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Rushworth & Dreaper - 1930s

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I have recently become aquainted with this organ through getting hold of a copy of this CD. As might be expected - Roger Fisher's playing is superb and the music played suites the instrument like a glove. But, despite having used a similar age instrument from this firm to practice on at one time (and one which at the time I disliked intensely) I am very much persuaded as to the merits of R & D in this context. The organ was designed by Alfred Hollins and indeed he was organist for a good many years. I realise that for example the performance of the JSB BWV 582 will not be to everyone's taste but having heard (for instance) Harold Darke play Bach in my youth I can fully cope with this way of playing on this sort of instrument. Interestingly, the 'sound world' of the above is not a million miles from current work in the US by Schoenstein and others and the playing of the likes of Ken Cowen or Thomas Murray show that instrument and repertoire are very much in harmony such cases.

 

A

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I have recently become aquainted with this organ through getting hold of a copy of this CD. As might be expected - Roger Fisher's playing is superb and the music played suites the instrument like a glove. But, despite having used a similar age instrument from this firm to practice on at one time (and one which at the time I disliked intensely) I am very much persuaded as to the merits of R & D in this context. The organ was designed by Alfred Hollins and indeed he was organist for a good many years. I realise that for example the performance of the JSB BWV 582 will not be to everyone's taste but having heard (for instance) Harold Darke play Bach in my youth I can fully cope with this way of playing on this sort of instrument. Interestingly, the 'sound world' of the above is not a million miles from current work in the US by Schoenstein and others and the playing of the likes of Ken Cowen or Thomas Murray show that instrument and repertoire are very much in harmony such cases.

 

A

 

 

The old boys always used to say, "Rushworth's could really do it when they wanted to", and at their best I think they were as good as anyone. Holy Rude, Stirling is glorious. It has been a little tweaked, which is unfortunate, but the oiginal voicing is intact. I think Christ's Hospital Chapel is almost as good, but perhaps not everyone would agree.

 

St. James, Antrim Road, Belfast, has a slightly smaller Rushworth than Reid Memorial (http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=D01416), installed in 1954 after the church was blitzed. It was said that Rushworth's had made a particular effort with it as a means of securing more orders in the province. Whether or not this was so, it is an outstanding example of its type. Philip Prosser, the organ builder, who maintained it, reckoned it to be the best parish organ in Belfast, and I think he was right. The church was closed a few years ago, but I believe the organ is safe, at least for the forseeable future.

 

Long ago, there was a disgruntled letter from Henry Willis III in 'The Organ' claiming that certain innovations in Rushworth organs were due to them poaching members of his staff. Rushworth's rebutted this in the next issue, but I think that between the wars they may, quite legitimately, have taken on skilled men from other firms in order to improve their product and break into the big league. Since they did not have London overheads, they were well placed to offer competitive rates if their product was up to scratch. I'm sure the many school jobs which they secured were a result of this. Christ's Hospital certainly was, as Stephen Bicknell pointed out in his book. Their job at Haileybury was very fine, too. I visited it on the same day as All Saints, Hertford and St. Alban's Cathedral and, even after all the years, I can still remember how impressed I was by it and Jack Hindmarsh's playing of it.

 

Jeremy Cull's transcription of McCunn's 'The Land of the Mountain and the Flood', as featured on the Reid Memorial recording, is well worth playing.

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Another Hollins design here and this one looks interesting too.

 

A

 

 

The Caird Hall is a typical Harrison, the only feature which immediately suggests Hollins being the Horn on the Swell, a stop to which he was known to be partial. Perhaps some of the other unusual features - three manuals rather than four, enclosed Great reeds, third manual called 'Orchestral' - might be due to Hollins, but each can be found on various other Harrisons. It was not unusual for consultants to rubber-stamp builders' specifications, as any other consultant might for specialist work.

 

Westminster Chapel was originally a Father Willis - the case has a family resemblance to the Ally Pally and others. Rushworth's had two goes at it, initially prompted by a desire to get more power to cope with the very large congregations which attended the church. It was written up with approval by Gilbert Benham in 'The Organ' and I believe it has always been well thought-off.

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Another Hollins design here and this one looks interesting too.

 

A

 

 

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Apart from the absence of a Choir Organ, this could be any other Harrison of the period, so I wouldn't think it has the umistakable stamp of Alfred Hollins about it.

 

Interestingly, it's a development of the idea first used at Holy Trinity, Keighley, (my first post at the age of 14), (now demolished), where the "Choir Organ" was, to all intents and purposes, an Orchestral division, with just the reeds enclosed in a natty little swell box. It sounded hideous in the context of the much earlier Swell, Great & Pedal.

 

I think it unfortunate that 1930's fashion dictated that R & D copy the Harmonics idea so familiar with H & H organs, but at their best, they were quite fine accompaniment machines, and ideal for the voluntaries of the day.

 

I would certainly never knock anything R & D did from scratch; especially from this particular period. Holy Rude is a fine organ, but it's a very long tme since I saw it and heard it. I do recall the late Geraint Jones playing the old R & D at Llandudno PC, and the Bach items sounded fairly convincing, almost in spite of the specification.

 

MM

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The Caird Hall is a typical Harrison, the only feature which immediately suggests Hollins being the Horn on the Swell, a stop to which he was known to be partial. Perhaps some of the other unusual features - three manuals rather than four, enclosed Great reeds, third manual called 'Orchestral' - might be due to Hollins, but each can be found on various other Harrisons. It was not unusual for consultants to rubber-stamp builders' specifications, as any other consultant might for specialist work.

 

Westminster Chapel was originally a Father Willis - the case has a family resemblance to the Ally Pally and others. Rushworth's had two goes at it, initially prompted by a desire to get more power to cope with the very large congregations which attended the church. It was written up with approval by Gilbert Benham in 'The Organ' and I believe it has always been well thought-off.

 

 

The 'orchestral' third manual, in both name or nature, was a Colonel George Dixon hallmark (St.James Whitehaven, St.Bees Priory etc) though not perhaps unique to him?

 

CP

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The 'orchestral' third manual, in both name or nature, was a Colonel George Dixon hallmark (St.James Whitehaven, St.Bees Priory etc) though not perhaps unique to him?

 

CP

 

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Indeed it was a Dixon hallmark, and the organ at Keighley was the first tonal experiment on which they collaborated, when funds were made available to add a third manual. They decided to call it the Choir Organ, even though it was the top manual! (Probably to do with the action layout, with the new windchest stuck in front of the Swell, thus impeding the sound, and the action sitting nicely above the rest of the old action runs. Curiously, I recall the fact that all three manuals had quite different touches and weight.

 

I would have to check the dates, but I wonder if this wasn't the period when Whiteley was voicing for Harrison?

 

The "choir organ" was awful anyway, and stood out like a sore thumb from the rest of the fluework. I never actually found a use for it. The Claribel was fat and fluffy, the string devoid of character, the 4ft flute pathetic, the Picollo too loud and fat in tone, while the "orchestral reeds" about as attractive as a gathering of amateur Scottish Pipers who made their own instruments on the kitchen table.

 

MM

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I have recently become aquainted with this

 

The organ was designed by Alfred Hollins and indeed he was organist for a good many years.

 

Correction to the above- Hollins was never, to my knowledge, organist of the reid memorial church Edinburgh. He was organist for a very long time at St. Georges West Church Edinburgh. The organ is a TC Lewis which was rebuilt by Rushworths under Hollins direction. Spec and history here, http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N07957 The organ has sadly been much modified, but it's general feel survives. The church is now closed for worship, but the organ is still there. I haven't played or heard it - one of the few I never got to hear in my 4 years in Edinburgh!

 

Hollins also redesigned this Willis instrument http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=D08494 it has also been rebuilt twice since.The NPOR isn't up to date - it's now been more or less returned to it's 1920's rushworth spec by Harrisons, the 1970's changes being apparently really unsuccessful. This is a fine instrument today and has been recorded on the recent 'Organs of Edinburgh' publication.

 

The interesting thing is that 3 organs of similar size were designed along very similar lines in Edinburgh by Hollins, though only the Reid memorial was brand new, and it is the only one which survives completely as he designed it today. All three originally had an orchestral style lower manual.

 

I personally think the idea of Gt/Sw/Orchestral is very useful, excellent for accompanying or English repertoire. Really there is very little disadvantage to this scheme over the traditional English Gt/ Sw/Ch format.

 

Were all Rushworths that good? Some others here suggest not, but I put money on it that their standard of reed voicing was consistantly excellent through this period. The Rushworth Trombas are instantly recognisable, I love their power and sonority. The Orchestral reeds are extreemly refined too. My criticism is often the mixture work - the swell mixture at the Reid memorial only breaks once at middle C. It gets rather squealy up top, and is wrongly named sesquialtera when the composition starts 19,22 and there is never a tierce present.

 

CD

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Correction to the above- Hollins was never, to my knowledge, organist of the reid memorial church Edinburgh. He was organist for a very long time at St. Georges West Church Edinburgh. The organ is a TC Lewis which was rebuilt by Rushworths under Hollins direction.

 

Thanks for this - 'error spotted later - I had meant to edit but not got round to it!

 

A

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Has anyone experienced Cheltenham Town Hall organ recently?

 

A

 

Yes and no. I live in Cheltenham and have played the organ in the Town Hall but only with orchestra in choral works which provide for organ backing/filling out. I didn't have much time to try it out in any detail but I can't say that I found anything 'wrong' with it apart from a couple of notes not playing, one on either of the Gt Diapasons. The pneumatic action works well enough but will require attention in the not too distant future. In fact it made rather a good sound, quite powerful and rich. It is well laid out in a very spacious area raised up behind the choral seating and designed, so it is said, by Sir H Brewer of Gloucester Cathedral. The only disadvantage, as I gather, is that the sound doesn't realy penetrate tha hall that well. 'High and lifted up' it might be but it and the choir seats are in a kind of alcove behind a somewhat lower arch. In front of the arch there is a stage area for and orchestra (a more recent addition, I think).

 

I have permission to go into the Town Hall and play the organ (just to make sure it gets used) whenever the hall is not in use but finding a time when I am able, when the hall is open but not in use seems almost impossible! Hooray for a well used Town Hall if not fur a well used organ.

 

F-W

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Yes and no. I live in Cheltenham and have played the organ in the Town Hall but only with orchestra in choral works which provide for organ backing/filling out. I didn't have much time to try it out in any detail but I can't say that I found anything 'wrong' with it apart from a couple of notes not playing, one on either of the Gt Diapasons. The pneumatic action works well enough but will require attention in the not too distant future. In fact it made rather a good sound, quite powerful and rich. It is well laid out in a very spacious area raised up behind the choral seating and designed, so it is said, by Sir H Brewer of Gloucester Cathedral. The only disadvantage, as I gather, is that the sound doesn't realy penetrate tha hall that well. 'High and lifted up' it might be but it and the choir seats are in a kind of alcove behind a somewhat lower arch. In front of the arch there is a stage area for and orchestra (a more recent addition, I think).

 

I have permission to go into the Town Hall and play the organ (just to make sure it gets used) whenever the hall is not in use but finding a time when I am able, when the hall is open but not in use seems almost impossible! Hooray for a well used Town Hall if not fur a well used organ.

 

F-W

 

Thanks for this - 'may PM at a later date.

 

A

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