or Sheffield if it were to move there?

Is it superior to all other forms of action?

Well, at least Cavaillé-Coll did think so, and said so, and the famous Reinburgs finished his organs on that type of action. (I do not know who did the finishing at Parr Hall.) So there is a musical reason to consider after all. Some historical Barker machines have been successfully quieted down by felt-lined encasing and the like.

 

I do remember being shocked when listening to Dupré's own recording of his opus 36, 1 in Saint-Sulpice (clicke-clicke-clicke-clicke-clicke-clicke-clicke-clicke-clicke-clicke-oooooh-clicke-clicke-oooooh-clicke-clicke-oooooh-clicke-clicke and so on). But that has improved considerably since then.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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