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Christchurch Oxford and one or two other queries


Martin Cooke
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I'm interested in the Chist Church Oxford instrument - I have never played it nor do I ever expect to be invited to do so, but read a comment on Paul Hale's (interesting) website where he says he advised on new console arrangement and playing aids. I think I once heard that when it was first installed, the organ had no playing aids at all. Is that true? And if roughly true, what has Paul Hale's scheme provided and who did the work? Could someone who has some knowledge of this organ tell the story?

 

As an aside - thinking of this instrument and other long-standing eclectic ones such as Trinity Cambridge and New College Oxford... who looks after them, and have they ever been rebuilt? Do they show any signs of needing this?

 

Martin

 

PS - Apologies for my wrong spelling of Christ Church in the topic header - it seems that you can't edit headers when you realise you've got something wrong like this!

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Not quite. I think Rieger refused to add playing aids in 1979, but there were 6 generals, and 4 divisionals to each department, when I knew it in the early 1990s; one memory level only. Legend was the system was designed by a physics fellow and ran off a car battery. Whether that was true or not, the mechanism would give up at crucial moments (most memorably halfway through a live Evensong broadcast of some very difficult Sebastian Forbes - the longest 3 seconds of my life) and big pieces would entail resetting pistons in silent bars with inevitable results for rehearsals with the choir. It was a hard instrument hard to manage, and hard to play, but learning to do so was a fantastic discipline. There's a now a full complement of generals (16 I think) and divisionals (8 per manual, I think - possibly 6) , stepper, etc. I have a feeling Rieger did the work, but am not certain. Trinity has not been rebuilt since 1975 and is currently looked after by Bill Johnson; New College has had some revoicing done since its installation and its temperament has changed (currently Thomas Young, I think) but there's been no other substantial mechanical work or major rebuild. NCO is getting a bit tired; Trinity is marvellous in every possible way and is strating to be used a lot more for commercial recording (Robery Quinney and I have both used it for Bach discs this year).

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I was an undergraduate at Christ Church when the Rieger was installed. The original piston system was pretty much as described by sjf1967 above; the 6 general pistons duplicated by pedals to the left of the swell box and all the couplers (7) duplicated by pedals to the right. There were, perhaps obviously, no pistons to Manual IV. I have a vague memory that the 7th coupler was changed from IV/P to IV/II at a relatively late stage; at any rate one of my acquaintances had the redundant IV/P pedal in their possession for some years.

 

The combination system was installed by Rieger at the same time as the rest of the instrument but did not work correctly. Stops would be added in the normal fashion but not subtracted. The pistons were small white plastic and illuminated when pressed. The Christ Church chemistry tutor Richard Wayne was suddenly on the scene armed with a soldering iron and his work over perhaps a week or less immediately prior to the dedicatory services and concerts enabled them to go ahead without a hitch.

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