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The Lewis/Harrison Organ of Ripon Cathedral

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I read somewhere recently that the organ of Ripon Cathedral is shortly to undergo some further remedial work, together with some minor tonal alterations to the Choir Organ. However, I have been unable to find further details of this.

 

I assume that the 'minor tonal alterations to the Choir Organ' would centre around the removal of the Nazard, Tierce and so-called Cimbel (22-26-29, at C1). Presumably, the plan would be to replace these stops with a Viola da Gamba and a Vox Angelica, as prior to 1963. However, I note that the Choir Organ gained a stop in 1963. Is the Cimbel on a clamp, I wonder?

 

I had hoped that the alterations might also include removing the Coppel Flute and Larigot from the G.O. and re-instating the former Hohl Flöte (8ft.) and the Harmonic Flute (4ft.).

 

Does anyone here know of any further information (which can be published) regarding this proposed work, please?

 

Thank you.

 

Incidentally, I note that the NPOR has no details regarding the builder of the Nave console in 2000, simply stating 'unknown'. I had thought that this was constructed and installed by Harrisons - can anyone confirm (or correct) this, please?

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The nave console has a Harrisons plate on it, so I assume they built it?

 

In which case, it seems strange that this fact is not recorded in the NPOR survey.

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In which case, it seems strange that this fact is not recorded in the NPOR survey.

 

Hi

 

Probably because whoever sent the info in didn't think to tell us (or send pictures)!!!

 

Tony

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There is quite a lot of information on the Cathedral's website.

 

I have looked at this before (and again just now). However, all I can find is the standard 'visitor-friendly' version, which gives none of the details listed above, simply stating how long it will take to dismantle the instrument, clean lots of organ pipes and then put it all back together. However, if I have missed a section, I wonder if you would be knid enough to send me a link, please.

 

Many thanks.

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John Sayer on this forum is the most likely to provide an answer to this one, and no doubt will in due course. However, in the meantime I could be wrong but Ripon had a costly electronic with a good console and the stop list etc I think was exactly the same as the H&H pipe organ console. When the electronic got past its sell by date I think the Nave console was refurbished by H&H and connected up to the main organ, so that would account for their name on it. I wait to be corrected!

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John Sayer on this forum is the most likely to provide an answer to this one, and no doubt will in due course. However, in the meantime I could be wrong but Ripon had a costly electronic with a good console and the stop list etc I think was exactly the same as the H&H pipe organ console. When the electronic got past its sell by date I think the Nave console was refurbished by H&H and connected up to the main organ, so that would account for their name on it. I wait to be corrected!

 

I dont think this is the case. The electronic was a compton makin and the console was huge. The new console looks "new" and is certainly not in the style of the 80''s Makin consoles. It is quite low profile from what I can remember last year. I am also sure that I read somewhere that the Makin was sold intact.

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The cathedral web site says:

In 2000 a new mobile console in the Nave was presented to the Cathedral by a generous benefactor. This console utilises the latest digital technology, and duplicates the console on the Screen but with many additional features.

Doesn't sound like any kind of refurbishment!

 

Paul

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John Sayer on this forum is the most likely to provide an answer to this one, and no doubt will in due course. However, in the meantime I could be wrong but Ripon had a costly electronic with a good console and the stop list etc I think was exactly the same as the H&H pipe organ console. When the electronic got past its sell by date I think the Nave console was refurbished by H&H and connected up to the main organ, so that would account for their name on it. I wait to be corrected!

 

I dont think this is the case. The electronic was a compton makin and the console was huge. The new console looks "new" and is certainly not in the style of the 80''s Makin consoles. It is quite low profile from what I can remember last year. I am also sure that I read somewhere that the Makin was sold intact.

 

I had also understood this to be the case.

 

As far as I know, the new Nave console is exactly that - new; it was provided by H&H due to the generosity of a single benefactor. However, I was unable previously to discover further details of the proposed work on the main organ - until Wolsey was kind enough to provide a link to a previous thread - thank you.

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The cathedral web site says:

 

Doesn't sound like any kind of refurbishment!

 

Paul

 

Indeed. It is difficult to imagine H&H placing one of their name-plates on a console which had been manufactured by another firm, if all they had done were to rip out the tone generation or sampling reproduction equipment (or whatever it is called) and then connect it up to the pipe organ.

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As Project Manager for the overhaul of the Ripon instrument next year, perhaps I can put the record straight. Work will start after Easter and should be completed by mid-November. In summary it will comprise:

 

a) thorough cleaning and repair of all pipe work;

B) selective re-leathering of reservoirs and drawstop motors;

c) reconstruction/rationalisation of the wind distribution system;

d) refurbishment and updating of screen console parts of which are now worn out from continuous daily use since the last major rebuild in 1963.

e) cleaning of the case (paid for by the Friends)

 

There will be no tonal changes, apart from the replacement of Great Larigot 1 1/3 (1972) by a Flûte harmonique 8 in Lewis style and the recasting of Choir Cimbel III at lower pitch.

 

The handsome nave console, provided by H&H, was a gift to the cathedral in 2000, the former 4m analogue Makin electronic having been disposed of shortly before. As part of the forthcoming work, it will be fitted with new wheels to allow it to be moved into the Quire for recitals.

 

JS

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I'm somewhat out of touch these days with cost of organ refurbishments. Am I being impertinent to ask what the financial cost of the work at Ripon will work out at?

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Not impertinent at all. This not a major rebuild in any sense of the word, but a refurbishment aimed at giving the instrument another 25-30 years of reliable service. The total cost, including associated costs such as hire of scaffolding and temporary electronic instruments etc, will be around £260,000.

 

JS

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I thought I remembered hearing that they were proposing to enclose the choir division (it's currently unenclosed, at one side of the choir stalls rather seperate to the rest of the instrument) Chester is like that, and I've often thought would be much more flexible if it was enclosed. Anyway, I take these plans have been dropped?

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I thought I remembered hearing that they were proposing to enclose the choir division (it's currently unenclosed, at one side of the choir stalls rather seperate to the rest of the instrument) Chester is like that, and I've often thought would be much more flexible if it was enclosed. Anyway, I take these plans have been dropped?

 

I also recall hearing the same thing. Perhaps funds are an issue - or perhaps this department was re-located by H&H during the course of the 1963 rebuild and there is now no room for an expression box.

 

The plans sound good - but what a pity they are not also replacing the G.O. Coppel Flute for a Flûte harmonique (4ft.) in Lewis style.

 

I have mixed views regarding the re-casting of the Choir Cimbel (which is, in fact, no such thing; it is simply a Sharp Mixture, commencing at 22-26-29). Presumably once altered, it will start at 15-19-22 which, although probably more in line with Lewis practice (when he did supply a compound stop on the Choir Organ), may take the edge off the brightness of the organ.

 

I recall playing the organ of Lincoln Cathedral a few summers ago and being struck with the lack of brilliance. And, no - I do not think that there is anything wrong with my hearing. The ensemble was, as one might expect, totally reed-dominated. There was plenty of colour - in fact, more than I expected, particularly from the Solo strings. Whilst these two ranks were not up to the standard and colour of the HWIII stops at Salisbury Cathedral, nevertheless they did provide a pleasing contrast to the mild strings on the Swell Organ. However, for me, there was nowhere near enough brightness from the chorus-work. Even G.O. to Fifteenth was rather more 'dull' than the same registration at Truro. I realise that Truro Cathedral is around two or three times smaller than Lincoln Cathedral - but even so, I felt that Willis had mis-calculated at Lincoln.

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That's a not uncommon observation about Lincoln. It's glorious, but it doesn't quite live up to expectations in certain ways. Father Willis apparently marched Col. Dixon down the nave to show how a lot of the sound was getting lost in the lantern. More pertinently, several observers have noted that the Great is just a larger version of the Swell. By the time of Lincoln, Willis had standardised his organs to a large extent and had perhaps reached the limit of what his style could do. Arthur Harrison and Dixon sought to change that, with results which continue to delight many, but not all!

 

Extra upperwork on the Great is a problem. You can add another mixture, either as well as, or instead of, but you run the risk of messing up the balance with other departments. Bristol Cathedral is a case in point. Clifford Harker used to say he habitually played up an octave when accompanying large congregations. The new Mander mixture solved that problem, but there's a temptation to use it rather a lot. Furthermore, it leaves the Swell a long way behind. You really need to have an extra Swell Mixture as well. The solution at Belfast Cathedral, although few realised how to use it, was to add a new, second Mixture to the Swell and a big new Positive organ in the Ruck position if the console had been up there. The Positive Cimbel seemed to pull the rest of the organ into the church. The concept was sound, and only let down by the rather gormless Great Mixture (using at least some of the Harmonics pipes). Philip Prosser worked minor wonders with this over the years, but it was never the best part of the instrument.

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I also recall hearing the same thing. Perhaps funds are an issue - or perhaps this department was re-located by H&H during the course of the 1963 rebuild and there is now no room for an expression box.

 

The plans sound good - but what a pity they are not also replacing the G.O. Coppel Flute for a Flûte harmonique (4ft.) in Lewis style.

 

I have mixed views regarding the re-casting of the Choir Cimbel (which is, in fact, no such thing; it is simply a Sharp Mixture, commencing at 22-26-29). Presumably once altered, it will start at 15-19-22 which, although probably more in line with Lewis practice (when he did supply a compound stop on the Choir Organ), may take the edge off the brightness of the organ.

 

 

 

Arthur Harrison moved the Choir division from its original (Lewis) position above the player's head on the south side of the case - from where it must have sounded lovely in both nave and quire - to make way for a new Solo division. The Choir was was then enclosed in a new position above the stalls on the north side of the quire, receiving a couple of tonal changes in the process.

 

H&H removed the enclosure in 1963, dispensed with a couple of 8ft stops, made the Lieblich Bourdon 16 also playable on the Pedal, thus making room for a Nasard, Tierce and Cimbel. Re-enclosure was mooted at an early stage of planning for the forthcoming overhaul, but later dropped, mainly on grounds of cost. There was also a wish to leave things as they are (with the exception of the unfortunate Larigot) and avoid the sort of continual 'fiddling' with the specification that seems to happen with each generation. The general consensus was that the £250,000+ raised from the Appeal would be better spent on sorting out the winding system and generally assuring technical reliability for years to come.

 

The current intention is that the Coppel Flute 4 will remain - although one is tempted to do what Ian Bell describes as 'revoicing through re-engraving' and simply label it, harmlessly, Flute 4, the implication being that nobody would notice.

 

JS

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Thank you for this, John.

 

Your last sentence - indeed. I have noticed other examples of this elsewhere....

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Thank you for this, John.

 

Your last sentence - indeed. I have noticed other examples of this elsewhere....

 

Or the reverse - apparently Rushworth's Coppel Flute on the Solo at Chester is an ordinary open wood flute, but sounds like its name. Sam Clutton said one should resist the 'rose by any other name' cliche.....

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Out of curiousity, NPOR records work having been undertaken in Ripon in 1901, 1913, 1926, 1963, 1972 (stop changes), 1987, 2000 (new console) and shortly 2012, all except 1901 (Hill) being Harrisons.You mention that you are expecting £260,000 to provide for another 25-30 years' service. Is there a particular reason for work of some description having been done, since the 1960s, little less frequently than once every 10 years, and how reasonable is it to expect further major work to be required in only another 30 years? For organs that are played heavily every day, whether home, school or major churches, what sort of working lifetime should be expected?

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Cathedral organs have a heavy workload, being played for at least 2 hours on average every day, taking into account services, choir rehearsals and organists' practice etc. Roughly speaking they are thus in use for the equivalent of one whole month each year. On that basis, 30 years does not seem an unreasonable expectation, not least given that builders' guarantees are generally for a shorter period than that.

 

I don't believe the Ripon organ has received more frequent attention than others, and some of the interventions at various dates have been quite limited in scope. The last major dismantling and rebuilding was in 1963 and cost £12,000. 1972 saw only minor stop changes. The overhaul in 1988 costing £75,000 dealt mainly with wear and tear (cleaning, new key contacts, ivories, selective releathering etc) with just one new stop, an Orchestral Trumpet 8. In 2000 a new mobile was donated by a benefactor. The proposed 2012 overhaul can be seen in many ways a re-run of 1988. (Note the interesting track record of inflation...)

 

Building and archaeological work in the Cathedral over the last 20 years have not always been kind to the organ, but, apart from that, there are no special circumstances I can think of.

 

As for typical working lifetimes, how does one set about defining such things?

 

JS

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Cathedral organs have a heavy workload, being played for at least 2 hours on average

JS

 

You've answered the question I was going to ask.

 

Given the amounts of money involved and the frequency of attention I find it rather shocking.

 

 

Whilst even a modestly sized organ is physically many time larger and more complex than any other instrument, I do find myself wondering why organ “restoration” is such a regular and frighteningly expensive procedure.

 

I'm not “having a go” at John, or the Ripon organ, but I do find myself wondering about the quality of work that gets carried out and the sometimes astronomic price tags that go along with it.

 

I've never met an organ builder that drives a Bentley, but I do sometimes wonder whether they have one parked up at home!

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