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London Oratory Organ


AJJ

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I have recently acquired the excellent Priory CD of Matthew Martin playing the organ in the Brompton Oratory but I am curious as to the purpose of the column of mini stop knobs/pistons just to the left of the Choir Organ stops on the RH stop jamb. Can anyone enlighten please?

 

A

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Hi AJJ,

 

I don't have an answer to this, but I did note something in the Brompton Oratory entry in NPOR which may (or may not?) be relevant. After mentioning the ordinary pistons below the specification proper, the entry says, "plus 'advance' and 'retreat' pistons". I've never seen anything referred to as 'advance' or 'retreat' pistons before; what are they? Are they Walker specials?

 

Rgds,

MJF

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I have recently acquired the excellent Priory CD of Matthew Martin playing the organ in the Brompton Oratory but I am curious as to the purpose of the column of mini stop knobs/pistons just to the left of the Choir Organ stops on the RH stop jamb. Can anyone enlighten please?

 

A

 

They appear to be standard (for that time) Walker piston heads. (Identical to those on the Walker instrument here.) Looking at the console, I note that the inner panel on each jamb is thinner than the others. This type of console layout was often employed by Walker's, in moderate-sized instruments. The Minster organ here is another example. It was not unusual to find one of these panels left blank - or perhaps with one or two switches, but no draw-stops.

 

I then looked at the NPOR entry, and the article in Choir & Organ (as listed in the NPOR survey). Whilst Choir & Organ gives no details about the restoration of 2004-05, I note that the accessories as given in the NPOR are as at March 1998. I wonder if, at the time of the 2004-05 restoration, the number of general pistons was increased and, perhaps for reasons of economy, the existing layout of the key-slips (with the pistons spaced more widely than became common by around the 1960s *), was retained. Therefore, perhaps it was decided to mount the new (and extra ?) general pistons on the empty right-hand inner jamb panel. In fact, the pistons appear to be duplicated; there are two which are engraved with the numeral '4', and I suspect that this is the case for all five pistons. I am not sure why this has been done. Multiple memory levels would obviate the need for duplicate pistons - and these are hardly convenient for a registrant to press without running the risk of accidentally knocking the player's right arm.

 

 

 

* Although I can think of at least one exception to this - and many years earlier: the organ, by Harrison & Harrison, which was constructed in 1928-29 for Newcastle City Hall. Contemporary photographs show that the divisional pistons (there were and are no generals) were placed somewhat more closely together that was customary. Compare this layout - which still obtains - with that of either Westminster Abbey or Winchester Cathedral, by the same firm, and it will be seen that the latter two consoles have kept the 'old' wider spacing, which results in the pistons occupying most of the key-slips.

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