Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Wisbech Parish Church


OmegaConsort
 Share

Recommended Posts

Many years ago I stopped in Wisbech on my way to Norwich and dropped into the parish church, which is an attractive medieval town centre building of fairly normal proportions. Lurking in the church is a large and fairly comprehensive 3 manual organ (Harrisons 1951) with a 32' Bombardon, Tuba and other wonders!

Here it is on NPOR Wisbech organ

 

This instrument gets scant mention in Elvin's The Harrison Story, and does't appear to receive honourable mention anywhere else, yet, on paper it looks pretty terrific!

Has anyone played it, or heard it and therefore might have an opinion? The church website is rather poor and doesn't suggest a strong musical tradition at the church.

 

Best wishes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many years ago I stopped in Wisbech on my way to Norwich and dropped into the parish church, which is an attractive medieval town centre building of fairly normal proportions. Lurking in the church is a large and fairly comprehensive 3 manual organ (Harrisons 1951) with a 32' Bombardon, Tuba and other wonders!

Here it is on NPOR Wisbech organ

 

This instrument gets scant mention in Elvin's The Harrison Story, and does't appear to receive honourable mention anywhere else, yet, on paper it looks pretty terrific!

Has anyone played it, or heard it and therefore might have an opinion? The church website is rather poor and doesn't suggest a strong musical tradition at the church.

 

Best wishes

 

 

I was privileged to give an organ recital for the Wisbech Music Society about a dozen years ago, and around that time I recorded this instrument for volume 4 of my Benchmarks series. The instrument is basically a late example of 'high romantic' H&H, and the local story goes that its generous donor had only two requirements, that it should have a 32' reed and be blxxdy loud!

 

It certainly is.

 

Bishops worked on it at some point, changing aspects of its character substantially, and more recently Richard Bower has improved it (IMHO), the thick original Trombas being tamed to make respectable and blending trumpets. I seem to remember that both the case and the console woodwork are later additions, indeed the console panelling came from the relatively short-lived J.W.Walker rebuild at Sherborne Abbey.

 

I enjoyed playing the instrument though this is seriously difficult to do cleanly because there is no acoustic at all to cover the inevitable tiny defects in a live concert and the organ tone is both full and pervasive right to the west door. One of the pieces on my Benchmarks CD (Arthur Wills' Song without Words) I remember I was unable to use any stops on the Great at all, they were all simply too loud, even for a piece that easily reaches mf. To go from even fullish choir with swell coupled onto even a single Great 8' flute was a noticeable jump!

 

The organist for many years was a Mr.Bruce Wegg and he used to guard the instrument carefully. I could not say if he is still in post, though he certainly could be. The truth is, the place is a little off the beaten track, combine that with an age in which it is often unsafe to leave a town centre parish church open and it is pretty inevitable that anyone other than locals will not have heard much of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was privileged to give an organ recital for the Wisbech Music Society about a dozen years ago, and around that time I recorded this instrument for volume 4 of my Benchmarks series. The instrument is basically a late example of 'high romantic' H&H, and the local story goes that its generous donor had only two requirements, that it should have a 32' reed and be blxxdy loud!

 

It certainly is.

 

Bishops worked on it at some point, changing aspects of its character substantially, and more recently Richard Bower has improved it (IMHO), the thick original Trombas being tamed to make respectable and blending trumpets. I seem to remember that both the case and the console woodwork are later additions, indeed the console panelling came from the relatively short-lived J.W.Walker rebuild at Sherborne Abbey.

 

I enjoyed playing the instrument though this is seriously difficult to do cleanly because there is no acoustic at all to cover the inevitable tiny defects in a live concert and the organ tone is both full and pervasive right to the west door. One of the pieces on my Benchmarks CD (Arthur Wills' Song without Words) I remember I was unable to use any stops on the Great at all, they were all simply too loud, even for a piece that easily reaches mf. To go from even fullish choir with swell coupled onto even a single Great 8' flute was a noticeable jump!

 

The organist for many years was a Mr.Bruce Wegg and he used to guard the instrument carefully. I could not say if he is still in post, though he certainly could be. The truth is, the place is a little off the beaten track, combine that with an age in which it is often unsafe to leave a town centre parish church open and it is pretty inevitable that anyone other than locals will not have heard much of it.

 

 

Elvin wrote this organ up in 'The Organ' Vol.35, No. 139, January 1956. He claimed that it was the largest entirely new organ built in England since the end of the Second World War. It was new apart from a few ranks or part-ranks of pipes, including a Samuel Green Stopped Diapason on the Great. The Choir Organ, as built (but not mentioned in NPOR)was:

 

Contra Dulciana, Open Diapason, Harmonc Flute, Viole d'Orchestre, Dulciana, Gemshorn, Concert Flute, Harmonic Piccolo, Orchestral Oboe, Clarinet, Tromba (Gt), Octave Tromba (Gt), Tuba.

 

I played it about thirty years ago and can confirm that it is loud! Very traditional Harrison for the most part, but rather clearer - more 'looseness', as Elvin used to say. I'm not sure that it was a good thing to pep up the Choir Organ, but everyone was doing it in those days. Certainly a tremendously fine beast, but off the beaten track - no one goes through the Fens to get elsewhere!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I played it about thirty years ago and can confirm that it is loud! Very traditional Harrison for the most part, but rather clearer - more 'looseness', as Elvin used to say. I'm not sure that it was a good thing to pep up the Choir Organ, but everyone was doing it in those days. Certainly a tremendously fine beast, but off the beaten track - no one goes through the Fens to get elsewhere!

 

I have fond memories of an Organ Club visit a quarter of a century ago, at which a truly splendid tea was laid out on tables in the north aisle, during which the President, Jonathan Rennert, provided high-decibel accompaniment at the console.

 

It wasn't quite 'foie gras to the sound of trumpets' but it was certainly 'pork pies to the sound of Trombas'.

 

JS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have fond memories of an Organ Club visit a quarter of a century ago, at which a truly splendid tea was laid out on tables in the north aisle, during which the President, Jonathan Rennert, provided high-decibel accompaniment at the console.

 

It wasn't quite 'foie gras to the sound of trumpets' but it was certainly 'pork pies to the sound of Trombas'.

 

JS

 

That was the time I played it! I blush to admit, as an Organ Club member, that I had forgotten about the tea - although I remember the Tuba!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Having spent a few months on rebuilding this instrument i may be able to shed some light of a few things.

 

It sounds just as impressive as it looks on paper if not more so

 

I can still hear that tuba rining in my ears

 

There is no shortage of space in this organ despite its stop list, even enough room for a 32' open to sit alongside the bombardon to the right of the instrument.

 

From memory i belive there are 11 double rise bellows placed all around the instrument. Also that the 8' choir stopped diapasion is a old set of pipes, belived to be by father smith.

 

Mr Bruce Wegg was very protective about this instrument, he told me that the spec for the organ was to "make it loud"

 

Would also like to thank Mr Wegg for introducing me to "Bach goes to town!

 

I have some photos somewhere showing the inside of the instrument, will see if i can dig them out

 

Matthew

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
... I have some photos somewhere showing the inside of the instrument, will see if i can dig them out

 

Matthew

 

I, for one, would be interested to see these, if possible, please.

 

I was also wondering how useful the organ is in terms of service accompaniment - it sounds as if the Pedal and G.O. (for example) are extremely loud.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...

Found 2 pics, it wont let me link to them, so they are here www.cocopopsdog.com/images/wisbech.jpg

 

The 2nd pic is of the Choir Dept

 

Matty

 

Thank you for these.

 

It certainly looks better, now.

 

I wonder how many Harrison organs were left with no proper case - just a row of 16ft. Geigen pipes, with dark-stained plywood over the building-frame below impost level? (They even did something similar at Westminster Abbey for several years.)

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...