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Some Still Unanswered Questions

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Guest stevecbournias

This is a sensitive discussion but one that has not been satisfactorily addressed as yet since the 1970s.

 

The committee to decide the spec on the St Paul organ rebuild made certain decisions that to me do not entirely seem logical. This is not to in any way lessen the quality of the outcome of that work or of the firm that hosts this forum as I realize the spec was the work of organist, consultant and builder and who knows who else.

 

Why was it decided to eliminate certain Willis pipes that were already in situ?

 

1900 pipes by Father Willis on the Chancel Great including two high pressure 8ft diapasons

 

a Tibia 8 of wood which was a diapason open on top by Willis III I gather on the Great

 

a 1930 16ft Lieblich Bordun by Willis III on the Great

 

an Altar division behind the choir stalls

 

a Solo division chorus mixture starting at 4ft pitch consisting of many ranks to give a complete diapason chorus in 1960

 

a Koppelflote 4 in the Choir in 1960

 

There are others that I may not recollect at this time and I no longer have before me a copy of the specs pre-1970s rebuild which specified all the pipes and builders and years

 

Any ideas guys?

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This is a sensitive discussion but one that has not been satisfactorily addressed as yet since the 1970s.

 

The committee to decide the spec on the St Paul organ rebuild made certain decisions that to me do not entirely seem logical. This is not to in any way lessen the quality of the outcome of that work or of the firm that hosts this forum as I realize the spec was the work of organist, consultant and builder and who knows who else.

 

Why was it decided to eliminate certain Willis pipes that were already in situ?

 

1900 pipes by Father Willis on the Chancel Great including two high pressure 8ft diapasons

 

a Tibia 8 of wood which was a diapason open on top by Willis III I gather on the Great

 

a 1930 16ft Lieblich Bordun by Willis III on the Great

 

an Altar division behind the choir stalls

 

a Solo  division chorus mixture starting at 4ft pitch consisting of many ranks to give a complete diapason chorus in 1960

 

a Koppelflote 4 in the Choir in 1960

 

There are others that I may not recollect at this time and I no longer have before me a copy of the specs pre-1970s rebuild which specified all the pipes and builders and years

 

Any ideas guys?

 

Yes.

 

the two Diapasons - you say high pressure, but were they? They were respectively the first and fourth diapasons. They were added in 1899 on the old Solo soundboard at the top of the case. I understand that the bass pipes crowded the lower part of that case and the balance of the chorus was compromised (no stops above 8' were added). In the end it was decided to remove them and additionally this would help improve the layout and let the original chorus project better.

 

The Tibia was replaced with a new Claribel in 1946. No-one liked it so it was replaced with a Stopped Diap in 1972 and later a Claribel based on the one at Salisbury was added in the 1990s.

 

The Great Bourdon was removed - it was useless in the position it was in (below the console where it didn't manage to speak out or more crucially with any of the other Great stops) because there was never enough room for it on the Great soundboard, either in 1930 or 1972.

 

The Altar division was also apparently ineffective. It was originally a Fr Willis string organ (+Vox Humana), designed to accompany the priest singing at Bodley's High Altar and was positioned east of the main organ (this was destroyed in the 2nd world war). Meanwhile in the 1930s it was remade into a 'flute' organ by cutting the pipes down (one of the Vox Angelica ranks was made into the bass of the Choir Nazard in 1930 and they are still in the South Choir organ). After the war it was revoiced 50% louder to make an Echo organ (Willis II's description). Christopher Dearnley told me that it was still inaudible! So it was ditched.

 

Solo Chorus Mixtures - these were of no use - too loud in the Quire and the new Dome chorus superceded them.

 

Choir Koppelflute - I have been told that it was the old Harmonic Flute cut down and revoiced with new tops. No-one liked it and if the story is true its a bit of tatty organ building that has been tidied up. The Harmonic Flute was reinstated in the 1990s (as was the Choir Bourdon, Principal and Corno di Bassetto).

 

Your information seems a bit out of date.

 

All this information is in an excellent book (ISBN 0 906894 28 X) I've mentioned elsewhere in replies to you. Buy the book.

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Guest stevecbournias

Mr Lucas Sir:

Thank You for the brief overview of the matters petaining to the unanswered questions in my mind as to the reasons for certain choices made in the 1970s rebuild at the cathedral. You conclude with the following words:

 

"Your information seems a bit out of date.

All this information is in an excellent book (ISBN 0 906894 28 X) I've mentioned elsewhere in replies to you. Buy the book."

 

I do not understand what you intend by out of date. Everything I say is essentially correct or was at its appointed time. Also you suggest that you have previously replied to these same questions however in reviewing your posted replies all 34 of them I am unable to locate a record of such.

Nonetheless it is interesting the details you have furnished that fill the gaps as to the whys of this and that. What comes to light is that if certain items were deemed better off removed in the 1970s then why were they crammed in to begin with and by a celebrated master like Father Willis? Maybe at life's end his enthusiasm for his magnum work overtook his better judgement.

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Mr Lucas Sir:

Thank You for the brief overview of the matters petaining to the unanswered questions in my mind as to the reasons for certain choices made in the 1970s rebuild  at the cathedral. You conclude with  the following words:

 

"Your information seems a bit out of date.

All this information is in an excellent book (ISBN 0 906894 28 X) I've mentioned elsewhere in replies to you. Buy the book."

 

I do not understand what you intend by out of date. Everything I say is essentially correct or was at its appointed time. Also you suggest that you have previously replied to these same questions however in reviewing your posted replies all 34 of them I am unable to locate a record of such.

Nonetheless it is interesting the details you have furnished that fill the gaps as to the whys of this and that. What comes to light is that if certain items were deemed better off removed in the 1970s then why were they crammed in to begin with and by a celebrated master like Father Willis? Maybe at life's end his enthusiasm for his magnum work overtook his better judgement.

 

Dear Mr Bournias

 

I have recommended this book at least twice in posts on this message board, though possibly not directly in response to your questions, which could so easily be answered by reading it.

 

Your reference to the Tibia going in 1977 is out by at least 30 years! Many printed specifications of the organ from the 1950s on refer to this by implication and therefore that's what I meant by your information being out of date.

 

Whether you mean it or not, there is an implied slight in the questions you ask and a hint that mistakes were made in the last re-building of the organ. No solution is ever perfect, but I can assure you that the organ is magnificent in every way.

 

Andrew

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Guest stevecbournias

I at no time suggested that a tibia was still intact in 1977. As to so-called "mistakes" that is relative. The fact that in the 1990s some things are changed upon reconsideration does not necessarily imply previous mistakes; it it simply that in organ building there are infinite choices and different paths to take to arrive at approximately the same place ultimately.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Dear Mr Bournias

 

I have recommended this book at least twice in posts on this message board, though possibly not directly in response to your questions, which could so easily be answered by reading it.

 

Your reference to the Tibia going in 1977 is out by at least 30 years! Many printed specifications of the organ from the 1950s on refer to this by implication and therefore that's what I meant by your information being out of date.

 

Whether you mean it or not, there is an implied slight in the questions you ask and a hint that mistakes were made in the last re-building of the organ. No solution is ever perfect, but I can assure you that the organ is magnificent in every way.

 

Andrew

 

Capital statement! This is an extraordinary book and should be on everyone's shelf and within easy reach. Even John Scott (when the book came out) said it was absolutely necessary reading as he learned so much from it - and he was the organist at the time. Fine historical pictures, cathedral and organ history all combine to produce a wonderful tome that at last does justice to the nation's Cathedral Organ.

Positif Press in Oxford + 00 (0)1865 243220

 

Best wishes,

NJA

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Fine historical pictures, cathedral and organ history all combine to produce a wonderful tome that at last does justice to the nation's Cathedral Organ.

 

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

 

 

Well, that's a bit much!!

 

I think the pecking order is Canterbury, York and THEN London.

 

THE national organ is surely the RAH, but I think that idea could cause riots in Liverpool!

 

:D

 

MM

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I at no time suggested that a tibia was still intact in 1977.

 

Er... yes you did.

 

I quote you:

 

"This is a sensitive discussion but one that has not been satisfactorily addressed as yet since the 1970s.

 

The committee to decide the spec on the St Paul organ rebuild made certain decisions that to me do not entirely seem logical..."

 

and ...

 

"Why was it decided to eliminate certain Willis pipes that were already in situ?

 

...

 

a Tibia 8 of wood which was a diapason open on top by Willis III I gather on the Great"

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

Well, that's a bit much!!

 

I think the pecking order is Canterbury, York and THEN London.

 

MM

 

See order of course, as we all know full well. But in National terms (using your list and Biblical references), the last shall be first.

 

NJA

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Guest Barry Oakley
Capital statement! This is an extraordinary book and should be on everyone's shelf and within easy reach. Even John Scott (when the book came out) said it was absolutely necessary reading as he learned so much from it - and he was the organist at the time. Fine historical pictures, cathedral and organ history all combine to produce a wonderful tome that at last does justice to the nation's Cathedral Organ.Positif Press in Oxford + 00 (0)1865 243220

 

Best wishes,

NJA

 

The controversy that has arisen in suggesting that the order is Canterbury, York and London is surely referring to the seniority of CofE bishops. I've always understood that St Paul's is the nation's Cathedral church because practically all of our state religious ceremonies are held there. Westminster Abbey is a collegiate church and not a cathedral.

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The controversy that has arisen in suggesting that the order is Canterbury, York and London is surely referring to the seniority of CofE bishops. I've always understood that St Paul's is the nation's Cathedral church because practically all of our state religious ceremonies are held there. Westminster Abbey is a collegiate church and not a cathedral.

 

Wasn't St Paul's called the parish church of the Empire about 100 years ago? It's certainly the national church for state occasions.

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Guest stevecbournias
Er... yes you did.

 

I quote you:

 

"This is a sensitive discussion but one that has not been satisfactorily addressed as yet since the 1970s.

 

The committee to decide the spec on the St Paul organ rebuild made certain decisions that to me do not entirely seem logical..."

 

and ...

 

"Why was it decided to eliminate certain Willis pipes that were already in situ?

 

...

 

a Tibia 8 of wood which was a diapason open on top by Willis III I gather on the Great"

 

 

 

I stand corrected on the matter of the Tibia/wood open diapason

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Guest stevecbournias
Dear Mr Bournias

 

I have recommended this book at least twice in posts on this message board, though possibly not directly in response to your questions, which could so easily be answered by reading it.

 

Your reference to the Tibia going in 1977 is out by at least 30 years! Many printed specifications of the organ from the 1950s on refer to this by implication and therefore that's what I meant by your information being out of date.

 

Whether you mean it or not, there is an implied slight in the questions you ask and a hint that mistakes were made in the last re-building of the organ. No solution is ever perfect, but I can assure you that the organ is magnificent in every way.

 

Andrew

 

 

Mr Lucas:

 

You are very inciteful.

You suggest that you discern an implication of error in the last rebuild. Actually I think what is being perceived is confusion. Hear me out. Master builder Willis I can do no wrong: or so I am led to think, particularly on a job of this sort of high profile. Master returns after 28 years and does this and that to a job that is hailed as an exquisite organ. Now 75 years later some of his work is UNDONE by others who I do not know much about. Can you blame anyone for not knowing what you knew as to the good reasons why certain things were in fact undone namely 2 diapasons and some other items found to be unsatisfactory for one reason or another.

 

By the way I am $44 dollars the poorer at your instigation since an online order of the book you say will tell all. But please do not conclude malice here for having a loyalty to Willis I and his pipes. It simply turns out as you said that some developments were suboptimal in the long run and were reversed after 75 years of testing.

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Guest Lee Blick

steve,

 

I think you are trying to pick a fight where one is totally unfounded. If it is your motivation to pick holes and try and make current organists accountable for the actions of past organists then I think it is futile thing to do.

 

So what if ranks were replaced or reinstalled? It seems to me the development of the organ at St. Paul's is certainly an 'organic' one. It doesn't make Willis any lesser the great organ builder he is.

 

You may think you are displaying your knowledge of the organ in an intellectual manner but your behaviour here over the past month has seriously damaged your credibility and my respect for you. It will take a lot more than a few Capital Letters and sone full-stops to make me or anyone else take anything you say seriously.

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Indeed, Lee.

 

There is also the matter of the use to which the instrument is put. Cathedral repertoire, particularly that of organ voluntaries is now quite different to what it was at the turn of the previous century. At that time, cathedral organists wished for instruments upon which they could play orchestral transcriptions and the like. Insofar as choral accompaniment is concerned, composers such as Spohr and Stainer were rather more in evidence then.

 

I find it easy to imagine that most organists using the instrument on a daily basis did not paticularly favour the Tibia - also not helped by the obvious connotation with cinema-type organs.

 

As to the matter of overcrowding, even FHW was not immune from errors of judgement. Possibly, he had been asked by the then incumbent musicians to increase the power of the instrument - particularly for services which attracted a large congregation.

 

In any case, there was published in The Organ (in the 1920s), an exchange of letters (written before the death of FHW) between Willis and the cathedral architect (one D. Batigan Verne) regarding a difference of opinion concerning the obtrusion of certain bass pipes above the gallery parapets.

 

Apparently, Willis was finally told that, if the pipes were not mitred, the cathedral workmen would undertake the task themselves - and just saw them off.

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Guest stevecbournias

The Willis "Tibia" had no relation whatever to the cinema other than the name, in that Willis Tibia was a wood open diaapson and not a covered over-scaled flute. At Liverpool Anglican Cathedral there are on the great both an 8ft and a 16 ft specimen of same to this day.

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The Willis "Tibia" had no relation whatever to the cinema other than the name, in that Willis Tibia was a wood open diaapson and not a covered over-scaled flute. At Liverpool Anglican Cathedral there are on the great both an 8ft and a 16 ft specimen of same to this day.

 

Which was exactly my point!

 

Personally, I would not wish for a stop named 'tibia' on my own instrument - it is precisely the unfortunate connotations which I mentioned which may hinder me enjoying its tone - however beautiful.

 

I am, incidentally, aware of the differences in construction between the two ranks. I am also cognisant of the presence of tibia ranks on the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral organ.

 

Mr. Bournias:

 

Sir, whilst the British have a certain reputation for being extremely civil - often in the face of apparent discourteousness, I have to say that you are straining the parameters of that which I consider to be acceptable behaviour.

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Personally, I would not wish for a stop named 'tibia' on my own instrument - it is precisely the unfortunate connotations which I mentioned which may hinder me enjoying its tone - however beautiful.

 

 

 

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

 

If I play the Bach 48 on a piano, should I be put off by the fact that Elton John plays the same instrument?

 

To us the word "unfortunate" is perhaps unfortunate, considering that some absolutely brilliant classical organists/pianists have also played theatre organs.

 

Here are a few:-

 

Charles Saxby (Bridlington Priory)

 

Sidney Torch (BBC composer/arranger)

 

Norman Cocker (Manchester Cathedral)

 

Marcel Dupre

 

Francis Jackson (when no-one is looking)

 

Robinson Cleaver FRCO

 

Reginald Foorte FRCO

 

Osborne Peasgood (Acton cinema organist under a pseudonym)

 

William Davis (Staff organist/pianist BBC)

 

----and so the list goes on, until you get the la creme de la creme:-

 

Quentin Maclean

 

Quentin Maclean not only gave the annual recital at the RCO, he was highly regarded by George Thalben-Ball. He was taught by Karl Straube (organ) and

Max Reger (composition).

 

Simon Gledhill, from Halifx, was hugely gifted at an ealry age. Grade 8 piano and an accordian-playing champion as a schoolboy, Simon took up the theatre organ at the age of 16 and within 12 months had cut his first LP, since which he has toured the world several times, appeared at Ally Pally with Carlo Curley and enjoyed an enthusiastic response wherever he has appeared.

 

Now, unless one UNDERSTANDS what a theatre-organ is all about, and unless one is a very good arranger, there is little chance that one will ever be able to play a theatre-organ successfully. I would defy 99% of classical organists in this country to sit down and play one as it should be played.

 

Unfortunate?

 

Well, the above named organists laughed all the way to the bank!!

 

I think I am right in saying that Reginal Dixon, in his heyday, earned the equivalent of about £250,000 per annum, and the current incumbent at the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool, has a Rolls-Royce and a private twin-engined plane.

 

I suppose it was unfortunate that the theatre organ kept Compton, J W Walker, Nicholson, H N & B solvent in the depression years.

 

Then, of course, there's Hector Olivera: possibly one of the most technically accomplished organists in the world, who can switch from light to classical music at the drop of a large, black, Argentinian hat. Anyway, he's cool, because he drives a Chev Corvette and has a huge model-railway at his home in the US.

 

Don't knock the light musicians, who are often a lot more gifted than their classical counterparts.

 

:P

 

MM

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This is all well and good MM, but I was speaking from a personal viewpoint and, from a personal viewpoint I strongly dislike the very sound of cinema organs. I also strongly dislike the sound of singers who sing with a constant vibrato - I certainly do not wish an organ to sound like that!

 

You have inferred rather more than I intended from my post - nowhere did I mention any cinema organist - much less decry the technical ability of a particular exponent!

 

I was speaking from the standpoint of my own opinion - which is that I find any such connotation unfortunate!

 

Whilst you are welcome to disagree with my viewpoint, nevertheless I stand by my post - as it were....

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Don't knock the light musicians, who are often a lot more gifted than their classical counterparts.

 

:P

 

MM

 

Please allow me to add dutch organist Piet van Egmond to your listing; played all the great classical repertoire and 'light' music for Dutch radio on the BBC-(cinema)organs (amongst others)....

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Come on, boys, give Steve a break. He hasn't flamed anyone on this thread and may be trying to turn over a new leaf. I didn't read any ulterior motive into his post; it seemed like a genuine query to me.

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Guest Roffensis

It may have been to do with space, but a far more serious and neglected issue is the removal of very (too) many Willis (and some fine Norman and Beard) pipes from the Canterbury Cathedral organ in 1978/9, including some particularly fine solo reeds, a 32 flue, and not to mention tinkering with wind pressures. That would be a very interesting discussion, which also has been mentioned both myself and others, but never a adequate reason given. It might interest people to know that the triforium is a lot more empty for it. There's bags of space there now......St Pauls rebuild, in the light of Canterbury, was incredibly restrained and conservative.

R

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Guest stevecbournias
It may have been to do with space, but a far more serious and neglected issue is the removal of very (too) many Willis (and some fine Norman and Beard) pipes from the Canterbury Cathedral organ in 1978/9, including some particularly fine solo reeds, a 32 flue, and not to mention tinkering with wind pressures. That would be a very interesting discussion, which also has been mentioned both myself and others, but never a adequate reason given. It might interest people to know that the triforium is a lot more empty for it. There's bags of space there now......St Pauls rebuild, in the light of Canterbury, was incredibly restrained and conservative.

R

 

 

A hearty thanks to those sincere contributors who participated in this discussion without losing their cool or resorting to intolerance or sarcasm etc. I am prepared to make a summation of a preliminary sort pending the arrival of the book Mr Lucas has asked me to read.

 

He asked if in fact the 1899-1900 added diapasons nos. 1 and 4 were high pressure as I asserted by Father Willis. I have heard they were but cannot cite a reference. My rationale:

They went in on a soundboard of a former Solo division. The new Solo must have been relocated at that time behind the choir stalls.

 

The need for more projection of tone would have been the motivation for additional fundamental diapason tone in 1899-1900 and since 1872 the potential for high pressure had been developed. So the vacant Solo soundboards at the top of the case could be supplied with higher wind than the Great pipes below from the 1872 era. Higher pressure would be one component toward more volume. The drawback realized in the 1970s was the inbalance that 2 more unisons created in the chorus already nicely finished in 1872. Also the physical obstruction of the bass or bottom pipes of these 2 added open diapasons created more problems for tonal egress of the existing tonal elements.

 

Mr Lucas: The matter regarding the wood open "Tibia" diapason. I read a printed spec in an album by Christopher Herrick from St Paul's which stated the tibia on the great but with an asterisk saying it had been replaced in 1946 by a claribelflute. Thus my confusion sir.

 

The choir koppelflote: was a harmonicflute rebuilt unsuccessfully into a koppelflote.

 

the solo chorusmixture beginning at 4ft pitch: made redundant by the new dome diapason chorus.

 

The 16ft bass in the dome diapason chorus is not listed as new and therefor I must conclude that it is from the Lewis pipes.

 

Still unanswered owing to conflicting data: South choir gemshorn 4: is it playable as one source says or is it stored in the choir chamber?

 

Also: Besides different pressures how do the 2 cornodibassetto stops differ solo versus choir?

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A hearty thanks to those sincere contributors who participated in this discussion without losing their cool or resorting to intolerance or sarcasm etc. I am prepared to make a summation of a preliminary sort pending the arrival of the book Mr Lucas has asked me to read.

 

He asked if in fact the 1899-1900 added diapasons nos. 1 and 4 were high pressure as I asserted by Father Willis. I have heard they were but cannot cite a reference. My rationale:

They went in on a soundboard of a former Solo division. The new Solo must have been relocated at that time behind the choir stalls.

 

The need for more projection of tone would have been the motivation for additional fundamental diapason tone in 1899-1900 and since 1872 the potential for high pressure had been developed. So the vacant Solo soundboards at the top of the case could be supplied with higher wind than the Great pipes below from the 1872 era. Higher pressure would be one component toward more volume. The drawback realized in the 1970s was the inbalance that 2 more unisons created in the chorus already nicely finished in 1872. Also the physical obstruction of the bass or bottom pipes of these 2 added open diapasons created more problems for tonal egress of the existing tonal elements.

 

Mr Lucas: The matter regarding the wood open "Tibia" diapason. I read a printed spec in an album by Christopher Herrick from St Paul's which stated the tibia on the great but with an asterisk saying it had been replaced in 1946 by a claribelflute. Thus my confusion sir.

 

The choir koppelflote: was a harmonicflute rebuilt unsuccessfully into a koppelflote.

 

the solo chorusmixture beginning at 4ft pitch: made redundant by the new dome diapason chorus.

 

The 16ft bass in the dome diapason chorus is not listed as new and therefor I must conclude that it is from the Lewis pipes.

 

Still unanswered owing to conflicting data: South choir gemshorn 4: is it playable as one source says or is it stored in the choir chamber?

 

Also: Besides different pressures how do the 2 cornodibassetto stops differ solo versus choir?

 

Dear Mr Bournias

 

What I request you to do is wait until you receive the book, because then you can wade through it and find all the answers, where they are to be found.

 

I have found no written evidence of the added Great stops being on a higher pressure - nor is it particularly relevant because it depends what the voicer does with the pipes on that pressure that matters. The two stops were the Opens 1 and 4 i.e the strongest and the weakest, so that only the former would have been likely to make any difference to the effect of the chorus. (Quite what Open No 4 was for is debateable, as the No 3 of the four - the current No 2 - is rather soft in itself).

 

Fr Willis added a Pedal 16' Open Diapason, of metal pipes, in the Dome organ in 1899. That is the stop that I think you have assumed is made of Lewis pipes.

 

When I left St Paul's in 1998 the redundant Gemshorn pipes (made redundant by the return to the Choir organ of Fr Willis's original Choir 4' Principal to its rightful home) were being stored inside the organ. I do not know if they are still there, but expect that they are (also the remains of the unused original 1872 pipes of the Pedal Violoncello and Mixture were stored for safety by the Dome organ blowers).

 

There is a problem for anyone coming to conclusions on any subject based upon suppositions. At times I see things being asserted as fact when I know they are coming to this conclusion by assuming things. This then gets spread about as 'fact'.

 

St Paul's organ is one of the worst victims of this kind and perhaps that's one of the dangers of things like message boards. It's not helped by there being a lot of organ folklore about certain aspects of this organ e.g. the provenance of the Trompette Militaire and, dare I say, some misinformation by Willis III (one example of that is that the very highest wind pressures in both St Pauls and Liverpool Cathedral organs are not quite as high as the published pressures - at St Paul's 30" is in reality a bit lower - about 26" or 27" I believe. Another is that Willis said that he threw away the American shallots and tongues of the Trompette when they arrived in the Willis factory, however I have been assured that they were still attached to the pipes in the 1970s!)

 

Anyway, I hope I have now cleared up your questions as much as possible.

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