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petergunstone

St James' Didsbury: Walker Organ (ex-RNCM)

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The 1992 Walker Organ, formerly installed in the Royal Northern College of Music's 'Organ Room' (http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=D07597) has been purchased by and installed in St James' Church, Didsbury by Wood of Huddersfield. The organ became available following the demise of the RNCM's Organ Department.

Whilst this latter occasion is a sad one for me as a former RNCM postgraduate organ student (1999-2001), the outcome is happy as I grew up in the Parish of St James' & Emmanuel Didsbury, and initiated an organ project just under 20 years ago to replace the then ageing Jardine/Warrington/Cyril Wood workhorse. It is very satisfying to see this responsive, mechanical action organ in place of the former flabby, albeit much-loved instrument. (Emmanuel Church on Barlow Moor Road has been home to the BBC Daily Service for the past quarter century, and houses a Young/Conacher/Wood of Huddesfield 2M instrument).

I have heard and played the organ. Whilst it is, inevitably, settling into its new location, it will be a fine asset to the parish, complementing the more romantic organ in Emmanuel. I understand that St James' may become a regional centre of organ education.

The instrument is installed to the west of the 'vestries', in front of the former organ's west-facing pipe display.

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I attach a couple of poor-quality photos which are the best I can offer for your interest. The remains of the Jardine/... organ can be seen in the background. Whilst there are no immediate plans for the former organ chamber, apart from stripping out the organ, the long-term plan has been to construct some badly-needed multi-purpose rooms, especially for Children's Ministry during Sunday Services.  The 'vestries' space is the size of a decent semi-detached house, so there is plenty of scope for its meaningful deployment.

The specification remains:

  • Great: Open Diapason 8; Chimney Flute 8; Principal 4; Fifteenth 2; Mixture III; Hautboy 8.
  • (Brustwerk) Positive: Stopped Flute 8; Flute 4; Nazard 2 2/3; Gemshorn 2; Tierce 1 3/5; Larigot 1 1/3.
  • Pedal: Subbass 16; Flute 8; Choral Bass 4; Fagot 16.
  • Couplers: Pos/Gt; Pos/Pd; Gt/Pd (draw stops and pedal levers).
  • Tremulant (to the whole organ).
  • Balanced swell pedal to positive, although the swell shutters are not currently installed, and I don't know if there are plans to install them or not.

If I recall rightly, this instrument was built by Walkers for another client, who then commissioned another instrument, rendering this instrument surplus to requirements. This led to its acquisition by the RNCM, who installed swell shutters to the Positive in place of the original folding doors (see photo below), in order that the instrument might be more versatile, especially for examinations.

Well done to all involved - a fine outcome for this instrument, for the church, and - potentially - for regional organ education.

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photo 1.JPG

photo 2.JPG

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23 hours ago, petergunstone said:

The organ became available following the demise of the RNCM's Organ Department.

I wasn't aware of this.  What a shame.  

I expect that there will be very few university music departments offering organ tuition now, apart from at least some of the Oxbridge colleges.

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There are still organ scholarships available at: Bangor, Bath Spa, Birmingham Cons., Bristol, Hull, Kent, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Warwick, Huddersfield, Leeds, Liverpool, Royal Holloway, Sheffield, and York as well as Oxford and Cambridge and, also, a number of Universities, such as Manchester & Nottingham where a 1st study organist can read a music degree and receive tuition.

And, in London, Organ tuition, is available at RCM,  who also have at least six scholarships, RAM and Trinity Laban. 

Interestingly RNCM still list Thomas Trotter as 'International Tutor in Organ Studies'.

I suspect that my list isn't complete!

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Interesting development, thanks for sharing and nice to know of the Walker organ's successful relocation. Is the intention to keep the new organ where it has been installed (a bit off-centre to the pillars, and some way in front of the old pipescreen judging by the photo) or would it be pushed back in due course? And I do worry a bit about organs whose pipes are within reach of curious or malicious hands, I hope the church is either locked or attended at all times! What's the plan for the old Jardine, or is there nothing worth saving there?

Organ scholarships are available in several Scottish universities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, At Andrews, Dundee and Aberdeen. I was an organ scholar at King's College London and this position still exists. Some of these are open only to music students whilst others accept more diverse applications - I read medicine for example.

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Good news, then.  Far more educational establishments teaching organ than I was aware of.  Thank you both.

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19 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

Is the intention to keep the new organ where it has been installed (a bit off-centre to the pillars, and some way in front of the old pipescreen judging by the photo) or would it be pushed back in due course? And I do worry a bit about organs whose pipes are within reach of curious or malicious hands, I hope the church is either locked or attended at all times! What's the plan for the old Jardine, or is there nothing worth saving there?

Yes, the plan is that it remains there for the time being. It is, in fact, lined up with a change of flooring. Although it looks a little odd, geometrically, from my photograph, this is a not a common viewing site: all the pews are located in the nave. In situ, the organ looks good.

Time will tell whether or not additional casework is required, although there is sufficient to keep the hands of minors out.

The Jardine is being broken up: I understand that some pipes have been salvaged, so it is possible that some pipes may find their way into another instrument.

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On 28/12/2017 at 22:13, Contrabombarde said:

I do worry a bit about organs whose pipes are within reach of curious or malicious hands

You should visit the new organ in Manchester Cathedral.

Some of the pedal pipes are easily within reach of anyone in a side chapel - even the 32' reed tuning springs!

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If they reinstate the swell shutters, it would be nice to make them from glass so that people can see clearly what's inside. The brustwerk at Clifton Cathedral has this and I always thought it attractive. 

I recall going to Hereford cathedral years ago and seeing that the 32' reeds there were accessible, but that the important bits were completely enclosed in glass, thereby being visible to those who were interested, but out of reach for those too interested for their own good.

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