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Vox Humana

Buckfast Abbey

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This would be a monster ! There would be no problem about filling the Abbey with sound, judging by some of Ruffatti’s other installations of similar size: e.g. Uppsala (74 stops). 100 stops would be a huge four-manual; will it, therefore, be five ?

 

If this is the case, then wouldn’t this make it the largest instrument in the south of England and outside of London ?

 

Ruffatti, in their larger jobs, have a propensity for arrays of trumpets: the idea of that ‘multi-fizzing’ down the nave is so exciting.

 

If one of the consoles was movable, then it would have to emulate the later models of Dalek to levitate into the Choir and over its step. Has this been solved in other places, with a mechanical solution ?

 

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If one of the consoles was movable, then it would have to emulate the later models of Dalek to levitate into the Choir and over its step. Has this been solved in other places, with a mechanical solution ?

 

 

 

I apologise but I just can't resist it - the 'Punch' cartoon comes to mind and, if it raises a smile, on one of the dullest first days of spring I have seen for a long time, then it's worth it!!

 

http://punch.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Modern-Cartoons-Punch-Selection-See-Galleries-for-Complete-Set/G0000jQbkmC.sE9M/I0000ZvleumhOmDo

 

It's a good job they didn't have a 'mechanical solution'!!!

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This would be a monster ! There would be no problem about filling the Abbey with sound, judging by some of Ruffatti’s other installations of similar size: e.g. Uppsala (74 stops). 100 stops would be a huge four-manual; will it, therefore, be five ?

 

Plans can change, but I was told before Christmas by someone closely involved with the project that the organ will be a four-manual with six divisions.

 

If this is the case, then wouldn’t this make it the largest instrument in the south of England and outside of London ?

 

I think it will. Certainly south-west of Bristol. Previously the largest instrument in the south-west was, depending on what you count, either the Foghorn (number of stops), or the Buckfast Downes/Walker (more pipes, due to more mixture ranks and less borrowing).

 

Ruffatti, in their larger jobs, have a propensity for arrays of trumpets: the idea of that ‘multi-fizzing’ down the nave is so exciting.

 

I wonder whether this was a factor in Ruffatti getting the contract. The DoM at Buckfast is on record as considering the Walker at Liverpool Met (where he was previously assistant) to be the best organ for Messiaen in the country. I would expect to see chamades.

I do hope that Ruffatti keep things in proportion though. The abbey is big, but by no means vast.

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Brilliant, SL ! But it’s only one small step . . .

 

Vox Humana: please enlighten me as to the ID of this ‘Foghorn’.

 

Six divisions ? One would almost have to be some kind of fanfare/bombarde division, then.

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It’s hard for an amateur organ-spec buff such as myself to imagine compiling a stoplist for a 100-stop organ. 6 divisions of 16 or 17 stops each? All I can think of is Julian Rhodes’ or Stephen Bicknall’s spoofs.

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Vox Humana: please enlighten me as to the ID of this ‘Foghorn’.

 

 

That might reveal more than the identity of the organ itself ...

 

I do know, but it would go against forum netiquette to broadcast either piece of information!

 

It's a slight pity though, because some valid points have been made about this instrument which would be all the more interesting were its identity known to members.

 

CEP

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Oh, there's no mystery about the identity of the Foghorn: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N10583

Incidentally, some people seem to be under the impression that I am the organist here, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the last thirty-odd years I have only had one church job and that was only for a couple of years and not in Plymouth.

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I must admit to a certain sadness at the removal of the Downes/Walker instrument, having spent a good deal of time practising on it in the distant past when I was a student at a ( now defunct ) educational establishment a few miles away. A certain teacher associated with said establishment at the time would become exasperated beyond belief at my choice of practise location...

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I would have thought the opposite, innate.

 

If you look at some of Ruffatti’s other instruments ‘of size’ (http://www.ruffatti.com/installations.htm), they should give you an idea.

 

Large Great, Swell and Pedals, with a multiplicity of reeds and mutations and foundation tones: the count soon mounts up.

 

A Choir/Solo (with a complete ‘String section’), nice ethereal Echo component, floating West End (antiphonal/congregational) 2nd Great and the ‘Battery’.

 

Can’t wait. How long is it to 2017 ?

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I must confess that I am not at all sure about all of this.

 

Like 'keyplayer', I am saddened that the Walker/Downes instrument has been discarded. Aside from the fact that it was important historically (actually paving the way for the larger instrument in the RFH), it also sounded well in this building, with its glorious acoustic. I would be interested to learn how they have managed to raise £2.5 million, apparently just for a new organ. I understand that Buckfast Tonic Wine sells well - but that well?

 

As Vox has pointed-out, the abbey is not that large. It may even be that the church which houses the 'foghorn' is barely much less in cubic capacity. (My memory may be faulty - it is probably about twenty years since I was last in this building, but I do recall it being quite large. Looking at images of the building, whilst there is no triforium or clerestory, the Nave and aisles appear to be somewhat wider than those at the abbey, it also looks to be at least as long.)

 

I wonder if such a large organ is really needed? If the organist liked the Walker instrument at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (and also likes to play Messiaen), I can understand that the old Walker/Downes instrument would not appeal tonally; it was very flue-dominated, the actual chorus reeds all speaking on fairly low pressures. In addition, there was (it must be said) a slightly odd timbre to some of the foundation stops; this can be heard clearly on David M. Patrick's LP recording of the Duruflé Suite.

 

I am sure that a large instrument by Ruffatti would be very exciting, particularly if placed in the west gallery. However, one thing which the former organ possessed in spades was a great variety of colourful, fairly quiet unison flue ranks, several of which were quite ethereally beautiful in that acoustic ambiance. The Echo Organ in particular would surely have been most useful in the accompaniment of plainsong. This instrument also possessed three contrasting undulating ranks.

 

It sounds as if the emphasis for the tonal design of the new organ might well be biased in favour of repertoire. Perhaps one of the divisions in the Quire will be an Echo Organ, as before.

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' I understand that Buckfast Tonic Wine sells well - but that well?' It certainly seems to have a very ardent fan club. A quick peek on a well-known south american online seller is quite illuminating.

I confess to not hearing the organ in the flesh, only from LPs, but David M Patricks recordings were very much in vogue at the time and that's certainly meant as a compliment.

Now, where's ma bottle of Buckie.... (is anyone honest enough to own up to having drunk any of this stuff by the way ?).

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Like 'keyplayer', I am saddened that the Walker/Downes instrument has been discarded. Aside from the fact that it was important historically (actually paving the way for the larger instrument in the RFH), it also sounded well in this building, with its glorious acoustic. I would be interested to learn how they have managed to raise £2.5 million, apparently just for a new organ. I understand that Buckfast Tonic Wine sells well - but that well?

 

Some years ago I had a brief discussion about the organ with Fr Sebastian Wolff and made some comment which I cannot remember about the cost, probably something long the lines of, "it really needs a thorough restoration, but that would be expensive." Adopting a confidential tone, he said, "Oh, money's not a problem." Discussion of the abbey on the local grapevine regularly features the phrase "rolling in it". This may be just scurrilous rumour, of course

I very much agree with your comments about the Downes/Walker organ.

 

As Vox has pointed-out, the abbey is not that large. It may even be that the church which houses the 'foghorn' is barely much less in cubic capacity. (My memory may be faulty - it is probably about twenty years since I was last in this building, but I do recall it being quite large. Looking at images of the building, whilst there is no triforium or clerestory, the Nave and aisles appear to be somewhat wider than those at the abbey, it also looks to be at least as long.)

 

St Andrew's, Plymouth is acknowledged to be the largest parish church in Devon. How this is has been measured I do not know. I find it hard to believe that its cubic capacity is greater than Holy Cross, Crediton because, as you point out, it is not at all a high church (in any of the accepted senses of the word). It could score on footprint, however, as it is extremely wide. In the days when the organ console was tucked away in the south transept, Lucien Nethsinga apparently complained, "You play with the Tuba in one ear and the rest of the organ in the next village". There are tales of the time-lag from the Great and Swell in the north case foxing many an experienced recitalist. Nevertheless, I would very much doubt that it is larger than Buckfast.

 

Now, where's ma bottle of Buckie.... (is anyone honest enough to own up to having drunk any of this stuff by the way ?).

 

A friend who came to a "come and sing" event there last summer gave me with a small bottle. It was quite pleasant, but I found myself thinking that it doesn't do anything that a sherry doesn't do better. It won't wean me off the single malts.

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Now that it is pretty well known that Buckfast Abbey is to have a new organ, it really is time for the abbey to make an official detailed announcement.

 

And to those who have raised their eyebrows at the substantial cost, Buckfast is not without a substantial amount of financial clout according to some figures I saw a year or two back.

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I would be interested to learn how they have managed to raise £2.5 million, apparently just for a new organ. I understand that Buckfast Tonic Wine sells well - but that well?

 

However, one thing which the former organ possessed in spades was a great variety of colourful, fairly quiet unison flue ranks, several of which were quite ethereally beautiful in that acoustic ambiance. The Echo Organ in particular would surely have been most useful in the accompaniment of plainsong. This instrument also possessed three contrasting undulating ranks.

 

It sounds as if the emphasis for the tonal design of the new organ might well be biased in favour of repertoire. Perhaps one of the divisions in the Quire will be an Echo Organ, as before.

 

 

 

 

Some years ago I had a brief discussion about the organ with Fr Sebastian Wolff and made some comment which I cannot remember about the cost, probably something long the lines of, "it really needs a thorough restoration, but that would be expensive." Adopting a confidential tone, he said, "Oh, money's not a problem." Discussion of the abbey on the local grapevine regularly features the phrase "rolling in it". This may be just scurrilous rumour, of course

 

 

 

 

The logic is, surely, that if Buckfast are commissioning a large 100 stop organ there will be plenty of scope for the designer to to include, in the specification, a whole range of stops that can be suitable for playing a wide range of repertoire but also be suitable for accompany the liturgies of the Abbey including plainsong sung in choir.

 

As fr as the cost is concerned, I'm not sure that, on a public forum, we should be discussing where or how an institution has managed to raise funds for, what some may think is an extravagant or even unnecessary, project. The point is that they have the funds and, seemingly, are going to go ahead with an exciting new instrument. There will be, amongst the 'amateur, back of fag-packet' designers much discussion, I'm sure, about whether this type of mixture or that type of mixture or this stop or that stop should have been included and so on. That is for the future and, no doubt, when the specification is public we shall see an outpouring of verbiage on this topic.

 

But certainly, a comment made "in a confidential tone" should remain just that - confidential!

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One of the losses here is yet another of Walker’s larger ‘elephant tusk’ consoles, they are getting fewer and fewer and that is a shame. Apart from their individual design I’ve always found them really comfortable and easy to use, an ergonomic triumph. Doncaster was a very fine example, built low-profile and with few pistons compared to modern consoles. That wasn’t a problem as it was so easy to flick registers on and off, almost faster than a piston, once one had worked out the double-touch function. Like the Compton ‘lighthouses’ they represented some real innovation and they looked rather impressive too.

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If you look at some of Ruffatti’s other instruments ‘of size’ (http://www.ruffatti.com/installations.htm), they should give you an idea.

 

Thanks for the link. They have certainly had their fair share of monsters, several five manuals and a six manual. Though I noticed that in each of their five manual builds, some or indeed many of the stops were still "prepared for" making me wonder what chance these organs ever have of being completely finished? 100 stops in Buckfast sounds a lot, but how long for them all to be installed and working?

 

As an aside, can anyone tell me if their five manual in San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall is breaking any records by having TWO 64 foot stops?

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Neither of the 64' stops at Davies appear to have any pipes so can’t be true stops.

Indeed, though almost no organs with 64 foot stops don't have compound 64s ie harmonic bass, 32 and 21/1/3 quinted. Is Sydney's trombone 64 foot long or half (or less) length? Is the Atlantic City diaphone is 64 foot long?

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Is Sydney's trombone 64 foot long or half (or less) length? Is the Atlantic City diaphone is 64 foot long?

 

Affirmative to both questions I think, even though the following evidence doesn't quite confirm in so many words whether the resonators themselves are full length, but it implies they are. There's a not-terribly-good picture of a youngish-looking George Thalben-Ball pointing to the tongue of the Sydney reed pipe in Jonathan Rennert's biography of him. The caption says that the pipe was said to be the largest in the southern hemisphere. This would not have been so if the stop used half length resonators. The pneumatic starter motor which gives the tongue an initial shove is clearly visible.

 

The organ builder Patrick Burns confirmed that the Atlantic City Diaphonic Dulzian is a true 64 foot stop (the resonator at the base is 10 inches square, becoming over 2 feet square at the top. The vibrating tongue is 31 inches long, 3 inches wide, 7/16th inches thick and weighs 14 pounds. The pipe is made from 3 inches thick timber). See his article in The IAO Millennium Book.

 

(Incidentally, can I ask a question that I've posed for years to lots of people without ever getting an answer - where the heck do you put your music at Atlantic City? There's some sort of hinged music desk which I've seen let down to a reasonable viewing level, but then it obscures some of the top keyboards).

 

CEP

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(Incidentally, can I ask a question that I've posed for years to lots of people without ever getting an answer - where the heck do you put your music at Atlantic City? There's some sort of hinged music desk which I've seen let down to a reasonable viewing level, but then it obscures some of the top keyboards).

 

That implies you need music when playing that thing. Generally music is for musical instruments.

 

(Dives for cover....)

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The Sydney 64' is certainly full-length, although when Sam Clutton visited it he said that the reed was only vibrating at half-speed (one could see it clearly through the window in the boot) so it was in fact operating as a half-length 128' stop.

 

I believe the music desk at Atlantic City can be pulled down over the top few manuals if desired. One can do the same thing on many large instruments (e.g. St. Paul's), but the pictures of both Salzburg and Passau cathedral organs in Sumner show no desk at all.

 

Opinions on the musicality of the Atlantic City organ have generally been high, at least among those who actually played or heard the beast. I'm inclined to expect that the result of the ongoing restoration, which should bring the entire instrument into full working-order, will be both musical and impressive.

 

Another thing for the bucket list (along with driving a steam locomotive on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway :)).

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But which, Barry? 64' stops, music desks on 5+manual instruments, the Atlantic City organ, Ruffatti?

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