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Mander Organs

Rushworth and Dreaper - small extension organs


Colin Pykett

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I don't like starting new topics because often they have already been opened. However I can't find anything on this subject on the forum, so please bear with me.

 

From time to time I used to come across some small extension organs by Rushworth and Dreaper. I say "used to" because they seem to have vanished now, probably because they are a rather old and dated mid-twentieth century product of the firm. Let me describe one such to see if it evokes any echoes from forum members.

 

It used to be in Holy Trinity parish church, Kimberley, Nottinghamshire, on the way to 'D H Lawrence Country' at Eastwood and beyond there to Derbyshire, but there is nothing on the NPOR about it. It had a two manual detached console at the east end of the church with cancelling stop keys. The cancel feature was not like those of Compton, for example, which used second touch against a stronger spring. The R&D ones each had a small black plastic tab at the top which you touched to cancel the others in that division. There were two expression pedals because the whole instrument was enclosed in two boxes, apart possibly from some of the pedal pipes. However the stops on both divisions were drawn from the pipes in both boxes, theatre organ style, so the expression pedals did not have a one-to-one correspondence with the divisions. This could sometimes take you by surprise!

 

The pipes were in two small but nicely designed cases placed at each corner of the west gallery.

 

The whole thing was heavily extended but I can't recall how many ranks this particular one had. An interesting feature was the presence of two stops, one on each division, bearing the name 'Solo Synthetic'. The one on the swell was quieter than that on the great, but both were composed of 8 and 2 2/3 foot pitches, possibly with a quiet 4 foot constituent as well. They were quite useful. There was a 16 foot reed on the swell but it only went down to tenor C.

 

I used to enjoy playing this organ, despite its several obvious limitations. It did, admittedly, benefit from a helpful acoustic in this case, and the separation of the console and pipework gave the player a sense of spaciousness which belied the relatively small building. I found it an attractive little thing and very comfortable to play, with a considerable tonal palette endowed by making the maximum possible use of the pipes available. It was not unlike the Compton Miniatura in concept and execution, though this particular one gave greater scope to the player if only because of its additional ranks.

 

Did this range of instruments have a house name such as the Miniatura did with Compton? They were probably made in quite large numbers because the firm used to make a lot of similarly styled ones for MOD military chapels both here and abroad during the Cold War years. They also might have surfaced in larger crematoria and the like.

 

Any thoughts, anyone?

 

CEP

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In the 60's Rushworth's marketed a two rank extension model they called the "Ardeton". There was also, I think, a "Polyphonic" model or series, which perhaps includes the instrument to which Colin refers.

 

When done well, extension could produce a surprisingly versatile and satisfying instrument. Many spoke well of the Walker "Positif" and "Model" organs, the Compton Miniatura II was a very nice instrument to play. Williamson & Hyatt produced one or two very effective extension jobs in East Anglia in the sixties. The secrets were, I think, that the workmanship needed to be of the best and the voicing of highest quality (Cliff Hyatt was a gifted, Willis-trained voicer). A missing note can become several missing notes on an extension organ and poor finishing will be more apparent. But just because electric action and extension made it easy to throw some sort of instrument together (chests from a supplier, pipes from a scrapped cinema organ was the recipe for at least one firm I can think of), there is no reason to condemn the whole idea and practice.

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That's a really impressive piece of cyber detective work to have dug that out! Although similar to the one I described, the console isn't exactly the same though. For instance, the black cancelling tabs aren't there for each stop key. That's hardly surprising though, given the length of time that has passed since I last played there. Other than that, it might still be the same organ in terms of its pipework.

 

I've just found that the church has its own separate website, different to the Nottingham university one above, and it appears that the organ has had its day. Quote from the current parish magazine:

 

"The organ is beyond economic repair and so we are looking to replace it. The current organ needs to be removed before the internal re-ordering and so the faculty is being processed."

 

So many thanks for this lead - very interesting.

 

CEP

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There are two such organs around Edinburgh, one of which has the cancel feature Colin Pykett mentions. The Portobello instrument is at present available for rehoming - PM if interested.

 

St James', Portobello (1934) - http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=C01253

Granton Parish Church (1936) - http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N11946

 

Both NPOR surveys have lots of photos.

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One fault - to present-day tastes - of many small extension organs is that all the "Swell" upperwork is taken from the flute rank, with the diapason available only at 8'. Compton sometimes got round this by making the dulciana relatively substantial, so that it could provide secondary upperwork and even (as at All Souls, Belfast) some decent mixtures. A similar device is the "long" viola rank found in many Compton Swells. In chorus terms, Compton could provide a more convincing department with a Viola, Trumpet and Harmonic Flute than most builders could with independent ranks. St. Mark's, Dundela, Belfast (for some reason known as "Gertie, a lady of ill-repute" to generations of organists) is an example (the Swell is the best department), and that nice little three-manual at St. Olave, Hart Street, City of London is another.

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Yep, the Granton organ (post #6) is pretty much like the one at Kimberley I described above although the stop list is different. The stop tab cancelling system is identical. I note the presence of a stop on each division derived from three pipes. They are given rather fancy names here (Musette and Schalmei) whereas I consider the names on the Kimberley instrument (Solo Synthetic) to have been more - what - honest? I wonder what the exact derivations are?

 

My word, don't these little R&D jobs last well though. Built in the 1930s (Granton) and only overhauled once in the 1960s if the NPOR is to be taken at face value. It backs up what David said above (#3) that "the workmanship needed to be of the best". He's been proved right in this case by the looks of it.

 

Many thanks, caskie, for this.

 

CEP

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Hi

 

I played a 1967 example regularly for a week of meetings for the Hastings Bible Convention for a few years. It was(is?) in Wellington Square Baptist Churh in the town. http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=E00165 has the details. It was a 4 rank job, with just the Open Diapason rank (8 & 4 ft) enenclosed. No casework, rather a "functional display" of the Open, with a swell box behind. It too had 2nd-touch cancelling - but very poorly executed. That was on the stop keys, but the 2nd touch springs were very weak, and it was all too easy to cancel the entire Great when trying to add the Mixture or the Swell to Great coupler (yes - even the coupler stop keys had dt canceliing!) Tonally it was adequate, but nothing really exciting. Console about half-way down one of the side galleries, with the pipework on the rear gallery (in such a position that inquisitive fingures could reach the smaller Diapason pipes!). I don;t know if it's still there - it was working well enough when I last played it around 1990.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I used to play a similar R&D organ at St Michael and All Angels, Bassett, Southampton. See www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N11632. I thought it was 1924 but NPOR says 1937 - it's probably my memory at fault.

 

This organ has many of the qualities and features described above - the black cancel tabs on the 16, 8 & 4 ft stops; the whole thing extended from 4 ranks (Open Diapason, Salicional, Trumpet and Gedact units); entirely enclosed and split across 2 swell boxes which nearly, but not quite, correspond to Great and Swell (The "Swell" Box had the Salicional and reed unit; the "Great" the Open Diapason and Gedact unit), those synthetic solo stops and the powerful reed rank, which although available at 16ft pitch, didn't have a 16ft octave (much to everyone's frustration).

 

It was quite an ingenious and effective contraption. The church had good acoustics and, while the organ is quite coarse and shouty up close (especially the powerful Diapason and reed units), it sounds far better in the nave than one would have imagined. The ranks were quite carefully regulated so they worked well at different pitches. The organ is very compact, filling an arch but isn't more than about 6ft deep and it projected well into the church.

 

The issue David Drinkell identifies about the flute unit providing the Swell Organ upperwork isn't present here - instead R&D extended the Salicional unit to form the Swell upperwork and it is an effective solution. The "Salicional" Swell mixture adds something on top of, or instead of the Great Fifteenth (derived from the Diapason unit).

 

I'm not entirely sure what action it had but I remember the keys used to fire very high up on the key travel and the keys were quite "springy", which meant it was very easy to brush a wrong note - with cataclysmic effects if there were lots of loud stops drawn!

 

The organ has been restored quite recently by Geoff Griffiths & Co. And quite rightly too - it's an effective organ solution for the church and they had no real problems with it.

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I used to play a similar R&D organ at St Michael and All Angels, Bassett, Southampton.....

Gosh, I'd forgotten all about this one - I used to practice at St Michaels when I was at university in Southampton. The church was very generous and some of us were allowed much time there, especially as for my first year at least the Collins organ in the Turner Sims Concert Hall had yet to arrive. To be quite honest I never really liked it although it did work nicely as a liturgical backing machine. Perhaps I might think differently now - I can quite imagine also that I was possibly trying to play the wrong music on it!

 

A

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Gosh, I'd forgotten all about this one - I used to practice at St Michaels when I was at university in Southampton...

 

I agree with this - "works nicely as a liturgical backing machine" sums it up well. Although it sounds good in the building (especially the nave), it's rather rough and ready when you play it.

The restoration has improved the very sensitive key touch so it's more normal but the repetition isn't brilliant (i.e. it's liveable but you wouldn't want to attempt la Campanella on it...).

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A lot of these Rushworth unit organs were very Compton-ish and this would explain the better effect of upperwork extended from a not-too-quiet salicional. I wonder if Rushworth's acquired some ex-Compton personnel around that time (I know they took them much later).

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