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Most pointless stops?

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"I am looking for suggestions for where a good wash of string tone would be effective" (Martin Cooke, #22)

 

"Charmaine" by Rapee/Pollack. Retro theatre-organ style transcription of Mantovani's (string) orchestral arrangement. Lush strings essential. Good swell box highly desirable.

 

Or for something more 'respectable', the 3rd movement of Elgar's organ sonata in G - 2nd section in F#. Marked ppp, so again a good swell box is indicated. It almost cries out to be played on a string chorus with celeste, and when available that's what I use. I played it at Salisbury using the Solo strings with sub and supers (oh no, not those again ... ).

 

CEP

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'Larghetto' from Serenade for Strings op. 20 by Elgar. Lovely (and easy) arrangement in 'The Reflective Elgar' pub. Animus.

 

A

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I have a 16' Dulciana in the Choir Organ. I occasionally couple it at sub octave pitch to a string registration (incidentally, such was the extravagance in 1927 that the 16' enclosed Dulciana in the Choir box is less than six feet behind the 16' unenclosed Dulciana in the case!).

 

Martin mentioned earlier that some Clarions are useless because they go out of tune so easily. As a long-time Organist of Remote Cathedrals, I know it to be a Law of Organ Tuning that certain pipes will slip as soon as the tuner sets foot on the plane. One gets adept at tapping recalcitrant notes back to the true path. Here is a warning, though:

 

DO NOT TUNE ORGAN PIPES WITH A CELL PHONE IN YOUR BREAST POCKET!

 

I forgot about this the other day and was lucky to escape with one slightly dented Vox, easily put right. It could just as easily have landed on the four-rank mixture...

I agree. Care in the Swell Box. In my case I knocked the Clarion back into tune only to find that my coat had brushed by and dislodged the top rank of the Mixture on the other side of the tuning walk. :(

Now, even on the coldest day I remove my coat.

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I notice on this thread and another (New Organ in New RC Cathedral in the USA) there's some misapprehension of the point of a 5 1/3 Quint - especially amongst our British correspondents.

 

Part of the source of misunderstanding may be that virtually all organs in the UK are based on 8ft choruses. Despite a few foreign organs (the excellent 1980s Flentrop in Dunblane Cathedral springs to mind) and some British experiments (typically in the 1840s and 1960-70s) the British standard on chorus building has always been on 8ft lines. There may be a 16ft sub-unison tacked on the bottom but predominantly the chorus and the composition of the mixtures only goes to the 8ft series - so the sub unison is optional.

 

If you go to a big church elsewhere in Europe with a big organ, the main chorus may well be built on the 16ft series, with a 5 1/3 rank in the mixture, a separate 5 1/3ft Quint and an open 16ft rank. This isn't a sub-unison rank, this the stop on which you build the pleno and you don't use the mixture without it!

 

This concept goes back to the ideas of the mediaeval Blokwerk and the writings of Praetorius and Arnold Schlinck, where they describe organs of 3ft, 4ft, 6ft (from F), 8ft, 12ft (contra F), 16ft, 24ft (think Larkenskerk Alkmaar and Pieterskerk Leiden), etc. Composers like Sweelinck and Bryd habitually wrote for 6ft and 8ft organs (and bigger) and you find examples of these organs all over Europe, from the Antegniatis of Brescia to the Van Hagerbeers in the Netherlands. Even in 1680 Nicolaas Langlenz was building a 12ft organ in the Waalse Kerk.

 

The UK settled on a standard of a 12ft-10 2/3ft organ starting at GG in the 17th century and this became the de facto standard until the middle of the 19th century when the British adopted the German system. Early experiments were mainly 16ft organs (for example the Hills of the 1840s) but, with the confluence of styles and the Blokwerk ideas a long-faded memory, the Brits quickly convened on an 8ft organ with optional 16ft sub unison ranks, which most organists are most familiar with. Part of it may have been misunderstanding, or lack of knowledge of the old principles but part of it could have been the 16ft chorus sound might not have worked so well in the relatively small rooms in the UK.

 

Of course, the organ reform movement reinvented the ideas of organs of differing pitch and a new term - Werkprinzip - was invented, where the idea was divisions would have different pitches. But the ideas of earlier were slightly different, with your 2ft, 3ft and 4ft organs mainly being for domestic or small chapel use, your 6ft, 8ft and 12ft organs for church use, with 16ft, 24ft and larger organs being installed in major churches and cathedrals.

 

Hope this helps.

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I typically only find pointless stops on poorly thought-out organs or poor-quality rebuilds/additions... I've just come back from playing an organ where the mixtures (both later additions) are completely useless and pointless. (but also I very naughtily used the swell sub octave coupler to create a particular effect... I can be quite degenerate sometimes...)

 

But I think a 2ft Dulcetina on the Pedal Organ takes some beating... and yes, I know an example...

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Yes. That particular one many consider the most important one, and which usually is beyond the control of the builder. Pity, because it's on all the time.

 

Best

Friedrich

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Colin Harvey's post (#29) was indeed helpful. It explained why a separate 5 1/3 quint makes no sense in an 8 foot chorus, as some of us have pointed out recently. Such stops (and 5 1/3' mixture ranks) are of course found from time to time, not only in British organs but in Continental Europe, but that does not help to validate their presence when there is no 16 foot chorus. The so-called 'Bach organ' at Arnstadt is one example.

 

Colin's other post about 'pointless' 2 foot pedal stops (#30) reminded me of the 2' Sifflote on the pedal organ at St George's, Dunster (HN&B 1962). It's extended from the 16' flue. I've never quite worked that one out, though presumably there's either some logic behind it (which I'd be interested to hear about), or maybe someone just insisted on it at the time. It wouldn't be the first time ...

 

CEP

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It must surely be my understanding that is at fault, but the most useless stop I have ever encountered has to be the Regal on the Hoffheimer (?) chamber organ in Carisbrooke Castle. The organ has three stops: full-compass (from E) flutes at 4' and 2' pitch and an 8' Regal from middle B upwards. Apparently the reed never did go any lower. The Regal is useless for playing standard keyboard repertoire since there are few or no pieces that do not require lower notes and the inverted harmonies that result are all too obvious. I find it hard to imagine that the original players did not care about such things and can only assume that the stop was intended for playing single lines in concerted music. In theory one could also improvise within its very restricted compass, but doing so yields a rather unpleasant sonority so I doubt that that was ever intended.

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Colin's other post about 'pointless' 2 foot pedal stops (#30) reminded me of the 2' Sifflote on the pedal organ at St George's, Dunster (HN&B 1962). It's extended from the 16' flue. I've never quite worked that one out, though presumably there's either some logic behind it (which I'd be interested to hear about), or maybe someone just insisted on it at the time. It wouldn't be the first time ...

 

This organ has a 16' Pedal Bourdon extended to 8', 4' and 2' pitches, although the 2' is no longer available separately (the 32' is actually electronic, as are most of the other "unborrowed" pedal stops). The tonal character changed as the rank ascended and the 4' and 2' were actually rather lovely and very useful for pedal solos.

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I'm pretty sure I read somewhere the organ in Carisbrooke Castle is by Nicolaaus Manderscheidt. Paul Hoffhaimer was an organist and composer who lived between 1459-1537.

 

The 4ft Pedal Dulcetina (sorry, not 2ft) is at St Laurence, Alton. The original Henry Speechly organ must have been pretty good (Speechly was the foreman of Henry Willis and his works shows a lot of Willis influence) but it was got at by Woods in the 1960s, who (under the instruction of the organist at the time, Cyril Diplock) added a lot of extra stops. If one sticks to the original Speechly stops, it's a pretty OK organ but the extra stops only serve to swell the number and, if anything, only really obfuscate what the organ is really about. The spec is here: www.npor.org.uk/nporview.html?RI=N11310

 

Despite this, the organ has a long running and celebrated recital series (with some really very big names who've played) and a dedicated society who run it (who will undoubtedly be up in arms that I've dared nominate a stop on their organ for this list). Details at http://home.clara.net/willman/index/welcome.html

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I'm pretty sure I read somewhere the organ in Carisbrooke Castle is by Nicolaaus Manderscheidt. Paul Hoffhaimer was an organist and composer who lived between 1459-1537.

 

The Carisbrooke chamber organ apparently once had a label inside the case, removed between 1899 and 1902, that read "E. Hoffheimer Fec. Vienna 1592". However, this hardly fits with the Dutch inscription and (possibly altered) date of 1602 on the outside of the case. The report of 1993 by Goetze and Gwynn, which details the known history of the organ, makes no mention of Manderscheidt, but there may have been advances since then and I would be interested to know of any further details that have come to light.

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This organ has a 16' Pedal Bourdon extended to 8', 4' and 2' pitches, although the 2' is no longer available separately (the 32' is actually electronic, as are most of the other "unborrowed" pedal stops). The tonal character changed as the rank ascended and the 4' and 2' were actually rather lovely and very useful for pedal solos.

I thought I detected the nomenclature of Henry Willis IV here and, flicking back through the organ's various manifestations, I was right. Some of his Junior Development Plan organs had a Pedal consisting of 16.8.4.2 taken from the manual Gedeckt (the manual might typically be something like Gedeckt, Salicional, Gemshorn, Flageolet), and other organs (such as St. Magnus Cathedral) had the 2' extension of the Bourdon, too. To be honest, the 2' Pedal Piccolo at St. Magnus wasn't much use. If it had been an extension of the open metal unit, it would have completed a handy chorus (if the wind had been steady). Christ Church, Swindon (Percy Daniel 1970 - one of their best jobs of the period, I thought, and the organist, Gordon Crabbe, was a great guy) had such an arrangement and the Pedal chorus was excellent. In some ways, a 2' can be more use than a mixture down there. At St. Botolph, Colchester (Cedric Arnold, Williamson and Hyatt 1966 - one of several outstanding instruments they produced around this time - another was Walsingham), the Sub Bass unit got quite perky in the treble, and supplied the Great 8' Chimney Flute (now also a 16' Double Diapason) as well as being available on the Pedal at 16.8.2 (but not 4). The 2', topping the 4' open metal Fifteenth, was quite effective, and the combination of 4 open and 2 flute was useful for a 4' cantus firmus in chorale preludes. Walsingham has a similar arrangement, except that the 2' comes from the Great 4' Conical Flute.

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Thinking on from the above, some of the most useless stops must be those which aren't up to doing the job for which they are intended. I can think of at least two independent 4' Pedal reeds (the Krummhorn at Bristol University and the Schalmei at Belfast Cathedral) which are too quiet to be accompanied by anything suitable on the manuals. The 4' Horn at St. Magnus Cathedral is similarly disappointing, being an extension of the Swell 16' Waldhorn.

 

In general, Swell Fagottos (Fagotti?) borrowed to make the Pedal reeds are pretty useless, being too quiet to have any effect. An exception is the aforementioned Christ Church, Swindon. Percy Daniel often used a unit Swell reed, calling the 16' Fagotto and the 8' Cornopean or Horn (St. George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol was another example - I don't know why NPOR queries this organ as it certainly existed with the given stop-list until the church closed), and these could be decent Pedal reeds. So, a Fagotto which is in effect a Double Trumpet is worth borrowing to the Pedal, but one which is more of a Contra Oboe (or a Waldhorn)isn't.

 

I rarely find that borrowing the Swell Bourdon to give a quiet bass is worth the trouble. I suppose it gives another stop on the console at small cost and therefore looks impressive. About the only exception I can think of is here (St. John's Cathedral, Newfoundland), where the Swell 16' is not only useful in its own right but fills out the Pedal Bourdon to a small but perceptible degree (incidentally, it's spelled "Lieblick Gedeckt" on both draw-stops!).

 

There's not much use in the 4' extension of the pedal Bourdon, although the 8' is often handy in giving body to the 16'. I can think of several rebuilds where the expense and trouble of providing an extra octave of pipes and their soundboard has not been worth it. One still has to couple nearly all the time and the 4' is rarely loud enough to use as a solo.

 

There is, however, a lot of fun to be had with Pedal upperwork and I feel that a lot of modern organs are missing a trick. A straight scheme of 16.16.8.8.4.16 is all very well and laudable, but St. Botolph's, Colchester is much more versatile:

 

Open Bass 16A, Sub Bass 16B, Principal 8A, Bass Flute 8B, Fifteenth 4A, Chimney Flute 2B, Mixture (19.22) IIA with separate quints, Bass Trumpet 16C, Trumpet 8C, Clarion 4C. (Variants on the same are at Southwold, Walsingham and Sawbridgeworth).

 

G. Donald Harrison reckoned he could fit a proper, straight Pedal Organ in the space of an old, extended one, but he was talking in terms of scrapping a lot of mightily-scaled basses.

 

I'd love to try the Compenius organ at Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark, with its pedal fluework up to 1' pitch, including mutations.

 

A shame, also, that we so seldom these days get a 4' Pedal reed, even by extension. It's not always handy (or even possible) to couple. The new Harrison at St. Edmundsbury Cathedral has pedal reeds 32.16.16.16. No 8' and no 4' - it seems a little odd in such an otherwise faultless job.

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Re Carisbrooke Castle, I last visited there in 1999 and brought away a leaflet about the organ. It consists of three closely typed pages, but with no indication of authorship or date. How completely useless that is for those seeking reliable source material. However it bears little resemblance to the Goetze and Gwynn report of 1993, though it might have drawn on it, or vice versa. A quick reading just now suggests that it does not amplify on the uncertainties surrounding dates and possible maker(s). It merely concludes that " ... we have not only a musical treasure but a cosmopolitan enigma".

 

Nevertheless there is a lot of stuff in there, and if anyone would like a copy I might be able to do a scan (if I can persaude my scanner to work) which I can send privately. Please PM me if you are interested.

 

CEP

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Further to the comment about Carisbrook, another kind of "what's the point of" stop I think is where something exists, but not at the pitch I would have expected. Clifton Cathedral springs to mind - its lovely Rieger, which I see has a Grade 1 historic organ certificate. I can understand why you might want a 16 foot reed on the organ's only enclosed Brustwerk division, if it is sort of acting as the Swell division. But why only go for a 16 foot reed and no 8 foot reed first, meaning that the only reed under expresive control on the entire organ is at 16 foot pitch?

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David

 

The NPOR source for St George Brandon Hill was from a propsal - hence the query. The comment reads "it's not known if this organ was ever installed". An e-mail to NPOR to confirm that it was indeed there, and the correctness (or otherwise) of the stop list will allow us to update the record in due course.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Thinking on from the above, some of the most useless stops must be those which aren't up to doing the job for which they are intended. I can think of at least two independent 4' Pedal reeds (the Krummhorn at Bristol University and the Schalmei at Belfast Cathedral) which are too quiet to be accompanied by anything suitable on the manuals. The 4' Horn at St. Magnus Cathedral is similarly disappointing, being an extension of the Swell 16' Waldhorn.

 

In general, Swell Fagottos (Fagotti?) borrowed to make the Pedal reeds are pretty useless, being too quiet to have any effect. An exception is the aforementioned Christ Church, Swindon. Percy Daniel often used a unit Swell reed, calling the 16' Fagotto and the 8' Cornopean or Horn (St. George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol was another example - I don't know why NPOR queries this organ as it certainly existed with the given stop-list until the church closed), and these could be decent Pedal reeds. So, a Fagotto which is in effect a Double Trumpet is worth borrowing to the Pedal, but one which is more of a Contra Oboe (or a Waldhorn)isn't.

 

I rarely find that borrowing the Swell Bourdon to give a quiet bass is worth the trouble. I suppose it gives another stop on the console at small cost and therefore looks impressive. About the only exception I can think of is here (St. John's Cathedral, Newfoundland), where the Swell 16' is not only useful in its own right but fills out the Pedal Bourdon to a small but perceptible degree (incidentally, it's spelled "Lieblick Gedeckt" on both draw-stops!).

 

There's not much use in the 4' extension of the pedal Bourdon, although the 8' is often handy in giving body to the 16'. I can think of several rebuilds where the expense and trouble of providing an extra octave of pipes and their soundboard has not been worth it. One still has to couple nearly all the time and the 4' is rarely loud enough to use as a solo.

 

There is, however, a lot of fun to be had with Pedal upperwork and I feel that a lot of modern organs are missing a trick. A straight scheme of 16.16.8.8.4.16 is all very well and laudable, but St. Botolph's, Colchester is much more versatile:

 

Open Bass 16A, Sub Bass 16B, Principal 8A, Bass Flute 8B, Fifteenth 4A, Chimney Flute 2B, Mixture (19.22) IIA with separate quints, Bass Trumpet 16C, Trumpet 8C, Clarion 4C. (Variants on the same are at Southwold, Walsingham and Sawbridgeworth).

 

G. Donald Harrison reckoned he could fit a proper, straight Pedal Organ in the space of an old, extended one, but he was talking in terms of scrapping a lot of mightily-scaled basses.

 

I'd love to try the Compenius organ at Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark, with its pedal fluework up to 1' pitch, including mutations.

 

A shame, also, that we so seldom these days get a 4' Pedal reed, even by extension. It's not always handy (or even possible) to couple. The new Harrison at St. Edmundsbury Cathedral has pedal reeds 32.16.16.16. No 8' and no 4' - it seems a little odd in such an otherwise faultless job.

In the rebuild at my church I specified an extention of the Swell Bourdon as "Echo Bourdon" on the Pedals and have found it most useful. It is also available on the Pedal at 4' pitch labelled "Echo Flute" . It allows me to avoid use of Manual to Pedal couplers in quiet combinations and the soft 16' is used regularly to give just a hint of 16' tone when accompanying plainchant. This was thought out beforehand and not simply added to increase the number of stop knobs on the console. The combination of Echo Bourdon 16, Bass Flute 8 (extended from the larger Pedal Bourdon) and Echo Flute 4 works well as an independent pedal line in trios. In the ideal world we would all prefer independent ranks on the Pedal but in our case there was not the room for this. I have also had the Swell Contra Fagotto made available seperately on the Pedals as a quieter alternative to the Trombone and it too works well.

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Re Carisbrooke Castle, I last visited there in 1999 and brought away a leaflet about the organ. It consists of three closely typed pages, but with no indication of authorship or date. How completely useless that is for those seeking reliable source material. However it bears little resemblance to the Goetze and Gwynn report of 1993, though it might have drawn on it, or vice versa. A quick reading just now suggests that it does not amplify on the uncertainties surrounding dates and possible maker(s). It merely concludes that " ... we have not only a musical treasure but a cosmopolitan enigma".

 

Nevertheless there is a lot of stuff in there, and if anyone would like a copy I might be able to do a scan (if I can persaude my scanner to work) which I can send privately. Please PM me if you are interested.

 

CEP

 

That leaflet was written by a late friend of mine, Jack Jones, who was for many years the curator of Carisbrooke Castle museum. Jack, who was one of the finest human beings I have ever known, was a historian by training and profession, but he was also a fine and knowledgeable musician. He was the music critic for the Isle of Wight County Press and a bass (or occasionally alto) in the little parish church of St Mary's, Carisbrooke, which in the early 70s had a tiny, but very good, choir of just six boys and four men (five if the choirmaster sang). He sometimes used to lend me a pair of virginals he owned when I was mounting early music concerts and of course it was he who allowed me to play the museum's organ. The leaflet was written for the interested tourist, not for organ historians. Why Jack did not put his name to it I do not know, but he was never one to sing his own praises and no doubt he saw no need to do so. However, I agree that that was a bad call.

 

Incidentally, Carisbrooke Castle also has a very pleasant two-manual organ in the chapel which lends itself well to earlier music. When I last played it over forty years ago it wasn't in the best of health, but I gather that it is still there and is still playable.

 

In my youth, the organ at St Mary's, Carisbrooke, was a depressingly thick-toned Bevington, but in 1973 it was magically transformed into a musical instrument by John Budgen. Sadly the available money did not stretch to revoicing the Great Open Diapason, which meant that it then stuck out like a sore thumb and therefore (to return vaguely to topic) was quite useless. Needless to say, it was always the first stop that visiting organists tried. I gather that the organ was expanded in 1999, but, not having been in the IoW since 1990, I know nothing of that.

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Contra Bombarde - There is some precedent for the only 16' reed being under expression. The amazing little Harrison which was built for the RSCM was one. Admittedly, it and the Rieger at Clifton Cathedral are so different as to live on different planets, but I think the same thinking might apply, i.e. that a 16' reed gives quite a lot of what one needs for a full swell effect. Such thinking does work at Clifton - it's by no means a Romantic sound, but the ambience is there. I think so, anyway, but others might disagree. Incidentally, is it just me, or has the Rieger lost some of its sting since it first went in? I first played it in 1975 and then several times over the next three years, but then not again until the late 1990s. I thought it sounded less aggressive than of yore. I could be wrong, or it could be revoicing, cleaning, effects of age (on the pipes as well as myself), and so on. A fine instrument, in any case.

 

Here's another such (in an instrument to which I have referred in more than one recent post!). This produces a surprisingly effective Full Swell, in addition to many other uses:

 

Spitz Flute 8, Principal 4, Stopped Flute 4, Gemshorn 2, Larigot 1 1/3, Sharp Mixture 22.26.29, Krummhorn 16. Tremulant.

 

And here, as a complete and rather unusual scheme, Wells-Kennedy's rebuild of a Conacher at Ballylesson Parish Church, Drumbo, County Down:

 

Gt: Open Diapason 8, Stopped Diapason 8, Principal 4, Block Flute 2, Mixture 19.22.26

Sw: Rohr Flute 8, Salicional 8, Gemshorn 4, Fifteenth 2, Contra Oboe 16

Ped: Bourdon 16

 

A proper Great chorus with a 16' reed that can be coupled to the Pedal (it's loud enough).

 

And Walker (also rebuild of a Conacher) at Ballywalter PC, designed by Lord Dunleath, who sang in the choir and was a lay-reader here:

 

Gt: Open Diapason 8, Stopped Diapason 8, Principal 4, Fifteenth 2, Mixture 19.22

Sw: Gedeckt 8, Gemshorn 4, Block Flute 2, Sesquialtera 12.17, Mixture 22.26.29, Contra Fagotto 16. Tremulant.

Ped: Grand Bourdon 16, Bourdon 16 (half-blow)

 

As rebuilt, there was a Dulciana 8 on the Swell, but it soon gave way to the Sesquialtera. Lord Dunleath maintained that the Dulciana was not missed and that, not only was there now a useful solo stop, but the Sesquialtera could be thrown into the chorus like an 8' reed. This organ, together with a congenial atmosphere (and the Book of Common Prayer - the Church of Ireland in my time hadn't pinched the name for a Bumper Book of Alternative Services as they have since), was sufficient to entice good organists to this rather remote little town on the Ards Peninsula and to maintain a decent choir. (The Presbyterian Church down the road had a minister that enlarged the organ there with some help from the organ-builder Philip Prosser. The Swell had a stop labelled "Bra Flute 8". I can't remember why, or how it sounded).

 

Tony - Thanks for the elucidation re St. George's, Brandon Hill. I did message the NPOR about it some time ago but they may not have got round to dealing with that message yet. The organ was written up in "The Organ" with the specification as given in NPOR, in the fifties, I think.

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Ah, David thanks for mentioning the old RSCM Harrison now at St Alkmund Shrewsbury, I knew there was an oddball 16 foot somewhere else but couldn't remember which. Whilst I understand the logic of a 16 foot Swell reed, I'm stil perplexed why if an organ is only big enough for one expressive reed, that reed should be put at 16 foot pitch rather than 8 foot! If you wanted a 16 foot effect on the Swell without a dedicated 16 foot reed the alternatives would be to extend a suitable 8 foot down by an octave, or to have a Swell suboctave stop. Both options would be possible on a mechanical action organ; would either be any good musically? Come to think of it, would playing the 16 foot Swell reed up an octave if you needed an 8 foot solo reed sound terrible?

 

The Clifton Rieger according to NPOR was revoiced by Cawstons in the 1980s and cleaned by Woods in the 2000s. I played it about a decade ago and thought it was an absolute gem, though I couldn't figure out what to do with the 16 foot Brustwerk reed!

 

Other pointless stops - why would you have say a twelth and a sesquialtera when you could have a twelth and a seventeenth and just draw them both if you wanted a cornet? And why would you have a twelth and a fifteenth in addition to a III rank mixture that starts 12, 15.....?

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Other pointless stops - why would you have say a twelth and a sesquialtera when you could have a twelth and a seventeenth and just draw them both if you wanted a cornet? And why would you have a twelth and a fifteenth in addition to a III rank mixture that starts 12, 15.....?

 

I was going to mention the Seventeenth as a stop that should perhaps more often be included on the Great - as long as there's an accompanying Twelfth. I've seen a few Sesquialteras 12.17 starting at Tenor C, such as in the organ at the Prichard-Jones Hall in Bangor University. I had thought that Sesquialteras were an optional chorus stop as well as to be used for solos (with suitable foundations), so does not having one from Tenor C up only defeat the point a bit?

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Thank you, Vox Humana, for your very interesting post (#44) explaining the background to the 'tourist' leaflet available about the organ at Carisbrooke Castle which I wrote about in a post prior to yours. I apologise if my remarks about its author, whose identity was unknown to me at the time of writing, might have caused offence, as none was intended.

 

And on another subject:

 

And why would you have a twelth and a fifteenth in addition to a III rank mixture that starts 12, 15.....?

 

A good question. I'm always open to correction from those who know better, but I consider it wasteful. In my view there's little justification for a mixture to start at the bottom of the compass by duplicating pitches which exist elsewhere. If there is a 12th and a 15th as separate stops, I would start a quint mixture at 19, 22 and so on. This gives more scope for it to break sensibly across the compass before coming to rest at the top few notes with, say, an 8.12.15 composition (which any mixture more or less has to do to prevent the pipes getting too small and to prevent it going beyond the range of audibility of many listeners).

 

CEP

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Some interesting points raised.

 

I agreed very much with a lot of David Drinkell's observations in #39. A critical part of the effectiveness of pedal upper work depends on the design and layout of the organ. If the upperwork is buried somewhere under the swell box and behind a couple of reservoirs, it's not going to be of much use, no matter what you or the organbuilder does with it. Therefore, the available site and design of the organ is going to influence the tonal design of the pedal organ so it's understandable pedal upperwork is not going to be desirable or achievable on some organs. The sooner some organists accept this, the better!

 

Those 4ft solo pedal reeds on genuine baroque organs are usually big powerful stops, capable of making themselves heard above quite large accompanimental registrations if needed. Those tinny little Rohr Schameis of the 20th Century are missing a trick or two...

 

The duplexing of manual stops onto the pedals needs to be treated with care. The voicing/regulation of manual doubles is different to pedal stops. Manual doubles will typically be shaded off in the bottom octave, or the effect becomes too heavy, whereas the power of pedal stops may well grow as one descends the bass octave. This is typically why many manual stops are of questionable value on the pedal organ - personally, I'm no fan as they're a compromise at best and if one really needs to use one, why not just couple it down from the manual with no pedal stops? To duplex it will involve some kind of clamp or unit chest in any case.

 

There is an alternative to a full pedal flue chorus to mixture, which is to have 16.8.4 reeds which balance uncoupled against the manual chorus, only coupling them when the big manual reeds are added.

 

Moving on to manual 16ft reeds, one of my pet hates is when the original Swell Oboe has been transplanted into a 16 stop, usually with a cheap and nasty bottom octave. Why do people do this? It makes the Oboe useless for solos, French fonds d'orgue and the "small swell" effects so typical of the make-up of the British romantic organ sound - so the stop no longer really has any of its intended functions any longer. It's quite possible to get the 16ft swell effect very easily with a sub-octave coupler (best with electric or pneumatic action) and transplanting the Oboe to 16ft limits its usefulness to a stop you only ever add after you've added the main 8ft swell reed. It always feels more like vanity than practical purpose.

 

Personally, I'm not a great fan of manual Clarions/Clairons. Reeds loose power in the treble and are harder to keep in tune, so what's the point most of the time? To keep the power up, they need to be pushed and I find many of them can make the organ sound hard and unpleasant to listen to, especially in the treble. I prefer 16.8 chorus reeds to 8.4 reeds, which is a much grander and richer effect - interestingly 16.8 reeds require less wind than 8.4!

 

On the mixture composition question, it's worth noting most mixtures on British romantic organs will break back to 12.15 as the highest pitches somewhere in the middle octave - you might get a Tierce in there too. What gives them their brightness is their voicing and treatment, which is more assertive than the twelfth and fifteenth stops. Except in large churches, the effect of carrying the pitches too high makes uncomfortable listening in most British churches.

 

I've always liked the idea of a separate Seventeenth as a stop on the Great Organ. On a relatively recent visit to the British Organ Archive, I happily noted quite a few examples of this stop in the Hill estimates in the 1840s and early 1850s on his smaller schemes... It's a shame the idea never really caught on and I wonder if it's a stop to be re-introduced...

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Yes the duplexing of manual stops onto the pedals needs to be treated with care and of course in the ideal world we would all have totally independent ranks on every division. Let me explain the stuation at my church:-

When I raised the need to replace a worn - out and tonally inadequate organ with my parish priest I was simply told that there was no money and there were other pressing issues. With his blessing I went away to begin raising the money independently and we started a seperate musical education charity, whose first job was to tackle the organ problem. Eleven years on, the project is nearly complete and my parish priest is so proud of what we have achieved that he constantly shows visitors the instrument. However, because of the financial restraints we could not afford a new instrument and went for the best alternative, which was to rescue a good, redundant instrument and enlarge it to our requirements. The Swell Bourdon was not in the original rescued organ and had to be added on a seperate chest anyway, therefore duplexing it on the pedal only required the cost of a stop knob and having the micro - processor programmed to make it happen. The Swell Contra Fagotto, again a new stop on its own chest, was treated in the same way. I can use it on the Pedal without having to couple the rest of the Swell. Indeed it works well as a Pedal Stop against the Swell Cornopean and Clarion, or "Choir to Mixture" combination.

Whilst I accept that both the Cornopean and Clarion have to become bright principals at the top of the treble end of the keyboard I find the Clarion an essential part of the full Swell effect in a larger instrument, especially when one considers the large amount of accompanying that does not stray out of the vocal range. In our instrument, the new Contra Fagotto was installed on a seperate chest because I did not want to lose the Oboe. Having heard it, I quickly put aside any thoughts of a "Contra Oboe conversion". I too have heard poor examples of this practice. There were some interesting remarks on this subject in John Norman's excellent column in "Organists' Review" (June 2012 issue).

In our rebuild none of the original stops have been lost and the greatest of care has been taken in matching the added material.

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