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ptindall

Goodbye King's

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So that will leave Durham as the only remotely recognisable Arthur Harrison cathedral organ

 

Are you able to impart more information, please? I had heard that this instrument was due for further work, but understood that it was largely restoration, the tonal scheme being left almost entirely as it stands currently. Is this in fact not the case?

 

It is worth remembering that there are a few other instruments of this vintage (or largely restored to their original schemes and voicing):

 

Leicester Cathedral - restored, H&H 2003. Although the G.O. is still without its trademark 'Harmonics', the family of Tromba ranks was re-created at the last rebuild, along with the re-instatement of two or three of the old Choir Organ ranks. (In the case of the latter, they were, as far as I know, supplied with new pipe-work. I do not think that Leicester Cathedral was as cautious as Saint David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, with regard to the storing of old pipe-work in part of the old Deanery.)

 

Saint Mary Redcliffe, Bristol - H&H, 1912. Alterations and restoration in 1932, 1947, 1974, 1990 and 2010. Despite the perhaps worryingly long list of subsequent work, at the latest restoration (by the original firm), this instrument has regained virtually all of its original tonal characteristics. (However, the 1947 work largely involved re-creating the entire Swell Organ and the Pedal 32ft. and 16ft. Trombone rank, after a disastrous fire.) The G.O. has its 'Harmonics' - and a slightly odd five-rank quint Mixture, which has been altered once or twice and now comprises 12-15-19-22-26. Why it was not altered to re-crate Arthur Harrison's standard second Mixture on his larger instruments (15-19-22-26-29), I cannot imagine. However, this stop is at least now on the main G.O. sound-board.

 

All Saint's, Margaret Street, W.1. - restored H&H, 2002. In this case, the G.O. reeds remain as a family of (enclosed) Trumpets, but the 'Harmonics' has been re-instated - at the expense of the 4ft. Principal. There is now only one 4ft. flue rank on the G.O. (Personally, I regard this as a retrograde step; particularly since the G.O. reeds are musical and useful - and definitely not of Tromba tone; thus there is not real excuse for re-instating the old compound stop. I was interested to note that, at the first break, the flat twenty-first drops out.)

 

Temple Church - restored H&H, 2011-13. Despite the new additions to the G.O. (Principal, Fifteenth and Seventeenth), this instrument is arguably closer to its original state*, as left by Arthur Harrison, than either Durham Cathedral or Kings, Cambridge. However, Temple Church is also still without its 'Harmonics' - the 19-22-26-29 Mixture, installed in 2000' remains in situ.

 

Ripon Cathedral - restored H&H 1963-64 (but with alterations in 1972 and 1987). Although the Choir, Great and Swell organs still contain vestiges of the former Lewis instrument, these are, in some cases, only now recogniseable in the stop names. I have played this organ on several occasions and Arthur Harrison's 'voice' is clearly to be heard, not least in the Pedal and Solo organs - and in the full G.O., which still has its family of very powerful Tromba ranks. I had thought that there were, in addition, some more recent tonal alterations - notably to the Choir Organ. However, the most recent scheme I have been able to find is this: https://app.box.com/s/mfjajzx3chg5127s76kc - there appears to be no further alteration to the stop-list.

 

Although once again, this organ is without the standard Arthur Harrison 'Harmonics', in fact the original Lewis quint Mixture (19-22-26-29) had been altered by Arthur Harrison, back as long ago as 1926, when the breaks were re-arranged, in order to make the overall pitch lower.

 

Halifax Parish Church - H&H, 1929; renovated by J.W. Walker, 1968, 1979. As far as I am aware, the only tonal alteration to this instrument was the removal of the G.O. 'Harmonics' and its replacement (somewhat oddly) by what may be either a two- or three-rank quint Mixture: either 19-22 or 19-22-26 respectively†. Why they did not simply replace it with a standard 19-22-26-29 four-rank Mixture, I cannot imagine; I doubt that the cost would have been much greater.

 

Crediton Parish Church - H&H, 1921. Restored, Michael Farley, 2001. Aside from the extension of the Pedal Ophicleide to the 32ft. octave (with twelve half-length resonators) and the extension of the G.O. Double Geigen to 8ft. pitch - and a new action and combination system, this instrument remains tonally as originally finished by Arthur Harrison. It even still possesses its G.O. 'Harmonics'.

 

I realise that most of these buildings are not cathedrals (neither is King's, Cambridge, for that matter). However, in most cases, the instruments are of cathedral size and retain much of their original tonal characteristics and overall design. With regard to the organ in the church of Saint Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, this building has a cathedral-like acoustic ambiance and is thus perhaps the most truly representative of Arthur Harrison's style. (The fact that I dislike all of the chorus reeds and the large Open Diapason stops on the Pedal Organ and G.O., is neither here nor there, for the purposes of this post.)

 

 

 

* I have not forgotten that virtually the entire instrument was tonally re-balanced in 1957, at its installation. However, as far as I am aware, the original voicing was respected. It had been built originally for a chamber in Lord Glentanar's Ballroom, and it was found necessary to reduce the power of the instrument, once it was heard in the rather more agreeable acoustic ambiance of Temple Church.

 

 

 

† The NPOR is a little hazy on the details at this point.

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There always seems to be a lot of speculation and rumour flying about when this organ has work done to it (when Philip Ledger was there, someone suggested that it was to be replaced with a four-manual harpsichord). It would be surprising if anything drastic happened to the tonal scheme, especially as Stephen Cleobury must be coming up for retirement soon and a new broom installed!

 

Regarding Leicester, this was often quoted as one of the less successful Harrison organs, but I gave a recital on it just before the last restoration and I liked it a lot.

 

Harry Bramma, who was at Margaret Street when the organ was restored, was a great apologist for the 'Harmonics', remarking that he found the example at Worcester very useful when he was assistant there and that generally they are more handy than is acknowledged. I think I would go along with that. One has to be careful, but IMHO they are a good deal more musical than some old Hill tierce mixtures, some of which were shockers!

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Harry Bramma, who was at Margaret Street when the organ was restored, was a great apologist for the 'Harmonics', remarking that he found the example at Worcester very useful when he was assistant there and that generally they are more handy than is acknowledged. I think I would go along with that. One has to be careful, but IMHO they are a good deal more musical than some old Hill tierce mixtures, some of which were shockers!

 

As a physicist, I've written about Harmonics-type mixtures here previously, coming from the direction of the acoustics aspects which emphasise their out-of-tuneness against the rest of the fluework. However David is right to point out that their musical aspects are the more important, so (as with any other stop) if a particular example sounds right, then it is right.

 

But would it not be better and more flexible to keep the mixtures as quint mixtures, but to also provide a separate Tierce or Seventeenth rank which can be drawn separately? One would also have to do the same with the 21st. Then one would approach the best of both worlds, provided that the Tierce/Seventeenth and the 21st were scaled and voiced with their use in combination with the mixture in mind, as well as in their own right as separate mutations. A top flight organ builder and voicer would surely have no difficulty in achieving this? The performer would then be able to construct her/his own Harmonics mixture if desired, or not. Yet the 17th and 21st, existing as separate stops, would also be available for building interesting synthetic sounds having a reedy and piquant character.

 

CEP

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The Harrison website says " Reconstruct with new layout and mechanism, revision of tonal scheme.".

 

To me this means

  • Strip out all the working parts and replace them so that the organ can be left alone for the next few decades.
  • Retain the vast majority of the pipework.
  • Adjust one or two stops, probably to reverse the drifts away from the original Arthur Harrison scheme that occurred in the 1960s and at other times.

 

Just a thought- it may even bring the organ back closer towards the Arthur Harrison scheme than it currently is. There are far more 21st century examples of returning organs to their original Victorian/Edwardian roots- especially by the likes of Harrison, Mander and Nicholson- than there are examples where the schemes are lost.

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To me this (the brief comment on the Harrison website) means: who knows?

 

'New Layout' could mean anything including 'much louder.'

 

Winchester and Westminster Abbey became a lot louder after the 1980s rebuilds.

 

I know that technically King's is not a Cathedral, but for practical purposes in this country (permanent (so far) musical foundation of the highest quality, very large size, very large organ) it is.

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I know that technically King's is not a Cathedral, but for practical purposes in this country (permanent (so far) musical foundation of the highest quality, very large size, very large organ) it is.

Um, no. Kings College chapel is not a cathedral and, although very large for a college chapel, is small for a cathedral if you exclude Christchurch, Oxford, which is also a college chappel, and minnows like Brecon.

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Actually, I've had a good look on Google maps and King's is roughly the same size as York Minster's chancel, in fact a little longer if anything. Bearing in mind that York Minster is said to be acoustically 'two separate buildings', perhaps King's is bigger than you give it credit for!

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So it's 'horses for courses' and of course it's all down to contemporary 'tastes' and individual preferences. I wouldn't think though the overall Harrison 'integrity' will change much. What I do fear is that the Cleobury trend for Romantic "slush-bucketism" will advance further, and this would be regrettable. But given the stubborn residence of the present Director of Music of King's, it's probably more than likely than unlikely.

 

I wondered why the OP had posted that title and have, so far, refrained from comment.

 

But I'd like to know what 'slush-bucketism' is too - and I'd, also, like to know what you mean by 'stubborn residence' - and will await your reply before making any further comment!

 

SL (late of Kings College, Cambridge)

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Not sure why the OP should post the title "Goodbye Kings".

 

If taken in this vein there have been several "Goodbyes", and probably several "Hellos", if you look at the NPOR entry for this instrument.

 

Certainly one significant 'revision' was the work conducted in 1968, under the auspices of Sir David Willcocks. Apart from a couple of deletions and additions, the significant 'brightening' of the fluework, (perhaps in the spirit of the times), provided one possible "Goodbye" for some, but for me has always been regarded as a welcome "Hello". Conversely the dumbing down of the fluework in the 1992 work was for me most unwelcome. The 17th in the Sesquialtera and the Quints in the IV rank Great mixture came in for particularly brutal treatment. Recordings pre- and post-1992 stand testament to this.

 

 

 

Indeed. I also regret this. A similar dumbing-down of the upper-work took place at Exeter Cathedral in 2000 and again more recently. I have an idea where this trend comes from with the firm in question.

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I don't really see the point of this topic until something definite is known. I am also sorry to see that, as so often, any mention of KCC involves some sort of gratuitous SC-bashing.

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I don't really see the point of this topic until something definite is known. I am also sorry to see that, as so often, any mention of KCC involves some sort of gratuitous SC-bashing.

 

Agreed.

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It's interesting how tastes evolve. After much criticism of the neo-classical alterations made to many of the organs in the land with their "in your face mixtures" have things moved too much the other way? I know that the 4 rank great mixture at Hereford Cathedral was also toned down at the last rebuild. Prior to it being revoiced, it was bold at the console but for hymn leading the stop really cut it. It is not now as commanding in my view and means more use of the great reeds and less variety of options and tone for hymn playing. It will be interesting to see how history judges this current trend.

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If anyone is looking for an original never-restored 4-manual Harrison and Harrison from the first decade of the twentieth century, what about St Mary's, Stafford?

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If anyone is looking for an original never-restored 4-manual Harrison and Harrison from the first decade of the twentieth century, what about St Mary's, Stafford?

 

I note that, on paper, it is virtually identical to several other four-clavier vintage Harrisons - except, perhaps for the Choir Gross Geigen and the Pedal Saxophone (which is almost certainly the Solo Corno di Bassetto borrowed down to the Pedal Organ). Does anyone know how playable it is at present?

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This is from the Church website................"Sadly, the instrument is not maintained due to impending major work and roughly 50% of the instrument is now unusable either in part of totally. There are many leaks, the action is slow, a lot of the couplers do not work, many stops are inoperable and the tuning is interesting......"

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The Harrison organ is not ideally situated and some of its features, such as the 16' Geigen on the Choir were intended to give it more presence, after the ideas of the time, in the church. When it first became in need of major restoration, in the seventies, the decision was made to replace it with a new HNB organ at the west end, using the John Geib case (which had been bolted on to the pedal basses of the Harrison). For reasons of space and economy, the 1974 organ made wide and clever use of shared basses (what Henry Willis IV called "John Norman's bassless organs"). It was well thought-of at the time, and as far as I know, still is.

 

Meanwhile, the Harrison remained because it would have cost so much to take it out, and continued to be used - more so over the years as it became apparent that it was a fine example of its type, that type having been much out of fashion in the seventies. I remember seeing a "Songs of Praise" in which both organs were used, and an advertisement for the post of Organist in the Church Times mentioned the fact that the church contained two fine organs. More recently, I believe that the Association of Independent Organ Advisors visited the Harrison and found it very much worth preserving. So, it's really done quite well to be still functioning, after a fashion, forty years after it was "replaced".

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I agree pcnd, it wouldn't surprise me if there is a trend to remove some of the 'brighter' aspects of the fluework from earlier works with this firm. I also agree that this is regrettable.

 

With respect to King's though, the push to make the alterations in 1992 came more from the Director of Music, rather than Harrison and Harrison. A deliberate policy was adopted to remove or reduce the effects of the brighter upper work introduced in 1968, in an attempt to return to the status quo prevailing pre-1968. This involved not only alterations to the aforementioned mixtures, but a review of the entire flue work on the Great. I think this approach was quite successful in what it intended to do, although I would re-iterate I do not like it.

 

 

 

 

I notice that you haven't cared to tell us what "slush-bucketism".is - nor commented on what you mean by the 'stubborn residence' of the Director of Music!

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The specification of the King's organ is now available on the Harrison and Harrison website. There are some minor alterations to the pedal organ only.

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