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hackej

Worcester Cathedral

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An interesting recording of the old hybrid organ at Worcester Cathedral has surfaced on YouTube. It's a performance of Howell's Rhapsody No.3. I think it dates from the early 1990s and the recording quality is excellent. It sounds like it was recorded in the Quire facing west at close range.

 

An interesting historical curiosity for those who fancy it.

 

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I think it dates from the early 1990s ....

 

It'll be a little earlier than that: Adrian Partington was Assistant at Worcester from 1981-1991.

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It'll be a little earlier than that: Adrian Partington was Assistant at Worcester from 1981-1991.

 

Which means it might not be a "hybrid", but the "Bradford" organ that was located at the west end of the cathedral for many years.

Or was that organ installed later?

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I think "hybrid" in this context refers to the nature of the old pipe organ at Worcester, which had been rebuilt, altered and revoiced so many times during its life.

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I wish I had heard the old instrument prior to its removal. It sounds very colourful from this recording.

 

It could be, depending on how it was played, but it was also immensely powerful and the temptation to submerge the audience in over-long and near-deafening phalanxes of sound seemed to be something that not every performer could resist. In the 1970s I lived fairly close by so went often to the cathedral, and came away more often than I would have liked feeling that my ear drums had been assaulted yet again. It was difficult to choose a listening position where this did not happen, because if one attempted to attenuate the SPL by sitting further away, too much detail simply got lost in the acoustic.

 

On one occasion I went with a friend and we both sat in the crossing (they had arranged chairs there) while George Thalben-Ball did his thing. The same thing happened again, and I began to wonder whether it was in fact difficult for the player to judge what effect he was creating in the building. The following day my friend complained that his ears had not stopped ringing throughout the previous evening. I knew what he meant.

 

CEP

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Full organ on the Great sounds rather crap on this recording, although the MF sections are quite grand and imposing. Full Swell is very bass-ey and aggressive.

 

It's got character, certainly.

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I played the former instrument for a visiting choir in the summer of 2004, not long before it was de-commissioned. I thought that it sounded fine. It was certainly powerful, so one had to be careful in registering. However, there was also a wealth of quieter registers of great beauty, which made it, in my opinion, a superb accompanimental instrument. The two 32ft. flues were excellent. It also sounded fine in the voluntaries, where I did allow it to stretch its legs a little. I did not receive any complaints about excessive volume. The acoustic ambiance was certainly on the generous side, but from the console everything sounded fairly clear. However, this can be deceptive, with regard to Colin's comments about the lack of clarity in the body of the building.

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The soft stuff was indeed beautiful and varied. One problem with the louder effects was that the quire cases were situated quite low down, making diffusement difficult. The new organ should be a great improvement in this respect and, while the old cases could hardly be said to have been Gilbert Scott at his best, the new ones are a fine ornament to the building.

 

I played the old organ at various times between 1976 and 1996, but I never manage to catch it when any of the 32 stops (or, indeed, any of the transept section) was working.

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One problem I find on every recording of this old instrument is the extent to which the large mixtures squeal over the chorus. The richness of the sound is attractive on record but I imagine it was nowhere near as balanced in person.

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... The new organ should be a great improvement in this respect and, while the old cases could hardly be said to have been Gilbert Scott at his best, the new ones are a fine ornament to the building. ...

 

 

 

As far as I can recall, I think that the old cases were virtually identical (if not the same size) as that which is currently placed over the stalls at Bangor Cathedral (North Wales).

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It could be, depending on how it was played, but it was also immensely powerful and the temptation to submerge the audience in over-long and near-deafening phalanxes of sound seemed to be something that not every performer could resist. In the 1970s I lived fairly close by so went often to the cathedral, and came away more often than I would have liked feeling that my ear drums had been assaulted yet again.

 

CEP

I was a student in Worcester from 1976-80, an organ pupil of Paul Trepte, and a member and regular accomanist of the cathedral voluntary choir. Your comments are unrecognisable to me. I attended cathedral services more or less daily for 4 or more years and never once came away feeling that my ears had been assaulted. There is no doubt that, prior to the Woods-Wordsworth emasculation, full swell was very powerful, but the cathedral organists (and their pupils :)) were well aware of that and used discretion. The "old" quire organ was nowhere near as powerful/loud as the organs in nearby Bath Abbey or St Mary Redcliffe.

 

My daughter heard me rehearsing a voluntary in Worcester, on more or less full organ, with no comment or complaint, but in Bath Abbey she clapped her hands to her ears and said "Oh daddy stop it".

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