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Shrewsbury Abbey


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... The proposed scheme seems to suggest, with its 4 swell reeds, that some sort of separate swell reed chest is required. Is this chest already there? Is there space in the swell box for this? Was this part of the structure of the organ in the first case?

Yes - he has already mentioned that this is in place. I can verify this, having seen it when I was in post at this church.

 

 

 

The next issue is the wind system. What reservoirs are there in the organ? What is their history? What divisions do they supply? My suspicions are raised here because of the stated lack of tremulants on the organ - original Victorian builders rarely included tremulants if there was just one reservoir in the organ as it would affect the entire organ. Tremulants that are on Victorian organs with one reservoir have usually been fitted later (although I'm sure somebody will come back with some organ that proves I'm wrong on this point).

 

If there is to be a new separate reed chest for the Swell Organ, you'll probably need a second swell reservoir. Where will it go? If you throw out the existing reservoirs in the organ in preference to a system of several modern single-rise regulators, are you really "completing the instrument to its designer's dream"?

 

I cannot comment on this, since I cannot recall precise details of the reservoirs. However, I do know that it never ran short of wind; neither was there any unsteadiness in the supply, except in the case of leaks - the source(s) of which were usually obvious.

 

 

Similarly the Great Reeds/ Choir Tuba item. This will require a separate soundboard if you want them playable from the Great and Choir keys, which, ignoring important stylistic considerations for a minute, will lead to questions about a different wind pressure as well, which means you'll need to think carefully about the wind system again. Was this part of the original scheme? The (utterly magnificent IMO) Hill organ at Eton has a Great reeds to Choir transfer - and very useful it is too - but the reeds have their own soundboard.

 

Personally, I would leave the G.O. Posaune where it is - and I would also leave it tonally as it is. If it is desired to add a Tuba, then firstly a check should be made on whether the blower is adequate, before investigating the wind system.

 

Pedal Octaves and Super Octaves are not part of any Hill 1911 scheme and are entirely inappropriate. I doubt they would add value, except in an attempt to play the organ in a neo-classical manner which is foreign to this style of instrument. If you want more weight on the Pedal Organ, I would suggest you look at the solutions Hill used and do something similar - the Pedal Trombone and a 32ft Open Wood are more appropriate suggestions. A Pedal 4ft Principal will be a weak and disappointing stop if it is buried with the rest of the pedal organ at the back of the organ because its sound won't get out. At best it'll be carried on stops beneath it and will only add some harmonic interest to these rather than provide any drive or power.

 

Due to the fine, open position on the (shallow but lofty) North Transept, nothing in this instrument is likely to sound buried.

 

If, by Pedal Octaves and Super Octaves you mean pipes (as opposed to couplers), this is not the case. There are a number of instances where Hill supplied 4ft. Pedal flue stops. In addition, it was not unknown for him to supply a Pedal compound stop in larger organs - for which Shrewsbury Abbey would probably qualify*. In any case, the purpose of such ranks is to add definition - not weight. As you mention, that will be the job of the 32ft. flue, should it ever materialise.

 

These are all general aspects before we get into the detail. If you're aiming to reconstruct ranks you'll need to get all the aspects of these ranks right - the scaling to other ranks, construction details, finishing and how they fit into the tonal picture of the organ. This is still regarded as quite an unusual request in some quarters and requires a certain knack to get organ builders to respond appropriately to your wishes - but the results can be extremely fine if the builders share your vision - and a mongrel if they get it wrong. One very good option is to find ranks of suitable provenance and include them instead of creating from fresh.

 

Following on from pipework considerations, the action will need careful thought after that. Voicing characteristics changed with the introduction of pneumatic actions from the "quick and dull" speech of early English organs to the slower, hornier speech of late Victorian and Edwardian organs. Again, understanding the stylistic considerations of the organ will inform decisions here.

 

Finally, I would say that it is best to go for a good layout and good design at the expense of a few ranks here and there. Yes, there are nice-sounding organs that are badly laid out and designed but they are the exception rather than the rule. If you want a good organ, then good design and layout is the starting point.

 

However, this shouldn't be read that the organ shoudl be re-ordered, especially as the organ is reported to sound muffled and it doesn't project well. I think it's worth investigating why it isn't speaking clearly. There could be a number of reasons - such as wind leaks, poor conditions of soundboards and actions, or the placement of the organ in the building or the building's acoustics. It may not be a layout issue. If the layout of the organ has been compromised through numerous rebuilds, then maybe there is good reason to re-consider a re-ordering - or to remove additions. Again, it needs somebody knowledgeable to survey it before decisions can be made. Certainly the Armley project (a transplanted organ) was considered very carefully before any decisions were made.

 

I do not recall this organ sounding muffled. It is true that it does not project particularly well down this large building - but neither do the organs of Exeter, Salisbury or Winchester cathedrals - or Wimborne Minster, for that matter.

 

This is where my unease about this scheme surfaces. On the one hand, it talks about "completing the instrument to its designer's dream" and yet within almost the same breath it seems to be sanctioning a complete internal redesign, with a new action, a new wind system and quite possibly new soundboards. It looks to me more like a (conservative) rebuild than a completion of an original scheme.

 

I would agree that as much should be kept as is absolutely possible. A good organ builder will be able to assess the worth of the soundboards (although there may still be 'surprises' once they are stripped down in a workshop).

 

As Colin states, the action has been discussed enough already. The wind system will certainly need restoration. I recall having to fix leaks prior to a recital shortly after I arrived to take up the post at the Abbey.

 

 

 

* This does include instruments in which Hill had supplied such stops prior to 1911 - but were still in place at rebuilds subsequent to this date.

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The proposed scheme seems to suggest, with its 4 swell reeds, that some sort of separate swell reed chest is required. Is this chest already there? Is there space in the swell box for this? Was this part of the structure of the organ in the first case?

No and yes. A high-pressure reed chest would need to be built for three high pressure reeds but there is space in the Swell box. The present Contraoboe 16 (sitting on the Vox humana slide) would ideally be returned to 8 foot pitch as Hill left it; the slightly vulgar later Cornopean sits on the old 8 foot oboe slider.

 

The next issue is the wind system. What reservoirs are there in the organ? What is their history? What divisions do they supply? My suspicions are raised here because of the stated lack of tremulants on the organ - original Victorian builders rarely included tremulants if there was just one reservoir in the organ as it would affect the entire organ. Tremulants that are on Victorian organs with one reservoir have usually been fitted later (although I'm sure somebody will come back with some organ that proves I'm wrong on this point).

 

There are currently four double rise reservoirs; I believe the Great and Pedals are on slightly higher pressure than Swell and Choir and I assume there must be something to charge the action but don't know what or where. Being a Hill, the action is charge pneumatic, not exhaust (which I presume is relevant to the discussion around possible electrification).

 

If there is to be a new separate reed chest for the Swell Organ, you'll probably need a second swell reservoir. Where will it go? If you throw out the existing reservoirs in the organ in preference to a system of several modern single-rise regulators, are you really "completing the instrument to its designer's dream"?

 

All the current reservoirs will need to be releathered; the main reservoir is an integral part of the instrument and the whole organ would need dismantling to get to it. Whether it should be replaced by something more easily accesible for future repairs might need to be considered. But there is oodles of space for additional high pressure reservoirs; the organ takes up a significant chunk of Abbey real estate behind the North Choir but behind the Abbey in the Chancel bay is the vestry and the organ could extend back a good couple of metres if necessary (but hovering over the vestry if it did). A new blower might well be needed for other reasons.

 

Similarly the Great Reeds/ Choir Tuba item. This will require a separate soundboard if you want them playable from the Great and Choir keys, which, ignoring important stylistic considerations for a minute, will lead to questions about a different wind pressure as well, which means you'll need to think carefully about the wind system again. Was this part of the original scheme? The (utterly magnificent IMO) Hill organ at Eton has a Great reeds to Choir transfer - and very useful it is too - but the reeds have their own soundboard.

 

No, not original and perhaps the biggest deviation. The trouble is, the current Great Posaune is quite big (double length resonators) and a bit too loud for a trumpet but certainly not a tuba. For big civic occasions something bigger would be useful, at the end of the day the purpose of the restoration is to have an organ fit for purpose and fit in health, and what is being proposed is almost the completion of the original scheme yet allowing for the fact that its uses, and the Abbey needs, do change over the course of a century!

 

Pedal Octaves and Super Octaves are not part of any Hill 1911 scheme and are entirely inappropriate. I doubt they would add value, except in an attempt to play the organ in a neo-classical manner which is foreign to this style of instrument. If you want more weight on the Pedal Organ, I would suggest you look at the solutions Hill used and do something similar - the Pedal Trombone and a 32ft Open Wood are more appropriate suggestions. A Pedal 4ft Principal will be a weak and disappointing stop if it is buried with the rest of the pedal organ at the back of the organ because its sound won't get out. At best it'll be carried on stops beneath it and will only add some harmonic interest to these rather than provide any drive or power.

Granted, though the original scheme stipulated a Cello 8. In fact a lot of 3 manual Hills of similar vintage had an 8 foot Cello but no 16 foot pedal string (why the fascination of 8 foot Cellos?). In the case of the Abbey, the 16 foot Pedal Violone is the same as the Great Double Open Diapason (case pipes), so Cello 8 could be taken straight off the existing pipes but I don't know it would be particularly useful to do so. Would doubling up the 16 Diapason/Violone add clarity more so than having a Pedal 4 foot superoctave? For the same reason of definition it was suggested to have a Pedal 8 foot reed and Great Clarion 4 (in addition to Hill's Swell 4 ft clarion), but of course subject to discussion.

 

If the Pedal Principal isn't situated with the rest of the Pedal Organ, then where is it going to go? It's going to need its own soundboard, action, the wind supply will need to be worked out... you get the picture?

 

One very good option is to find ranks of suitable provenance and include them instead of creating from fresh.

 

That would be the preferred choice, though it doesn't always work. Indeed, most if not all the later Abbey organ additions were second hand (such as the Great Open Dia I which is thought to have come from Glynbourne - originally it was to be the Open Dia II but proved so big it had its mouths soldered downwards and yet is still too big...and then there's the rather battered and sad looking second hand Swell Cornopean.)

 

However, this shouldn't be read that the organ shoudl be re-ordered, especially as the organ is reported to sound muffled and it doesn't project well. I think it's worth investigating why it isn't speaking clearly. There could be a number of reasons - such as wind leaks, poor conditions of soundboards and actions, or the placement of the organ in the building or the building's acoustics. It may not be a layout issue. If the layout of the organ has been compromised through numerous rebuilds, then maybe there is good reason to re-consider a re-ordering - or to remove additions. Again, it needs somebody knowledgeable to survey it before decisions can be made. Certainly the Armley project (a transplanted organ) was considered very carefully before any decisions were made.

 

Unlikely the interior order has been changed, there have not been any rebuilds and so far as internal reordering goes, probably nothing other than the movement of the Violone/Double Diapason to form the case pipes, with associated borrowing mechanism to share it between pedals and Great. There is a huge great pillar in the way of the organ on the side facing down the Nave; the Choir is buried under the Swell box immediately behind the Great and is totally enclosed and is very hard to hear, even from the console. Originally only the two Choir reeds were enclosed and a space on the soundboard shows where the Choir shutters were originally fitted.

 

This is where my unease about this scheme surfaces. On the one hand, it talks about "completing the instrument to its designer's dream" and yet within almost the same breath it seems to be sanctioning a complete internal redesign, with a new action, a new wind system and quite possibly new soundboards. It looks to me more like a (conservative) rebuild than a completion of an original scheme.

 

Maybe; when does a restoration become a conservative rebuild?

 

Just a note to mention on the climate around the organ - clearly the Abbey does flood from time to time and it is not unknown for vicars to paddle up the nave in a small boat! But over winter the combination of heating and low temperature has meant humidity is very low, and this is very probably the cause of more damage than flooding can do - at least the organ is now several feet higher than the floodwaters are thought to be able to reach.

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Being a Hill, the action is charge pneumatic, not exhaust (which I presume is relevant to the discussion around possible electrification).

My limited understanding of these matters is that charge or exhaust refers only to what mechanism sets the wheels in motion. The final stage of pulling down the pallet is inevitably done by a large motor collapsing and drawing a pulldown wire with it, and in the course of electrification that can be caused to happen in a number of ways by where you place the magnets and what design of magnet is chosen.

 

Whether it [reservoir] should be replaced by something more easily accesible for future repairs might need to be considered.

Please don't!

 

The 16 foot Pedal Violone is the same as the Great Double Open Diapason (case pipes), so Cello 8 could be taken straight off the existing pipes but I don't know it would be particularly useful to do so. Would doubling up the 16 Diapason/Violone add clarity more so than having a Pedal 4 foot superoctave?

My guess would be that only the first 30 (or 32) notes of the Great Double are on an independent chest, above which they sit on the soundboard. Therefore, you're not going to be able to borrow or extend to the pedal without making (and locating) a standalone unit chest for this rank. Therefore, you may as well provide an independent rank and not take up valuable floor space with something which is not going to add anything (because it's already doubled by the manuals).

 

Maybe; when does a restoration become a conservative rebuild?

The very instant you change anything. Restoration means putting back.

 

I'm glad there has been no mention of digital pedal stops. I know some here like them, but they never seem to last long.

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My limited understanding of these matters is that charge or exhaust refers only to what mechanism sets the wheels in motion. The final stage of pulling down the pallet is inevitably done by a large motor collapsing and drawing a pulldown wire with it, and in the course of electrification that can be caused to happen in a number of ways by where you place the magnets and what design of magnet is chosen.

 

 

Please don't!

 

 

My guess would be that only the first 30 (or 32) notes of the Great Double are on an independent chest, above which they sit on the soundboard. Therefore, you're not going to be able to borrow or extend to the pedal without making (and locating) a standalone unit chest for this rank. Therefore, you may as well provide an independent rank and not take up valuable floor space with something which is not going to add anything (because it's already doubled by the manuals).

 

 

The very instant you change anything. Restoration means putting back.

 

I'm glad there has been no mention of digital pedal stops. I know some here like them, but they never seem to last long.

Hill actions of this vintage tend to be charge "all the way", from the touch-box at the console (driven by sticker off the key) via one or two sets of diaphragms, inflating a large, externally-mounted, pull-down motor.

 

I've never found these actions anything but robust and reliable, allowing for the inevitable deterioration in leatherwork of course. As with any design of pneumatic transmission, it doesn't appreciate being cooked during the winter months, although it would certainly appear that the Shrewsbury mechanisms have had to endure pretty severe extremes of atmospheric influence!

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Thanks for your comments:

Due to the fine, open position on the (shallow but lofty) North Transept, nothing in this instrument is likely to sound buried.

 

If, by Pedal Octaves and Super Octaves you mean pipes (as opposed to couplers), this is not the case. There are a number of instances where Hill supplied 4ft. Pedal flue stops. In addition, it was not unknown for him to supply a Pedal compound stop in larger organs - for which Shrewsbury Abbey would probably qualify*. In any case, the purpose of such ranks is to add definition - not weight. As you mention, that will be the job of the 32ft. flue, should it ever materialise.

 

* This does include instruments in which Hill had supplied such stops prior to 1911 - but were still in place at rebuilds subsequent to this date.

Please would provide examples that illustrate your point please? I can't find any instances of Hill organs of this size built between 1895 and 1914 that have 4ft pedal stops. Even the new 1909 Hill Organ of Selby Abbey (47/IVP) doesn't have any 4ft Pedal stops. The only examples with 4ft pedal stops I could find were Bangor Cathedral and Kings College Cambridge, both of which are considerably larger and rebuilds. Hill very, very rarely used the nomenclature "Octave" and "Superoctave", if ever - his typical nomenclature was the traditional English "Principal" and "Fifteenth".

 

Some things are making my ears burn here:

 

The present Contraoboe 16 (sitting on the Vox humana slide) would ideally be returned to 8 foot pitch as Hill left it

 

the slightly vulgar later Cornopean sits on the old 8 foot oboe slider

 

is, the current Great Posaune is quite big (double length resonators) and a bit too loud for a trumpet

 

most if not all the later Abbey organ additions were second hand (such as the Great Open Dia I

 

there have not been any rebuilds and so far as internal reordering goes, probably nothing other than the movement of the Violone/Double Diapason to form the case pipes

 

This speaks to me of an organ that has no original Swell or Great reeds, the Great Double and large Open are additions, a new case. NPOR tells me this organ received additions in 1927, a new case in 1937, with work by HNB (I assume this is when the Violone/Great Double unit arrived), further additions in 1945 and additions by HNB in the 1960s. Although I find NPOR a bit patchy on the detail of this organ, it is clear that, on paper at least, this organ has had quite a number of changes.

 

You may be right to say that the main structure of the organ hasn't altered substantially. If that is the case, what you're proposing, with a new soundboard for the Swell Reeds, a new soundboard for the Great Reeds/Tuba, eletrification of the action, potentially a new wind system, the addition of new stops (some of which were never envisaged), is actually the most invasive work that has ever been comtemplated on this organ. And you want to call it a "Restoration"?!

 

Who has been to give advice on this organ?

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Please don't!

Well OK, if the reservoir proves to be a part of the organ frame and the frame has to be dismantled to get at the reservoir then of course the reservoir would be dismantled! I would have thought the logical thing in that situation would be to put back the reservoir but not built into the frame so that the only way of repairing the reservoir in future is to dismantle the organ. No idea about the Abbey, but other organs I have encountered with buried reservoirs seem to have been designed in such a way as to make repairs impossible and that doesn't strike me as sensible, especially where there is actually plenty of potentially unused space.

 

My guess would be that only the first 30 (or 32) notes of the Great Double are on an independent chest, above which they sit on the soundboard. Therefore, you're not going to be able to borrow or extend to the pedal without making (and locating) a standalone unit chest for this rank. Therefore, you may as well provide an independent rank and not take up valuable floor space with something which is not going to add anything (because it's already doubled by the manuals).

 

There is some sort of mechanical/pneumatic borrowing device to enable the DD16 and Violine 16 stops to be drawn together or separately; the pipes themselves are on the facade so must be conveyanced from somewhere. For what it's worth, several notes of the Violone don't sound on the Pedals when the Violone is drawn alone, but do sound if both the Violone and Great DD16 are drawn.

 

The very instant you change anything. Restoration means putting back.

 

In which case I guess even completing the builder's original scheme counts as a rebuild not a restoration!

 

I'm glad there has been no mention of digital pedal stops. I know some here like them, but they never seem to last long.

Hey, what a great idea! Thanks for the suggestion, that way we could have a 32 Contrabombarde and a couple of dozen other stops too.... :D

 

Noone has commented on the question of temperament - my expectation would be that the current flat pitch of C517 would most likely be maintained, but how close to concert pitch can an organ be, if not already at concert pitch, and be brought to concert pitch without significantly altering the character of the sound? Reading earlier comments about the subtleties of perceived control of pneumatic action makes me wonder whether in a blind test there would be any discernible difference for some of these things.

 

If it didn't materially affect the sound then it might be worth considering to allow the organ to be played along with other instruments. Even for choir practice, switching between piano and organ can be annoying.

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C517 at what temperature, and what is a normal heating on/off sort of temperature around where the organ is? Other things being equal 517 to 523.3 will fatten the tone of the flues a bit and possibly mean the reeds will lose some brilliance. You'll definitely hear it close up. An examination of the pipes including the amount of dirt in the pitch pipe, the effects of dirt on the pipes at the moment, and the tuning margins need to inform your decision and any records held at the Abbey would be interesting to establish whether 517 was the original pitch. If you haven't already done so, you should do this before assuming what you have is what Hill did.

 

As for temperament, I'd leave it as equal, as any other temperament used in England on new instruments at the time is not going to be that far from equal for it to make any real difference.

 

AJS

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There is some sort of mechanical/pneumatic borrowing device to enable the DD16 and Violine 16 stops to be drawn together or separately; the pipes themselves are on the facade so must be conveyanced from somewhere. For what it's worth, several notes of the Violone don't sound on the Pedals when the Violone is drawn alone, but do sound if both the Violone and Great DD16 are drawn.

 

If it didn't materially affect the sound then it might be worth considering to allow the organ to be played along with other instruments. Even for choir practice, switching between piano and organ can be annoying.

 

On pitch - the only problem you could expect to face would be with the reeds. The imitative stuff like Oboes might be a bit more forgiving.

 

On the DD/Violone - those low notes will be on their own action and wind and not conveyanced from the main soundboard. I expect that by holding the manual note above the Pedal compass and drawing the stop, you will be able to hear the slider come on, whereas below that there will just be a firm on/off.

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Thanks for your comments:

 

Please would provide examples that illustrate your point please? I can't find any instances of Hill organs of this size built between 1895 and 1914 that have 4ft pedal stops. Even the new 1909 Hill Organ of Selby Abbey (47/IVP) doesn't have any 4ft Pedal stops. The only examples with 4ft pedal stops I could find were Bangor Cathedral and Kings College Cambridge, both of which are considerably larger and rebuilds. Hill very, very rarely used the nomenclature "Octave" and "Superoctave", if ever - his typical nomenclature was the traditional English "Principal" and "Fifteenth".

 

Some things are making my ears burn here:

 

 

 

This speaks to me of an organ that has no original Swell or Great reeds, the Great Double and large Open are additions, a new case. NPOR tells me this organ received additions in 1927, a new case in 1937, with work by HNB (I assume this is when the Violone/Great Double unit arrived), further additions in 1945 and additions by HNB in the 1960s. Although I find NPOR a bit patchy on the detail of this organ, it is clear that, on paper at least, this organ has had quite a number of changes.

 

You may be right to say that the main structure of the organ hasn't altered substantially. If that is the case, what you're proposing, with a new soundboard for the Swell Reeds, a new soundboard for the Great Reeds/Tuba, eletrification of the action, potentially a new wind system, the addition of new stops (some of which were never envisaged), is actually the most invasive work that has ever been comtemplated on this organ. And you want to call it a "Restoration"?!

 

Who has been to give advice on this organ?

 

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

 

I suspect that this confirms what I had guessed about this organ, which is clearly as much Norman & Beard as it is original Hill: the two not necessarily incompatible of course.

 

The clues I found in the Violone and Gt. Double unit, and especially the mention of the Great Posaune, as being quite a large sound, but not a Tuba.

 

This is similar to the organ of St.Margaret's, Ilkley, where the Gt.Double and Pedal Violone are the same and in the case.The NPOR entry for Ilkley also lacks detai, so I'm not sure how the organ evolved from the original; but evolve it did.

 

 

At Ilkley, the bigger reed was called "Grand Trumpet," and is extended down to a quite colossal 16ft Trombone of epic quality, but I would state with some certainty that this was H,N & B's doing, and even if the original Great reed, if it ever existed, was called "Grand Trumpet," what is there now is altogether more powerful and dramatic.

 

I suspect that the Swell reeds at Ilkley were also placed on higher pressure, because they are quite ferocious.

 

Again, Ilkley shared the same problem of a very soft Choir Organ; enclosed, very beautiful but of very limited use. By unenclosing the Choir and making it a quasi-Positve, the musical use has increased considerably, but more subtle tones and orchestral reeds under expression have vanished. (There was no room for a Choir Box, or even a small Solo box for the orchestral reeds, I gather).

 

Going back to Shrewsbury,what chance is there in the "restoration" of an original Hill instrument?

 

It is only partly original Hill by the looks of it, and if it were to be stripped back to what it was, with new pipework to replace whatever is unsatisfactory and possibly not by Hill, would be to creat a chamber organ sound in a big space. I've come across quite a few old Hill organs which are inadequate for the buildings in which they were placed, and the supreme example of that had to be the organ of Eastbrook Hall, Bradford, which could barely make itself heard over a decent choir, let alone 2,000 members of the congregation. In fact, when I played for a service there many, many years ago, I found myself using every sub and super coupler available.

 

On a more general point, the lack of anything above 8ft on the pedals was fairly typical of the day, and pedal definition was provided by coupling to the manuals....hence the Tierce mixtures which only had the tierce rank covering the couple-down pedal compass as a means of adding definition It works rather well, but it certainly isn't a "German" way of doing things, whatever the claim made by Hill or Gauntlett..

 

I suspect that organists were still "couple down" pedal exponents, even when the compass changed to a CC pedal.

 

However, take a look at specification for the original Eastbrook Hall, William Hill organ......4ft Fifteenth and a Pedal Mixture!

 

Things definitely went backwards towards the end of the century, but we know that anyway.

 

As for a "typical" Hill, there are few typical anythings from the era. Organ-builders were mere tradesmen, and as Herbert Norman pointed out, you did what you were told to do by those who "knew best." Those who "knew best" were usually famous organists, happy to take a cut from the profits and associate their prestigious names with new instruments.

 

The usual thing was to have "Dr X" design the organ and give the opening recital, and then declare it to be the finest organ in the country.....people believed them.

 

So I would question anything which claims to be a "restoration" and even question whether or not that is even desirable.

 

It would be far better, surely, to create an instrument which works well in what is a large building, even if that means moving away from the Hill original by a fair margin?

 

MM

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

 

I suspect that this confirms what I had guessed about this organ, which is clearly as much Norman & Beard as it is original Hill: the two not necessarily incompatible of course.

 

The clues I found in the Violone and Gt. Double unit, and especially the mention of the Great Posaune, as being quite a large sound, but not a Tuba.

 

This is similar to the organ of St.Margaret's, Ilkley, where the Gt.Double and Pedal Violone are the same and in the case.The NPOR entry for Ilkley also lacks detai, so I'm not sure how the organ evolved from the original; but evolve it did.

 

 

At Ilkley, the bigger reed was called "Grand Trumpet," and is extended down to a quite colossal 16ft Trombone of epic quality, but I would state with some certainty that this was H,N & B's doing, and even if the original Great reed, if it ever existed, was called "Grand Trumpet," what is there now is altogether more powerful and dramatic.

 

I suspect that the Swell reeds at Ilkley were also placed on higher pressure, because they are quite ferocious.

 

Again, Ilkley shared the same problem of a very soft Choir Organ; enclosed, very beautiful but of very limited use. By unenclosing the Choir and making it a quasi-Positve, the musical use has increased considerably, but more subtle tones and orchestral reeds under expression have vanished. (There was no room for a Choir Box, or even a small Solo box for the orchestral reeds, I gather).

 

Going back to Shrewsbury,what chance is there in the "restoration" of an original Hill instrument?

 

It is only partly original Hill by the looks of it, and if it were to be stripped back to what it was, with new pipework to replace whatever is unsatisfactory and possibly not by Hill, would be to creat a chamber organ sound in a big space. I've come across quite a few old Hill organs which are inadequate for the buildings in which they were placed, and the supreme example of that had to be the organ of Eastbrook Hall, Bradford, which could barely make itself heard over a decent choir, let alone 2,000 members of the congregation. In fact, when I played for a service there many, many years ago, I found myself using every sub and super coupler available.

 

On a more general point, the lack of anything above 8ft on the pedals was fairly typical of the day, and pedal definition was provided by coupling to the manuals....hence the Tierce mixtures which only had the tierce rank covering the couple-down pedal compass as a means of adding definition It works rather well, but it certainly isn't a "German" way of doing things, whatever the claim made by Hill or Gauntlett..

 

I suspect that organists were still "couple down" pedal exponents, even when the compass changed to a CC pedal.

 

However, take a look at specification for the original Eastbrook Hall, William Hill organ......4ft Fifteenth and a Pedal Mixture!

 

Things definitely went backwards towards the end of the century, but we know that anyway.

 

As for a "typical" Hill, there are few typical anythings from the era. Organ-builders were mere tradesmen, and as Herbert Norman pointed out, you did what you were told to do by those who "knew best." Those who "knew best" were usually famous organists, happy to take a cut from the profits and associate their prestigious names with new instruments.

 

The usual thing was to have "Dr X" design the organ and give the opening recital, and then declare it to be the finest organ in the country.....people believed them.

 

So I would question anything which claims to be a "restoration" and even question whether or not that is even desirable.

 

It would be far better, surely, to create an instrument which works well in what is a large building, even if that means moving away from the Hill original by a fair margin?

 

MM

I'm sorry, Colin, this is mainly supposition.

 

According NPOR, Norman & Beard never worked on this organ. The organ was Hill and HNB worked out it in the 1920s, etc. Where did the spurious idea that N&B worked on this organ arise?

 

It appears the only reed on the Swell and Great Organs at the time of the Hill installation was the Swell Oboe - the Great Posaune and Swell Cornopean are later (and probably not by Hill). It is not impossible that the Great Posaune could be quite similar to Ilkley if they are of similar provenance - note there is no HP Swell reed chest at Shrewsbury. Also, it appears the Shrewsbury orchestral reeds on the Choir Organ were enclosed but the rest of this division was not. I don't know if the entire choir division is now enclosed and who did it. It it is, it does indicate that this organ has been rebuilt and the changes may not only be tonal additions but how far these changes go is supposition without a survey.

 

The Hill organ at Eastbrook Hall dates from 1844/5, which is where the Pedal Fifteenth and Mixture come from. By 1961 these stops had disappeared. So this isn't relevant in this case - if anything it strengthens the case for not having them because they've been removed in the intevening years.

 

I note the specification of Shrewsbury Abbey was apparently drawn up by Dr. George Sinclair of Hereford Cathedral. I don't see that this is an argument to *not* restore the organ to its original specification.

 

The rest is mere supposition and does not warrant a response.

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I'm sorry, Colin, this is mainly supposition.

 

According NPOR, Norman & Beard never worked on this organ. The organ was Hill and HNB worked out it in the 1920s, etc. Where did the spurious idea that N&B worked on this organ arise?

 

It appears the only reed on the Swell and Great Organs at the time of the Hill installation was the Swell Oboe - the Great Posaune and Swell Cornopean are later (and probably not by Hill). It is not impossible that the Great Posaune could be quite similar to Ilkley if they are of similar provenance - note there is no HP Swell reed chest at Shrewsbury. Also, it appears the Shrewsbury orchestral reeds on the Choir Organ were enclosed but the rest of this division was not. I don't know if the entire choir division is now enclosed and who did it. It it is, it does indicate that this organ has been rebuilt and the changes may not only be tonal additions but how far these changes go is supposition without a survey.

 

The Hill organ at Eastbrook Hall dates from 1844/5, which is where the Pedal Fifteenth and Mixture come from. By 1961 these stops had disappeared. So this isn't relevant in this case - if anything it strengthens the case for not having them because they've been removed in the intevening years.

 

I note the specification of Shrewsbury Abbey was apparently drawn up by Dr. George Sinclair of Hereford Cathedral. I don't see that this is an argument to *not* restore the organ to its original specification.

 

The rest is mere supposition and does not warrant a response.

 

 

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

 

 

I used the title Norman & Beard to indicate the seed change which occurred within William Hill when it first shared premises with N & B, and then amalgamated fully over a period of time. My understanding is that the Hill company were very much on the skids after the first world war, when they lost all their younger employees, leaving the “old guard” to run and make things. The history is complicated by a certain inevitable ignorance of the facts, rather than a knowledge of the legal status of each company. According to the late Herbert Norman, who WAS the leading light in H,N & B over a considerable period, the amalgamation,”(sharing a premises in London), started prior to 1920, and they were effectively a single entity sometime around 1924. Prior to that, Hill used charge pneumatic action and Norman & Beard used exhaust pneumatics.....the demarcation was that clear.

 

The Shrewsbury Posaune, if it has harmonic trebles, is almost certainly a Rundle voiced reed by the way, and will probably be like the other superb reeds the Rundle dynasty (father & son) voiced throughout the period of H,N & B. (Hill’s reeds were cut to dead length on site).

 

My point was, and still is, that the organ at Shrewsbury is sufficiently altered as to be a blend of old and new, and who has the right to suggest that one part of the organ is better than the other?

 

I suppose they COULD have restored at Ilkley and taken the organ back to where it started, but the , it would have been insufficient for major choral accompaniment such as was the norm whenl I last had any involvement there. (I don’t know what the current choral status is....I should go and find out).

 

What is there now is not William Hill and it isn’t H,N & B, but it is a powerful, musically useful instrument which does its job well.

 

My question is: why should “restoration” be undertaken, when that would clearly involve a loss of musical flexibility and an organ which probably wouldn’t have much of an impact?

 

There are enough authentic Hill organs around, possibly because they were so well made in the first place, and if the current DOM thinks the organ inadequate in any way, then he should be the one to decide what is MUSICALLY most appropriate for the abbey requirements.

 

I think it would be a pity if everything always had to go backwards rather than forwards, and music was the least important thing on the agenda. I'm also of the opinion that English organ-history, (except for the relatively few original extant examples), is so fragmented, altered and scatter-brained, it shouldn't be used as an excuse for exact historical restoration.”

 

Music is not a living theme park for organ-historians.

 

MM

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"Music is not a living theme park for organ-historians."

(Quote)

 

Mind that some of us might belong to a jurassic one ! :P

 

Pierre

 

(LOL!!!)

 

 

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

 

I am not anti organ-history by any means, and in the right place there is nothing better. I have tramped the history trail in the Netherlands, and it draws me back time and again, but there no particular reason why organs need to change in the Netherlands so far as I can see. In any event, they have some fine modern instruments of their own.

 

The problems start when a creative process is limited by historical constraints, and this is why I would question the artistic efficacy (rather than the desirability) of moving a Cavaille-Coll instrument into an English cathedral. It sounds good on paper, but what are the limitations it poses?

 

Would a writer thank anyone for insisting that the next novel be written with a quill pen in the language of Shakespeare?

 

Living art MUST embrace the contemporary,and anything less is mere pretention at best, and third rate at worst.

 

However, we digress...............

 

MM

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Thanks for your comments:

 

Please would provide examples that illustrate your point please? I can't find any instances of Hill organs of this size built between 1895 and 1914 that have 4ft pedal stops. Even the new 1909 Hill Organ of Selby Abbey (47/IVP) doesn't have any 4ft Pedal stops. The only examples with 4ft pedal stops I could find were Bangor Cathedral and Kings College Cambridge, both of which are considerably larger and rebuilds. Hill very, very rarely used the nomenclature "Octave" and "Superoctave", if ever - his typical nomenclature was the traditional English "Principal" and "Fifteenth".

I will certainly try to do this - but not until tomorrow night (I have to go out to work again, soon).

 

Incidentally, (and this one is for Contrabombarde, too) - I have a clear recollection that the Swell reed soundboard is in the box - but with the upperboards boarded-over. I could be mistaken, since it was several years ago. Could Contrabombarde have a look sometime, please? If only to satisfy my curiosity.

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

 

...

 

What is there now is not William Hill and it isn’t H,N & B, but it is a powerful, musically useful instrument which does its job well.

 

My question is: why should “restoration” be undertaken, when that would clearly involve a loss of musical flexibility and an organ which probably wouldn’t have much of an impact?

 

There are enough authentic Hill organs around, possibly because they were so well made in the first place, and if the current DOM thinks the organ inadequate in any way, then he should be the one to decide what is MUSICALLY most appropriate for the abbey requirements.

 

I think it would be a pity if everything always had to go backwards rather than forwards, and music was the least important thing on the agenda. I'm also of the opinion that English organ-history, (except for the relatively few original extant examples), is so fragmented, altered and scatter-brained, it shouldn't be used as an excuse for exact historical restoration.”

 

...

 

MM

 

Apologies, MM, for abbreviating your excellent post - but I do so wish the passages I have quoted above were at the forefront of the minds of all who opine on organs.

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Apologies, MM, for abbreviating your excellent post - but I do so wish the passages I have quoted above were at the forefront of the minds of all who opine on organs.

 

As Heckelphone has stated elsewhere on this thread, I would agree with MM's post above - with caveats. It is true that there have been instances of perfectly good organs being ruined by either unsympathetic organists - or those with a desire for something new-fangled; the most obvious example of this, is Worcester Cathedral and the old Hill transept organ, versus the Hope-Jones monstrosity.

 

Form the 'distance' of well over a century, I am unable to comprehend how any sane musician could willingly dispose of the first instrument, in favour of the second.

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Apologies, MM, for abbreviating your excellent post - but I do so wish the passages I have quoted above were at the forefront of the minds of all who opine on organs.

 

As you might expect, I find that viewpoint - and the passages you have quoted - scarcely credible. "Musical flexibility" and "music [was] the last thing on the agenda" are baseless notions about as fatuous as "Let a smile be your umbrella". Just what on earth does "musical flexibility" mean? Pistons and upperwork? Can you not make music without?

 

In the great majority of cases (but of course not all), those who seek to treat historic - sometimes ancient - material with the respect it deserves do so not out of bloody-mindedness but out of a desire for players and listeners to be able to experience a vast literature of organ (and choral) music as it was intended to be played and heard. Sometimes that means a Swell that is either open or shut or occasionally in between, but not necessarily flapping about incessantly. Sometimes that means a moment of time for hand-registering to take place, as sometimes a string player has to cross over two or three strings. Does not the passion of a lot of 'cello music emerge from the player digging into the strings and spreading the chord? If a device were to come along whereby the player could squeeze their knee into the instrument to lower the strings not required and this no longer needed to happen, would that be for the benefit of musical flexibility? Presumably so. Modern ways are not the only ways; inconvenience is not the same thing as imperfection, and neither are necessarily bad things. A good deal of musical expression and excitement for the listener comes from the live experience of the player having to overcome physical and mental hurdles such as many instruments throw at them. In my view anyone who seeks to play any music with no understanding (if not first hand experience) of what the composer envisaged the player having to overcome in order to play it is not qualified to attempt it. Through remembering these forgotten skills, we grew the Organ Reform Movement and a generation of scholarship which naturally began with a good deal of guesswork because much of the evidence had been destroyed. That destruction is why our history is, as you say, "fragmented, altered and scatter-brained", and that in turn is why there is so much interest in preventing the buggering-up of any more good English organs and seeking to make authoritative and scholarly reconstructions of important milestones (in no small way undermined by some of the more speculative reconstruction work which has gone on - and no, before someone comes and bashes down my barn door, I don't mean Nicholson's).

 

Has anyone ever played a piano with a split (bass/treble) sustain pedal? They were commonplace in Mendelssohn's time, and his Songs without Words make so much more sense. Mendelssohn's markings (hairpins, vs. cresc and dim) only make sense when you understand the limitations of the instruments he was writing for - likewise Chopin's pedal markings - you gain your understanding of what he was trying to achieve through exposure to instruments of his era, and you then know that when playing Chopin on a modern Steinway you pretty much ignore the pedal marks.

 

Says MM, "Living art MUST embrace the contemporary,and anything less is mere pretention at best, and third rate at worst." This is fine, if a little dogmatic (possibly a little Stalinist, even) in a brand new instrument not incorporating historic material and not intended for a specific purpose (e.g. a music college requiring an instrument for early music work). However, it's patent nonsense when referring to something which is already old, which is exactly what this topic is about. You might well move things or change them, even re-cast them, but you don't do either of these things - throw them out for no good reason, or graft on contemporary material not stylistically or musically in keeping with what is there already. That's what was done in the 1960s and it's how far too many good organs have met the end of their credibility - with a Larigot on top.

 

You will note that I am deliberately echoing the strong language of "mere pretension" and "third rate", both of which are personal viewpoints which may or may not have any validity. I, personally, think absolutely not.

 

David Jenkins once wrote "Tradition is not a noun, shaped once and for all in the past; it is a verb, active under God, now and for the sake of the future." Whether or not you go along with the God bit, history ought to have taught every one of us that we turn our back on our roots at our own peril.

 

On edit - I've been looking at the prefaces to the BCP as part of a project to do with its anniversary next year. There are some wise words which apply to organs just as much as liturgy - "There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, nor so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted... in this our time, the minds of men are so diverse, that some think it a great matter of conscience to depart from a piece of the least of their Ceremonies, they be so addicted to their old customs; and again on the other side, some be so newfangled, that they would innovate all things, and so despise the old, that nothing can like them, but that is new... it hath been the wisdom of the Church of England to keep the mean between the two extremes."

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(On Worcester Cathedral and the old Hill transept organ, versus the Hope-Jones monstrosity)

 

Form the 'distance' of well over a century, I am unable to comprehend how any sane musician could willingly dispose of the first instrument, in favour of the second.

 

Ah, but "living art MUST embrace the contemporary,and anything less is mere pretention at best, and third rate at worst." MM said so.

 

Turning a Hill into a Hope-Jones is just the sort of thing you get lumbered with from time to time when you discard the "mere pretension" of acknowledging what is behind you when seeking to move forward. I expect they all thought it would summon forth a very great deal of Musical Flexibility.

 

Anyway, "there are enough Hill organs around" - aren't there?

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David Jenkins once wrote "Tradition is not a noun, shaped once and for all in the past; it is a verb, active under God, now and for the sake of the future." Whether or not you go along with the God bit, history ought to have taught every one of us that we turn our back on our roots at our own peril.

 

I certainly agree with this.

 

What I was really trying, indadequately, to express is a feeling that an entrenched attitude in any part of the debate on what might happen in order to keep an organ functioning is ultimately destructive. This stems from a feeling that where such entrenched attitudes surface, they result in something in some way or other unsatisfactory - whether that is the instrument itself or the relationships in the place where it exists having been damaged by over-polarisation.

 

Depending on circumstances I might argue some point from a historical renewal or a complete rebuild in any particular case - but I am one voice, and I would try not to do other than respect others' views. Fundamentally, the organ exists in a church to carry out a musical function - but there are many ways of achieving that.

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The bottom line I think is threefold:

1. Shrewsbury Abbey has an instrument of musically very fine pedigree (i.e. an early twentieth-century, pre-Great War Hill) in original condition with a few later bits tacked on with varying degrees of success.

2. It is absolutely at the end of its useful working life, having never had much maintenance during its lifetime; I suspect Arthur Hill would be amazed and impressed if he could see it now, but equally would not be surprised that the action and winding was on its last legs. Were pneumatic actions ever designed to last centuries without any maintenance, unlike small tracker actions?

3. Vicar, choir and congregation cherish the instrument and want it brought back to first class condition.

 

Whilst there have been minimal tonal changes to the original pipework (I don't know if the Swell oboe had to be revoiced or not when it was transplanted down an octave, but the remaining Hill pipework is pretty sound and all made in one batch), there have been a small number of later additions, none of which have with hindsight been spectacularly successful. So we know what doesn't work, and these can be modified if necessary.

 

We also know what was intended - and yes it's bizarre that the earlier modifications (apart from the Great reed) never really seem to have followed the original plan to complete the organ. So things are at a crossroads. One could reverse the more unsuccessful later changes (for instance I think there is room for a 2 foot on the Choir, but the Choir needs a Gemshorn 4 rather more than it needs an insipid 2 2/3 stop), and try to recreate what we know Hill intended had the money been there from the beginning. In doing so it gives a chance to amend slightly those things that in practice have been limiting but could easily work more effectively without modifying chests or pipes - for instance turning the buried and poorly sounding Choir from an Echo division to a Choir division just by considering the internal layout and maybe jettisoning the (later) box since originally only the two choir reeds were enclosed. There is no reason why that should require new soundboards (I note elsewhere Nicholson's response to the earlier question about Malvern Abbey was that they reused all the existing soundboards). To answer another question, yes an extra chest would need to be placed in the Swell where there was floorspace left for the heavy reeds but no windchest (I haven't risked my neck to climb up and confirm but am going on what was reported a while ago). Incidentally some of the later changes (e.g. the Great Posaune) were specifically given in memory of people, and it raises an interesting question about what to do when someone generously donates something like a stop that turns out not to be very useful or attractive. Unfortunately the console at Shrewsbury is a bit littered with little brass plaques beside the donated stops, and at the very least one would want to tidy these up a bit (though the Posaune itself would certainly be staying!)

 

Alternatively all additions could be jettisoned and the organ returned to the incomplete state that it was originally installed in. Inevitably that would also mean throwing out the blower (added in the 1920s) and going back to handpumps (long since removed, but the two slots in the lower case where the hand bellows used to sit, and get flooded whnever the River Severn rose, are still present). Oh and it would also mean scrapping the simple but fine case since that was later too.

 

On balance I think the former approach is the more sensible, the more musical and the more useful for the purposes for which the Abbey needs to use its organ.

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The bottom line I think is threefold:

1. Shrewsbury Abbey has an instrument of musically very fine pedigree (i.e. an early twentieth-century, pre-Great War Hill) in original condition with a few later bits tacked on with varying degrees of success.

2. It is absolutely at the end of its useful working life, having never had much maintenance during its lifetime; I suspect Arthur Hill would be amazed and impressed if he could see it now, but equally would not be surprised that the action and winding was on its last legs. Were pneumatic actions ever designed to last centuries without any maintenance, unlike small tracker actions?

3. Vicar, choir and congregation cherish the instrument and want it brought back to first class condition.

 

Whilst there have been minimal tonal changes to the original pipework (I don't know if the Swell oboe had to be revoiced or not when it was transplanted down an octave, but the remaining Hill pipework is pretty sound and all made in one batch), there have been a small number of later additions, none of which have with hindsight been spectacularly successful. So we know what doesn't work, and these can be modified if necessary.

 

We also know what was intended - and yes it's bizarre that the earlier modifications (apart from the Great reed) never really seem to have followed the original plan to complete the organ. So things are at a crossroads. One could reverse the more unsuccessful later changes (for instance I think there is room for a 2 foot on the Choir, but the Choir needs a Gemshorn 4 rather more than it needs an insipid 2 2/3 stop), and try to recreate what we know Hill intended had the money been there from the beginning. In doing so it gives a chance to amend slightly those things that in practice have been limiting but could easily work more effectively without modifying chests or pipes - for instance turning the buried and poorly sounding Choir from an Echo division to a Choir division just by considering the internal layout and maybe jettisoning the (later) box since originally only the two choir reeds were enclosed. There is no reason why that should require new soundboards (I note elsewhere Nicholson's response to the earlier question about Malvern Abbey was that they reused all the existing soundboards). To answer another question, yes an extra chest would need to be placed in the Swell where there was floorspace left for the heavy reeds but no windchest (I haven't risked my neck to climb up and confirm but am going on what was reported a while ago). Incidentally some of the later changes (e.g. the Great Posaune) were specifically given in memory of people, and it raises an interesting question about what to do when someone generously donates something like a stop that turns out not to be very useful or attractive. Unfortunately the console at Shrewsbury is a bit littered with little brass plaques beside the donated stops, and at the very least one would want to tidy these up a bit (though the Posaune itself would certainly be staying!)

 

Alternatively all additions could be jettisoned and the organ returned to the incomplete state that it was originally installed in. Inevitably that would also mean throwing out the blower (added in the 1920s) and going back to handpumps (long since removed, but the two slots in the lower case where the hand bellows used to sit, and get flooded whnever the River Severn rose, are still present). Oh and it would also mean scrapping the simple but fine case since that was later too.

 

On balance I think the former approach is the more sensible, the more musical and the more useful for the purposes for which the Abbey needs to use its organ.

 

This all looks very sensible. Your first option would be best all round; certainly you should keep the later additions - though as you say perhaps swapping the (pathetic) Choir Nazard for something more useful, and discarding the current (complete) Choir enclosure. A small one specially for the reeds would be a good idea - essentially because reeds built for enclosure are not hooded and therefore will soon be put off speech by later falls of dust etc. The occasional unenclosed choir reed, like the Orchestral Oboe at St.Stephen's Walbrook (another Hill) is possible, but less useful on balance. A thought, however, that Nazard and Piccolo might have been stuck in the space originally taken up by the shutters of the previous box.. there'll be a solution though, there always is!

 

Brass plates can be collected together on a more distant panel, nobody will mind.

 

If this project is seriously 'on the cards' I suggest you should start trying to track down genuine Hill material. BIOS might help, the Organ Rehousing lot (Derek Carrington) might help, and Dave Edwards in Stratford might help - he's the one that always posts a small advert for pipework on the back inside page of Organists' Review. He has or had in his stock more than one large four manual organ - he ought still to have a 32' wooden octave for instance. The fact that might have to be something other than Hill should not worry you unduly. Its cost new might be completely prohibitive - you could overhaul practically a whole manual for the same price!

 

Good luck..and thanks for letting us in on all your deliberations.

 

PS One firm that has most successfully copied Hill pipework for a brand new section is H&H. I consider their (relatively) new nave section at Lichfield to be a triumph.

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"Were pneumatic actions ever designed to last centuries without any maintenance, unlike small tracker actions?"

(Quote)

 

Of course, this we shall never know. But what we DO know is that the system which does endure the least badly

to be neglected is well that one (the tubular-pneumatic action).

 

I have been teached (in the 70's already) that "quality" and "reliability" are actually subjective notions, in that

there are many acceptions of this.

 

You can have, for example, two engines:

 

-One old simple thing in cast-iron, with lateral valves, traditionnal alimentation, ignition and so on; this thing

can last for decades, but you have to maintain it all 2,500 Miles, or it will soon refuse to start. And you'd better

drive it rather cool, avoiding high revs.

 

-One modern, all-aluminium unit, with double overhead camshafts, electronic injection and ignition, revving

up to 8,000 RPM or more.......Good for more than 100.000 Miles with nearly no maintenance, even if you

trash it, even MORE if you indeed DO trash it.

But whenever something goes wrong, any repair will be more time-and-cost intensive.

 

There are also such cultural differencies about the assessing of the finish, handling, and so on.

 

So according to your technical training, you will find one system or the other "better", while actually, the real

point lies with the quality of materials and workmanship, whatever the system may be.

 

Pierre

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Ah, but "living art MUST embrace the contemporary,and anything less is mere pretention at best, and third rate at worst." MM said so.

 

Turning a Hill into a Hope-Jones is just the sort of thing you get lumbered with from time to time when you discard the "mere pretension" of acknowledging what is behind you when seeking to move forward. I expect they all thought it would summon forth a very great deal of Musical Flexibility.

 

Anyway, "there are enough Hill organs around" - aren't there?

 

 

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

 

I'd wager that "Heckrlphone" doesn't realise the significance of his statement.

 

Actually, it wasn't me that made the point about art being contemporary, but I did use my own words to express it. I think one of the quoptes I recall, but do not know the authoriship of, is that which goes:- "Art is the nearest thing to life."

 

Assuming that we only live once or at best twice (James Bond), the chances are that any art we create or attempt to re-create, is very much within the context of contemporary understanding; even of things past. Short of a criogenic tank and a team of experts, it is unlikely that any many us will be able to pass the present, in person, to future generations.

 

Now on the subject of Hope-Jones, it was Norman & Beard who assisted him in certain aspects of pipe-voicing, and when he fled (that being the right word) to America, N & B bought out his interests and unfulfilled contracts. The theatre organ side of things follwed later under the "Christie" badge of what was then H,N & B.

 

However, when it came to church organs, the "old guard" at Hill had already gone down the path of orchestral tones and heavy diapasons made of very thick metal. When Mr Lamb (the MD) retired or popped his clogs (as the case may be), the tonal aspects changed dramatically, and rather better organs emerged as a result, until Hill was effectively absorbed into the Norman & Beard philosophy and working practices.

 

Even more remarkable, is the fact that Norman & Beard met with other organ-builders to discuss the heavy, orchestral and funerial tones then all the rage, with a view to reversing the trend, but the "experts" in the organ-lofts obviously felt that they knew better, and the tasteless pursuit of the orchestral organ continued. It was the organ-builders who wanted things to be different, but as usual, the musical taste was dictated by those who probably didn't have much of a clue.

 

Ironically, Hill, Norman & Beard had the brightest reed choruses, when most others had gone dull; yet this was a company which made theatre organs in due course. Equally ironic, is the fact that John Compton introduced English organists to Acutas and Cymbels long before the RFH instrument.

 

I've always maintained that Wurlitzer were better tonal artists than all the dilletante experts dropped together into the one bucket.

 

I love old Hill organs, and especially those by Thomas Hill, but I'm much less enamoured with later Hill organs towards the end of the company's independent existence after the turn of the century.

 

MM

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You can have, for example, two engines:

 

-One old simple thing in cast-iron, with lateral valves, traditionnal alimentation, ignition and so on; this thing

can last for decades, but you have to maintain it all 2,500 Miles, or it will soon refuse to start. And you'd better

drive it rather cool, avoiding high revs.

 

-One modern, all-aluminium unit, with double overhead camshafts, electronic injection and ignition, revving

up to 8,000 RPM or more.......Good for more than 100.000 Miles with nearly no maintenance, even if you

trash it, even MORE if you indeed DO trash it.

But whenever something goes wrong, any repair will be more time-and-cost intensive.

 

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

 

 

I'm trying to get my head around this Pierre.

 

You seem to be suggesting that top quality materials and thrashing an engine will make it last longer.

 

A formula One engine revs to 17,000 rpm, it uses the most exotic materials (including magnesium), sodium cooled valves and a variety of exotic steels and alloys. The working life is about 600 miles, after which it needs to re-built at a cost of approximately 300,000 Euros.

 

Makes organ-building look cheap doesn't it? :P:)

 

MM

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