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Tewkesbury Abbey

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Just about the choral side, why is the Grove not suitable for these? Is it so very sharp?

 

I wouldn't know about the pitch of the Grove, but I would have thought that the location of the instrument (hidden away in the North Transept, with the console on the Eastern side) would make it very difficult to use alongside an orchestra at the head of the nave?

I'm not sure just how off pitch it is, but its the geography of the abbey that would make it unusable accompanying a choir. Even with CCTV the player would be completely isolated from the choir and would probably have difficulty hearing them. Assessing balance would be a nightmare. As OmegaConsort has said, similar considerations would apply in orchestral concerts even if the instrument were at pitch.

 

Is this a casualty of the weather at the moment? I think the low humidity is everywhere and it is rather a freak time.

Well maybe Paul will comment. I've played the Bristol organ quite a bit over the last 8 years or so and my experience is that there are always faults in the action. This has been discussed on these forums before and I believe it has been stated by people with much more technical knowledge of it than myself that the action is inherently difficult and in need of constant adjustment.

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Until now I have deliberately resisted commenting on the various observations about the Grove organ. However, in view those made by Contrabombarde (and others) I will quote from a letter I wrote, as 16 year old schoolboy, to The Organ and which was published in their July 1964 edition.

 

"Sir, May I support Noel Bonavia-Hunt's appeal for the restoration of the organ in the Alexandra Palace? May I also appeal for the restoration of another equally fine instrument, the Grove organ, built my Mitchell and Thynne, in Tewkesbury Abbey? For organ lovers fortunate enough to have heard this noble instrument it must have been a memorable experience. What aural excitement we unfortunates who have never heard this instrument are mising with that bold Schulze-type diapason chorus, those Willis style reeds and Mitchell and Thynne's own conception of string tone.

 

Where else is there so fine an example of the combined characteristics of three of the finest organ builders? This organ, together with the instrument in Alexandra Palace, should be restored: then England can once again boast about two more very fine organs!"

 

Please don't let the Grove deteriorate to such a degree that a similar letter will need to be written.

 

Incidentally, I wrote that letter whilst at a school which some years later puchased the Schulze organ from St Mary's Tyne Dock. Alas, by then I had long left!

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Even with CCTV the player would be completely isolated from the choir and would probably have difficulty hearing them. Assessing balance would be a nightmare.

Typical cathedral organ then? (Even if it's technically a parish church).

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Typical cathedral organ then? (Even if it's technically a parish church).

Well no, much worse. The console of the grove organ is close to ground level in the north transept. The transept is completely cut off from the quire by the choir stalls themselves, wooden panneling, etc. to a considerable height. A player at the Grove console is really completely isolated and might as well be in the gift shop.

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Well no, much worse. The console of the grove organ is close to ground level in the north transept. The transept is completely cut off from the quire by the choir stalls themselves, wooden panneling, etc. to a considerable height. A player at the Grove console is really completely isolated and might as well be in the gift shop.

Please refer to an earlier post that I made concerning the raising up. It is something that was discussed with me at the book-launch lunch when I sat next to the Vicar.

As for being like a Cathedral with the Grove in the Transept and the console out of sight of choir - I played for Choral Evensong at a cathedral last Sunday where the choir seemed to be in another part of the city when they were in their stalls. They would hear me but I was only aware they were there at the end of lines and verses!

Don't be fooled about the Grove position - even as it is. The sound is far more brilliant than you would anticipate it to be and I thought it far more focused and strong than the Magdalen/Jones organ (in repertoire). If the Grove is raised to the level of the other instrument (remember that was on the floor before), the effect would indeed be stupendous for all and not just for the bookstall ladies. As it is, it is truly marvellous. With a camera and choir, I should adore to hear it thus.

N with all best wishes.

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The console of the grove organ is close to ground level in the north transept. The transept is completely cut off from the quire by the choir stalls themselves, wooden panneling, etc. to a considerable height. A player at the Grove console is really completely isolated and might as well be in the gift shop.

 

You mean like Southwark Cathedral; Bangor Cathedral; Hereford Cathedral; Ripon Cathedral; Chester Cathedral and others? This is all complete nonsense and nothing at all which could not (should it ever be needed) be achieved by the means successfully employed elsewhere. There have been other excuses and arguments put forward in many years past as to why the Grove can't be played more regularly , one of them even as late as last year, "Oh that organ is unplayable" - so how do we hear a recording of Carelton playing Léonce in July 2009?

 

Am I alone in detecting a less-than-impartial note here - the earlier mention of liturgy? Let us not forget what the reply was when Dr. Campbell was asked by the Dean (during a similarly heated discussion about music and 'religion' - "What do you think the Cathedral is here for?" - answer: "To keep the rain off the organ".

 

The Grove organ is a masterpiece which, for whatever reasons, is in Tewkesbury. It is a national - nay, a World Treasure and will doubtless be preserved, like it or not; useful (to some) or not.

 

DW

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Visiting the board for the first time in a while, I've come across this topic, and might be able to add a comment or two on the Grove from experience, albeit at a distance of some 15 years; during the mid-90s I sang in the Abbey (Parish) choir for a while, including the time when the Milton was being rebuilt, and can say that the Grove proved to be a most effective accompanimental instrument, sharp or not! It also was used effectively to accompany the Abbey School choir in weekday evensongs, and thanks to CCTV, could see the choir with ease- and, I gather, hear it as well. I played for a couple of Merbecke 11am Sung Eucharists during August (1996?) without choir, which was great fun, and though the Grove had its idiosyncracies, was fantastic to play. However the camera was not adjustable, so the improvisation at the end of the offertory hymn to cover the thurible action had to be done blind, with the help of a verger giving progress updates ('you've got 30 seconds left'!)

Daytime practice on the Grove was not possible (being right next to the Abbey Shop), but in the summer evenings when the Abbey was locked, one could have free rein- though on my first time in the empty abbey, I looked at one point to my right from the Grove console and was momentarily spooked by a memento mori tablet with a particularly chilling stare!

Immediately prior to the Milton being dismantled, service accompaniments were played on the Milton but commonly the Grove was used for Sunday voluntaries post- 11am and 6pm services.

 

Hope this sheds some light on one or two queries...

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when Dr. Campbell was asked by the Dean (during a similarly heated discussion about music and 'religion' - "What do you think the Cathedral is here for?" - answer: "To keep the rain off the organ".

DW

 

 

:lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol:

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Well maybe Paul will comment. I've played the Bristol organ quite a bit over the last 8 years or so and my experience is that there are always faults in the action. This has been discussed on these forums before and I believe it has been stated by people with much more technical knowledge of it than myself that the action is inherently difficult and in need of constant adjustment.

The Bristol action is, as you say, inherently difficult, part of the issue being its particular fragility and vulnerability to changes in weather / humidity. This is being particularly exposed at the moment, though not as much as last spring when one of the humidifier motors had to be replaced and, in the meantime, the entire coupling system virtually gave up - to say that so many notes were missing on Sw/Gt that hymns became unrecognisable from their playovers is not an exaggeration!

However, even in 'normal' weather conditions, it has to be said that the action has never been 100% reliable - I don't believe that it's design allows it to be. Maintaining it is the equivalent of painting the Forth Bridge - by the time you've gone right through it, something will have started to stray at the other end.

In the long term, I don't believe it will survive, as I can't see that the spending of large amounts of money on it can be justified unless it be guaranteed to work properly - one builder said that to us last time we tendered for some (relatively minor) work, and I am told that other builders have expressed similar thoughts on its cousin in Wimbledon. When I say 'work properly', I don't mean 'be able to play French toccatas at crotchet = 450' but that the action/couplers respond to the pressing of the key rather than just playing in their own, variable time(s), as much of an issue with hymns / slow passages for all the strings coupled with Sw octave, etc. It is ironic that the key touch is capable of a high degree of subtlety and control but the response of the action usually negates any such effort!

The issue will be what sort of action can be put in its place that provides the necessary reliability and response but maintains the touch and suits the speech of the pipes. I doubt that's a decision that will be made in my time!

Paul

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In the long term, I don't believe it will survive, as I can't see that the spending of large amounts of money on it can be justified unless it be guaranteed to work properly...

The issue will be what sort of action can be put in its place that provides the necessary reliability and response but maintains the touch and suits the speech of the pipes.

 

 

Paradox of the day: despite all these problems, the Bristol organ and its action have survived longer in more-or-less their original state than practically any other British Cathedral organ...

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"I'm rather sorry I started this thread - albeit on a different topic :lol: - which has caused quite a lot of personal animosity. These subjects to tend to crop up every few months - tempers flare, hasty things are said, positions become entrenched, sometimes somebody leaves the board. It's a price to pay for instant shared written communication, I suppose. As musicians, I guess our nature is for us to generate our own very personal motivation, and often in a passionate way. As organists in particular - often a lonely musical pursuit - perhaps we are used to 'going it alone' and fighting our own corner."

 

I agree, and I apologise without reservation if any of my comments were taken personally by any member of this board.

 

"My comment was not at all nasty and am rather mortified to think that it was construed so."

 

It wasn't by me. I think the point is valid - however great Henk van Eeken might be, he certainly isn't the most original organ builder on the planet.

 

"we are constantly looking at methods and materials (and style), often reinventing what has been lost in this firm in the past. For instance, I've spent a great deal of the past four months re-drawing ALL of our shallot scales and trying to get back in time, past the 1949 and 1958 revisions of the scales - with a deal of success I think."

 

Which is fantastic, and, I think, fairly unusual in modern factory-scale organ building. Can we agree, therefore, that research really does play a vital role in first-rate organ building?

 

"To be honest, I think that some of the antagonism exhibited in this thread has arisen from the fact that you tend to make very strong claims about many things - and that this may be exacerbated by your refusal to state your identity. I have, on a number of occasions, gained the distinct impression that you feel you are absolutely correct about everything on which you comment."

 

About making strong claims - guilty as charged. I hope at least that my occasionally unwarranted bluntness doesn't mask the fact that the claims are made on the basis of (comparitively extensive though hardly exhaustive) personal experience and travels. With notable exceptions, I don't always have the impression that those who like to shout me down do so based on such extensive experience, but rather because I dared to challenge a comfortable perceived wisdom. If nothing else it gets people talking about things like subcontracting which is worthy of discussion. I make no claims to be absolutely correct about anything at all. For one thing, I am just a musician, and certainly no organbuilder.

 

The Youtube clip of the (unjustly neglected) Leonce de Saint-Martin Toccata played by Carleton Etherington on the Grove organ is extraordinary - the organ sounds every piece the international treasure David Wyld calls it.

 

Bazuin

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Paradox of the day: despite all these problems, the Bristol organ and its action have survived longer in more-or-less their original state than practically any other British Cathedral organ...

Most likely due to lack of money in the 60s and 70s! Fortunate of course that we've been spared the ravages of that period - we have all our diapasons intact and there are no screaming mixtures and tinkly Positives. The 70s did turn the Pedal Quint 10 2/3 into the utterly pointless Octave Quint 5 1/3 and lose the Dulciana 8' but that's about all we have cause to regret!

 

Paul

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Until now I have deliberately resisted commenting on the various observations about the Grove organ. However, in view those made by Contrabombarde (and others) I will quote from a letter I wrote, as 16 year old schoolboy, to The Organ and which was published in their July 1964 edition.

 

"Sir, May I support Noel Bonavia-Hunt's appeal for the restoration of the organ in the Alexandra Palace? May I also appeal for the restoration of another equally fine instrument, the Grove organ, built my Mitchell and Thynne, in Tewkesbury Abbey? For organ lovers fortunate enough to have heard this noble instrument it must have been a memorable experience. What aural excitement we unfortunates who have never heard this instrument are mising with that bold Schulze-type diapason chorus, those Willis style reeds and Mitchell and Thynne's own conception of string tone.

 

Where else is there so fine an example of the combined characteristics of three of the finest organ builders? This organ, together with the instrument in Alexandra Palace, should be restored: then England can once again boast about two more very fine organs!"

 

Please don't let the Grove deteriorate to such a degree that a similar letter will need to be written.

 

Incidentally, I wrote that letter whilst at a school which some years later puchased the Schulze organ from St Mary's Tyne Dock. Alas, by then I had long left!

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It was kind of Martin to write about the Alexandra Palace organ, and I would be interested to know when he wrote the letter, and whether he ever received a reply.

I am sure that this would have been before my involvement with the organ.

Colin Richell.

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For all its historic interest and musical worth the Grove remains a large, ugly and expensive red herring of little or no liturgical or concert use.

Expensive? Red herring? How so?

Having heard John Pryer improvise a concluding voluntary on this organ at many of the Abbey's legendary Advent Carol Services, and having played it myself, I remember reeling at the utter thrill of its tone, as well as its power - despite being tucked away in the north transept.

 

Of no concert use? I would readily travel from London to hear a solo recital on this instrument given by people whose playing I enjoy.

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Expensive? Red herring? How so?

Having heard John Pryer improvise a concluding voluntary on this organ at many of the Abbey's legendary Advent Carol Services, and having played it myself, I remember reeling at the utter thrill of its tone, as well as its power - despite being tucked away in the north transept.

 

Of no concert use? I would readily travel from London to hear a solo recital on this instrument given by people whose playing I enjoy.

 

Where will it go in the end ? Let us open the game; Germany or the Netherlands ? :lol:

 

Pierre

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Where will it go in the end ? Let us open the game; Germany or the Netherlands ? :lol:

 

Pierre

 

I would chain myself to it! :lol:

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Addressed to David Coram: please can you "tone it down" - I have had to remove some of your posts on this topic because they were bad-mannered and rude.

 

Moderator, Mander Organs

 

Understood. Apologies all round.

 

That said, being directly accused of jealously and inverted snobbery was, I felt, a good enough reason to be especially unforgiving of the inconsistencies and apparently deliberate misunderstandings of the accuser. As always, after a few days' distance and the odd personal disaster, my manner of doing so leaves me somewhat ashamed and I hope it will soon be forgotten.

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The first paragraph of his message may give a clue! As his letter was to The Organ, from whom would he have expected there to be a reply?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well it is obvious to me and many others that if you write to an organ perodical and express support for a project then the instigator (in this case Noel Bonavia-Hunt) would obviously respond, especially when a young enthusiast is involved.and offers support.

Sorry if I have caused confusion yet again, but to most my simple question which was addressed to the contributor,(ie did he receive a reply) and no-one else, would have been answered by the right person.

Keep taking the tablets as the vicar said !

Colin Richell.

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As the contributor mentioned above in Colin Richell's response I don't recollect receiving a reply from Noel Bonavia-Hunt. Nor would I have expected one. Furthermore, as Henry Willis points out, my letter indicates that all this was a long time ago, 1964 to be precise. Besides, the primary purpose of the letter was NOT about the Alexandra Palace organ but to draw attention to the urgent need to restore the Grove.

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As the contributor mentioned above in Colin Richell's response I don't recollect receiving a reply from Noel Bonavia-Hunt. Nor would I have expected one. Furthermore, as Henry Willis points out, my letter indicates that all this was a long time ago, 1964 to be precise. Besides, the primary purpose of the letter was NOT about the Alexandra Palace organ but to draw attention to the urgent need to restore the Grove.

 

 

 

 

Thank you Martin, at least your response was relevant to the subject.

You did mention the Ally Pally Organ as worth restoring, so you must have thought that at the time.

I am just mystified as to who Noel Bonavia-Hunt was because none of the people involved in the early days know the name.

Perhaps the real Henry Willis might know.

Colin Richell.

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Thank you Martin, at least your response was relevant to the subject.

You did mention the Ally Pally Organ as worth restoring, so you must have thought that at the time.

I am just mystified as to who Noel Bonavia-Hunt was because none of the people involved in the early days know the name.

Perhaps the real Henry Willis might know.

Colin Richell.

Wow. I thought most people knew of the Rev'd. His organ building book was my very first (and only - almost) prize at school. When my family used to go to Swange for a holiday they used to take me to Worth Matravers - one of the gems of Romanesque architecture (along with Studland I believe) in Dorset. Bonavia-Hunt I am sure had a hand in that organ there and I thought he was also the Vicar at one time. Might be wrong about everything though.

N

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