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Huddersfield Uni Organ


MusingMuso
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Board members may recall that there was a lot of disappointment following a BBC "Songs of Praise" broadcas from St.Paul's Hall, Huddersfield University.

 

There was the suggestion that the organ sounded more like a distant harmonium or village organ, and I rushed to defend the instrument, but could not find any examples of it for us to hear.

 

Some months on, I have found a source, and whilst the playing is not top-notch (though adequate enough for our purposes), the recording more or less captures the sound. The instrument actually sounds much better live, but I think the following will demonstrate that this interesting English take on neo-classicism, is a very worthy one.

 

 

Enjoy,

 

MM

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I might have said this before somewhere on here. This organ was one of the country's hidden assets - perhaps still is, as I have not played it or heard it for many years. I actually got to know it quite intimately over a number of years in the 80's. Its standing in the world happened one evening when (could have been 1985 or 6) the IAO had its Summer Conference based at the University (then the Polytechnic). The Town Hall organ had just been completely restored and it was Nicolas Kynaston's Presidency. After dinner we all made our way to St Paul's Hall - an ordinary spired church on the edge of the main campus. As we ambled in wondering what on earth we were going to see, we found it a splendidly appointed concert hall and with an organ wonderfully placed in the shallow Apse of the Chancel. The case was simple and effective in such surroundings. And then we heard Keith Jarvis demonstrate. I am sure that not one person in the hall was untouched by this organ. The impact was a sensation and the tutti with its newly acquired 32ft reed, was awe-inspiring to say the least.

Some of us (me included) grabbed the key and played long into the night and then before breakfast. Furthermore, it was in that very hall that some students approached me to organize some classes there for the following year (as the IAO was to be in Cambridge in a world-jamboree and the master-classes started by Dame Gillian and continued by Nicolas would not be arranged). And so the International Summer Organ Conservatoire was conceived under its roof. Piet Kee, Nicolas, Naji and Marie-Bernadette and Leslie Howard (for Pianoforte), Graham Cummings and Keith Jarvis (both on the staff at Huddersfield's excellent music department) all joined to provide teaching. I always remember people remarking "who are these Hakims?" I had met Naji first in Paris when Langlais invited me to the Tribune in Ste Clotilde after I had given a concert the previous evening in another church. Langlais' students surrounded the console and they took it in turns to play and then it as discussed as the service progressed. The telephone sometimes rang from the Sacristy and what seemed like a continuing war of words ensued. All remarkable. When we next met (and he was married) was when we both played in the Strasbourg Cathedral one evening another year (1982 I think).

But the wondrous Wood (and Walker somehow, somewhere) (David and father Philip Wood from Huddersfield) which was really the creation with them with Keith Jarvis, was central in so many ways to our lives in those days. I know Piet still speaks so very fondly of his years teaching for me as well as the late-lamented Ewald Kooiman in Huddersfield before we moved to Oxford and then to France. And all that is another story (with which to bore!).

 

And just before closing, I remember introducing some long way down into the earth at the Blue John Cavern, Piet Kee, newly flown in to Leeds-Bradford (and still Municipal Organist at the Bavo in Haarlem) and Pierre Cogen, Langlais' successor at Ste Clotilde. A memorable occasion in such a wonderful setting. Both were teaching in Huddersfield with ISOC.

All the best,

N

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I might have said this before somewhere on here. This organ was one of the country's hidden assets - perhaps still is, as I have not played it or heard it for many years. I actually got to know it quite intimately over a number of years in the 80's. Its standing in the world happened one evening when (could have been 1985 or 6) the IAO had its Summer Conference based at the University (then the Polytechnic). The Town Hall organ had just been completely restored and it was Nicolas Kynaston's Presidency. After dinner we all made our way to St Paul's Hall - an ordinary spired church on the edge of the main campus. As we ambled in wondering what on earth we were going to see, we found it a splendidly appointed concert hall and with an organ wonderfully placed in the shallow Apse of the Chancel. The case was simple and effective in such surroundings. And then we heard Keith Jarvis demonstrate. I am sure that not one person in the hall was untouched by this organ. The impact was a sensation and the tutti with its newly acquired 32ft reed, was awe-inspiring to say the least.

Some of us (me included) grabbed the key and played long into the night and then before breakfast. Furthermore, it was in that very hall that some students approached me to organize some classes there for the following year (as the IAO was to be in Cambridge in a world-jamboree and the master-classes started by Dame Gillian and continued by Nicolas would not be arranged). And so the International Summer Organ Conservatoire was conceived under its roof. Piet Kee, Nicolas, Naji and Marie-Bernadette and Leslie Howard (for Pianoforte), Graham Cummings and Keith Jarvis (both on the staff at Huddersfield's excellent music department) all joined to provide teaching. I always remember people remarking "who are these Hakims?" I had met Naji first in Paris when Langlais invited me to the Tribune in Ste Clotilde after I had given a concert the previous evening in another church. Langlais' students surrounded the console and they took it in turns to play and then it as discussed as the service progressed. The telephone sometimes rang from the Sacristy and what seemed like a continuing war of words ensued. All remarkable. When we next met (and he was married) was when we both played in the Strasbourg Cathedral one evening another year (1982 I think).

But the wondrous Wood (and Walker somehow, somewhere) (David and father Philip Wood from Huddersfield) which was really the creation with them with Keith Jarvis, was central in so many ways to our lives in those days. I know Piet still speaks so very fondly of his years teaching for me as well as the late-lamented Ewald Kooiman in Huddersfield before we moved to Oxford and then to France. And all that is another story (with which to bore!).

 

And just before closing, I remember introducing some long way down into the earth at the Blue John Cavern, Piet Kee, newly flown in to Leeds-Bradford (and still Municipal Organist at the Bavo in Haarlem) and Pierre Cogen, Langlais' successor at Ste Clotilde. A memorable occasion in such a wonderful setting. Both were teaching in Huddersfield with ISOC.

All the best,

N

 

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

 

 

My words, this takes me back!

 

I well recall some brilliant recitals at St.Paul's Concert Hall, including a Bach recital (I think) by Piet Kee, (then at Haarlem), and Nick Kynaston, who I think played Reger among other things.

 

To be absolutely honest, I don't think Nigel would have been over-impressed by the organ after it was first built. The voicing was carried out by Booths' of Leeds, or perhaps John (?) Booth, and at the time, few people really understood neo-classic design and voicing. The Mixtures stood apart, the reeds of the pedal were a bit wooly, the Great didn't quite gel as an entity, and the Positive was a bit of a screaming department.

 

I recall another new organ by Philip Wood, (who tried very hard to get to grips with the new baroque style), and it was so "open foot," it was probably possible to accompany 500 on just the Great Gedact.

 

At the time, Philip Wood had only just started to venture into larger instruments, and I suspect that almost everything at Huddersfield was bought in from outside, and assembled on site.

 

When the organ was tonally changed, all the defects were made good, and what emerged was quite splendid. It was after this that Jonathan Bielby made a recording of the organ, which I have in my vinyl collection.

 

A few tonal tweaks later, and this instrument is now quite capable of standing apart from most, with a character all its own.

 

I'm really surprised that no-one has made a modern digital recording of this instrument on CD, because it is far better than a lot of others. In fact, with the Willis at the Town Hall, the new Slovenian built instrument at St.Patrick's RC and St Paul's concert hall, Huddersfield is now quite an important centre for organs and organ-music.

 

Interestingly, I can actually go back beyond the Concert Hall era, when St Paul's was....well....St.Paul's.

 

Always belssed with a superb acoustic, the church had a splendid Abbott & Smith organ of romantic character, but like others from the period, it suffered from a precarious and unreliable pneumatic action in the latter years. Still, it had some of the most beautiful orchestral reeds and mild strings I have ever heard, but as with all things deeply unfashionable, it was scrapped in favour of the new instrument.

 

So it was all with rather mixed emotions when the new Wood organ came into being, and the general concensus at the time was that the old organ was better. I can now say with some certainty, that the new organ is more than a match for the old, but in a very different style.

 

Still, it's a shame that what was very good had to be broken up and discarded.

 

MM

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

 

 

My words, this takes me back!

 

I well recall some brilliant recitals at St.Paul's Concert Hall, including a Bach recital (I think) by Piet Kee, (then at Haarlem), and Nick Kynaston, who I think played Reger among other things.

 

To be absolutely honest, I don't think Nigel would have been over-impressed by the organ after it was first built. The voicing was carried out by Booths' of Leeds, or perhaps John (?) Booth, and at the time, few people really understood neo-classic design and voicing. The Mixtures stood apart, the reeds of the pedal were a bit wooly, the Great didn't quite gel as an entity, and the Positive was a bit of a screaming department.

 

I recall another new organ by Philip Wood, (who tried very hard to get to grips with the new baroque style), and it was so "open foot," it was probably possible to accompany 500 on just the Great Gedact.

 

At the time, Philip Wood had only just started to venture into larger instruments, and I suspect that almost everything at Huddersfield was bought in from outside, and assembled on site.

 

When the organ was tonally changed, all the defects were made good, and what emerged was quite splendid. It was after this that Jonathan Bielby made a recording of the organ, which I have in my vinyl collection.

 

A few tonal tweaks later, and this instrument is now quite capable of standing apart from most, with a character all its own.

 

I'm really surprised that no-one has made a modern digital recording of this instrument on CD, because it is far better than a lot of others. In fact, with the Willis at the Town Hall, the new Slovenian built instrument at St.Patrick's RC and St Paul's concert hall, Huddersfield is now quite an important centre for organs and organ-music.

 

Interestingly, I can actually go back beyond the Concert Hall era, when St Paul's was....well....St.Paul's.

 

Always belssed with a superb acoustic, the church had a splendid Abbott & Smith organ of romantic character, but like others from the period, it suffered from a precarious and unreliable pneumatic action in the latter years. Still, it had some of the most beautiful orchestral reeds and mild strings I have ever heard, but as with all things deeply unfashionable, it was scrapped in favour of the new instrument.

 

So it was all with rather mixed emotions when the new Wood organ came into being, and the general concensus at the time was that the old organ was better. I can now say with some certainty, that the new organ is more than a match for the old, but in a very different style.

 

Still, it's a shame that what was very good had to be broken up and discarded.

 

MM

Just to clear this up a little. The metal pipework for this instrument was manufactured by F J Rogers in Bramley, the fluework being voiced by Norman Fitton. The reedwork was voiced by the late, gifted, Stephen Buckle.

The 32ft reed, always prepared for, was installed in 1986, the mahogany resonators being made at Woods' former St. Andrew's Road workshop.

Being too young to know the previous Abbott & Smith organ, MM's recollections are all the more interesting as everyone else who recalls the instrument speaks in equally approving terms. The fine Swell Fagotto rank can still be heard in St. Thomas's church in the same town (a fine Gilbert Scott building where, incidentally, A L Peace was appointed as organist aged fifteen).

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Just to clear this up a little. The metal pipework for this instrument was manufactured by F J Rogers in Bramley, the fluework being voiced by Norman Fitton. The reedwork was voiced by the late, gifted, Stephen Buckle.

The 32ft reed, always prepared for, was installed in 1986, the mahogany resonators being made at Woods' former St. Andrew's Road workshop.

Being too young to know the previous Abbott & Smith organ, MM's recollections are all the more interesting as everyone else who recalls the instrument speaks in equally approving terms. The fine Swell Fagotto rank can still be heard in St. Thomas's church in the same town (a fine Gilbert Scott building where, incidentally, A L Peace was appointed as organist aged fifteen).

 

And the case designed by David Graebe of Walkers? I know Walkers are 'in it' somehow. Parts?

As father and son Wood were only round the corner - they were constantly called by Keith Jarvis to do this and that. It was always in the most extraordinary order every time I played because of their proximity.

 

For interest MM, Piet played Bach (concluding with the B minor P & F) and Nicolas, the Reger Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme for Organ, F sharp minor, Op. 73 (1903) (both broadcast by Radio 3). It was a strange beginning (ISOC's first year) as it was Piet's first concert for some time as he had had a bad accident and most folk in Holland said he would not be arriving! But he did - and it was a tremendous success. That year the many students numbered among them the wonderful Amy Johansen, James Thomas (now at Bury St E and at G & Caius), Robert Morgan (now at Stanford and was at St John's Cambridge), David Goode (still at Eton) etc. It was a marvellous time and provided the start of a most happy 20 years in my life - even if my accountant thinks otherwise.

N

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Just to clear this up a little. The metal pipework for this instrument was manufactured by F J Rogers in Bramley, the fluework being voiced by Norman Fitton. The reedwork was voiced by the late, gifted, Stephen Buckle.

The 32ft reed, always prepared for, was installed in 1986, the mahogany resonators being made at Woods' former St. Andrew's Road workshop.

Being too young to know the previous Abbott & Smith organ, MM's recollections are all the more interesting as everyone else who recalls the instrument speaks in equally approving terms. The fine Swell Fagotto rank can still be heard in St. Thomas's church in the same town (a fine Gilbert Scott building where, incidentally, A L Peace was appointed as organist aged fifteen).

 

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

 

 

Oh dear! I have to make mistakes from time to time I expect, and now that Nigel mentions it, I do indeed remember just about the only two references I can ever recall to Norman Fitton and Stephen Buckle.

 

I suppose the important thing is how the organ, from a slightly rough start, ended up being as good as it is now, which must be a tribute to a number of people I expect.

 

Memories play tricks, and I couldn't remember which particular Reger work Nicholas Kynaston had played, which is odd really, because I can still remember his famous trick with a box of matches.

 

The idea is, that you spread out four matches, and start with the thumb and forefinger to pick up the first match. Then you do the same thing with the forefinger and middle finger, while the first match remains between thumb and forefinger; and so the sequence continues, until all four matches are spaced across spread fingertips. It sounds easy, but it is actually wickedly difficult to do without the matches falling from out of the fingers, and requires considerable muscle control.

 

As for crawling on all fours and singing "Hi Ho! Hi Ho!" We can draw a veil over that. The words were rather rude.

 

Needless to say, the party was absolutely excellent; especially when Nicholas joined four of us to sing (falsetto) an impromptu Stanford in C around a piano; everyone stamping their feet on the wooden floor for the final 32ft reed effect.

 

That was back in the days when organists had fun when they got together.

 

MM

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Being too young to know the previous Abbott & Smith organ, MM's recollections are all the more interesting as everyone else who recalls the instrument speaks in equally approving terms. The fine Swell Fagotto rank can still be heard in St. Thomas's church in the same town (a fine Gilbert Scott building where, incidentally, A L Peace was appointed as organist aged fifteen).

 

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

 

People have tried to piece together the history of Isaac Abbott and the later manifestation of Abbott @ Smith, and it is far from easy.

 

The early instrument up to about 1880, were very much in the Hill mould of doing things. (I seem to recall that Isaac Abbott worked for Hill at some stage).

 

After the turn of the century, they produced altogether more romantic/symphonic instruments; usually with TP actions.

 

I have always wondered where they obtained their reeds, and who voiced them, because they seemed to be on a par almost with Willis.

 

MM

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Ah, now this takes me back! I played the organ c1985-87 in the Young Musician Final of the Mrs Sunderland Music Festival (does this still exist?). The organ class itself was in the Town Hall, and you had to play the same piece in the final. The year I won in the Town Hall I played the Langlais 'Incantation', it was on the Grade 8 list at the time. When I was allocated my 15 minutes rehearsal time, I suddenly found that the tracker action was awfully heavy for an inexperienced 17 year old. Well, that's my excuse for never winning that particular bit.

 

My father worked in the mill that backed on to the music department of the polytechnic, now plush student accomodation and the mill moved to out of town. How the memories came flooding back when I went back a few years ago to do the FRCO there. Given the choice of it, or the bathroom in the RCM, there was no option!!

 

Returning some 20 years later to the instrument, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and the action was no where near as heavy as I had thought it might be. There are always compromises on the pieces list for wherever you choose to play, but I remember the Bach Adagio and Fugue simply sparkled in registration (if not always in the playing), the Planyavsky Toccata thrilled, especially in the tutti, and even the slow movement from Vierne 5 just about worked. It had all the right stops, if not necessarily the lush and warm flutes/principlas that Vierne had in mind. It was merely functional in the tests, I had other things on my mind by then!!

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Ah, now this takes me back! I played the organ c1985-87 in the Young Musician Final of the Mrs Sunderland Music Festival (does this still exist?).

 

 

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

 

The Mrs.Sunderland Competition still very much exists, though sadly, there is no longer an organ-class.

 

That says much, because all the other traditional classes are there, including Brass Band and Choral, as one would expect in Huddersfield.

 

I find it particularly sad, because not only were organists naturally associated with the great choral tradition of the area, they were also associated in many instances with the Brass Band movement, which still exists. It doesn't seem that long ago that Roy Newsholme FRCO, was directing and conducting the Black Dyke Band to international acclaim and competition successes.

 

I just get the feeling that there is a certain choral/piano/orchestral mafia, who seem to have deliberately frozen the organ out of such festivals and competitions; though it may be due to a lack of support from possible entrants. The latter is more than possible, because when I won the Wharfedale Music Festival organ-class, I kept getting invitations to play again, which finally climaxed with an almost begging letter, saying that the organ solo class was in danger of being dropped due to a lack of entrants.

 

Perhaps in their insularity, organists have only themselves to blame, but that doesn't excuse the BBC, (for example), failing to acknowledge the organ as a suitable instrument for the 'Young Musician of the Year' competition.

 

I wish old Bach could come back and square up to them.

 

It would be a very brave director/producer who could look Bach in the eye and say, "I'm sorry, but we don't do organ."

 

MM

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

 

 

I find it particularly sad, because not only were organists naturally associated with the great choral tradition of the area, they were also associated in many instances with the Brass Band movement, which still exists. It doesn't seem that long ago that Roy Newsholme FRCO, was directing and conducting the Black Dyke Band to international acclaim and competition successes.

 

MM

 

Not strictly on Huddersfield Uni. topic but - in resonse to the above - we're lucky down here that in Bristol there is an organ class in at least one of the local competetive festivals and the local organists' association is actively involved with this. (They also do a great deal to support young organists with recital opportunities etc. icluding regular concerts at the Colston Hall using the marvellous H&H) Coincidentally re the Black Dyke Mills connection we are also lucky to have the composer Philip Wilby down here too (his wife, Canon Wendy is Precentor at Bristol Cathedral) who not only spent many years working with the BDM band resulting in some splendid music for them but also writes fabulous choral and organ music. Does anyone else play his 3 Preludes on English Tunes? The one on 'Michael' is one of the best newer organ pieces I have come across. Check out here - you can also get it via iTunes - if you want proof that the art of decent choral and organ writing is not dead do please listen!

 

A

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Not strictly on Huddersfield Uni. topic but - in resonse to the above - we're lucky down here that in Bristol there is an organ class in at least one of the local competetive festivals and the local organists' association is actively involved with this. (They also do a great deal to support young organists with recital opportunities etc. icluding regular concerts at the Colston Hall using the marvellous H&H) Coincidentally re the Black Dyke Mills connection we are also lucky to have the composer Philip Wilby down here too (his wife, Canon Wendy is Precentor at Bristol Cathedral) who not only spent many years working with the BDM band resulting in some splendid music for them but also writes fabulous choral and organ music. Does anyone else play his 3 Preludes on English Tunes? The one on 'Michael' is one of the best newer organ pieces I have come across. Check out here - you can also get it via iTunes - if you want proof that the art of decent choral and organ writing is not dead do please listen!

 

A

 

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

 

I am genuinely delighted to know that someone is making an effort to encourage organ classes at music competitions, and to support any youngsters who show an interest in the organ.

 

However, taking a wider view, I wonder if the general apathy isn’t at least partly self-inflicted. I also wonder if this apathy doesn’t reflect a more general apathy; perhaps even boredom with a deeply conservative British musical establishment, which seems to take fewer and fewer risks, and which seems content to bumble along, reflecting on the past and repeating many of the same things again and again.

 

I feel a bit this way about religion, about organists, about attitudes generally and even, (at risk of being accused of disrespect), the music of Philip Wilby. I know that he has enormous talent, quite a strong following (especially in the Brass Band movement), and the academic and artistic credentials to match, but for me at least, it is all rather like the music that time forgot. Somehow, it seems to skip a whole generation; building on the tradition of Howells, Rubbra and English academia (Oxford?), and failing to have much of a musical impact. (I can say this because no-one can damage me!)

 

I recall the late Dr Philip Marshall, who amusingly said to me, (while leaning on an attractive lamp-post in the Cathedral Close at Lincoln), “The trouble is in this country, we’re being bloody-well chorale preluded to death.”

 

They have a similar problem in the Netherlands. You go to an ‘Orgal Konzert,’ and more likely than not, the organist will improvise. The programme reads “Improvisation on Psalm 23” (or whatever, in Nether-speak), and it’s at that moment that I want to crash my head into the pew infront, if only they had pews.

 

The past, it would seem, is ever present.

 

MM

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

 

I recall the late Dr Philip Marshall, who amusingly said to me, (while leaning on an attractive lamp-post in the Cathedral Close at Lincoln), “The trouble is in this country, we’re being bloody-well chorale preluded to death.”

 

The past, it would seem, is ever present.

 

MM

 

.........and he could do a fantastically good impression of neo Howells, Rubbra etc. if he wanted to. My wife and I caught the end of his reign at Lincon - singing with him in the cathedral Voluntary choir for a short while. His rehearsals were like a step back into a former age of Bairstow etc. His service playing lifted the art onto a higher level! ('Disagree about Wilby but agree about improviations in some quarters at least - I wonder what 'post neo Cochereau' will sound like for instance)

 

A

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Yes, though some competitions are discontinuing organ classes, some are starting them again. I think the one round us now runs again, and I remember reading of some in OR and the RCO News.

 

The BBC did finally come to its senses over Young Musician of the Year, bit too late for me, I think in the mid 90s, and I needed it mid 80s. In fact, there were an awful lot of minority instruments not allowed in the first decade or so; guitar, accordion, percussion etc. possibly even saxophone if my memory serves me right. What happenned to the RCO Young Performer competition. I remember it ran in the 90s, does anyone remember anyone winning it recently?

 

Delighted that the Mrs Sunderland Festival is still going. I do remember that over the 3 years I did it, there was me and this chap from Hull every year, and possibly only one other, but they still ran it. I remember Simon Lindley adjudicating at least once, and because it was held before the vocal classes got underway in the Town Hall, we had rather a good audience for the class (larger than I'd had for any of my recitals up to that point).

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.........and he could do a fantastically good impression of neo Howells, Rubbra etc. if he wanted to. My wife and I caught the end of his reign at Lincon - singing with him in the cathedral Voluntary choir for a short while. His rehearsals were like a step back into a former age of Bairstow etc. His service playing lifted the art onto a higher level! ('Disagree about Wilby but agree about improviations in some quarters at least - I wonder what 'post neo Cochereau' will sound like for instance)

 

A

 

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

 

I may end up being at the cutting edge of fashion, with my neo-Hindemith/Kodaly impressions. Lots of 4ths, pentatonic scales and modal melodies which usually prove to be surprisingly unmemorable. None of that English slithering around in my masterworks, I can assure you.

 

My improvisations are a good opportunity to give the black notes a work-out, lest they seize up before Lent comes around again.

 

:(

 

MM

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