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David Drinkell

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I did this at Gloucester every time I went for a lesson. There was some extra support or something below the key-bench. Somewhat gratifyingly, DJB often did the same thing.

Funny you should mention Gloucester, because I was just thinking that HN&B consoles round off the sharp corner where Casavants' caused me to cuss. I must be thinking of somewhere else, or maybe it's a different corner.

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On the Foghorn the Choir manual is set too low and you crack your knee every time you use a swell pedal. Originally it had the opposite problem too. When the console was first delivered in 1957 the stop knobs were set so far from the manuals that one of the organists complained to the vicar that it would need a gorilla to reach them. The vicar told him that he had better go and employ one. Rushworths corrected the fault, but only after a lot of persuasion.

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Funny you should mention Gloucester, because I was just thinking that HN&B consoles round off the sharp corner where Casavants' caused me to cuss. I must be thinking of somewhere else, or maybe it's a different corner.

 

I was never particularly keen on the 'sugar-cube' pistons, either. Catch the part just under thumbnail on the pointy corner and the cathedral has to be re-consecrated.

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I'm intrigued - where is this Foghorn?

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N10583

 

Have you ever played it, David? It's an organ that divides opinion. Despite the upperwork it's basically an octopod. All the higher pitched stops are relatively discreetly voiced so that they do not assert themselves and do not detract from fundamental pitch, while the oily smooth Tromba chorus obliterates everything else. Deane's added a Great Superoctave and Fourniture in 1993 in an attempt to brighten the thing up a bit. Their additions were so artistically done and so well integrated that you would never know they were not part of the original scheme (comparing pipe for pipe the Superoctave and Fifteenth sound as like as two peas), but, precisely for that reason, they have only the most subtle effect. A fellow organist once described full organ as a wall of white noise. The quality of all the individual stops is actually rather fine and there are some splendid sounds (Full Swell, the Solo Harmonic Flute and French Horn), but overall there is a surprising lack of variety in the colour since nearly all the stops have a similar smooth quality. Everything is voiced to blend. Even a stop like the Orchestral Oboe does not stand in sharp relief to the Great 8' diapasons. I have met people who like it though. (I'm not the organist here in case you were wondering!)

 

Looking at the photo of the console I think what the knee bumps into is not so much the Choir manual as the bar underneath it. Perhaps one could shave it down a bit, but I'm reminded of Basil Fawlty's Irish builder: it might be stopping the console from collapsing!

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Thanks - no, I haven't played it. My West Country meanderings were mostly confined to within a moped range of Bristol when I was a student. It never seems to have gained much fame, or to come into the "Rushworth's could really do it when they wanted to" class, like Holy Rude, Stirling. All the same, it must have been one of the largest entirely new organs built in Britain in the twentieth century (the old one got blitzed less than a week after Heles' finished a rebuild and was never heard in public).

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Hele's completed their rebuild on Thursday 20 March 1941. That night was the first night of the blitz. The Guildhall and its Willis/Hele organ were lost that night, while the adjacent St Andrew's was "badly mauled". The church and its rebuilt Hele went up in flames the following night; the organ had been properly finished barely 24 hours before.

 

The Foghorn is actually the largest organ west of Bristol on stop count. Buckfast beats it on pipes. Although three people were nominally involved in the design, from what I am told neither Osborn Peasgood nor William Lloyd Webber took much of an active part in the process. The organ is basically the work of the church's organist, Harry Moreton who, having been born in 1864, had a musical aesthetic virtually out of the ark. His assistant and successor tells me that he had actually set his sights on having an organ as big as Westminster Abbey - and he nearly got it! He kept adding stops to the specification, but eventually, when he suggested a Vox Humana, the PCC felt things had gone far enough and put their foot down. Moreton was evidently quite a strong and persuasive character.

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I was never particularly keen on the 'sugar-cube' pistons, either. Catch the part just under thumbnail on the pointy corner and the cathedral has to be re-consecrated.

 

I liked them - at least they were always straight. One can get seriously irritated by a piston which is a little bit askew.

 

Still, Casavant's put department labels over the pistons, and the Choir Organ one here has always been wonky (including in the article in "The Organ" c.1971). I keep meaning to unscrew the key-slip and put it right - it would only take about ten minutes - but I haven't got around to it yet.....

 

There are some damsilly piston designs around, aren't there? Compton and Willis had nice, smart ones, and N&B (HN&B?) used to do a handsome, quite large, type.

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I liked them - at least they were always straight. One can get seriously irritated by a piston which is a little bit askew.

 

Still, Casavant's put department labels over the pistons, and the Choir Organ one here has always been wonky (including in the article in "The Organ" c.1971). I keep meaning to unscrew the key-slip and put it right - it would only take about ten minutes - but I haven't got around to it yet.....

 

There are some damsilly piston designs around, aren't there? Compton and Willis had nice, smart ones, and N&B (HN&B?) used to do a handsome, quite large, type.

 

Yes - it was in the time of HN&B - Peterborough Cathedral is an example. A beautiful console, with convex-headed pistons - which were retained by H&H.

Yes, the HN&B square pistons were straight - but it does not take long to turn the heads of circular pistons around. What else is one supposed to do during the sermon*, if the coffee-machine is broken....?

 

H&H and Walker also did quite well-designed pistons. Harrisons' more recent consoles have shown a gratifying return to their previous style - with elegant piston- and stop-heads. I wonder where they are getting all this spare ivory from.... (I suppose it could be Ivorine or Ivothene.)

 

I was not so keen on the Compton ones. I believe that some of them (Bangor Cathedral?) had a small semi-circular ridge to the faces, which I found unpleasant and fussy.

 

 

 

* When someone says something from the pulpit which I could not have worked out for myself by looking at the readings set for the day and by applying a little common sense, I shall pay attention. But until then....

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....it does not take long to turn the heads of circular pistons around. What else is one supposed to do during the sermon*, if the coffee-machine is broken....?

 

 

Ummm - I broke off Great III at Kirkwall trying to straighten it up.

 

Worst of all are pistons which are not numbered. Henbury PC, Bristol was like this. I was organist there while a student and it was a pain, even though there were only four pistons to each manual.

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Pistons with circular heads mounted on narrow shanks behind are indeed somewhat fragile, especially the cheaper ones made of plastic. The shanks themselves can be mechanically weak if the tapped hole within goes too far up. Thus prodding the piston quickly at an angle can cause the head, and sometimes part of the shank, to shear off. However superglue seems to be effective as a repair even in the long term if done carefully - I've done several over the last few decades. It's worth trying in the first instance, because a proper repair usually involves dismantling the key stack to a greater or lesser extent, and of course an exact replacement head needs to be available.

 

They (circular ones with engraved numbers) also seem to be a magnet for small children who try to twist them - usually with great force. The same thing happens - they shear off.

 

For these reasons I sometimes wish that the more robust sugar-cube type had found wider acceptance and usage in organ building practice.

 

CEP

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not a physical injury, but earlier this year I noticed a little loop of thread protruding from my dinner jacket trousers halfway down the front of my right thigh. Earlier this month, while accompanying a community choir's carol concert here for the second year running I suddenly understood how this had happened when I noticed the said loop caught in a splinter underneath the Great manual and rapidly threatening to become an even larger loop and the pedal part pranced on its way. How I managed to extricate the loop from the splinter without missing a note I shall never fathom. Should I invoice the church for a new DJ?

 

It's a nice organ, by the way, and probably little mucked about, though the Sw Flute d'amour is now a Salicional, much to the organ's detriment.

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Yes, I noticed that. I suspect it is a typo for 1873. On 20 August 1872 The Western Times reported that the church had raised nearly £300 towards the £380 quoted by Forster & Andrews. I don't know when the organ was opened, but the church had an organist in 1877.

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  • 2 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Probably the most painful organ-related thing I ever did, was to rush upwards at an organ console....I shall explain.

For some obscure reason, the organ console at this particular church was much higher than the surrounding furniture, and the approach to it was by way of three large platform steps. (I actually forget where it was, but it may have been in Harrogate).

Anyway, being young and full of futile energy, I jumped up two of the three steps like Zebedee in "The magic roundabout," and moving at quite a rate of knots vertically, had every intention of landing on the organ bench with a single leap from the second step.

What I had not noticed was a large DC rheostat and handle, which tells you how old the blower was.

Needless to say, my knee smashed into the cast iron box and sticky-out handle, and the pain was so bad, I actually rolled straight off, fell about 4 ft and landed with a crash on the ground, writhing in agony.....a double whammy of an accident, resulting in massive bruising and swelling to my knee, burred elbows and a wrenched shoulder.

 

The choir thought it was very funny. I hate them to this day, and although one should never speak badly of the deceased, if they all happen to be dead....good.

MM

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The late-lamented Carlo had a story of ripping his trousers off as he descended at high speed from the Grove console at Tewkesbury to take a bow, appearing a few seconds later in his full-length fur coat - only Carlo would have had a coat like that.....

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A further suggestion:

 

Do not leave pencils on the sides of a console (or a piano) with the sharpened ends pointing towards you.

 

Making a swift upwards movement with one's hand, only to discover that a pencil is now partially embedded in the webbing part between thumb and fore-finger, and that blood is spurting out all over the floor is, let me assure you, most disconcerting.

 

Even more so is the complete inability to swear, kick something, or shout loudly and incomprehensibly - simply because sitting beside the instrument there is a pupil looking at the blood with undisguised fascination, who says innocently 'Oooh, sir - have you hurt yourself?

 

 

 

 

(Yes, I %#ï¿©§$ing have.)

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The late-lamented Carlo had a story of ripping his trousers off as he descended at high speed from the Grove console at Tewkesbury to take a bow, appearing a few seconds later in his full-length fur coat - only Carlo would have had a coat like that.....

 

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

 

 

I once received an enormous hug from Carlo while he was wearing that coat.

 

After that,, I shelved my planned camper-van vacation to the Northwest Territories.

 

MM

 

 

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