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Smallest five-manual ever?


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Shameless continuation of an interesting theme...

 

The German organ site, http://www.die-orgelseite.de/ has a searchable index of organs by size. The smallest five manual in the UK is surely Manchester Town Hall - it erroneously claims Wakefield Cathedral is even smaller. Worldwide, Paris St Gervais is even smaller, though it's a bit of a cheat - one stop on the third manual, two on the fourth and three on the top. The organ site mentions a smaller organ in Dallas Texas, but Googling it found only images of a small auditorium with what looked like a two manual Rodgers or similar electronic organ.

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Shameless continuation of an interesting theme...

 

The German organ site, http://www.die-orgelseite.de/ has a searchable index of organs by size. The smallest five manual in the UK is surely Manchester Town Hall - it erroneously claims Wakefield Cathedral is even smaller. Worldwide, Paris St Gervais is even smaller, though it's a bit of a cheat - one stop on the third manual, two on the fourth and three on the top. The organ site mentions a smaller organ in Dallas Texas, but Googling it found only images of a small auditorium with what looked like a two manual Rodgers or similar electronic organ.

I suppose it depends on the number of pipes versus the number of stops argument. Wakefield, despite the straight Swell and Choir departments, contains less than three thousand pipes - I'm sure Manchester TH has a substantially greater number of pipes.

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Hexham Abbey (pre-Phelps)? 47 stops = 3 smaller than Calne!

 

What happened to it? Is it still there, and why did the Phelps replace it? Excellent as Phelps undoubtedly was, I couldn't help wonder at the specification of the older Normand and Beard (I think) there and wonder why it was not restored, or whether in today's world more sympathetic to Edwardian warhorses it would have been retained.

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  • 1 month later...

Wasn't Hexham only a 4 manual, with the Echo played from the Solo keys? (Doesn't Hereford Cathedral have a similarly designated top manual, as does St. Mary Redcliffe, although in neither case is the 'Echo' distant from the rest of the organ?).

 

Calne Parish Church has been mentioned - a fine old beast sadly shorn of its fifth manual - but there was another five-manual in Calne, at Castle House. Both were built by Conacher to the order of Henry Harris, who made a fortune from bacon. The Castle House job had forty-two speaking stops, including some by Weigle of Stuttgart. NPOR (N10302) wrongly states that the organ had four manuals, but there is an article in 'The Organ' Vol. XX, No. 77, July 1940, which includes a picture of it, and there were definitely five! NPOR also suggests that the Solo Organ was prepared-for, but the article states that it was there, but inoperative due to water damage. The writer (Edward Caple) was able to inspect it, including the Weigle Stentorphon.

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Hexham Abbey (pre-Phelps)? 47 stops = 3 smaller than Calne!

 

 

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

 

Surely, the smallest five manual in the UK has to be the Compton organ at the Odeon cinema, Leicester Square, London?

 

It has hundreds of stop-tabs and an impressive range of percussion, but in terms of pipe ranks, it only has about 24 or thereabouts. It all fits very neatly under the stage.

 

MM

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There may be some uncertainty concerning the date of the Castle House instrument. NPOR has it as 1896. However, my Grandparents, both Calne people and married in 1909, related that Henry Harris's wife 'requested' an organ in Castle House after hearing the St Mary's installation. The irony was that neither Henry Harris nor his wife could play a keyboard instrument. Census returns show that Harris was not living in Castle House in 1891 but was by 1901, so 1896 could be feasible.

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There may be some uncertainty concerning the date of the Castle House instrument. NPOR has it as 1896. However, my Grandparents, both Calne people and married in 1909, related that Henry Harris's wife 'requested' an organ in Castle House after hearing the St Mary's installation. The irony was that neither Henry Harris nor his wife could play a keyboard instrument. Census returns show that Harris was not living in Castle House in 1891 but was by 1901, so 1896 could be feasible.

 

 

The article in 'The Organ' states that the parish church organ at Calne was built in 1908, but the Castle House instrument was 'erected some ten years before the one in the church'.

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However, my Grandparents, both Calne people and married in 1909, related that Henry Harris's wife 'requested' an organ in Castle House after hearing the St Mary's installation.

 

Definitely the other way round, I'm afraid - HH donated the giant in the church after his house organ had been so widely admired for its, er, size.

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

 

Surely, the smallest five manual in the UK has to be the Compton organ at the Odeon cinema, Leicester Square, London?

 

It has hundreds of stop-tabs and an impressive range of percussion, but in terms of pipe ranks, it only has about 24 or thereabouts. It all fits very neatly under the stage.

 

MM

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I don't know why but I have never been impressed with the sound of this organ compared to other organs which I have heard live , or on The Organist Entertains, perhaps it is just the recitalist that puts me off.

I stopped supporting the Sunday morning concerts long ago, not forgetting some awful violinist who came on the second half and completely spoilt the programme.

I wonder whether installing the pipes under the stage would affect the sound of the instrument.but may be I am just an unashamed Wurlitzer fan.

The Wurlitzer in Thetford, Norfolk ? is brilliant and I never tire of hearing it.(recordings not live)

As they say, one mans meat is another mans poison.

Colin Richell.

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I don't know why but I have never been impressed with the sound of this organ compared to other organs which I have heard live , or on The Organist Entertains, perhaps it is just the recitalist that puts me off.

I stopped supporting the Sunday morning concerts long ago, not forgetting some awful violinist who came on the second half and completely spoilt the programme.

I wonder whether installing the pipes under the stage would affect the sound of the instrument.but may be I am just an unashamed Wurlitzer fan.

The Wurlitzer in Thetford, Norfolk ? is brilliant and I never tire of hearing it.(recordings not live)

As they say, one mans meat is another mans poison.

Colin Richell.

 

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

 

When I also supported the Sunday morning concerts, I was usually more impressed by the old silent films sometimes shown. The late Ena Baga would occasionally floor the audience by accompanying them absolutely brilliantly. It's not the biggest sound in the world is it? I'm not sure that I like that Compton smoothness in such a massive auditorium.

 

I like Compton theatre-organs, but I much prefer the snappier sounds of Christie and Wurlitzer instruments, of which the best in London was the Gaumont State, Kilburn. (Now closed with the ex-Sidney Torch organ still in situ, so far as I am aware).

 

London hasn't fared well, and even the beautifully restored Wurlitzer at the Granada, Tooting, suffered considerable damage shortly after the opening concert, when the cinema flooded.

 

As for the ex-Paramount, Newcastle Wurlitzer is concerned, it sounds magnificent at Thetford; as do the old fair organs.

 

I've spent a few days at Thetford and got to know old John Cushing towards the end of his life. I had to smile when he told me how, as a young lad, he bought his first traction-engine for £5 from a local farmer, and how the local (yokels?) thought he was a bit peculiar.

 

"I bought another 'an, an' they all thought I'd g'an barmy," Mr Cushing said.

 

Then he gave me a nudge and said, "Ay din't do too bad I supposes."

 

One of the great steam/organ/fair-ride collections in the world, it is a memorable day out.

 

MM

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I always thought that St Mary's, Calne would take a bit of beating for being small (when it was 5 manuals).

N

 

.... And for making some fairly unpleasant sounds - at least I thought so when I played it two or three years ago.

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.... And for making some fairly unpleasant sounds - at least I thought so when I played it two or three years ago.

 

 

it's been a very long time since i played it (30 years!!!) so I dont remember it very well, but I thought it was rather good! Can you elaborate?

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it's been a very long time since i played it (30 years!!!) so I dont remember it very well, but I thought it was rather good! Can you elaborate?

 

As far as I can remember, this included: fat, 'oily' flutes and diapasons, lack of decent chorus work (yes, I know it was designed during a different era....), reeds which needed serious regulation - and some revoicing. In addition, I felt that there were certain elements of the scheme which were wasteful; there was some duplication of tonalities in the flue-work, some odd choices (both on paper and in reality) and, to be honest, I should far rather have had a more sensibly designed instrument, spread over just three claviers.

 

I realise that this style of instrument probably would not appeal to me, even if it were in top condition - but you did ask me to elaborate on what I did not like about it.

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As far as I can remember, this included: fat, 'oily' flutes and diapasons, lack of decent chorus work (yes, I know it was designed during a different era....), reeds which needed serious regulation - and some revoicing. In addition, I felt that there were certain elements of the scheme which were wasteful; there was some duplication of tonalities in the flue-work, some odd choices (both on paper and in reality) and, to be honest, I should far rather have had a more sensibly designed instrument, spread over just three claviers.

 

I realise that this style of instrument probably would not appeal to me, even if it were in top condition - but you did ask me to elaborate on what I did not like about it.

 

I'd go along with all of that - it's a whacking great noise, for sure, bought only for its size and just preposterous in a small-ish town church. The cost of keeping it (just) alive and (just) playing in the past 20 years (which is roughly how long I've known it) could have paid for a wholly appropriate instrument of quality and distinction.

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It's a long time since I played at Calne (1977), but I wouldn't go along with most of the criticisms. Conachers' may not have been Harrisons or Willis or Walker - or even Binns - but they turned out a respectable product. They were the dominant builder in Ireland and I can think of some extremely fine jobs (as well as a lot of run-of-the-mill stuff). Kildare Cathedral is one. There are certainly a few passengers in the specification, but I reckon the main choruses are fine enough and there are some lovely soft effects.

 

I don't know what sort of connection the donor (Harris) had with conachers' or why he selected them to build his 5m house organ, which led to them getting the parish church as well, but I think Calne PC organ is a worthy monument and worth preserving.

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It's a long time since I played at Calne (1977), but I wouldn't go along with most of the criticisms. Conachers' may not have been Harrisons or Willis or Walker - or even Binns - but they turned out a respectable product. They were the dominant builder in Ireland and I can think of some extremely fine jobs (as well as a lot of run-of-the-mill stuff). Kildare Cathedral is one. There are certainly a few passengers in the specification, but I reckon the main choruses are fine enough and there are some lovely soft effects.

 

I don't know what sort of connection the donor (Harris) had with conachers' or why he selected them to build his 5m house organ, which led to them getting the parish church as well, but I think Calne PC organ is a worthy monument and worth preserving.

 

I'm sure they will welcome your cheque. If I recall correctly, having spent just under £250,000 they now have two manuals working adequately to lead hymns on a Sunday morning.

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I'm sure they will welcome your cheque. If I recall correctly, having spent just under £250,000 they now have two manuals working adequately to lead hymns on a Sunday morning.

 

 

The best I can afford is to offer them a free recital next time I'm in the West Country. You'd think that an instrument like that would qualify for Lottery money, wouldn't you?

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The best I can afford is to offer them a free recital next time I'm in the West Country. You'd think that an instrument like that would qualify for Lottery money, wouldn't you?

Not any more - I believe that the rules have changed - or at least the stringency with which apparently worthy instruments are excluded from qualifying for financial aid.

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It's a long time since I played at Calne (1977), but I wouldn't go along with most of the criticisms. Conachers' may not have been Harrisons or Willis or Walker - or even Binns - but they turned out a respectable product. They were the dominant builder in Ireland and I can think of some extremely fine jobs (as well as a lot of run-of-the-mill stuff). Kildare Cathedral is one. There are certainly a few passengers in the specification, but I reckon the main choruses are fine enough and there are some lovely soft effects. ...

I have not played the organ of Kildare Cathedral, so clearly I cannot comment. However, I would stand by my eariler thoughts. I would agree that Conacher's turned out many respectable products - but in the sense of workmanship. I am afraid that, tonally, I think that it is little short of a disaster. There is no (secondary) balancing chorus. I realise that this would not at that time have occurred to the builders, but many instruments of a similar vintage have far better balancing choruses - albeit by accident rather than design. I fould that many of the quieter stops lacked beauty, to my ears. The flutes were generally fat, 'oily' (as I wrote previously) and unpleasant. This also resulted in a lack of blend.

 

Admittedly, I have grown accustomed to the bright, clean choruses of my own church instrument, but I play often enough on many other types of instrument to be able to appreciate aural effects other than a plethora of mixture-work. (I think that the vintage Walker at Bristol Cathedral is superb - and I also have a huge respect for the Mander restoration of the organ at Chichester Cathedral.)

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Well, it has a historic organ certificate, so it can't be that bad, or can it?

 

I am not necessarily suggesting that this is the structural equivalent, but it has a Grade-II listing. I may be a philistine with regard to nineteenth century corrugated-iron churches, but it looks butt-ugly to me.

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I am not necessarily suggesting that this is the structural equivalent, but it has a Grade-II listing. I may be a philistine with regard to nineteenth century corrugated-iron churches, but it looks butt-ugly to me.

 

 

The church in question is listed because it is a rare surviving example of something which is historically important, not because it may or may not be thought to be beautiful and or useful at any particular time. No doubt parallels can be drawn.

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