Jump to content
Mander Organs
DaveHarries

RFH Organ

Recommended Posts

I've tried several times on different days and have had the same problem.. :(

The BIOS link to buy the RFH book is now working - looking forward to my copy arriving!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are some good plans folded into a back pocket showing how everything is laid out, now and before. A good read. Also an obituary for Bill Drake.

PJW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I knew that the decision to alter the tonal scheme of the Solo Organ in the RFH was taken virtually at the last minute. (Downes states that this division was the only one for which the soundboards had not already been constructed.) However, I had not realised that they had gone as far as manufacturing some of the pipe-work. The Viole Céleste (or at least one rank of Viole pipes - originally intended for this instrument) has, since 1993, been situated in the Solo expression box of the instrument in York Minster.

 

Does anyone know of the existence (and current location) of any other ranks of pipes, formerly intended for the 'original' Solo Organ at the RFH? *

 

 

 

* For the sake of interest, I give the stop-list of the Solo Organ as laid out in the 'Proposed specification' (of early 1948):

 

SOLO ORGAN

 

Flûte Conique 16

Major Principal 8

Flûte Majeure 8

Viole de Gambe 8

Violes Célestes 8

Quint 5 1/3

Grosse Octave 4

Harmonic Flute 4

Grosse Tierce 3 1/5

Septième 2 2/7

Blockflute 2

Grand Cornet III-V

Orchestral Bassoon 16

Orchestral Hautboy 8

Clarinet 8

Tuba Major 8 (Higher Pressure)

Tuba Clarion (Higher Pressure)

 

Aside from an untidy mixture of languages and an inconsistency in the application of the prefix 'Grosse', I regard this as a good scheme - certainly far more interesting (and useful) than that which was eventually provided. Not only would I agree with Cecil Clutton that 'five complete manual choruses seems somewhat wasteful in a concert instrument', but I would further suggest that thoughtful design and voicing of the other four choruses would have obviated the perceived need for yet another chorus. Whilst it could be argued that this would have entailed a compromise in Downes' vision for the instrument as a whole - and thus relegated it to being eclectic, the inescapable corollary is surely that, as it stands, it is surely eclectic in its aural personality. There are French reeds (of whatever quality) sitting atop flue-work which draws its inspiration from both the North German and the Dutch schools. There is also a little of England here, too. In addition, there is a flavour of North America here, too - or at least, G. Donald Harrison's tonal ideals - in the large Swell Organ, with its separate mutations, high-pitched mixtures and quasi-French reeds.*

 

It is interesting to note that Downes had specified both a Grosse Tierce (3 1/5ft.) and a Septième (2 2/7ft.) - which should properly have the prefix 'Grosse' applied to it also. However, as built, the RFH organ contained neither of these stops - a surprising omission.

 

In fact, looking at the original 'Proposed specification', I cannot but wish that this had been the one which was built. On paper, it appears to me to be rather more versatile than the instrument as it now stands and, since the same builders and voicers would have been responsible, it would surely have been of the same high quality as the actual instrument. There are several features which are both interesting and forward-looking: the Pedal Organ, with its separate mutations in the 32ft. harmonic series (Tierce 6 1/5ft and Septième 4 4/7ft.), the second, enclosed 32ft. reed (Posaune). This would have been really useful. The G.O. is not vastly different to what is there now. However, perhaps one weak area was the relative size of the Positive and Swell organs. It could be said that, at nineteen stops, the Positive organ was unwieldy and that the Swell Organ (with seventeen stops) lacked certain ranks which could be considered 'indispensable'. The omission of a unison Diapason is surprising, as is the inclusion of an Octave Oboe. The Positive Organ in fact appears to be an amalgamation of most of the ranks on the present Choir and Positive organs. As a matter of interest, there are very few examples of an Octave Oboe (or Hautboy) in this country. As originally built, in 1912, the J. W. Walker organ in the Church of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon, had an Octave Oboe in the Swell Organ; however, this rank was replaced by a Vox Humana at the time of the 2010-11 restoration by Mander Organs. Interestingly, this instrument also possessed a Septième (but at 1 1/7ft. pitch), between 1935 and 1985. (As far as I know, it was then that the 1935 additions to the Choir Organ were removed.) As an aside, I regard the removal of these ranks - which included an unenclosed Open Diapason 8ft. and a Gemshorn 4ft. - as a matter for regret. Previously, if one wished to have the original sound of the instrument, one could simply choose not to use the additional stops. Now, the player has no option. I think that I would miss the Open Diapason and Gemshorn more than the mutations. The Choir Organ as it now stands is merely a collection of quiet voices - beautiful, no doubt, but without the tonal 'structure' which a Diapason and the additional 4ft. stop would have provided. A further thought is that, since the 1935 mutations were almost certainly scaled and voiced rather differently to that which is customary today, and since a Septième on an English organ at any pitch is as rare as hens' teeth, it would have been an interesting historical record to have kept the stops. As it is, the aesthetic appeal of the console is somewhat debased by the wooden caps over the old stop-holes, which spoil the lines of the stops on the jambs. It would be interesting to know if the church retained and stored the pipe-work, in case a later generation desired to reverse the changes.

 

 

 

* For that time. There are of course a number of builders who have followed this basic design for the Swell division in their larger instruments (Tickell is one). However, at the time of its inception, the Swell Organ at the RFH owed at least as much to the influence (as perceived by Downes) of the tonal ideals of G. Donald Harrison as it did to any other school of thought. The use of the word 'perceived' is deliberate, for it is clear from the letters which Harrison wrote to HWIII that he felt that Downes had taken his own path with respect to the specification, design and voicing of the RFH instrument.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember visiting Down Cathedral in the late 1990's and being told that the pipework for the Pedal Trumpet, added by H&H in their 1966 rebuild, had been originally manufactured for the RFH project but ultimately had not found a home there. It is certainly an effective stop in an instrument which I recall being very enjoyable (and comfortable) to play generally.

 

Incidentally, this Pedal Trumpet is set away from the main case to the right of the console (and possibly behind the player) in its own neatly panelled enclosure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember visiting Down Cathedral in the late 1990's and being told that the pipework for the Pedal Trumpet, added by H&H in their 1966 rebuild, had been originally manufactured for the RFH project but ultimately had not found a home there. It is certainly an effective stop in an instrument which I recall being very enjoyable (and comfortable) to play generally.

 

Incidentally, this Pedal Trumpet is set away from the main case to the right of the console (and possibly behind the player) in its own neatly panelled enclosure.

 

Thank you for this.

 

However, this raises a further question, since the Pedal Trumpet at Down Cathedral is at 16ft. pitch - yet there was no chorus reed stop of this pitch specified for the RFH Solo Organ. The 8ft. Clarinet later became a Corno di Bassetto (at 8ft. pitch), then was Anglicised to a Basset Horn (again at 8ft. pitch) and finally a Basset Horn at 16ft. pitch. In which case, I wonder which rank this stop was intended to be at the RFH. Perhaps it was originally for the Tuba Major and was increased in scale and given a new 16ft. bass octave.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There was a story I heard back in 2002 that one stop destined for the RFH originally had been incorporated into the new 1951 H&H organ for Stratton, Gloucestershire. I think it was on the Swell, but an enquiry by the then organist had elicited a reply from H&H that this was not the case.

 

PJW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember visiting Down Cathedral in the late 1990's and being told that the pipework for the Pedal Trumpet, added by H&H in their 1966 rebuild, had been originally manufactured for the RFH project but ultimately had not found a home there. It is certainly an effective stop in an instrument which I recall being very enjoyable (and comfortable) to play generally.

 

Incidentally, this Pedal Trumpet is set away from the main case to the right of the console (and possibly behind the player) in its own neatly panelled enclosure.

I can confirm the provenance of the Down Cathedral Pedal Trumpet 16', at least insofar as it is general knowledge in Nothern Ireland. It is an assertive rank, although more of a snorter in the loft than in the church. When I did the Great Irish Cathedral Organ Marathon in the early nineties (an organ recital in each of the 31 Cathedrals of the Church of Ireland in the course of a week), I had a couple of friends riding shotgun (going ahead to prepare a place for us). One of them, Sean, was leaning against the Trumpet enclosure when I started the last piece (Scotson Clarke's 'Marche aux Flambeaux' - one sometimes yields to the temptation to be vulgar) and got the shock of his life. 'Wow!', he said, 'Bullfrogs from Hell!!'.

 

Down is certainly a superb instrument and perfectly suited to the building. If someone said it was the finest organ in Ireland, I wouldn't argue with them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can confirm the provenance of the Down Cathedral Pedal Trumpet 16', at least insofar as it is general knowledge in Nothern Ireland. It is an assertive rank, although more of a snorter in the loft than in the church. When I did the Great Irish Cathedral Organ Marathon in the early nineties (an organ recital in each of the 31 Cathedrals of the Church of Ireland in the course of a week), I had a couple of friends riding shotgun (going ahead to prepare a place for us). One of them, Sean, was leaning against the Trumpet enclosure when I started the last piece (Scotson Clarke's 'Marche aux Flambeaux' - one sometimes yields to the temptation to be vulgar) and got the shock of his life. 'Wow!', he said, 'Bullfrogs from Hell!!'.

 

Down is certainly a superb instrument and perfectly suited to the building. If someone said it was the finest organ in Ireland, I wouldn't argue with them.

 

But which stop was it, David?

 

As I wrote, there is nothing in the projected scheme of the Solo Organ which fits this rank. Or was it intended for another division on the RFH organ, but, for some reason was rejected, either by Downes or H&H? Downes certainly made no mention of it in his book, nor did he allude to it when I met with him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having never (so far as I can recall) ever played an organ with a 6 1/5 or 4 4/7 stop on the pedal division may I be so naive as to ask what would have made them so useful at RFH (or for that matter on any substantial organ)? And why the Solo 2/2/7 (as opposed to an 8 foot pitch Septième of 1/1/7)?

 

Contrabombarde

 

...There are several features which are both interesting and forward-looking: the Pedal Organ, with its separate mutations in the 32ft. harmonic series (Tierce 6 1/5ft and Septième 4 4/7ft.), the second, enclosed 32ft. reed (Posaune). This would have been really useful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having never (so far as I can recall) ever played an organ with a 6 1/5 or 4 4/7 stop on the pedal division may I be so naive as to ask what would have made them so useful at RFH (or for that matter on any substantial organ)? And why the Solo 2/2/7 (as opposed to an 8 foot pitch Septième of 1/1/7)?

 

Contrabombarde

 

 

Since the Pedal mutations are in the 32ft. harmonic series (and there was - and is - a Quint 10 2/3ft.), they could, if skillfully voiced, have formed a useful alternative to the Pedal Principal 32ft. The Pedal mutations at Nôtre-Dame de Paris are actually better than the 32ft. flue. However, it should be said that in the dry acoustic of the RFH, the mutations may not have blended enough to be subsumed into 32ft. resultant tone; so perhaps that was why they were not included. (However, this did not prevent Downes from making his fatal miscalculation with regard to the chorus reeds, so who knows?)

 

I am not sure about why the Septième was specified at 2 2/7ft. pitch, other than the fact that Downes (as part of his research for the RFH commission) visited, amongst other places, Nôtre-Dame de Paris and would probably have heard the example on the Solo Orgue at the same pitch. (However, there was also a Septième on the Grand Chœur at 1 1/7ft. pitch. In fact, the three stops which Downes cited as particular favourites on this instrument were the Positif Cromorne 8ft., the Piccolo 1ft. and the Tuba Magna 16ft., on the Grand Chœur.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

But which stop was it, David?

 

As I wrote, there is nothing in the projected scheme of the Solo Organ which fits this rank. Or was it intended for another division on the RFH organ, but, for some reason was rejected, either by Downes or H&H? Downes certainly made no mention of it in his book, nor did he allude to it when I met with him.

 

 

I wish I knew! It's a brash, thin-toned trumpet, the latter quality probably determining why it wasn't called 'Trombone'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As originally built, in 1912, the J. W. Walker organ in the Church of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon, had an Octave Oboe in the Swell Organ; however, this rank was replaced by a Vox Humana at the time of the 2010-11 restoration by Mander Organs. Interestingly, this instrument also possessed a Septième (but at 1 1/7ft. pitch), between 1935 and 1985. (As far as I know, it was then that the 1935 additions to the Choir Organ were removed.) As an aside, I regard the removal of these ranks - which included an unenclosed Open Diapason 8ft. and a Gemshorn 4ft. - as a matter for regret. Previously, if one wished to have the original sound of the instrument, one could simply choose not to use the additional stops. Now, the player has no option. I think that I would miss the Open Diapason and Gemshorn more than the mutations. The Choir Organ as it now stands is merely a collection of quiet voices - beautiful, no doubt, but without the tonal 'structure' which a Diapason and the additional 4ft. stop would have provided. A further thought is that, since the 1935 mutations were almost certainly scaled and voiced rather differently to that which is customary today, and since a Septième on an English organ at any pitch is as rare as hens' teeth, it would have been an interesting historical record to have kept the stops. As it is, the aesthetic appeal of the console is somewhat debased by the wooden caps over the old stop-holes, which spoil the lines of the stops on the jambs. It would be interesting to know if the church retained and stored the pipe-work, in case a later generation desired to reverse the changes.

 

I read that these ranks which were added to the Choir in 1935 were removed as they were simply "piggy-backed" off the soundboard to separate chests and were unreliable because of this. More information here: http://www.mander-organs.com/portfolio/sacred-heart-wimbledon.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

It is interesting that Downes included a Septerz II 3 1/5 + 2 2/7 on the pedal. This stop appears on the console with the Pedal reeds, so I am assuming (probably incorrectly) that this compound stop is there to assist the harmonic development of the pedal reeds?

 

Possibly not, in this case. The Pedal reeds at the RFH have more than enough harmonic development for any taste.

 

Personally, I should have preferred the Septerz split into its constituent ranks and both made available on the Positive. I am not sure what function this stop would actually perform on this Pedal Organ.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In a recent recording of the York Minster organ, John Scott Whiteley demonstates the 'Celeste' on the Solo division, originally destined for the FRH organ. Here it is at approx 5:10 -

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoxakRY3lnw

 

I'm sure many visiting organists to the RFH would really like a greater variety of resources on the Solo, including this Celeste stop.

 

Absolutely.

 

However, as I wrote previously, I regard the original 'Proposed specification' as far more interesting and versatile* than that which is actually there.

 

 

 

* I can see no harm in some eclecticism in a concert instrument.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read that these ranks which were added to the Choir in 1935 were removed as they were simply "piggy-backed" off the soundboard to separate chests and were unreliable because of this. More information here: http://www.mander-organs.com/portfolio/sacred-heart-wimbledon.html

 

Ah - indeed. I had forgotten about this. I had something in the back of my mind regarding unsteady (or inadequate) wind - but it is the report and examination season at school and I have been slightly distracted of late.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...