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St Bees Priory organ


Guest Hector5
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Guest Hector5

I've just taken delivery of the rather fine CD of Daniel Cook playing the Willis/Harrison organ of St Bees Priory. The organ is quite superb, as is the repertoire, which is off the beaten track. I've unearthed all my Arthur Milner as a result of this CD, and it's really good stuff.

 

One thing that really grated with the CD was the appearance of what was a really sharp Mixture on top of the Willis Swell (12.19.22) and the Great Cornet (17.19.22) - and whatever this Mixture is, it really gets rather intrusive in a number of the works. The stoplist in the CD cover gives no clue as to the element of strangeness, showing only the Willis Mixtures. HOWEVER - if you go onto the St Bees Priory site, you will see photos of the stop jambs, and clearly marked on the Choir/Solo division is a Sharp Mixture. I'm rather assuming that it was added by H & H (or someone) at some stage on an empty slide. Whoever added it, this stop really does not fit in with the ensemble. There are flashes of the original choruses in many of the works, and this stop really stands apart.

 

Nevertheless, this is a fine CD of a fine organ, played extremely well. I for one and delighted with the likes of Paul Derrett and Daniel Cook reintroducing old and neglected repertoire. Some years ago, when I visited Novellos at Borough Green I let slip that I enjoyed some of Desmond Ratcliffe's music (I was only 14 at the time!). I was asked for my address, and a week later a large parcel arrived - a gift from the man himself of his complete organ works; a really nice gesture. I have recently re-visited this music, and have to say that it's worth looking at. The Milner stuff is surprisingly good - as is the Introduction and Fugue that I've just finished playing here at home.

 

Can anyone out there put me out of my misery about this blasted Mixture at St Bees?????

 

Hector

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The typically Willis 17-19-22 Mixture is rather brillant and sharp, it is voiced

with that aim. I have an old LP of the St Bees organ (recorded in the 70's I think),

and it was already sharp, even in Bach.

I believe this Mixture is intended to be drawn after the reeds.

 

Pierre

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The typically Willis 17-19-22 Mixture is rather brillant and sharp, it is voiced

with that aim. I have an old LP of the St Bees organ (recorded in the 70's I think),

and it was already sharp, even in Bach.

I believe this Mixture is intended to be drawn after the reeds.

 

Pierre

 

I am open to correction, but I believe that the Great Mixture at St.Bees was added later by Arthur Harrison, (in the days of William Coulthard and Col.Dixon) it's not a Willis stop. It is possible that several ranks run right up the compass, like a conventional Harrison Harmonics stop, so that could be responsible for the irritating high-pitched noises you can hear.

 

I should say, however, that I have never heard this organ in the flesh. Over the years I have written more than once to ask for permission to visit and try the organ but never had a reply!

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Guest Hector5
I am open to correction, but I believe that the Great Mixture at St.Bees was added later by Arthur Harrison, (in the days of William Coulthard and Col.Dixon) it's not a Willis stop. It is possible that several ranks run right up the compass, like a conventional Harrison Harmonics stop, so that could be responsible for the irritating high-pitched noises you can hear.

 

I should say, however, that I have never heard this organ in the flesh. Over the years I have written more than once to ask for permission to visit and try the organ but never had a reply!

 

I am aware of what the 17.19.22 Mixture sounds like as it can be picked out of the chorus in some of the organ works on the CD. There is something distinctly odd about the sound which sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

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I took a detour via St. Bees on the way South from Orkney once (can't remember the year, but it would have been before 1988, when I moved to Belfast). I went to Sunday Evensong and had a go on the organ afterwards. It is a three-manual, with the lowest manual designated 'Solo' rather than 'Choir'.

 

There were at that time four stops prepared-for at the console: Great Geigen 8, Swell Lieblich Gedeckt 8, Swell Double Bassoon 16, Solo Sharp Mixture 26.29. I believe that the intention was to move the Vox Humana to the Solo and place the Sharp Mixture in the Swell. (Hypothetically, the Sharp Mixture would be more useful on the Solo, as it could have the Swell coupled to it if desired, and the Vox would still be in the Swell box for colouring.) As Willis left the organ, the prepared for stop on the Solo was an Orchestral Oboe and the Swell 16 a Lieblich Bourdon. I have no idea when the stop-knobs were changed, or whose idea it was.

 

Harrisons' slightly enlarged the scale of the Great upperwork in 1905, when they added the Cornet 17.19.22 and borrowed the Great Double onto the Pedal. At the same time, W.C. Jones added harmonic trebles to the Great reeds, regulated the Solo reeds and revoiced the Pedal Ophicleide on 15", it having originally been on the Great reed pressure of 7". Willis had apparently been dissatisfied with the output of this stop and had tried to let it out as much as possible.

 

On 1931, Harrisons' extended the wood Open Bass down to GGGG with new pipes and in 1949 they added twelve pipes to extend the Ophicelide to 32'.

 

It is a glorious instrument, still (to my ears) a Father Willis but tastefully enhanced by Harrisons. Its effect is all the more remarkable when one remembers that it has only 36 speaking stops. As is well known, Colonel George Dixon lived in St. Bees and the organ was like a child to him. By 1905, Father Willis was dead and the strife within the family over his finacial affairs was apparently one factor in Dixon transferring his patronage to Harrisons'.

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I've just taken delivery of the rather fine CD of Daniel Cook playing the Willis/Harrison organ of St Bees Priory. The organ is quite superb, as is the repertoire, which is off the beaten track. I've unearthed all my Arthur Milner as a result of this CD, and it's really good stuff.

 

One thing that really grated with the CD was the appearance of what was a really sharp Mixture on top of the Willis Swell (12.19.22) and the Great Cornet (17.19.22) - and whatever this Mixture is, it really gets rather intrusive in a number of the works. The stoplist in the CD cover gives no clue as to the element of strangeness, showing only the Willis Mixtures. HOWEVER - if you go onto the St Bees Priory site, you will see photos of the stop jambs, and clearly marked on the Choir/Solo division is a Sharp Mixture. I'm rather assuming that it was added by H & H (or someone) at some stage on an empty slide. Whoever added it, this stop really does not fit in with the ensemble. There are flashes of the original choruses in many of the works, and this stop really stands apart.

 

Nevertheless, this is a fine CD of a fine organ, played extremely well. I for one and delighted with the likes of Paul Derrett and Daniel Cook reintroducing old and neglected repertoire. Some years ago, when I visited Novellos at Borough Green I let slip that I enjoyed some of Desmond Ratcliffe's music (I was only 14 at the time!). I was asked for my address, and a week later a large parcel arrived - a gift from the man himself of his complete organ works; a really nice gesture. I have recently re-visited this music, and have to say that it's worth looking at. The Milner stuff is surprisingly good - as is the Introduction and Fugue that I've just finished playing here at home.

 

Can anyone out there put me out of my misery about this blasted Mixture at St Bees?????

 

Hector

 

Having lived nearby for most of my life, and having played this organ on numerous occasions, I can confirm that the Solo 'Sharp Mixture II 26.29' is not present, and that the drawstop so marked in fact operates the Tremulant! What you can hear is therefore something else, though as I do not have the recording in question I cannot proffer any suggestions as to what that may be.

 

CP

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