Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

St. Mary's, Southampton, Willis Iii


ajt
 Share

Recommended Posts

I'm just about to take over at St. Mary's, Southampton, which has a wonderful 3-manual Willis III from 1956, and wondered if anyone here had any experience of it?

 

It's totally untouched - not just in modifications, but pretty much in maintenance too. The electrics are shot, a lot of the leatherwork is going, the wind supply is "dodgy", and it all needs a good clean. Other than that...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 54
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I'm just about to take over at St. Mary's, Southampton, which has a wonderful 3-manual Willis III from 1956, and wondered if anyone here had any experience of it?

 

It's totally untouched - not just in modifications, but pretty much in maintenance too. The electrics are shot, a lot of the leatherwork is going, the wind supply is "dodgy", and it all needs a good clean. Other than that...

 

 

Dear ajt,

Have you come across the BBC Music Magazine CD that Wayne Marshall made on this organ*? [From memory, I think it was in '99 or 2000 - a programme of Bach, Brahms and A.N.Other - possibly Liszt.] If not, someone should be able to find you a copy. The St.Mary's S. organ clearly records well and Wayne obviously approved of the choice of recording venue and he must have a wide range of organs to choose from - I'd take that as a big compliment to your instrument.

 

I wish you all the best in the uphill task of persuading the church authorities to set aside funds to have it put into good order. At least the reputation of the instrument should help towards this.

 

*I should reassure you, the CD isn't all loud and fast!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear ajt,

Have you come across the BBC Music Magazine CD that Wayne Marshall made on this organ*?  [From memory, I think it was in '99 or 2000 - a programme of Bach, Brahms and A.N.Other - possibly Liszt.] If not, someone should be able to find you a copy.  The St.Mary's S. organ clearly records well and Wayne obviously approved of the choice of recording venue and he must have a wide range of organs to choose from - I'd take that as a big compliment to your instrument. 

 

I wish you all the best in the uphill task of persuading the church authorities to set aside funds to have it put into good order.  At least the reputation of the instrument should help towards this.

 

*I should reassure you, the CD isn't all loud and fast!

 

I do have WM's CD, yes. It does show the organ up wonderfully - the programme is Bach (G minor P & F 542), Liszt Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem, Brahms Fugue in A flat, and some random Bruno piece. Recorded in 1998, and, to be fair, almost entirely loud and very very fast :o From the clarity of the recording, I'm guessing that they miked up underneath the console, 'cos there's absolutely no way that the Bach at Wayne-speed (slightly faster than lightspeed, I believe) would be anything other than a mush of sound from anywhere else in the church. It's a curious instrument - everything sounds wonderful on the console, but take 10 steps down the church and the acoustic blurs everything - until you get to the very back when it all comes together again!

 

Thanks for the thoughts and best wishes - the church *won't* be funding the organ. That is the major problem I have. The parish is losing money and will not plough money into the organ. At all. I need £5,000 just to keep it going for the next 6 months, and that is going to have to be fund raised :o I had a conservative guesstimate of £200,000 + to restore it to its former glory. That's a lot of letter writing!

 

I'm wondering about the lottery, but don't want to be tied to using "original" electrics - I don't want to change anything at all about the organ (it would be a travesty to do so), but do want to replace the unreliable 50's low-voltage electrics with modern solid-state to make it more reliable.

 

The electrics are so bad that you can no longer change piston settings - if you do, you run the risk of the whole thing just stopping. Pistons take several seconds to do things - general cancel takes about 10 seconds to get all but one or two stops in (you can guarantee that it's always a big reed that's left hanging out, just to catch you unawares!), and some odd things happen when playing, too - e.g. the swell C1 is always coupled through to choir, regardless of coupler position.

 

I'm no organ builder - my knowledge of organ mechanics is minimal - but, according to the tuners (who've been servicing it for 20 years), this is what needs doing:

 

Most of the action leatherwork, especially the internal purses, the leather in the compound magnets and bellows work needs to be replaced.

 

The choir organ main soundboard primaries were releathered four or five years ago. Most urgent are the Great slider soundboard primaries, Swell slider soundboard primaries x 2 and the Swell, Great & Choir drawstop machine primaries. The Fr. Willis purses on the pedal slider soundboard are next on the list, before moving onto the various chests.

 

All the low voltage electrical equipment needs to be either replaced or restored.

 

The console keys, pistons, pedals need restoration.

 

Pipework needs some restorative treatment tonally and physically in addition to cleaning and overhaul. The remainder of the organ needs cleaning and overhauling.

 

The blower is not large enough to support full organ

 

Ouch!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An versatile and impressive instrument for its time - I had lessons on it from Jeremy Blandford the DOM in the late 70s and fairly unlimited rehearsal time too. (Jeremy once played all the Bach Trio Sonatas in a recital apparently and the effect was much better than one might expect from the organ's vintage and disposition etc.) There were worries even then about money, amalgamating parishes, churches closing etc.

 

AJJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An versatile and impressive instrument for its time - I had lessons on it from Jeremy Blandford the DOM in the late 70s and fairly unlimited rehearsal time too. (Jeremy once played all the Bach Trio Sonatas in a recital apparently and the effect was much better than one might expect from the organ's vintage and disposition etc.) There were worries even then about money, amalgamating parishes, churches closing etc.

 

AJJ

 

I've heard interesting reports about the Bach Trios concert - a friend of mine was at it, and said it was an absolute blur, but he was sat halfway down the nave.

 

It's a funny beast, isn't it - how do you remember about it? Was the wind ever good enough to support full organ - I can't imagine it would have been designed that way?

 

These days, full organ, 'sag-free' = Gt OD's 1+2, 4',2', Mix + reeds, Sw. Reeds only, no octaves, and pedal reeds + minimal flues. If you're lucky, you can get away with coupling the choir tuba back up to the great. Still sounds good, but is a bugger to register as you can't re-programme any pistons, so you have to either hand add, or hand reduce.

 

The Choir's interesting too, seems to have been designed to be a Choir + 5 Solo stops, totally enclosed, even the tuba.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've heard interesting reports about the Bach Trios concert - a friend of mine was at it, and said it was an absolute blur, but he was sat halfway down the nave.

 

It's a funny beast, isn't it - how do you remember about it? Was the wind ever good enough to support full organ - I can't imagine it would have been designed that way?

 

These days, full organ, 'sag-free' = Gt OD's 1+2, 4',2', Mix + reeds, Sw. Reeds only, no octaves, and pedal reeds + minimal flues. If you're lucky, you can get away with coupling the choir tuba back up to the great. Still sounds good, but is a bugger to register as you can't re-programme any pistons, so you have to either hand add, or hand reduce.

 

The Choir's interesting too, seems to have been designed to be a Choir + 5 Solo stops, totally enclosed, even the tuba.

 

One had to be sensible setting up registrations - I don't remember that there was too much wind starvation but in the days before the Turner Sims the other alternative was St Michael's Basset so one made the best! Sitting at the console things were in a better perspective than down the nave though the 32' Tuba was more like a road drill than anything artistic. It worked well for practice, was fun to play on and with selective (even unorthodox) stop choices a surprisingly large ammount of the repertoire could at least sound reasonable.

 

AJJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One had to be sensible setting up registrations  - I don't remember that there was too much wind starvation but in the days before the Turner Sims the other alternative was St Michael's Basset so one made the best! Sitting at the console things were in a better perspective than down the nave though the 32' Tuba was more like a road drill than anything artistic. It worked well for practice, was fun to play on and with selective (even unorthodox) stop choices a surprisingly large ammount of the repertoire could at least sound reasonable.

 

AJJ

 

Still pretty much the same then! The 32' tuba is a road drill. We have to pay a guy in a yellow jacket to "play" it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One had to be sensible setting up registrations  - I don't remember that there was too much wind starvation but in the days before the Turner Sims the other alternative was St Michael's Basset so one made the best! Sitting at the console things were in a better perspective than down the nave though the 32' Tuba was more like a road drill than anything artistic. It worked well for practice, was fun to play on and with selective (even unorthodox) stop choices a surprisingly large ammount of the repertoire could at least sound reasonable.

 

AJJ

 

BTW, if you're ever in the area and fancy a trip down pneumatic drill lane, come give it a try!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I've just spent a very informational afternoon with David C in/at this organ, and learnt quite a lot more about it.

 

 

One of the more exciting discoveries was that the pedal 32' contra tuba, which is an extension from the choir tuba, is actually in the choir box. That's right, an enclosed 32' pedal reed. All the way down.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have seen a 16' Bombarde in a little organ whose upper third of the bass resonators

are in the box, the windchest and lower two thirds below in the basement of the organ with the bellows.

This way the pipes aren't even hooked (Delmotte 1936).

Pierre

 

This 32 is slung from the top of the choir box, rest in basement as you say. Stunning instrument, just fantastic - really needs saving! The problems with wind starvation mentioned earlier aren't wind starvation - they're down to really, really, really, really awful tuning (though of course it does play out quicker than it should - all the leatherwork split, Great worst). Never seen a Willis infinite speed/gradation swell before - quite liked that. Only 2 or 3 alterations from original design that we could find.

 

Also, I've never seen a Mixture with a stopped rank before, but perhaps I've been going round with my eyes shut. Both Ped and Sw had this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Never seen a Willis infinite speed/gradation swell before - quite liked that.  Only 2 or 3 alterations from original design that we could find. 

 

The Great 8' flute is a replacement (for an original Claribel I think) - it used to have an amazing chiff quite unlike anything else on the organ. Those swell pedals I used to hate!

 

AJJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Great 8' flute is a replacement (for an original Claribel I think) - it used to have an amazing chiff quite unlike anything else on the organ. Those swell pedals I used to hate!

 

AJJ

 

The rackboards are drilled for something with wooden feet, you can feel underneath. It's a really ugly stop, the Gedeckt. Needs to go back, I think. The swell pedals - hmm, they should probably stay, shouldn't they? - I am trying to think of a way of having a couple of opposing solenoids or pneumatic devices that can be turned off & a second circuit brought in to make it feel & work like a conventional pedal, but you can also power up the solenoids & they become self centering and work like Willis ones should. Don't suppose there's many left like that, would be nice to preserve. Fuel gauges a real period touch.

 

Would be interested in a couple of other probable changes though - do you recall if there was ever a 4' Flute on the great? Only Gemshorn and Principal now. Odd. Also Ch Trompette and Sw Dulzian don't "fit". The Cimbel Mixture is definitely a replacement, it's the only cone tuned stop on the instrument and again fairly naff quality. Breaks all over the place - feels like someone found loads of little pipes in a cupboard. For some unknown reason the Gt Open Diap 1 is off the soundboard - not derived or extended anywhere - an afterthought? There has clearly been a great deal of horsetrading in there but NPOR curiously silent about most of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
One of the more exciting discoveries was that the pedal 32' contra tuba, which is an extension from the choir tuba, is actually in the choir box. That's right, an enclosed 32' pedal reed. All the way down.

 

 

There was another of these enclosed 32' reeds on a similar-sized Willis 3 at St.Judes' Thornton Heath near Croydon. A very fine organ in a church with practically no acoustic at all. It was very fine indeed - if you like that sort of thing, of course.

 

By all accounts that organ (no longer in the church) was bought lock stock and barrel by a certain Mr.Carlo Curley. It will be very interesting to see what he decides to do with it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The rackboards are drilled for something with wooden feet, you can feel underneath.  It's a really ugly stop, the Gedeckt.  Needs to go back, I think.  The swell pedals - hmm, they should probably stay, shouldn't they? - I am trying to think of a way of having a couple of opposing solenoids or pneumatic devices that can be turned off & a second circuit brought in to make it feel & work like a conventional pedal, but you can also power up the solenoids & they become self centering and work like Willis ones should.  Don't suppose there's many left like that, would be nice to preserve.  Fuel gauges a real period touch.

 

Would be interested in a couple of other probable changes though - do you recall if there was ever a 4' Flute on the great?  Only Gemshorn and Principal now.  Odd.  Also Ch Trompette and Sw Dulzian don't "fit".  The Cimbel Mixture is definitely a replacement, it's the only cone tuned stop on the instrument and again fairly naff quality.  Breaks all over the place - feels like someone found loads of little pipes in a cupboard.  For some unknown reason the Gt Open Diap 1 is off the soundboard - not derived or extended anywhere - an afterthought?  There has clearly been a great deal of horsetrading in there but NPOR curiously silent about most of it.

 

The Gemshorn is original I think - the Cimbel Mixture replaced something else (maybe a Vox Humana?) - there is an article way back in 'The Organ' which will tell more. The Dulzian and Trompette came in 1956. I remember the general ensemble as being hard and somewhat 'steely' in sound - something I've heard before with Willis III

 

AJJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was another of these enclosed 32' reeds on a similar-sized Willis 3 at St.Judes' Thornton Heath near Croydon. A very fine organ in a church with practically no acoustic at all.  It was very fine indeed - if you like that sort of thing, of course.

 

By all accounts that organ (no longer in the church) was bought lock stock and barrel by a certain Mr.Carlo Curley.  It will be very interesting to see what he decides to do with it!

 

I think it is in Japan - see photo on p18 of 'The Organbuider' Vol 19, 1999.

 

AJJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was another of these enclosed 32' reeds on a similar-sized Willis 3 at St.Judes' Thornton Heath near Croydon. A very fine organ in a church with practically no acoustic at all.  It was very fine indeed - if you like that sort of thing, of course.

 

 

A few interior photos here:

 

http://www.laudachoir.org/organ/interior.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Gemshorn is original I think - the Cimbel Mixture replaced something else - there is an article way back in 'The Organ' which will tell more. The Dulzian and Trompette came in 1956. I remember the general ensemble as being hard and somewhat 'steely' in sound - something I've heard before with Willis III

 

AJJ

 

The other weird thing is the Pedal soundboard - top F sharp and G are on off note chests. A secondhand soundboard perhaps? The bellows weights have a chequered history and at least two of the reservoirs are to HN&B pattern of the era.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
The rackboards are drilled for something with wooden feet, you can feel underneath.  It's a really ugly stop, the Gedeckt.  Needs to go back, I think.

 

 

 

 

Amogst my collection of random organ detritus, I have (spare) exactly the sort of Willis 3 Claribel that was probably on this Great to start with - it is a triangular flute, open from Tenor G up. Dear ajt If you find that's what it was, and you want one, we might be able to do a swap.

 

I regret to say, the sort of changes that David Coram recounts were sometimes carried out by Willis 4 - there were several stops like this (odds and ends cut down to make 'more fashionable' sounds) at the Victoria Hall, Hanley before the latest rebuilding by HN&B. Don't get me wrong, however, I thought it was a worse instrument (musically speaking) after HN&B did their work. The standard of this rebuild was a huge disappointment considering so much money had been raised and such a splendid effort was made locally to see the organ put straight (due in large part to the leadership of the late John Norris of St.Paul's Newcastle-under-Lyme).

 

To cover myself: It is possible that V.H.H. has been properly regulated since I last played it which was around the time of the re-opening. At that time, I could not find a single even reed stop on the job and was not suprised to find out from HN&B's men that they did not (by then) have a reed voicer on the permanent staff.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share


×
×
  • Create New...