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I asked David Pinnegar's son why the organ only had five manuals. He replied, "Dad hasn't had time to fix the sixth manual yet".

Roger Yates assembled a 14 manual (I think) console in his works as a joke against the enormous leviathans arising in America.

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I remember that Christopher Dearnley did have a mocked-up St Paul's console in his home- maybe in Dovercourt rather than Amen court, after the Mander 1977 rebuild.

 

Goodness - what fun! Was it there just for decoration or did it have a few ranks of pipes?

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Goodness - what fun! Was it there just for decoration or did it have a few ranks of pipes?

 

I'm still waiting for someone to confirm I'm not dreaming here, but I think it was just a dummy to allow practice of registration changes, and familiarity with the (then) new console

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I can't imagine why anyone would want so many manuals.

I'm sure four would be perfectly adequate; possibly five at a stretch (if you'll pardon the pun!).

 

After all, how many hands do organists have? :wacko:

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I remember that Christopher Dearnley did have a mocked-up St Paul's console in his home- maybe in Dovercourt rather than Amen court, after the Mander 1977 rebuild.

Could be - although I thought it was Amen Court. Can John Mander comment?

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I'm interested in the description "mocked up". What does this mean? Almost any non-functional but physically-playable five manual console would have been expensive, extravagant even, for something which did not actually produce a sound (if that is what is meant here). Today it would cost several tens of thousands of pounds if it used high quality sprung keys and motorised engraved drawstops which could be operated by means of a combination system, and in real terms the cost would not have been much different in Christopher Dearnley's day. That does not mean he did not have such a console of course. In his day there were no such things as touch screens and cheap (and nasty) commercial MIDI keyboards at around £150 each, which today would bring down the cost dramatically. Having spent so much on a decent console it wouldn't have cost much more in relative terms to install electronics so that it would at least have made some sort of sound

 

At the other end of the scale (no pun intended), it could have consisted merely of a cheap plywood shell with some old keyboards and large photographs of the stop jambs!

 

Either way, why go to the bother when he only lived around the corner from the real thing? Even when the cathedral was in use for other purposes, he could have popped into the organ loft to do some dummy (silent) practice.

 

So it would indeed be interesting to resolve this question, because it somehow does not quite stack up in my simple mind.

 

CEP

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I'm interested in the description "mocked up". What does this mean? Almost any non-functional but physically-playable five manual console would have been expensive, extravagant even, for something which did not actually produce a sound (if that is what is meant here). Today it would cost several tens of thousands of pounds if it used high quality sprung keys and motorised engraved drawstops which could be operated by means of a combination system, and in real terms the cost would not have been much different in Christopher Dearnley's day. That does not mean he did not have such a console of course. In his day there were no such things as touch screens and cheap (and nasty) MIDI keyboards at around £150 each, which today would bring down the cost dramatically. Having spent so much on a decent console it wouldn't have cost much more to install electronics so that it would at least have made some sort of sound

 

At the other end of the scale (no pun intended), it could have consisted merely of a cheap plywood shell with some old keyboards and large photographs of the stop jambs!

 

Either way, why go to the bother when he only lived around the corner from the real thing? Even when the cathedral was in use for other purposes, he could have popped into the organ loft to do some dummy (silent) practice.

 

So it would indeed be interesting to resolve this question, because it somehow does not quite stack up in my simple mind.

 

CEP

 

Indeed.

 

In fact, a former Sub Organist, Dr. Harry Gabb (from whom I received organ lessons for a while at music college) said that he used to go in to the cathedral very early in the mornings to practise - particularly if there was to be an important service. Apparently, due to the location of the old console (inside the North Choir case), he had his scores placed diagonally on the right-hand side of the bench, and played, largely looking sideways at the music and (during the actual services) glancing over his shoulder at the conductor, through a small hinged panel in the case.

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I can't imagine why anyone would want so many manuals.

I'm sure four would be perfectly adequate; possibly five at a stretch (if you'll pardon the pun!).

 

After all, how many hands do organists have? :wacko:

 

For what it's worth, I find very large organs somewhat embarrassing but only when it's their size alone which is the subject of conversation. Large instruments in themselves do not bother me because it's a simple fact that they are necessary for large buildings, and prior to about 1930 a large pipe organ was the only practical way to fill such spaces with sound before the arrival of electronics and loudspeakers of reasonable power and sound quality. Interestingly, the 7 manual affair at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, was built exactly on that historical cusp and to that extent it was arguably a white elephant even before it uttered its first squeak. Alternatives would have included a distributed sound system which could have reproduced gramophone/phonograph records (they too had recently become much better with the introduction of electrical recording) and live performances by musicians and singers picked up by microphones, and such systems were probably installed as well, either at the same time or shortly afterwards. It would be interesting to know the relative proportion of time that the two systems - the electronic PA system and the huge organ - were used. (It is also of interest that the arrival of radio and consumer audio electronics around this time, both offering alternative and wider means of entertainment, was largely responsible for the sudden decline in popularity of pipe organs in the residences of the wealthy).

 

But as I said above, my embarrassment arises when it is nothing but the sizes of these large instruments which monopolises the dialogue on a basis of "mine is bigger than yours". No other musicians vie with each other in this way because the sizes of their instruments, such as violins and bassoons, are determined purely by physics. So I wonder what they think when organists and organ builders continually try to outdo each other purely on the basis of number of pipes, stops, keyboards and the like. Well, the question is rhetorical because I know perfectly well what they think because some have told me - it merely reduces still further any regard they might have held for the organ as a musical instrument in the first place - hence the embarrassment. Sometimes I don't think we do ourselves any favours by focusing so often on size, when it's musicality which matters more.

 

CEP

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Indeed.

 

In fact, a former Sub Organist, Dr. Harry Gabb (from whom I received organ lessons for a while at music college) said that he used to go in to the cathedral very early in the mornings to practise - particularly if there was to be an important service. Apparently, due to the location of the old console (inside the North Choir case), he had his scores placed diagonally on the right-hand side of the bench, and played, largely looking sideways at the music and (during the actual services) glancing over his shoulder at the conductor, through a small hinged panel in the case.

Conductor? What conductor? Those were the days when things were only conducted if they were unaccompanied. The main use for the hinged panels was to allow the organist to see what was going on downstairs and draw extemporaisations to a close at the right time. There was of course no cctv and because the case extended well above head level on all sides, mirrors alone did not help.

The two hinged panels behind the organist gave views of the high altar and choir stalls but these were replaced with real pipes when the north choir was installed. There were also two much smaller square "advent calendar" doors on the west side of the choir case which gave a view of the seats under the dome and west doors. They are still there, though they are hard to spot, the larger of them having a carved wreath on the outside to break up its outline.

Signals to start were a separate issue, and here the telephone in handy. Other clues included a single chime on a bell in the Deans Aisle calling the Vicars Choral to order, the choir saying "amen" at the end of the vestry prayer, and the swish of the curtains as the choir left the aisle.

The 1930 and 1900 consoles, without their pedal boards, are still hidden away in store in the triforium. So if you count these, together with the mobile console donated by Harry Gabb's son, the cathedral has four five manual consoles!

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Conductor? What conductor? Those were the days when things were only conducted if they were unaccompanied. The main use for the hinged panels was to allow the organist to see what was going on downstairs and draw extemporaisations to a close at the right time.

 

I was given to understand that, for large and important occasions, there was indeed a conductor present. Whilst it is possible that Dr. Gabb's memory was at fault, it is now impossible to ask him to verify this statement.

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I was given to understand that, for large and important occasions, there was indeed a conductor present. Whilst it is possible that Dr. Gabb's memory was at fault, it is now impossible to ask him to verify this statement.

Hmm. Perhaps it was after John Dykes Bower retired and Christopher Dearnley arrrived! After my time!!

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Conductor? What conductor? Those were the days when things were only conducted if they were unaccompanied.

 

I don't think Pcnd5584 is that old! :) I can't comment on St Paul's specifically, but by the time he mentions things were already changing. I am open to correction, but I think the change to using conductors, at first occasionally and then regularly, began gradually around the end of the 60s.

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I have an idea that Barry Rose began the custom of conducting everything, partly because it was the only way to get a repertoire up and running in the time he had. There's no doubt, though, that a conducted choir makes a better job of a larger repertoire than an unconducted one.

 

Unless they're King's.....

 

But I was there a few weeks ago (my first fix for years!). The Boss wasn't there, and I thought the choir wasn't taking too much notice of the organ-scholarly carving.

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I have an idea that Barry Rose began the custom of conducting everything, partly because it was the only way to get a repertoire up and running in the time he had.

 

I have a suspicion that various organists might have advanced on their own individual fronts in this respect. I think I am right in saying that, at King's, Willcocks was already doing this in the sixties and, at Windsor, Sidney Campbell was certainly doing it for many services towards the end of his life (although more often than not he was playing and someone else was conducting). Didn't his successor, Christopher Robinson, make it the norm there? (Genuine question; it's just an impression I have.) There must be other examples from this time.

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At Rochester the choir was mostly unconducted in Robert Ashfield's time, but that changed with Barry Ferguson's arrival in 1977.

Allan Wicks was one of the first to start conducting (occasionally) at Canterbury in the early 1960s.

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I remember Harry Grindle telling me that when he took over at Belfast Cathedral in 1964, his predecessor having retired after 60 years at the age of 88, he caused quite a rumpus by conducting the choir 'out front' instead of from the organ console. Ian Barber related a similar circumstance at Derry in the early seventies, where one lady was so incensed by the idea that she took to planting a large flower arrangement on the spot where he would be standing. I believe that one reason why Peterborough Cathedral choir was so outstanding in Stanley Vann's time was that he conducted much more than was the norm in those days.

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Apologies - John Mander has advised me that my assertion is total rubbish - although there are apparently old consoles from previous incarnations stored in the triforium. I must have got the story from somewhere though!

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I don't think Pcnd5584 is that old! :) I can't comment on St Paul's specifically, but by the time he mentions things were already changing. I am open to correction, but I think the change to using conductors, at first occasionally and then regularly, began gradually around the end of the 60s.

 

No - he is not. (Cheers, Vox!)

 

However, he was taught (as a teenager) by Dr. Harry Gabb, CVO (several years after Dr. Gabb had retired), for a while and heard a number of anecdotes first-hand.

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Apologies - John Mander has advised me that my assertion is total rubbish - although there are apparently old consoles from previous incarnations stored in the triforium. I must have got the story from somewhere though!

 

I have discussed this today with Barry Rose to see if he remembered anything. He thinks that Christopher Dearnley had some sort of mock-up of the stop jambs in his house, but not a full console. Interestingly though, when i asked the question on my Facebook page, a non-musical friend recalls seeing a documentary years ago about St Pauls and remembers something about a mock-up!

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For what it's worth, I find very large organs somewhat embarrassing but only when it's their size alone which is the subject of conversation. Large instruments in themselves do not bother me because it's a simple fact that they are necessary for large buildings, and prior to about 1930 a large pipe organ was the only practical way to fill such spaces with sound before the arrival of electronics and loudspeakers of reasonable power and sound quality. Interestingly, the 7 manual affair at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, was built exactly on that historical cusp and to that extent it was arguably a white elephant even before it uttered its first squeak. Alternatives would have included a distributed sound system which could have reproduced gramophone/phonograph records (they too had recently become much better with the introduction of electrical recording) and live performances by musicians and singers picked up by microphones, and such systems were probably installed as well, either at the same time or shortly afterwards. It would be interesting to know the relative proportion of time that the two systems - the electronic PA system and the huge organ - were used. (It is also of interest that the arrival of radio and consumer audio electronics around this time, both offering alternative and wider means of entertainment, was largely responsible for the sudden decline in popularity of pipe organs in the residences of the wealthy).

 

But as I said above, my embarrassment arises when it is nothing but the sizes of these large instruments which monopolises the dialogue on a basis of "mine is bigger than yours". No other musicians vie with each other in this way because the sizes of their instruments, such as violins and bassoons, are determined purely by physics. So I wonder what they think when organists and organ builders continually try to outdo each other purely on the basis of number of pipes, stops, keyboards and the like. Well, the question is rhetorical because I know perfectly well what they think because some have told me - it merely reduces still further any regard they might have held for the organ as a musical instrument in the first place - hence the embarrassment. Sometimes I don't think we do ourselves any favours by focusing so often on size, when it's musicality which matters more.

 

CEP

 

Interesting reflections Colin. As it happens i am on holiday near Atlantic City and am planning to see and hear the Boardwalk organ tomorrow. Last week i had a guided tour of the Wanamaker organ. I did not have the opportunity to sit at the latter's console but it was clear that the manuals were slightly shorter and closer together than some organs, and that no doubt makes the top manual more playable than otherwise it would be.

 

I have played a few five manual organs in my life including David Pinnegar's and Liverpool Anglican Cathedral's and have always found the fop manual to be all but unreachable. Four manuals however I find no problem with (I use the top manual quite frequently on my home organ though the keyboards are slightly closer together than usual front to back and I did not rake the upper manuals at an angle.

 

The design brief for the Atlantic City console was that it should be possible to play the top keyboard with one hand whilst changing stops at the bottom of the opposite stop jamb with the other hand. its designer Emerson Richards is shown in a photo doing precisely that here:

 

http://www.boardwalkpipes.com/p282.php

 

I shall suspend judgement as to the musicality of the instrument until I've actually heard it (I gather it is currently about half working and more than half of the $30 million fund required to fully restore it and create an endowment fund for future maintenance has already been raised, so it will overtake the Wanamaker as the world's largest playable instrument sooner than we might think). I have been reading its checquered history lately and must admit to being surprised just how musical its design seems to be with hindsight - Richards helped develop the "American classic" organ style but unlike his more orchestral advocates of the day, seems to have recognised the importance of principal choruses and well developed mixtures and mutations, spending a considerable period of time in Germany studying baroque organs prior to designing the Boardwalk instrument. its builder might have been considered a bit cheap and second rate (despite building one of Senator Richards' house organs) and several companies that were invited to quote to build (including Willis III, who nevertheless seems to have been a regular source of friendly advice to Richards) either refused to quote or gave outrageously expensive quotes to prevent them from winning the contract, as they felt that they would be compromising future business opportunities by taking on such a controversial project.

 

Regardless of whether one actually needs seven manuals or whether one can reach them (maybe this time tomorrow I will be lucky enough to have tried that for myself....) I wonder what response firms today would give to the suggestion of building an organ in a hall probably ten times the size of a typical cathedral. On the assumption that you would need at least five manuals and that funds could provide for several hundred stops, would you go down the route of Boardwalk and have windpressures from 10 inches to 100 inches? Or would you build a much smaller instrument and electronically amplify it throughout the hall? If so would that be cheating- why not just build a monster digital electronic organ and not bother with pipes at all?

 

Taking Colin's point about amplifying the organ, that was actually done. The organ was supposed to have several drums of different types but these proved inaudible in the hall so they were electronically amplified and played through speakers from the start of the instrument. in which case why stop at that and not amplify the rest of the organ?

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Senator Richards wrote a series of articles on mixtures and their history and development for the American Organist journal in1948.

If anyone wants to have them they can. In the event of several applicants,the person placing the largest order from my collection of organ books( recently advertised in these august columns) will receive them.

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