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AJJ

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My family and I are planning a short visit to Edinburgh early next year - as we are all going 'organ business' will need to be kept to a minimum and introduced into my part of the itinerary at least with stealth for fear of all kinds of retributions from my wife and two teenage daughters! Can anyone recommend just one instrument to try and get a look at keeping in mind that I am unlikely to be up there again for a while.

 

Thanks in anticipation!

 

A

 

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My family and I are planning a short visit to Edinburgh early next year - as we are all going 'organ business' will need to be kept to a minimum and introduced into my part of the itinerary at least with stealth for fear of all kinds of retributions from my wife and two teenage daughters! Can anyone recommend just one instrument to try and get a look at keeping in mind that I am unlikely to be up there again for a while.

 

Thanks in anticipation!

 

A

 

 

You could try the FHW/H&H instrument in Saint Mary's Cathedral: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=D07927

 

On recordings, I have found the Rieger in Saint Giles' Cathedral http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=D02680 to be unsatisfying. However, if you do not fancy the look of the more Romantic instrument above, you could check it out and see what you think in the building. I must admit that I dislike the look of it, with its very red, pointy case.

 

If you want something a bit off-beat, how about Greyfriars Kirk http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N09208 - complete with its 32ft. 'Rumble' on the Pedal Organ (perhaps a very 'honest' description).

 

However, if you wish for something new - and by one of our lesser-known builders (now retired), there is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Mary: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=E01163 , with its quasi-French terraced 'amphitheatre' console.

 

Then there is the large four-clavier Romantic* instrument in the McEwan Hall, University of Edinburgh: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N11935

 

I am not sure about the former Willis organ in the Church of Saint John the Evangelist, Princes Street http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=A00947 . Prior to 1974, it was a large example of the work of Rushworth & Dreaper - at a time when they were producing some really good Romantic instruments. The quality of the voicing would almost certainly have been excellent. However, it has since undergone extensive alterations by two different firms, and is presently in a state of limbo. There is an expressed desire to return this instrument to closer to its Father Willis 'roots'. However, exactly what is proposed is not made clear.As built by FHW, it was around half the size of the R&D instrument - and tonally, probably worlds apart. However, as rebuilt by Goldsmith (in 1974), the stop-list was rather different from either - and again, the instrument was enlarged. Further restorative work was undertaken by Geoffrey Coffin (Principal Pipe Organs) in 2009, which included the removal of some unspecified ranks. However, my guess is that this instrument is currently not particularly representative of any one firm. Naturally this does not preclude it being a good instrument; but if you only have limited time, I hesitate to recommend it.

 

And a wildcard? this one: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=R01696 Or you might wish to look at the following information on this instrument: http://holyrude.org/organ_guide.htm

 

Now, if you decide on this instrument as the only one, be warned - it is approximately thirty-five miles north-west of Edinburgh. Therefore, you will need either to have taken your wife out for a romantic dinner for two here; http://www.thestockbridgerestaurant.co.uk/ or tell her that you have just discovered that a dearly loved elderly maiden aunt is at death's door in a nursing home in Glasgow,§ and you simply have to visit her this one last time. Alternatively, you could drug your wife, leave her asleep in your hotel room - and drive really quickly to Stirling. As far as your daughters are concerned - just tell them that One Direction are performing live here: http://www.murrayfieldexperience.com/ - or buy a larger bottle of chloroform.

 

I have no idea how you could even begin to explain this precipitate course of action on your return. I suspect that flowers and a large box of Thorntons' best would not even begin to cut it.

 

However, as long as you can ascertain that this instrument is currently maintained in good playing order - hell, I think that it is well worth the risk....

 

 

 

 

 

* Notwithstanding the three mutations on the Choir Organ.

 

§ Under no circumstances should you tell her that the nursing home is located in Stirling - if she wakes up and follows you there, she may learn of the organ in the Church of the Holy Rude - in which case, you are undone.

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If you only get to see/hear one instrument in the city, for my money it would be the Rieger, which is absolutely glorious. (And if you have not yet been convinced of it on recordings, look out for the Kenneth Leighton recording to be released on Resonus in Spring next year - the Missa de Gloria, Martyrs, the Hymn Tune Fantasias, and the Improvisation).

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The Organ Club had a very successful tour of Edinburgh in May 2013. If someone near you has the tour brochure it might provide some ideas. Pictures of those organs visited (except one) are now on the NPOR including a water engine. (The NPOR is not currently working for me following what appears to be a software update). The Organ Club Journal for Oct this year should have a write up and pictures when published. You are welcome to contact me if you are up my way sometime.

PJW

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Probably the Rieger in St. Giles. The chorus reeds let it down, IMHO (I'm sure others will disagree), but the overall effect is gorgeous and very full of character. It looks wonderful, too. If you get the chance, St. Giles has choral eucharist at 10.00am on Sundays (surely unique for a presbyterian church). It is extremely well-done - better than most Anglican churches these days - and well worth experiencing. The choir sings the Ordinary to a setting (sometimes in Latin) and there is a motet.

 

The trouble is, Edinburgh probably has a wider range of interesting organs than any other city in the UK....

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Probably the Rieger in St. Giles. The chorus reeds let it down, IMHO (I'm sure others will disagree)...

 

Isn't this so often the case with this type of organ? At least it is in my experience. I don't know the St Giles organ well enough to comment specifically on that, but so often you have wonderful, well-scaled, characterful fluework completely let down by reeds that are a bit too much the "wrong side" of French to be of any use in a British context. Their chamades can be pretty exciting though. Maybe it's just me...

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Thanks all - I will keep my eyes open in the next OCJ and keep an ear to the grapevine for the Resonus CD. Stirling also sounds fun - possibly the anticipation of anything to do with One Direction (surely the first mention on here?) would actually persuade my two to join an organ jaunt!

 

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In response to Philip's comment - NPOR has indeed had a software update, butit was back up on Friday - and it's there now (9:10 Sunday morning).

 

Not on my computer Tony. It still does not work at 0941 Sunday. The front page comes up with the tabs across the top but only one of them works and sadly it is not the one for the NPOR. And it does not work on a friend's browser and comes up with the top tabs all mangled on the LHS. (We both use IE as the browser).

Regards

PJW

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Stirling is the absolute of embodiment of "Rushworth's could really do it when they wanted to". It is also fabled to be loud enough to make the worms jump out of their holes on the adjacent bowling green.

 

If you're driving south after your visit to Edinburgh, drop in at Haddington Collegiate Church and try their Lammermuir 3 manual. I think it's marvellous, despite its being completely unlike the sort of thing I usually go for!

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NPOR is fine for me also, on both Chrome and IE.

 

I link directly to this page: http://www.npor.org.uk/xnpor_search_keyword.shtml

Thank you that also works for me. However it is not the proper front end of everything ie the home page. I use the entry which comes up on the Google search for 'npor organ' in order to get to http://www.npor.org.uk/ but that is now showing up differently. I have been in touch with Mike Sayers who is looking into it for me so thank you to all who have commented.

PJW

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Stirling is the absolute of embodiment of "Rushworth's could really do it when they wanted to". It is also fabled to be loud enough to make the worms jump out of their holes on the adjacent bowling green.

 

If you're driving south after your visit to Edinburgh, drop in at Haddington Collegiate Church and try their Lammermuir 3 manual. I think it's marvellous, despite its being completely unlike the sort of thing I usually go for!

Haddington has just grown another manual; it was Gt, Chair and Pedal last time I looked! Nearby in Dalkeith is the Buccleuchs church. St mary's Episcopal Church has an 1845 3M+P Hamilton organ complete with its water engine. Also nearby is one of the architectural gems of Scotland, Rosslyn Chapel with its links to Dan Brown's book 'The da Vinci Code' that might interest the rest of the family while you have a look at the Hamilton organ restored by Lammermuir in 2010.

PJW

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Stirling is the absolute of embodiment of "Rushworth's could really do it when they wanted to". It is also fabled to be loud enough to make the worms jump out of their holes on the adjacent bowling green.

 

If you're driving south after your visit to Edinburgh, drop in at Haddington Collegiate Church and try their Lammermuir 3 manual. I think it's marvellous, despite its being completely unlike the sort of thing I usually go for!

The chorus mixtures at Stirling were mucked around with in the 1970s and to my mind really spoil the ff choruses, sticking out like sore thumbs. But if you keep it quiet there's lots of good stuff to explore. The R&D in the Reid Memorial Church, Edinburgh (http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N11959) has not been tweaked and is therefore, to my mind, more enjoyable to play. It doesn't have the Burmese Gong that Stirling does, however!

 

Anyone who wants to know more about the lovely organs in Edinburgh ought to buy the splendid 'Organs of Edinburgh' book published three years ago or so, which has lots of colour photos and four CDs of 22 different instruments around the city - see http://www.edinburghorganists.org/Pages/CDProject.aspx for more details including a complete track listing.

 

The McEwan organ is currently in bits, being comprehensively rebuilt by Forth Pipe Organs (new soundboards, Swell chorus reeds, etc.).

 

The NPOR entries for Edinburgh are unusually up-to-date and accurate so it's well worth a browse having searched for Edinburgh. There's lots of photographs too.

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Sorry - brainfart re Haddington! It is a two-manual!

 

I agree about the mixtures (and sundry other tweakings) at Stirling. It's a pity it was altered in any way. The Great Harmonics was 15.17.19.22 and the Swell Mixture 17.19.21.22. I've heard that Rushworth mixtures like the latter could be very effective. There was also a Cornet Mixture 12.15.17 on the Choir and the Pedal 12.17.19.21.22 was still so constituted the last time I played there.

 

I first met the late Richard Galloway, long-time organist there, when I was in my teens. While we were at the organ, a garrulous American organist came up. "What does it play best?" he asked. "Everything!" said Dick, in that wonderful Fife accent that brooked no argument. Later, I got to know him well as I taught on the Scottish Organ Summer School in Perth, where he was also City Organist (a pity the Willis III four manual rebuild went to Australia - it was a fine beast). I learned a lot, drank a prodigious amount of whisky, and heard a good number of salacious stories that I still use when choir practice gets a bit slow.

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Lots of fine organs to see in Edinburgh. St.Giles is a big landmark and would be a very good option for you (it's on the Royal Mile) but be warned it's so loud it's sick.

 

The others I'd suggest - Usher Hall (succulently opulent N&B), The Reid Concert Hall (Ahrend) - are difficult for access. St Stephen's Centre has a very fine Willis organ in very poor condition - it depends on what floats your boat. Probably not a good one for a stealth family visit - I don't know if the centre is open these days.

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I have read all of this with great interest because I, too, was on the Organ Club visit to Edinburgh in May this year and was astounded at the shear quantity of interesting and distinguished instruments in that City and its environs.

 

However, if time (and family) only allow for a visit to one organ I would unhesitatingly suggest it should be that in Reid Memorial Parish Church, West Savile Terrace, EH9 3HY.

 

This is an extraordinary instrument (as is the Church) and not at all what I had expected of Rushworth and Dreaper. Whereas the Stirling organ has been tampered with this is exactly as it was built in 1930, though the Church wasn't opened until 1932.

 

It sings - there is no other word for it - into a large and acoustically sympathetic space.

 

So good is the voicing that, although the only mutations on it are Sesquialtera,19,22, on the Swell and Octave Quint on the Great one would be forgiven for thinking that there are a multitude of mixtures.

 

the French Horn on the Solo - there is no Choir Organ - is the finest I have ever heard.

 

Colin Menzies, who arranged the tour and wrote the very detailed and informative notes about both the buildings and the instruments in them, also made the point that when Rushworths were good they could be very good indeed. Furthermore, he noted that the Edinburgh branch, which built this organ, was almost an autonomous company from that in Liverpool.

 

 

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More thanks!

 

I have a recording of the Reid Memorial organ played by Roger Fisher (including a transcription of Overture Land of the Mountain and the Flood by Hamish MacCunn) and if it is as good in the flesh as in a recording then I will try there. Mind you, the Frobenius at Canongate Kirk looks quite fun also in quite for totally opposite reasons to the Reid Memorial instrument.

 

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Canongate's a lovely church of significant interest. It's a charming part of town - there used to be a very nice cafe opposite, which does nice cake, etc. The organ is definitely successful and the case fits in with the rest of the church beautifully - if you are already familiar with Frobenius's style this organ will hold no surprises.

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