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History of the Chapel Organ at King's


notanorganist
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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 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.

 

A 4ft Harmonic Flute or the like might be more in the original Lewis spirit, but the 'clean-toned' Coppel Flute blends very nicely with the Lewis Stopped Diapason. One is tempted to do what Ian Bell calls ' re-voicing through re-engraving' and just put 'Flute 4' on the stop-knob: that way, I suspect, nobody would be any the wiser.

 

The Appeal has now reached its £300k target. As you say, all the HP reeds are indeed vertiginous to tune. Had more money been available we might have been able to make them more accessible and, at the same time, rather less unsightly.

 

JS

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A 4ft Harmonic Flute or the like might be more in the original Lewis spirit, but the 'clean-toned' Coppel Flute blends very nicely with the Lewis Stopped Diapason. One is tempted to do what Ian Bell calls ' re-voicing through re-engraving' and just put 'Flute 4' on the stop-knob: that way, I suspect, nobody would be any the wiser.

 

The Appeal has now reached its £300k target. As you say, all the HP reeds are indeed vertiginous to tune. Had more money been available we might have been able to make them more accessible and, at the same time, rather less unsightly.

 

JS

 

I am glad that the appeal has reached its target.

 

'Re-voicing through re-engraving' - I wonder how many instruments up and down the country have had this treatment. Having said that, I suspect that you are correct regarding the idea of re-engraving the stop-head 'Flute 4'.

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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 actually have an old EP (7" extended play) record of John Sanders playing the Chester organ in the 1960's, and it was a fine instrument in the Hill with magnificent flutes and reeds. Although changed at the R & D re-build, it emerged as a spectacularly good recital instrument, with great clarity and brightness, but still those awesome reeds. I suspect that iof people mess around with an already fine instrument, this is how it should be done, but I suppose that will upset some people.

 

I know that some people would claim that Norman & Beard were the dominant force after the merger with Hill in 1916, but even before this, Hill seemed to be quite capable of making instruments with quite powerful chorus reeds, as at Sydney TH. I'm a bit in the dark about that critical pre-H,N & B period, after the death of Thos.Hill, when Arthur Hill must have held the reigns. I don't think that they ever went down the orchestral path, which possibly explains why they were considered "old fashioned" by 1915 or so. Was Mr Lamb involved at this stage, and when did the senoir Rundle become their reed voicer?

 

Chester was unusual, for it was originally by Gray & Davison, but in addition, included work by Whiteley.

 

The first time I heard the organ at Chester pre-rebuild, I don't recall that it exactly lacked power, and I wonder why people assume that the really big sound was solely the influence of Norman & Beard after the merger with Hill?

 

Could it be that they had made the reeds bigger, but retained the more classical chorus-work of the older Hill style; brought to a high quality with Thomas Hill?

 

I shall have to dig out the old recording and listen to what it tells me, because the organ was tonally untouched from 1908 prior to the R & D re-build, and still retained the original electro-pneumatic action with accumalators.

 

With regard to Aeolian-Skinner, it's very difficult to be specific, because there was always plenty of cash available to change this or that almost at will in America. I think I would be referring to Skinner organs after the influence of G Donald Harrison started to have an impact. I shall have to check the dates, but at a guess, I would have thought about post-1950 or so, after G Donald Harrison got involved with the re-build of the Walcker instrument

at Methuen.

 

Actually finding an original Skinner organ is quite difficult, but would you judge the Yale monster as typically Hope-Jones, in spite of the orchestral qualities?

 

There were a number of very exciting developments in American organ-building around this time; not least from the likes of Walter Holtkamp and Charles Fisk, and of course, one of the parties involved in that development was none other than Ralph Downes.

 

I'm inclinced to agree about the tonal deficiences and imbalances in Arthur Harrison's chorus-work and the total absence of harmonic interest in his pedal organs, and Hill certainly did it better, but using quite dull voicing but plenty of upperwork in the larger instruments.

 

Only Lewis ever came close to a more classical type of chorus-work, but that was wasted on the Edwardians, was it not?

 

MM

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