Jump to content
Mander Organs
Barry Oakley

Hull Minster Organ Appeal

Recommended Posts

I’m banging the drum again (if that’s an apt metaphor) for the wonderful untouched Forster & Andrews/John Compton 4-manual, 104-speaking stop organ in Hull Minster. There’s now a question mark about whether it’s still playable following major building work to lay a new stone floor. Virtually untouched since Compton rebuilt and enlarged it in 1939, the ravages of time and the recent building work have left it cyphering, leaking wind and with other detrimental ailments.

A committee has recently been established to help raise funds for a complete restoration with at least an estimated seven-figure sum being the goal.

With the city of Hull now seeing out the last few days of its UK City of Culture status, it will be nothing short of a tragedy if the necessary sum is not raised.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is, or was, a magnificent beast. I haven't been in Hull Minster, Holy Trinity as was, for many years but I remember playing it in the days when the great Ronald Styles was organist. I know that the Minster has, recently, had huge amounts of work done and am pleased to see that they are, at least, considering a major restoration. It also must be one of the last Compton restorations that still has its 'press button, light up, console', which, if nothing else, must be worth preserving for that fact alone! (I can only think of one other!)

Just down the road, at St. Mary's, Lowgate, the Binns, Fitton and Hayley organ, I'm told, is completely unplayable and is going to be, if it hasn't already happened, removed. Like Holy Trinity it has some Snetzler pipework in it.

There are some fine organs around the Hull area and Barry is right, it would be nothing short of a tragedy if the Minster organ was allowed to go the same way as it's neighbour.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

St. Mary Magdalen, Paddington and St. Luke's, Chelsea have that type of console.  Downside, of course, was the original and is still there.  Hull City Hall and St. George's, Stockport used to have illuminated stops but they were replaced by conventional drawstops in 1985 and 1981 respectively.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, OmegaConsort said:

I think Downside Abbey and Derby Cathedral still both have "Press button, light up consoles"

 

1 hour ago, David Drinkell said:

St. Mary Magdalen, Paddington and St. Luke's, Chelsea have that type of console.  Downside, of course, was the original and is still there.  Hull City Hall and St. George's, Stockport used to have illuminated stops but they were replaced by conventional drawstops in 1985 and 1981 respectively.

 

I thought that my statement might illicit interesting responses and thanks to OC and DD for that. Sitting talking the other day, with an organ builder, we knew about Derby and Downside but thought that St. Luke's Chelsea might have been replaced (It obviously hasn't!). Neither of us knew the Paddington instrument. I also remember Hull City Hall having an 'illuminated console' and I see at St. George's Stockport "its age is showing and there is an urgent need for major work to sustain this magnificent instrument." (St. George's website)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There was also a Compton in Wadham Street Baptist Church in Weston - a standard four-rank job, taken out when the church was closed - and I believe their job in the Odeon (complete with jelly-mould console) is still there and gets an airing from time to time.  The Compton at Victoria Road Methodist Church was "rebuilt" by Roger Taylor (an experienced man as regards Comptons, who kept Downside in good fettle for many years) and there was a small residence organ by them which apparently went to a church in Bedminster, Bristol, but I don't know which one.

Chelsea, I believe, still runs on a good deal of its original mechanism.  The Shepherd brothers did some renovation to the Paddington job a couple of years ago.  Less well known than Chelsea, it's a fine beast, and unusual in that it contains a number of straight ranks in Choir and Swell retained from the previous instrument.  There's also a Casson Positive in the crypt with a gorgeous Comper case.

I don't know the Stockport organ, but comments after Rushworths' rebuilt it and reduced it to three manuals tended to be to the effect that it hadn't been improved and was a good deal less interesting than it had been as Compton left it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

 

All Saints', Weston super Mare

The little brother to Downside, apparently the church authorities visited Downside as part of their decision making process for a rebuilt organ. All Saints also has a straight Swell and a straight "solo".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The late Peter Goodman, former City Organist and Custodian of the organ in Hull City Hall, was a friend and someone I had known since 1951 when he arrived in the city to take up the post of Organist and Master of Choristers at Holy Trinity, now Hull Minster. Whilst he greatly admired the tonal qualities of John Compton’s work, he was not particularly a fan of the company’s illuminated stops, something I learned during a conversation with him.

The demise of the John Compton Organ Company and its acquisition by Rushworth & Dreaper (R&D) led to R&D having care of the Hull City Hall organ. When later it became necessary for some major work to be undertaken on the organ and the console also renovated and placed in a fixed position, it gave Peter the opportunity to specify drawstops.

Apart from one of the original Compton stop jambs complete with luminous stop heads, it’s something of a mystery as to what happened to the rest of them. I guess they were simply discarded like all of the original Compton company records.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Aberdeen East St Nicholas 1936 Compton with luminous stopheads -

console removed to Organbuilders workshop for safe keeping I believe during archaeological investigations which removed

church floor

Organ remains in West Gallery and as totally enclosed presumably safe for immediate future

philipmgwright

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

BBC Studio 1, Maida Vale still has the illuminated stop controls. The organ sounded remarkably convincing at a Christmas concert, especially considering how little it is used.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/2/2018 at 06:00, S_L said:

It is, or was, a magnificent beast. I haven't been in Hull Minster, Holy Trinity as was, for many years but I remember playing it in the days when the great Ronald Styles was organist. I know that the Minster has, recently, had huge amounts of work done and am pleased to see that they are, at least, considering a major restoration. It also must be one of the last Compton restorations that still has its 'press button, light up, console', which, if nothing else, must be worth preserving for that fact alone! (I can only think of one other!)

Just down the road, at St. Mary's, Lowgate, the Binns, Fitton and Hayley organ, I'm told, is completely unplayable and is going to be, if it hasn't already happened, removed. Like Holy Trinity it has some Snetzler pipework in it.

There are some fine organs around the Hull area and Barry is right, it would be nothing short of a tragedy if the Minster organ was allowed to go the same way as it's neighbour.

I thought St Mary's, Lowgate, was a Brindley & Foster?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, ajsphead said:

The little brother to Downside, apparently the church authorities visited Downside as part of their decision making process for a rebuilt organ. All Saints also has a straight Swell and a straight "solo".

It wasn't in good condition when I played it a few years ago. The parish had explored the possibility of restoration, but the cost was prohibitive.

Several of the bulbs in the stop controls had blown and not been replaced, and some stops simply weren't working (but they might - or might not - light up). This made playing for Mass with minimal rehearsal time rather "interesting".

The distance between console (half way down south aisle) and  pipework (east end of north aisle), with the congregation in between, didn't help either. At times it was hard to tell whether a stop was not working, or was just inaudible.

A shame that the instrument was not in a better state and that restoration seemed unlikely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Barry Oakley said:

I thought St Mary's, Lowgate, was a Brindley & Foster?

Correct - my mistake! (It was early in the morning!!!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

It wasn't in good condition when I played it a few years ago. The parish had explored the possibility of restoration, but the cost was prohibitive.

Several of the bulbs in the stop controls had blown and not been replaced, and some stops simply weren't working (but they might - or might not - light up). This made playing for Mass with minimal rehearsal time rather "interesting".

The distance between console (half way down south aisle) and  pipework (east end of north aisle), with the congregation in between, didn't help either. At times it was hard to tell whether a stop was not working, or was just inaudible.

A shame that the instrument was not in a better state and that restoration seemed unlikely.

It was during the tenure of the late Peter Goodman as Organist and Master of Choristers, that the console was moved to its present position as you describe. Prior to that, Compton had sited it immediately adjacent to the north case and with a line of sight that encompassed the quire and nave. It remains to be seen when the organ is fully restored if the console will stay in its present position, returned to its original position or placed on a moveable platform for recitals or other musical events.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is now reliably reported that quotations are being sought for the complete restoration of the Hull Minster Forster & Andrews/John Compton organ, requests having gone to the "UK's three main organ builders." 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wonderful news!

There's a wonderful basis on which to work, including the "battleship" Forster & Andrews parts, as well as Compton's renowned quality.

I hope they don't specify major tonal-changes, because this is one of the last untouched Compton re-builds, and contains, for instance, reeds voiced by the legendary Billy Jones.

I can't think of many areas, other than Liverpool and Bristol, where so many stupendous organs can be heard in a 12 mile radius....City Hall, the Minster, St John's Beverley, Beverley Minster. Also, Bridlington isn't far away.  Not only that, they are all so different in character.

No matter who gets the job, I somehow doubt that it will be another 80 years before the next rebuild is due!

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MusoMusing said:

Wonderful news!

There's a wonderful basis on which to work, including the "battleship" Forster & Andrews parts, as well as Compton's renowned quality.

I hope they don't specify major tonal-changes, because this is one of the last untouched Compton re-builds, and contains, for instance, reeds voiced by the legendary Billy Jones.

I can't think of many areas, other than Liverpool and Bristol, where so many stupendous organs can be heard in a 12 mile radius....City Hall, the Minster, St John's Beverley, Beverley Minster. Also, Bridlington isn't far away.  Not only that, they are all so different in character.

No matter who gets the job, I somehow doubt that it will be another 80 years before the next rebuild is due!

MM

It’s the best news I’ve received for a long time. I believe there will be some very minor tonal changes and perhaps some duplexing. But the fully restored result will be much as it is today. The full console restoration will incorporate a computer-based control system, replacing the 80-year-old Compton system and possibly LED’s replacing the tungsten bulbs in the Compton illuminated stopheads. It will also be placed on a moveable platform.

I’ve often thought that Hull and venues in its immediate surrounding townships, Beverley and Bridlington, could form the basis for an international or European organ festival.

With regard to Beverley, I think you mean St Mary’s, MM?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was recently able to have a quick blast at Derby Cathedral, the first time I've seen let alone played a 'luminous console', and it was very comfortable and well planned.  But a number of the lamps had failed and replacements are apparently very difficult to source, so LEDs are surely a sensible update.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/08/2019 at 12:24, Barry Oakley said:

It’s the best news I’ve received for a long time. I believe there will be some very minor tonal changes and perhaps some duplexing. But the fully restored result will be much as it is today. The full console restoration will incorporate a computer-based control system, replacing the 80-year-old Compton system and possibly LED’s replacing the tungsten bulbs in the Compton illuminated stopheads. It will also be placed on a moveable platform.

I’ve often thought that Hull and venues in its immediate surrounding townships, Beverley and Bridlington, could form the basis for an international or European organ festival.

With regard to Beverley, I think you mean St Mary’s, MM?

That's the one!    Isn't the Minster St.John?

MM
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, MusoMusing said:

That's the one!    Isn't the Minster St.John?

MM
 

Beverley Minster is dedicated to St John of Beverley. St Mary's is further into the town and near Beverley Bar, an ancient entrance gate into the town. It has a fine 4-manual organ, a mixture of T C Lewis and Forster & Andrews workmanship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/08/2019 at 12:24, Barry Oakley said:

I’ve often thought that Hull and venues in its immediate surrounding townships, Beverley and Bridlington, could form the basis for an international or European organ festival.

 

Absolutely!! What a splendid idea!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 13/08/2019 at 09:03, bam said:

[...] 'luminous console' [...] a number of the lamps had failed and replacements are apparently very difficult to source, so LEDs are surely a sensible update.

Yes, surely JC would have used them if they'd been available; they're cheap, easy to source, come in a range of shades of white and brightness, energy efficient and (above all) very reliable.

I wonder, with LEDs for stop indicators and music-desk lighting, cheap low-power embedded computers for key/stop/whatever control and wifi for data transfer, is the truly wireless, battery-powered console a realistic possibility now?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

... hmm, I'm even wondering, assuming the wifi connection carries a MIDI-compatible data protocol, whether pipe organs might start to be played on a regular basis from arbitrary consumer MIDI controllers.  Perhaps organ builders (or even third parties) could provide cheap portable wireless control boards for stops / combinations, which you simply prop up next to your clavinova?

You could even integrate a score/pdf reader app on your tablet computer (OK, iPad!), having hot-spots in the score which link directly to registration changes when tapped, set up offline and ready to use when you get to church.

I'm not suggesting the traditional console's days are numbered, but as e-books complement paper editions, so diverging control paradigms could help the organ evolve, and allow non-organists to play organs much more easily.

Sorry, I've gone off-topic ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

" ... I'm not suggesting the traditional console's days are numbered ... "

I'm sure much of what you suggest could be done fairly readily in principle.  But in practice I have yet to see what I would class as a 'cheap' organ console which would appeal to a wide enough range of customers (i.e. players).  Even at the bottom end of the market, the stripped-down skeleton designs offered by turnkey suppliers of virtual pipe organs are still pretty expensive.  You can easily exceed the £10k-plus mark without hardly thinking about it.  And that certainly wouldn't cover motorised (or perhaps even non-motorised) stop controls, only touch screens.  This is no criticism because they are usually made to order since the market is so small, they must needs use keyboards of reasonable quality, plus they require standard pedal boards and all the other things an organist expects to find.  And they need to look the part in the sense of being moderately attractive as a piece of furniture.  So I do wonder whether the traditional organ console will ever really disappear as long as the organ (pipe or digital) exists at all.  Costs can only be brought down to rock bottom if you are content with a couple of cheap plastic MIDI controller keyboards balanced on a pile of books sitting on the dining table, with a manky umpteenth-hand pedal board shoved underneath.  Don't laugh, I've seen them, as no doubt have others who might read this.  It's one way to go, especially if you are at the early experimental stage of things.  But I doubt it would be a solution which would offer satisfaction to most players.

But, as you said, we digress ...

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...