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Buckfast Abbey


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  • 1 year later...

It looks like a typically ornate North American console from the first half of the twentieth century to me - no criticism intended by that, just an observation. I look forward to hearing opinions of the instruments when they are completed - with luck I might even hear or play them myself!

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To my ears these all sound different and improved since rebuilding. No doubt Downes was on hand when his creations were being originally voiced. I would be surprised if he were not.

 

Barry - I can speak of the instruments of both Gloucester Cathedral (on which I had regular lessons with David Briggs for several years), and Saint Albans (which I have played for choral services) from first-hand experience. I can assure you that the influence of Ralph Downes has certainly not dissipated - either with the passage of time, or as a result of additions or alterations.

 

To take first Gloucester Cathedral. There was virtually no revoicing, and only a few additions on the Pedal Organ, a re-pitching on the West Positive, one re-voiced rank on the G.O., and a subsequent addition of a Trompette Harmonique to the West Positive. The rest of the instrument is, tonally, as left by Downes (well, Philip Prosser, to be strictly accurate).

 

In the case of Saint Alban's Cathedral, again there have been a few additions, but the instrument is substantially as it was left after the re-pitching of the chorus mixtures some years ago.

 

David Drinkell and Vox Humana make valid comments about Downes: he was a player and teacher of some repute. He was well-travelled, and had studied many historic instruments, the better to inform the decisions which he made when designing the organ of the RFH.

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A container is, e'en now, on its way Devonwards - according to Ruffati’s FacadeBook.

 

I believe the Abbey Organ’s webpage was 'taken down' and only (very) recently restored - in a revised version: www.buckfast.org.uk/ruffattiorgan.

 

The installation, for example, will now be "completed before 2018." There are other re-wordings and corrections. I can only assume this explains the temporary absence of the page.

 

I emailed the builders, only to be informed that all communications regarding the organ are being handled exclusively by the Abbey.

 

I would imagine that, once the container arrives, there will be a flurry of new and exciting photos.

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I was interested to note this paragraph at the end:

 

 

The result builds upon the ideas behind the design of the original Walker/Downs instrument, and enhances them significantly. The old organ was removed initially to protect the pipes (currently held in storage) from restoration work.

Paul

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Slightly embarrassing: I'm unable to locate the specification.

 

The links I've previously used no longer work.

 

Could anyone furnish one that does, or post the spec. here, please ?

 

Many thanks.

Specifications for both instruments can be found at :

https://www.buckfast.org.uk/ruffattiorgan

 

I will be interested to see who does the opening concert: quite a trip from Bristol but I may attend.

 

Dave

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If I were a betting man (I’m not), I’d put my money on a certain M. Olivier.

Yes he would be a good bet: I heard his recital at Worcester Cathedral a couple of years back, the first time I had ever heard him play live, and it was absolutely fabulous. Richard Lea and Carol Williams I have never heard live although I have heard CW on YouTube and think she plays very well.

 

Dave

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There are so many good organists to choose from. From a Catholic perspective, James Norrey, presently on the staff at Rochester Cathedral, is a very talented young organist. I have wondered about David Patrick, an excellent recitalist and he made an outstanding recording on the former organ at Buckfast. But why look outside when there’s Buckfast’s Richard Lea? Thanks to Spotify I recently listened to his exciting recording on Liverpool Met’s fine Walker organ in Priory’s Great European Organs series. Carol Williams has told me she has much liking for Ruffatti’s output and she could play a wide spectrum of organ music although this might get some looking down their noses.

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From a Catholic perspective, James Norrey, presently on the staff at Rochester Cathedral, is a very talented young organist.

 

As one of the choir directors at Rochester I would wholeheartedly second that.

He is a brilliant liturgical organist and a pleasure to work with.

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I popped into Buckfast this afternoon. The whole thing does look very fine. The high choir stalls mean that, as before, there is little room for a pipe display, but what there is is exquisite.  The last photo on this page does not do the pipes justice. The play of the lighting is very beautiful and makes the pipes look almost like glass. One console is in the west gallery (I wonder if it will ever get used). The other is in the quire and can be wheeled out to stand at the west end of the quire between the choir stalls - but only sideways on; it is clearly too wide to be placed so that the organist faces due west or east. With the previous organ the organist was always looking sideways, so I can't see this being a problem. The console was in this position today as Ruffatti are currently tuning the Gallery Organ to the Quire Organ. This tuning is expected to be finished by the middle of this month.

There is a plethora of American-style couplers on rocking tabs above the top manual. Interestingly, I noticed that you can couple the Positivo to the Great only at 8' pitch, but you can couple the Great to the Positivo at 16', 8' and 4' - and all the other quire divisions can similarly be coupled to the bottom manual at  all three pitches.  I guess from this that the bottom manual has been designed to be able to function as a coupling manual. There is also a sustainer for each manual.

The quire section has now been in use for some months and the attendant I spoke to was clearly very impressed with it.  She told me that the abbey website had some videos of services in which the organ could be heard, but if it has they are very well buried because I have not been able to find any.  I guess I'll just have to go to a service. :) 

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The opening recital at Buckfast, I read, is to be given by Martin Baker on Friday 20th of April.

"To showcase the new instruments, further recitals are planned for 2018, featuring some of the world’s finest organists, including David Briggs, Vincent Dubois, Richard Lea/Matthew Searles, Matthew Martin and Richard Lester" (Lichfield Organists' Association).
 

(Edited to add: the Buckfast Website gives the Recital as 'Sold Out')

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Fantastic recital tonight by Martin Baker and a model of really effective programming with virtuoso but un-showy playing. By and large the organ aquitted itself well, the Quire section especially with loads of clear choruses and lovely quiet voices. The West end section is very loud, not especially French sounding and somewhere up there is something that sounds like a H&H Tuba from about 1910!

A

 

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Ok, here we go....

 

The Quire Organ has some lovely noises - relaxed reed and principal choruses, endless variety of blending and characterful flutes, pleasing strings and celestes, nice small solo reeds and a decent full plenum with small 32’ reed and pedal bass.  Bach came over very well and the general open toe voicing of much of the fluework actually sounded a bit like the former Walker/Downes instrument. There are birdsongs and bagpipes but these do not detract and I can imagin that it will accompany the monastic choir or whatever else is put before it admirably and with endless variety. This section happily fills the building with sound and reacts nicely to the acoustic - full of audience when we heard it and empty when we popped back the next morning.

The ‘west’ organ is very loud when used flat out and although supposedly designed to sound French doesn’t sound much like any C-Cs I have heard. There are some nice sounds back there but the big solo reeds sound to me at least more like English Tubas than anything at N-D in Paris. Some grand effects can be experienced using both sections together but I would imagine caution is needed as with everything ‘on’ there is a huge sound and clarity can suffer. Full organ can be heard from the restaurant across the green!

The mobile Quire console is quite full of electronics which all worked well as did the action with no sense of time lag etc. The visible woodwork is of a high standard and blends in with the general feel of the Abbey and the visible pipes above the stalls sparkle away nicely! I could quite happily live with this instrument week in, week out but would possibly feel just a touch of guilty pleasure in that it is not mechanical, has masses of wizzardry, can be extremely powerfull and has a stoplist that looks at least like something I might have devised as a youth!

Martin Baker’s recital was a triumph of programming to show off the organ and yet give us all some decent organ music. His improvisation at the end was virtuosic and quite amazing but not flashy or showing off for the sake of it. I had forgotten what a superbly musical player he is! There were two well deserved standing ovations and....he plays in socks as do I!

A

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