Jump to content
Mander Organs
ross cobb

UK 5-manuals?

Recommended Posts

As Contrabombarde said in #49, Emerson Richards took pains to educate himself as to the importance of properly designed chorus work. For example, he wrote of a Schnitger organ at Stade near Steinkirchen:

 

"Full organ fills the rather large church with a flood of pure tone - no rumble or muddiness. Bach ... came out with an entirely new meaning. A precise, bell-like tone, rich in harmonics, but characterized by a lightness and transparency, gave an interest to the music never achieved by the romantic organ to which we are accustomed. There is plenty of power; the Mixtures are responsible for that; but it is a different kind of power. After becoming accustomed to it one never has the same interest in chorus reeds as instruments of power"

 

He wrote this in the late 1940s if my recall is correct (i.e. without diving into a pile of journals to check), but I don't know when he actually heard this or similar instruments. Perhaps it was after he had designed his magnum opus at Atlantic City.

 

CEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

......So, referring back to my original question, are there really only eight, 5-manual (pipe) organs in the UK?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, it would appear to be the case, Hexham Abbey had 5 manual departments, but I think the Echo was a floating division.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, it would appear to be the case, Hexham Abbey had 5 manual departments, but I think the Echo was a floating division.

It was. Sir Frederick Bridge had a hand in the design of the organ, and he liked Echo Organs. I believe the pipes were left in situ when the new organ arrived and, for all I know, may be there still, like their equivalent at Westminster Abbey.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The retention of the Echo Organ in the triforium even unconnected was a device to avoid VAT as the Phelps was seen as an additional organ to the Abbey.

 

This was a legimate interpretation of the rules over organs attracting VAT at this time.

 

I feel certain there will be other examples

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

 

I can remember, faintly, special services, Robert, when Harry Gabb conducted the choir and, I think, DB must have played. Harry would bring his 'new' FRCO hood over from the Chapel Royal for these special occasions when he would be visible, rather than wear chocolate and blue. He would only have been visible if conducting and someone else must have been 'upstairs.'

 

For normal services, there was no conducting of accompanied music at daily services and there was generally only one organist in attendance until well into Christopher Dearnley's time, I think. (Though,an exception might have been on Sunday mornings when I remember Richard Popplewell being in attendance upon DB.) Two choirmen - people like Maurice Bevan and Geoffrey Shaw would wave on either side, and Dearnley would fold back the dummy pipes to watch the beat. Later. Dearnley conducted a lot with Christopher Herrick or Harry Gabb playing but this may only have been on Sundays. Sorry hazy about all of this now - fifty years on!!

 

As far as the consoles were concerned, I think two former consoles are kicking about somewhere in the cathedral, The old one from the north choir case was in the Minor Canons' aisle for a while at the foot of the old organ stairs, but it hasn't been there for many a year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel certain there will be other examples

I couldn’t say for certain but I believe the small 2-m Father Willis at Christ Church, Oxford was not only a lovely instrument but had a similar bureaucratic function.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

For normal services [at St Paul's], there was no conducting of accompanied music at daily services and there was generally only one organist in attendance until well into Christopher Dearnley's time [1968-1990], I think. (Though,an exception might have been on Sunday mornings when I remember Richard Popplewell being in attendance upon DB.)

 

Thank you, everyone, for these interesting observations. Is it the case, then, that the practice of conducting the choir began to grow from the mid 1960s, but did not become widespread and systematic until the later 1970s? That seems about right to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This would also seem to be the case with the 'decent parish church' side of things too. The place where I was most involved had a second organist and therefore conductor for anthems and 'big stuff' but the rest was largely un conducted. Later, with a change of regime it always felt slightly unnecessary to me to have someone standing mid choir waving quite competent musicians through hymns and psalms that had been thoroughly rehearsed previously. A personal view only.

 

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another aspect which has, fortunately, changed is the practice of hitting the choristers. I encountered this (not as the victim but as the organist) in the 1960s.

 

And what has this got to do with '5 manuals'? Merely that the perpetrator had recently been a Cambridge organ scholar at the time and so was used to large instruments. As far as I know he is still alive.

 

CEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, everyone, for these interesting observations. Is it the case, then, that the practice of conducting the choir began to grow from the mid 1960s, but did not become widespread and systematic until the later 1970s? That seems about right to me.

 

Certainly in 1975, two organists were almost always present at Chichester Cathedral for daily services. John Birch was most often downstairs with Ian Fox and then Richard Cock playing the Allen. But... JB had favourite pieces that only he accompanied - The Wilderness, for example. There were days when he was away (teaching at Sussex University and the RCM) and the sub organist had to manage with the lay clerks conducting either side like 'olden days.'

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Certainly in 1975, two organists were almost always present at Chichester Cathedral for daily services. John Birch was most often downstairs with Ian Fox and then Richard Cock playing the Allen. But... JB had favourite pieces that only he accompanied - The Wilderness, for example. There were days when he was away (teaching at Sussex University and the RCM) and the sub organist had to manage with the lay clerks conducting either side like 'olden days.'

 

I remember an evensong at Chichester in the mid-late 70s with Richard Kok (sic) playing, no sign of John Birch, lay clerks conducting, and excellent performances of (albeit sraightforward) repertoire. If I remember correctly Wood No 2 in Eb and Holst "Turn back, O man"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There must be a fair few organs that used to be five manuals but have either been reduced in size, reduced in manuals but retaining all the stops or simply lost altogether. Calne springs to mind for originally having two five manual organs, one in the parish chirch, the other in the church organ's donor's house! Birmingham Town Hall spent a few years as a five decker before sense prevailed (?) and the Bombarde division but not the keys was kept but floated. I recall reading about a five manual organ in a house in London before World War 2 but forget the details. And Hexham used to have a fiver.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

... And Hexham used to have a fiver.

 

Although I think that Hexham was played from a four-clavier console, with a 'floating' Echo Organ.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The London house organ in question is probably that of Nathaniel Holmes, who had a very large organ built for him by Bryceson in his house in Regent's Park, which subsequently spent most of its life at Fort Augustus Abbey on the shores of Loch Ness, where it was reduced to three manuals by Rushworth, and wound up in St. Peter's RC Church, Buckie. However, like Hexham, I think Holmes's organ only had four manuals, with the Echo floating. There is, as far as I know, no picture of the console to help us, but the scheme, especially of the couplers, suggests four rather than five.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a booklet about the Hexham Abbey organs somewhere, and I'm quite sure there was an old black and white picture of a five manual console! I must try and dig it out and post it if I can!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a booklet about the Hexham Abbey organs somewhere, and I'm quite sure there was an old black and white picture of a five manual console! I must try and dig it out and post it if I can!

I've got that booklet and it doesn't show a five-manual console! In any case, there are enough people around who remember the old organ to be certain.

 

My predecessor at St. Magnus once claimed to see six manuals instead of three, but he had been to a rather good party the night before....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This would also seem to be the case with the 'decent parish church' side of things too. The place where I was most involved had a second organist and therefore conductor for anthems and 'big stuff' but the rest was largely un conducted. Later, with a change of regime it always felt slightly unnecessary to me to have someone standing mid choir waving quite competent musicians through hymns and psalms that had been thoroughly rehearsed previously. A personal view only.

 

A

I played for a wedding at a nearby church (not my own) the other week. The choir of three were conducted in "All things b & b", "Sing Hosanna" and "One more step"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always understood St Barry Rose was one of the first to regularly conduct as the new choir stalls in Guildford were so far apart as to make it necessary to keep the ensemble together. I think I read this in 'The Beat is irrelevant'- the account of his years at the new Cathedral- a real eye-opener.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see that the subject of previous five manual organs has come up before on these fora:

  • At the end of the nineteenth century Norwich (Anglican) cathedral had a five manual console which was subsequently reduced to four (but with a larger stop list);
  • Someone suggested Manchester Cathedral had five prior to its destruction in WW2 but I don't know that was corroborated.;
  • The Colston Hall Bristol organ prior to its destruction in 1945 had both echo and solo divisions with couplers suggestive of five manuals. NPOR lists it as five though Thornsby's 'Dictionary of Organs and Organists' in 1912 lists it (and Manchester) has having five;
  • The Boustead residence organ at Westfield, Wimbledon by Hunter had five manuals and with three 32 stops was probably the largest house organ ever built; it survived eight years before being broken up (http://cdmnet.org/Julian/schemes/trz/boustead.htm) That was the one I was thinking of earlier (not the Bryceston house organ of Nathaniel Holmes, also in London, and it ended up in Fort Augustus.)
  • The Fort Augustus Abbey organ had five according to NPOR prior to its rebuild and pruning to a three manual by Rushworths.
  • There appeares to have been uncertainty as to whether Hexham had four or five manuals:
  • Tewksbury Abbey

Interesting to be reminded of the Nathaniel Holmes organ - he was an early telegraph engineer and his 1862 Bryceston was inevitably an electric action organ. The attempted use of electric actions predates by some time the use of tubular pneumatic actions but the unreliability of electrics at the time precluded them from being widely adopted and hence tubular pneumatics won out (until electrics became sufficiently reliable to be of use in organs). Had electricity been better understood and tamed in the 1860s perhaps pneumatic action organs would never have been developed?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Manchester Cathedral had five manuals until rebuilt by Harrison in 1934.

 

There are photographs of the Willis III console at the Colston Hall. It had four manuals.

 

Thornsby's "Dictionary of Organs and Organists", first edition (1912), corroborates that the Boustead organ had five manuals.

 

The Holmes/Fort Augustus organ had four manuals. There are organists in Scotland who remember it.

 

Likewise, Hexham had four manuals. There must be quite a few who remember it.

 

Paul Derrett has the five manual Tewkesbury console, as mentioned earlier.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Fort Augustus 4 manual console known to organists in Scotland mentioned by David Drinkell was from 1938 and the work of EH Lawton the Aberdeen organ builder. A photograph exists showing stopkeys in simple rows on either side.

On its reduction to a 3 manual in 1980 by R&D the 32' reed went to Stockport and the Tuba went to Edinburgh.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...