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Nave Booster Organs

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Forgive the odd topic title, and also if this has been covered before!

 

We have just returned from a week singing the services at Winchester Cathedral.

 

As many of you know the organ there is fine indeed, and with the addition of the "Nave" section (which is in the Quire, but speaks West rather boldly), seems to hold it's own in both parts of the building - especially Sunday Eucharist in the Nave.

 

There are many other Cathedrals which have, in recent times, either added a West End section, or a Nave division to help with the singing throughout the building. Off the top of my head I can think of St Paul's Cathedral, Lichfield, Canterbury, Chichester and Exeter.

 

There are also those who have independent organs such as Chelmsford and Southwell

 

Then there are Bradford and Llandaff who used to have them but now don't

 

And finally, those who have them planned - Worcester and Portsmouth spring to mind (the latter are gaining some fanfare trumpets at the West end apparently).

 

So that leads me to those cathedrals whose organs are self-contained in the Choir - amongst which are Salisbury, Truro, Lincoln, Hereford, Ely.....

 

I wonder whether it is simply a matter of time before these Cathedrals find the money to provide a nave division, or perhaps the instrument in the Choir copes more than happily without one (Ripon I would say is a good example of that - not a huge building, with the organ speaking East and West on the screen)?

 

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Portsmouth already has a substantial west-facing Great and there is a "West Great" at Llandaff within the main case but speaking westward.

 

York had a largish 3-manual Hill in the nave for a while in the 19th century, and there was a small nave division in the main case for a few years before the most recent rebuild. At that rebuild, a solo reed speaking East was added, the famous Tuba Mirabilis firing down the nave.

 

Ripon had a big electronic nave organ for some years and now has a nave console for the screen organ.

 

I suppose that, in other places, much depends on how freely the existing organ speaks in various directions, how much the nave is used (and how much of it), and preference of Dean, Chapter and musicians.

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York had a largish 3-manual Hill in the nave for a while in the 19th century, and there was a small nave division in the main case for a few years before the most recent rebuild. At that rebuild, a solo reed speaking East was added, the famous Tuba Mirabilis firing down the nave.

Yes, the York nave organ disappeared when Walkers rebuilt the organ in 1904. From then, it was soon discovered that the screen organ was not entirely successful in the nave; if it were to be made louder (as it was for a time) in order to be heard properly in the nave, it would be far too loud in the choir. So, in around 1917, I believe, the Tuba Mirabilis was added which (to quote Carlo Curley) will 'part your hair at 100 paces' right down the nave and could, I suppose, be used sparingly if the nave congregation was drifting off!

 

Of course that was, and still is, far from ideal and they have been talking about adding a new nave organ for some time. Money, I suppose. One day, perhaps!

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The 1904 rebuild, when T. Tertius Noble was organist, probably resulted in something like we hear at Bristol Cathedral today - fitting the building like a glove but not especially assertive in the nave. When Bairstow took over, he apparently said something along the lines of, 'This organ is a woman. I'm going to change it into a man!'. Hence, the big Tuba, thorough-going revoicing and substitution. To continue the Bristol simile, Harrisons' turned the Cathedral into Redcliffe. When Walkers' rebuilt the organ in 1960 for Francis Jackson, there were some who thought that it had been quietened down too much. I didn't know what it was like before 1960, but I remember being vastly impressed with it when Francis let me play it c.1970, and again when I took Belfast Cathedral Choir there in 1990. Subsequent work has, in effect, addressed some aspects of the 1960 rebuild which weren't entirely happy (such as the reaction of the Great reeds to a drop in pressure) and have generally aimed to improve what was there in the style which was established.

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Very interesting and informative, David, especially the 'gender changes'!

 

May I ask where in the building you (and your choir) were located on those occasions? From what I have heard, it is still lacking somewhat in the nave.

 

Of course, there is still bound to be the very common 'keeping in time' problem found in large cathedrals with long naves, so I'm sure York could do with a nave organ regardless.

 

Perhaps if I should ever win an enormous sum in the Lottery. Unlikely though, I'm afraid, as I don't do it!

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AJJ    0

St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin has also a nave division added fairly recently as part of work done on the organ by Trevor Crowe.

 

A

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May I ask where in the building you (and your choir) were located on those occasions? From what I have heard, it is still lacking somewhat in the nave.

 

Of course, there is still bound to be the very common 'keeping in time' problem found in large cathedrals with long naves, so I'm sure York could do with a nave organ regardless.

 

Perhaps if I should ever win an enormous sum in the Lottery. Unlikely though, I'm afraid, as I don't do it!

 

Mostly in the Quire (which I found surprisingly unhelpful for singing), but we sang one of the Sunday morning services in the nave stalls. I didn't find the organ inadequate (and was - almost literally - blown away by the big Tuba, which I hadn't heard from west of the screen before), but in a building the size of York Minster, even the congregation at the front of the nave are quite a distance from the organ.

 

I, too, have to remind myself that if I am to win the Lottery, I should meet them half-way and buy a ticket....

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St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin has also a nave division added fairly recently as part of work done on the organ by Trevor Crowe.

 

A

Really? I didn't know that. It would be a good idea. St. Pat's is a glorious instrument, but it is in a high chamber and very much more effective in the Quire than the Nave. Trevor Crowe is a fine musician and organ-builder - I expect the result will be excellent.

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sbarber49    0

Really? I didn't know that. It would be a good idea. St. Pat's is a glorious instrument, but it is in a high chamber and very much more effective in the Quire than the Nave. Trevor Crowe is a fine musician and organ-builder - I expect the result will be excellent.

I didn't know that either. Are you sure you're not thinking of St Finn Barre's Cathedral in Cork?

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AJJ    0

I didn't know that either. Are you sure you're not thinking of St Finn Barre's Cathedral in Cork?

Dublin has one too. 'Have seen the stoplist online recently but maddeningly can not now locate. Maybe someone on here....?

 

A

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Mostly in the Quire (which I found surprisingly unhelpful for singing), but we sang one of the Sunday morning services in the nave stalls. I didn't find the organ inadequate (and was - almost literally - blown away by the big Tuba, which I hadn't heard from west of the screen before), but in a building the size of York Minster, even the congregation at the front of the nave are quite a distance from the organ.

 

I, too, have to remind myself that if I am to win the Lottery, I should meet them half-way and buy a ticket....

I see. The nave stalls are, of course, at the east end of the nave and I'm not surprised to hear that the organ was sufficiently effective at that point. However, I am led to believe that its effectiveness falls off as one progresses to the other end of the nave. I suppose the question should be asked as to whether it is necessary for it to be heard well in that part of the nave anyway, and how often the situation of a completely full nave occurs.

 

In any event, Hill thought it necessary and added his nave organ. I'm not sure why it was disposed of at the turn of the century, but it's a shame that it was. Perhaps they needed the money!

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These days, a large Sunday congregation in the nave is the usual thing in a lot of the big cathedrals - a situation which was not the case when most cathedral organs were installed. The long naves of English churches mean that any organ is going to become remote as one moves further west, even in moderate-sized buildings. Paul Hale's article in the current Organists' Review on Bishop's Stortford Parish Church explains the problem - and the solution adopted there - succinctly.

 

A west end organ is not often the best solution, as the opposite problem would occur, in that people at the east end of the nave would tend to be left behind, and not all nave congregations fill the westernmost seats (even if they're Anglicans and therefore prone to sitting at the back). A modest nave division can often work wonders. I remember sitting near the back of the nave at Canterbury one Sunday morning and finding the the nave division not only supported the hymns rather well, but also seemed to draw the sound of the main organ (which at Canterbury is effectively in another building) westward. A similar effect occurs with the Nave Organ at Winchester, which is next door to the main organ but has the effect of bringing the whole instrument into closer contact with those in the nave.

 

Probably, one of the reasons for the removal of the 1863 Hill from York in 1904 (when the Walker rebuild of the screen organ was completed) was that it may have been fine for accompanying congregational hymns, but little use to the choir, even if those singers were sitting west of the screen. As forumites will know, the Hill went to St. Thomas and St. John, Radcliffe, Manchester, where it still is.

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The 1904 rebuild, when T. Tertius Noble was organist, probably resulted in something like we hear at Bristol Cathedral today - fitting the building like a glove but not especially assertive in the nave. When Bairstow took over, he apparently said something along the lines of, 'This organ is a woman. I'm going to change it into a man!'. Hence, the big Tuba, thorough-going revoicing and substitution. To continue the Bristol simile, Harrisons' turned the Cathedral into Redcliffe. When Walkers' rebuilt the organ in 1960 for Francis Jackson, there were some who thought that it had been quietened down too much. I didn't know what it was like before 1960, but I remember being vastly impressed with it when Francis let me play it c.1970, and again when I took Belfast Cathedral Choir there in 1990. Subsequent work has, in effect, addressed some aspects of the 1960 rebuild which weren't entirely happy (such as the reaction of the Great reeds to a drop in pressure) and have generally aimed to improve what was there in the style which was established.

 

Bristol.... Just found this by accident and had to share it. Organ duly fitting the building!!

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It is singular that the problem of distributing the sound of an organ satisfactorily throughout the volume of a large building still presents difficulties when so much effort has been devoted to it over so many years. Presumably one reason is that there is no single solution to it - each building throws up a different set of problems. There was a time towards the end of the 19th century when electric actions seemed to offer a panacea, and a famous example of this was Robert Hope-Jones's organ of 1896 at Worcester cathedral which allowed pipes in the original quire and transept cases (plus a new one in the quire) to be played from one console rather than the previous two. And if one digs below the superficial layer of scorn still sometimes directed at the instrument, apparently it was both reliable and successful if one believes people such as the then Dean who wrote to Musical Opinion to say so.

 

Since then there has been a move back towards separate organs, including at Worcester itself where several have been employed, including an early digital in the 1980s. Whether pipe or digital these, or at least their consoles, are also sometimes moveable.

 

But in view of the continuing difficulties, I wonder whether there might be mileage in doing experiments with digital organs before committing to the stoplist and final placement of the pipes of a new or additional pipe organ? I am not for a moment encouraging the permanent installation of such instruments, but useful information might be obtained by placing their loudspeakers in different locations so that the effects could be judged in the building in a range of conditions (size and spatial clustering of congregations, nave versus quire effectiveness, etc). It might also be possible to gain some useful pointers to voicing and regulating the eventual pipe organ. Other than the time involved, it should not cost all that much because the digital organ could be sold on afterwards. Some purchasers like the cachet of a digital instrument that 'used to be in such-and-such a cathedral'. And manufacturers obviously love being able to say that one of their products is even temporarily in a cathedral, judging by the ads and the recordings which are sometimes issued. Presumably these commercial advantages would not be lost on the Dean and Chapter when they negotiate a hire or purchase price for the digital with the firm concerned!

 

CEP

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AJJ    0

I have an up to date stoplist of the St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin organ and the synoptic spec.of the Nave Organ is OD 8', SD8', Pr4', 2', III-IV. Anyone interested in the full details please PM.

 

A

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sprondel    0

I have an up to date stoplist of the St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin organ and the synoptic spec.of the Nave Organ is OD 8', SD8', Pr4', 2', III-IV. Anyone interested in the full details please PM.

 

That’s most certainly all that’s needed – and a fine organ all by itself it might be!

Maybe for its purpose, a rather slow halving ratio wouldn’t be a bad idea, and a 16-foot bourdon wouldn't hurt (if only 12 notes and borrowing from the SD from TC), as it was included in Canterbury Cathedral, IIRC.

 

All best wishes,

Friedrich

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When the organ here at Fredericton Cathedral was built, they wanted an "Echo Organ" at the west end, which would be in effect a nave organ to help the singing along. Since this is not a particularly large building and the organ does not lose much impact down the nave, this was probably a daft idea. It was then compounded when they lost their nerve and decided that putting the Echo Organ so near the west door would be risky in terms of tuning, so they placed it away up on high on the west wall of the south transept, above the console (the main organ occupies the north transept). Thus, it does hardly anything that the main organ doesn't do, and the distance between the two sections is not great enough for antiphonal effects to be particularly striking. Worst of all, having an Echo instead of a Solo Organ means that there is NO TUBA! (The only Tuba in Freddy is in the parish church and it's electronic).

 

Ah well! Nothing is perfect in this world.....

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Ely: could definitely do with one, as was part of the thinking at the last rebuild until the (ostensibly musical but difficult) Dean of the time blocked it.

Worcester: I think the effectiveness of the new, and newly sited, quire organ has called into question the necessity for westward extension.

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AJJ    0

As a matter of interest does anyone use these remote divisions in any repertoire context aside from the liturgical?

 

A

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pwhodges    0

I have the Mirabilis recording of St Mary's Warwick on which Andrew Fletcher uses both parts of that divided organ together to good effect on several tracks.

 

Paul

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I remember a very effective performance of Gigout's Grand Choeur Dialogue at Lancing College, with the Frobenius in the east in dialogue with the Walker in the west.

 

At Worcester, wasn't there always an intention to have a separate nave organ in addition to the new Tickell quire organ?

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I remember a very effective performance of Gigout's Grand Choeur Dialogue at Lancing College, with the Frobenius in the east in dialogue with the Walker in the west.

 

 

 

Presumably played by one player at the Frobenius rather than two? When first confronted by this arrangement (being able to play the Walker seemingly miles away at the other end of the building from an essentially mechanical action console - using an auxiliary electric action of course) I was initially somewhat amazed, but soon found it exhilarating once I had sorted out how to set the switching system correctly. However, as separate instruments rather than in 'combined' mode, I far preferred the little Frobenius to the Walker, which seemed clumsy in comparison with its curious mix of action work, and also tonally inferior. The touch of the Frobenius was perhaps the finest of any mechanical action organ I have ever come across even when coupled up. But I digress.

 

CEP

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