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Aeron Glyn Preston

Small Willis organs

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A couple of days ago, I had the privilege of playing this organ, which used to belong to William Gladstone. The church in which it lives is really in the back of beyond - deep in the Welsh-speaking rural heartland of Montgomeryshire (as was) - but organ and church are kept well maintained by a small but dedicated congregation. What a fantastic instrument it is! It just shows that the best organ builders can design tonally coherent instruments whatever their size. Willis's larger organs are justly famous, but which of his small organs deserve more attention?

 

P. S. To any editors of the NPOR on this forum, the Harmonic Flute on this organ should be at 4' pitch.

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There is another interesting example here:

 

http://sites.google.com/site/jjbridoux/egl...oussu%5Bbois%5D

 

Small as it may be, and without maintenance since many decades, this organ

is still great in Brahms. It sounds like a normal 30-stops organ, while built more solid

than a nuclear plant concrete chamber. Of course, the action is pneumatic (otherwise,

it would be unplayable after so many years without maintenance).

The pictures are from my visit there with Mr Wohlleb, Managing director of Gebrüder

Link. We paid much attention to the original tierce mixture. You can see a pipe from the

tierce rank, which is built after the Spitzflöte manner.

 

Pierre

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Of course, the action is pneumatic (otherwise,

it would be unplayable after so many years without maintenance).

 

I think we need to commission some sort of survey to prevent you from saying things like this! There is no reason for a tracker organ to be 'unplayable' after much longer periods than this but the handful of pneumatic organs I maintain all need desperately careful treatment to keep in playing order.

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I think we need to commission some sort of survey to prevent you from saying things like this! There is no reason for a tracker organ to be 'unplayable' after much longer periods than this but the handful of pneumatic organs I maintain all need desperately careful treatment to keep in playing order.

 

I simply report what I found on the field.

 

Here is an example of a little pneumatic Link organ:

 

 

And when you find one, left alone since many years, if you can start the blower, you go through the notes,

the register knobs, about 20' in order to awake it somewhat, you can try it. It works approximately, out

of tune indeed, but it works. A pypical restoration of such an organ is thorough cleaning and re-leathering

of the action parts, and that's it.

 

Pierre

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A couple of days ago, I had the privilege of playing this organ, which used to belong to William Gladstone. The church in which it lives is really in the back of beyond - deep in the Welsh-speaking rural heartland of Montgomeryshire (as was) - but organ and church are kept well maintained by a small but dedicated congregation. What a fantastic instrument it is! It just shows that the best organ builders can design tonally coherent instruments whatever their size. Willis's larger organs are justly famous, but which of his small organs deserve more attention?

 

P. S. To any editors of the NPOR on this forum, the Harmonic Flute on this organ should be at 4' pitch.

 

Hi

 

Sorry - NPOR editors (including me) don't normally pick up info from this site - please send an e-mail to the NPOR office (after Easter now - the e-mail system seems to be working OK, but the mail box could overflow as there's no-one around to deal with things until next week). this means it's easier to keep track of the source of information.

 

Thanks

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I simply report what I found on the field.

 

Here is an example of a little pneumatic Link organ:

 

 

And when you find one, left alone since many years, if you can start the blower, you go through the notes,

the register knobs, about 20' in order to awake it somewhat, you can try it. It works approximately, out

of tune indeed, but it works. A pypical restoration of such an organ is thorough cleaning and re-leathering

of the action parts, and that's it.

 

Pierre

 

But what I and others find 'in the field' is that you don't need to go through ANYTHING on a tracker organ to 'awake it'. The solid mechanical connection is either there or it isn't. You need to justify your original claim -

 

"Of course, the action is pneumatic (otherwise,

it would be unplayable after so many years without maintenance)."

 

- with an explanation of why any other type of action would "of course" be unplayable. It's a frankly ridiculous statement.

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But what I and others find 'in the field' is that you don't need to go through ANYTHING on a tracker organ to 'awake it'. The solid mechanical connection is either there or it isn't. You need to justify your original claim -

 

"Of course, the action is pneumatic (otherwise,

it would be unplayable after so many years without maintenance)."

 

- with an explanation of why any other type of action would "of course" be unplayable. It's a frankly ridiculous statement.

 

It is simply that when you find a tracker organ which has not been serviced since 50 years, you can not

try it without the help of an organ-builder first.

Granted: I won't disturb any more with my weird experience.

 

Best wishes to all,

 

Pierre

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It is simply that when you find a tracker organ which has not been serviced since 50 years, you can not

try it without the help of an organ-builder first.

 

I hope none of our organ-building contributors (or hosts) are going to accept this unsubstantiated nonsense? You are obviously very unfortunate, Pierre; there are tracker organs in daily use which haven't been 'serviced' (apart from routine tuning) for a very great deal longer than that. The same can't be said of pneumatic instruments which, as you say, have to be 'woken up' first.

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I think Pierre is a very lucky man. There are simply too many variables in a tubular pneumatic design to even really use the term broadly. Tracker is far more likely to work but you're still at the mercy of whoever originally designed and built it. It is however much harder to make a tracker action that doesn't work at all than it is a t/pn one.

 

AJS

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Hi

 

Sorry - NPOR editors (including me) don't normally pick up info from this site - please send an e-mail to the NPOR office (after Easter now - the e-mail system seems to be working OK, but the mail box could overflow as there's no-one around to deal with things until next week). this means it's easier to keep track of the source of information.

 

Thanks

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

No problem!

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Hi

 

Look at Clive Shropshire, this organ is superb for what it is and was indentical to the Willis on wheels in St Pauls before the rebuild by our hosts.

I suspect NPOR are wrong with the organ in Montgomery as the Harmonic Flute would be 4 and not 8 as stated.

 

Barrie

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Hi

 

Look at Clive Shropshire, this organ is superb for what it is and was indentical to the Willis on wheels in St Pauls before the rebuild by our hosts.

I suspect NPOR are wrong with the organ in Montgomery as the Harmonic Flute would be 4 and not 8 as stated.

 

Barrie

 

Thanks for pointing me towards Clive.

 

NPOR is wrong - I played the organ two nights ago!

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On the subject of small Willis organs. This is an absolute gem and in a stunning room, which isn't very often seen by visitors.

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/47101250@N00/...in/photostream/

 

I'm sorry that the photo cuts half the organ off. I couldn't find a better one on the web. It's the Song School at St. Mary's Edinburgh and the guy playing it is me! I was totally unaware that this photo had been taken till I saw it on flickr!

 

The spec is sw: 8 liedlich, 8 v. diap 4 lieb flute

gt: 8 dulc, 8 diap, 4 princ, 2, fifteenth

ped, 16 bourdon. Hitch swell.

 

It's really lovely. The 8,4,2 chorus fills the room with a bold sound. The lieblich flutes are typical, beautiful examples. I always wished someone would do a recital on it - it would be a pleasure to listen to. I believe Denis Townhill recorded it years ago. Its a shame it didn't get into the recent 'Organs of Edinburgh' book - the room would certainly have made for fabulous photos.

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On the subject of small Willis organs. This is an absolute gem and in a stunning room, which isn't very often seen by visitors.

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/47101250@N00/...in/photostream/

 

I'm sorry that the photo cuts half the organ off. I couldn't find a better one on the web. It's the Song School at St. Mary's Edinburgh and the guy playing it is me! I was totally unaware that this photo had been taken till I saw it on flickr!

 

The spec is sw: 8 liedlich, 8 v. diap 4 lieb flute

gt: 8 dulc, 8 diap, 4 princ, 2, fifteenth

ped, 16 bourdon. Hitch swell.

 

It's really lovely. The 8,4,2 chorus fills the room with a bold sound. The lieblich flutes are typical, beautiful examples. I always wished someone would do a recital on it - it would be a pleasure to listen to. I believe Denis Townhill recorded it years ago. Its a shame it didn't get into the recent 'Organs of Edinburgh' book - the room would certainly have made for fabulous photos.

 

Our Hill organ (OT, sorry ...) is a splendid example how 7 stop can be enough, specs quite like the above.

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That looks really lovely. I realise that those 'boxes' beside either stop jamb swivel so that you can 'put the organ away' (I haven't come across anything quite like that before!) Presumably theres also something behind the music desk to protect the manuals too.

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That looks really lovely. I realise that those 'boxes' beside either stop jamb swivel so that you can 'put the organ away' (I haven't come across anything quite like that before!) Presumably theres also something behind the music desk to protect the manuals too.

 

I rather think that you refer to the Berkswell Willis. In the first picture that you come across of the organ (buried a little in the West Arch), in the Album you can see a cover over the manuals and those over the stops which perhaps adds some clarification to your observation. I agree - the little covers over the stops is a novel way to encase precious things! Do you think it unique? It is also good to see the original candle sticks, I think.

Best wishes,

N

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Our Hill organ (OT, sorry ...) is a splendid example how 7 stop can be enough, specs quite like the above.

 

You certainly have a treasure there. Feenstra seems to have really made a name for relocating British Victorian organs to the continent and thoroughly restoring them. He bought up the lovely Bishop from my previous church after the roof blew off during a tornado (!) though I haven't seen it installed anywhere yet, so perhaps he has a treasure trove of organs awaiting new homes.

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Our Hill organ (OT, sorry ...) is a splendid example how 7 stop can be enough, specs quite like the above.

 

 

I bet it's lovely. I was in Breda about three years ago. I conducted the Cathedral Singers of Ontario in a concert at the Groot Kerk. They wouldn't let us use the organ, despite having one of Canada's leading recitalists with us (not me), who had given a recital on it previously. I had a look in the Catholic church during the day and saw your little Hill.

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I bet it's lovely. I was in Breda about three years ago. I conducted the Cathedral Singers of Ontario in a concert at the Groot Kerk. They wouldn't let us use the organ, despite having one of Canada's leading recitalists with us (not me), who had given a recital on it previously. I had a look in the Catholic church during the day and saw your little Hill.

Thing is, 'chez nous' it's quite reverberant, which does miracles with the sound. This organ being previously located in a (so I've been told) bone dry 'acoustic'.

Indeed, better a few stops to (near) perfection ...

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Having been a happy 'village' organist now for the last seventeen years or so I have come to appreciate the smaller gems that lurk in the more rural churches around here. In fact my most regular instrument has just one manual - 88884428 & 16 Pedal. I have not yet got tired of its sound or 'seeming' limitations and do not miss the bigger machines - most of the time!

 

A

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Having been a happy 'village' organist now for the last seventeen years or so I have come to appreciate the smaller gems that lurk in the more rural churches around here. In fact my most regular instrument has just one manual - 88884428 & 16 Pedal. I have not yet got tired of its sound or 'seeming' limitations and do not miss the bigger machines - most of the time!

 

A

 

Hi

 

I thoroughly agree - small organs make you think laterally in terms of registration. Your's noted above is rather larger than many I've played (my current church is *(st bass).8.8.8.4.2 pedal pull downs (return coupler with C-compass pedals and a GG-compass manual)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Absolutely, and you can't get much further south-west. Fine Great chorus and a splendid Cornopean.

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