Jump to content
Mander Organs
Sign in to follow this  
Simon Walker

'Historic Organs'

Recommended Posts

Quote: "We have a small H & H (16 . 8884 . 8848) of 1931 vintage. It is in good nick overall, regularly tuned, needs a clean and probably a reed re-voice, but is unlikely to get either of these unless we get permission to print our own money.

 

Beyond that, it is wholly unremarkable, you might even say 'bog standard' = there's certainly no shortage of these around this area"

 

Without wishing to paraphrase Monty Python, you don't know how lucky you are! Small Harrisons may be commonplace in the North East but elsewhere they are not. What are commonplace are instruments that do not come close, tonally or in build quality.

 

The point about the old St Oswald's organ was "there goes another one", rebuilt and then finally lost before anyone noticed. St Sepulchre's has a Grade 2 BIOS certificate (it appears unchanged since the H&H work) and if that helps preserve it, all the better. It was built after the old instrument had become completely unserviceable and funds were limited in the Great Depression. "Organs of the City of London" records that the planned west end organ never happened.

 

Size should not come into the 'Historic' equation - St George's Hall historic and Adlington Hall not?

 

But of course I have to agree about Durham Cathedral - perhaps (said warily - there are lots of opinions out there!) the finest romantic Europe in Europe and historic, therefore, by definition, even though evolutionary rather than original?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Size should not come into the 'Historic' equation - St George's Hall historic and Adlington Hall not?

 

Agreed - size should not necessarily come into the equation. However - surely no-one could sensibly argue that there is any comparison between a 1930's Harrison octopod and Adlington Hall! It's also in a church it's not realistically big enough for (it was typical in the North east to go for quality over quantity at this time if the church was on a budget!)

 

The other Harrison of 1931 in Helmsley just mentioned looks more the part for some recognition. It's a good size and spec, and I'm sure proves both delightful and versatile. I would also say the console position within the case is an interesting feature.

 

At the moment, to qualify for a Grade II historic certificate the BIOS criteria is ' organs which are good representatives of the work of their builder, in substantially original condition'. I think the criteria should be amended to include the following. 'And of excellent musical value, and sound mechanical design'

 

What do you folks think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Agreed - size should not necessarily come into the equation. However - surely no-one could sensibly argue that there is any comparison between a 1930's Harrison octopod and Adlington Hall! It's also in a church it's not realistically big enough for (it was typical in the North east to go for quality over quantity at this time if the church was on a budget!)

 

The other Harrison of 1931 in Helmsley just mentioned looks more the part for some recognition. It's a good size and spec, and I'm sure proves both delightful and versatile. I would also say the console position within the case is an interesting feature.

 

At the moment, to qualify for a Grade II historic certificate the BIOS criteria is ' organs which are good representatives of the work of their builder, in substantially original condition'. I think the criteria should be amended to include the following. 'And of excellent musical value, and sound mechanical design'

 

What do you folks think?

 

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

 

I can well understand the antiqurian approach, but I much prefer a musical one. Surely, if the BIOS wabt to do justice to organ MUSIC, as well the preservation of historic instruments, then they should have a category for "Organ of outstanding merit."

 

I'll repeat the bit about Skipton PC, (and other organs made from various bits, such as that at Christ Church, Sowerby Bridge, nr.Halifax), because musical merit mist override all other considerations. If an organ is very, very good, it is worth protecting; irrespective of the pedigree or originality.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3. Please would you explain in more detail your comment about winding and sound board design? I`d be interested to know more. I`d be interested to know why this is, as many instruments of that period have gentle fifteenths and twelfths all on the same sound board and winding. I accept your comment about the voicing. That`s when the skills and experience of the organ builder advising on any potential modification comes in to good use - if best left alone they should say!

 

I'm no expert, but if I was designing a soundboard to contain 4 or 5 stops of 8', plus a wind-hungry Harmonic Flute and maybe a Principal (but more often than not such things are on the Swell in a small scheme), and those 8' stops had to create vast volume, I would be providing good chunky pallets and a very ample wind channel. This would be necessary to support full organ and still make it possible to press the keys down reasonably easily. Conversely, if I was designing a soundboard to contain a chorus of 88442, it might have considerably more modest wind channels with longer and thinner profile pallets, since each successive stop to be added would be considerably less wind-draining than the one which went before; pallet movement need not be so great, the extent to which they bend under pluck is lower, and the action can be geared in a much more responsive way. How large a slice of bread do you wish to spread jam on; which sort of knife is most appropriate, or would a ladle be better?

 

Find me an organ builder who is prepared to respond to a parish's request for more stops with 'nah, leave it alone' and I'll show you a man who drives a 15-year old Volvo with 200,000 miles on the clock and has holes in all his jumpers... I'll also bet ten bob that the parish goes with the firm who says 'yes' to all their requests, however ill-advised they may be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest drd
At the moment, to qualify for a Grade II historic certificate the BIOS criterion is ' organs which are good representatives of the work of their builder, in substantially original condition'. I think the criteria should be amended to include the following. 'And of excellent musical value, and sound mechanical design'

 

What do you folks think?

 

I quite agree, though the difficulty is in describing what is 'excellent'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I should imagine that there's a good case for any Arthur Harrison organ to be considered historically important.

 

I don't know how St. Oswald's, Durham sounded after the last rebuild before the fire, but when I played it in 1974, it had already acquired a 4' Octave Flute on the Pedal and a Larigot in place of the Voix Celeste, both of which seemed rather inappropriate. But, like all of its ilk, it had that elusive quality - "class".

 

Helmsley is a fine job and very much deserving of its certificate.

 

St. Sepulchre, Holborn Viaduct certainly deserves its certificate, and not only for being probably the smallest organ ever with a 32' Double Open Wood. Its effect is way beyond what its contents would suggest, a bit like the little RSCM Harrison (which I think has gone to a church in Shrewsbury?).

 

I suppose one would need to be more picky with other builders, but there's a one manual Bevington about an hour's drive from St. John's (Brigus United Church) which goes from Double Diapason up to Fifteenth, Mixture and prepared-for Cornopean. If it were in the UK, it would certainly deserve a certificate. (It's been out of use for years, with a Hammond in front of it and a keyboard in front of that, but there's nothing wrong with it that an afternoon's work wouldn't put right).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
St. Sepulchre, Holborn Viaduct certainly deserves its certificate, and not only for being probably the smallest organ ever with a 32' Double Open Wood. Its effect is way beyond what its contents would suggest, a bit like the little RSCM Harrison (which I think has gone to a church in Shrewsbury?).

 

Indeed correct. St Alkmunds Shrewsbury has had a series of organs, in the 1960s a three manual Gray and Davison from 1823 somehow went AWOL, to be replaced with a transplanted Kirkland of 1881 two manual. Then in 2006 the RSCM Harrison arrived. It looks very pretty in its white and gold case, though I never did understand the rationale for having a Swell comprising 8, 4, 2 2/3, 2, 16 reed. I'm sure someone far more knowledgeable than I could fully justify such an unusual specification, and I look forward to hearing the logic behind it!

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=R01719

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Indeed correct. St Alkmunds Shrewsbury has had a series of organs, in the 1960s a three manual Gray and Davison from 1823 somehow went AWOL, to be replaced with a transplanted Kirkland of 1881 two manual. Then in 2006 the RSCM Harrison arrived. It looks very pretty in its white and gold case, though I never did understand the rationale for having a Swell comprising 8, 4, 2 2/3, 2, 16 reed. I'm sure someone far more knowledgeable than I could fully justify such an unusual specification, and I look forward to hearing the logic behind it!

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=R01719

 

It's a remarkable specification when one considers that in those days small organs consisted, in effect, of the bits of large ones used to accompany a choir plus a big diapason. The clever thing about the RSCM Harrison is that it has a large organ effect, but mostly under expression, and the really quiet stuff on the Great where it can be contrasted with the Swell but also 'swelled' if the gedeckt is coupled to it. Note the Great to Swell coupler, too. A very clever instrument indeed. The only drawback is not being able to use the 16' reed on the Pedal and the full flue chorus on the manual at the same time.

 

Ballylesson Parish Church, Drumbo, Co. Down, has a Wells-Kennedy recasting of a Conacher along similar lines (NPOR D01451) which possibly makes more sense in modern terms and has tracker action.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For what its worth, the whole thing caused me plenty of pain and angst.

 

My issue with the certifictate that my organ had, was that it wasn't protecting a good instrument, just a unique one, apparently. The organ was originally a reasonable two manual, then later enlarged to a three manual, and then a fourth with tubular pneumatic action, all in the very small confines of a chamber designed for a two manual instrument. The organ now c1925 attracted the certificate, but had the system been running 80 years ago, then perhaps the more modest instrument would have had one and the now too large instrument wouldn't have been built.

 

There were inherent design problems in the instrument with divisions facing the wrong way, and parts of the organ were barely accesible for tuning and repairs, certainly not when the organ was revisited in the 1970s. The BIOS chap who we tried to negociate with would have none of this and he proclaimed with much pomposity that the organ must be saved in this form.

 

A compromise solution was eventually found, but the I cursed the certificate on a regular basis during the lengthy process.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thankyou to all the folks who responded to this thread, and of course any additional comments would be great.

 

Our organ heritage in Britain is very important indeed, and must be protected as necessary. At the same time we must also try to ensure the future of organ building, and organ usage within our churches. Therefore it's been very interesting to read the views people have on preservation and historic status, as well as the comments on the musical value behind all this.

 

Despite my rather negative start to this thread, it's been interesting, and I think a good thing to see peoples positivity and enthusiasm to some older instruments. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens to all these historical instruments over the coming years. I imagine some difficult decisions will have to be made when church closures happen. I hope this scheme has success in doing what it set out to do - preservation of historically valuable and worthy instruments.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A hypothetical to take this down a slightly different route -

 

Organ, big, old (late 1700s), not certified but probably should be.

 

Taken out of old case and placed in new one, with logical expansion (double flues and octave reeds).

 

However, new one cannot be positioned ideally in building; most effective way of getting sound out from compromise location seems to be to adopt a completely new style, a little along the lines of Clifton RC cathedral (see here for those not familiar).

 

Alternative appears to be disposal of instrument.

 

Which is the better option - re-clothe in alien outfit, or bin? Do you think a BIOS inspector, being faced with something which looks like the link but in reality is jam-packed with 18th century pipework, should write out the certificate? Or should he put the designer in prison?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A hypothetical to take this down a slightly different route -

 

Organ, big, old (late 1700s), not certified but probably should be.

 

Taken out of old case and placed in new one, with logical expansion (double flues and octave reeds).

 

However, new one cannot be positioned ideally in building; most effective way of getting sound out from compromise location seems to be to adopt a completely new style, a little along the lines of Clifton RC cathedral (see here for those not familiar).

 

Alternative appears to be disposal of instrument.

 

Which is the better option - re-clothe in alien outfit, or bin? Do you think a BIOS inspector, being faced with something which looks like the link but in reality is jam-packed with 18th century pipework, should write out the certificate? Or should he put the designer in prison?

 

If an establishment really wants to get rid of an organ - I think they should be allowed to put it up for sale. If no-one wants it it will only be neglected and that does nobody any favours.

 

However... I could never condone breaking an old, original, 19th C organ, let alone a 18th C one and using the pipes in a new organ if the old one could be considered historic.

 

I would only find it acceptable if the old organ was already something of a mongeral (ie pipe work of different ages), or the instrument couldn`t be considered of great value historically.

 

 

I say:

If the instrument is worth saving - make sure it`s saved.

 

If it`s not of any use to anyone, well then we just have to accept it.

 

Sadly over the coming years more instruments will become redundant as more churches close. We won`t be able to save them all. Let`s try and make sure the very best are preserved. I have to say Cynic and his Benchmarks recording label are great publicity for the better historic instruments around.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... Your 'real improvement' may be someone else's 'wanton destruction'. There are too many instances where people have turned up, hacked the top two-thirds off a Dulciana rank and called it Fifteenth, or added totally inappropriate fractions and upperwork. Frequently, the people who do these things are not as talented as the original builder. In rare examples, they are (Roger Yates for instance). ...

 

I got an organ builder to do exactly this on a small village church organ in North Cornwall - and it completely transformed the organ. The Dulciana was absolutely useless - there was already a Salicional on the five-stop Swell Organ, together with an undulating rank. The G.O. had an Open Diapason, Claribel Flute (not particularly pleasant), Dulciana and Principal. The organ was admittedly not historic (being built some time in the 1950s or '60s). The Claribel Flute was changed for a beautiful Stopped Diapason (from C13) and the Dulciana was cut down to make the bass of the new Fifteenth (which was completed with new pipes). The Open Diapason and Principal were strengthened to match. A fine small chorus resulted from this transformation. Following the rebuild, the organ was able, for the first time, to cope with the full congregations we had - morning and evening - every week (on average, around 250 - 300 people, in a church seating barely 350).

 

I still have no qualms about this, and would do the same, given similar circumstances.

 

A similar case, is Lytchett Minster Church* - except there, for some bizarre reason, the organ builder kept the G.O. Dulciana, but sacrificed the 8ft. Flute for a Fifteenth. This was, quite simply, incredibly frustrating. This organ now has an enormous tonal 'hole', where one is compelled to use a very quiet Dulciana (on this five or six stop G.O.). The jump to the Principal (let alone the Diapason), is large and disconcerting. I cannot imagine what possessed the builder to do this.

 

 

 

* Incidentally, the NPOR entry for this instrument needs updating. If it ever was a three-clavier instrument, it certainly has not been so for many years.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...