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Smallest five-manual ever?


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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?

 

Presumably only if they restored the fifth manual and undid all the tonal changes.

 

Is there not still a stipulation that anything the Lottery contributes to must have an element of mechanical action?

 

Much as I'm in favour of stick organs, I don't think I'd fancy making and maintaining a 5-manual coupler chassis, with or without octaves. Pneumatic might actually be smaller and simpler.

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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.

 

I have no doubt this was the case. My point was exactly that of your second sentence.

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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.)

 

 

I guess we can agree to differ about the qualities or otherwise of Calne PC, but if I was in charge of the lottery allocations, I'd give them enough money to restore it to its original state for the sheer effrontery of the concept, although it's quite a big church and a sixty stop organ isn't altogether excessive for it, even outside the USA.

 

Incidentally, Conachers' built the first Positive division in Ireland, at Belmont Presbyterian Church, Belfast in the 60s. It's a good one, too, although the organ is let down somewhat by a rather lumpy Great with tierce mixture. They also built Cregagh Presbyterian organ in the same city, which Simon Preston is alleged to have described as the worst organ he ever played (he may have been in a bad mood because he left his organ shoes in the loft while he went for tea before the opening recital and the verger thought they must have belonged to a tramp and threw them out, but he was not too far from the truth).

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....Simon Preston is alleged to have described as the worst organ he ever played (he may have been in a bad mood because he left his organ shoes in the loft while he went for tea before the opening recital and the verger thought they must have belonged to a tramp and threw them out, but he was not too far from the truth).

 

:blink:

The Verger?

 

:D

DW

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... They also built Cregagh Presbyterian organ in the same city, which Simon Preston is alleged to have described as the worst organ he ever played (he may have been in a bad mood because he left his organ shoes in the loft while he went for tea before the opening recital and the verger thought they must have belonged to a tramp and threw them out, but he was not too far from the truth).

 

Unless I have got this wrong, this is far from a nice thing to say.

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No, it implies that, notwithstanding that SP may have been in a bad mood when he said it, his verdict on the organ was a fair one.

 

It could also imply that Simon Preston may easily be mistaken for a tramp, which I'm sure wasn't what was intended.

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Pardon the digression - it was Preston who wasn't too far from the truth. The trouble with Cregagh is that it's built to the east of the chancel behind a false (fabric) wall, complete with artificially illuminated stained glass windows, and you just can't get any power or life out of it. It's a hefty three-manual, too, with a 16-8-4 Tromba unit and reasonably developed choruses. Wells-Kennedy, who tuned it, said it wasn't a bad organ when you were inside it, but that's no comfort when you're sitting in the loft at the other end of the building trying to play the thing....

 

Back to Calne - although it's a big organ for the church by UK standards, the donor left money for its upkeep and also for the organist's salary. Unfortunately, no one then could foresee the sort of inflation that has occurred since.

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Pardon the digression - it was Preston who wasn't too far from the truth. The trouble with Cregagh is that it's built to the east of the chancel behind a false (fabric) wall, complete with artificially illuminated stained glass windows, and you just can't get any power or life out of it. It's a hefty three-manual, too, with a 16-8-4 Tromba unit and reasonably developed choruses. Wells-Kennedy, who tuned it, said it wasn't a bad organ when you were inside it, but that's no comfort when you're sitting in the loft at the other end of the building trying to play the thing....

 

Back to Calne - although it's a big organ for the church by UK standards, the donor left money for its upkeep and also for the organist's salary. Unfortunately, no one then could foresee the sort of inflation that has occurred since.

 

Away from Calne - what was your opinion of the H&H at Saint Anne's Cathedral, Belfast?

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Away from Calne - what was your opinion of the H&H at Saint Anne's Cathedral, Belfast?

 

Quite magnificent if you took the trouble to work out how to drive it, but infuriating in many ways.

 

The original organ was installed at the east end of the south aisle of the nave, which was the only part of the building completed at the time. It was a three manual, consisting more or less of the Great, Swell and Solo plus the Pedal without the 32' reed and the upperwork. The idea was to move it to a loft in the south transept with the console on the other side. In the event, there was a long wait before the north transept was built, so the console went on the south side behind the organ.

 

Nearly all of the old organ was retained (against a fairly influential amount of advice to scrap the lot and start again), with the following alterations and additions:

 

Great: Rohr Flute substituted for Hohl Flute (I never understood why - the Rohr Flute is quite plummy), Harmonics reconstituted as Mixture 19.22.26.29, Cornet V added on new chest, Sub Octave Reeds coupler scrapped(big mistake).

 

Swell: Mixture 26.29.33.36 added on new chest

 

Positive: all new, in ruckpositiv position (although the console was downstairs), plus the Great reeds and Cornet borrowed.

 

Solo: Clarinet revoiced as Cromorne, Octave, Sub and Unison Off scrapped(very big mistake).

 

Pedal: Quint 10 2/3, Fifteenth, Octave Flute, Twenty Second, Mixture 22.26.29, Bombardon 32, Fagotto 16, Bassoon 8 (44 note unit) and Shalmei 4 added. [uOpen Wood scrapped[/u] and the 16 and 8 derived from 32 (another big mistake).

 

There was a certain amount of revoicing, deleathering and rescaling, although the organ had originally been conceived for the completed building and scaled accordingly.

 

The worst part of it was the Great chorus, which was gormless. The big diapason was fine, but the second one not particularly pleasant and the Principal rather characterless. The Mixture was pretty filthy and the whole thing suffered from an unsteady wind supply. Philip Prosser revoiced the Mixture as well as could be, and the wind was improved by changing the wire from the bellows-top to the chopper valve to cord, which quickened the response quite remarkably. There were some really splendid Great stops, particularly the Geigens 16 and 8, and the Trombas, although smooth were not overbearingly loud.

 

The new Swell Mixture worked reasonably well (the old 12.19.22 one was retained), but was a b***** to tune, being on its own soundboard. Thank God they didn't ditch the Vox Humana to make room for it! Altogether, the Swell was a very distinguished department, but the build-up of the flues in the completed building lacked firmness to a certain degree.

 

The new Positive was as unlike the rest of the organ as chalk is from cheese. Everyone will know the sort of thing, but this was a textbook example. No nicking, light, spotted metal pipes. The 8' Diapason had a whacking great chiff at the console, although down the church it was much more civilised. The lack of a 4' Flute was very noticeable, and the 2' was a very big-scale open metal flute which didn't fit in with very much (it would have made a good Tibia if corked). However, if you coupled the Positive chorus to the Great chorus, it sounded very fine indeed. Because of the less favourable position of the rebuilt organ, the Positive had the effect of drawing the sound into the building, booted firmly in the behind by the Full Swell. Oddly enough, the Positive chorus with the Trombas added was a superb sound, for players who were imaginative enough to discover it.

 

The octave couplers to the Solo were sorely missed, particularly for use with the excellent Viole.

 

On the Pedal, the loss of the big Open Wood was unfortunate, although the ensemble had just about enough weight (on a visit when I wasn't around, I believe David Wyld said it was the weakest set of pedal basses he'd ever heard, which I think was an exaggeration, but not a complete one). In its new position, the 32' octave of the Double Open Wood could never be got to speak properly on some notes. The Fagotto unit had insufficient presence to be much use and the Schalmei was too soft to be accompanied by anything decent on the manuals (again, many readers will have been here before!).

 

Nevertheless, once one learned how to get around the awkward bits, it was a superb sound, in a huge acoustic (7 seconds echo), and very adaptable to different styles. As Philip Prosser once mentioned, 'With this organ, you know you're in the presence of a bit of class'. The trouble was that too many players registered with their eyes rather than their ears and sometimes it didn't yield its full potential. Some of those who got the measure of it included Stephen Cleobury (the best Liszt BACH I've ever heard), Yanka Hekimova (quite remarkable altogether) and Roger Fisher (although, oddly, he liked the Great chorus!).

 

Others who know the instrument may well disagree with my assessment of it, but I played it for a lot longer than anyone else (apart from Ian Barber, the excellent Assistant Organist, who had already been in post for some years when I arrived in 1988 and is still there), so I reckon I had the measure of it pretty well. Interestingly, over the years as Romantic music came back into fashion, a number of recitalists said they preferred it to the Ulster Hall.

 

It might be born in mind that the rebuild took place at a particularly nasty period in the Northern Ireland Troubles, and it was remarkable to have got it done at all.

 

By the end of the century, a growing number of minor action faults pointed to the fact that an overhaul was going to be necessary sooner rather than later. A lot of the work had been done when the organ came out in the sixties, rather than when it went back in in the mid-seventies. Bearing in mind that in Philip Prosser we had one of the UK's most accomplished voicers, Dean Shearer agreed that we should also try to improve in the areas where the tonal scheme had proved not quite right. A scheme was evolved which would have rebalanced the Great and brought the whole job into better cohesion. Unfortunately, it got as far as installation of the new action and cleaning of the Great and Swell when Dean Shearer died. The organ would have been his last big project before retirement. The powers that be then sank the whole scheme, the new regime was not disposed to be friendly to it, and thus it has remained ever since. At least we got back the couplers which were lost at the rebuild....

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Thank you for your reply, David.

 

This is really interesting. Presumably the work involving the additional ranks took place in the early 1970s? Regarding your last sentence, have all the octave couplers been re-instated?

 

However, one thing puzzles me. I know that there are many things to like about a variety of instruments - I have fairly catholic tastes myself - but I am genuinely unable to understand how, if you like the Belfast Harrison, you would wish to do anything other than set light to the instrument at Calne.

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Thank you for your reply, David.

 

This is really interesting. Presumably the work involving the additional ranks took place in the early 1970s? Regarding your last sentence, have all the octave couplers been re-instated?

 

However, one thing puzzles me. I know that there are many things to like about a variety of instruments - I have fairly catholic tastes myself - but I am genuinely unable to understand how, if you like the Belfast Harrison, you would wish to do anything other than set light to the instrument at Calne.

 

 

The organ was taken out in the late sixties and I think a lot of the work was done then, but the transept took longer than expected to complete and the rebuilt organ didn't go back until 1976.

 

In 2001, we replaced the couplers which had been lost at the rebuild: Solo Octave, Sub and Unison Off, and Great Sub Octave Reeds.

 

I guess we'll just have to agree to differ about Calne!

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The organ was taken out in the late sixties and I think a lot of the work was done then, but the transept took longer than expected to complete and the rebuilt organ didn't go back until 1976.

 

In 2001, we replaced the couplers which had been lost at the rebuild: Solo Octave, Sub and Unison Off, and Great Sub Octave Reeds.

 

I guess we'll just have to agree to differ about Calne!

Thank you, David. I am particularly glad to learn that the Great Sub Octave Reeds had been re-instated. I recall playing for a Mass at S. Etienne, Caen a few years ago, and adding the Octaves Graves G.O. (with reed ventil 'on') and almost wetting myself with exhilaration.... (Of course, the same thing would not obtain on any English organ I can think of - the scaling and voicing of the G.O. reeds would invariably produce basses with too much tonal 'body' - and a consequent detrimental over-thickening of the aural effect.) *

 

Fair enough! However, I look forward to some interesting and stimulating discussions - if you have a mind to participate!

 

 

 

* The sound effect - not the wetting myself part.... I have only once experienced a similar situation; at Salisbury Cathedral when, whilst playing before a service, I left the Swell clavier for the Solo (the Violoncello and 'Cello Céleste were drawn). My page-turner's head shot up and there was this stunned, slightly haunted look in his eyes - a little like that of a rabbit which finds itself transfixed to the centre of a road in the path of fast-approaching lights - and he said (quite reverently) 'Oh my God....'

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Thank you, David. I am particularly glad to learn that the Great Sub Octave Reeds had been re-instated. I recall playing for a Mass at S. Etienne, Caen a few years ago, and adding the Octaves Graves G.O. (with reed ventil 'on') and almost wetting myself with exhilaration.... (Of course, the same thing would not obtain on any English organ I can think of - the scaling and voicing of the G.O. reeds would invariably produce basses with too much tonal 'body' - and a consequent detrimental over-thickening of the aural effect.) *

 

Fair enough! However, I look forward to some interesting and stimulating discussions - if you have a mind to participate!

 

 

 

* The sound effect - not the wetting myself part.... I have only once experienced a similar situation; at Salisbury Cathedral when, whilst playing before a service, I left the Swell clavier for the Solo (the Violoncello and 'Cello Céleste were drawn). My page-turner's head shot up and there was this stunned, slightly haunted look in his eyes - a little like that of a rabbit which finds itself transfixed to the centre of a road in the path of fast-approaching lights - and he said (quite reverently) 'Oh my God....'

 

 

It's amazing how often people forget that you need a sub coupler for big French Romantic stuff. It makes all the difference. At Belfast Cathedral, the object of the coupler was to complete the reed chorus, which it did very well. Colchester Town Hall also has a Great Sub Reeds.

 

You're right, of course, that the effect on a lot of English organs would be unacceptably turgid, but it's like trying to get the effect of 'fonds' - one has to register with one's ears and find out what works. I have Sub, Super and Unison Off on all four manuals here, and use them all frequently.

 

I'm quite convinced that the octave couplers are an integral part of the tonal scheme on a lot of organs.

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It's amazing how often people forget that you need a sub coupler for big French Romantic stuff. It makes all the difference. At Belfast Cathedral, the object of the coupler was to complete the reed chorus, which it did very well. Colchester Town Hall also has a Great Sub Reeds.

 

Indeed - this was why DJB had a Swell Sub Octave added to the organ at Gloucester Cathedral (for the big French Romantic stuff). However, I also found that it worked quite well with the mild strings. Interestingly, on my own church organ, I can achieve a 'TC' 32ft. reed effect, since, although that Swell Octave coupler does not act through Swell to Pedal (because there is a separate Swell Octave to Pedal), the Swell Sub Octave does. Even this has its uses.

 

 

You're right, of course, that the effect on a lot of English organs would be unacceptably turgid, but it's like trying to get the effect of 'fonds' - one has to register with one's ears and find out what works. I have Sub, Super and Unison Off on all four manuals here, and use them all frequently.

 

I'm quite convinced that the octave couplers are an integral part of the tonal scheme on a lot of organs.

 

Absolutely. I was interested to see a review (about twenty years ago) in some periodical or other, stating that H&H had just added ('whisper it') some octave couplers to their superb instrument at Coventry Cathedral. (This in addition to a 'much-desired' Larigot on the Choir Organ, which was presumably on a clamp.)

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I recall playing for a Mass at S. Etienne, Caen a few years ago, and adding the Octaves Graves G.O. (with reed ventil 'on') and almost wetting myself with exhilaration.... (Of course, the same thing would not obtain on any English organ I can think of - the scaling and voicing of the G.O. reeds would invariably produce basses with too much tonal 'body')

 

St. James's Florence (http://www.willis-organs.com/florence_general.html) is an English organ with just that - G.O Octaves Graves & G.O. Octaves Aigues. The Great Bombarde is not a 'Trumpet' but instead a more French voice and so you are right that there isn't the tonal body in the bass.

 

The Great Mixture has had to be changed (by introducing another break) as the Aigues made it too high, too soon!

 

 

DW

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Indeed - this was why DJB had a Swell Sub Octave added to the organ at Gloucester Cathedral (for the big French Romantic stuff). However, I also found that it worked quite well with the mild strings.

 

H&H also added a Suboctave to the Swell at St Albans recently which however does not operate on the 16' reed in that division. Consequently one can get the desired thickening of textures, extra 'wellie' on the 8' & 4' reeds, wonderous Celeste effects but not the growling effect 32' from the 16 plus this stop.

 

A

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St. James's Florence (http://www.willis-organs.com/florence_general.html) is an English organ with just that - G.O Octaves Graves & G.O. Octaves Aigues. The Great Bombarde is not a 'Trumpet' but instead a more French voice and so you are right that there isn't the tonal body in the bass.

 

The Great Mixture has had to be changed (by introducing another break) as the Aigues made it too high, too soon!

 

 

DW

 

This is interesting, David. I recall seeing details of the instrument on your website. It looked to be a fine organ.

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H&H also added a Suboctave to the Swell at St Albans recently which however does not operate on the 16' reed in that division. Consequently one can get the desired thickening of textures, extra 'wellie' on the 8' & 4' reeds, wonderous Celeste effects but not the growling effect 32' from the 16 plus this stop.

 

A

 

Aside from the RFH, where the Swell Octave coupler only operates on 16ft., 8ft. and 4ft. ranks (both flue and reed), I think that this is the only other such application by H&H (i.e., where this stop did not simply work on every Swell stop).

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Quite magnificent if you took the trouble to work out how to drive it, but infuriating in many ways.

 

The original organ was installed at the east end of the south aisle of the nave, which was the only part of the building completed at the time. It was a three manual, consisting more or less of the Great, Swell and Solo plus the Pedal without the 32' reed and the upperwork. The idea was to move it to a loft in the south transept with the console on the other side. In the event, there was a long wait before the north transept was built, so the console went on the south side behind the organ.

 

Nearly all of the old organ was retained (against a fairly influential amount of advice to scrap the lot and start again), with the following alterations and additions:

 

Great: Rohr Flute substituted for Hohl Flute (I never understood why - the Rohr Flute is quite plummy), Harmonics reconstituted as Mixture 19.22.26.29, Cornet V added on new chest, Sub Octave Reeds coupler scrapped(big mistake).

 

Swell: Mixture 26.29.33.36 added on new chest

 

Positive: all new, in ruckpositiv position (although the console was downstairs), plus the Great reeds and Cornet borrowed.

 

Solo: Clarinet revoiced as Cromorne, Octave, Sub and Unison Off scrapped(very big mistake).

 

Pedal: Quint 10 2/3, Fifteenth, Octave Flute, Twenty Second, Mixture 22.26.29, Bombardon 32, Fagotto 16, Bassoon 8 (44 note unit) and Shalmei 4 added. [uOpen Wood scrapped[/u] and the 16 and 8 derived from 32 (another big mistake).

 

There was a certain amount of revoicing, deleathering and rescaling, although the organ had originally been conceived for the completed building and scaled accordingly.

 

The worst part of it was the Great chorus, which was gormless. The big diapason was fine, but the second one not particularly pleasant and the Principal rather characterless. The Mixture was pretty filthy and the whole thing suffered from an unsteady wind supply. Philip Prosser revoiced the Mixture as well as could be, and the wind was improved by changing the wire from the bellows-top to the chopper valve to cord, which quickened the response quite remarkably. There were some really splendid Great stops, particularly the Geigens 16 and 8, and the Trombas, although smooth were not overbearingly loud.

 

The new Swell Mixture worked reasonably well (the old 12.19.22 one was retained), but was a b***** to tune, being on its own soundboard. Thank God they didn't ditch the Vox Humana to make room for it! Altogether, the Swell was a very distinguished department, but the build-up of the flues in the completed building lacked firmness to a certain degree.

 

The new Positive was as unlike the rest of the organ as chalk is from cheese. Everyone will know the sort of thing, but this was a textbook example. No nicking, light, spotted metal pipes. The 8' Diapason had a whacking great chiff at the console, although down the church it was much more civilised. The lack of a 4' Flute was very noticeable, and the 2' was a very big-scale open metal flute which didn't fit in with very much (it would have made a good Tibia if corked). However, if you coupled the Positive chorus to the Great chorus, it sounded very fine indeed. Because of the less favourable position of the rebuilt organ, the Positive had the effect of drawing the sound into the building, booted firmly in the behind by the Full Swell. Oddly enough, the Positive chorus with the Trombas added was a superb sound, for players who were imaginative enough to discover it.

 

The octave couplers to the Solo were sorely missed, particularly for use with the excellent Viole.

 

On the Pedal, the loss of the big Open Wood was unfortunate, although the ensemble had just about enough weight (on a visit when I wasn't around, I believe David Wyld said it was the weakest set of pedal basses he'd ever heard, which I think was an exaggeration, but not a complete one). In its new position, the 32' octave of the Double Open Wood could never be got to speak properly on some notes. The Fagotto unit had insufficient presence to be much use and the Schalmei was too soft to be accompanied by anything decent on the manuals (again, many readers will have been here before!).

 

Nevertheless, once one learned how to get around the awkward bits, it was a superb sound, in a huge acoustic (7 seconds echo), and very adaptable to different styles. As Philip Prosser once mentioned, 'With this organ, you know you're in the presence of a bit of class'. The trouble was that too many players registered with their eyes rather than their ears and sometimes it didn't yield its full potential. Some of those who got the measure of it included Stephen Cleobury (the best Liszt BACH I've ever heard), Yanka Hekimova (quite remarkable altogether) and Roger Fisher (although, oddly, he liked the Great chorus!).

 

Others who know the instrument may well disagree with my assessment of it, but I played it for a lot longer than anyone else (apart from Ian Barber, the excellent Assistant Organist, who had already been in post for some years when I arrived in 1988 and is still there), so I reckon I had the measure of it pretty well. Interestingly, over the years as Romantic music came back into fashion, a number of recitalists said they preferred it to the Ulster Hall.

 

It might be born in mind that the rebuild took place at a particularly nasty period in the Northern Ireland Troubles, and it was remarkable to have got it done at all.

 

By the end of the century, a growing number of minor action faults pointed to the fact that an overhaul was going to be necessary sooner rather than later. A lot of the work had been done when the organ came out in the sixties, rather than when it went back in in the mid-seventies. Bearing in mind that in Philip Prosser we had one of the UK's most accomplished voicers, Dean Shearer agreed that we should also try to improve in the areas where the tonal scheme had proved not quite right. A scheme was evolved which would have rebalanced the Great and brought the whole job into better cohesion. Unfortunately, it got as far as installation of the new action and cleaning of the Great and Swell when Dean Shearer died. The organ would have been his last big project before retirement. The powers that be then sank the whole scheme, the new regime was not disposed to be friendly to it, and thus it has remained ever since. At least we got back the couplers which were lost at the rebuild....

 

 

David, I agree with your view of the instrument above but I do have a few reservations! I really think the Great chorus should mostly be scrapped. In my opinion (and of others who know the instrument well) it needs replaced with pipework that actually has some musical value and works in the building. David Briggs said it sounded like a Copeman Hart...............

 

In my view the instruments biggest problem is that H&H simply took the old organ and moved it back into a building that had grown by about 30-40% and did not re-voice a lot of it to suit. The regrettable losses you mention did make a big difference and the lack of weight in the pedal is a problem that still needs addressed. The tuba doesn't cut it at all and is easily swamped by the rest of the instrument, the trombas being much finer reeds of the type.

 

At the time of installation the troubles where at a peak so it is understandable why H&H didn't want to hang around but they did not leave an instrument that does them any credit now. The 32 DOW never worked in the new chamber despite the fact that it worked very well in its old position (I am told!) and H&H certainly didn't have to worry about any issues with lack of space, St Anne's having one of the biggest chambers around.t;;;

 

For my money 2 of the best stops on it (that you don't mention) are the solo orch oboe, which is simply one of the finest examples of such a stop anywhere in Northern Ireland, and the the choir Cimbel which works so much better in chorus than the new swell sharp mixture. I generally avoid the new swell mixture and feel it really needs to go on the main soundboard. (The vox humana would have been better on a chest of its own). The wind supply to it isn't terribly good on its little chest and the (very smooth) swell reeds make it sound flat. On the subject of the swell reeds, I always wondered if they would work better on the great organ with new reeds for the swell? I would welcome your thoughts on this. When David Briggs played a few years ago he avoided the swell reeds like the plague and concocted all sorts of reedy sounds using the solo reeds with the sub and super couplers. He did use the trumpet & clarion for bigger moments but I don't think he used the swell double trumpet at all!

 

Of particularly special mention should be the 12 note extension of the pedal Ophicleide which is one of the most bombastic and dirty 32 reeds in existence!!

 

Details of the spec from 1976 - c. 2001 here http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=D01440

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David, I agree with your view of the instrument above but I do have a few reservations! I really think the Great chorus should mostly be scrapped. In my opinion (and of others who know the instrument well) it needs replaced with pipework that actually has some musical value and works in the building. David Briggs said it sounded like a Copeman Hart...............

 

In my view the instruments biggest problem is that H&H simply took the old organ and moved it back into a building that had grown by about 30-40% and did not re-voice a lot of it to suit. The regrettable losses you mention did make a big difference and the lack of weight in the pedal is a problem that still needs addressed. The tuba doesn't cut it at all and is easily swamped by the rest of the instrument, the trombas being much finer reeds of the type.

 

At the time of installation the troubles where at a peak so it is understandable why H&H didn't want to hang around but they did not leave an instrument that does them any credit now. The 32 DOW never worked in the new chamber despite the fact that it worked very well in its old position (I am told!) and H&H certainly didn't have to worry about any issues with lack of space, St Anne's having one of the biggest chambers around.t;;;

 

For my money 2 of the best stops on it (that you don't mention) are the solo orch oboe, which is simply one of the finest examples of such a stop anywhere in Northern Ireland, and the the choir Cimbel which works so much better in chorus than the new swell sharp mixture. I generally avoid the new swell mixture and feel it really needs to go on the main soundboard. (The vox humana would have been better on a chest of its own). The wind supply to it isn't terribly good on its little chest and the (very smooth) swell reeds make it sound flat. On the subject of the swell reeds, I always wondered if they would work better on the great organ with new reeds for the swell? I would welcome your thoughts on this. When David Briggs played a few years ago he avoided the swell reeds like the plague and concocted all sorts of reedy sounds using the solo reeds with the sub and super couplers. He did use the trumpet & clarion for bigger moments but I don't think he used the swell double trumpet at all!

 

Of particularly special mention should be the 12 note extension of the pedal Ophicleide which is one of the most bombastic and dirty 32 reeds in existence!!

 

Details of the spec from 1976 - c. 2001 here http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=D01440

 

The 2001 scheme included mostly new pipework for the Great chorus. The existing pipes had been worked over and rescaled, but in many ways the effect just didn't come off. As you say, the Choir Cimbel is an excellent stop and really clinches the presence of the organ in the building. Unfortunately, many visiting players failed to grasp this.

 

I understand your opinion of the new Swell sharp mixture. The 2001 scheme aimed to exchange it with the Vox Humana so as to get it on the main soundboard, where it would be more amenable - always assuming that we could still 'trem' the Vox! There was also to be a new Principal 4 in the Swell in place of the Octave Gamba, which was just that bit too thin to support a bigger chorus (it is, in effect, a Geigen Principal). When adding upperwork, so much depends on what is already underneath.

 

I would be loth to alter the Swell chorus reeds. They are fine examples of their type and were voiced by W.C. Jones, as were all the reeds. The Tuba I found fine enough, but it needed the octave coupler in the completed building and with the new upperwork. There was a plan for a Fanfare Trumpet in the opposite triforium (with promises of donations for the soundboard and pipes), which would have capped things off when needed. It sounds a bit extravagant, but Belfast Cathedral has a lot of civic and military services where it would have justified itself. The Great Trombas are extremely fine - not as loud as some (e.g. Redcliffe!), but surprisingly adaptable. I mentioned that they capped off the Positive chorus perfectly - they shouldn't have done, but they did!

 

Philip Prosser was anxious to add new reeds to the Great, with the trombas in a secondary role. I was always uneasy about this and think that a really good principal chorus would have served more than adequately.

 

I, too, used to use the Solo (particularly the Orchestral Oboe and Viole) a lot to 'rough up' combinations, especially in stuff that was written with a Cavaille-Coll in mind. I think I was proved right one year when two candidates played the Franck Second Choral for an LTCL exam. Both played more than competently. One used the registration I cooked up for him and passed, the other played it like any old English organ and failed (he passed the next time, using my stop combinations).

 

I think the reason for the 32' Wood failing to sound properly was its elevation - I believe such stops are very fussy about location. We did find that it was speaking on static wind and added a new reservoir to give it a more appropriate pressure, which helped things somewhat. In my opinion, the 32' reed was too much of a good thing and should have been shaded off a little in the bottom octave. Was it you or Peter Thompson who used to use it in the Gloria of Bairstow in E flat at boys' Evensong on Tuesdays??? I sometimes used it without the 16' - e.g. towards the end of the St. Anne Fugue.

 

I think that the tweaking Philip carried out during my time made the best possible effect from what was there, but one still had to avoid certain bad spots. The 2001 scheme would hopefully have removed these and resulted in a finer and more tractable instrument - and because Philip had such a long and treasured connection with the place, the price was more than reasonable. In the present circumstances, I think it could be another twenty years before another attempt is made.

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The 2001 scheme included mostly new pipework for the Great chorus. The existing pipes had been worked over and rescaled, but in many ways the effect just didn't come off. As you say, the Choir Cimbel is an excellent stop and really clinches the presence of the organ in the building. Unfortunately, many visiting players failed to grasp this.

 

I understand your opinion of the new Swell sharp mixture. The 2001 scheme aimed to exchange it with the Vox Humana so as to get it on the main soundboard, where it would be more amenable - always assuming that we could still 'trem' the Vox! There was also to be a new Principal 4 in the Swell in place of the Octave Gamba, which was just that bit too thin to support a bigger chorus (it is, in effect, a Geigen Principal). When adding upperwork, so much depends on what is already underneath.

 

I would be loth to alter the Swell chorus reeds. They are fine examples of their type and were voiced by W.C. Jones, as were all the reeds. The Tuba I found fine enough, but it needed the octave coupler in the completed building and with the new upperwork. There was a plan for a Fanfare Trumpet in the opposite triforium (with promises of donations for the soundboard and pipes), which would have capped things off when needed. It sounds a bit extravagant, but Belfast Cathedral has a lot of civic and military services where it would have justified itself. The Great Trombas are extremely fine - not as loud as some (e.g. Redcliffe!), but surprisingly adaptable. I mentioned that they capped off the Positive chorus perfectly - they shouldn't have done, but they did!

 

Philip Prosser was anxious to add new reeds to the Great, with the trombas in a secondary role. I was always uneasy about this and think that a really good principal chorus would have served more than adequately.

 

I, too, used to use the Solo (particularly the Orchestral Oboe and Viole) a lot to 'rough up' combinations, especially in stuff that was written with a Cavaille-Coll in mind. I think I was proved right one year when two candidates played the Franck Second Choral for an LTCL exam. Both played more than competently. One used the registration I cooked up for him and passed, the other played it like any old English organ and failed (he passed the next time, using my stop combinations).

 

I think the reason for the 32' Wood failing to sound properly was its elevation - I believe such stops are very fussy about location. We did find that it was speaking on static wind and added a new reservoir to give it a more appropriate pressure, which helped things somewhat. In my opinion, the 32' reed was too much of a good thing and should have been shaded off a little in the bottom octave. Was it you or Peter Thompson who used to use it in the Gloria of Bairstow in E flat at boys' Evensong on Tuesdays??? I sometimes used it without the 16' - e.g. towards the end of the St. Anne Fugue.

 

I think that the tweaking Philip carried out during my time made the best possible effect from what was there, but one still had to avoid certain bad spots. The 2001 scheme would hopefully have removed these and resulted in a finer and more tractable instrument - and because Philip had such a long and treasured connection with the place, the price was more than reasonable. In the present circumstances, I think it could be another twenty years before another attempt is made.

 

Interesting! I was unaware of the new scheme being as far reaching tonally. I always use your French registrations as St Annes and the instrument really works for this sort of stuff if you couple everything and select carefully!!

 

I nearly always use the 32' reed on its own as the 16' is a bit too foghorn like for most things IMO. It may well have been me in the Bairstow - I always aimed to get at least one "blow" in during every service and often managed a few more I suppose - still do!!!

 

It may not take 20 years so get the instrument sorted but it will take quite a while. H&H looked at it, by invitation of the cathedral, a couple of years ago. I was not told what they said about it or suggested, even though I did ask. Who knew such things were so top secret??

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Thought this news might be of interest from Philip Prosser...............

 

"After thirty-three years tuning the Cathedral Organ I heard today that my services are no longer required."

 

A great shame that Philip should be treated this way after all that has gone on over the last 10 years never mind his many years of service that have gone before.

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Thought this news might be of interest from Philip Prosser...............

 

"After thirty-three years tuning the Cathedral Organ I heard today that my services are no longer required."

 

A great shame that Philip should be treated this way after all that has gone on over the last 10 years never mind his many years of service that have gone before.

 

 

Yes, that's disgraceful, but quite on a par when it comes to the present regime's way of operating. There is only a handful of people in Ireland capable of tuning an organ that size, let alone carrying out the rest ofthe maintenance, and you and I know that expecting a firm from outside to come in and do it never works out.

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