Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Westminster Abbey Organ Console Refurbishment


Ronald Shillingford
 Share

Recommended Posts

I see the Abbey will be without the Harrison for 6 months as the Console is being brought up to date with the latest technology. What I want to know is what would you do with 512 memory capacity which is what they are adding to the generals with a stepper ? Plus dare I say it ! They will be using a Digital Organ I wonder is this the first time such and appliance has been used in one of London's richest Churches ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Roffensis

I suppose that in such circumstances the only option is to use a "toaster" :o while the organ is out of use, and the latest console technology will doubtless be of inestimable value. So much more to go wrong!.....personally I wonder if organists are just getting lazy today, all the effort and those difficult stop changes. Before long we may well expect piano lid openers and foot pedal memories with 75 channels and 20,000 positions, as well as playback of choral evensong at Auntie Hilda's 90th birthday party, played at Upminster cathedral. :o:o;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see the Abbey will be without the Harrison for 6 months as the Console is being brought up to date with the latest technology.  What I want to know is what would you do with 512 memory capacity which is what they are adding to the generals with a stepper ?  Plus dare I say it ! They will be using a Digital Organ I wonder is this the first time such and appliance has been used in one of London's richest Churches ?

 

How could it take 6 months to do this work???

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How could it take 6 months to do this work???

 

Well, Salisbury Cathedral's is out of action for 4 months. Somehow they are apparently coping with an amplified piano and one of their chamber organs, and haven't gone the toaster route. I suppose when you consider the amount of stripping down, rewiring, rebushing etc 4-6 months isn't that unreasonable, particularly when you've got to set everything up to perfection and get it all working again without the teething problems that come with the territory - parts don't come out of the box fully regulated and ready to use. Not forgetting also that Harrison's have a stack of work on the shop floor already.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was in H&H's workshops a month ago and can clarify what's happening:

 

the main console is going back to the workshop for refurbishment. During that period, the main organ will be controlled from a tempory 3 manual console supplied by Harrisons. So the Harrison will be in operation but controlled from another (tempory) console.

 

The spec of the tempory console (around 50 or 60 stops) was drawn up by the organists and they have come up with some clever and inventive ideas.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I too was sceptical about the need for steppers & multiple memories, but having had the opportunity to use these facilities on a number of large organs I must say I'm a convert to the cause.

 

There's no doubt that if (and its a big if) you've got time to programme the thing, it makes accompanying any service much easier. Without a general piston available you frequently have to press perhaps three pistons in the blink of an eye. For example, you may have a Nunc Dimittis which ends quietly immediately followed by a loud Gloria - in which case you probably need to press pistons on both Great and Swell as well as the Great-Pedal coupler, all while also watching the conductor. How much easier just to use the + toe piston.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

I speak from memory, but I am sure that the present number of divisional settings ( think it's between 8 and 12) is seriously limiting. There is a similar number of general memories. It might have represented 'state-of-the art' at some point, but that point is now some while ago.

 

 

Possibly of interest to anyone unfamiliar with this unique instrument: There is a pretty unsual setter system - each divisional piston has its very own little setter button*, these (about the size of noticeboard push pins)are (mostly) grouped at the top of the departmental stop panels. I say mostly, because when the Great (for instance) had extra pistons added, there wasn't room for all the setter pistons to go in the same place.

 

*Kings College Cambridge used to have a similar system. I don't know of another organ that has them. In theory they could be useful - with one quick touch of a spare finger it is possible to reset a piston while still playing - it's not an operation I would attempt in the heat of the moment!

 

As to expense: These days, if you are buying a purpose-built system it is only a matter of a few hundred pounds to upgrade from four memories to 400.

 

As to need: In any given week (particularly in the summer) the Abbey organ has to be set up for 2 visiting recitalists per week - with some of them coming regularly for weeks in advance of the high profile events. Then you have the Abbey Choir's needs, plus those of visiting choirs. There are at least four regular appointed organists on the staff itself. Settings need to cater for choir services in the Nave, choral services in the choir and congregational services with no choir. If any organist team had to justify a lot of new up-to-date gadgets, I reckon the Abbey staff can make the best case of the lot.

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...