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Vox Humana

Anyone Want a Hele?

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There's one going begging here. I don't know the instrument, but, given its vintage, I would expect the Great and Swell to be not bad; I wouldn't like to vouch for the Choir.

 

Given the conditions attached to the faculty by the Exeter Diocesan Advisory Committee (viewable via a hyperlink on the above page), I wonder whether they will ever be able to ditch it. There can't be too many qualifying premises looking for organs and there are other organs in Plymouth scheduled for ditching, notably this very fine instrument.

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There's one going begging here. I don't know the instrument, but, given its vintage, I would expect the Great and Swell to be not bad; I wouldn't like to vouch for the Choir.

 

Given the conditions attached to the faculty by the Exeter Diocesan Advisory Committee (viewable via a hyperlink on the above page), I wonder whether they will ever be able to ditch it. There can't be too many qualifying premises looking for organs and there are other organs in Plymouth scheduled for ditching, notably this very fine instrument.

Many such organs have found new homes in Germany and Holland, where English organ tone is becoming more appreciated.

There are also firms there who specialise in importing unwanted English organs.

"The EDAC will want a photographic record to be made as well as a sound recording of the organ before disposal."

Maybe they should use a well-known software program for the audio documentation. :rolleyes:

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I see from the pictures it has the patent Hele stop-keys above the manual for the Choir Organ. I've never seen one of these in real life - how common/uncommon are they?

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I see from the pictures it has the patent Hele stop-keys above the manual for the Choir Organ. I've never seen one of these in real life - how common/uncommon are they?

 

Well this still has them -

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=A00909

 

According to the NPOR this is believed to be the last surviving example, although some have now turned up in Plymouth!

 

This used to have them when I first played it, but they were replaced many years ago -

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N10540

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Well this still has them -

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=A00909

 

According to the NPOR this is believed to be the last surviving example, although some have now turned up in Plymouth!

 

This used to have them when I first played it, but they were replaced many years ago -

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N10540

 

 

So quite rare. Nifty devices, although they look rather untidy when in use. The Rothwell version was neater. There are very few of those left - I believe the fiddly nature of the mechanism was partly responsible for them being replaced. It's a pity St. Paul's, Clifton, Bristol was rebuilt when it was. Another few years and it might have been conservatively restored as a fine example of a rare breed.

 

I wonder if the Rothwell stop-key influenced the shape of the Walker pattern....

 

The Norman & Beard 'disc and button' system was another oddity. I think there is more than a handful of those still around, although I've only played on one - Lythe in Yorkshire.

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I see from the pictures it has the patent Hele stop-keys above the manual for the Choir Organ. I've never seen one of these in real life - how common/uncommon are they?

I've never come across them, but one of our local Hele Huggers tells me they were easy to handle and convenient. He is quite surprised they didn't become more popular. I wonder whether they were ever very common.

 

About 18 months ago I came across a photograph of the old Hele console at Buckfast Abbey in a brochure printed for the 1937 IAO congress in Plymouth. I did scan it and send it to NPOR, but it looks like they have decided not to upload it. Copyright concerns, maybe. All the stops there were stop-keys. The console looks rather like the Exeter one that Keyplayer linked to, but with more stops: 16 in the slips above each of the three manuals, half a dozen on the sloping jambs at either end and another 23 in a row across the top. It manages to look neat and ugly at the same time.

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I've never come across them, but one of our local Hele Huggers tells me they were easy to handle and convenient. He is quite surprised they didn't become more popular. I wonder whether they were ever very common.

 

About 18 months ago I came across a photograph of the old Hele console at Buckfast Abbey in a brochure printed for the 1937 IAO congress in Plymouth. I did scan it and send it to NPOR, but it looks like they have decided not to upload it. Copyright concerns, maybe. All the stops there were stop-keys. The console looks rather like the Exeter one that Keyplayer linked to, but with more stops: 16 in the slips above each of the three manuals, half a dozen on the sloping jambs at either end and another 23 in a row across the top. It manages to look neat and ugly at the same time.

 

The Hele console at Buckfast was illustrated in 'The Organ' with a modestly approving write-up of the instrument. Ralph Downes's critique after the first of his make-overs prompted an irate letter in the correspondence column.

 

Plymouth City Hall had Hele stop tablets for the Solo Organ. In such cases, as in the one here, they seem to have been a handy way of adding a manual without having to completely rebuild the console. I think St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, had them - possibly the largest example of their use, but a new console arrived with the Rushworth rebuild.

 

Lookswise, both this system and the Rothwell look well enough with 'all off', but eccentric if some stops on.

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I am playing for the wedding of a friend on this Hele next year - one could open another 'repertoire' thread on it perhaps?

 

A

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I am playing for the wedding of a friend on this Hele next year - one could open another 'repertoire' thread on it perhaps?

I wouldn't be surprised to find the flute on the Great is actually 4'. I'd play Wesley and Elgar and maybe Brahms on it.

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I've never come across them, but one of our local Hele Huggers tells me they were easy to handle and convenient. He is quite surprised they didn't become more popular. I wonder whether they were ever very common.

 

 

'Hele Huggers'! I love it!

 

I don't have too much experience of Hele organs. There weren't many in my neck of the woods (maybe a couple each in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk), but I encountered a few while a student in Bristol. In particular, I used to practice on the three-manual at Stoke Bishop Parish Church, which I thought was quite a fine beast (it was rebuilt and slightly pepped-up by Percy Daniel just after I left). In general, they seem to have been well-built and quite resourceful. In my limited experience, I would rate them better than, say, Forster & Andrews, among provincial builders.

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'Hele Huggers'! I love it!

 

I don't have too much experience of Hele organs. There weren't many in my neck of the woods (maybe a couple each in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk), but I encountered a few while a student in Bristol. In particular, I used to practice on the three-manual at Stoke Bishop Parish Church, which I thought was quite a fine beast (it was rebuilt and slightly pepped-up by Percy Daniel just after I left). In general, they seem to have been well-built and quite resourceful. In my limited experience, I would rate them better than, say, Forster & Andrews, among provincial builders.

 

The only Hele I've come across personally is a 2-manual at Headley, near Bordon in Hampshire. A very pleasant job it was too.

 

CP

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They're not all bad, by any means, but they are very variable. When you've heard one Hele, you have most definitely not heard them all.

 

The organ at St Simon's, Plymouth (ex St Peter Mancroft, Norwich) that I linked to in my original post is very fine indeed.

 

Another very nice instrument, though it's in very poor condition, is St Matthias, North Hill, Plymouth. This has the best Vox Humana I have ever heard in this country - quite smooth with very little of the customary bleating goat.

 

Another interesting, but very different, instrument is that at Chagford Parish Church. This one is very orchestral in concept: when added to the Great foundations, the swell reeds sound more like orchestral strings than anything. However I think I heard that this organ is currently being rebuilt and is likely to alter.

 

Okehampton Parish Church has a lot to be said for it as well.

 

On the other hand, this one is just vile. The Swell Rohr Flute is delicious, but everything else seems voiced for maximum "edginess", stringness or just plain raucousness. I suspect the whole instrument was a bit of an experiment.

 

Dartmouth Royal Naval College is pretty gruesome too. Nothing blends.

 

The firm developed a taste for a very big Great Open Diapason, partnered by a fat 8' flute. Together the effect really can be quite oppressive. When they rebuilt Winchester Cathedral in 1905 their solution to getting power down the nave was to pile on the volume at 8' pitch. That seems typical of the firm's approach in the early twentieth century. The Heles were a family of players and they belonged very much to the octopodian generations. George, the firm's founder was organist of St Mary's, Truro. His younger brother, John Hele Mus.B., ARAM, was Plymouth's borough organist, and his son John Calvert Hele, Mus.B., FRCO eventually took over the firm, having been it's flue voicer since the age of 17 or so.

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I have just been appointed the new director of music for the Sacred heart Benefice which the fine St Simons organ is part. There are talks about eventualy moving it to one of the other churches in the group, the organ there is on its last legs. This way we can keep this fine organ playing in the future. There are some fantastic stops on there.

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Yes, there is a small group of people who are working hard to ensure that, whetever may happen to St Simon's, the organ is found a new home.

 

In fact, I am just back from visiting another Plymouth organ that's due for the chop. The church of St Philips', Weston Mill, is to be bulldozed, probably about next May. The organ, a little 12-stop two-manual, has Hele's name plastered all over it, but it clearly isn't by them. Those who have looked inside it and know about these things (including Maurice Eglinton) are of the opinion that it's an unaltered Hill of c.1870. It is an absolutely glorious little organ, every stop and every combination a delight to the ear. Fortunately there are people interested in acquiring this.

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Yes St Philips is a lovely instrument, I played it for a wedding once it was a shame that it only ever got played at weddings or funerals. The rest of the time they would only use a keyboard. Im glad that they have found a buyer for it.

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In fact, I am just back from visiting another Plymouth organ that's due for the chop. The church of St Philips', Weston Mill, is to be bulldozed, probably about next May.

This is quite alarming, not because I know much about St. Philip's, but because it's just one more of many church buildings that have bitten the dust in Plymouth in the last decade - more, I suspect, than were lost in 1939-45. Off the top of my head, this includes St. Mark in Ford, St. Aidan in Ernesettle, St. Chad in Whitleigh, St. Boniface in St. Budeaux, St. Thomas in Keyham, St. Paul in Efford, and both St. Barnabas and St. Michael in Stoke. Each parish may have its reasons for (in most cases) selling part of the land and building a multi-function parish hall/lounge church on the remainder - in some cases, structural problems; in others simply a lack of funds and bums on pews - and I don't think any of them were renowned for their music. However, each of these churches had a pipe organ of some sort, and few of their replacements have, or ever will. This trend is looking decidedly bleak.

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I knew there was a Bristol Hele lurking about in the back of my mind. St. Mary's, Tyndall's Park, Clifton had a grand old three manual with everything the heart could desire for its period - Pedal reed, 32', Swell 16.8.4 reed chorus 9and Harmonics-type mixture), Vox, Tuba.....

 

The church was closed in the mid seventies when I was a student, but I notice from NPOR that it's being used again by an 'Independent Evangelical Church'. I wonder what happened to the organ - it might even be there still.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N03802

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I knew there was a Bristol Hele lurking about in the back of my mind. St. Mary's, Tyndall's Park, Clifton had a grand old three manual with everything the heart could desire for its period - Pedal reed, 32', Swell 16.8.4 reed chorus 9and Harmonics-type mixture), Vox, Tuba.....

 

The church was closed in the mid seventies when I was a student, but I notice from NPOR that it's being used again by an 'Independent Evangelical Church'. I wonder what happened to the organ - it might even be there still.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N03802

 

'Will ask around fellow members of the BDOA.

 

A

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I believe that the NPOR is correct in regards the Independent Evangelical Church. The building is know in use as "Woodlands Christian Centre" and it was, for a few years, my regular place for the evening service on the first Sunday of the month which was called "The Mix". I last went there in 1999 I think and I don't recall any organ being present.

 

Judging by some of the photos on their website - http://www.woodlandschurch.net/ - it seems that the ceiling has been lowered a bit with a fake one put in and therefore there is no room for an organ to be present.

 

HTH,

Dave

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I believe that the NPOR is correct in regards the Independent Evangelical Church. The building is know in use as "Woodlands Christian Centre" and it was, for a few years, my regular place for the evening service on the first Sunday of the month which was called "The Mix". I last went there in 1999 I think and I don't recall any organ being present.

 

Judging by some of the photos on their website - http://www.woodlandschurch.net/ - it seems that the ceiling has been lowered a bit with a fake one put in and therefore there is no room for an organ to be present.

 

HTH,

Dave

 

In an email today they said that the organ is not there now nor has it been there during their time in the building.

 

A

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I had quite forgotten about the Hele organ from St Jude's, Beaumont Road, Plymouth until someone updated me today. This may be common knowledge for all I know, but I was interested to learn that it is now in the church of St Salvadore, Pamplona, Spain. An audio file of the opening concert is available on this webpage via a link in the paragraph "Stages on the Way", although the sound quality is not very good.

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Wonderful, innit? Not for the first time a link I post gets promptly taken down. For the moment at least the soundfile is still available here, but no doubt this, too, will now be removed. I never knew the organ, but a friend of mine whose opinions I greatly respect described it as "a poor piece of work with neutered choruses" that "sounds rather better since its transplant". Whether any revoicing has taken place I have no idea, but apparently the tremulant is no longer as repulsive as it was.

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Wonderful, innit? Not for the first time a link I post gets promptly taken down.

 

I've experienced this too, and rather too often for it to be mere coincidence. It also happens sometimes on my website when I insert a link. I can only conclude that people suddenly get embarrassed by the publicity.

 

CEP

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