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AJJ

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Southampton Guildhall? BBC organ, Maida Vale? There must be others, surely?

MM

And the BBC Radio Theatre (formerly the Concert Hall, Broadcasting House) I think. That organ fell out of use because of the one bomb that fell on BH during the Blitz. The studios in BH were on alternate floors in a central block separated by a gap from the building surrounding it. The rubble that fell into the gap (and could not practicably be removed) reduced the sound insulation properties of this construction, and made the use of the organ impractical when (as usual) other studios were in use. Sad, that.

 

Paul

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I didn't know that, and I used to play there once or twice a year!

 

Doesn't St Luke's Chelsea have luminous stopheads? Or am I completely making that up?

 

 

Oops - checked with the NPOR - luminous stops still at Derby! Sorry - mixed up with the Hull City Hall console.

 

A

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I hope when the organ is restored in Hull Parish Church that the Compton lighted stops will remain, the only other instrument I can recall with these is Downside Abbey.

 

One thought regarding the much-needed restoration of the F&A/Compton organ in Holy Trinity Parish Church, Hull, is to renovate the existing Compton console and transfer it to a new location in the quire. Combined with this thought is the construction of a new portable console for use in the nave, making it particularly suitable for recitals. If this should happen it's probably likely that it would be equipped with drawstops and state-of-the-art registration aids.

 

The location of the existing Compton console is not ideal for accompanying services held in the quire. However, since I was last in Holy Trinity I noticed to my horror that twang-and-bang equipment was now in evidence in the quire.

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And Derby Cathedral if I remember correctly. I grew up with instruments using Compton illuminated stopheads and have always been comfortable with them.

JC

 

Innate (as above) is correct: and the large three clavier Compton at Saint Luke's, Chelsea.

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I believe the problem with Compton's little illuminated buttons was that bulbs had a tendency to blow, meaning you were never quite sure whether the Solo Tuba was on or off. I don't know if it's possible to fit the buttons with LEDs but that would solve the problem of them blowing.

 

Certain electronic organs like Johannus use illuminated stop knobs that have a momentary push/pull actualisation in their higher-end models and I am surprised that this idea hasn't caught on more in pipe organs too - you have the asthetics of a drawstop console at a fraction of the price (and electrical current wiring demands) of solenoid activated moving drawstops - though they are still a lot more expensive than instruments with illuminated stoptabs.

 

Contrabombarde

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One thought regarding the much-needed restoration of the F&A/Compton organ in Holy Trinity Parish Church, Hull, is to renovate the existing Compton console and transfer it to a new location in the quire. Combined with this thought is the construction of a new portable console for use in the nave, making it particularly suitable for recitals. If this should happen it's probably likely that it would be equipped with drawstops and state-of-the-art registration aids.

 

The location of the existing Compton console is not ideal for accompanying services held in the quire. However, since I was last in Holy Trinity I noticed to my horror that twang-and-bang equipment was now in evidence in the quire.

 

This is what I suggested 12 years ago when the original appeal was happening.

 

Jonathan

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... As pncd said

 

"On the other hand, who is to judge that these instruments have become unfit for their intended purpose?"

 

Exactly. Except that, as pncd has told us before, he thinks the organists that play them every week should have the freedom to change them as they see fit. My point is that, assuming the project has a conservation aspect, they shouldn't. I hope it's fair to say that this is BIOS position as well, hence their long battle to assume the status of statutory advisory body. ...

 

 

Bazuin

 

I do not recall writing such a cavalier statement, Bazuin. I had thought that my earlier point was more to the effect of, if an organist who has known a particular instrument well for several - or many - years, should be able to effect some alterations, tonally or otherwise - not simply do as they wish. The assumption being that it may reasonably be supposed that an astute organist will be aware of some failings or shortcomings of their particular instrument*. There is surely a point when it is reasonable to trust the judgement of such a musician. I am not suggesting that any organist should be able to do as they wish, with no reference to the type of instrument, its history or its importance; but to deny that someone in this position is unable to make considered judgements is arguably blinkered and possibly even obstructive. To attempt to maintain that (virtually) all organs should be kept in their present state (i.e. that in which they are found now in 2010) with no alteration and only very restrained restoration work could end up being counter-productive.

 

Regardless of how unhelpful you may regard hypothetical situations, if others with views similar to your own had taken steps to initiate the proposals which you suggest - but about one hundred and eighty years ago - the organs in this country would all be a lot less interesting to play. So, I ask again - why now?

 

In any case, there is no guarantee that what may work in one country would work equally well (or even at all) in another.

 

 

 

* I am sure that you could respond to the effect that the failings may only be perceived by a particular musician, perhaps because of an unsatisfied desire for the instrument to conform to their own requirements. However, this argument ignores the fact that, had organists not done exactly this type of thing from around the second quarter of the nineteenth century onwards, there would be no Salisbury Cathedral organ, no Sydney Town Hall organ, no Southwark Cathedral organ - at least, not in anything like their present incarnations.

 

Of course organ builders such as Cavaillé-Coll, Willis or Harrison were innovative - but they also responded to the needs and desires of the organ playing fraternity. If you are really suggesting that we should limit progress to the manufacture of new instruments then, on a financial level alone, the craft of organ building may well die out within a comparatively short period. The creation of a new organ is almost prohibitively expensive. Just one example - Llandaff, despite a major appeal has inaugurated its new pipe organ with a large portion missing - due to a shortage of funds. Its eventual completion depends solely on the provision of a further substantial sum. I believe that the projected cost of the entire project is around 1.4 million pounds Sterling. Ironically, any vestige of the previous instrument has been obliterated. Apparently nothing was considered to be worthy of salvage.

 

Would you wish to see (for example), the organ of Truro Cathedral 'restored' to its original state? By this, I mean that the 1887 console would be reconstructed using available records and photographic evidence of contemporary instruments; that the action was returned to the same design as that which Willis originally supplied; that the accessories were rutlhessly pared-down to the former scheme - the Swell Sub Octave and Octave couplers for example, working only on the Great Organ? On the other hand, is the organ in Truro Cathedral now more versatile, now more able to allow a skilled organist to realise and enhance Willis' original intentions through the media of a new console, action and such luxuries and a Pedal Divide?

 

Of course I realise that there have been many instances in England alone where unscrupulous or simply misguided organists (and other authorities) have allowed genuine masterpieces to be discarded or altered beyond recognition. But to attempt to 'police' the situation by a diametrically-opposed viewpoint is not necessarily helpful.

 

In any case, to quote an infamous example - the supposed 'informed restoration' of the Christian Müller organ at Sint Bavo, Haarlem is hardly a matter of national pride. As I understand it, this 'restoration' (by Marcussen, from 1959-61) was rather more than this, with up to thirty-four ranks of pipes added (mostly in the form of compound stops), a certain amount of revoicing and complete reconstruction of the clavier to Pedal couplers. Apparently, not even the colour of the case finish was either historically correct or (arguably) aesthetically appropriate. Yes, it is a stunning instrument - both visually and aurally; yes, playing it may well be a life-changing experience and yes, it may produce beautiful music. But unfortunately, so much was altered (perhaps for the best of reasons) that we can no longer be sure exactly how it sounded. I have heard a few of the recordings which Bazuin was kind enough to link to this site - those which pre-date the Marcussen work - but the quality is, for me, insufficient to allow the formation of a reasoned opinion as to the exact impact of the work carried out fifty years ago.

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I do not recall writing such a cavalier statement, Bazuin. I had thought that my earlier point was more to the effect of, if an organist who has known a particular instrument well for several - or many - years, should be able to effect some alterations, tonally or otherwise - not simply do as they wish. The assumption being that it may reasonably be supposed that an astute organist will be aware of some failings or shortcomings of their particular instrument*. There is surely a point when it is reasonable to trust the judgement of such a musician. I am not suggesting that any organist should be able to do as they wish, with no reference to the type of instrument, its history or its importance; but to deny that someone in this position is unable to make considered judgements is arguably blinkered and possibly even obstructive. To attempt to maintain that (virtually) all organs should be kept in their present state (i.e. that in which they are found now in 2010) with no alteration and only very restrained restoration work could end up being counter-productive.

 

Regardless of how unhelpful you may regard hypothetical situations, if others with views similar to your own had taken steps to initiate the proposals which you suggest - but about one hundred and eighty years ago - the organs in this country would all be a lot less interesting to play. So, I ask again - why now?

 

In any case, there is no guarantee that what may work in one country would work equally well (or even at all) in another.

 

 

 

* I am sure that you could respond to the effect that the failings may only be perceived by a particular musician, perhaps because of an unsatisfied desire for the instrument to conform to their own requirements. However, this argument ignores the fact that, had organists not done exactly this type of thing from around the second quarter of the nineteenth century onwards, there would be no Salisbury Cathedral organ, no Sydney Town Hall organ, no Southwark Cathedral organ - at least, not in anything like their present incarnations.

 

Of course organ builders such as Cavaillé-Coll, Willis or Harrison were innovative - but they also responded to the needs and desires of the organ playing fraternity. If you are really suggesting that we should limit progress to the manufacture of new instruments then, on a financial level alone, the craft of organ building may well die out within a comparatively short period. The creation of a new organ is almost prohibitively expensive. Just one example - Llandaff, despite a major appeal has inaugurated its new pipe organ with a large portion missing - due to a shortage of funds. Its eventual completion depends solely on the provision of a further substantial sum. I believe that the projected cost of the entire project is around 1.4 million pounds Sterling. Ironically, any vestige of the previous instrument has been obliterated. Apparently nothing was considered to be worthy of salvage.

 

Would you wish to see (for example), the organ of Truro Cathedral 'restored' to its original state? By this, I mean that the 1887 console would be reconstructed using available records and photographic evidence of contemporary instruments; that the action was returned to the same design as that which Willis originally supplied; that the accessories were rutlhessly pared-down to the former scheme - the Swell Sub Octave and Octave couplers for example, working only on the Great Organ? On the other hand, is the organ in Truro Cathedral now more versatile, now more able to allow a skilled organist to realise and enhance Willis' original intentions through the media of a new console, action and such luxuries and a Pedal Divide?

 

Of course I realise that there have been many instances in England alone where unscrupulous or simply misguided organists (and other authorities) have allowed genuine masterpieces to be discarded or altered beyond recognition. But to attempt to 'police' the situation by a diametrically-opposed viewpoint is not necessarily helpful.

 

In any case, to quote an infamous example - the supposed 'informed restoration' of the Christian Müller organ at Sint Bavo, Haarlem is hardly a matter of national pride. As I understand it, this 'restoration' (by Marcussen, from 1959-61) was rather more than this, with up to thirty-four ranks of pipes added (mostly in the form of compound stops), a certain amount of revoicing and complete reconstruction of the clavier to Pedal couplers. Apparently, not even the colour of the case finish was either historically correct or (arguably) aesthetically appropriate. Yes, it is a stunning instrument - both visually and aurally; yes, playing it may well be a life-changing experience and yes, it may produce beautiful music. But unfortunately, so much was altered (perhaps for the best of reasons) that we can no longer be sure exactly how it sounded. I have heard a few of the recordings which Bazuin was kind enough to link to this site - those which pre-date the Marcussen work - but the quality is, for me, insufficient to allow the formation of a reasoned opinion as to the exact impact of the work carried out fifty years ago.

 

 

 

++========================

 

 

I always think that music should take precedence in matters historical, so if one has a more or less original Fr Willis, then there is a definite case for restoration on the grounds that music would have been written for this type of instrument.

 

Quite where this leaves the Netherlands I do not know, because almost NOTHING was written for those delightful old instruments.

 

It's clearly the case, that from a purely musical point of view, Holland should have been free to re-build and alter everything; from the ground up, with nice detached consoles and as many floating divisions as the dykes would allow.

 

In England, we would have wonderfully orginal instruments for the performance of Eric Thiman, Bairstow, Stanford, Blow, Bull, Wesley and Walond (among other).

 

Clearly, we should be over there, and they should be over here.

 

This must be right, surely?

 

:(

 

MM

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"if an organist who has known a particular instrument well for several - or many - years, should be able to effect some alterations, tonally or otherwise - not simply do as they wish. "

 

What is the difference? Where do you draw the line?

 

"To attempt to maintain that (virtually) all organs should be kept in their present state (i.e. that in which they are found now in 2010) with no alteration and only very restrained restoration work could end up being counter-productive."

 

The only organs to which protection would apply, in my utopian world, would be the ones which would qualify for BIOS HOCSs. (In the case of the valuable and well-conceived CoR, the bits covered specifically by this).

 

"Of course organ builders such as Cavaillé-Coll"

 

The work of Cavaille-Coll (who rebuilt organs of Cliquot and others) is often used as an example of why organs should be changed. If C-C did it, why can't I? C-C was a man of this time. His time was not one especially concerned with antiquity of any variety (this is even truer perhaps in England, and almost equally as true in the Netherlands). Now we live in a time when historians can become celebrities, when we more fully appreciate what we lost. This isn't to say that an organ's practical function (or its 'social profile' as I like to call it) is irrelevant - it is precisely this which safeguards it. But at the moment, the balance is tipped too far in the direction of the 'practical' with the result that the (at least as important) question of 'cultural inheritance' remains too often in the domain of the enthusiast. Remember that in C-C's time, the playing of non-contemporary music was exceptional (think of the furore surrounding Guilmant's concerts of old masters at the Trocadero), now it is commonplace. This is crucial - the demands of the organists pncd refers to have changed by going into retrograde...

 

"If you are really suggesting that we should limit progress to the manufacture of new instruments then, on a financial level alone, the craft of organ building may well die out within a comparatively short period."

 

This was an important factor in post-war organbuilding. Old organs had to be replaced to keep people in work. Even today, my colleagues abroad are astounded by the size and quality of organs which are 'redundant' here. At the moment many of these organs are lost as a matter of course, or at least lost to the British 'cultural inheritance' through their export. This is deeply regrettable.

 

"Just one example - Llandaff, despite a major appeal has inaugurated its new pipe organ with a large portion missing - due to a shortage of funds."

 

Did the organ have to be so large? (The question isn't rhetorical - I've never been to Llandaff).

 

"Would you wish to see (for example), the organ of Truro Cathedral 'restored' to its original state? By this, I mean that the 1887 console would be reconstructed using available records and photographic evidence of contemporary instruments; that the action was returned to the same design as that which Willis originally supplied; that the accessories were rutlhessly pared-down to the former scheme - the Swell Sub Octave and Octave couplers for example, working only on the Great Organ?"

 

Yes please. The problems caused by the hidden, elevated position of the original console can now be efficiently and cost-effectively solved by CCTV and a radio microphone. If the cost of reconstructing FW's original canvas is the loss of the sub-octave couplers and the pedal divide thing for Cochereau effects I could quite happily live with that. I realise of course that I'm in the minority here! :(

 

"On the other hand, is the organ in Truro Cathedral now more versatile, now more able to allow a skilled organist to realise and enhance Willis' original intentions through the media of a new console, action and such luxuries and a Pedal Divide?"

 

Unless you know something about Willis' intentions that we don't, this is purely hypothetical. I would argue that it places a barrier between the player and Father Willis's intentions (which we can assess to a considerable extent by playing the organs by him which are technically, as well as tonally, preserved).

 

"but the quality is, for me, insufficient to allow the formation of a reasoned opinion as to the exact impact of the work carried out fifty years ago."

 

At the risk of repeating myself, one can gain a very good picture of how this organ sounded by visiting the well preserved examples of Muller's works in Netherlands. It's also important to realise that the changes carried out to organs there are far better documented in the Netherlands (because of the legal 'monument' status of organs) than an equivalent project in the UK. Even those recordings tell a fascinating story.

 

I'm interested to know how many of the contributors to this discussion are members of BIOS (especially MM and pncd) and what their view is of the value of the HOCS and whether they would like to see HOC becoming a legally binding document (as BIOS themselves want, I hope it's fair to say).

 

Bazuin

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"Just one example - Llandaff, despite a major appeal has inaugurated its new pipe organ with a large portion missing - due to a shortage of funds."

Did the organ have to be so large? (The question isn't rhetorical - I've never been to Llandaff).

 

I have also wondered this - in fact, this was the first thought which occurred to me upon perusing the projected stoplist. I further wonder whether or not some ranks could have been kept from the old organ - and whether this would have resulted in a reduction in the overall costs which would have made this a worthwhile option.

"Would you wish to see (for example), the organ of Truro Cathedral 'restored' to its original state? By this, I mean that the 1887 console would be reconstructed using available records and photographic evidence of contemporary instruments; that the action was returned to the same design as that which Willis originally supplied; that the accessories were rutlhessly pared-down to the former scheme - the Swell Sub Octave and Octave couplers for example, working only on the Great Organ?"

Yes please. The problems caused by the hidden, elevated position of the original console can now be efficiently and cost-effectively solved by CCTV and a radio microphone. If the cost of reconstructing FW's original canvas is the loss of the sub-octave couplers and the pedal divide thing for Cochereau effects I could quite happily live with that. I realise of course that I'm in the minority here! :(

 

Well, not necessarily. I would still reconstruct the former composition pedals on the wonderful old Walker organ at Romsey Abbey - and re-instate the longer draw of the stop handles (naturally also restoring these to mechanical operation). With regard to Truro, perhaps you have never visited the organ chamber there, Bazuin? The access stairs and passage through the triforium are cramped and tiring, even for a younger person. CCTV and electronic amplification can (and does) malfunction. There are a few anecdotal accounts of mistakes and problems occurring mid-service at Truro, when the previous system was in use, with the console sited in the easternmost bay of the organ chamber.

 

In fact, one would lose a little more than this. The Solo Octave coupler would go, as would the separate Swell Tremulant. The Solo 4ft. to Pedal coupler would also be excised. Then there is the combination system to consider. Surely there is little point in denying that the style of accompaniment for Anglican 'cathedral' type worship relies on much stop-changing. I am not sure that this would best be served by four brass pistons each to the Pedal/G.O. and Swell Organ, duplicated by composition pedals - and one reversible brass piston to Great to Pedal. And would you be happy with a 'trigger' Swell pedal? In addition, you should note that you would have to manage without Swell to Choir and Solo to Choir.

 

"On the other hand, is the organ in Truro Cathedral now more versatile, now more able to allow a skilled organist to realise and enhance Willis' original intentions through the media of a new console, action and such luxuries and a Pedal Divide?"

Unless you know something about Willis' intentions that we don't, this is purely hypothetical. I would argue that it places a barrier between the player and Father Willis's intentions (which we can assess to a considerable extent by playing the organs by him which are technically, as well as tonally, preserved).

 

It should not be overlooked that FHW was technically innovative - Canterbury Cathedral with an electric action (1888), Hereford Cathedral with fully adjustable pistons - which worked perfectly up until the rebuilding in 1933. Actually, I think that FHW may well have embraced such things as a Pedal Divide or general pistons with enthusiasm.

 

"but the quality is, for me, insufficient to allow the formation of a reasoned opinion as to the exact impact of the work carried out fifty years ago."

 

At the risk of repeating myself, one can gain a very good picture of how this organ sounded by visiting the well preserved examples of Muller's works in Netherlands. It's also important to realise that the changes carried out to organs there are far better documented in the Netherlands (because of the legal 'monument' status of organs) than an equivalent project in the UK. Even those recordings tell a fascinating story.

 

 

Bazuin

Deafness - selective or otherwise - is not the problem. If you are happy to send me the air fare, cover my hotel bills (I would be prepared to make do with three-star accommodation, under the circumstances), and provide additional funds for meals, train fares and sundry expenses, I would be delighted to take up your kind offer. I would be most interested to hear (and play) other instruments by Müller.

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Surely there is little point in denying that the style of accomaniment for Anglican 'cathedral' type worship relies on much stop-changing. I am not sure that this would best be served by four brass pistons each to the Pedal/G.O. and Swell Organ, duplicated by composition pedals - and one reversible brass piston to Great to Pedal. And would you be happy with a 'trigger' Swell pedal? In addition, you should note that you would have to manage without Swell to Choir and Solo to Choir.

It seems to me that there is little point in returning a cathedral organ to its Victorian state unless one is also going to return the choir to a diet of music contemporary with that. It is hardly reasonable to expect cathedrals to provide several different organs in different styles to serve a wider repertoire. Cathedrals are still, fortunately, living institutions. Their choirs move with the times. Although I do not endorse cavalier destruction of our artistic heritage, neither do I think it either reasonable or practical to insist that their organs should remain hermetically sealed in a time warp. The modifications at Truro have really not done any damage to the integrity of the Willis. The resident organists would certainly not favour a return of the console to its original position 40ft above the choir (apparently it was the highest organ loft in Britain), not least because they would have no idea of how the organ really sounds, nor how it is balancing with the choir.

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It seems to me that there is little point in returning a cathedral organ to its Victorian state unless one is also going to return the choir to a diet of music contemporary with that. It is hardly reasonable to expect cathedrals to provide several different organs in different styles to serve a wider repertoire. Cathedrals are still, fortunately, living institutions. Their choirs move with the times. Although I do not endorse cavalier destruction of our artistic heritage, neither do I think it either reasonable or practical to insist that their organs should remain hermetically sealed in a time warp. The modifications at Truro have really not done any damage to the integrity of the Willis. The resident organists would certainly not favour a return of the console to its original position 40ft above the choir (apparently it was the highest organ loft in Britain), not least because they would have no idea of how the organ really sounds, nor how it is balancing with the choir.

 

I would agree wholeheartedly with your considered response, Vox.

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It seems to me that there is little point in returning a cathedral organ to its Victorian state unless one is also going to return the choir to a diet of music contemporary with that. It is hardly reasonable to expect cathedrals to provide several different organs in different styles to serve a wider repertoire. Cathedrals are still, fortunately, living institutions. Their choirs move with the times. Although I do not endorse cavalier destruction of our artistic heritage, neither do I think it either reasonable or practical to insist that their organs should remain hermetically sealed in a time warp. The modifications at Truro have really not done any damage to the integrity of the Willis. The resident organists would certainly not favour a return of the console to its original position 40ft above the choir (apparently it was the highest organ loft in Britain), not least because they would have no idea of how the organ really sounds, nor how it is balancing with the choir.

Of course, not every organ of note is in a Church or Cathedral. In my opinion, the Royal Festival Hall organ is just as historically important as some of the quaint examples on the HOCS list, yet it does not seem to have been afforded any protection.

JC

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Of course, not every organ of note is in a Church or Cathedral. In my opinion, the Royal Festival Hall organ is just as historically important as some of the quaint examples on the HOCS list, yet it does not seem to have been afforded any protection.

JC

 

What happened to the old HNB organ then in Llandaff, and what was so "wrong" about it that justified a completely new instrument? Whilst I am sure that any organ builder would jump at the chance to build a brand new 76 stop 4 manual cathedral organ (and I have every confidence that Nicholsons will excel at this - though I am sure that several other prominent British firms would come up with equally magnificent instruments if given the contract) - was there nothing worth saving in the earlier instrument? or am i treading on "Bath Abbey" territory here?

 

Pedigree doesn't sound great. Originally built in the 1930s, modified late 1950s when the neobaroque revival was in early and perhaps excessive swing. But then, I recently played a transplanted 1930s HNB that I would never have thought on paper would be as thrilling a sound as it was once installed in a new building. I'm referring to the instrument in All Saints Northampton - buried away and less than ideally audible, but superb for choir accompaniment and with some really beauitiful sounds. Interesting that it replaces what was recently a brand new mechanical Walker - fifteen years ago when the Walker was new I'm sure people would have said "no contest" between that or a 1930s electropneumatic HNB.

 

How times change! And how difficult to decide what is genuinely worth preserving sometimes!

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What happened to the old HNB organ then in Llandaff, and what was so "wrong" about it that justified a completely new instrument?

I played an Evensong on the old Llandaff Cathedral organ once in the early 70s. The most I can say is that I can't recall anything nice about it. I remember it did the job, but it struck me as uninspiring. However, I think if you look up the Llandaff Cathedral thread, you will find some far more forthright opinions about it.

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"With regard to Truro, perhaps you have never visited the organ chamber there, Bazuin? The access stairs and passage through the triforium are cramped and tiring, even for a younger person."

 

Perhaps, but wasn't Guillaume Ormond organist there until he was very old? (I met someone recently, purely by chance as he has nothing to with organs, whose parents had taken Ormond in as a lodger - incredible!) In France and Belgium you come accross these things all the time (enter West End organ gallery in the North transept, up the spiral stairs, out along the roof, down some more stairs...)

 

"The modifications at Truro have really not done any damage to the integrity of the Willis."

 

No. But they have changed the way organists approach it.

 

"Surely there is little point in denying that the style of accompaniment for Anglican 'cathedral' type worship relies on much stop-changing."

 

Now more so than ever because the registration aids have made it possible. The technology drove the nature of the music-making, not vice versa. Don't English organists usually have page-turners during services with complicated accompaniments? (Again, I don't know...) If so, perhaps a second pair of hands could also help with the odd stop change not covered by the original registration aids?

 

Perhaps someone could comment on the comparable sizes of the new Llandaff organ and its Cathedral, and the Truro organ and its Cathedral? (For those of us who've never been to either...)

 

"In my opinion, the Royal Festival Hall organ is just as historically important as some of the quaint examples on the HOCS list,"

 

I agree wholeheartedly.

 

Once again, it would be nice if someone were to present their views on the merits of the BIOS HOCS and the implications of their becoming legally binding documents. Are contributors here BIOS members? What is the feeling here regarding the relationship between BIOS and the practicing musician? Does anyone here have experience of making a HOCS application? (I'm awaiting the result of my first attempt...)

 

Bazuin

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Once again, it would be nice if someone were to present their views on the merits of the BIOS HOCS and the implications of their becoming legally binding documents. Are contributors here BIOS members? What is the feeling here regarding the relationship between BIOS and the practicing musician? Does anyone here have experience of making a HOCS application? (I'm awaiting the result of my first attempt...)

 

Bazuin

 

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

 

 

I suspect that very few organs in the UK now exist in a form which is close to the original concept; though there are a small percentage of such instruments scattered around, as well as some which could conceivably be restored to their original condition if the will existed.

 

By some small miracle, certain organs seem to survive everything, (even neglect), and future generations then re-discover the hidden beauties and charms of those instruments. Leeds Cathedral is a point in case, because many have long since wanted to scrap the organ and start again. I always advised, and took the trouble to write to a previous incumbent there, of the value of the Norman & Beard organ, the quality of the construction and some of the almost peerless reed voicing. (This includes a rather splendid Compton Tuba from the Davies Theatre, Croydon). Whatever the merits or demerits of altering the instrument, there has to be respect for the fact that at least a good proportion of the old organ will survive, and much of the original character will remain intact.

 

Then there are rare pearls, such as the only remaining Anneessens organ I mentioned previously, as well as the almost completely authentic Isaac Abbott organ at Queensbury, nr.Bradford, (donated by John Forster of “Black Dyke Mills” fame, associated with the world-class brass-band). There are organs like this in numerous places; usually not great or important buildings, but more humble abodes.

 

There are organs in real peril of remarkable worth, and those great organs which have been destroyed or broken up into parts to be re-used elsewhere.

 

Of course, other instruments have changed beyond all recognition, and not always in a detrimental way. I’ve mentioned the organ at Leeds PC, which I admire greatly. It has evolved over the years, and now probably sounds better than it has ever done, even allowing for the work of Arthur Harrison and the wealth of other original pipework contained in this instrument from other builders. It’s a fine example of how an organ can evolve wonderfully over a period of time. The same is true of the originally ineffective Gray & Davison organ at Leeds Town Hall, which was wonderfully transformed by a combination of good re-casting and some superb voicing and re-voicing from Dennis Thurlow.

It is my view that English organ-building, (like that of American and presumably German organ-building), has always been a dynamic undertaking, where history is less significant than the musical results.

 

How else could we have organs like the Albert Hall or St Paul’s, which our kind hosts re-built and enlarged so magnificently?

It’s such a difficult problem trying to balance musicality and musical perceptions against historic significance, but in a way, we are fortunate that we have SOME untouched examples to remind us of whence they came. History is always like that, and preservation is the sort of movement which only occurs when people realise that everything will be lost if care is not lavished on protecting instruments from the demolition crews.

 

The legislative element could never work in the UK, but that does not mean that an Historic Organ Certificate could not be made to carry more weight than it does at present. It might be right to enable wider consultations to be a mandatory requirement where something important is being threatened, and decisions reached on more informed grounds. Sadly, that will mean that some organs will fall silent, and music will come from loudspeakers and digital substitutes, as has happened at Bentham PC in Yorkshire, where a fine old early Hill, with a superb case, sits broodingly silent while an electronic of no great merit squawks away.

 

Perhaps the idea of a graded organ certificate may be more acceptable, with the highest grade reserved for national treasures such as St George’s Hall, Liverpool or perhaps Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral; both outstanding instruments of their respective types.

 

What I am against is musical stagnation on the one hand, and the iron-fist of enforced conformity on the other. That is probably the path to musical hell, and in musical history has played almost no significant part other than to inform scholars and students.

 

Even of things could be legislated against, preserved, protected and discussed in committee, it is probably unlikely to carry much weight, because England is largely a country of musical Philistines, and no-one could care less about the destruction of good and worthy artefacts.

 

I am not a member of the BIOS, but I have noted their research and scholarship with interest, even if I have often found myself annoyed by their comments and rather puritan values,

 

MM

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"The same is true of the originally ineffective Gray & Davison organ at Leeds Town Hall, which was wonderfully transformed by a combination of good re-casting and some superb voicing and re-voicing from Dennis Thurlow."

 

About this I'm rather astonished although I've never heard the organ live. I had always suspected that this was a tragic example of an organ going out of fashion rather than ineffectiveness. I can't believe it was made more effective by adding lots of Stinkens squeeks (which is what happened when it was rebuilt in the 1970s, according to the little history of it by Kenneth Johnstone).

 

"Perhaps the idea of a graded organ certificate may be more acceptable, with the highest grade reserved for national treasures such as St George’s Hall, Liverpool"

 

Funnily enough this organ has just got its CoR certificate, effectively the lowest grade, in recognition of the FW material still present there.

 

"England is largely a country of musical Philistines"

 

Really? With the Proms and the opera houses and Aldeburgh and the 3 Choirs and Oundle and the hosts of smaller festivals and wonderful orchestras etc? I think this is too simplistic.

 

"annoyed by their comments and rather puritan values"

 

It would be interesting if you could expand on this statement. My own frustration with BIOS was always that it focused for too long on organs and and an organ culture which were/was long lost rather than fighting to try to save the instruments (primarily from the late 19th and early 20th centuries) which still exist. This focus has changed a lot since BIOS's foundation.

 

Bazuin

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"The same is true of the originally ineffective Gray & Davison organ at Leeds Town Hall, which was wonderfully transformed by a combination of good re-casting and some superb voicing and re-voicing from Dennis Thurlow."

 

About this I'm rather astonished although I've never heard the organ live. I had always suspected that this was a tragic example of an organ going out of fashion rather than ineffectiveness. I can't believe it was made more effective by adding lots of Stinkens squeeks (which is what happened when it was rebuilt in the 1970s, according to the little history of it by Kenneth Johnstone).

 

"Perhaps the idea of a graded organ certificate may be more acceptable, with the highest grade reserved for national treasures such as St George’s Hall, Liverpool"

 

Funnily enough this organ has just got its CoR certificate, effectively the lowest grade, in recognition of the FW material still present there.

 

"England is largely a country of musical Philistines"

 

Really? With the Proms and the opera houses and Aldeburgh and the 3 Choirs and Oundle and the hosts of smaller festivals and wonderful orchestras etc? I think this is too simplistic.

 

"annoyed by their comments and rather puritan values"

 

It would be interesting if you could expand on this statement. My own frustration with BIOS was always that it focused for too long on organs and and an organ culture which were/was long lost rather than fighting to try to save the instruments (primarily from the late 19th and early 20th centuries) which still exist. This focus has changed a lot since BIOS's foundation.

 

Bazuin

 

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

 

 

The organ of Leeds Town Hall has something of an unfortunate history, in that it was completely altered (twice) by Abbott & Smith of Leeds, who replaced almost all of the flue-pipes at a particularly unfortunate moment in British organ-building history. (The original pipes were desperately over-crowded and in poor condition). At the same time, the original Gray & Davison pneumatic-lever action, (retained for the Great and Swell), was supplemented by a new pneumatic-action to the remainder of the instrument.

 

Specifications can mislead, and although the Gray & Davison may have looked impressive on paper, it was a very strange instrument in many ways. For a start, certain pipes were made from cast-iron: the case pedal-pipes for instance. Worse still, the organ abounded with quite soft free-reed registers, which all buzzed away happily to themselves. The entire Solo organ pipework was laid horizontal for some bizarre reason, (including the flues). Worse still, the organ had a Back Great and a Front Great on separate wind-chests, and various attempts were made to get the sound of the Back Great out of the front of the instrument, but without much success. When Abbott & Smith re-built the instrument, these two divisions were combined, and a four rank Mixture discarded; thus altering the entire character of the original design, as well as the original pipe-work.

Furthermore, in 1908, the then City Organist, Dr Fricker, decided to have the Great Cymbel removed, along with the 4ft (Tenor) Trombone, and yet another big Diapason installed to complement the existing four Diapasons already in place. It resulted in a Great organ of 21 stops, of which 12 were either 16ft or 8ft. I do not know whether the original Gray & Davison variable wind-pressures were retained, which in 1859, went progressively from 3”wg, to 3.5”wg to 4”wg as the notes ascended on the Front Great. The original Gray & Davison Solo Organ was voiced (unenclosed) on high pressures ranging from 6”in the bass to 7” in the treble: surely one of the earliest examples of such high-pressure and the concept of ascending power, which may have influenced Fr Willis considerably.

 

With the Abbott & Smith re-build, the Solo Organ (with new vertical pipes) was enclosed, and the old Echo-organ relegated to a position behind the Solo Box.

 

The Pedal Organ 32ft reed was a free-reed, and very ineffective, while the solitary (horizontal) solo reed was an 8ft Ophicleide, which even revoiced to-day, does not exactly blow the paint off the walls. It was originally voiced on 10” pressure, and was a rival to the chamades installed elsewhere by Wm Hill.

 

So make no mistake, the original Gray & Davison instrument did not survive beyond the turn of the century, save for some of the original concept, most of the bass pipes and one or two complete registers. Even the reeds had been revoiced by 1908.

Now Bazuin mentioned pipework by Stinkens, but that is exclusively confined to the new Positive Organ, which resides in a cubby-hole where the original console was sited. The voicing is absolutely wonderful, and anyone who thinks of it as a squeak department should think again. It adds brilliance certainly, but within itself, it is Dennis Thurlow at his best, and a masterful display of his considerable voicing skills. (Blackburn Cathedral is another). The blend with the rest of the instrument is outstanding.

 

The remainder of the new pipe-work, (quite a lot of it), came from the Belfast Organ Co. for the most part, and the bottom 12 notes of the 32ft reed are by Anneessens; having fallen off the back of the lorry which carted away the old organ of St.Mary’s,(RC), Bradford.

 

On paper the current organ may seem like mix and match, and certainly, it is a unique sound all its own. However, it is a superb organ nonetheless, and a great musical success story. All involved could justifiably pat themselves on the back, and it is an instrument which has been well promoted, with regular recitals by the City Organist, Simon Lindley and invited guests. The recitals have been well supported over the years, which must be a good thing.

 

At least the organ sounds well and can be heard properly for the first time since the turn of the century. I like it anyway!

 

 

As for the organ of St George's Hall being awarded a bottom of the class grade certificate, I think that says all there is to say about the BIOS scheme. It's worth 5 stars just for the case and the console! OK, it may not be Fr Willis, but it's darned good and quite a unique sound.

 

Didn't Henry IV have a hand in the voicing of the instrument?

 

As for England being a country of artistic Philistines, I stand by what I say.

 

Get away from the prestige of London and the rivals in Birmingham, Manchester and a few other big cities, as well as the cash provided by the BBC, and England is culturally bleak apart from the dedication of small groups of people who do things for the love of it. I have lost count of the recitals I have given for free or for expenses only, and if people like me didn't give our time and dedication to what is largely a lost cause, the whole organ-scene would collapse from the roots up.

 

We are now in the grip of low-quality popular culture, largely fuelled by purely commercial interests, drugs and alcohol.

 

It's only a matter of time before they lay carpets at St Paul's Cathedral for the "happening events."

 

There's a lot more quality culture in Europe, and probably more town hall organ-recitals in Azerbahjan.

 

MM

 

 

PS: The BIOS was founded entirely on the back of the destruction of a notable William Hill organ in Liverpool, which I recall with special affection. Henry Willis IV took me there to play the organ back in the 1960's, (I was still a small tadpole), just after the closure of the Congregational Chapel. (George Street). It dated from the 1840's, and was in almost original condition. (Designed by Dr Gauntlett) The Liverpool Philistines pulled it apart and wrecked it, when the chapel was used as a play-space and project centre by local scousers hell-bent on "self expression."

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"I like it anyway!"

 

That's the most important thing! I know about the Abbot and Smith rebuilds of course, and as you point out these clearly made it impossible to judge the original instrument. G and D were at the time the most French-inspired of the UK builders (driven on in Leeds by Mr Spark if my memory is correct). The Back and Front Great idea is clearly influenced by Cavaille-Coll. The horizontal reeds in the solo must have been quite something I think.

 

"As for the organ of St George's Hall being awarded a bottom of the class grade certificate, I think that says all there is to say about the BIOS scheme."

 

I think you've missed the point of the CoR which was introduced specifically so that BIOS could certificate altered organs. Ripon Cathedral has just got one as well. Given that St George's Hall is in such need of restoration and a BIOS certificate can help with fund raising, I think they should be applauded.

 

"I have lost count of the recitals I have given for free or for expenses only, and if people like me didn't give our time and dedication to what is largely a lost cause, the whole organ-scene would collapse from the roots up."

 

In Holland, little is different. It's a great place for organs but a dreadful place to be an organist. Without the amateur enthusiasts and the organists (often highly trained) playing concerts for peanuts, there would be virtually no organ culture.

 

"We are now in the grip of low-quality popular culture, largely fuelled by purely commercial interests, drugs and alcohol."

 

My friends in Sweden say much the same thing.

 

Did you know there's now a very successful chamber music festival in the villages of the East Neuk of Fife?

 

Interesting that you remember the Great George Street Hill. This case alone justifies, in my view, the legal protection of historic organs. If there were, maybe the other historic organs in Liverpool (including the Father Willis and Bewsher and Fleetwood organs in Edge Hill) may have a rosier future.

 

Bazuin

 

 

PS, I had a similar experience when I was a 'tadpole'. In my case it was the largest unaltered surviving organ of George Holdich (as far as I can tell). It was taken by an unscrupulous organ builder (from your corner of the planet, MM!) when I was 12 years old (the church closed) and was broken up. With hindsight it was a significant formative experience I think.

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"I like it anyway!"

 

That's the most important thing! I know about the Abbot and Smith rebuilds of course, and as you point out these clearly made it impossible to judge the original instrument. G and D were at the time the most French-inspired of the UK builders (driven on in Leeds by Mr Spark if my memory is correct). The Back and Front Great idea is clearly influenced by Cavaille-Coll. The horizontal reeds in the solo must have been quite something I think.

 

"As for the organ of St George's Hall being awarded a bottom of the class grade certificate, I think that says all there is to say about the BIOS scheme."

 

I think you've missed the point of the CoR which was introduced specifically so that BIOS could certificate altered organs. Ripon Cathedral has just got one as well. Given that St George's Hall is in such need of restoration and a BIOS certificate can help with fund raising, I think they should be applauded.

 

"I have lost count of the recitals I have given for free or for expenses only, and if people like me didn't give our time and dedication to what is largely a lost cause, the whole organ-scene would collapse from the roots up."

 

In Holland, little is different. It's a great place for organs but a dreadful place to be an organist. Without the amateur enthusiasts and the organists (often highly trained) playing concerts for peanuts, there would be virtually no organ culture.

 

"We are now in the grip of low-quality popular culture, largely fuelled by purely commercial interests, drugs and alcohol."

 

My friends in Sweden say much the same thing.

 

Did you know there's now a very successful chamber music festival in the villages of the East Neuk of Fife?

 

Interesting that you remember the Great George Street Hill. This case alone justifies, in my view, the legal protection of historic organs. If there were, maybe the other historic organs in Liverpool (including the Father Willis and Bewsher and Fleetwood organs in Edge Hill) may have a rosier future.

 

Bazuin

 

 

PS, I had a similar experience when I was a 'tadpole'. In my case it was the largest unaltered surviving organ of George Holdich (as far as I can tell). It was taken by an unscrupulous organ builder (from your corner of the planet, MM!) when I was 12 years old (the church closed) and was broken up. With hindsight it was a significant formative experience I think.

 

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

 

 

Of course, not a million miles from Leeds, the other great loss of an organ by Gray & Davison, was the Town Hall in Bolton, following a fire there.

 

We haven't been kind to G & D organs have we?

 

Concerning William Spark of Leeds, he did indeed draw up the tonal scheme at the Town Hall, in conjunction with Henry Smart, but it was Smart who made detailed drawings about the construction of the instrument. I therefore suspect that the latter was the dominant influence.

 

East Neuk in Fife?

 

I shall have to get the maps out, but it sounds like something left over from the cold war and nuclear submarines in Scottish Lochs.

 

I recall taking part in a tiny music festival, where the "concert hall" consisted of the lounge of a tiny 15th century cottage. It was such a resounding success when more than eight people arrived, that we transferred to the road outside, (hoisting a heavy piano down a flight of stone steps), and ended up street-busking, with cakes and buns, cans of shandy and cups of tea.

 

The astonishing bit, is the fact that a now quite gifted composer wrote a student work entitled Opus 2, and it received a first performance on a windswept hill in a tiny Yorkshire hamlet, played on an ancient Bechstein in the middle of the main road!! (The local police came along, clucked a few times, and then surrounded us with traffic cones!)

 

There's nothing quite like English eccentricity, unless it happens to be Scottish. Completely mad might be a better description of our bijou "Music Fest," rivalled only by those weird people who race lawn-mowers or dress up and dance around Maypoles.

 

I blame it on Mead and Magic Mushrooms, or at least Taylor's "Landlord" and what my friend claimed were cigarettes made from a special mix of moorland heather. ( I was naive....I believed him! :rolleyes:)

 

 

MM

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