Jump to content
Mander Organs
AJJ

Rugby School Chapel Organ

Recommended Posts

This instrument went in some years ago -

 

http://www.rugbyschool.net/sl/activities/music/organ.htm

 

In size and design it was/is of some importance, it also won an important 'non organ' prize (see blurb). It doesn't seem to have had much written up about it however. How does it sound & 'play' - has anyone been and tried it?

 

AJJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wasn't there a review of this instrument in Organist's Review a few years ago?

 

'Can't recall one - there was one of Tewkesbury. Kenneth Jones had one of his page adverts plus front cover on Rugby - I used to enjoy them!

 

AJJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I think there was - I think it mentioned Nicholas Kynaston giving the opening recital. Does that sound right?

 

 

I've played it, but only for a short trial. I thought that it was very much 'along the right lines'! but pushing the (mechanical) envelope in places. It makes an impressive sound, which it would need to do, given the task of having to accompany a hearty school congregation in full Saturday Evening Chapel mode.

 

Given that the right things appear to be there and decent quality voicing and pipework, I still think that the enormous height of the case and the annoying little ways of modern heating are likely to be a source of continuing problems. With three divisions placed on top of each other, each with a different temperature (by the nature of things) I imagine it may be difficult to keep in tune, tuning was certainly a bit dodgy when I heard it.

 

One slight quibble about Kenneth Jones organs generally - his team move in and move out. They then hand the organ over to someone else to look after. I know of at least one case where Collins has done the same thing. This is not necessarily the way to get initial problems ironed out and even with the finest design and highest intentions there are almost bound to be a few things that need tweaking.

 

The Director of Music, Richard Dunster-Sigtermans is an approchable chap, I suggest anyone seriously interested in learning more about this large new instrument gets in touch with him and requests a little play. There are two other organs at Rugby, the Memorial Hall one being a seriously interesting musical instrument by a lesser known builder.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Paul - the Bryceson in the Speech Room would be very interesting also I feel sure!

 

AJJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This instrument also appeared in the televised production of Tom Brown's Schooldays, which was broadcast just over a year ago.

 

I was surprised that those involved in the production apparently took great pains to ensure historical accuracy with regard to dress, sets and a myriad other details (of which the great percentage of the audience were probably not cognisant), yet allowed a clear shot of a brand-new organ console, bristling with pistons and digital piston channel displays.

 

No doubt the organ was simply not considered - as usual.

 

:o

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Thanks Paul - the Bryceson in the Speech Room would be very interesting also I feel sure!

 

AJJ

 

The Speech Room organ is indeed really lovely - beautiful case, musical sound. I have played and taught on the Chapel organ - a huge thing. It has three mechanical manuals (I,II,III) and one electric (IV) I think. Readers must draw their own conclusions as to future difficulties. I don't think things went too well at the opening concert. (I really wish 'openings' are given as a 1st Birthday or at least after teething. Why the rush? Often it does nobody any good. The only people made happy by many a debacle are the builders whose tenders were not accepted :) ). The magnificent building is well served by a fine acoustic and the case looks rather impressive. The big sounding stops are round the corner in the Chancel area in a chamber - thus not at all Wk Pp. Some might say there was too much money available for the scheme. And yes - it can be loud! VERY loud.

Best wishes,

NJA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I looked up the chapel organ out of interest in the Rugby School website (referred to above) and NPOR. Both have photos of the console taken from a similar angle to the left.

 

I looks to me that the left and right jambs - what I can see of them - each have two double columns of drawstops. Now I assume that the left hand jamb has the Swell and Pedal drawstops and associated couplers as usual, while the right contains the Choir and Great and their associated couplers, again as usual, together with the Solo / Bombarde. Am I correct in thinking that the 6 stops of the Solo plus a tremulant are at the upper left (ie. the upper left of the right jamb), while the three stops of the Bombarde are at the upper right? NPOR list the Solo and Bombarde stops separately, and it would make sense to dispose the drawstops in this way.

 

I probably won't be back in England for a while yet, and therefore won't have a chance to hear this instrument live in the foreseeable. Next best thing: has anyone recorded it?

 

Rgds,

MJF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Thanks Paul - the Bryceson in the Speech Room would be very interesting also I feel sure!

 

AJJ

 

 

[Oops... foot in mouth as usual!]

 

Sorry, it was the Speech Room organ I meant.

P.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

....with a new electro pneumatic action replacing the tracker action in the main divisions!

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There has been quite a lot of writing in recent years by knowledgeable folk to the effect that mechanical action is not always the best option, especially for large organs.  There seems also to have been a significant amount of major work carried out on mechanical actions that are not particularly old.  Some of the contracts mentioned on Nicholsons' website are rather startling, when one considers the work involved and the age of the instruments concerned.  A clean and overhaul at St. Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham seems quite justified, bearing in mind that the fine Walker organ is now 25 years old and gets a lot of use, but collapsing front pipes on another major instrument which is 30 years old leaves one rather shaken.

An organ like the one in Rugby School Chapel is, I suppose, in the English cathedral tradition.  Such organs were not conceived with mechanical action in mind and it is perhaps misguided to push the limits in such cases, although the technology of modern mechanical actions is much advanced from what it was years ago. A top-class electric action should be good for 30/40 years with normal maintenance, all else being equal.  This compares well with a number of much-publicized tracker jobs.

I'm prejudiced - we all are.  I prefer electric action anyway, and the flexibility it allows.  A full set of couplers, controlled by rocking tablets over the top manual, gives so much more scope in how one can mix the colours in the tonal palette. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This has been in the offing for a few years. The mechanical key action has to turn through 90° just behind the console, (The player sits facing north liturgically) and I gather it is the linkages at this point that have  been particularly problematic. Not, coincidentally, the first Kenneth Jones Organ in the Midlands that has had to undergo major work (by Nicholson’s) less than 20 years after its construction. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have never played any instrument by KJ and Associates but, in my opinion, it surely doesn't say much for the quality of their pipework if they have problems at Rugby School with sagging pipes after only 18 years of use? Pipework problems like that I would normally associate with much older instruments.

Dave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How long would a brand new organ typically be warranted for? If I had commissioned one I'd be sorely miffed if it couldn't give a decade and a half of near-faultless service without the need for a full mechanical rebuild. On the other hand the microclimates at different height levels of the same church can have a mind of their own and expecting a hugely complex instrument to survive several hours of daily use for several decades might be overly optimistic. If you offer say a ten year warranty and during that time it turns out that it needs significant rebuilding, who bears the cost? The original builder or the owner?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know of one organ builder here who guarantees his work for 15 years, making me think that is likely to be longer than normal. For anything costing as much as a house, I'd expect a guarantee similar to that of a house. It's unthinkable that this isn't in the sale and/or maintenance contract. Perhaps some do have a 10 year/10000 hours car-like guarantee - Nicholsons have owned up to hiding timers in at least one of their organs (all on their website, no secrets divulged!).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I played the old Rugby School Chapel organ (N&B / Walker) a few times when I was at school at Lawrence Sheriff down the road and it was really good - great choruses, wonderful full Swell, lots of quiet accompaniment stuff and the luxury of enclosed and unenclosed Choir sections.  All the pipes were in a chamber north of the choir and it was a bit underpowered.  Martin Jackson, our music master,  used the Tuba as a chorus reed at the annual carol service and it was by no means overpowering with 600+ boys singing strongly.  The Great Trumpet didn't make much impact at all.  Unfortunately it got thoroughly cooked by the central heating system and was apparently pretty well unplayable by the time it was dismantled.   Roderick Elms made a recording in 1985 on Gemini LRS138 of music by Whitlock, which I think was only available on cassette. The Trumpet was rescued by Peter Lock and installed at St Peter's, Rugby, where it is said to work well.

I went to the opening recital of the Jones with Martin and was rather disappointed with almost everything except the power, and particularly some of the reeds which really did sound like quacking ducks.  There were some odd noises from its innards, reinforcing the opinion that opening recitals shouldn't be booked until an organ has had time to settle down.  The new casework, bringing pipework out of the chamber, was a good idea and fits  in well.

Nicholson have also done work on the Jones at Tewkesbury:

http://www.nicholsonorgans.co.uk/portfolio/tewkesbury-abbey-milton-organ/gallery/completed-projects-recent/

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×