Jump to content
Mander Organs
Neil Crawford

Canterbury Cathedral & Manchester Cathedral, New organs

Recommended Posts

23 hours ago, John Furse said:

I'm more than mildly astounded: 89 stops and ONE separate (Choir) tierce in the whole instrument (?),

How has the Cornet Voluntary offended ? And, large swathes of the continental repertoire are 'inaccessible', with only inaccurate rendering possible.

I'm sure it will sound grand . . . but, somehow, incomplete.

 

It is interesting to compare the tonal resources of the two organs of this thread. As regards tierce registrations, Manchester offers three options (Gt Cornet; Pos Cornet decomposé; Choir Sesquialtera) which - I believe - can be used on three separate manuals by means of a Choir on Solo transfer (not listed on the builder's website, but which I have seen on a photograph of the screen console). However, whilst such comparisons are practically relevant to some aspects of the performance of repertoire, a crucial consideration is that these two instruments have been built and are being rebuilt from fundamentally different starting points. Whereas Manchester is an entirely new instrument, reusing only a small selection of pipework from the previous instrument, broadly speaking, Canterbury seems to be the recreation of the spirit of the 1948 Willis rebuild. 

Has the Cornet Voluntary offended? And are large swathes of the continental repertoire inaccessible? And will it sound incomplete? I suggest not. The performance of music always takes place within limitations; indeed, is this not the point of creativity which makes live performances so vital? Yes, whilst it will not be possible to register every piece of organ music, even large swathes of organ music, with stop names and combinations that appear and perhaps sound similar, there will nonetheless be many convincing and individual performances of music with the ample resources available.

The question of accessibility of repertoire is not just confined to stop lists. It is influenced by the voicing and scale of choruses, by the physical layout of the instrument, and its placement in the building. Even if this instrument were to have three separate tierce registrations, the difference between the layout of a werkprinzip instrument and the one proposed at Canterbury would already create a distinction, rendering, in the opinion of some I'm sure, an authentic performance already impossible. For instance, from experience, listening to some dialogical baroque fantasia in the nave of a cathedral such as Canterbury, some aspects of the music, notably the directness of sound and the spatial effect which were almost undoubtedly imagined and intended by the composer are completely lost owing to these factors. The situation is quite different in Manchester. 

But OK, as a tierce rank is materially and financially relative insignificant in a scheme such as Canterbury, perhaps it would have been nice to squeeze one in somewhere. But then where does one stop? For me, the convincing performance of music begins and is most dependent on the technical facility and creative rhetoric of the performer. Yes, it's great to hear music performed on instruments that are as close as possible to those for which it was intended. But a critical aspect of the living tradition is the way in which music has subsequently been reinterpreted and performed in new contexts in a manner which is both respectful of, but not unnecessarily limited by the sources of that music.

As has already been noted, the prime function of this instrument is the accompaniment of the choral and congregational opus Dei, and all indications are that, post-rebuild, it will do better justice to this task with the expanded/restored tonal resources. The tonal palette offered is wide within the tradition of this instrument, and I look forward to hearing how organists will creatively perform Cornet Voluntaries and the aforementioned Messaien in time to come.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, David Drinkell said:

I observe in passing that there is no separate tierce at Peterborough Cathedral, neither was there in the old organ at Worcester, although both had Great Cornets.

Though Peterborough now has a nasard and sesquialtera on the choir - added in 2016, along with a tuba mirabilis 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mea culpa!  I should have remembered that! An important need has been addressed (two if you count the new Tuba).  I know it's naughty of me, but I liked the massive Great foundation at Peterborough as left by HN&B in 1930 - Sub Bass 32, Double Open, Bourdon and Double Dulciana 16, Diapason Phonon, three Opens, Geigen, Harmonic Clarabella, Hohl Flute, Stopped Diapason and Dulciana 8.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

“I only lamented the lack of a Cornet !

    It seems I have stirred up the nest of a hornet.

    I sought a strong tierce –

    Have provoked some ire fierce –

    But, could still a radiant Mountie* adorn it ?”

 

I read with interest Peter Gunstone’s well-argued and cogent post. I agree with much (most) of it. However, I believe there are far worse things in this increasingly fraught world than having an opinion, based on a lifetime’s varied experience, worldwide.

 

Were it in my gift, I would have a Mounted Cornet, bold & forthright - able to complement reeds in Bombarde-style and perform its eponymous Voluntaries. I recall with fondness the one I was fortunate to have access to, early in my career. I also recall with pleasure, amongst others, Rotherhithe and the Dallams in Brittany.

 

I really believe there is no adequate substitute.

 

I don’t wish the organ in our Primate’s Cathedral to sound like a Schnitger, Silbermann, Clicquot, or even Echevarría, but this is a minor/major feature of the English organ and its repertoire that is (presumably) unable to be convincingly performed. That is, unless the Choir mutations are on unbelievably high pressure.

 

I am aware of the processes necessary for a 'new' organ in an Anglican church, having been subject to them in a past life. In fact, as I write, I am shortly to meet an eminent organ-builder, to discuss a ‘legacy instrument’: i.e. one that I will never hear. Happily, and free from all such constraints, I can rant, mildly and wistfully.

 

 

*No, David: I'm not suggesting an officer of the RCMP is permanently on the case, as it were !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder if what you have in mind is akin to that at the Ulster Hall, Belfast, of which Lord Dunleath (the consultant when our hosts rebuilt the instrument in 1976, as well as the great-great-grandson of the donor, Andrew Mulholland) said:

"The main departure from original in the Solo department was the addition of a Cornet, which Hill used to provide in his earlier days but seems to have given up by 1860.  He would have a fright if he heard this one which beats all the Great Reeds hands down and is virtually equal to the Tuba. One of these days I suppose that it will have to be tamed to make it more versatile, though I will be sad as I like loud exciting noises.  Cecil Clutton I suppose was right in saying that its main role, at present, would be to lead the singing of "Rule Britannia" as it is out of proportion for the Grand Jeu job or for other works where a balance with the Great Reeds is required." (The Organ Volume 59, Number 233, July 1980)

Knowing the organ well, I think Lord Dunleath was exaggerating slightly (the two big Solo mixtures, especially the Cymbal, are rather more over-the-top), and his sheer joy in jolly noises was something which I think is important.  It is said that, when the Fanfare Trumpet was installed (the original pipes were dummies), they sat him up in the rear gallery and fired it off at him, whereupon he jumped six inches, said, "Gad! That's really something!", or words to that effect, and wrote out the cheque for it there and then.  As far as I know, the Ulster Hall Cornet has not yet been tamed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, John Furse said:

“I only lamented the lack of a Cornet !

    It seems I have stirred up the nest of a hornet.

    I sought a strong tierce –

    Have provoked some ire fierce –

    But, could still a radiant Mountie* adorn it ?”

 

I read with interest Peter Gunstone’s well-argued and cogent post. I agree with much (most) of it. However, I believe there are far worse things in this increasingly fraught world than having an opinion, based on a lifetime’s varied experience, worldwide.

 

Were it in my gift, I would have a Mounted Cornet, bold & forthright - able to complement reeds in Bombarde-style and perform its eponymous Voluntaries. I recall with fondness the one I was fortunate to have access to, early in my career. I also recall with pleasure, amongst others, Rotherhithe and the Dallams in Brittany.

 

I really believe there is no adequate substitute.

 

I don’t wish the organ in our Primate’s Cathedral to sound like a Schnitger, Silbermann, Clicquot, or even Echevarría, but this is a minor/major feature of the English organ and its repertoire that is (presumably) unable to be convincingly performed. That is, unless the Choir mutations are on unbelievably high pressure.

 

I am aware of the processes necessary for a 'new' organ in an Anglican church, having been subject to them in a past life. In fact, as I write, I am shortly to meet an eminent organ-builder, to discuss a ‘legacy instrument’: i.e. one that I will never hear. Happily, and free from all such constraints, I can rant, mildly and wistfully.

 

 

*No, David: I'm not suggesting an officer of the RCMP is permanently on the case, as it were !

I salute you: what brilliant, bold, and forthright post! You've almost convinced me to change my mind. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With reference to the organ of Canterbury Cathedral, the proposed stop-list looks to be quite comprehensive and largely sensible. I must admit that I am not particularly bothered by the presence of but one third-sounding rank. However, I am not convinced that the Choir Organ has been as well thought-out as the other divisions. It looks rather like a few other recent Harrison schemes. For one thing, given the presence of a Fifteenth in the Mixture  III (15-19-22), it might have been useful to have used the separate Fifteenth slide for a Larigot or even an Octavin 1ft., as was formerly the case in the 1948 scheme. In fact, a re-creation of the 1948 Choir Organ might have been more versatile in any case. A second 8ft. Flute (more Romantic in character) might have been useful.

 

However, it does appear that the new scheme, if fully realised, is likely to prove even more versatile than the present scheme. I have no doubt that the Solo Organ will prove its worth in Psalm accompaniment in particular.

It is also good to see a second, quieter, 32ft. flue included. A 32ft. Double Open Wood, as useful as it may be in moments of grandeur (such as the last page or two of the first movement of the Elgar Sonata), is generally rather less useful in quieter registrations - particularly those of an ethereal nature.

 

I note that I was correct in my assumption of the intervals of the G.O. compound stops at C1, in my post of 4 October 2017. One will be the existing Willis Mixture (15-17-19-22), and the other will be a new quint Mixture, commencing (19-22-26-29). Again, this makes perfect sense, and will provide the best of both worlds.

David Drinkell made an interesting point regarding Hill's compound stops in an earlier post. I must admit that I have always preferred Hill's Mixtures to those of Willis. I would gladly suppress the third-sounding ranks without a second thought. I take his point regarding the inclusion of a Tierce rank in the bass (which generally dropped out after about eighteen notes, or more rarely, after the first octave). However, I believe that it was included to aid clarity in the bass (perhaps with the use of the clavier to Pedal coupler in mind), and that Hill preferred the majority of the compass to contain quint and unison ranks only.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding Hill mixtures, I think one must consider which period (and, indeed, which Hill) is being cited.  Old William Hill mixtures can be very fine, whether or not they contained tierces (Ulster Hall and the large 2m 1865 organ at Kilmore, Co. Armagh), but the 1875 Hill at St. Thomas, Belfast never impressed me, despite playing it rather a lot (it has to be said, regarding the latter, that the old boys in Belfast maintained that the upperwork had been toned down for a previous organist in the first half of last century and wasn't opened up again at the restoration in 1998).  I always liked the 1914  Hill at Londonderry Guildhall, tierce mixtures and all, and in many ways preferred it to that at the Ulster Hall.

Hill mixtures were extensively vilified by Colonel Dixon and Henry Willis III, although Willis admitted that his grandfather had, in his later instruments, shaded off the upperwork in response to general  taste, Hope-Jones, etc.

I'm not the best person to talk about Hill organs, because I've never been that keen on most of them (with certain very notable exceptions, such as the cathedrals of Chester and Cork and the aforementioned one at Kilmore).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I saw that.

They had been talking for 2-3 years about getting a temporary "virtual organ" solution, but that conversation had gone quietly recently, and they obviously decided to go down a different route.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×