Jump to content
Mander Organs
peter ellis

A fantastic project about to get underway in Yorkshire

Recommended Posts

Halifax Minster seems to be going from strength to strength in many areas of its ministry. Of particular note to those in the organ community is this

 

Halifax Organ Academy

 

Hope I got the link right - if not paste this into your url

 

http://www.halifaxminster.org.uk/index.php...n/organ-academy

 

 

This looks very interesting and worthwhile. I hope it is well patronised. From an examination of the site would I be correct in assuming from my extant knowledge of the former Halifax Parish Church that the original H & H organ case has changed somewhat in appearance?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This looks very interesting and worthwhile. I hope it is well patronised. From an examination of the site would I be correct in assuming from my extant knowledge of the former Halifax Parish Church that the original H & H organ case has changed somewhat in appearance?

 

No, the case is exactly as Harrison's left it in 1929, as far as I am aware. In fact, the entire organ is as Harrison's left it apart from the Great mixture and the piston compositions. Both were modified when the organ was rebuilt in the 70's.

 

I have in front of me Walker's specification and quotation for the work done in the 1970's. You may be interested (and thankful!) to read what was not done at that time, viz:

 


  1. 1. Swell Organ: recast mixture to 19-22-26-29-33
    2. Great Organ: Sesquialtera 12-17 to be inserted in place of Open Diapason No. 1
    3. Great Organ: Flute 2ft inserted in place of Hohl Flute 8ft using pipes from Hohl Flute, revoiced, and new
    4. Great Organ: recast mixture to 19-22-26-29 using pipes from Mixture II
    5. Great Organ: Nason Flute 4ft inserted in place of Harmonic Flute 4ft
    6. Choir Organ: New Nazard 2 2/3ft inserted in place of Contra Dulciana 16ft
    7. Choir Organ: New Spits (sic) Flute 2ft inserted in place of Gamba 8ft
    8. Choir Organ: New Larigot inserted in place of Dulciana 8ft
    9. Choir Organ: New Cymbal III inserted in place of Flautina 2ft
    10. Pedal Organ: Ophicleice 16ft and Posaune 8ft to be returned to the factory for complete revoicing
    11. Pedal Organ: Open 8ft trebles to be replaced with pipes from Open Diapason No 1, Great Organ
    12. Pedal Organ: Add new mixture 19-22-26-29
    13. Pedal Organ: New Schalmei 4ft

 

Each item is annotated "NO!" in pencil in the margin, in varying sizes and applied pressure. That said, the Great Mixture work did go ahead in some form.

 

The organ has recently been granted a grade II Historic Organ Certificate, and steps are being taken towards having it overhauled.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was "in" on the various proposals at Halifax in the 70's, and I suspect that the Walker recommendations were an attempt to rectify certain shortcomings of the instrument.

 

The problem still remains that the Choir Organ is both poorly sited at the far east of the chancel, and a bit of a strange collection of rather ineffective ranks.

 

The Pedal Ophicleide and Posaune, being typical of the period, are far from subtle and not especially musical, while the usual Harrison Octave Woods are musically awful.

 

Working around the inadequacies and the musical "sore thumbs," the organ is a wonderfully musical instrument in all other respects, but with certain limitations.

 

For me, the great travesty is the Walker Mixture of the Great, which simply does not blend with the chorus at all. It has nothing to do with the loss of the Harmonics mixture, because the quint mixture of the Swell organ blends superbly. The loss of the Harmonics simply compromises the "blend" (such as it is), of the Great Trombas and Great Chorus flues.

 

At the time, I was quite keen on re-voicing the Trombas as Trumpets, and altering the pedal reeds nearer to traditional English Trombone quality; one without the other being the absurd option. (In any event, I believe the Pedal Posaune is derived from the Tuba rank, which would have made this difficult).

 

If the impication is that the organ would have been much worse for the Walker proposals, I actually doubt it. It may even have been better. At the very least, the instrument would have been more flexible musically.

 

It's when you see and hear an organ like Leeds PC, with a similar sort of pedigree, that it is possible to get an insight into what can be done to a heavily romantic instrument. Even with the worst acoustic, that is an instrument which has my unbounded admiration.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally I'm very thankful that the money ran out in the 70s. We are left with a fairly rare example of a full size Arthur Harrison instrument with its tonal scheme (and actions) still intact. The present thinking is to restore it to 1929 condition, including the Harmonics.

 

The instrument fulfills its key purposes very well, and has both character and musical integrity. While a number of similar organs have been successfully 'updated' in an eclectic style (Durham springs to mind) we have to remember that the Halifax Harrison has only 50 odd stops. It would be difficult to broaden its palette to any effect without making sacrifices along the way. It is an organ that responds best when played with an understanding of its original conception. Despite the complaints of some, pretty much everything works nicely if you can only work out how!

 

The Great mixture is actually half the old Harmonics with a 26th added - so it's no surprise that it is not entirely satisfactory, being neither quite one thing nor the other. If we accept that the natural cap to the flue chorus (when used) is actually the fairly big swell mixture (5 ranks), this leaves the Gt mixture to be added as spice to the trombas - which then make more sense in the chorus. Once we reach this point we begin to understand why the 17th and 21st were included. The pedal reeds are best added late, under large chords, or with a line or two picked out on the tuba. The Choir is not powerful, but works well as an accompaniment to the Solo, as part of the initial Great build up (especially when accompanying); and will stretch to a french 'Fonds Positif' with the Solo flues coupled down.

 

The organ inhabits a fairly specific sound world which some will like more than others - but if you want to communicate with the locals you have to learn the language.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The instrument fulfills its key purposes very well, and has both character and musical integrity. While a number of similar organs have been successfully 'updated' in an eclectic style (Durham springs to mind) we have to remember that the Halifax Harrison has only 50 odd stops. It would be difficult to broaden its palette to any effect without making sacrifices along the way. It is an organ that responds best when played with an understanding of its original conception. Despite the complaints of some, pretty much everything works nicely if you can only work out how!

 

 

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

 

 

Chris is probably right. I still hate the Trombas and the Ophicleide though.

 

Anyway, you can hear it on the following link, played by some idiot who failed to get the fingering right and had the audacity to add a mordent to the hallowed notes of Robert Schumann. ;)

 

http://www.hdoa.org.uk/organs/organ.php?id=1

 

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It is an organ that responds best when played with an understanding of its original conception.

 

Oh no; that should only be done with baroque organs ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We now have a new camera and projector we will be using at the weekly recitals. I took the opportunity to do a few quick videos which you can view here: (there is also one with better quality audio and internal/external photos.

 

 

Halifax Minster Organ

 

 

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

 

 

Many is the time I've crawled inside this beast to rectify a few faults or fettle the reeds. It's actually quite spacious once you've got past all the lead tubing.

 

Of course, what you cannot see are the horizontal 32ft Open Woods along the back wall.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Oh no; that should only be done with baroque organs :)

 

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

 

 

Who are you kidding?

 

I've heard more Reger and Widor played on baroque organs in the Netherlands, than almost anywhere else on earth!

 

I say push the boat out. ;)

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Personally I'm very thankful that the money ran out in the 70s. We are left with a fairly rare example of a full size Arthur Harrison instrument with its tonal scheme (and actions) still intact. The present thinking is to restore it to 1929 condition, including the Harmonics.

 

The instrument fulfills its key purposes very well, and has both character and musical integrity. While a number of similar organs have been successfully 'updated' in an eclectic style (Durham springs to mind) we have to remember that the Halifax Harrison has only 50 odd stops. It would be difficult to broaden its palette to any effect without making sacrifices along the way. It is an organ that responds best when played with an understanding of its original conception. Despite the complaints of some, pretty much everything works nicely if you can only work out how!

 

The Great mixture is actually half the old Harmonics with a 26th added - so it's no surprise that it is not entirely satisfactory, being neither quite one thing nor the other. If we accept that the natural cap to the flue chorus (when used) is actually the fairly big swell mixture (5 ranks), this leaves the Gt mixture to be added as spice to the trombas - which then make more sense in the chorus. Once we reach this point we begin to understand why the 17th and 21st were included. The pedal reeds are best added late, under large chords, or with a line or two picked out on the tuba. The Choir is not powerful, but works well as an accompaniment to the Solo, as part of the initial Great build up (especially when accompanying); and will stretch to a french 'Fonds Positif' with the Solo flues coupled down.

 

The organ inhabits a fairly specific sound world which some will like more than others - but if you want to communicate with the locals you have to learn the language.

 

This is both an easy and an almost impossible question to answer. On the one hand, it could be seen as an obvious choice - restore the Harrison organ to its perceived 1929 condition. This would include the re-casting of the G.O. Mixture as a Harmonics (given erroneously in the NPOR as 17-19-flat 21-24) - and presumably the removal of the Pedal 4ft. Flute extension (which I doubt is anything other than superfluous on this scheme). This also pre-supposes that someone (Harrisons?) can re-match a new departmental ebonised jamb panel for the Pedal Organ - and supply a matching stop-head for the G.O. compound stop. (I am assuming that the original stop-head was already skimmed and re-engraved when the Mixture was altered in 1968, so it probably would not survive a further attempt.)

 

However, I wonder if I may ask for some further information regarding this instrument:

 

1) Is the Pedal 32ft. full compass, or are the lowest five (or seven) notes acoustic?

2) How useful is the Choir Organ, either for service accompaniment or recitals?

3) Excluding Christmas, Easter and Civic services, how often are the G.O. reeds used in normal service work - and, for that matter, the Pedal reed unit?

4) Is the G.O. Hohl Flöte a really big stop - or is it useable as a solo rank?

5) Is the G.O. Open Diapason I leathered - and is the Swell Open Diapason similarly treated?

6) Is the Swell Open Diapason on the flue pressure, or on the high pressure chest?

7) How breight is the Swell Mixture - and can it be used to top the G.O. chorus convincingly?

8) How well do the Swell chorus reeds blend? (The 8ft. Trumpet at Saint Peter's, Bournemouth is huge and fairly unmusical - a fact which may not be due entirely to the tender ministrations of R&D)

9) How often is the G.O. Open Diapason I used in service work?

10) Given that the organ appears to be placed directly behind the north choir stalls, how much of it can be used to accompany the choir ? (I am assuming a fairly standard 'cathedral' repertoire, here, from the information I have been able to discover on the website.)

11) The church appears to be acoustically fairly dry - how effective are the really quiet registers on the Choir, Swell and Solo organs?

12) Is the Pedal 32ft. flue loud and foundational, or can it be used to good effect with the Swell strings, for example?

13) How good or useful is the Solo Viole? What are its blending properties? (Vintage H&H Violes d'Orchestre were well-known for their acidic, over-keen timbres.)

14) What are the orchestral reeds like? (Again, at Saint Peter'e, Bournemouth, the Cor Anglais is close to inaudible - and therefore almost useless). Of course I realise that the siting of the Halifax instrument is different (it appears to be less buried and remote).

15) I note the comment regarding the lack of general pistons and other modern playing aids. In what state is the action and how convenient is the console (with its present piston allocation) for service and recital use?

 

It is clear that you are in sympathy with this style of instrument - the YouTube clips give some idea - but one can never judge the sound and departmental balance accurately from a recording.

 

My point in asking these questions is that I am interested to learn how useful a restored vintage H&H organ would be. I often used to practise on another well-known vintage H&H organ - Crediton Parish Church, Devon. This instrument was somewhat similar (save for the lack of a Solo Organ), and the recent restoration by Michael Farley, whilst adding two or three stops (and a new treble for the Choir Bassoon), has left the voicing of the rest of the instrument largely untouched, as far as I can recall.

 

I should perhaps state that my own church organ is the antithesis of the Halifax organ. It is a Walker rebuild of a vintage Walker instrument, with a good supply of mixture work and mutations, which hangs together as a musical entity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was "in" on the various proposals at Halifax in the 70's, and I suspect that the Walker recommendations were an attempt to rectify certain shortcomings of the instrument.

 

The problem still remains that the Choir Organ is both poorly sited at the far east of the chancel, and a bit of a strange collection of rather ineffective ranks.

 

Am I correct in assuming that the Snetzler ranks received Artur Harrison's careful if predictable attention at the time of the 1929 rebuild?

 

The Pedal Ophicleide and Posaune, being typical of the period, are far from subtle and not especially musical, while the usual Harrison Octave Woods are musically awful.

This does sound somewhat typical. I have long thought that the vintage 'Arthur Harrison' stoplist was the most formulaic or stereotyped in existence - more so than virtually any other firm. Their treatment of individual ranks and the ensemble was also rather similar from organ to organ - often apparently regardless of the size of the church, within reasonable limits.

 

 

Working around the inadequacies and the musical "sore thumbs," the organ is a wonderfully musical instrument in all other respects, but with certain limitations.

 

For me, the great travesty is the Walker Mixture of the Great, which simply does not blend with the chorus at all. It has nothing to do with the loss of the Harmonics mixture, because the quint mixture of the Swell organ blends superbly. The loss of the Harmonics simply compromises the "blend" (such as it is), of the Great Trombas and Great Chorus flues.

 

At the time, I was quite keen on re-voicing the Trombas as Trumpets, and altering the pedal reeds nearer to traditional English Trombone quality; one without the other being the absurd option. (In any event, I believe the Pedal Posaune is derived from the Tuba rank, which would have made this difficult).

 

Not according the the NPOR. This was not standard H&H practice, in any case. It appears that it is an extension of the Ophicleide - which was more normal for this firm.

 

 

If the impication is that the organ would have been much worse for the Walker proposals, I actually doubt it. It may even have been better. At the very least, the instrument would have been more flexible musically.

As do I. At the time of the 1968 rebuild Walkers were (and had been for a while) producing very good chorus mixtures. In fact, those at Romsey (which date partly from 1860) are superb. It is possible that the fault lies rather with the rest of the chorus - or at least the foundations. With this entirely typical G.O. chorus, with its comparatively high pressure of around 112mm, the footholes would have to be reduced from Walker's standard practice at this time. Also the pipes would be heavily (and regularly) nicked. Any new upperwork was likely to sit badly on such a foundation. It would also, as you have observed, make the G.O. Trombe stand even further away from the flue chorus, the former 'Harmonics' providing that very reedy 'edge' which would have helped integrate these large, opaque reeds to some extent. However, if they are like the examples extant at Crediton, the term 'blend' is somewhat relative.

 

 

It's when you see and hear an organ like Leeds PC, with a similar sort of pedigree, that it is possible to get an insight into what can be done to a heavily romantic instrument. Even with the worst acoustic, that is an instrument which has my unbounded admiration.

 

MM

 

I would be pleased to learn more of the Halifax instrument.

 

In some ways, the instrument in its Aboot & Smith incarnation was rather more interesting (on paper) than the Harrison stoplist. Again, the previous rebuild (Abbot 1878) shows the survival, apparently, of a considerable number of Snetzler ranks - including a Mounted Cornet V on the Solo Organ. Although obviously no reliable conclusions can be drawn from a paper stoplist, I cannot help but wonder if the 1878 organ had been preserved, how much more fascinating - and ultimately musical - this instrument might have been.

 

As may be supposed by a number of contributors to the board, I am no enthusiast of vintage Harrison organs *. I regard them in many ways as considerably less musical and flexible than a vintage FHW instrument - even with its standard tierce mixtures and big reeds (especially Pedal Ophicleides). I wonder whether by preserving and restoring the Halifax organ as close to its perceived 1929 state as possible, whether this would not simply result in the perpetuation of something that was, in many ways, fundamentally flawed?

 

 

 

* In fact, they are not that rare - there are a good number which have been documented in publications such as The Organ, and which, in a good number of cases, are still close to their original consition, as far as I am aware.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Am I correct in assuming that the Snetzler ranks received Artur Harrison's careful if predictable attention at the time of the 1929 rebuild?

 

 

This does sound somewhat typical. I have long thought that the vintage 'Arthur Harrison' stoplist was the most formulaic or stereotyped in existence - more so than virtually any other firm. Their treatment of individual ranks and the ensemble was also rather similar from organ to organ - often apparently regardless of the size of the church, within reasonable limits.

 

 

 

 

Not according the the NPOR. This was not standard H&H practice, in any case. It appears that it is an extension of the Ophicleide - which was more normal for this firm.

 

 

 

As do I. At the time of the 1968 rebuild Walkers were (and had been for a while) producing very good chorus mixtures. In fact, those at Romsey (which date partly from 1860) are superb. It is possible that the fault lies rather with the rest of the chorus - or at least the foundations. With this entirely typical G.O. chorus, with its comparatively high pressure of around 112mm, the footholes would have to be reduced from Walker's standard practice at this time. Also the pipes would be heavily (and regularly) nicked. Any new upperwork was likely to sit badly on such a foundation. It would also, as you have observed, make the G.O. Trombe stand even further away from the flue chorus, the former 'Harmonics' providing that very reedy 'edge' which would have helped integrate these large, opaque reeds to some extent. However, if they are like the examples extant at Crediton, the term 'blend' is somewhat relative.

 

 

 

 

I will be interested to learn more of the Halifax instrument.

 

As may be supposed by a number of contributors to the board, I am no enthusiast of vintage Harrison organs. I regard them in many ways as considerably less musical and flexible than a vintage FHW instrument - even with its standard tierce mixtures and big reeds (especially Pedal Ophicleides). I wonder whether by preserving and restoring the Halifax organ as close to its perceived 1929 state as possible, whether this would not simply result in the perpetuation of something that was, in many ways, fundamentally flawed?

I have given two recitals on the Halifax organ at the invitation of Philip Tordoff and while the instrument has its limitations, my impression was of an extremely musical instrument that was incredibly easy to control. Modern aids may give you more opportunities to get just the right sounds, but with care, the organ is extremely easy to handle.

While the mixtures may have been altered, changing things back may be a retrograde step, many organs are changed and gradual improvements may be made, it seemed to me that the conservative changes worked.

However, I don't live with the organ, unfortunately, but I think Iam pleased that the Walker suggestions were not undertaken and therefore I was able to play a really fine instrument.

Having lived with two large instruments which had been given full blown "enlightened" rebuilds, we always bemoaned the loss of the old choir organ, or the solo clarinet and a decent open diapason. It didn't stop us using the new stuff though!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Am I correct in assuming that the Snetzler ranks received Artur Harrison's careful if predictable attention at the time of the 1929 rebuild?

 

This does sound somewhat typical. I have long thought that the vintage 'Arthur Harrison' stoplist was the most formulaic or stereotyped in existence - more so than virtually any other firm. Their treatment of individual ranks and the ensemble was also rather similar from organ to organ - often apparently regardless of the size of the church, within reasonable limits.

 

Not according the the NPOR. This was not standard H&H practice, in any case. It appears that it is an extension of the Ophicleide - which was more normal for this firm.

 

As do I. At the time of the 1968 rebuild Walkers were (and had been for a while) producing very good chorus mixtures. In fact, those at Romsey (which date partly from 1860) are superb. It is possible that the fault lies rather with the rest of the chorus - or at least the foundations. With this entirely typical G.O. chorus, with its comparatively high pressure of around 112mm, the footholes would have to be reduced from Walker's standard practice at this time. Also the pipes would be heavily (and regularly) nicked. Any new upperwork was likely to sit badly on such a foundation. It would also, as you have observed, make the G.O. Trombe stand even further away from the flue chorus, the former 'Harmonics' providing that very reedy 'edge' which would have helped integrate these large, opaque reeds to some extent. However, if they are like the examples extant at Crediton, the term 'blend' is somewhat relative.

 

I would be pleased to learn more of the Halifax instrument.

 

In some ways, the instrument in its Aboot & Smith incarnation was rather more interesting (on paper) than the Harrison stoplist. Again, the previous rebuild (Abbot 1878) shows the survival, apparently, of a considerable number of Snetzler ranks - including a Mounted Cornet V on the Solo Organ. Although obviously no reliable conclusions can be drawn from a paper stoplist, I cannot help but wonder if the 1878 organ had been preserved, how much more fascinating - and ultimately musical - this instrument might have been.

 

As may be supposed by a number of contributors to the board, I am no enthusiast of vintage Harrison organs *. I regard them in many ways as considerably less musical and flexible than a vintage FHW instrument - even with its standard tierce mixtures and big reeds (especially Pedal Ophicleides). I wonder whether by preserving and restoring the Halifax organ as close to its perceived 1929 state as possible, whether this would not simply result in the perpetuation of something that was, in many ways, fundamentally flawed?

 

In fact, they are not that rare - there are a good number which have been documented in publications such as The Organ, and which, in a good number of cases, are still close to their original consition, as far as I am aware.

 

 

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

 

 

So far as I am aware, the remaining Snetzler stops remain as Snetzler left them.....but you know what organ-builders are like.

 

Certainly, they sound authentic enough, but the pitch of the organ will have changed which hints at changes.

 

You are right abut the pedal Ophicleide/Posaune unit now that I think about it. I was getting confused with two facts/ Gorstly, the same wind pressure as the Tuba, and secondly, the fact that the Tuba is in the same position almost as the pedal reeds.

 

I'm not suire that I would agree with the proposition that the Abbott rebuild would have been more interesting, much as I am an enthusiast for the work of Isaac Abbott, who's insttuments had the most noble dapason choruses. Tonally, they sit somewhere between that of the typical Hill, but with a hint of Lewis "fizz". However, at Halilfax, much of the Snetzler choruswork was to remain, but in a less favourable position. (The Snetzler occupied a West Gallery position). I have the feeling that it might have been underpowered in this rather enormous and not over resonant church. That suspicion is further reinforced by the fact that a large Open Diapason was added at the next re-build only a few years later.

 

With increasingly large congregations and a large surpliced choir, I can well understand why the choice of organ-builder fell on Arthur Harrison. I've been to many a service where the nave is full of people, and I can tell you that the full Harrison chorus is JUST big enough to support the singing without recourse to the heavy artillery. The current Choir Organ, almost unchanged in character from what was there previously, is a fairly weak department, and that points to a previous instrument of no great power.

 

The currnt Great Mixture is not a marriage made in heaven, I have to say, but essentially, it is just a matter of re-regulation which is required. The quints are a bit fierce for what is a quite smooth chorus, and they need taming. Even without the Harmonics, the Trombas DO blend, but not as well as proper English trumpet tone would.

 

In most respects, it sounds like a typical Edwardian Harrison instrument, and you either like them or dislike them.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot!!!

 

Wow! I'll do my best!

 

To my knowledge the pedal 4' is original. Even if it is not I wouldn't countenance getting rid of it as it is doing no harm at all (unlike the great mixture which sent the Harmonics into exile). The flute does add a little clarity to certain pedal combinations which I guess was its purpose.

 

1) 32' is full compass. The bottom end is horizontal and dates from the first part of 19th century.

2) The choir organ balances differently as you move around the building. It's main uses (for me) are:

a) As an extension of the great, especially for services in the chancel. The Great builds up quite quickly in volume coupling the choir fills in the blanks.

b As an echo organ (the Snetzler flutes are lovely)

c) As accompaniment for the solo division

d) Being sited adjacent to the Solo division I often couple them to give something approaching a french Postive, or English enclosed Choir division.

3) Depends who's playing. They will normally come out at some point on Sunday morning.

4) Sadly I couldn't say - that drawstop has been out of action since before I arrived. We hope that will be fixed before too long - quite exciting!

5) The Great No.1 is leathered, I don't think the swell one is - it certainly doesn't sound like it.

6) It's on the flue chest

7) The swell mixture is quite bright and advantageously sited. In my view it is best suited not as a straight chorus, but either to blending with the

Swell reeds or the Great flue chorus. In combination with Choir and Great to 2' (No.3 Open) it gives quite an effective classical registration which is

not so far different from the other sonorities obtainable as to sound silly. I use it with pedal flutes + Gt coupled + most of the solo to give definition.

I don't often attempt a fully independent pedal - it's only making a rod for one's back!

8) Blend with what? In general, yes, although you do need to keep the box on a tight leash at times. The 8' is quite bright, so we often use the 16' and

octave coupler if we want majesty rather than hellfire.

9) Depends on the player. In general I will add it after (one or more) swell reeds but before the Gt mixture, so it will feature at least in processional and

climactic hymns. I quite like it just with the Great 4' for the occassional verse. That's one sound you won't get outside of England (with it's annexes..)

10)We use the Chancel for Evensong and the nave for Sunday morning. You actually have to be more careful when accompanying in the nave, as the

swell especially can overpower. In the Chancel the choir is closer to the congregation than the organ so the balance is less sensitive. A big last chord

might be Gt 16,8,4,2 + full (or nearly full) swell, pedal 32,16,8, + Contra Tromba coupled down through 'Gt reeds on choir'. Mostly though we don't

go much past Gt No.3 + flutes (hence the usefulness of the Choir division), Swell stays partly shut.

11)It is a bit dry, but everything goes all the way to the back - which seems to be the favoured seating position at recitals...

12)I think the jury is out on that one. It's an old rank and rather uneven at present. Theorectically it should be a big rank as it is extended from the

16' Wood, which is typical H & H.

13)The Viole is a pretty good stop actually, not too scratchy. It blends well with the solo 4' Flute with or without tremulant. I use it in the ensemble for

French romantic repertoire, and it goes well with octave/sub-octave and swell strings for a more cinematic effect.

14)Not especially powerful, but certainly not inaudible, provided the accompaniment isn't too loud.

15)It's in pretty good condition, all things considered. We have a running battle repairing secondary motors at the moment - they are 80 years old -

and one or two other things that need attention. I found it immediately comfortable to play, the action is not quite as quick as a good

electro-pneumatic, but it's very even so you adjust. It can sometimes be found wanting in flashy stuff e.g. Liszt, but for most repertoire it's fine.

I do feel it could do with 1 more piston on each division, but it's probably not worth the upheaval. I find I do a lot of hand registering, and it is rare

that I can't get the sound I want - it just takes a bit more effort.

 

In terms of the restoration, it is not really a question of 'do we go back' because it is essentially unaltered.

 

There can be no further evolution without radical change, which would be difficult to justify, never mind fund. The single semi-neoclassical addition doesn't really make sense on its own, and the lack of the Harmonics undermines the integrity of the tonal scheme. A second quint mixture is a luxury in this context, whereas the cornet is not.

 

Phew! Coffee time!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Swell mixture is bright but not that big. It doesn't really blend with the Great fluework and is soon overwhelmed by it.

 

The Hohl Flute is not too big to be used as a solo rank although as Paul Hale noted when he gave a recital there, it is not the most distingushed example of the genre.

 

The Great No. 1 diapason is leathered, but how much of the leather survives is another matter. When Harrison's reported on raising the pitch of the instrument, releathering this stop was one item of work they pointed out as needing doing.

 

The pedal open wood is an odd thing. The bottom (32') octave is very quiet and can be used with the swell strings. In the 16' octave it suddenly becomes very much louder.

 

The 4' extension of the pedal flute was a last-minute change to the specification for the 1929 rebuild. In fact, I think I am correct in saying it was the only change from Arthur Harrison's original specification. He had originally included the Glockenspiel III from the Abbott and Smith instrument, possibly at the organist's insistence. It seems to have been the vicar, Bishop Frodsham, who suggested doing away with it and adding an extra octave of pipes to the pedal flute. It is interesting that Dr. Pearson (the organist) got none of the changes he wanted (which included more pistons) past Arthur Harrison, and that by the time the new organ was opened, Tustin Baker was the organist.

 

You may be interested to read a four-part article about the 1929 rebuild. I wrote it a few years ago for the Halifax PC Friends of Music Newsletter. I have published it here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you to the four contributors above for their prompt (and comprehensive) repiles.

 

I hope to have more time after choir practice tonight to read through each reply carefully, in order that I do not miss anything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I notice comments about Harrison Violes being 'acidic'. I would not agree entirely with this. They are certainly quite sharp in tone, but because they're Harrisons' they're extremely well regulated and don't go at you like a dentist's drill, as similar stops by a lesser builder might. My experience (based mainly on close acquaintance with Redcliffe as a student, and fourteen years as organist at Belfast Cathedral) is that they are very versatile, but need careful consideration in terms of combination with other stops, use of the Solo box, octave couples and tuning of the celeste (if any). Kept a little in the background, they can be wonderful as a means of colouring other combinations ("Helpful Hints on How your Harrison can sound French"), and they can help in cooking up little full swell effects when the real thing isn't quite right (what Norman Cocker called 'quiet ginger'). Combining with a warm-toned 8' flute takes the edge off considerably, which is why Harrison Solo Organs (or Choir Organs on three-manual instruments) work very well in choral accompaniment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I notice comments about Harrison Violes being 'acidic'. I would not agree entirely with this. They are certainly quite sharp in tone, but because they're Harrisons' they're extremely well regulated and don't go at you like a dentist's drill, as similar stops by a lesser builder might. My experience (based mainly on close acquaintance with Redcliffe as a student, and fourteen years as organist at Belfast Cathedral) is that they are very versatile, but need careful consideration in terms of combination with other stops, use of the Solo box, octave couples and tuning of the celeste (if any). Kept a little in the background, they can be wonderful as a means of colouring other combinations ("Helpful Hints on How your Harrison can sound French"), and they can help in cooking up little full swell effects when the real thing isn't quite right (what Norman Cocker called 'quiet ginger'). Combining with a warm-toned 8' flute takes the edge off considerably, which is why Harrison Solo Organs (or Choir Organs on three-manual instruments) work very well in choral accompaniment.

 

I take your point - Exeter is reasonably sociable (although Peter Hopps may have worked his magic on it at some point). However, I have yet to meet a Harrison Viole which comes close to the superb Violoncello and its companion undulant at Salisbury Cathedral (Willis III). Coventry is almost there - but not quite.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not suire that I would agree with the proposition that the Abbott rebuild would have been more interesting, much as I am an enthusiast for the work of Isaac Abbott, who's insttuments had the most noble dapason choruses. Tonally, they sit somewhere between that of the typical Hill, but with a hint of Lewis "fizz". However, at Halilfax, much of the Snetzler choruswork was to remain, but in a less favourable position. (The Snetzler occupied a West Gallery position). I have the feeling that it might have been underpowered in this rather enormous and not over resonant church. That suspicion is further reinforced by the fact that a large Open Diapason was added at the next re-build only a few years later. ...

 

... In most respects, it sounds like a typical Edwardian Harrison instrument, and you either like them or dislike them.

 

MM

 

Your last sentence sums up the drawback, though - and it is a serious one, in my view.

 

The Arthur Harrison stoplist and voicing of individual ranks (and the resulting effect of the ensemble) was completely standardised, whether it be for a three- or a four-clavier instrument.

 

It is true that, if one looks at the eariler work of Hill, Willis or Walker (for example) there is a clearly discernable sense of 'house style', if you will - but there are often differences, and not simply in terms of nomenclature. However, with vintage Harrison instruments the schemes were almost literally 'off the peg'. This is particularly true of Arthur Harrison Pedal, G.O. and Swell organs, where the stoplists are almost entirely predictable. In his three-clavier schemes, the Choir Organ is almost equally so, being a collectoin of quiet accompanimental voices, usually a soft sub-unison Dulciana, with some quiet orchestral reeds and (if the church was considered large enough) a Tuba on an open chest. If not, the G.O. reeds were usually transferrable to the Choir Organ, so a powerful solo reed effect was always available. It is only if there was a fourth clavier (and also if there was a significant amount of historic pipework which had been stipulated to be preserved) when one sees some diversity, at least in the printed stoplist.

 

Aside from that, the only real differences (again, depending on the size of the building) were whether there was a 32ft. flue (almost invariably a powerful Double Open Wood, generally extended down from the equally powerful Open Wood, so the scaling was unhelpful in the lowest octave) and whether there was a second compound stop on the G.O. (which was usually a 15-19-22-26-29 quint mixture). However, in the latter case, due to the system of breaks favoured by Arthur Harrison and George Dixon, for the upper half of the G.O. clavier this was simply a complete chorus up to the fifteenth, the higher-pitched ranks having broken back before this point.

 

Certainly the positive point of this thinking is that one always knew what to expect; powerful foundations on Pedal and G.O., together with very powerful and opaque reeds on these departments, a quiet Choir Organ with a selection of harmless accompanimental stops; the Swell Organ had a quieter, but generally brighter, flue chorus (often with a 12-19-22 or, if one was fortunate, a 12-19-22-26-29 Mixture), with highly contrasted chorus reeds to those of the G.O.

 

However, the unfortunate corollary is that this often compromised the instrument in several important details. It is virtually impossible to find a balancing secondary chorus; coupling the Swell to the Choir Organ does not really work, partly due to the retiring nature of the Choir flues - and also their voicing. The Swell on its own is a very poor also-ran to the beefy G.O. choruses. In addition, since the Harmonics only introduced an unsociable biliilance to the chorus (since it was never designed for this purpose), one is limited to choruses up to the Fifteenth only, having to resort to drawing the Swell reeds for climactic moments, whereupon the sound picture changes completely.

 

In the case of the Pedal Organ, the situation is even more awkward. On a four-clavier instrument one might be lucky enough to have a metal Violoncello in addition to the booming extension of the Open Wood, but in any case there was almost never anything above 8ft, pitch. The foundations were usually dominated by wooden pipework of large scale, which provided plenty of weight - but clarity was at a discount.

 

Aside from the Choir departments at King's College, Cambridge, and Westminster abbey, it is doubtful (as has been written elsewhere) that anyone other than the player would have been any the wiser if this section had been removed.

 

Whilst the vintage Harrison organ does often work well as a vehicle for choral accompaniment *, I must admit that I have never been satisfied by it as a medium for recital work. It may be able to produce effects ranging from great power and grandeur to quiet moments of etherial beauty, but the fundamental ethos of a series of sharply contrasting ensembles inevitably makes for compromise.

 

 

 

* Having said this (and mindful of the fact that the tonal integrity of the organ at Saint Peter's Church, Bournemouth was somewhat compromised by the unfortunate R&D re-designing and re-building in 1976), I should still far rather accompany a choir or a congregation on my own church instrument - which is the complete opposite of a vintage Harrison.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Your last sentence sums up the drawback, though - and it is a serious one, in my view.

 

The Arthur Harrison stoplist and voicing of individual ranks (and the resulting effect of the ensemble) was completely standardised, whether it be for a three- or a four-clavier instrument.

 

It is true that, if one looks at the eariler work of Hill, Willis or Walker (for example) there is a clearly discernable sense of 'house style', if you will - but there are often differences, and not simply in terms of nomenclature. However, with vintage Harrison instruments the schemes were almost literally 'off the peg'. This is particularly true of Arthur Harrison Pedal, G.O. and Swell organs, where the stoplists are almost entirely predictable. In his three-clavier schemes, the Choir Organ is almost equally so, being a collectoin of quiet accompanimental voices, usually a soft sub-unison Dulciana, with some quiet orchestral reeds and (if the church was considered large enough) a Tuba on an open chest. If not, the G.O. reeds were usually transferrable to the Choir Organ, so a powerful solo reed effect was always available. It is only if there was a fourth clavier (and also if there was a significant amount of historic pipework which had been stipulated to be preserved) when one sees some diversity, at least in the printed stoplist.

 

Aside from that, the only real differences (again, depending on the size of the building) were whether there was a 32ft. flue (almost invariably a powerful Double Open Wood, generally extended down from the equally powerful Open Wood, so the scaling was unhelpful in the lowest octave) and whether there was a second compound stop on the G.O. (which was usually a 15-19-22-26-29 quint mixture). However, in the latter case, due to the system of breaks favoured by Arthur Harrison and George Dixon, for the upper half of the G.O. clavier this was simply a complete chorus up to the fifteenth, the higher-pitched ranks having broken back before this point.

 

Certainly the positive point of this thinking is that one always knew what to expect; powerful foundations on Pedal and G.O., together with very powerful and opaque reeds on these departments, a quiet Choir Organ with a selection of harmless accompanimental stops; the Swell Organ had a quieter, but generally brighter, flue chorus (often with a 12-19-22 or, if one was fortunate, a 12-19-22-26-29 Mixture), with highly contrasted chorus reeds to those of the G.O.

 

However, the unfortunate corollary is that this often compromised the instrument in several important details. It is virtually impossible to find a balancing secondary chorus; coupling the Swell to the Choir Organ does not really work, partly due to the retiring nature of the Choir flues - and also their voicing. The Swell on its own is a very poor also-ran to the beefy G.O. choruses. In addition, since the Harmonics only introduced an unsociable biliilance to the chorus (since it was never designed for this purpose), one is limited to choruses up to the Fifteenth only, having to resort to drawing the Swell reeds for climactic moments, whereupon the sound picture changes completely.

 

In the case of the Pedal Organ, the situation is even more awkward. On a four-clavier instrument one might be lucky enough to have a metal Violoncello in addition to the booming extension of the Open Wood, but in any case there was almost never anything above 8ft, pitch. The foundations were usually dominated by wooden pipework of large scale, which provided plenty of weight - but clarity was at a discount.

 

Aside from the Choir departments at King's College, Cambridge, and Westminster abbey, it is doubtful (as has been written elsewhere) that anyone other than the player would have been any the wiser if this section had been removed.

 

Whilst the vintage Harrison organ does often work well as a vehicle for choral accompaniment *, I must admit that I have never been satisfied by it as a medium for recital work. It may be able to produce effects ranging from great power and grandeur to quiet moments of etherial beauty, but the fundamental ethos of a series of sharply contrasting ensembles inevitably makes for compromise.

 

 

 

* Having said this (and mindful of the fact that the tonal integrity of the organ at Saint Peter's Church, Bournemouth was somewhat compromised by the unfortunate R&D re-designing and re-building in 1976), I should still far rather accompany a choir or a congregation on my own church instrument - which is the complete opposite of a vintage Harrison.

 

I know it's often said that Arthur Harrison schemes were standardised, and it's easy to accept this by looking at the stop-lists, but I'm not convinced that the effect was so in practice, any more than it might have been with Walker or Father Willis. For example, the Trombas at Belfast Cathedral and St. Mary Redcliffe - buildings of similar cubic capacity - are very different. Not all AH Great mixtures were Harmonics - quite often the standard English 'Sesquialtera' 17.19.22 was provided. Not all Great and Swell reed choruses are heavily contrasted (again, Belfast is an example - there's enough difference to know which set you're using), and I think that Clutton's jibe about loud Orchestral Oboes was typical Clutton hyperbole at a time when he had gone off Harrison organs and gone racing on to other enthusiasms.

 

I would agree that the development of a broad Violoncello as at Salisbury is generally more useful, although possibly the Harrison type has more potential in combination and/or with the octave couplers.

 

Clutton's (or was it Niland's?) claim that 'if [Choir Organs] were omitted from any of his organs it is doubtful if anyone but the player would have been any the wiser', was challenged in a review (I think) of the re-issue of 'The British Organ', when it was pointed out that the use of such departments in an accompanimental capacity is invaluable because the Great ensembles are generally too big for work with choirs.

 

And here, as you point out, is the crux - AH Great Organs are big, and it is difficult to get a balancing chorus elsewhere. But if AH erred in this respect, he was following ample precedent. Coming off the Grande Orgue on a Cavaille-Coll is like falling into a hole. The same is true on a Father Willis (on late Father Willises in particular, the Swell is just a quieter version of the Great, and I suppose one cannot blame Harrison - or Dixon, or Casson - for trying to avoid this). By the early twentieth century, the same could be said of the builders. For an example, in Colchester the churches of St. Leonard-at-the-Hythe and St. Andrew, Greenstead stand on opposite sides of the River, close enough that opposing sides were able to take pot-shots at each other during the Civil War. Both have two-manual Walkers of virtually identical specification (the St. Andrew's job was originally in All Saints, in the town centre, but that doesn't make any difference in this case). At St. Andrew's, which was built in 1884 (when a very young T. Tertius Noble was organist) the Swell flue chorus is almost as bold as the Great, but at St. Leonard's, built in 1908, it's way behind. Post-Cavaille-Coll, organs were crescendo machines, designed to be played with the inter-manual couplers on most of the time.

 

Cluton and Niland say that, on three-manual organs, the Choir Organ was treated 'in the Ouseley tradition'. What the heck did that mean? When I think of an Ouseley Choir Organ, I think of something like Romsey, or possibly Tenbury, not of a Solo Organ on the bottom manual.

 

They also refer to Harrison Open Woods as 'heavily winded'. That's not true either - 'copiously winded' would be accurate, but the pressures were not necessarily high.

 

An I right in thinking that Clutton and Niland, in the first edition, said that the Harrison conception 'failed' because of the 'almost complete lack of balance between the manuals and the over-emphasis of contrast between them', but modified this in the second edition to say that 'its shortcoming lay in the almost complete lack....'? I gave away my first edition when the second edition came out.....

 

This thing about balanced manual choruses - how important is it? When Clutton and Niland were writing in the sixties, one was supposed to have two balanced principal choruses to play Bach. Since then, that view has been challenged, especially by Peter Williams, who points out that there are very few places in Bach where two manuals are essential. I myself, although I have no claims to know much about it, have never been happy about most of the manual changes in the preludes and fugees. It's easy enough to get off the Great, but usually the devil's own job to get back on it without a good deal of contriving. Did Bach have an organ with contrasting principal choruses? Probably not, so at least CC, HW and AH were erring in good company. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When was it decreed that a good organ must have balanced choruses? This has never been a universal feature of the instrument.

 

Thank you Nick for the interesting article on the 1929 instrument. I notice that the Snetzler work was spoken of with reverence, while the more recent Abbott and Smith work seems to have been dismissed summarily. I suspect, had the previous instrument survived it would now be regarded as of interest. I even wonder whether it was really in as bad a state as was suggested, or whether there was an underlying determination to have something more fashionable? There is a lesson in this, I feel!

 

The plans for a staged implementation in 1929 are of interest - can we infer something about intended registration? All of the diapasons go in first - even the big one - and also the swell trumpet, but nothing above 2'. Presumably the kind of full organ produced by this was seen as an acceptable registration, but I don't hear many use it in the present day.

 

So the question is, what makes us think we know better now than our predecessors did then?

 

I don't hear brass players complaining that their French Horn would be so much more versatile if it only sounded a little more like a trumpet; and my own dream instrument might well be that at St Ouen - but it doesn't follow that any instrument would be improved by being made to sound more like a Cavaille-Coll....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Your last sentence sums up the drawback, though - and it is a serious one, in my view.

 

The Arthur Harrison stoplist and voicing of individual ranks (and the resulting effect of the ensemble) was completely standardised, whether it be for a three- or a four-clavier instrument.

 

It is true that, if one looks at the eariler work of Hill, Willis or Walker (for example) there is a clearly discernable sense of 'house style', if you will - but there are often differences, and not simply in terms of nomenclature. However, with vintage Harrison instruments the schemes were almost literally 'off the peg'. This is particularly true of Arthur Harrison Pedal, G.O. and Swell organs, where the stoplists are almost entirely predictable. In his three-clavier schemes, the Choir Organ is almost equally so, being a collectoin of quiet accompanimental voices, usually a soft sub-unison Dulciana, with some quiet orchestral reeds and (if the church was considered large enough) a Tuba on an open chest. If not, the G.O. reeds were usually transferrable to the Choir Organ, so a powerful solo reed effect was always available. It is only if there was a fourth clavier (and also if there was a significant amount of historic pipework which had been stipulated to be preserved) when one sees some diversity, at least in the printed stoplist.

 

Aside from that, the only real differences (again, depending on the size of the building) were whether there was a 32ft. flue (almost invariably a powerful Double Open Wood, generally extended down from the equally powerful Open Wood, so the scaling was unhelpful in the lowest octave) and whether there was a second compound stop on the G.O. (which was usually a 15-19-22-26-29 quint mixture). However, in the latter case, due to the system of breaks favoured by Arthur Harrison and George Dixon, for the upper half of the G.O. clavier this was simply a complete chorus up to the fifteenth, the higher-pitched ranks having broken back before this point.

 

Certainly the positive point of this thinking is that one always knew what to expect; powerful foundations on Pedal and G.O., together with very powerful and opaque reeds on these departments, a quiet Choir Organ with a selection of harmless accompanimental stops; the Swell Organ had a quieter, but generally brighter, flue chorus (often with a 12-19-22 or, if one was fortunate, a 12-19-22-26-29 Mixture), with highly contrasted chorus reeds to those of the G.O.

 

However, the unfortunate corollary is that this often compromised the instrument in several important details. It is virtually impossible to find a balancing secondary chorus; coupling the Swell to the Choir Organ does not really work, partly due to the retiring nature of the Choir flues - and also their voicing. The Swell on its own is a very poor also-ran to the beefy G.O. choruses. In addition, since the Harmonics only introduced an unsociable biliilance to the chorus (since it was never designed for this purpose), one is limited to choruses up to the Fifteenth only, having to resort to drawing the Swell reeds for climactic moments, whereupon the sound picture changes completely.

 

In the case of the Pedal Organ, the situation is even more awkward. On a four-clavier instrument one might be lucky enough to have a metal Violoncello in addition to the booming extension of the Open Wood, but in any case there was almost never anything above 8ft, pitch. The foundations were usually dominated by wooden pipework of large scale, which provided plenty of weight - but clarity was at a discount.

 

Aside from the Choir departments at King's College, Cambridge, and Westminster abbey, it is doubtful (as has been written elsewhere) that anyone other than the player would have been any the wiser if this section had been removed.

 

Whilst the vintage Harrison organ does often work well as a vehicle for choral accompaniment *, I must admit that I have never been satisfied by it as a medium for recital work. It may be able to produce effects ranging from great power and grandeur to quiet moments of etherial beauty, but the fundamental ethos of a series of sharply contrasting ensembles inevitably makes for compromise.

 

 

 

* Having said this (and mindful of the fact that the tonal integrity of the organ at Saint Peter's Church, Bournemouth was somewhat compromised by the unfortunate R&D re-designing and re-building in 1976), I should still far rather accompany a choir or a congregation on my own church instrument - which is the complete opposite of a vintage Harrison.

 

 

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

 

 

One could argue that most builders had a certain "house style," and that is true of Fr Willis, Binns, Forster & Andrews, Brindley & Foster etc etc.

 

In the case of Brindley & Foster, the standardisation was so complete, they almost verged on mass production. Compton was one builder who followed that approach also.

 

It's easy to knock this, but if we transport ourselves back to the period, say, 1875 - 1940 or so, organ-building was quite big business, with a considerable number of supply houses in operation. Thousands upon thousands of everyday organs were built, and it was only the more prestigious ones that ever really warranted the more individual and thoughtful approach. In fact, such was the demand, quite a lot of organs were imported, in addition to the better known and documented Cavaille-Coll and Schulze instruments. Walcker, for instance, supplied a number of smaller instruments; though few survive to-day. Even standardised player-organs were pressed into action, with a few coming over from Aeolian in the USA.

 

From a production point of view, it is the only way that anyone can work when the pressure is on and the order books are full.

 

The bespoke, boutique market is a relatively modern phenomenon, I would have thought, and one which has spared the best contemporary builders from the massive decline in the number of organs built or re-built.

 

Like 'pcnd,' I can see enormous shortcomings in what Arthur Harrison did, but that also applies to the instruments of many other builders. Personally, I do not like terraced dynamics: the very root of the problem when it comes to balanced choruses. That was as much a legacy of the "olde-English" tradition, as it was the influence of Schulze, and in fact, the Schulze influence is very much at the heart of the Dixon/Harrison concept, save for the chorus and solo reeds, which hydraulic and then electric blowing made possible. (Hence those big Quint mixtures 'pcnd' mentions, which break back early to become a second-chorus in effect).

 

I suspect that an organ like Blackburn Cathedral would have totally confused Arthur Harrison, and Dixon, and Bonavia-Hunt, and Whitworth and all the others who thought they knew best what was musical.

 

Going back to the Halifax instrument, there is only one good sound for Bach, which involves using the Great 16, 8 (Diapason II), 4, 2.2/3, 2, Mixture (coupled to the Swell Chorus with octave coupler acting as a "Mixture department") and all coupled to the Pedals, on which no pedal stops are drawn. The trick is then to transfer the 18,8ft Trombas to Choir, and couple them down to the Pedals.

 

As for the lack of a proper 2ft Flute anywhere on the instrument.......... :blink:

 

For me, the great glory of the Halifax instrument is not the power of it, but the beauty of the softer registers and solo registers. The Clarinet and Orchestral Oboe are outstanding, as is the lovely Doppel Flute (especially with tremulant).

 

I forget how many times I've played in recitals at Halifax....possibly a dozen or so.....but it's the quiet, reflective pieces I most recall enjoying....things like Vierne's "Berceuse" or the Peeters "Lied to the flowers," where it is possible to play so expressively and intimately.

 

As I've bemoaned previously, it's a pity we took the neo-classical concept into churches and especially concert-halls ill-equipped for it. The end result was often not very pretty or musical, and in many instances, it brought the classical ethos into disrepute. I also bemoan the fact that no-one has ever developed the solid tonal foundations of Lewis, and stitched old English Flutes to it. The only organs I know which hint at this, were either happy mistakes like St Paul's Hall, University of Hudderfield, or the dangerously few original Issac Abbott organs still left to us. (I suppose we also have to include Beverley Minster and the best organs of J J Binns).

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When was it decreed that a good organ must have balanced choruses? This has never been a universal feature of the instrument.

 

Thank you Nick for the interesting article on the 1929 instrument. I notice that the Snetzler work was spoken of with reverence, while the more recent Abbott and Smith work seems to have been dismissed summarily. I suspect, had the previous instrument survived it would now be regarded as of interest. I even wonder whether it was really in as bad a state as was suggested, or whether there was an underlying determination to have something more fashionable? There is a lesson in this, I feel!

 

The plans for a staged implementation in 1929 are of interest - can we infer something about intended registration? All of the diapasons go in first - even the big one - and also the swell trumpet, but nothing above 2'. Presumably the kind of full organ produced by this was seen as an acceptable registration, but I don't hear many use it in the present day.

 

So the question is, what makes us think we know better now than our predecessors did then?

 

I don't hear brass players complaining that their French Horn would be so much more versatile if it only sounded a little more like a trumpet; and my own dream instrument might well be that at St Ouen - but it doesn't follow that any instrument would be improved by being made to sound more like a Cavaille-Coll....

 

 

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

 

 

French Horn players are weird and usually drink a lot. Cornet players, on the other hand, are forever fiddling about with different mouth-pieces to get this or that sound.

 

In fact, brass players are worse than organists.

 

As for Abbott & Smith, they unfortunately went the way of most.....ultra smooth voicing and reeds. Sadly, their actions were less than reliable, but the overall quality of most over things was good. (Nip up to St Paul's, King's Cross, Halifax).

 

I can't be sure, but I suspect that the original Issac Abbott re-build of the Snetzler was the one of greatest interest....pity they hadn't invented good recording equipment at the time.

 

As for Diapasons, diapsons and yet more diapasons, that is fairly typical of the era. It doesn't mean they were right or even terribly well informed, but big diapasons are so useful for funerals, rememberance services and civic occasions.

 

MM

 

PS: Has it ever occured to anyone, that many of the congregations in the industrial cities and towns, might well have been partially deaf?

 

PPS: Wasn't Lt. Col. George Dixon involved in guns and artillery?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know it's often said that Arthur Harrison schemes were standardised, and it's easy to accept this by looking at the stop-lists, but I'm not convinced that the effect was so in practice, any more than it might have been with Walker or Father Willis. For example, the Trombas at Belfast Cathedral and St. Mary Redcliffe - buildings of similar cubic capacity - are very different. Not all AH Great mixtures were Harmonics - quite often the standard English 'Sesquialtera' 17.19.22 was provided.

 

Not that often. Gloucester Cathedral is one example, but the 'Harmonics' appears far more often - certainly enough to be regarded as standard.

 

With regard to his Pedal and G.O. chorus reeds, is it possible that these were re-voiced between 1969 - 1975 ? In his history of the Harrison firm, Laurence Elvin cites '... the complete remodelling of the tonal scheme.' * Given the nature of the re-cast G.O. compound stop, the new Pedal Mixture (and other upperwork), the supplementary Swell Mixture and the addition of the Positive Organ (and the fact that at this time, Harrisons' normal practice† was to revise the wind pressures of the reed chests and some of the major flue-work), I wonder if in fact they sound different to those at Redcliffe because they had been altered since 1907 ?

 

In any case, cubic capacity is only one consideration. The type of stone used, the total surface area of glass, the proportions of the buildings, the subsequent acoustic properties and the siting and layout § of each instrument (including the proximity of the consoles) all have a part to play in the resulting timbres of these reeds.

 

 

 

* p. 222; The Harrison Story (Second Edition): Laurence Elvin. Elvin, Lincoln (1977).

 

† c.f. Ely Cathedral, Exeter Cathedral, Saint George's Chapel (Windsor Castle), Wells Cathedral.

 

§ At Redcliffe, the G.O. is in the North case, in a comparatively low-vaulted aisle - which is likely to have a focusing (or possibly even an attenuating) effect on the sound. However, the gallery situation of the instrument at Belfast - with considerable free space above - will again have an entirely different effect on the reeds, particularly those on an open chest.

 

Clutton's (or was it Niland's?) claim that 'if [Choir Organs] were omitted from any of his organs it is doubtful if anyone but the player would have been any the wiser', was challenged in a review (I think) of the re-issue of 'The British Organ', when it was pointed out that the use of such departments in an accompanimental capacity is invaluable because the Great ensembles are generally too big for work with choirs.

 

Well, yes - but I am not sure that I would regard this as an advantage. One should be able to use at least the G.O. flutes for accompaniment - if not a small[er] Open Diapason.

 

And here, as you point out, is the crux - AH Great Organs are big, and it is difficult to get a balancing chorus elsewhere. But if AH erred in this respect, he was following ample precedent. Coming off the Grande Orgue on a Cavaille-Coll is like falling into a hole. The same is true on a Father Willis (on late Father Willises in particular, the Swell is just a quieter version of the Great, and I suppose one cannot blame Harrison - or Dixon, or Casson - for trying to avoid this).

 

But this is just as much of a generalisation as my own point regarding the G.O. and Swell reeds. In any case, it is also not true in every case - the Récit-Expressif divisions of Nôtre-Dame, S. Sulpice (Paris), S. Ouen (Rouen) and S. Etienne, Caen are good examples where this is not so.

 

 

Cluton and Niland say that, on three-manual organs, the Choir Organ was treated 'in the Ouseley tradition'. What the heck did that mean? When I think of an Ouseley Choir Organ, I think of something like Romsey, or possibly Tenbury, not of a Solo Organ on the bottom manual.

 

Neither am I sure what this phrase means. However, on a four-clavier vintage Harrison, I could manage on the Swell and Solo organ flues (with Oboe), and perhaps the G.O. Stopped Diapason - which was usually quieter than the Hohl Flöte. THe Choir Organ would certainly be useful - but indispensable? I am not sure about that.

 

They also refer to Harrison Open Woods as 'heavily winded'. That's not true either - 'copiously winded' would be accurate, but the pressures were not necessarily high.

 

I was careful not to comment on wind pressure, here. Notwithstanding, it is difficult to deny the existence of the perceived faults to which I did refer.

 

An I right in thinking that Clutton and Niland, in the first edition, said that the Harrison conception 'failed' because of the 'almost complete lack of balance between the manuals and the over-emphasis of contrast between them', but modified this in the second edition to say that 'its shortcoming lay in the almost complete lack....'? I gave away my first edition when the second edition came out.....

I cannot recall, either - and I possess only one edition.

 

This thing about balanced manual choruses - how important is it? When Clutton and Niland were writing in the sixties, one was supposed to have two balanced principal choruses to play Bach. Since then, that view has been challenged, especially by Peter Williams, who points out that there are very few places in Bach where two manuals are essential. I myself, although I have no claims to know much about it, have never been happy about most of the manual changes in the preludes and fugees. It's easy enough to get off the Great, but usually the devil's own job to get back on it without a good deal of contriving. Did Bach have an organ with contrasting principal choruses? Probably not, so at least CC, HW and AH were erring in good company. :blink:

 

With this I would agree. However, I did not specify Bach. what about the music of Bruhns or Buxtehude, for example? I understood that, in the case of the latter, the clavier changes in at least one edition were those of Buxtehude himself. In any case, there are some occasions (perhaps more in some of the fugues than the preludes) in which a clavier change (with subsequent terraced dynamics) is desirable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...