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SinaL

Badly Positioned Organs

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We have probably all come across instruments, even though wonderfully sounding, which have been positioned in such a place that they cannot properly project sound into the nave or lead a full congregation without having to use full great + swell.

Are there any particular cathedral or major church organs that can be named and shamed on these grounds and which need certain re-positioning?

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Are there any particular cathedral or major church organs that can be named and shamed on these grounds and which need certain re-positioning?

 

Nearly all of them.

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Romsey Abbey (without the Nave add-on)

 

It would be quicker to note the well placed organs - Dorset has Wimborne St Giles, a nice 2m Harrison on a west gallery. Wiltshire has St Paul Salisbury, 2m Vowles on a west gallery, and a smattering of Stephen Cooke jobs which have been moved (Erlestoke, Westbury, Little Cheverell, for instance). I can't think of any ideal ones off the top of my head in Hampshire.

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The one in Pollokshields in Glasgow that Lammermuir put in. Don't really blame them though. After the church had virtually burned down, there was an opportunity to place a new organ in the best setting. Instead, propped in a corner behind pillars and doesn't speak well in to the whole body of the church. A pity.

 

Contrast with what in my opinion, was an excellent place to situate a new organ when a similar fate befell St Barnabus in Dulwich.

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I can't think of any ideal ones off the top of my head in Hampshire.

I'm struggling too... St Mary's, South Stoneham - very small but a nice West Gallery location; St Luke's, Sarisbury Green... but both of these are in Southampton, which isn't technically part of Hampshire...

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The Cavaillé-Coll in St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough is ideally positioned in the apse behind the altar and sounds marvellous from the nave, to only part of the building open to the public and congregation. Of course, the acoustics are helpful to all music-making there, so that even a dog howling would create an interesting experience. Howells? (apologies!)

 

Regards

 

Oscar

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Does this have to be in the UK? In Ireland; Cork, the Cathedral organ was moved from a gallery at the back of the Nave to a pit in the North Transept so the organ did not obscure the walls.

 

Llandaff Cath was not good for sound reaching the nave and the main organ was reported as too far away from the central concrete Epstein drum at the front of the nave but this should all be rectified with the current new 3 divisions. (Oh, perhaps this does not qualify as the origal post said wonderfully sounding in the first place!)

 

Bradford had a PO in a case at the rear of the Nave which has now been got rid of. Does the Chancel organ now cope with all demands?

 

The one organ solution to our Cathedrals has been found wanting as musical needs have changed over the years and several have introduced nave divisions (or used toasters). I expect re-positioning would not always fully meet the needs of most Cathedrals. How does the solution adopted by Mander at Chelmsford Cath with west nave and chancel organs work in practice?

 

PJW

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The one organ solution to our Cathedrals has been found wanting as musical needs have changed over the years and several have introduced nave divisions (or used toasters). I expect re-positioning would not always fully meet the needs of most Cathedrals. How does the solution adopted by Mander at Chelmsford Cath with west nave and chancel organs work in practice?

 

PJW

 

As someone who used to reside not far from Chelmsford and has visited there pretty frequently, I think the arrangement there works well. The Chancel organ for choir accompaniment, and link the two up or use the Nave organ for congregational accompaniment. They will happily lead a full cathedral. Of course, Chelmsford isn't a massive building by any means, and how that kind of arrangement would work in a bigger space I don't know.

 

The other cathedral with which I'm most familiar is Southwell and of course they have two organs but completely separate. An alternative, if not dissimilar solution perhaps? Of course, this becomes a lot more expensive when you start building multiple instruments. Certainly not a solution in a parish church setting I'd suggest.

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Does this have to be in the UK? In Ireland; Cork, the Cathedral organ was moved from a gallery at the back of the Nave to a pit in the North Transept so the organ did not obscure the walls. ...

 

PJW

 

Indeed - this organ sounds dreadful. It is not currently in a good state of repair, either.

 

Surely the most obvious example is the magnificent 'Lewis' instrument at Southwark Cathedral. A worse position could hardly have been found....

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Nearly all of them.

 

Not really. The organs in the cathedrals of Exeter, Gloucester, York, Lincoln, Truro, Bristol, Ripon and Westminster are all well placed to project the sound down the main axis of each building. I am aware that the instruments in the cathedrals of Truro and Bristol are placed on the north side of the Quire (in the case of Truro, about forty feet above the pavement). Nevertheless, in either case, the sound reaches virtually every part of each building in perfectly adequate quantities.

 

Having said this, it must be stated that in order to lead a large congregation it would be quite reasonable to expect to utilise the full Swell, with most of the Great and Pedal organs, adding the chorus reeds of the latter departments for last verses, for example.

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Bradford had a PO in a case at the rear of the Nave which has now been got rid of. Does the Chancel organ now cope with all demands?

 

 

 

PJW

 

Hi

 

The Nave organ at Bradford was replaced with an electronic department - the chancel organ would not cope with a full congregation. I played for a funeral there a couple of years ago, and the Nave organ was not useable at the time (it has now been sorted out - a wiring problem) - for around 180 in the Nave I was using Gt 4 as a minimum on their normal "hymns" combinations.

 

The only part of the Nave organ to survive is the "Purcell Trumpet" which has been relocated en chamade at the top of the main case, firing across the chancel.

 

Not a major organ - but a village church with the most stupid organ position I've seen is All Saints, Ashdon. At root quite a nice small English chamber organ - possibly extended to 2 manuals - but it's placed in an old chapel on the North side of the chancel, back to the congregation - speaking East - with the obviously added pedal bourdon on the East wll, away from the rest of the organ. Absolutely hopelss - even full organ is inadequate for a reasonable congregation. I gather that an influential church member didn't want the organ visible!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Not really. The organs in the cathedrals of Exeter, Gloucester, York, Lincoln, Truro, Bristol, Ripon and Westminster are all well placed to project the sound down the main axis of each building. I am aware that the instruments in the cathedrals of Truro and Bristol are placed on the north side of the Quire (in the case of Truro, about forty feet above the pavement). Nevertheless, in either case, the sound reaches virtually every part of each building in perfectly adequate quantities.

 

Having said this, it must be stated that in order to lead a large congregation it would be quite reasonable to expect to utilise the full Swell, with most of the Great and Pedal organs, adding the chorus reeds of the latter departments for last verses, for example.

I agree. The screen can hardly be a bad site for an organ per se. Rather, the problem is how to voice the organ to fulfil its two main roles equally satisfactorily. If the building is large, is it even possible to achieve an ideal balance? It has been done at Windsor, but St George's is not huge. Exeter is ideal for accompanying the choir, but was decidedly underpowered for leading a full nave of people until they added the nave division. Guildford also has similar problems. Rochester, on the other hand has no trouble filling the nave, but needs to be kept reined in when accompanying a choir (full Swell is far too loud, even with the box closed). At Ely I remember it being impractical to use the Great at all for choir accompaniment. Norwich seemed OK for choir accompaniment and I imagine it would handle a naveful, given it has two Great Organs, but I have never tested this from the back of the nave - nor in most other cathedrals.

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What about organs that are significantly less audible in the back of the nave, or virtually inaudible.

From the description of the Cork Cathedral organ, I wouldnt be surprised if that one was!

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What about organs that are significantly less audible in the back of the nave, or virtually inaudible.

From the description of the Cork Cathedral organ, I wouldnt be surprised if that one was!

 

It wan't too bad for a moderately filled Sunday morning communion service when I sang there a few years ago. The sounds are not overly directional but the building does quite a good job at dispersing the sound. I found it a nice organ to play - especially for improvisinng.

 

A

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What about organs that are significantly less audible in the back of the nave, or virtually inaudible.

From the description of the Cork Cathedral organ, I wouldnt be surprised if that one was!

Guildford (as mentioned). I walked in and heard a lovely full Swell - until I realised it was actually full organ!

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It wan't too bad for a moderately filled Sunday morning communion service when I sang there a few years ago. The sounds are not overly directional but the building does quite a good job at dispersing the sound. I found it a nice organ to play - especially for improvisinng.

 

A

 

St. Mary's church in Mildenhall in Suffolk had an already too small Willis organ (considering the huge size of the church) moved from it's nave position and crammed into one of the North chancel arches. A wall was added many years ago between the vestry area and the North aisle so all the sound from the organ has to reach the nave via the front route. I note with interest that the Great soundboard has the C and C# sides swapped over which obviously happened when the instrument was moved. It was probably done to allow the soundboard to overhang the console by having the chest pull downs torwards the back of the organ.

 

John R

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Surely the most obvious example is the magnificent 'Lewis' instrument at Southwark Cathedral. A worse position could hardly have been found....

Why the quotation marks around "Lewis"? It's one of T.C.Lewis's original masterpieces!

As I've explained elsewhere, the location and design of this organ are ingenious, and intrinsically linked. The only downside is the choir organ was re-sited, not really to organ's advantage.

 

The new St. Barnabus, Dulwich is an ideal situation for the organ. Also the modern trend for organs to be at the East end of an open, airly Aisle is usually successful, giving good projection to the Nave while being close enough to the choir. St Giles Cripplegate and Westbourne are good examples.

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"Surely the most obvious example is the magnificent 'Lewis' instrument at Southwark Cathedral. A worse position could hardly have been found..."

 

B)

 

Stephen Bicknell on Southwark:

 

"There is good egress north, but not high. There is higher egress west into the

transept, but the arch is only nine feet wide.

 

Since Lewis, the Choir Organ has been moved across the building to its

detriment. I am explaining how it worked in 1897.

 

The Great chorus was on a slider soundboard within the thickness of the

arch into the transept. The Great basses were all out in front, in an

architectural case much wider and taller than the opening behind it.

The slider soundboard for the chorus is laid out with the 4' principal

at the front.

 

In this position the Great chorus is able to address the building and

lead a congregation, but it is utterly remote from the choir (singers).

 

So, for accompanimental purposes Lewis placed the Choir and Swell

organs facing north across the chancel, unenclosed choir in front and

swell behind. Now you see why the Choir Organ has a mixture - it

functions as the accompanimental 'great organ' and gives a chorus lead

in the chancel.

 

Back in the transept, you remember, we have this lonely Great chorus.

How do we get the 'full swell' effect so loved of Anglican organists

(whether the psalms mention 16' reeds or not!)? The actual swell organ

can theoretically do the job, but in practice it is facing the other

way and sounds rather muted and a little bit late. Hey presto, Lewis

places the Solo organ immediately behind the Great Organ in the

transept arch and gives it two enclosed chorus reeds, a full length 16'

(early sources sometimes call it Bombarde, sometimes Trombone) and a

high pressure Trompette-Harmonique 8. 'Full swell' in two stops, job

done."

 

So, what pncd is saying is that Southwark is a prime example of an organbuilding genius overcoming a difficult position so that the listener would never notice?...

 

Bazuin

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There are some stops in the south transept at Southwark which are totally inaudible from the console whilst the choir organ nearly blasts you head off, being right next to you.

 

Having played it several times I can't say I particularly like the Dulwich organ - or the building it's in. I'm much more familair with the Southwark instrument and, overall, rather like it.

 

Malcolm

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Thanks for that Bazuin...

 

There are some stops in the south transept at Southwark which are totally inaudible from the console whilst the choir organ nearly blasts you head off, being right next to you.

That's because the console and choir organ have been resited.... If the choir organ was where it should be (i.e. in front of the Swell organ), the organ's sound would be more focussed and the organist wouldn't suffer from the distraction of the choir organ next to him. It really doesn't help playing this organ. However, even if it were restored to its original layout, I rather suspect many organists will always find this organ difficult to listen to while playing because it speaks in 2 directions but the layout and tonal design, as described by Stephen Bicknell, is genius.

 

I think the Dulwich church is a great success and the organ is all most satisfactory. I'd be interested to know what you don't especially like about it.

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From the time of its installation until the Mander restoration of 1991, the 'Father' Wills Tuba at Truro Cathedral was buried in the instrument (I thought it was hard against the east wall of the chamber?) and was universally regarded as disappointing. Not now!

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I grew up with the St Albans organ - 'local cathedral - visiting choir, Organ Festival etc. and always found it really exciting to listen to and play as well as working nicely with choirs. Position wise it works well too. I am looking forward to hearing it later this month in its newly augmented and spruced up form.

 

A

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