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History of the Chapel Organ at King's


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The Organist Entertains

20 December, BBC Radio 2, 6.30pm

Presenter Nigel Ogden talks about the history of the Chapel organ at King's and its importance in the Christmas services. He interviews the Director of Music at King's, Stephen Cleobury, and Organ Scholar Ben-San Lau.

 

 

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Well, it's got a nice case I suppose. :rolleyes:

 

MM

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

 

 

Well, it's got a nice case I suppose. :rolleyes:

 

MM

 

 

It's also a superb organ, and one of the best matches of instrument and building ever achieved. It would be difficult to find an instrument that does its job better.

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It's also a superb organ, and one of the best matches of instrument and building ever achieved. It would be difficult to find an instrument that does its job better.

 

And to think twenty or thirty years ago it might easily have been swept away and replaced by a shiny new Rieger or Klais.

 

JS

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And to think twenty or thirty years ago it might easily have been swept away and replaced by a shiny new Rieger or Klais.

 

JS

Although, these days, both firms are making luscious post-Romantic style instruments rather successfully. Had the privilege of hearing the new Musikverein Rieger on Sunday (Hindemith 2nd Organ Concerto and Strauss Alpine Symphony). Magnificent, although not the steadiest wind, nor sufficient 32' flue fundamental to support Strauss' Alpine Symphony. Nevertheless, some beautifully classy 'new' colours (i.e. back to the '20s) and light years away from Clifton, Christ Church, Smith Square and The High Kirk, beautiful and classy though they can be. And the mobile console... my my. Mirror finish, ebonised casework like a Steinway. Burr [something] wooden stop jambs and beautiful, ergonomic, Austro-German stop-key arrangement. I'm sure Rieger or Klais would do a wonderful job at Kings today, funds permitting. But then, so could the bigger British builders, after their recent experiences restoring instruments of a similar vintage (not just in the UK) without neo-classical dogma kicking them in the ribs.

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It's also a superb organ, and one of the best matches of instrument and building ever achieved. It would be difficult to find an instrument that does its job better.

 

 

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If what you want is an organ particularly good for traditional Anglican accompaniment, I'm inclined to agree with you, but that's where my admiration ends; beyond the fact that it will be well made and superbly voiced in the style of the period. It's one of those organs which has evolved usefully, from an already good Wm Hill, to what it is to-day.

 

My point of departure possibly derives from the fact that I've spent time in America, and I can't help but think that almost ALL the qualities required of accompaniment can be found in the "American Classic" organs of Aeolian-Skinner, but with the added advantage of superior chorus intergity and better inter-manual balance.

 

 

http://www.trinitychurchboston.org/our-recordings.html Listen to Parry on the clip "With heart & voice"

 

Have British organ-builders ever achieved the same on their native soil, I wonder?

 

MM

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

 

If what you want is an organ particularly good for traditional Anglican accompaniment, I'm inclined to agree with you, but that's where my admiration ends; beyond the fact that it will be well made and superbly voiced in the style of the period. It's one of those organs which has evolved usefully, from an already good Wm Hill, to what it is to-day.

 

My point of departure possibly derives from the fact that I've spent time in America, and I can't help but think that almost ALL the qualities required of accompaniment can be found in the "American Classic" organs of Aeolian-Skinner, but with the added advantage of superior chorus intergity and better inter-manual balance.

 

 

http://www.trinitychurchboston.org/our-recordings.html Listen to Parry on the clip "With heart & voice"

 

Have British organ-builders ever achieved the same on their native soil, I wonder?

 

MM

 

Although I'm a tremendous admirer of Aeolian-Skinner (both EMS and GDH), I don't think their work is an improvement on King's. It has all the qualities expected of a Harrison of its period, plus better inter-manual balance and some particularly nice mutations. People tend to home in on the open woods and trombas on Harrison organs and forget about the wealth of lesser effects. King's just chimes at you sometimes, and even when it's let out, it doesn't bully.

 

I've rarely found much to like about old Hills (with some significant exceptions) - maybe I'm the reincarnation of Colonel Dixon......

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Although I'm a tremendous admirer of Aeolian-Skinner (both EMS and GDH), I don't think their work is an improvement on King's. It has all the qualities expected of a Harrison of its period, plus better inter-manual balance and some particularly nice mutations. People tend to home in on the open woods and trombas on Harrison organs and forget about the wealth of lesser effects. King's just chimes at you sometimes, and even when it's let out, it doesn't bully.

 

I've rarely found much to like about old Hills (with some significant exceptions) - maybe I'm the reincarnation of Colonel Dixon......

 

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

 

 

I'm sure you may be right. I've never actually heard it in the building, but of course, it's the nearest thing we've got to a continental hall-church, with a very clean acoustic. I think any half decent organ would sound special in the chapel, and a good one quite superb.

 

I think I share your view of Hill by and large, until I hear Chester, Sydney TH and Beverley.

 

After 1910 or so, they got a bit shouty didn't they?

 

I know that when I stood in at St Margaret's, Ilkley, as DOM for about a year, the earth could be made to move quite impressively when called upon.

 

MM

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  • 2 weeks later...

Although I'm a tremendous admirer of Aeolian-Skinner (both EMS and GDH), I don't think their work is an improvement on King's. It has all the qualities expected of a Harrison of its period, plus better inter-manual balance and some particularly nice mutations. People tend to home in on the open woods and trombas on Harrison organs and forget about the wealth of lesser effects. King's just chimes at you sometimes, and even when it's let out, it doesn't bully.

 

I've rarely found much to like about old Hills (with some significant exceptions) - maybe I'm the reincarnation of Colonel Dixon......

 

The Kings organ is, in some ways, difficult to assess. I have not actually played it (nor have I heard it live). From BBC broadcasts - and CDs - it would appear that the instrument has Pedal reeds (including a 32ft. Ophiclede), G.O. Trombe and a Tuba, all of which (apparently) can be used in accompanying the choir. Surely there must be a fair amount of mixing-desk subterfuge involved, here? The G.O. reeds alone speak on a pressure of 450mm. (Yes, I know that they are enclosed in the Solo expression box). Even so, I doubt that such stops blend quite so well in the flesh, as it were.

 

I would agree partly with David and MM. Yes, I have homed-in on the big reeds, but I would acknowledge that this instrument does indeed have a wealth of soft accompanimental registers, all of which were beautifully and painstakingly voiced by Arthur Harrison. The Choir Organ in particular appears (on paper) to be extremely versatile and useful.

 

However, I suspect that I should have preferred the former Hill organ. It is difficult to make any meaningful judgement, since I could not have heard the instrument in its previous incarnation. However, to judge from older Hill organs which I have heard and played, I think that I would have found cleaner and better balancing choruses. In addition, there were a good number of quieter accompanimental registers. Admittedly, the voicing would have been different in style (and arguably quality) to that of Arthur Harrison. At the same time, one could also suggest that his organs were over-finished, with any individuality or 'character' ruthlessly removed, in his quest for 'perfect' voicing.

 

I am slightly puzzled about MM's reference to Aeolian-Skinner. Am I correct in thinking that this name refers to the company after G. Donald Harrison had gained control of it? If not, then the last thing which I should have attributed to EM Skinner was 'superior chorus intergity and better inter-manual balance'. The paper specifications of his instruments alone (but also articles and letters in The Organ) suggest strongly that the chorus work fared little better than that in a Hope-Jones organ.

 

To return to Kings; I wonder how often, in the normal course of events, the big Pedal and G.O. reeds are used? I would still maintain that Hill's chorus reeds and chorus work in general (particularly the compound stops) are generally superior to those of Arthur Harrison. I am not convinced that this is simply a matter of taste, either. With such extreme contrasts between his G.O. chorus and the Swell chorus, one is at a disadvantage from the start. Add to this immensely powerful, harmonically dead Pedal and G.O. reeds and the problem is exacerbated. Such stops are surely of little musical use. Contrast this with Hill's recipe of Posaunes (or Trumpets), generally voiced on 130-140mm pressure, and Tuba ranks, on a maximum of 250mm pressure. Here the resulting sound is clear and bright, yet with enough body to provide adequate power.

 

Whilst the quiet stops at King's are undoubtedly beautiful and useful in the daily services, I wonder whether, had Dixon (and therefore poosibly not H&H, either) not been involved, it might have been possible, even expedient to keep rather more of the character of the old Hill organ.

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

 

 

I'm sure you may be right. I've never actually heard it in the building, but of course, it's the nearest thing we've got to a continental hall-church, with a very clean acoustic. I think any half decent organ would sound special in the chapel, and a good one quite superb.

 

I think I share your view of Hill by and large, until I hear Chester, Sydney TH and Beverley.

 

After 1910 or so, they got a bit shouty didn't they?

 

I know that when I stood in at St Margaret's, Ilkley, as DOM for about a year, the earth could be made to move quite impressively when called upon.

 

MM

 

With regard to a continental hall-church, surely Bristol Cathedral is rather closer to this model* - and with an acoustic every bit as good as King's.

 

Chester - this now appears to be rather far removed from the Hill rebuild of 1910. It was considerably altered by Rushworth & Dreaper in 1969, and has had many alterations since then. To my ears (both from playing it and hearing recordings), it just sounds like another so-called 'eclectic' organ. Whilst nothing is particularly objectionable, I cannot say that it sounds like a vintage Hill to me. In fact, it has been messed-around with almost more than any other cathedral organ in England. I should like to have heard it prior to 1969 (at a period when all was still functioning well).

 

* i.e., with the aisles the same height as the Nave. Kings is simply a single, long space.

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The Organist Entertains

20 December, BBC Radio 2, 6.30pm

Presenter Nigel Ogden talks about the history of the Chapel organ at King's and its importance in the Christmas services. He interviews the Director of Music at King's, Stephen Cleobury, and Organ Scholar Ben-San Lau.

 

Just a 'heads up'. According to my EPG, the programme starts at 9.30pm.

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

... I know that when I stood in at St Margaret's, Ilkley, as DOM for about a year, the earth could be made to move quite impressively when called upon.

 

MM

 

Is this the organ with the only example of a 2ft. Claribel Flute in England - and those slightly odd stop jambs which John T. Jackson & Son produced? (Where the darker wood panels only extended down as low as the stops for each department.)

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Guest Voix Mystique
the last thing which I should have attributed to EM Skinner was 'superior chorus intergity and better inter-manual balance'. The paper specifications of his instruments alone (but also articles and letters in The Organ) suggest strongly that the chorus work fared little better than that in a Hope-Jones organ. [/size]

I am rather puzzled by this. I have looked up two 'vintage' E. M. Skinner organs' specifications: those of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Toledo, Ohio, and that of Woolsey Hall at Yale University. The latter instrument is not all Skinner - it was originally by Steere and I believe the Skinner rebuild was overseen by Steere's former head voicer, EMS having taken over the Steere firm - but most seem to agree it's a vintage Skinner.

 

Firstly, here is the stoplist of the Toledo organ: http://www.toledodio...m-skinner-organ

Note the Great diapason chorus of 16.8.8.8.4.2 2/3.2.IV, that on the Swell of 8.4.V (the 2ft being a Flautino and the 16ft, a Melodia, is a Claribel-type open flute, if my memory serves me correctly), and even on the Pedal, 16.8.4.IV. As far as I know none of these mixtures contain either a Tierce or flat 21st rank - the Great has a separate 4-rank Harmonics anyway. Both Choir and Swell also have what look to be pretty comprehensive flute choruses too. The quint mixtures account for 13 ranks out of a total of 77 - just short of 17%.

 

The Woolsey Hall organ's stoplist can be found here: http://www.yale.edu/...ewberryspec.htm

The Great diapason chorus is 32.16.8.8.8.8.5 1/3.4.4.2 2/3.2.Chorus Mixture V.Cymbale VII. That on the Swell, the 16fts are a Gamba and a Bourdon, then OD 8', Geigen Diapason 8', Octave 4', Quint Mixture V (plus a Cornet V) - again the 2ft is a Flautino. There is also a third diapason chorus on the Solo - 16.8.4.V (the 8ft having two ranks, the 2ft being a Piccolo). The Pedal also has a comprehensive chorus: 32.16.16.8.8.4.V (plus a Harmonics VI). There are also flute choruses from 16.8.8.8.4.4.3 1/5 on the Great, 16.8.4 on the Echo, 32.16.8.4 on the Pedal, 8.4.2 on the Choir (the 16ft is a Dulciana), 8.4.4.2 2/3.2.1 3/5.1 1/3.1 1/7 + Dulciana Mixture V on the Orchestral... and 16.8.4 string choruses on Swell, Choir and Solo (with 32.16.8 on the Pedal). In fact, of this instrument's 197 ranks, some 51 of them are compound stops (42 if you discount the two Cornets) - 25% or 21% depending on how you view it. The quint mixtures alone account for 27 ranks (14% of the total).

 

Naturally, paper stoplists don't tell the whole story and you seem to have read rather more than I have, but comparing these instruments' chorus-work with that of Hope-Jones organs, where mixtures often account for precisely 0.00% of all ranks present, doesn't really seem fair.

 

Lastly, I do not agree that Arthur Harrison organs lack character - they seem to have a particular grandeur to their sound which imbues them with a certain character. The musicality of their big reeds is more debatable (I prefer Father Willis reeds). A lack of character is actually a fault I would find with the Yale Steere-Skinner - having heard it only in recording, I must add, it sounds very rich, very lush, and quite bright enough if registered appropriately (in some recordings I've heard on YouTube the players seem afraid to touch the mixtures), but really rather bland - and the big reeds seem to lack bite, so the tutti isn't as exciting as you'd think it would be in such a very large instrument. Personally, on the basis of hearing on YouTube a recording of Peter Sykes' Holst Planets, I think that the Girard College, Philadelphia, 1930s E.M/Aeolian-Skinner is much more exciting - as is my friend Justason's present, very well-known instrument in San Francisco.

 

P. S. Here's the NPOR entry for St Margaret's Ilkley, complete with photograph of the console. http://www.npor.org....ec_index=N15082

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Over the course of the Board being moved, I had forgotten the whereabouts of this thread. Please excuse any meanderings in the attempt to follow up a number of points.

 

I've never played the King's organ, but I've heard it in the flesh on many occasions (when home during term-time, I try to do the Cambridge Sprint - King's at 5:30, John's at 6:30). When appropriate, the organists don't hesitate to unleash a considerable amount of organ, even when just accompanying the Choir. The big noises are not there solely to drive congregational singing when the Chapel is full. Successive Directors of Music have mentioned that the acoustics favour subtle singing. Thus, although the King's Choir is by no means mealy-mouthed and produces a brilliant fortissimo, it is a controlled sound. I think the same applies to the organ. The best word to describe the Great chorus is 'silvery', and the rest is in proportion. The late Michael Howard pointed out how different a sound had to be made by, say, the Ely Choir in its enormous Norman building compared with the King's Choir in its Perpendicular hall. Ditto, again, the organ.

 

Harrison Great reeds: they're not all the same! Those at Belfast Cathedral could be used fairly freely (and also, paradoxically, blended extremely well with the big fierce 1970s Positive). You couldn't do that at Redcliffe, but I think you can at King's, especially as the Great reeds are enclosed Similarly, the Pedal 16 and 32 reeds can be brought in earlier than one might think.

 

It may be the position of the King's organ that makes it possible to use it with such freedom. It produces a sort of surround-sound, which at the same time manages to be precise and direct. I think this must be something at which the players have to work - I'm told that it is not the easiest beast to drive.

 

PCND mentions Dixon - it's often difficult to determine how much influence he had on some instruments, but I get the impression that King's was more individually Arthur Harrison than some, having tactfully dissuaded Boris Ord from some rather hare-brained suggestions.

 

Bernard Edmonds once told me that you had to persuade an organ-scholar to let you hear the mixtures - Boris never used them.

 

Which brings us to Chester. George Guest wrote that in his time as assistant there, the mixtures were kept slightly out of tune so they couldn't be used. It's strange to imagine the sort of registration current in those days. The Rushworth rebuild was very well thought-of at the time. I got to know it quite well over the years and I think the decisions taken at the time were right. I wasn't so sure about some of the later tweaking (it never seemed to be the same twice in Roger Fisher's later years), but on occasional acquaintance, I was not really qualified to judged whether they were improvements. At a seminar at Bristol University in about 1977, a (non-organist) student asked Allan Wicks, 'What's the best organ in England?'. 'Chester Cathedral', he said, without hesitation. I can understand why.

 

Cork Cathedral is another fine old Hill, despite being in a pit in the north transept, but in general I would never prefer a Hill over a Father Willis or an Arthur Harrison. I can never understand, for example, why people admire the Ulster Hall organ so much. I know it very well indeed and fail to be thrilled by the original choruses or the reeds. I used to say that it was a shame it hadn't had a damn good going-over by Henry Willis III in the 30s.....but that was just to tease. I did a lot of playing at St. Thomas, Belfast, over the years, another Hill over which some liked to rave (including the Heritage Lottery Commission). Dreadful mixtures, dull reeds, nothing much to write home about elsewhere, and not a nice feel to the actions (I'm sounding like Henry Willis III myself now, aren't I? :wacko: ).

 

Londonderry Guildhall, on the other hand, appealed to me very much - Hill with a nicely-managed updating by HNB - and is an organ which deserves to be better known.

 

Bristol Cathedral - perhaps the same surround-sound effect as King's, but a much darker acoustic, favouring the bass end. It was standard practice to play an octave higher when accompanying congregational singing. The new Mander mixture added to the Great in 1989/90 was intended to correct this and did so, but when you do things like that, you really need another mixture on the Swell to balance (as at Chester) and so on. And the 'new' mixture gets used a great deal, rather than being a special effect for nave congregations, and therefore the original character of the organ is compromised. I don't mean to criticise - it was a sensible way to deal with a real need. What a fine organ, though - it was quite an experience to hear Clifford Harker acompanying the psalms around the middle of the month when there was a good modicum of smiting and tempests.....

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Over the course of the Board being moved, I had forgotten the whereabouts of this thread. Please excuse any meanderings in the attempt to follow up a number of points.

 

I've never played the King's organ, but I've heard it in the flesh on many occasions (when home during term-time, I try to do the Cambridge Sprint - King's at 5:30, John's at 6:30). When appropriate, the organists don't hesitate to unleash a considerable amount of organ, even when just accompanying the Choir. The big noises are not there solely to drive congregational singing when the Chapel is full. Successive Directors of Music have mentioned that the acoustics favour subtle singing. Thus, although the King's Choir is by no means mealy-mouthed and produces a brilliant fortissimo, it is a controlled sound. I think the same applies to the organ. The best word to describe the Great chorus is 'silvery', and the rest is in proportion. The late Michael Howard pointed out how different a sound had to be made by, say, the Ely Choir in its enormous Norman building compared with the King's Choir in its Perpendicular hall. Ditto, again, the organ.

 

Harrison Great reeds: they're not all the same! Those at Belfast Cathedral could be used fairly freely (and also, paradoxically, blended extremely well with the big fierce 1970s Positive). You couldn't do that at Redcliffe, but I think you can at King's, especially as the Great reeds are enclosed Similarly, the Pedal 16 and 32 reeds can be brought in earlier than one might think.

 

It may be the position of the King's organ that makes it possible to use it with such freedom. It produces a sort of surround-sound, which at the same time manages to be precise and direct. I think this must be something at which the players have to work - I'm told that it is not the easiest beast to drive.

 

PCND mentions Dixon - it's often difficult to determine how much influence he had on some instruments, but I get the impression that King's was more individually Arthur Harrison than some, having tactfully dissuaded Boris Ord from some rather hare-brained suggestions.

 

Bernard Edmonds once told me that you had to persuade an organ-scholar to let you hear the mixtures - Boris never used them.

 

Which brings us to Chester. George Guest wrote that in his time as assistant there, the mixtures were kept slightly out of tune so they couldn't be used. It's strange to imagine the sort of registration current in those days. The Rushworth rebuild was very well thought-of at the time. I got to know it quite well over the years and I think the decisions taken at the time were right. I wasn't so sure about some of the later tweaking (it never seemed to be the same twice in Roger Fisher's later years), but on occasional acquaintance, I was not really qualified to judged whether they were improvements. At a seminar at Bristol University in about 1977, a (non-organist) student asked Allan Wicks, 'What's the best organ in England?'. 'Chester Cathedral', he said, without hesitation. I can understand why.

 

Cork Cathedral is another fine old Hill, despite being in a pit in the north transept, but in general I would never prefer a Hill over a Father Willis or an Arthur Harrison. I can never understand, for example, why people admire the Ulster Hall organ so much. I know it very well indeed and fail to be thrilled by the original choruses or the reeds. I used to say that it was a shame it hadn't had a damn good going-over by Henry Willis III in the 30s.....but that was just to tease. I did a lot of playing at St. Thomas, Belfast, over the years, another Hill over which some liked to rave (including the Heritage Lottery Commission). Dreadful mixtures, dull reeds, nothing much to write home about elsewhere, and not a nice feel to the actions (I'm sounding like Henry Willis III myself now, aren't I? :wacko: ).

 

Londonderry Guildhall, on the other hand, appealed to me very much - Hill with a nicely-managed updating by HNB - and is an organ which deserves to be better known.

 

Bristol Cathedral - perhaps the same surround-sound effect as King's, but a much darker acoustic, favouring the bass end. It was standard practice to play an octave higher when accompanying congregational singing. The new Mander mixture added to the Great in 1989/90 was intended to correct this and did so, but when you do things like that, you really need another mixture on the Swell to balance (as at Chester) and so on. And the 'new' mixture gets used a great deal, rather than being a special effect for nave congregations, and therefore the original character of the organ is compromised. I don't mean to criticise - it was a sensible way to deal with a real need. What a fine organ, though - it was quite an experience to hear Clifford Harker acompanying the psalms around the middle of the month when there was a good modicum of smiting and tempests.....

 

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

 

 

Although I've been to Cambridge dozens of times, I think I've only ever heard King's the once, and in quite restrained mode, so I don't feel qualified to offer any personal observations beyone the fact that it sounds right for that building and that choir.

 

I don't know the Irish churches, I've never been inside Bristol Cathedral; so we're not covering much common ground here are we?

 

However, I do know Chester quite well, and played an organ of similar concept at Ilkley, St Margaret's, for about a year. What always strikes me about Hill organs re-built by Hill, Norman & Beard, is the sheer power (and quality) of the reeds, and nowhere is this more apparent than at Chester. The downside is always a lack of mezzo-forte subtelty; there being not a lot between quiet and charming, and loud and alarming. I know that Chester is a very difficult instrument with which to accompany, and some of that same criticism could be levelled at the organ at Ilkley, but they both make some glorious sounds. As a recital instrument, Chester is top-drawer as a sonic experience; possibly becauise the cathedral is not over-large or over-resonant.

 

But there others worthy of consideration which are not by Willis. Ripon is a superb sound, as too is Southwark, and when it comes to an organ which seems to stun everyone who hears it, Blackburn is probably the best of all, but again, not the perfect accompaniment instrument by any means, even allowing for the additions and electronic basses designed to beef things up and make the organ more "romantic."

 

In fact, as originally conceived, Blackburn is probably the nearest thing we have to the best of Rieger-Kloss in the Czech Republic, and it never fails to impress me.

 

I guess I'm just a Lewis freak at heart, and prefer good chorus work to lots of colour anyday.

 

MM

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... Cork Cathedral is another fine old Hill, despite being in a pit in the north transept, but in general I would never prefer a Hill over a Father Willis or an Arthur Harrison. ...

 

Cork Cathedral? I know that I wrote how much I like Hill organs - and I am also probably known to favour instruments by Walker, but the organ at Cork Cathedral I thought was pretty awful. And, yes - I have played it (and heard it played). I suspect that having a rebuild courtesy of Hele & Co. may not have helped it, but even so, I found very little to admire.

 

I must admit that I would choose Salisbury Cathedral over this in a heartbeat. But an Arthur Harrison.... that is a more difficult question.

 

For the record, I realise that not all H&H Trombe (for example) sound the same. For a start the pressures varied greatly; some even spoke on the comparatively modest pressure of around 175mm.

 

Chester makes me uneasy. It is true that it was some years ago that I last played it, so no doubt there have been around twenty stop changes since then.... However, the rebuild did not address the problem of the isolated Choir Organ - or, more seriously, the isolated console. Rather than spending money attempting to subsume the Hill character in odd quasi-Baroque reeds, enclosed mutations (I agree with Clutton on this one) and a plethora of Sharp Mixture stops, I think that I should have had a second console downstairs - or at least in a loft on the south side of the choir stalls.

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

 

 

 

But there others worthy of consideration which are not by Willis. Ripon is a superb sound, as too is Southwark, and when it comes to an organ which seems to stun everyone who hears it, Blackburn is probably the best of all, but again, not the perfect accompaniment instrument by any means, even allowing for the additions and electronic basses designed to beef things up and make the organ more "romantic."

 

In fact, as originally conceived, Blackburn is probably the nearest thing we have to the best of Rieger-Kloss in the Czech Republic, and it never fails to impress me.

 

I guess I'm just a Lewis freak at heart, and prefer good chorus work to lots of colour anyday.

 

MM

 

I must admit that I too have a great fondness for Southwark and (perhaps surprisingly, for some) Ripon. To be sure, I start to get a little nervous once the G.O. reeds are drawn (and I think that I would want to re-site the 32ft. reed - if only for the sake of Decani). Neither did I find much use for the enormous unenclosed Tuba. But much of the rest of it, I liked immensely. What a shame no-one has yet had the courage to reverse Ronald Perrin's requested alterations to the G.O. (Coppel Flute and Larigot).

 

Blackburn. I have played it (prior to its recent rebuild). It was good - if a little 'thin'. However, as far as I am concerned, it does not compare well with Coventry. Perhaps this is a little unfair, since the latter instrument is considerably larger. I think that, in that enormous acoustic at Blackburn, the organ needed a somewhat different sound; something with a little more body - and, for my personal taste - no electronic nonsense.

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Blackburn. I have played it (prior to its recent rebuild). It was good - if a little 'thin'. However, as far as I am concerned, it does not compare well with Coventry. Perhaps this is a little unfair, since the latter instrument is considerably larger. I think that, in that enormous acoustic at Blackburn, the organ needed a somewhat different sound; something with a little more body - and, for my personal taste - no electronic nonsense.

Go and play it. A stupendously good instrument, hugely improved by the (not-so-recent) rebuild. And, for my personal taste, more pleasurable to hear and play than Coventry, and more versatile.

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Go and play it. A stupendously good instrument, hugely improved by the (not-so-recent) rebuild. And, for my personal taste, more pleasurable to hear and play than Coventry, and more versatile.

 

Ian, thank you for your reply. I am now keen to renew my acquaintance with this instrument, which was indeed rebuilt about ten years ago - as you say, not so recent. Mind you , it will have to be really good to beat Coventry; I regard the latter organ as one of the best in the country - for any repertoire. However, I am interested to note your comments regarding versatility. Perhaps I will be able to make a trip north in the New Year.

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I must admit that I too have a great fondness for Southwark and (perhaps surprisingly, for some) Ripon. To be sure, I start to get a little nervous once the G.O. reeds are drawn (and I think that I would want to re-site the 32ft. reed - if only for the sake of Decani). Neither did I find much use for the enormous unenclosed Tuba. But much of the rest of it, I liked immensely. What a shame no-one has yet had the courage to reverse Ronald Perrin's requested alterations to the G.O. (Coppel Flute and Larigot).

 

 

You may like to know that the Larigot is destined to give way to a new Harmonic Flute 8 (in Lewis style) at the cleaning and overhaul scheduled for 2013, and the Choir Cimbel III re-cast at lower pitch. Apart from these, no other tonal changes are planned. As for the Great reeds, Arthur Harrison knew what he was doing in producing a sound that would carry, almost undiminished, over the void of the tower crossing right to the west end of the nave. (They will certainly prove their worth in leading packed congregations over the next few days). The intention is to leave them alone, as rare survivors of the early 20c art of reed voicing.

 

Of the admittedly huge Tuba, Ron Perrin was rather proud of the fact that it could be heard at the bus station, 1/4 mile away, with the doors of the Cathedral open!

 

JS

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I recently got hold of a new Regent CD of the CC/HNB/Downes organ (recently rebuilt by H&H plus new 32' Bombarde and alterations to action and wind) in Paisley Abbey - not mentioned much here but the sound (and playing by George McPhee - organist since the 60s) is fabulous. I very nearly crashed the car at the end of Dieu Parmi Nous when listening en route to work. It is very interesting to compare the sound with Gloucester, St Albans etc. (Downes 'plus acoustic' as opposed to the RFH) in the light of their recent alterations and also with the London Oratory organ which I sometimes feel is underrated. The general 'fattening out' of the altered Downes instruments adds considerably to their appeal I think.

 

A

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You may like to know that the Larigot is destined to give way to a new Harmonic Flute 8 (in Lewis style) at the cleaning and overhaul scheduled for 2013, and the Choir Cimbel III re-cast at lower pitch. Apart from these, no other tonal changes are planned. As for the Great reeds, Arthur Harrison knew what he was doing in producing a sound that would carry, almost undiminished, over the void of the tower crossing right to the west end of the nave. (They will certainly prove their worth in leading packed congregations over the next few days). The intention is to leave them alone, as rare survivors of the early 20c art of reed voicing.

 

Of the admittedly huge Tuba, Ron Perrin was rather proud of the fact that it could be heard at the bus station, 1/4 mile away, with the doors of the Cathedral open!

 

JS

 

Thank you for this, John. I think that the changes sound good - although I would personally have replaced the G.O. Coppel Flute before altering the Choir Organ Cimbel. Presumably this will mirror Southwark, commencing at 15-19-22 ?

 

I note your comment regarding the G.O. reeds - I am sure that you are right, in this large building, even I found them useful for a Sunday morning Mass. The Tuba - yes, it certainly can [be heard at the bus stop] - I have. I have also climbed to the top of the instrument, and stood beside the pipes of the Orchestral Trumpet (horizontal, on the roof of the Swell expression box). Rest assured, I was in the company of Harrisons' tuner, who took me up.

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I recently got hold of a new Regent CD of the CC/HNB/Downes organ (recently rebuilt by H&H plus new 32' Bombarde and alterations to action and wind) in Paisley Abbey - not mentioned much here but the sound (and playing by George McPhee - organist since the 60s) is fabulous. I very nearly crashed the car at the end of Dieu Parmi Nous when listening en route to work. It is very interesting to compare the sound with Gloucester, St Albans etc. (Downes 'plus acoustic' as opposed to the RFH) in the light of their recent alterations and also with the London Oratory organ which I sometimes feel is underrated. The general 'fattening out' of the altered Downes instruments adds considerably to their appeal I think.

 

A

 

This is interesting. I had read about another 'Downes' organ being given a 32ft. reed. As far as I can recall, the only one he ever specified was that for the RFH. I wonder whether it was financial (or spatial) reasons which precluded the inclusion of such a rank in his other organs - or whether he regarded them as absolute luxuries.

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Go and play it. A stupendously good instrument, hugely improved by the (not-so-recent) rebuild. And, for my personal taste, more pleasurable to hear and play than Coventry, and more versatile.

 

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I'm with Ian on this, but I'm not sure the Blackburn instrument was hugely improved rather than usefully improved, to permit greater felxibility as a cathedral accompaniment instrument.

 

I don't know if Ian knows of the great care which David Wood took in retaining the original sound of the Walker organ, as voiced by Walter Goody and Denis Thurlow. He was in regular touch with Denis Thurlow throughout. Bearing in mind that new windchests were installed at the re-build, it must have been quite an exacting task to get everything absolutely right, but I was mightily relieved at the re-opening recital, when the organ I knew and loved was still very apparent, but with the benefit of the additional ranks/digital basses.

 

It's interesting, but this organ seems to bring out the very best in organists, and certainly, both David Briggs and Jane Parker-Smith produced recordings of exceptional vitality and depth.

 

Indeed, vitality and depth could easily sum up this stupendous instrument, and if it sounds a little distant down the nave, it is because it is......stuck on the walls beyond the central "lantern" area, which fairly scatters the sound. Were it sitiuated at the West End, it would be more immediately impressive in the nave.

 

Stand between the two sections of the organ while someone is playing, and THEN it is possible to appreciate the sheer quality of the instrument.

 

I personally regard this as the finest new British instrument of the latter half of 20th century, but that doesn't mean that I cannot appreciate the quality of Coventry, or that of the Harrison "re-buiild" (effectively a new instrument), at St George's Chapel, Windsor.

 

MM

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Is this the organ with the only example of a 2ft. Claribel Flute in England - and those slightly odd stop jambs which John T. Jackson & Son produced? (Where the darker wood panels only extended down as low as the stops for each department.)

 

 

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Sorry about the slow response.....I've been so busy, but I can now finally kick my feet up and rest for a fortnight.

 

Yes, a 2ft Claribel Flute is in the specification, and quite why, I have no idea; especially since it is a conical stop. I know that it never had a Claribel Flute in the original specification, so it hasn't been re-pitched from an older incarnation presumably.

 

On the NPOR site, there is a black & white photograph of the 4-manual console at St Margaret's, Ilkley, which shows the dark wood jambs.

 

Fine organ, quite high church Anglican and a resonant space....a good combination.

 

Sir John Betjamin loved the church and choral tradition, but I'm not sure how much of the latter remains these days. They certainly have valued music over the years, and I know that musical events are quite regular. I shall have to find out the current situation there.

 

MM

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