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Celestial Divisions

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I haven't come across a Celestial division before. Can anyone enlighten me as to why they are called this and why they exist. This is in particular relation to this instrument in Newcastle.

 

Thanks

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Guest Cynic
I haven't come across a Celestial division before. Can anyone enlighten me as to why they are called this and why they exist. This is in particular relation to this instrument in Newcastle.

 

Thanks

 

 

Your link doesn't currently work, but I assume you are referring to the organ at St.James and St.Basil, Fenham. It's a Walker job of c.1920 with four manual divisions, one of which, the Celestial shares the Choir manual if I remember correctly.

 

The whole church was a gift in memory of two brothers (James and Basil, I rather think) both commissioned officers who were killed in WW1. For this reason it has two naves of similar size, no aisles. In each, there is a delicate section of the organ - I seem to remember that the Celestial division is mounted on the chancel arch above the South nave in a case with carvings but no visible pipes - the division being enclosed of course for maximum angelic effect. It's a superb romantic organ, not very large, but extremely musical in a Delius-arrangement, pastel shade sort of way!

 

I'm sure it wouldn't be allowed today, but the donor was given a totally free hand with everything including the dedication of the church, I think. Along with the organ's peculiarity there are also matching (large) stained glass windows to the brothers' memory.

 

The only other Celestial organ I can think of in this country is a long-forgotten (still there but unplayable) fifth manual division at Westminster Abbey. I think that also was a gift in memory of someone who fell in WW1. I think Hills built it and that H&H in the 1930s rebuild left it entirely alone. An interesting stoplist even includes tuned gongs! This section was originally controlled by stopkeys over the top manual. Although disconnected, it is very much still there and I half remember seeing pictures of it fairly recently, either on www.organrecitals or in an article by Andrew Scott who used to be the regular H&H tuner for most of their London jobs.

 

Of course, many people would say that a division consisting entirely of pastel shades has no musical use. This very much depends on what music you intend to play. I personally believe that the provision of a range of delicate colours is a real plus, provided an organ has respectable choruses and matching reeds first. In the case of the organ at Fenham, I believe one small stop change was made about twenty years ago by Nigel Church, but essentially the organ can still be enjoyed as it was intended and trying it about 10 years ago I found it absolutely first-rate.

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Altanta Cathedral has a small, floating, two-manual and pedal Celestial division in the nave roof between the transepts. I can't say it struck me as very ethereal. The spec is as follows:

 

Celestial Organ I

Viole Sourdine 8

Schwebung (TC) 8

Spillflöte (TC) 8

Spillflöte (ext) 4

Menschenstimme 8

Tremulant (Celestial I & II)

Celestial I 4

Celestial I on Solo

Celestial Organ II

Flûte Conique 8

Flûte Céleste (TC) 8

Erzhäler 8

Orlo 8

Celestial II 4

Celestial II on Solo

Celestial Pedal

Resultant 32

Contra Flute 16 (from Celestial II)

Viole Sourdine 8 (from Celestial I)

Erzhäler 4 (from Celestial II)

Major Trumpet 16 (ext from Solo)

Celestial I to Pedal

Celestial II to Pedal

 

Not sure what the Trumpet is doing there; it's not really part of the Celestial division. Maybe it's a later addition? I'm sure the manual couplers must be wrong too; I have a vague recollection of one or both of the divisions also being playable from the Positive, but it was all so long ago that I'm probably misremembering.

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Here is a link that might be interesting:

 

 

The "Fernwerk" ("remote division") is back also. This is a main feature

of the post-romantic german organ.

Where there was one, it was much used in all kinds of music (think of Reger...)

One cannot have enough soft stops in an organ, this is what (should?) be

used at least 50% of the time (from ppp to p)

Too much traffic ? Too much travels in those noisy planes ?

Whatever it may be, it seems we have lost some audition abilities. Or the neo-baroque

organ, with its flat tonal dispersion, has accustomed us to hear the pipes as if

we were sitting on the soundboards ?

 

Pierre

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Here is a link that might be interesting:

 

 

The "Fernwerk" ("remote division") is back also. This is a main feature

of the post-romantic german organ.

Where there was one, it was much used in all kinds of music (think of Reger...)

One cannot have enough soft stops in an organ, this is what (should?) be

used at least 50% of the time (from ppp to p)

Too much traffic ? Too much travels in those noisy planes ?

Whatever it may be, it seems we have lost some audition abilities. Or the neo-baroque

organ, with its flat tonal dispersion, has accustomed us to hear the pipes as if

we were sitting on the soundboards ?

 

Pierre

 

Hi

 

I did hear that the Echo division of the previous organ (pre-Phelps) in Hexham Abbey still remains in the triforium, albeit unplayable. See http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N04089

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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A quick look at the NPOR has confirmed my thought that the organ in St Mary's Bourne Street, Pimlico (now presided over by Richard Hills of theatre organ fame) was originally going to have a chancel/celestial division and this was shown in earlier specifications as "prepared for". This is quite a small church and I can't imagine where exactly they inteneded locating it.

 

Malcolm

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Another four manual with an Echo division rather than a Solo is the wonderful Schulze at Armley. His five manual at Doncaster has a Solo on manual IV and an Echo on manual V, but I'm not sure how much of either is original (the Solo was N&:huh:. I wasn't aware of any organs in which the Echo or Celestial was played through the Choir, thanks for the link to the Newcastle organ.

 

The old Hexham Abbey looks on paper like a wonderful high Romantic warhorse - what happened to it, and why was it replaced?

 

I'd heard once before that an entire disconnected Echo division was hiding up in the triforium at Westminster Abbey - given how many rebuilds that instrument has had, I'm surprised it has been silent since the 1930s, why? And Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was supposed to have a Celestial division, and I believe I'm right in saying it actually got as far as being built before one of Hitler's bombs flattened it and presumably most of Willis' workshop) during WWII.

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I haven't come across a Celestial division before. Can anyone enlighten me as to why they are called this and why they exist. This is in particular relation to this instrument in Newcastle.

 

Thanks

 

This monster has a Celestial Organ, but I guess much depends upon your definition of 'celestial', and on your idea of heaven! (A pedal Ophicleide? Yum!) The key characteristic seems to be remoteness from the main instrument - usually high up in a tower/dome etc, so that the sound descends from on high.

 

http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/StBartholomewEpis.html

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Schoenstein uses this terminology in the USA - divisions enclosed within other enclosed divisions - big reeds and mixtures and also celestes etc. Usefull in Anglican type service work and fantastic for a bit of 'awe and wonder in repertoire'. This is a good example - the organ is also extremely versatile and despite fairly dead acoustics can give an excellent account of much put in front of it.

 

A

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Schoenstein uses this terminology in the USA - divisions enclosed within other enclosed divisions - big reeds and mixtures and also celestes etc. Usefull in Anglican type service work and fantastic for a bit of 'awe and wonder in repertoire'. This is a good example - the organ is also extremely versatile and despite fairly dead acoustics can give an excellent account of much put in front of it.

 

A

Don't know the instrument at all, but how on earth did they squeeze five divisions and 65 stops into such a small space?! Must be a nightmare to tune...

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I haven't come across a Celestial division before. Can anyone enlighten me as to why they are called this and why they exist. This is in particular relation to this instrument in Newcastle.

 

Thanks

Let's not forget the Echo Organ of Tewkesbury Abbey which lives on in the organs current form as the Apse division!

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Guest Cynic
Let's not forget the Echo Organ of Tewkesbury Abbey which lives on in the organs current form as the Apse division!

 

 

True and very good it is. Rather curiously, it has ended up rather louder after the Kenneth Jones rebuilding than it was before. The box is a good one, so you can still use it in 'Echo mode', but it is now the loudest Echo organ I know.

 

The original installation was done very much 'on the cheap' in 1948 - post-war shortages and all that. Essentially, both the Echo and Solo shared a Norman stone chamber, and all that separated them was a double wall of hardboard over a softwood frame, the front of the boxes was very similar. Even so, you could get the thing to shut right down.Now a much smaller box only has the Echo and this stands with its back to the wall of the chamber, so as to make it appear less obtrusive. The Echo Corno di Bassetto is a gorgeous rich and relatively powerful thing. You can't tell from the console, but it is in fact a very good balance for the Cornet Separe on the new Choir - a division which was voiced to serve as a sort of Nave organ. The KJ Echo division is now crowned with a Harmonic Aetheria which rather than 12-15 Dulciana-style wisps (which is what it was before) it is now quite a bold III with Tierce rank.

 

Those involved got a lot of stick for keeping their romantic voices when this work was done. I don't know if grants were withheld at the time, but English Heritage were far from approving. With a lesser clergy-person around, the project might have foundered, but Revd.Michael Tavinor (now Dean of Hereford) was an extremely effective operator and no mean player himself. EH's adviser (who could have been the late Stephen Bicknell) wanted the instrument to go back to being a small two-decker in reproduction Dallam style. In a situation with unlimited funds and space this would have been a nice idea. However, The Abbey wanted a proper accompanimental instrument, which The Grove certainly isn't and by sticking to their guns they've got it. You don't even have to go to Tewkesbury to enjoy it because there are regular broadcasts of Choral Evensong on Radio 3 which prove how successful this installation is.

 

English Heritage!

There is a rare tale regarding Tewkesbury which maybe hasn't been told here before. When Kenneth Jones' men took the wonderful Dallam case back to the works for restoration, they gently removed the layers of varnish and revealed to everyone's great joy the original coloured decoration over much lighter wood. They took photographs and informed English Heritage naturally expecting that everyone would be as delighted as they were - such a thing had not been seen before in historic organ restoration in this country - not surprisingly because less than half a dozen organ of this date survived the Civil War.

 

What happened when 'the experts' got to hear of this? Kenneth Jones and The Abbey were firmly told that the original appearance had to be covered up again with a similar dark stain to the previous one (one that was only applied to the case in Victorian times). This is the direct equivalent of someone finding and revealing an old fresco on the wall of a church only to be told to get out some white paint and lose it again.

 

Stephen Bicknell then published an article in Choir and Organ (still available on line)

http://web.archive.org/web/20070807213435/...skull/3.5.3.htm

ostensibly criticising the 1948 scheme for having bits of organ dotted around on electric action. Those of us nearer Tewkesbury knew perfectly well he was having a veiled 'go' at the new scheme for putting musical requirements (and respect for good and useful material) before dogmatic ideals.

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Hi

 

I did hear that the Echo division of the previous organ (pre-Phelps) in Hexham Abbey still remains in the triforium, albeit unplayable. See http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N04089

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

The retention of the unconnected Hexham Echo Organ, I seem to recall was a device to limit VAT liabilities by conforming to then current guidelines as the Phelps would be seen to be an additional organ rather than a replacement instrument.

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The retention of the unconnected Hexham Echo Organ, I seem to recall was a device to limit VAT liabilities by conforming to then current guidelines as the Phelps would be seen to be an additional organ rather than a replacement instrument.

I have a feeling the small Willis tracker at Christ Church served a similar function.

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