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OmegaConsort

Thaxted Parish Church - three organs?

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I had a moment to stop and take a look around Thaxted Church today - what a wonderful building! It was good to see the Lincoln organ in the South Transept fully restored and looking beautiful. The GP England organ "on stilts" at the West End looked a little sorry for itself. From behind, there are just exposed pipes and the case (except for the front) is very poor. The console was pushed to the back wall, covered with a big heavy dust sheet and looked like it hadn't been moved or played for sometime.

Next to this was another console which also had a big dark cover over it. All I could see was a number of swell pedals and some toe pistons and a large data cable which disappeared into the ground floor of the tower and then up into the England case. It was then that I noticed a load of speaker boxes up inside the case.

I was wondering why they had a toaster there and when, if ever it was needed or used?

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There is much cause for rejoicing at Thaxted in the restoration of the Lincoln organ, which was in a parlous state when I first knew it over forty years ago and, from what I heard, had been not much better when Gustav Holst used to play it fifty or so years before that.

 

Maybe there's something to be said for the longevity of these old tracker jobs after all (wicked grin). The Flight at Harwich was in a shocking state for years and years, but kept going until Peter Bumstead restored it some years back.

 

The west end G.P. England organ was found, restored and installed at Thaxted by the local builder Cedric Arnold, who had a sympathetic touch with little old organs. It is, however, mounted on a beam and played from a detached console because it is in the tower arch and could not obstruct the ringers' circle. It was used more often than the Lincoln for most of its life, the latter being very quietly spoken and well out of the way in the north transept (I wonder if it has come up brighter and more assertive after the restoration). The England, although small, had more presence in the church when it came to leading hymns, etc. Omega is right in his surmise about the toaster. Maybe they wanted something with more variety to accompany choral music, or maybe the England organ needed work. The toaster was there when I was last in the church about five years ago.

 

Re Saffron Walden, it was said that the last HN&B rebuild came about because a rich wedding couple requested a certain piece and the organist demurred on the grounds that there was no Tuba - so they paid for one, although it materialised in the form of a horizontal trumpet (also available on the Pedal at 16'!).

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Hi

 

When I was minister at Ashdon Baptist Church, I had occasional access to the organ at St Mary. Saffron Walden for practice. In some ways, it's a strange instrument - the Positive division (on the screen behind the console I think) seemed to be rather out of step with everything else. As to the Chamade - it's an immensely powerful stop - and one that can easily catch out the unwary player, as at the console, you mainly hear it reflecting from the West End - which is a very long way away! Played in chords, it can be physically painful if you're in line of fire! A fantastic stop for solo lines though. I've heard some famous players use it in chords in recitals - to the discomfort of those sitting towards the front of the South side of the Nave! The best place to hear the organ is a few rows back on the North side of the Nave, where ou have direct line of sight to the front pipes of the organ case.

 

I enjoyed playing the instrument - even if, having the Chamade as a floating division - it was all too easy to leave it coupled to the Positive manual and get a surprise when you were expecting a nice quiet stop!

 

The organ was cleaned & overhauled by Peter deVille in 2007 (Peter also looked after the small organ at Ashdon Baptist).

 

I never got to play at Thaxted - the Lincoln organ was effectively out of use when I was in te area (1999-2003), and I never heard the England organ. There was no sign of an electronic at that stage.

 

Another interesting church (and organ) worth visiting if you're in the area is Radwinter Parish Church - the ornate interior is worth a visit - and the organ, a 3 manual by Miller of Cambridge - is an instrument that I get to play quite frequently, and enjoyed.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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....It was good to see the Lincoln organ in the South Transept fully restored and looking beautiful. ...

 

I'm sure you meant north transept.

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1. The Chamade at Saffron Walden was softened at the request of the current organist (info mid 2014) so might not have the effect Tony remembers! Pictures are with the NPOR for uploading. The 16 ft octave which is on the pedals is, I believe , half length on chamade. I only noticed because all the long resonators on the LHS of the chamade display are slightly larger diameter than those on the RHS!

 

2. The problem with Radwinter I think is one of access; very limited opening which did not coincide with when I could visit!

 

3. I think Positif Press have published a booklet on the Thaxted Lincoln organ which I have not seen generally advertised and have not read. I expect it details the non equal temperament which is why I have been led to believe it is unlikely to be used for most services. Indeed one IBO member felt moved to write to their Newsletter questioning the temperament decision.

 

4. The electronic is a fairly recent installation, I think, brought about by a failing west end organ and a non playing transept organ. Pictures of the England west end organ are with the NPOR for uploading.

 

PJW

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Radwinter! Yes, a wonderful Anglo-Catholic interior and a fine Miller(Cambridge)organ. I did quite a lot of research into the Miller firm years ago when I lived in Orkney. I would plan out visits to Miller organs during vacations. Oddly enough, when I moved to Belfast, which is less than half an hour away from Millers' stamping grounds by cheap flights, I never seemed to have the time to do so much. I copied all my material to Jose Hopkins, who compiled a thesis on the firm.

 

Radwinter Church was completely restored by Eden Nesfield at the expense of the then Rector. Nesfield even drew up the specification of the organ - a two-manual. However, more work was done later, and I think this included making the organ into a three-manual and adding the gorgeous Bodleian cases (Nesfield designed pipe-racks). The architect at this stage was Temple Moore, and I'm inclined to believe that he designed the organ cases. In any case, it's a very nice smallish three-manual, well able to hold its own against the products of more famous brands of the time. Unfortunately, the acoustics are not good. I gave a few recitals on it over the years, including one on a devilishly hot summer's day when I had to tune all the reeds....

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Thanks Wolsey - Of course it is in the North Transept..............I was looking West from the crossing whilst admiring which probably skewed my NSEW compass!

I know Saffon Walden Church and yes - what a beautiful building! I wonder whether it was ever in the running to be the Cathedral of Essex (Chelmsford, as we all know got the seat)? I've not played the organ but have admired the chamades from the ground and they certainly look like they can pack a punch!

 

Nearby is Bishop's Stortford - I believe they are having work done on their 3 manual organ at the moment?

 

Delighted and somewhat pleased to announce that I do not have anything to do with Morris Dancing!

 

Best wishes

Richard

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Thaxted and Saffron Walden were both considered for cathedral status, but Chelmsford was chosen because it is the county town, is more central and had better railway links. Colchester was also considered, as it is bigger than Chelmsford and much more historic, but it is on the north-eastern border of the county and is probably unique among sizeable English towns in that it has no large, central parish church, such as exists at St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, St Mary or St. James, Bury St. Edmunds, St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, etc.

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And yes, I would also like to confirm my relative 'disinterest' in Morris dancing. My wife, who is Irish, simply finds it hilarious....

As a participant in Scottish country dancing, I have to say that I find Irish dancing slightly hilarious.

Admittedly, the footwork is very impressive, but I somehow think something's missing in the hands and arms department! (Apparently, it's something to do with a religious requirement of them to 'keep their hands to themselves'!)

 

Sorry for straying off-topic.

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I believe that the "Guide to Irish Dancing, Volume 2: Use of the Arms" was dropped in the river during the Battle of the Bopyne and never recovered.

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The Buckinghamshire OA is visiting Saffron Walden next month so I'm looking forward to trying the instrument there. We are also going to Finchingfield where there's another 3 manual Miller.

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Are you also visiting the former Organist at SW, who lives opposite the church, and has two very interesting organs in his home?

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I believe that the "Guide to Irish Dancing, Volume 2: Use of the Arms" was dropped in the river during the Battle of the Bopyne and never recovered.

:lol:

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We are being hosted by Oli King, the DOM - I don't know any further details but will ask.

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I had a moment to stop and take a look around Thaxted Church today - what a wonderful building! It was good to see the Lincoln organ in the South Transept fully restored and looking beautiful. The GP England organ "on stilts" at the West End looked a little sorry for itself. From behind, there are just exposed pipes and the case (except for the front) is very poor. The console was pushed to the back wall, covered with a big heavy dust sheet and looked like it hadn't been moved or played for sometime.

Next to this was another console which also had a big dark cover over it. All I could see was a number of swell pedals and some toe pistons and a large data cable which disappeared into the ground floor of the tower and then up into the England case. It was then that I noticed a load of speaker boxes up inside the case.

I was wondering why they had a toaster there and when, if ever it was needed or used?

Makin Organs' website's "Installations" section mentions a 42 stop 3 manual for "Thaxted Festival Foundation" (from memory - I haven't checked) Could this be it? i visited Thaxted in the early 1990s and the west end Arnold instrument appeared to be in regular use then. The England didn't look as though it was in use - was it playable at that time?

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The west end organ is the England, put together and installed by Cedric Arnold. The larger organ in the transept is by Lincoln. Until the recent restoration, it looked almost derelict, but was still playing.

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The west end organ is the England, put together and installed by Cedric Arnold. The larger organ in the transept is by Lincoln. Until the recent restoration, it looked almost derelict, but was still playing.

 

Sorry - posting in a hurry and got mixed up. I knew that!

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Re The Saffron Walden Chamade, I softened the rank from about Tenor C up about 20 years ago, not particularly due to being over-loud but because it improved the tone somewhat. A Tuba was never considered by Hill Norman and beard in the early 1970s - it wouldn't have worked with the tonal scheme. The 16ft half-length extension on the pedal is a truly revolting sound and is used very infrequently!



Also we would love to have a proper 32ft Reed but despite being the largest church in Essex there is no room to house it!



For those who can get to Saffron Walden we have evening organ recitals on 21st June (Jeremy Allen), 19th July (Oli King), 23rd August (Oliver Waterer) and 17th October (David Dunnett) all at 8.00 pm. We have also booked David Hill for 23rd July 2016 and David Briggs 14th October 2016.



Peter


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I agree in certain instances when there are a lot of digital additions on the manuals, but there have been a number of very successful digital ranks installed on pedal organs where I certainly would not have known that they weren't pipes (two examples spring to mind - the nave and choir organs at Southwell Minster and Blackburn Cathedral pedal organ). I've not heard the Saffron Walden organ, so I cannot comment on their digital ranks.

 

Richard Harrison

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