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Birmingham Town Hall Organ


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Brilliant News. I got TT's RAH CD which was electrifying and gets very well used. I always thought that our hosts made little mention of what work was carried out in the last rebuild but I think the organ at BTH sounds far more imposing since the rebuild. I don't know whether that is down to the work on the organ or the work in the hall as there seems to be less soft furnishings to deaden the sound now. I'm afraid that I find myself disappointed when I go to recitals at the Symphony Hall which to my ears is the poor relation to the old warrior!

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The Bham.O.A. had an afternoon on the Town Hall organ shortly after the reopening and TT was kind enough to say a few words about what had been done: apart from the removal of the 5th clavier and the addition of some bells, it didn't sound as though very much had changed at all.

 

What was immediately noticeable from the platform was that the acoustic had a definite 'bloom' to it that hadn't been there before. The removed upper tier was quite steeply raked, and thus amounted to a solid wall of soft seating at the other end of the hall.

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The Bham.O.A. had an afternoon on the Town Hall organ shortly after the reopening and TT was kind enough to say a few words about what had been done: apart from the removal of the 5th clavier and the addition of some bells, it didn't sound as though very much had changed at all.

 

What was immediately noticeable from the platform was that the acoustic had a definite 'bloom' to it that hadn't been there before. The removed upper tier was quite steeply raked, and thus amounted to a solid wall of soft seating at the other end of the hall.

 

Contrabordun is correct: the work carried out by Manders in 2007 was essentially a cleaning and overhaul. The 5th manual was removed (it got in the way of the music desk) - the 1984 Mander Bombarde division became floating - and a set of 3-octave Whitechapel bells was installed on top of the swell box. The combination action was replaced with solid state including a stepper and USB port. There was a very small amount of tonal rebalancing and I believe three ranks were replaced with new ones.

 

The internal restoration of the hall is breathtaking and well worth going to have a look at if you are ever passing through Birmingham! In addition to removing the upper tier, the plaster work has been wonderfully restored in white and pastel blue, the heavy fabrics of the old hall are gone and the chairs on the floor of the hall are removable. All this has contributed to improving the acoustic and the the organ sounds markedly better for it.

 

Gary Cole

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This disc is a real cracker. The music is played from memory; is, of course, faultlessly performed and captured with equally good camera work. The Thalben-Ball pedal Variations on a Theme by Paganini is captivating to hear and watch. I couldn't hope to play that even with a Pedal to Great coupler.

 

There is a short spoken autobiography by TT in which he talks about feeling uncomfortable when "waving his arms about in front of a choir" on the occasions he had to conduct KCC choir. He says that he has only ever conducted one choir, KCC, not a bad record. Priceless!

 

Highly recommended. [by me, if that's any recommendation...]

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Contrabordun is correct: the work carried out by Manders in 2007 was essentially a cleaning and overhaul. The 5th manual was removed (it got in the way of the music desk) - the 1984 Mander Bombarde division became floating - and a set of 3-octave Whitechapel bells was installed on top of the swell box. The combination action was replaced with solid state including a stepper and USB port. There was a very small amount of tonal rebalancing and I believe three ranks were replaced with new ones.

 

The internal restoration of the hall is breathtaking and well worth going to have a look at if you are ever passing through Birmingham! In addition to removing the upper tier, the plaster work has been wonderfully restored in white and pastel blue, the heavy fabrics of the old hall are gone and the chairs on the floor of the hall are removable. All this has contributed to improving the acoustic and the the organ sounds markedly better for it.

 

Gary Cole

 

Hear, hear, I was very frequently in this hall for choral and orchestral (and both) events in its previous incarnation. (And even some organ recitals, too - I recall GTB well into his eighties running onto the platform from backstage, and bounding up the risers onto the console. Also a very fine performance of the Bach F major T&F by Ivor Keys.)

 

Recently, hearing the organ in to the new acoustics of the restored hall - as Gary says - gives it a new sense of presence. The acoustics now, and the new lighting, I might add, are very fine.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Evidently posted by someone who isn't awake.... ;)

 

 

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

 

 

Which reminds me of that delightful story told by David Frost, about the Methodist Minister, who summed up his sermon with:-

 

"....so are we going to be awake to the world with the wise virgins,

or are we going to sleep with the unwise virgins?" :)

 

MM

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

 

 

Which reminds me of that delightful story told by David Frost, about the Methodist Minister, who summed up his sermon with:-

 

"....so are we going to be awake to the world with the wise virgins,

or are we going to sleep with the unwise virgins?" :)

 

MM

 

I'd go with the latter!

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Evidently posted by someone who isn't awake.... :)

 

I sincerely apologise to Mr. Bellamy and to the Board for sleepwalking. No excuse.

 

I can hard wait to get this DVD. I so admire Thomas Trotter. What choir is KCC ? Is TT not Choirmaster at his London church ?

 

I confess that I'm fascinated by this old organ and profoundly admire the superb rebuild that it was given by our hosts. If I've not done so previously, I should make it plain that I consider myself a Willis man. Whenever I hear an organ that I especially like, it turns out to be a Willis. I only mention this because I find that I have an almost irrational liking for this instrument and especially the way TT uses it. One can understand G D Cunningham's desire to preserve its essential character. Although I can also understand HWIII criticisms of the Thomas Hill rebuild, one likes this organ for ALL its qualities, even the not so good ones ! Amongst the new voices, the Open No.3 made by Manders is a lovely stop. I really purrs.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I really enjoyed this DVD enormously and IMHO is the best organ DVD I have seen and I think I have seen them all! Fantastic playing also - took my breath away and TT makes it look so easy - sickening really!

 

One thing I didn't realise was that this organ used to have a 32' DOW which was removed!

 

This from NPOR:

 

1979 by unknown

"the bottom 8 pipes of the Pedal 32' Open Wood removed, the latter to improve access"

 

I think this is most regrettable (reminds me of Gloucester!) and I assume the pipes were destroyed? Does anyone know?

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Just for the record, the BTH organ was not changed tonally. The significant improvement in the sound of the organ (and it is very significant) is entirely due to the changed (and much improved) acoustic. A group of us listened to the organ before the major work was done on the hall, but after the entire interior had been stripped out. The transformation was quite unbelievable. The organ sounded SO much better. To be honest, the BTH organ never really grabbed me, but hearing it on that occasion I suddenly found it thrilling. Yet another example which demonstrates that most about especially good organs may not be down to clever organ builders or voicers, but to the room they are fortunate enough to be able to build the organs in. Having made the discovery of the hidden attributes of the BTH organ, we did our best to convince the architects to leave the interior with plenty of hard surfaces. The acoustic (and therefore the organ) are not quite as good now as it was when the hall was tripped out, but it is far better than it was before.

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Yes, Henry Willis took a chain saw to the Double Open Wood when they did the work on the organ. Nobody is quite sure why. Bits of it remained in the organ until we did the work in the 1980s, but literally just bits, not a single complete pipe.

 

I really enjoyed this DVD enormously and IMHO is the best organ DVD I have seen and I think I have seen them all! Fantastic playing also - took my breath away and TT makes it look so easy - sickening really!

 

One thing I didn't realise was that this organ used to have a 32' DOW which was removed!

 

This from NPOR:

 

1979 by unknown

"the bottom 8 pipes of the Pedal 32' Open Wood removed, the latter to improve access"

 

I think this is most regrettable (reminds me of Gloucester!) and I assume the pipes were destroyed? Does anyone know?

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Yes, Henry Willis took a chain saw to the Double Open Wood when they did the work on the organ. Nobody is quite sure why. Bits of it remained in the organ until we did the work in the 1980s, but literally just bits, not a single complete pipe.

 

Madness!! Thanks John for the info

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Yes, Henry Willis took a chain saw to the Double Open Wood when they did the work on the organ. Nobody is quite sure why. Bits of it remained in the organ until we did the work in the 1980s, but literally just bits, not a single complete pipe.

From Birmingham Town Hall Organ by Nicholas Thistlethwaite (1984):- "In 1979, the Great Organ soundboards were overhauled, and the existing (1834?) Fifteenth and Mixture IV were replaced with new pipework; shortly after this (1981?) the bottom 8 notes of the Double Open Wood (also an 1834 stop) were cut down on site to improve access to other parts of the instrument."

 

Dr. Thistlethwaite subsequently explains that there were no funds available for major work in the 1970s, so a programme of piecemeal repair and rebuilding was put in hand in 1979. However, the situation changed in 1982 and substantial funds became available allowing a full-scale reconstruction of the instrument.

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