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Hull's Holy Trinity 4-Manual Compton


Barry Oakley

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Reading that Bradford Cathedral is to launch an appeal for £250,000 for organ restoration, I am often perplexed as to how the plights of some insignificant instruments easily find public favour and the capital is found at the drop of a hat. Others, though, in spite of the enormous historical significance attached to them, struggle to apparently capture the imagination and generosity of those controlling the purse strings.

 

We learned some time ago that Canterbury is seeking vast sums to achieve equally vast changes to its organs of which nothing has been heard since. And only just recently we have learned that Exeter needs to raise around £1million for extensive work on its organ. An incredible amount of money for what is an average-size cathedral organ. My guess is that in this instance the “drop of a hat” metaphor may well be appropriate and, hey presto, the money is forthcoming.

 

At the risk of being labelled a repetitive bore, my mind turns again to the plight of the untouched 75-year-old 4-manual Compton organ in Holy Trinity Church, Hull, England’s largest parish church. If Exeter is going to cost £1million I dare not guess what the larger Holy Trinity Compton will require. But perhaps I should be reminded that Yorkshire shrewdness will prevail and ultimately a builder other than the UK’s reputedly most expensive will be favoured. However, the ultimate question will remain. From where is the money to be found to restore (not tinker with) a historically important organ?

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At the risk of being labelled a repetitive bore, my mind turns again to the plight of the untouched 75-year-old 4-manual Compton organ in Holy Trinity Church, Hull, England’s largest parish church. If Exeter is going to cost £1million I dare not guess what the larger Holy Trinity Compton will require. But perhaps I should be reminded that Yorkshire shrewdness will prevail and ultimately a builder other than the UK’s reputedly most expensive will be favoured. However, the ultimate question will remain. From where is the money to be found to restore (not tinker with) a historically important organ?

 

 

 

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

 

 

I suspect that the problem at Hull may be threefold.

 

Hull is not terribly prosperous, though there are successful businesses and individuals of course. However, the sheer scale of the building is such that it MUST be the overwhelming priority, and knowing how soft the local stone is, I suspect that it takes a lot of upkeep. That's the first problem.

 

The next problem is whether Trinity now enjoys any sort of "tradition"......I don't actually know to be honest.

 

The third problem is the existence of the superb "beast" in the City Hall, which is one of the real show-stoppers of the organ world with regular recitals. Organ enthusiasts could not ask for anything more, and of course, just up the road at Beverley (only 11 miles away), there are other fine organs. (York isn't very far away also).

 

There is also the broader problem of disinterest or at the very least, ignorance. If we delved into the history of Hull, we would find a city which once had more theatre organs than anywhere else in the country bar London, in addition to a lively classical organ scene. All that has largely gone.

 

Perhaps another "problem" (though a bit of a strange problem), is the fact that the Trinity organ was first and foremost a Forster & Abdrews instrument, with legendary build-quality. Add to this the Compton electro-pneumatics and electro-mechanicals, which seem to go on almost forever, and it is probably the case that it has been patched up successfully over the years and continues to function after a fashion.

 

It seems to me that many cathedrals spend huge sums of money on re-builds, and twenty years down the line, it all starts over again as fashons change and organists want to tinker with things and leave their mark. To be brutally honest, I can't think of many cathedral organs which have been greatly improved by the process, but I know of some which have.

 

Best,

 

MM

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Your observations about the prosperity Hull, MM, are probably correct. There was a time, like elsewhere, when the city had a great many public benefactors who could be counted upon to reach for their wallets for noteworthy causes. That may have been the case in 1938 when Compton completed this wonderful instrument; I suspect so. Unfortunately, the city's industrial scene has experienced much demise. After the last war it could list umpteen large successful businesses. Now, from my present-day limited knowledge, there are only two left - Reckitt's (Reckitt-Benkaiser) and Smith & Nephew. And gone, too, is Hull's once famous fishing fleet and associated industry.

 

As for tradition, when I was first a chorister at Holy Trinity in the late 40's, it had a tradition that was the equal to many of the best cathedrals. It was led by the late Norman Strafford, a wonderful organist and charismatic choir master and architect of the 1938 Holy Trinity and 1951 City Hall organs. The churchmanship was decidedly low, (still is) although attracting large congregations to BCP choral matins and choral evensong, many attending because of the legendary musical standards. These standards were perpetuated under the direction of the late Peter Goodman, certainly until he took up the post of City Organist and when there were regular organ recitals at the church. The presence of the restored and rebuilt organ in the City Hall did not impact on good attendances at the church's recitals.

 

Encouraging attempts to revive the church's choral tradition are achieving some success under the direction of Serena Derrett, wife of a one-time well-known contributor to this forum.

 

The present condition of the organ is not in a good state. Wind leakage is immediately noticeable from numerous sources and many of the stops have not spoken for a long time, a progressive state of affairs. Compton's legendary transmission system is now in dire need of replacement. The console, too, looks to be in a sad, tired state, giving the impression that it was perhaps once played by a motor mechanic who had yet to learn about Swarfega. There comes a time when patching is no longer effective and I suggest that time arrived several years ago.

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Wondering what this place/this church does look like, and to increase my knowledge about fine churches in Englang, I visited Trinity's website. Even the organ can be heard there, and the tuba is still fine, played perhaps not with the first choice of music. Impressive, though.

 

Is it possible to say that it is somewhat similar to the organ of Derby cathedral? This one I know from live-listening and even some playing years ago...

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  • 1 month later...

... We learned some time ago that Canterbury is seeking vast sums to achieve equally vast changes to its organs of which nothing has been heard since. And only just recently we have learned that Exeter needs to raise around £1million for extensive work on its organ. An incredible amount of money for what is an average-size cathedral organ. My guess is that in this instance the “drop of a hat” metaphor may well be appropriate and, hey presto, the money is forthcoming.

 

Firstly, Canterbury Cathedral: I had heard about the plans. Am I correct in thinking that the cathedral authorities wish to rebuild the 'Quire' organ as a four-clavier instrument and also provide a new, substantial (four-clavier?) instrument, to be sited somewhere in the Nave? In any case, I have always thought this organ to be slightly odd. It is the only English cathedral organ without a case (or even a pipe-front). Furthermore, it must be one of the most difficult instruments on which to accompany services. Aside from the present real lack of sufficient quiet registers, even with the Nave Organ, it must be virtually impossible to provide enough organ sound for large Nave congregations. I am also slightly surprised that, as far as I know, no-one has yet bemoaned the loss of the Pedal 32ft. flue from this instrument - unlike that at Gloucester Cathedral.

 

With regard to Exeter Cathedral: this is also a little strange. The organ was last rebuilt a little over ten years ago, when (apparently), it was not cleaned or overhauled - just enlarged. Now it is again dismantled and the interior layout is to be reconfigured completely - for a very large sum of money. Apparently the instrument is to have new soundboards, and, as stated, a new layout. There is no mention of upgrading the key actions, though. Neither are there to be any tonal alterations, which seems a bit of a lost opportunity.

 

I wonder how much difference a new layout will make. Given the size (and position) of the case, there is a limit on how disparate the interior disposition of the various departments can be. There is no mention of whether the Choir and Solo organs are to swap places - which would be a sensible plan - and something which should have been done a long time ago. In any case, the Swell and G.O. soundboards will still need to run East to West. In addition, the Swell and G.O. layout will still have to be on two levels (due to restrictions in the depth of the case), as was the case until January of this year.

 

Whilst the instrument is tightly packed inside Loosemore's superb case, it is interesting to note that, at the time of the 1891 rebuild (by FHW), the Choir Organ, G.O. and Solo Organ each had one extra slide and rank of pipes on the main soundboard. In the case of the Choir Organ, somewhat unusually, the Salicional and Vox Angelica were on the open soundboard, whilst the three orchestral reeds (which were transferred to the Solo Organ by H&H, in 1933) were enclosed in a small expression box. At this time (as was often the case with FHW), the Solo Organ was disposed on an entirely open soundboard. In addition, it was likely that the action occupied somewhat greater space than it does today.

 

It will be interesting to see and hear the results. However, it is a great deal of money.

 

 

At the risk of being labelled a repetitive bore, my mind turns again to the plight of the untouched 75-year-old 4-manual Compton organ in Holy Trinity Church, Hull, England’s largest parish church. If Exeter is going to cost £1million I dare not guess what the larger Holy Trinity Compton will require. But perhaps I should be reminded that Yorkshire shrewdness will prevail and ultimately a builder other than the UK’s reputedly most expensive will be favoured. However, the ultimate question will remain. From where is the money to be found to restore (not tinker with) a historically important organ?

 

This is an interesting point. I am still trying to comprehend the fact that (apparently) it cost £800,000 simply to restore the organ of Saint Mary, Redcliffe, Bristol. As far as I know, the only alterations were a new layout for the Swell Organ and the removal of the G.O. Mixture V to the main G.O. soundboard. In any case, this stop has a slightly un-convincing composition. It would have made more sense simply to re-cast it as a standard H&H 15-19-22-26-29 Mixture * - which was what Arthur Harrison normally provided for the G.O. of his larger instruments (in addition to the 'Harmonics' compound stop - although as built, the Redcliffe organ lacked this feature).

 

With regard to Holy Trinity, Hull. it would be interesting to learn of the present condition of the organ. A few weeks ago, I found a link to the website of the church, where there was a further link to a video of the present organist playing a piece. However, after listening to the vicar's rather 'upbeat' introduction - and learning the title of the piece to be played - I simply could not force myself to listen to it. Perhaps one day this organ will be restored; unfortunately, at the present time, it does not seem that this is likely to happen in the near future.

 

 

* It is possible that the composition of this stop (as given in the NPOR) is incorrect. In a footnote, the Bristol and District Organists' Association lists the composition as 15-19-22-26-29 at C1.

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The Redcliffe Great Mixture is given as 12.15.19.22.26 on the church website and as the NPOR entry appears to have been made by Andrew Kirk the DOM this would also seem more likely to be correct. I suspect the BDOA need just to update their website entry.

 

A

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The Redcliffe Great Mixture is given as 12.15.19.22.26 on the church website and as the NPOR entry appears to have been made by Andrew Kirk the DOM this would also seem more likely to be correct. I suspect the BDOA need just to update their website entry.

 

A

 

Alastair, thank you.

 

In which case, someone should have thought to change it. Such a composition (with three quint ranks - and a uncovered quint at the top), is unsatisfactory - and historically inaccurate. Surely the slight re-casting of this one compound stop along normal 'Arthur Harrison' lines could have been included in the enormous cost of this restoration?

 

A more typical composition for this stop should be:

 

C1: 15-19-22-26-29

C#26: 8-12-15-19-22

G#45: 1-5-8-12-15

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With regard to Holy Trinity, Hull. it would be interesting to learn of the present condition of the organ. A few weeks ago, I found a link to the website of the church, where there was a further link to a video of the present organist playing a piece. However, after listening to the vicar's rather 'upbeat' introduction - and learning the title of the piece to be played - I simply could not force myself to listen to it. Perhaps one day this organ will be restored; unfortunately, at the present time, it does not seem that this is likely to happen in the near future.

 

 

I cannot give you an up-to-date report as I no longer live in the area, but I know when Paul Derrett and his wife, Serena, were appointed as joint directors of music several years ago, Paul was, dare I say, very excited about the instrument and did quite a good deal of work to bring a number of stops back on speech. But given that it's had no major work done on it since Compton rebuilt and enlarged it in 1938, it's not a one-man task. Upon the Compton demise the organ was under the care (essentially tuning) of R&D until their demise and more latterly has been given periodic tunings by Principal Pipe Organs. I am led to believe that in perhaps the last 30 years some useful sums have been forthcoming from local sources specifically for work on the organ, but this was deemed by the then vicar to be more usefully applied to other projects.

 

I don't know what part of the country you reside in, PCND, but I daresay a call to Serena Derrett (Her number is shown on the Holy Trinity website), would perhaps enable you hands-on access to the console were you ever to visit Hull or East Yorkshire.

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With regard to Holy Trinity, Hull. it would be interesting to learn of the present condition of the organ. A few weeks ago, I found a link to the website of the church, where there was a further link to a video of the present organist playing a piece. However, after listening to the vicar's rather 'upbeat' introduction - and learning the title of the piece to be played - I simply could not force myself to listen to it. Perhaps one day this organ will be restored; unfortunately, at the present time, it does not seem that this is likely to happen in the near future.

 

 

I cannot give you an up-to-date report as I no longer live in the area, but I know when Paul Derrett and his wife, Serena, were appointed as joint directors of music several years ago, Paul was, dare I say, very excited about the instrument and did quite a good deal of work to bring a number of stops back on speech. But given that it's had no major work done on it since Compton rebuilt and enlarged it in 1938, it's not a one-man task. Upon the Compton demise the organ was under the care (essentially tuning) of R&D until their demise and more latterly has been given periodic tunings by Principal Pipe Organs. I am led to believe that in perhaps the last 30 years some useful sums have been forthcoming from local sources specifically for work on the organ, but this was deemed by the then vicar to be more usefully applied to other projects.

 

I don't know what part of the country you reside in, PCND, but I daresay a call to Serena Derrett (Her number is shown on the Holy Trinity website), would perhaps enable you hands-on access to the console were you ever to visit Hull or East Yorkshire.

 

Thank you for this information. Barry.

 

I shall certainly try to contact Serena if I am in that area.

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Firstly, Canterbury Cathedral: I had heard about the plans. Am I correct in thinking that the cathedral authorities wish to rebuild the 'Quire' organ as a four-clavier instrument and also provide a new, substantial (four-clavier?) instrument, to be sited somewhere in the Nave?

 

The document I saw, some time ago, on the Cathedral website was suggesting that the main organ would return to 4 manuals and that the voicing was to return to a more "Willis" style. A 4 manual "French Style" organ was planned for the nave

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The document I saw, some time ago, on the Cathedral website was suggesting that the main organ would return to 4 manuals and that the voicing was to return to a more "Willis" style. A 4 manual "French Style" organ was planned for the nave

 

Thank you. However, it appears to have been quiet on this score for a few years, now. Perhaps the current recession has encouraged a re-think.

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Canterbury - actually, it's a very nice organ to play when accompanying, although one has to be aware of some difference in balance when heard down in the Quire. The extra variety offered by a Solo Organ is missed - Allan Wicks used to say he'd made a mistake in getting rid of it - but what is there is very flexible. You can use the Great more freely in choral accompaniment than is possible with a lot of cathedral organs and it now has a Vox(!). I think the organ sounds lovely in the Quire, and I don't agree at all with those who say that it no longer sounds like a] Canterbury or b] Father Willis. The Nave Organ is not loud, but does the job. Like some other such divisions it seems to draw the sound of the main organ down into the building and the result is, I think, as good as one could wish for with the present layout.

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Canterbury is such a difficult building to make one instrument work effectively either side of the crossing. There are solutions, but I suspect they would be too organ-centric and visually prominent to ever be considered.

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Yes, Quire and Nave are effectively two buildings on different levels, separated by a relatively narrow crossing. However, I think they've hit on a most effective solution (if they still do things the way they did when I took Belfast Cathedral Choir there in the early nineties - I haven't experienced a nave service there since). When the Nave is in use, the choir sits on the steps behind the Nave Altar which lead up to the screen. This is quite comfy, and a choir in that position can easily be accompanied by the main organ because, even though it's on the other side of the screen, it's high up and the sound comes over well. I can think of other large cathedrals where it's more difficult to sing in the choir-stalls than in the Nave at Canterbury. It looks good, too, IMHO.

 

Perhaps it would be nice to have a big organ on the Nave side, but I can't think where it would go, and be more effective than the present set-up. Could one, even at Canterbury, justify a large Nave Organ which would be mostly used for ceremonial occasions, when most of the worship takes place in the Quire?

 

Fortunately, it's not my problem, and certainly not my business - it's just fun to speculate! :P

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The issue of accompanying nave services I believe had been a concern for years. They installed an electronic organ for nave services beck in the 60's to solve the problem and I thought the nave division installed in 1980 was a pipe solution. I do agree with David Drinkell about the Quire organ, though my memories are dim and distant now - I can remember David Flood accompanying Howells St Pauls and finishing on full sw, and gt (minus the gt reeds) and almost full pedal...the cathedral choir effortlessly singing over this.

I agree its certainly interesting speculate!

 

Here is an interesting article:

http://www.organforu...-photo-warning)

 

There are times when it would be handy to own a large pair of shears....

 

The comments regarding the main organ are interesting - although I attended an Evensong there in the mid-1990s and thought that the organ was far too loud at several points during the service. It certainly swamped the choir on several occasions. I cannot help but think that this organ, at least with regard to choral accompaniment, functions as a large two-clavier instrument. As useful as it may be for certain repertoire, I doubt that the Choir Organ is much use, other than the two 8ft, flues. I understand that the triforium was somewhat cramped (and therefore maintenance access restricted), but surely there was plenty of other space available - the North Quire Triforium, for a start. Or, with the provision of two new cases, the G.O. flue-work could have been placed on two soundboards and divided between the cases. To lose the former Choir and Solo organs, with their wealth of accompanimental registers, seems to me to be incredible.

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  • 1 month later...

According to info on the KCOA, work dismantling Canterbury is about to start soon and that the "new organ" is unlikely to be installed before the end of 2014 or early 2015.

 

It's unclear whether the organ is being rebuilt ( as previously discussed) or new.

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