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Mander Organs
John Sayer

Rounded sharp keys

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Can anyone advise which builders, apart from Father Willis, used rounded sharps?

 

I'm interested to know whether the Rev'd F H Sutton specified them in the organs he designed or was otherwise involved with.

 

Although I'm not totally certain, I believe the following three instruments have this feature:

 

Hoar Cross, Staffs (Bishop)

 

Brrant Broughton, nr Newark (Wordsworth & Maskell)

 

Stockcross, nr Newbury (Bryceson Bros)

 

Another common factor, which may or may not be relevant, is the involvement of Bodley, as designer both of the church and of the organ case.

 

JS

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I have seen an early 1900s Norman & Beard console with rounded sharps. This was a rebuild of an 1880s Brindley & Foster and incorporated a new console.

 

JA

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I have seen an early 1900s Norman & Beard console with rounded sharps. This was a rebuild of an 1880s Brindley & Foster and incorporated a new console.

 

JA

 

It's now clear that a number of builders seem to have used them at one time or another - Walker, Forster & Andrews included - so they are more widespread than I thought. Perhaps there were firms of key-makers, rather than organ builders proper, who specialised in them.

 

JS

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I've also seen them on a late Lewis & Co job, c.1910.

 

As far as I know, these sharps were originally developed by the piano manufacturer Collards, and I've heard them refered to as "Collard sharps". I recall reading an interview with old man Willis in an edition of "Scottish Musical Monthly" from c.1895, in which he mentions having "an arrangement" with Collards for manufacturing these keys in the Rotunda. I have a feeling that there are instances of the Willis firm using them in a few consoles after the WWI, but there are others who will know.

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I have a feeling that there are instances of the Willis firm using them in a few consoles after the WWI, but there are others who will know.

 

Such as the new Willis that went off to Auckland a few months ago you mean? And very elegant the rounded keys were too I might add.

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Yes, I had seen the Auckland ones - I agree with you regarding the aesthetic qualities. I suspect this is a revival of an old tradition, although I suspect Willis was one of the last firms to stop using them the first time round with the likes of Dunedin Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral gallery console etc..

 

It's sad to contemplate the many such sets of keys (often paired with jointless ivory natural keys) which will have been needlessly dumped in the course of "essential" modernisation over the years.

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The 1884 Alfred Monk organ in St Stephen's Church, Cheltenham has rounded sharps. Norman & Neard tinkered with it in 1910 & 1912, then Nicholsons had a go in 1965, but I don't think the console was altered in any shape or form and I believe it's still retains the original keyboards

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Gildersleeve of Bury St. Edmunds used them, at least some of the time. I played one of his jobs a couple of weeks ago and was reminded of this habit. I wonder, though, with the smaller firms, how much this sort of thing was a standard or whether it depended on suppliers.

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I have seen two or three Hele organs with them. I dislike them, but I suppose it is a matter of taste.

 

Indeed - I had to play one of theirs last week, for a thanksgiving service. The organ was fairly odd, in any case. A few years ago it received some tonal alterations and additions (apparently anonymously - although I have my suspicions), when a couple of the G.O. 8ft. stops (there were formerly six unison flues and a Clarinet) gave way to a Mixture III and a Trumpet. I suppose that this is an improvement....

 

However, this instrument also has round-fronted sharps. Personally, like Vox, I also dislike them - it is not quite so comfortable - or easy - to slide up onto a black note, without the bevelled edges of most other black keys.

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I have recently discovered a small one manual, unfortunately of unknown origin and queried as Bevington on the NPOR, that has a pedalboard with `rounded` sharps. The organ possibly dates from around 1820-1840 and the pedals (pulldowns) appear to be a later addition. Fifteenth, Principal, Diapason 8, Dulciana 8 (not full compass). Also Stop D. bass and Stop D Treble which appear to be permanently `locked` together and cannot be drawn individually. I cannot understand the logic of this as it precludes the use of the Stop D bass with the Dulciana. Builders plaques affixed are "Harvey & Co. with the late T. Walmisley; Tom Robbins; Hill, Norman and Beard.

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