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I had thought that the opposite was true. According to the NPOR survey, the G.O. reeds are [now] named as Trombe ranks - and speak on a pressure of 300mm. This would be extremely high for chorus trumpets in a building of this size.

 

In addition, only yesterday, I was reading again through some back-issues of Choir & Organ, and noticed an advertisement for the restoration of this organ by H&H. As far as I can remember, it seened to indicate that the G.O. Trombe were being 'restored' (albeit with new pipework).

 

Having said this, I further note that the former G.O. Harmonicis IV has been replaced by a quint Mixture. It is several years since I played this organ, but I think that this dated from the HN&B work. However, if the G.O. reeds have been replaced in 1930s style (apparently like the action), I wonder how well this chorus hangs together?

 

I have no idea what the pressures are now but the Gt Reeds are certainly Trumpets and not the huge round-toned reeds that are boxed away from the former instrument. The Harmonics went to Quints under Peter White's residency and a dreary change from Pneumatic to Electric action under H N B and did not work at all well with the Trombas to which the Harmonics were intended as married partners. This was an excellent case of seeing why Harmonics and Trombas went together. Take one away, and you spoil the original reasoning. So it was inevitable that leaving the Mixture unchanged from the 1970's rebuild, the reeds had at sometime to follow. But for 'conservation' purposes, the Trombas are kept. The present reeds are certainly Chorus-based and the 16ft useful (thought the Gt Reeds on Choir) to be on the pedal before the vast pedal reed (matching the Tuba in decibels) is engaged with its usual Harrison extension to 8ft. One thing that was made far better by H & H recently was the winding to the Choir division (in its own Case) which was never satisfactory, even in the original organ. I hear that there is to be a great redesigning of the Cathedral - so how the organ in its present position will fit in, I have no idea. It is a building of strange proportion and design. We wait & see.

Best wishes,

N

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Next you will be telling me that Bach was a closet transvestite, and liked to dress in stockings, wigs and fluffy shirts....

 

Oh....

 

Bugger.

 

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

 

 

Nah! He was only doing it for "Children in need"....God knows, he had plenty.

 

:lol:

 

MM

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I have no idea what the pressures are now but the Gt Reeds are certainly Trumpets and not the huge round-toned reeds that are boxed away from the former instrument. The Harmonics went to Quints under Peter White's residency and a dreary change from Pneumatic to Electric action under H N B and did not work at all well with the Trombas to which the Harmonics were intended as married partners. This was an excellent case of seeing why Harmonics and Trombas went together. Take one away, and you spoil the original reasoning. So it was inevitable that leaving the Mixture unchanged from the 1970's rebuild, the reeds had at sometime to follow. But for 'conservation' purposes, the Trombas are kept. The present reeds are certainly Chorus-based and the 16ft useful (thought the Gt Reeds on Choir) to be on the pedal before the vast pedal reed (matching the Tuba in decibels) is engaged with its usual Harrison extension to 8ft. One thing that was made far better by H & H recently was the winding to the Choir division (in its own Case) which was never satisfactory, even in the original organ. I hear that there is to be a great redesigning of the Cathedral - so how the organ in its present position will fit in, I have no idea. It is a building of strange proportion and design. We wait & see.

Best wishes,

N

 

Thank you for this, Nigel.

 

Having said that, and mindful of the fact that a number of contributors here are keen to preserve as many different types of organ as possible, I cannot but regret that the previous instrument (by JW Walker, 1873) had not been kept - and simply restored. However much one may like the vintage 'Arthur Harrison Sound', it is hard to deny that their specifications and, to a great extent, their voicing were perhaps more standardised than those of almost any other English builder at the time. The scheme [of the Walker organ], on paper, was far more interesting than the very predictable 'Harrison' outlook, and it included a fairly early example (for England) of an undulating rank (on the Choir Organ).

 

It is difficult to hide the fact that I am not a great devotee of the vintage Harrison organ. Yes, these instruments were built to an extremely high standard, with the same care and attention shown (by Arthur Harrison himself) on voicing and finishing a small village organ as on a mighty cathedral instrument. However, the tonal ideals, with their basis firmly centered around the notion of contrasts, meant that, whilst being superb vehicles for the accompaniment of Anglican liturgy *, they were arguably rather less successful for almost anything else. For example, despite his obsession with tierce mixtures, I would far rather play Bach on the organs at Truro or Salisbury cathedrals, than on the organ of Saint Mary, Redcliffe - with or without its Trombe ranks being revoiced. †

 

However, much of the work of JW Walker (amongst others) which I have encountered has struck a resonance within. Bristol Cathedral, for instance, I find to be a superlative insrument in every sense, from the elegant 1905 console (every bit as opulent and comfortable as a 'Harrison' console from the same era), to the wonderful melodic quality of the diapasons and chorus-work - right up to the richness and excitement of the truly musical reeds. In fact, even including the restored tubular pneumatic action which, the last ime I had the privilege of playing this instrument, was prompt, responsive and entirely adequate for all the demands which I made upon it.

 

 

 

* Which is, after all, the reason why the Harrison organ became so popular amongst cathedral organists in the first thirty years or so of the twentieth century. In reality, the G.O., with its leathered diapasons, full-toned flutes and very powerful reeds was undisputably the dominant sound - with everything else (aside from the Pedal and Solo big reeds) very poor 'also-ran's.

 

† I have rarely deliberately discarded a CD from my collection, but one volume, recorded on this instrument, of Bach's music (and performed by a highly gifted and musical player) was an exception. I simply could not reconcile the aural effect of this instrument with my perception of how I prefer this music to sound.

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

 

 

Nah! He was only doing it for "Children in need"....God knows, he had plenty.

 

:lol:

 

MM

 

Well, quite. Although I gather that some were actually conceived whilst Bach was in a state of matrimonial union....

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Thank you for this, Nigel.

 

Having said that, and mindful of the fact that a number of contributors here are keen to preserve as many different types of organ as possible, I cannot but regret that the previous instrument (by JW Walker, 1873) had not been kept - and simply restored. However much one may like the vintage 'Arthur Harrison Sound', it is hard to deny that their specifications and, to a great extent, their voicing were perhaps more standardised than those of almost any other English builder at the time. The scheme [of the Walker organ], on paper, was far more interesting than the very predictable 'Harrison' outlook, and it included a fairly early example (for England) of an undulating rank (on the Choir Organ).

 

It is difficult to hide the fact that I am not a great devotee of the vintage Harrison organ. Yes, these instruments were built to an extremely high standard, with the same care and attention shown (by Arthur Harrison himself) on voicing and finishing a small village organ as on a mighty cathedral instrument. However, the tonal ideals, with their basis firmly centred around the notion of contrasts, meant that. whilst being superb vehicles for the accompaniment of Anglican liturgy *, they were arguably rather less successful for almost anything else. For example, despite his obsession with tierce mixtures, I would far rather play Bach on the organs at Truro or Salisbury cathedrals, than on the organ of Saint Mary, Redcliffe - with or without its Trombe ranks being revoiced. †

 

However, much of the work of JW Walker (amongst others) which I have encountered has struck a resonance within. Bristol Cathedral, for instance, I find to be a superlative insrument in every sense, from the elegant 1905 console (every bit as opulent and comfortable as a 'Harrison' console from the same era), to the wonderful melodic quality of the diapasons and chorus-work - right up to the richness and excitement of the truly musical reeds. In fact, even including the restored tubular pneumatic action which, the last ime I had the privilege of playing this instrument, was prompt, responsive and entirely adequate for all the demands which I made upon it.

 

 

 

* Which is, after all, the reason why the Harrison organ became so popular amongst cathedral organists in the first thirty years or so of the twentieth century. In reality, the G.O., with its leathered diapasons, full-toned flutes and very powerful reeds was undisputably the dominant sound - with everything else (aside from the Pedal and Solo big reeds) very poor 'also-ran's.

 

† I have rarely deliberately discarded a CD from my collection, but one volume, recorded on this instrument, of Bach's music (and performed by a highly gifted and musical player) was an exception. I simply could not reconcile the aural effect of this instrument with my perception of how I prefer this music to sound.

 

It must always be remembered that the organ in Leicester came around the time that the building was elevated to cathedral status and the first organist was Gordon Slater who came from the grand church (and organ H & H basically) of St Botolph, Boston (hence the hymn tune naming). The Walker organ was stashed in a biggish North Transept position (behind the present choir stalls under the tower/spire crossing). In the re-ordering to go with its new status the building had a face lift with a dense chancel screen blocking Nave from Choir (which is and always has been a dreary separation musically) in a truly unlovely acoustic. The cathedral required to have complete openness all about the aisles to the High Altar and therefore the old organ (in its Snetzler case - rather like Kings Lynn) had to go. The Choir was embellished with new Canon/Choir stalls but a Choir gallery at the West End under the window was also constructed. The organ was positioned at the west end of the North Aisle and the console placed up on the gallery to one side of it. Matching Choir and Solo cases flanked the West window above the choir in the gallery making a symmetrical ensemble. However, for most of the services, the choir sang in the Choir which was beyond the Nave and Crossing and screen with the organ in another street, in reality. Certainly the Stopped Diapason I was told, came from the Snetzler organ. For really large services the choir returns to the Gallery and the organist is very much part of the ensemble, although the huge Great and Swell faces into the North Aisle in front of the choir and thus is not of much use. However, the Choir department is directly above the choir, as is the Tuba and Solo (which is boxed on the South side opposite the Choir which is directly above the console. The casework actually belies the largeness of the main organ chamber. My very first Tuba ever heard was in Leicester when I was about 6 years old. The 'sensation' has remained with me to this day. It came at the announcing of "O Come. all ye Faithful" at the annual Bach Choir Christmas concert. It was played as a solo in the Tenor register (by itself) by the Cathedral's Assistant Organist - Sydney Rudge. Next to thunder, it was the loudest sound that I had ever heard up to that point, and with dire consequences as I peed myself.

 

Being a new Cathedral, the organ had to have an organ of up-to-date Cathedral status and I imagine that it served as a model of what was the necessary sort of instrument to possess in those days. Anyway, I would suggest that the Walker was badly placed to reach the other side of the endless-aisled Nave - one of the widest in the land) for Diocesan services and if made to, would have killed the Choir in front of it. Putting all musical resources in one place (at the West End) must have been a bold and radical move in its day. Therefore, it became a part of the re-ordering and which very soon will again feature in the new 'vision'. This was the fashion and taste to accompany the liturgy in those days.

 

Best wishes,

N

 

Certainly I remember playing on a leathered 1st Diapason and having my early lessons registered for a large H & H instrument.

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Guest Patrick Coleman

However, much of the work of JW Walker (amongst others) which I have encountered has struck a resonance within. Bristol Cathedral, for instance

 

... the wonderful melodic quality of the diapasons and chorus-work

 

The work, in fact, of W.G. Vowles, which we are reliably informed was left intact and unaltered (except for the addition of top ends and the large GO Open).

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I agree entirely with the comments about Francis Jackson, although my experiences have only been via the famous recordings. A great artist. This doesn't change the fact that the organ was changed in a neo-baroque vain because it was the fashion of the day. I have no reason to question the commentary provided by the current DOM at York in a previous posting. Perhaps you should take Robert Sharpe to task rather than me.

 

 

 

"It was only the Walker re-build which put the organ on the musical map, and it certainly succeeded in making York a focal-point for all things good in organ-music, organ-recitals and choral-accompaniment."

 

I don't believe this, sorry. Francis Jackson may have done this, his recordings certainly did. Walker rebuilding the organ didn't.

 

Bazuin

 

 

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

 

How on earth can anyone claim that the Walker re-build at York was somehow neo-baroque?

 

It was nothing of the sort, but what it did do was to impart a greater sense of cohesion, clarity and tonal pallette. It is still a romantic organ to this day!

 

I can never understand the obsession with the work of Arthur Harrison/Dixon, which although beautifully crafted, was always second-best tonally as compared with organs from other builders. Using a broad-brush, what is the main difference between a Father Willis organ such as Truro, (possibly one of the best examples), and your typical Arthur Harrison instrument?

 

The full swell effect is very similar, but with Arthur Harrison, the Quint mixture usually adds brightness and clarity to the chorus-work. Both builders incorporated fiery trumpets rather than closer-toned Cornopeans and Horns.

 

The Pedal organs were usally wood basses with quite close-toned reeds. Willis probably created slightly better pedal organs tonally, and Harrison would often spoil everything by extending the Open Wood upwards to 8ft. Broadly speaking, there were no massive differences in concept.

 

The Choir organs were usually a collection of flutes, mild strings and dulcianas; perhaps with a Clarinet.

 

Where each builder went in completely opposite directions, was on the Great organ, where Willis favoured geigen-type dipasons, the usual tierce mixture and extremely fiery (peerless) trumpets. Harrison went for big scale, leathered diapasons of enormous power......they really were utterly dominant. The ONLY way of topping that sort of chorus was to have close-toned reeds with one of those dreadful Harmonics mixtures binding it all together.

 

If we skip back a few years to the eras of William Hill, Thomas Hill, Walker, Lewis (more or less contemporary with Fr Willis) and even lesser builders such as Wilkinson, Isaac Abbott, Taylor, Binns, Forster & Andrews and Brindley & Foster (random examples), then THAT is the REAL romantic style; not what happened afterwards.

 

I can never understand why anyone should want to go back to the Edwardian style, which actually only lasted about 35 years or so. The romantic organ in the UK started around 1840 or thereabouts, and lasted more or less unchanged until around 1920 for the majority of builders...a period of 80 years and more, because certain builders continued in the older style long after Arthur Harrison did what he did. So the vast majority of the romantic British organ repertoire was written for the Victorian style of instrument, rather than the Edwardian style of instrument.

 

However, returning to the subject of York specifically, the significance of the Walker re-build cannot be over-estimated, for one very simple reason. Francis Jackson was not just the virtuoso performer and all round good-egg, but quite a major composer. If there is a problem with his music, then it is due to the fact that he wrote very much for the York instrument, and this may explain why few ever play the "Diversion for Mixtures." For some strange reason, this exciting work never seems quite right on any other instrument, but I have heard it played on the Compton organ of Hull City Hall to good effect. (An instrument not a million miles away from the York/Jackson/Walker concept).

 

So I would suggest that Francis Jackson and the "York sound" are almost as inseperable as the Vierne/Cavaille-Coll sound, and this is what makes the Walker re-build so very important musically.

 

MM

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The work, in fact, of W.G. Vowles, which we are reliably informed was left intact and unaltered (except for the addition of top ends and the large GO Open).

 

Not according to the Rev. Andrew Freeman. Writing in an early edition of The Organ (October 1922), he states "... whereby the committee were able to order what was practically a new instrument from Messrs. J.W. Walker & Sons."

 

In the specification which follows, the only G.O. chorus stops whose provenance are given as being by Vowles, are the Open Diapason (small) [i.e., No. 3) and the Principal (small) - and in each case, there is a qualification, which reads thus: "treble possibly by Vowles." A number of other stops on this department are listed as being 'old' - but not specifically by Vowles. In any case, given the normal procedure at the time (coupled with a desire for louder instruments), it is unlikely that even those pipes reputedly by Harris escaped treatment on a voicing machine.

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

... I can never understand the obsession with the work of Arthur Harrison/Dixon, which although beautifully crafted, was always second-best tonally as compared with organs from other builders. Using a broad-brush, what is the main difference between a Father Willis organ such as Truro, (possibly one of the best examples), and your typical Arthur Harrison instrument?

 

The full swell effect is very similar, but with Arthur Harrison, the Quint mixture usually adds brightness and clarity to the chorus-work. Both builders incorporated fiery trumpets rather than closer-toned Cornopeans and Horns. ...

 

 

MM

 

I agree with much of what you say, MM. However, I would point out that, since the Harrison organ was quinessentially an instrument of contrasts (sometimes extreme), the full Swell was rather different aurally to Truro or Salisbury, for example. Harrison's Swell Trumpet ranks were usually thinner in tone than those of Willis. In addition, his Swell flue-work was usually somewhat quieter and, whilst the quint mixture (often 12-19-22 or, in larger instruments, 12-19-22-26-29) did add some brightness, this chorus was greatly reduced in power, as compared to his huge G.O. choruses.

 

Take, for example the G.O. and Swell Organ at Lincoln. Aside from the quiet reeds and the Salicional and Vox Angelica, these schemes are identical - and not just on paper. The aural effect in the building and the power ratio match each other (with the swell shutters fully open) considerably more closely than a Harrison organ of the same vintage.

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

 

... So I would suggest that Francis Jackson and the "York sound" are almost as inseperable as the Vierne/Cavaille-Coll sound, and this is what makes the Walker re-build so very important musically.

 

MM

 

 

I agree. See my earlier post (No. 95).

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Take, for example the G.O. and Swell Organ at Lincoln. Aside from the quiet reeds and the Salicional and Vox Angelica, these schemes are identical - and not just on paper. The aural effect in the building and the power ratio match each other (with the swell shutters fully open) considerably more closely than a Harrison organ of the same vintage.

 

'Agree with this - but of course the magic at Lincoln also involves the acoustic and the fact that the Swell is 'up stairs' in the triforium so giving a much cleverer perspective on it all.

 

A

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'Agree with this - but of course the magic at Lincoln also involves the acoustic and the fact that the Swell is 'up stairs' in the triforium so giving a much cleverer perspective on it all.

 

A

Indeed - and I must admit that I found this instrument to be stunning when I had the privilege of playing it for an evening last July. Except, that is, for the odd Choir Mixture (which now sounds as if it has been re-cast as 15-19-22, although I forgot to try C1 to see if this is correct), this stop I found to be the only disappointment in an otherwise superb instrument in, as you suggest, a good acoustic ambience.

 

In particular, I was amazed at the colour available from the Solo Organ. Willis came up with many revolutionary ideas in his early period, but I think that it is fair to say that he never advanced and his later work (Lincoln was finished in 1898, with the 32ft. Contra Posaune being added by Willis II in 1902) never quite showed the same forward-looking thinking which may have helped him to win some of his earlier prestigious contracts.

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In particular, I was amazed at the colour available from the Solo Organ.

 

Interestingly - Colin Walsh demonstrates this on the new DVD - 4' (this one is enclosed - the 8' is not) Solo flute plus suboctave, Gamba plus octave etc. - all for use in service work - psalms etc. The 8' Solo flute plus Gamba coupled to Great foundations is also excellent for Franck etc. and in fact Jennifer Bate once played for a Durufle Requiem there and made the organ sound as if we were transported to central Paris somewhere. Also - I always thought of the Solo Tubas 8' & 4' plus useful Great to Solo coupler as a sort of mega Great for the benefit of the Nave - this plus the acoustic 'bounce' of the 16' & 32' Pedal reeds was the only thing to keep a full nave moving together! Moreover the Tubas don't totally obliterate.

 

Having lived with Salisbury down the road practically since leaving Lincoln I can see the differences between the older and younger instrument but all the same I think I'd rather have the Lincoln organ in it's unique acoustic - even though it was perishing there in the winter!

 

A

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Interestingly - Colin Walsh demonstrates this on the new DVD - 4' (this one is enclosed - the 8' is not) Solo flute plus suboctave, Gamba plus octave etc. - all for use in service work - psalms etc. The 8' Solo flute plus Gamba coupled to Great foundations is also excellent for Franck etc. and in fact Jennifer Bate once played for a Durufle Requiem there and made the organ sound as if we were transported to central Paris somewhere. Also - I always thought of the Solo Tubas 8' & 4' plus useful Great to Solo coupler as a sort of mega Great for the benefit of the Nave - this plus the acoustic 'bounce' of the 16' & 32' Pedal reeds was the only thing to keep a full nave moving together! Moreover the Tubas don't totally obliterate.

 

Having lived with Salisbury down the road practically since leaving Lincoln I can see the differences between the older and younger instrument but all the same I think I'd rather have the Lincoln organ in it's unique acoustic - even though it was perishing there in the winter!

 

A

 

Thank you for this, Alastair.

 

I agree regarding the Solo Tuba ranks - I could almost like these....

 

I can see what you mean regarding Salisbury, although I would say that with this instrument, the greater choice of Pedal foundation stops and the even more colourful Solo Organ (the strings are absolutely sublime) make this a harder choice for me.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Not according to the Rev. Andrew Freeman. Writing in an early edition of The Organ (October 1922), he states "... whereby the committee were able to order what was practically a new instrument from Messrs. J.W. Walker & Sons."

 

In the specification which follows, the only G.O. chorus stops whose provenance are given as being by Vowles, are the Open Diapason (small) [i.e., No. 3) and the Principal (small) - and in each case, there is a qualification, which reads thus: "treble possibly by Vowles." A number of other stops on this department are listed as being 'old' - but not specifically by Vowles. In any case, given the normal procedure at the time (coupled with a desire for louder instruments), it is unlikely that even those pipes reputedly by Harris escaped treatment on a voicing machine.

 

I am relying on Paul Walton's contribution to the descriptions of the organ and its history that appear in the Cathedral and on the website, and particularly his contribution to the discussion on this board whcih I initiated about two years ago.

 

Somewhere in our files there is a proposed specification from Walkers, with annotations by Hubert Hunt (organist at the time), which indicate certain stops 'not to be revoiced'. I'll have a look for it when I've got more time, but I'm sure it includes the Great Small Open and Small Principal, and possibly the Swell Open and Principal as well. There is also an article that Hunt wrote for a local paper which mentions the old stops remaining as before, saying something like 'neither improved nor ruined according to your point of view'. There's no evidence that Walkers did what Willis did at Wells, so I assume the basic chorus ranks sound pretty much as they did pre-Walker (except for the removal of the tierce in the Great Mixture). However, contrary to some old specifications which have either the Swell or Great Clarion (they disagree) as being old pipework, when I did the pipework analysis that's on the website, Cawstons were adamant that all the reeds are entirely Walker.

 

Paul Walton

Assistant Organist, Bristol Cathedral

 

My interest is to make sure that credit is given where it is due. You may be right, in which case all credit goes to Walkers for this superb instrument. But if the main chorus work is unaltered Vowles, then they deserve some credit too.

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"How on earth can anyone claim that the Walker re-build at York was somehow neo-baroque?"

 

Massive lowering of wind pressures? Adding mutations and high pitched mixture to the Choir? Adding a Larigot to the Great? Deleting the 'non-PC' tierces and 21st from the Great Mixtures? Deleting one of the Great Opens? Swell 4'reed becomes a Shalmey? Solo Clarinet becomes a Crumhorn? Deletion of a Pedal Open Wood? Addition of a Pedal Mixture and 4'Flute?

 

I rest my case.

 

"I can never understand the obsession with the work of Arthur Harrison/Dixon, which although beautifully crafted, was always second-best tonally as compared with organs from other builders."

 

Jonathan Ambrosino has suggested that in fact E.M. Skinner was trying to imitate this style following his trip to England in 1924, (despite his politically clever communications with Henry Willis III). Was Skinner second rate too?

 

"If we skip back a few years to the eras of William Hill, Thomas Hill, Walker, Lewis (more or less contemporary with Fr Willis) and even lesser builders such as Wilkinson, Isaac Abbott, Taylor, Binns, Forster & Andrews and Brindley & Foster (random examples), then THAT is the REAL romantic style; not what happened afterwards."

 

This is personal view of yours. Apart from the fact that several builders you mention have little in common (William Hill AND JJ Binns both represent the REAL Romantic Style?), I'm wondering if you apply the same hierarchy outside the UK? 30 years ago almost everyone in the UK would have agreed with you, but if we apply the doctrine as Gospel today, we repeat history by destroying whatever we don't like from our predecessors. If we agree that what Harrison and Dixon produced was beautifully crafted (can we say that of Walker in the 1960s?) then let's leave it for our children to appreciate, not condemn it on the basis of fashion.

 

I've said here before, Edwardian English organs are NOT my thing, but I can admire the style nonetheless. Your dividing of good and bad smacks of judgemental 'British' Duforque-ism with all that that implies.

 

"I can never understand why anyone should want to go back to the Edwardian style, which actually only lasted about 35 years or so. The romantic organ in the UK started around 1840 or thereabouts, and lasted more or less unchanged until around 1920 for the majority of builders"

 

Really? For some local builders of the third rank, perhaps. The changes between 1840 and 1880 among the major builders were already seismic.

 

"So the vast majority of the romantic British organ repertoire was written for the Victorian style of instrument, rather than the Edwardian style of instrument."

 

Really? Whitlock? Bairstow? Hollins?

 

"Hull City Hall to good effect. (An instrument not a million miles away from the York/Jackson/Walker concept)."

 

I rather imagine that neither Walker nor Francis Jackson would thank you for the comparison.

 

"So I would suggest that Francis Jackson and the "York sound" are almost as inseperable as the Vierne/Cavaille-Coll sound, and this is what makes the Walker re-build so very important musically."

 

I think this is a valuable point. If York were to be preserved 'as is', then the obvious justification is the Jackson legacy. (Although, equally, the Bairstow legacy, and his compositional output, could be used as an argument for re-instating Arthur Harrison's concept).

 

Jonathan Ambrosino (whose writings I like enormously) has written

 

"Too often, our rationale for changes seems based upon an instrument’s stylistic, not its musical shortcomings; it may do one thing well while we condemn it for not doing another. Or it may be mechanically limited in ways that prevent us from playing expected corners of the repertoire. For this reason, we must acknowledge our own shortcomings: must every organ fit the core expectation? Besides, what one incumbent considers hopelessly unmusical, the next may find subtly magical. More interestingly, a third organist might return after twenty years to discover something of deep beauty (or sheer mediocrity, for that matter). The elegance of this phenomenon is how the organ remains uncannily intact, unharmed, always ready anew to tell out its story. After all, leaving organs alone is the only way to allow history to reach its eventual admirers."

 

Bazuin

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I am relying on Paul Walton's contribution to the descriptions of the organ and its history that appear in the Cathedral and on the website, and particularly his contribution to the discussion on this board whcih I initiated about two years ago.

 

 

 

My interest is to make sure that credit is given where it is due. You may be right, in which case all credit goes to Walkers for this superb instrument. But if the main chorus work is unaltered Vowles, then they deserve some credit too.

 

Notwithstanding the overall contribution from our hosts, the main basis of the Great diapasons is definitely Vowles with some old basses, the flutes are a mixture of old and JWW, but the Swell flues are almost entirely Vowles. The reeds are all JWW, as are the heavy pressure flue stops. The choir is a mixture of old, Vowles and JWW, the pedals are mainly JWW and the solo is all JWW. However, the chorus sound that you really hear is mainly Vowles with JWW reeds (and the acoustic).

 

As far as the action is concerned, it can be set up to work and it does work - on a good day it is as prompt as many others (even the Swell). Problem is on a bad day it's worse than most others. It's also not uniformly good and/or bad. Anyone who says it doesn't work is wrong, what it is not, is reliable and predictable.

 

Solution to (try to) keep the historians happy and (definitely) make it work. Space and pallets/bottom boards permitting, rip out as much as necessary and replace the underactions with a design that works well, properly relayed. To my knowledge, this has never been done before. Now who would fund that, and who would take it on I wonder ?

 

AJS

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1) Was Skinner second rate too?

 

2) If we agree that what Harrison and Dixon produced was beautifully crafted (can we say that of Walker in the 1960s?) then let's leave it for our children to appreciate, not condemn it on the basis of fashion.

 

 

1) The word used was "second best", not "second rate". There is a world of difference. I for one would agree with the former in relation to 'The Arthur Harrison Sound'.

 

2) Within the context of contemporary builders' work, then yes, I think we can very properly use 'beautifully crafted' to describe some of the output of Walker in the 1960s, in particular instruments like Blackburn and St John-the-Evangelist Islington which, if they were to be built at all, had to be competitively priced to get the job; if all your competitors are using cork stoppers and chipboard soundboards, and you price for English oak, you won't stay in business very long.

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Notwithstanding the overall contribution from our hosts, the main basis of the Great diapasons is definitely Vowles with some old basses, the flutes are a mixture of old and JWW, but the Swell flues are almost entirely Vowles. The reeds are all JWW, as are the heavy pressure flue stops. The choir is a mixture of old, Vowles and JWW, the pedals are mainly JWW and the solo is all JWW. However, the chorus sound that you really hear is mainly Vowles with JWW reeds (and the acoustic).

 

Is it not the case that the organ moved in 1905 from a gallery position to its present place on the North side (the eastern bay of which is the old East face of the gallery case)?

 

Whoever wrote 'do not revoice' on a piece of paper may not have fully appreciated that the change in position, for a start, would necessitate some change in the voicing in order to leave a properly balanced and cohesive chorus. Not all changes are permanent and made with a knife; the most drastic change in the sound is made with subtle, almost invisible, movements of languid and lips and the way wind is admitted. Which is to say that, so long as the character of the instrument in the organists' inner ear were identifiable, there is little that examination of the pipework would give away to an untrained eye.

 

If I were Walker, building my first cathedral organ 50 or so years into my career, my overriding concern would be to leave an instrument with all the musical integrity I could muster rather than preserving the reputation of Vowles. I think you're undoubtedly hearing Walker, whoever the originator of the pipework he's speaking through.

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Chaps, is it really right to give Vowles such credit for the choruses at Bristol Cathedral? Didn't the Vowles rebuild of 1861 reuse the majority of the Harris pipework? The 1685 pipework by Renatus Harris included 2 Open Diapasons, 2 Principals, a Twelfth, Fifteenth and Sesq. on the Great Organ - almost exactly the same as the organ in 1861 by Vowles! Are we really sure a provincial builder firmly of the second rank would have had the temerity to replace the majority of this pipework by such a celebrated builder when re-organising the organ in a new position? After all, the organ in 1861 was still sporting a GG compass to the Great organ and a tenor g swell organ! (If NPOR is to be believed). The pedal organ was decidedly unadventorous too. It all looks very conservative to me and reading between the lines, I think money was tight for the Vowles work. I find it very unlikely Vowles replaced much of the existing pipework.

 

The organ was re-tuned to equal temperament in 1867 - 6 years after the Vowles work.

 

Please can contributors note that the plural of "Tromba" is "Trombas". It is not "Trombe". There is no need to use italics when writing them either.

 

"Is it not the case that the organ moved in 1905 from a gallery position to its present place on the North side (the eastern bay of which is the old East face of the gallery case)?"

 

No, it moved in 1861 by Vowles.

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While we are speaking of Vowles, some fifteen years ago as an irritating spotty youth I went to look at the organ at South Petherton parish church.

 

It is a 2-manual Vowles, complete to Sw 15th and two reeds, Great to Mixture and Trumpet. It was exquisitely voiced and very musical.

 

My suggestion, which at least one firm quoted for, was to move it from behind the most enormous crossing pillar you have ever seen, one bay to the west where it could actually be heard in the body of the church. Since it is free standing, that would not have been a particularly difficult job; the church is filled with plush chairs rather than pews, and there were no memorials or precious glass at the new location, so there was no great upheaval required.

 

Having had to play it this week, the solution adopted was to leave it at its present location and add lots of screaming upperwork (Quartane 19.22 on the Swell, part of which doesn't appear to have been put on speech) and a very poorly regulated Sesquiltera (sic) on the Great. The Swell Oboe has been turned into a 16' and is, as usual, sorely missed - nothing bridges the gap between the Open Diapason and the Horn in an 'Romantic crescendo'.

 

Staggeringly, the action had been left with a touch depth of 2mm in the middle (3mm in the treble). It is rather like playing a pocket calculator.

 

This was not work of the 1960s or 70s but of 2000.

 

So, since we speak of preserving instruments and so on, what is the relationship between poorly positioned organs and ones which have been subsequently altered, for better or worse?

 

Do organs which have instead been moved fare any better?

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Are we really sure a provincial builder firmly of the second rank would have had the temerity to replace the majority of this pipework....

 

I would hesitate to put Vowles in the second rank. It is true that most of his instruments are provincial ones which have been badly treated over the years, particularly by firms like Osmond and Daniels. Put them carefully back together, or find a fairly untouched one, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the musicality and quality.

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I would hesitate to put Vowles in the second rank. It is true that most of his instruments are provincial ones which have been badly treated over the years, particularly by firms like Osmond and Daniels. Put them carefully back together, or find a fairly untouched one, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the musicality and quality.

 

Well, would you put them in the same rank as Lewis, Hill, Walker and Willis? They might be pleasant musical instruments and well worthy of retention and restoration when you come across one that hasn't been molested too much, but Vowles were hardly one of the leading builders of their day. It's not that I'm being disparaging of the quality of Vowles organs (which I know are nice and to be appreciated), it's just that they were not builders of high profile that led the way.

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Well, would you put them in the same rank as Lewis, Hill, Walker and Willis? They might be pleasant musical instruments and well worthy of retention and restoration when you come across one that hasn't been molested too much, but Vowles were hardly one of the leading builders of their day. It's not that I'm being disparaging of the quality of Vowles organs (which I know are nice and to be appreciated), it's just that they were not builders of high profile that led the way.

 

Often, builders who lead the way do so by accident; personal qualities and personal connections are how people are invited to tender for work, which explains the unaccountable popularity of any number of firms who show absolutely no evidence of knowing what they're doing.

 

Over recent years I have come to know intimately various 1 manual, 5/6 stop instruments by G&D, Willis, Walker and Vowles, and if invited to take one home I would invariably have difficulty in choosing between either of the last two.

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Is it not the case that the organ moved in 1905 from a gallery position to its present place on the North side (the eastern bay of which is the old East face of the gallery case)?

 

It was moved to the North side (second bay) in 1860 and then one bay west in the 1890s. The 1907 rebuild then occupied both bays.

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