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Simon Walker

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Quite so. Leave well alone. When younger in the last century, my instrument of 3 ordinary manuals (but of heroic construction by Willis I) had the Great and the Choir behind at the same level. Then came the Swell which allowed sound to go through and over those departments as well as into the North Transept through the pedal division. The choir sang in the Choir for Solemn Evensong and Benediction and it was almost impossible to use the Great for accompaniment. However, the Choir plus Swell (always coupled together and both to the Great as well) was just the ticket for most of the time. Only would large climaxes demand Gt to Principal 4ft or to Fifteenth. (The full swell is still to my mind the best in the Capital - even surpassing St Paul's). The first stop to be added on the Gt would be the Small Open or at other times, the 8ft Viola or Claribel.

The English Choir Organ was to my mind a most necessary division in the proper acoustical placing because a Romantic Great is far too large for normal accompaniment.


The difficulties arose when organists (and some builders) thought we should go Baroque and have all manner of continental sounds on a Choir keyboard - with dire results. One such rather famous instrument from the 60's had such a Choir division with a weedy Cromorne made from the Clarinet and the Tuba (15") retained from the old mostly enclosed Choir division - except for it, which was extended to the pedal at 16ft to produce a most violent stop on a neo-classical organ from 1961.

I believe that people forgot the use and usefulness of this department within the context of British music and its accompanying rôle.


Best wishes,







I used to play a curious Harrison with a bipartite Choir Organ, consisting of three enclosed orchestral reeds and an unenclosed flue division.......all very strange, and a cross-over instrument between the old style and the new style of Arthur Harrison. (Check out Holy Trinity PC,Keighley on NPOR) If this organ proved one thing,it was the utter incompatibility of early romantic chorus-work and later romantic voicing:in its'own way as bad as anything from the 1960's! (Possibly the first instrument by H & H to combine the influence of Lt.Col.George Dixon and the voicing of Casson).


The Choir organ was fairly useless and didn't blend with anything, but it always gave me an idea; that of an unenclosed section balancing the Great chorus,and an enclosed section for accompaniment and/or duet voices under expression (so uselful in a theatre organ incidentally). Using English voicing rather than inappropriate continental voicing, the unenclosed section,if placed in a cabinet in front of the shutters, would effectively be a Chaire Organ, and whatever stops were enclosed could act as an expressive accompaniment/echo/solo division so useful in romantic music. Such a division could be placed as a Brustwerk, or better still,in the Rugpositiv or "Chaire" position.


As an absolute MUST for Anglican purposes. the mutations (as with many Compton organs), could be in the box and under expression. The lack of this on many instruments makes life difficult; especially when playing psalms or even the music of Francis Jackson.The lack of enclosed Mixtures and Mutations on most instruments,is possibly the reason why the "Diversion for Mixtures," for example, only ever sounds right at York.



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Speaking of the book by Charles Padgham, does anyone have a copy of the (then tape) examples used for the tests on a modern format (CD or MP3)?

I have (had) the cassette but can't locate it now, but have no tape deck to use....


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