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Unusual Accessories


pcnd5584

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I am not sure if this subject has been posted before; I suspect possibly not with this exact title - or else it wandered off into a discussion about the best place to store the console key, or perhaps how to keep clergy from finding the organ loft....

 

 

Anyway, I was reading through my copies of The Rotunda last week and noticed a few, just on Willis organs.

 

For a start, I discovered that the organ in the Great Hall of the Alexandra Palace also had a Solo Tenor Solo to Pedal coupler (in addition to that at Saint George's Hall, Liverpool).

 

Then there were two instances of Great to Solo couplers (Hereford † and Salisbury cathedrals; post-1933 and -1934 respectively). Very useful when playing something big on a Solo reed, since it can be used to fill-out the texture.

 

For that matter, the organ of Hereford Cathedral had two further accessories which I do not recall seeing on any other English cathedral organ: a Great Sub Octave (which Dr. Percy Hull requested specifically for French symphonic music, which often lies high on the claviers). In addition, there was also a Pedal in Sub Octaves. This is arguably less useful, unless one wishes to cheat whilst playing Gigout's Grand Chœur Dialogue, or some similar piece. As far as I can see, both of these couplers have since been removed. In the case of the former, I think that this was a pity.

 

Does anyone know of any other such accessories or couplers? That is, leaving aside 'toys', such as drinks cabinets, etc - which definitely have cropped up once or twice before, in other threads.

 

For that matter, does anyone happen to know the composition of the original Glockenspiel on the Echo Organ at Hereford Cathedral? All I can find is a reference to it being 'a type of Cymbal mixture' (ibid.) - which is, to cite Ralph Downes, 'exasperatingly vague'. Did it have anything in common with FHW's Cymbal* on the Solo Organ of the original instrument in the Royal Albert Hall?

 

 

 

 

* I suspect that this stop would have had more ranks than that at Hereford.I am not sure if it is the same stop - or at least the nucleus of the same stop - which, after Harrisons' rebuild of 1926-33, appeared on the G.O., and contained seven ranks, viz.: (19-22-26-29-31-33-36).

 

† Some completely irrelevant trivia: Robert de Niro cannot pronounce 'Hereford' correctly. In the otherwise superb film Ronin, he refers to it as 'Here-ford' (as in 'here today, gone tomorrow'). Sorry - I have already complained about the possible mis-direction of threds and here I am doing it myself....

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The two-manual organ at Ottery St Mary has a Great to Swell coupler and the three-manual Willis at Ashburton parish church was, during its rebuild in 2009, given a Great octave coupler (along with quite a few other stops).

 

Ashburton looks to be a nice instrument - visually. The case has a lot in common with that at All Saints', Okehampton - which I believe was carved by W.J. Northcott, of Ashwater.

 

I recall that I specified a Great Reeds on Swell for the rebuild of the two-clavier instrument at Saint Aldhelm's, Branksome, in 1995. This affected the G.O. Corno di Bassetto, the Orchestral Trumpet (8ft.) and the Orchestral Clarion (4ft.). Whilst I remembered to ask the action designers to ensure that these stops did not 'return' through any of the Swell couplers, I forgot to request an additional transfer: Swell on G.O. - which would have been useful.

 

Incidentally, is the G.O. at Ottery still enclosed with a 'screen' of chicken-wire?

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Ashburton looks to be a nice instrument - visually. The case has a lot in common with that at All Saints', Okehampton - which I believe was carved by W.J. Northcott, of Ashwater.

 

The case apparently dates from 1911, but the architect is not known. The organ now has a new console by Renatus.

 

Incidentally, is the G.O. at Ottery still enclosed with a 'screen' of chicken-wire?

 

No.

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Unusual or not: The organ you see in the small picture on the left -- the wonderful IV/47 Flentrop at St. Marien, Osnabrück -- is fully mechanical, but has a unison-off to the second manual (Great).

 

The reason for that is that the Great consists exclusively of a principal chorus 16 8 4 3 2 IV-V plus trumpets 16 8, on 90 mm. On the third manual is the Oberwerk (which actually sits below the Great, just on impost level) with a cornet décomposé, a small principal chorus (Quintade 8, Principal 4, Mixtur IV) and a lighter Trumpet 8, all on 75 mm.

 

DA Flentrop, Antonie van Steketee and organist Traugott Timme devised the unison-off coupler for trio playing between Oberwerk and Rückpositiv (first manual): The organist can disconnect the Great action and couple the Oberwerk down to II, thus having its beautiful flutes etc conveniently available there without having to pull the Great action, which is considerably heavy.

 

That organ is so wonderful in many respects. The sound in the nave is exceptionally clear, yet full and satisfying.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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A Great on Choir was inserted by Noel Rawsthorne at Liverpool Cathedral to provide a substantial second chorus against a coupled Great. This was copied by Richard Galloway at Church of the Holy Rude ,Stirling as a Great to Choir.

 

Also organs designed by Dr Alfred Hollins often had a Choir to Swell coupler eg Caird Hall Dundee and several instruments in Edinburgh

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The two-manual organ at Ottery St Mary has a Great to Swell coupler...

 

Generations of student church musicians must also remember the Great to Swell coupler on the Harrison organ which was situated in the RSCM's St Nicholas Chapel at Addington Palace. After a brief sojourn in Cleveland Lodge, Dorking, the instrument is now in St Alkmund's, Shrewsbury (NPOR: R01719).

 

A Great Sub Octave coupler can now be found on the 1963 Walker organ at St John's RC Church, Islington, and also exists on the Downes-designed Walker at the London Oratory. The Downes/Harrison at Croydon's Fairfield Concert Hall has a Great Flues Sub Octave coupler.

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I can't remember now which instrument in South Kensington had a Great to Choir coupler rather than a Choir to Great about 30 years ago when I was practising for FRCO. I found it very annoying at the time. I thought it was St Augustine's, Queens Gate, but NPOR doesn't show the coupler I remember.

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I've always thought that Gt-Ch is more useful than Ch-Gt where there is a big reed on the Ch. IIRC, 'illuminated' Compton consoles are usually equipped with Gt-Ch couplers.

 

This instrument:

 

http://www.npor.org....ec_index=A00301

 

(an interesting and IMHO rather successful attempt to create a Blackburn Cathedral tribute out of a town hall Binns) has both Pos-Gt and Gt-Pos, and also a two-way switch marked 'Bombarde 16/32', enabling the player to choose which of these two stops is controlled by the Pedal Reed reversible.

 

Chester Cathedral has a Gt-Ch coupler (fitted c. 2000 and activated by piston with warning light, rather than by drawstop). This device has a number of useful applications - particularly as one could argue that this instrument is not really a four manual organ, but rather a very large III+P and a 13 stop I+P sharing a single console.

 

Manchester Cathedral Organ has a provision of manual-on-manual couplers and 73 note soundboards that might be considered generous on a mature symphonic instrument in the USA.

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I recall that I specified a Great Reeds on Swell for the rebuild of the two-clavier instrument at Saint Aldhelm's, Branksome, in 1995. This affected the G.O. Corno di Bassetto, the Orchestral Trumpet (8ft.) and the Orchestral Clarion (4ft.). Whilst I remembered to ask the action designers to ensure that theese stops did not 'return' through any of the Swell couplers, I forgot to request an additional transfer: Swell on G.O. - which would have been useful.

 

We went the whole hog on our rebuild at school...specifying 'Gt Reeds on Swell and Sw on GO transfer' with one tab...it works beautifully, especially now that it has a red warning light to stop accidents!

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Unusual or not: The organ you see in the small picture on the left -- the wonderful IV/47 Flentrop at St. Marien, Osnabrück -- is fully mechanical, but has a unison-off to the second manual (Great).

 

The reason for that is that the Great consists exclusively of a principal chorus 16 8 4 3 2 IV-V plus trumpets 16 8, on 90 mm. On the third manual is the Oberwerk (which actually sits below the Great, just on impost level) with a cornet décomposé, a small principal chorus (Quintade 8, Principal 4, Mixtur IV) and a lighter Trumpet 8, all on 75 mm.

 

DA Flentrop, Antonie van Steketee and organist Traugott Timme devised the unison-off coupler for trio playing between Oberwerk and Rückpositiv (first manual): The organist can disconnect the Great action and couple the Oberwerk down to II, thus having its beautiful flutes etc conveniently available there without having to pull the Great action, which is considerably heavy.

 

That organ is so wonderful in many respects. The sound in the nave is exceptionally clear, yet full and satisfying.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

Thank you for this, Friedrich.

 

This sounds to ba a useful and interesting idea. Initially I wondered how it could be achieved with mechanical action, but of course it is quite simple - as you wrote.

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Generations of student church musicians must also remember the Great to Swell coupler on the Harrison organ which was situated in the RSCM's St Nicholas Chapel at Addington Palace. After a brief sojourn in Cleveland Lodge, Dorking, the instrument is now in St Alkmund's, Shrewsbury (NPOR: R01719).

 

A Great Sub Octave coupler can now be found on the 1963 Walker organ at St John's RC Church, Islington, and also exists on the Downes-designed Walker at the London Oratory. The Downes/Harrison at Croydon's Fairfield Concert Hall has a Great Flues Sub Octave coupler.

 

As does Gloucester Cathedral - at least for the West G.O. flues.

 

According to the NPOR, the (partly) restored H&H organ of the Royal Festival Hall, London also has a G.O. Sub Octave. However, this does not appear in the previous survey. There are also one or two distinctly odd transfers listed: Choir on Choir. I wonder if this is an error - or does this have to be drawn, in order to play the Choir Organ on the lowest clavier (i.e., it does not automatically sound, on drawing speaking stops, unless this transfer is drawn as well). There is an even stranger one: Positive on Great on Positive.

 

Not sure about that one.

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As does Gloucester Cathedral - at least for the West G.O. flues.

 

According to the NPOR, the (partly) restored H&H organ of the Royal Festival Hall, London also has a G.O. Sub Octave. However, this does not appear in the previous survey. There are also one or two distinctly odd transfers listed: Choir on Choir. I wonder if this is an error - or does this have to be drawn, in order to play the Choir Organ on the lowest clavier (i.e., it does not automatically sound, on drawing speaking stops, unless this transfer is drawn as well). There is an even stranger one: Positive on Great on Positive.

 

Not sure about that one.

 

I think someone's just typed this in a slightly confusing way. The two transfers are rocking tablets not drawstops so one is Choir on Choir or Choir on Solo and the other is Pos on Pos or Pos on Gt.

 

My copy of the Harrison 1951 brochure has several amendments on a typed sheet plus two handwritten ones which add Great Sub Octave and delete Great to Solo. I can confirn that Gt Sub Octave is there and is very effective. The console did have an unusual feature - the pistons under the lowest keyboard were square in cros section and split in half vertically - one side for Ch other for Positive. They are conventional round ones now.

 

MGP

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I think someone's just typed this in a slightly confusing way. The two transfers are rocking tablets not drawstops so one is Choir on Choir or Choir on Solo and the other is Pos on Pos or Pos on Gt.

 

My copy of the Harrison 1951 brochure has several amendments on a typed sheet plus two handwritten ones which add Great Sub Octave and delete Great to Solo. I can confirn that Gt Sub Octave is there and is very effective. The console did have an unusual feature - the pistons under the lowest keyboard were square in cros section and split in half vertically - one side for Ch other for Positive. They are conventional round ones now.

 

MGP

 

Thank you for this - it makes more sense, and is more in line with what I would have expected.

 

I am sorry to hear that the split pistons are gone. Aside from the fact that I believe them to have been unique on an English organ, apparently they were very useful.

 

Incidentally - can you recall if the G.O. Sub Octave is 'selective' (which is the case with the Swell Octave coupler) - say, flues only, or 16ft., 8ft. and 4ft. stops only - and, if the latter, does it affect the reeds, too?

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Colchester Town Hall has 'Sub Octave Reeds' on each of Swell and Great, which are an important part of that remarkable instrument's ability to sound as if it has at least twice the resources it in fact possesses.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N08698

 

Since a lot of French music requires (or infers the need for) a Great Sub, it is reasonable to provide one. It would make that repertoire a good deal less stark sounding on many neo-classical instruments.

 

Henry Willis III provided Great Octave, Sub and Unison Off at St. Jude's, Thornton Heath (now in Japan, I believe - the organ, not Thornton Heath), his only job with an enclosed Great, but then complained that they were being misused.

 

In North America, it's not at all uncommon to find Great Octave at least, and sometimes more. I am quite sure that these couplers are conceived as part of the overall tonal structure and not as a means of obtaining special effects, particularly since instruments over here often have extra notes on the soundboard to take the octave coupler. My 1927 Casavant console has nearly a full set, controlled by tilting tablets over the top manual. I'm convinced this is the best way to control them. I thought so when I was in charge of the Willis at Kirkwall Cathedral, but now I'm absolutely certain! My row of false teeth (as Sir Walter Alcock called them) runs as follows (68 note soundboards, except Swell which is 73 for some reason):

 

GP.SP.CP.SoP.SP4.SoP4 SG16.SG8.SG4.CG16.CG8.CG4.SoG16.SoG8.SoG4.G16.G4.GUO S16.S4.SUO SC16.SC8.SC4.GC.SoC.C16.C4.CUO GSo.SSo.So16.So4.SoUO

 

It's a lot, but I use them all, including Great to Choir, frequently. I wish i had a few more, like GSo4....

 

Willis tilting tablets are shaped slightly more conveniently than the Casavant or Skinner variety and have a more positive movement.

 

The organ here is a quirky old beast, but does not in the least mind being turned inside out by means of these couplers. I'd hate to be without them.

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I think St Alban's Abbey now has a Swell Suboctave that does not work on the 16' reed but does on the rest - presumably filling out the chorus but without the 'growling extremities' effects.

 

A

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Incidentally - can you recall if the G.O. Sub Octave is 'selective' (which is the case with the Swell Octave coupler) - say, flues only, or 16ft., 8ft. and 4ft. stops only - and, if the latter, does it affect the reeds, too?

 

I last played there in July (degree ceremonies) and at that stage the Gt reeds/Cornet were still to be re-installed. The sub affected all the flues (unlike the sw 8ve). I'm due to play there again next July and will hopefully find out (ie the Gt Reeds and most of the Pedal will be available to use).

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I last played there in July (degree ceremonies) and at that stage the Gt reeds/Cornet were still to be re-installed. The sub affected all the flues (unlike the sw 8ve). I'm due to play there again next July and will hopefully find out (ie the Gt Reeds and most of the Pedal will be available to use).

 

Thank you for this.

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  • 2 months later...

I recall that I specified a Great Reeds on Swell for the rebuild of the two-clavier instrument at Saint Aldhelm's, Branksome, in 1995. This affected the G.O. Corno di Bassetto, the Orchestral Trumpet (8ft.) and the Orchestral Clarion (4ft.). Whilst I remembered to ask the action designers to ensure that these stops did not 'return' through any of the Swell couplers, I forgot to request an additional transfer: Swell on G.O. - which would have been useful.

 

We went the whole hog on our rebuild at school...specifying 'Gt Reeds on Swell and Sw on GO transfer' with one tab...it works beautifully, especially now that it has a red warning light to stop accidents!

 

So how wide is this tab, then? (Or was it engraved using a similar technique to that employed in the manufacture of microfilm?)

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Didn't Robert Hope-Jones have an "Octaves" stop-key, which wasn't an octave coupler?

 

I think it was much the same as drawing an octave coupler AND a unison-off at the same time, which makes sense of the 73 note wind-chests. It was probably an attempt to create a more orchestral effect from strings and flutes.

 

Then there are the "suitable bass" tabs, which sort of follow the manual registration and add an appropriate number of pedal registers.

 

Theatre organs often have a sustainer pedal, which hold a note on until the pedal is released, This allows all sort of things to go on around the held note, giving the impression of an organist with three hands.

 

Musn't forget the sforzando controls popular in orchestral organs, cinema organs and those big Victorian concert hall organs.

 

Best,

 

MM

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Didn't Robert Hope-Jones have an "Octaves" stop-key, which wasn't an octave coupler?

 

I think it was much the same as drawing an octave coupler AND a unison-off at the same time, which makes sense of the 73 note wind-chests. It was probably an attempt to create a more orchestral effect from strings and flutes.

 

There are Harrisons with 'Octaves alone' or 'Octaves only' which did the same eg Repton.

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There are Harrisons with 'Octaves alone' or 'Octaves only' which did the same eg Repton.

 

-----------------------------

 

I didn't know that Harrison's ever did things like that.

 

Somewhere, if I can find it amomg my files, there is a very amusing comment made by a eminent organist of the Victorian days, which apparanetly had a number of soberly dressed organists in stitches at a gathering.

 

Of course, we musn't forget the General Cancel, made famous by the agitated lady, who on losing her temper, howled at a certain well known organist, "Oh! Press off piston!" :o

 

Best,

 

MM

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