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Jonathan Lane

32' stops in Africa

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Ok good people, I am sure there are plenty of you out there with greater knowledge of African organs than I!

I would be interested to know how many organs in Africa have true 32' stops, i.e. not Acoustic or Electronic.

Stopped or Open 32' flues and 32' reeds.

Jonathan

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In South Africa, there are many organs with Open 32' flues and 32' reeds.

In Cape Town, for example, St George's Cathedral, Groote Kerk and Cape Town City Hall, all posses fine instruments Open 32' flues and 32' reeds.

Cape Town City Hall : City Hall

 

 

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The 32' reed (Contra Trombone) at Cape Town cathedral came from the old Walker organ at St Mary's, Nottingham.  I think the entire 32/16/8 pedal reed unit was shipped over c. 1973.

CEP

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There are several large pipe organs in Nigeria (Christ Church Cathedral Lagos has a four manual Oberlinger and Abuja has a large organ in the Christian centre) so you might well find a 32 footer lurking around but specifications seem hard to pin down.

You ruled out acoustic 32s in your question but the 1950s 3+P Walker in the Anglican cathedral in Nairobi Kenya has an Acoustic Bass 32. East Africa may not have any 32 foot stops but does manage to have a few musical gems nevertheless. There is a really rather lovely 2+P Positive organ from the 1930s in Uganda's Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala which is well maintained by Peter Wells and recently had a 16 foot reed added to the pedals, undoubtedly the stunning acoustics of this brick cathedral help magnify the organ's sound. And there is a small but charming 2+P Father WIllis in the Anglican Cathedral in Zanzibar, again nowhere near big enough to sport a 32 foot but also rather lovely. When I last visited it, the organist provided me with a mechanical assistant to stand inside the case to rectify all the sticking trackers as I was playing!

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One person who could have helped was the late Colin Hele, organ-builder of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, who sadly passed away last year.  He was  a member of the Hele family of organ-builders who operated in Plymouth for many years and had a wide connection with organs in South Africa.  In particular, he looked after the large Brindley & Foster organ in Pietermaritzburg City Hall.  Durban City Hall also has a large Brindley.  Johannesburg City Hall has a very large organ, the last built by Norman & Beard before their amalgamation with Hill.  Its rebuild by Henry Willis IV seems not to have met with universal approval, to say the least, but it remains a big job, complete with 32' stops (I'm told that the 32' open wood was converted to a sub bourdon at the rebuild).  St. Mary's Cathedral in the same city has a big Rushworth with a Double Open Wood.  Pretoria City Hall has a 4 manual Kimball with 32 flue and reed.  The Feather Market Centre in Port Elizabeth has a large organ built in 1999 incorporating parts of the previous instrument, but whether it has 32' stops, I don't know.  There may be other big civic organs.

This link mentions the organ in the Anglican Cathedral in Durban as having 32' pipes https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/durbans-largest-organ-turns-100-1276864

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JW Walker's Opus 1299 at St Cyprian's Cathedral, Kimberley lists a 32ft Sub-Bourdon.

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As always, one can't always tell from the name on the stop whether a 32' is resultant, either for the whole 32' octave or for part of it, so a degree of circumspection is needed among people (like myself) who find information in articles and on the internet.

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Thank you all, very useful information. I knew there were people who would know more than me on this subject!

As David says, it is very difficult to tell from a stoplist what an actual stop is or how it is configured.

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Looking for something else, I found a couple of articles featuring big South African organs (both mentioned earlier) in 'The Organ Quarterly', both by the Reverend A. Pierce-Jones, who served most of his ministry in that part of the world.

Vol. XXII, No. 85, July 1942 describes the Rushworth in St. Mary's Cathedral, Johannesburg. The bottom note of the Double Open Wood is mentioned as scaling 14".

Vol. XXVIII, No. 109, July 1948 describes the 4 manual Kimball in Pretoria City Hall, designed by John Connell, the City organist of Johannesburg, who was also Organist of Johannesburg Cathedral when the Rushworth was built. The Pretoria organ was presumably contemporary with the hall (1935) and had 101 speaking stops (plus Chimes, Xylophone and various untuned percussions) including floating Orchestral and Enclosed Great divisions, the latter playable on either Great or Choir. The 26 stop Pedal Organ included a 32' Contra Bourdon (as well as a Bourdon Quint 10 2/3) and a 32' Contra Bombarde.

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Here's another one - St. Cyprian's Cathedral, Kimberley, had a new Walker organ in 1936 (the previous one arrived after some trauma because the ox-cart transporting it sank while crossing a river), with a 32' bourdon down to bottom F, the lowest five notes being resultant. According to the cathedral website, the Walker is still going strong.

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See my post above (25 Jan).

Apparently one will soon be able to play this one at home using a software program.

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On 24/01/2018 at 01:08, David Drinkell said:

One person who could have helped was the late Colin Hele, organ-builder of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, who sadly passed away last year.  He was  a member of the Hele family of organ-builders who operated in Plymouth for many years and had a wide connection with organs in South Africa.  In particular, he looked after the large Brindley & Foster organ in Pietermaritzburg City Hall.  Durban City Hall also has a large Brindley.  Johannesburg City Hall has a very large organ, the last built by Norman & Beard before their amalgamation with Hill.  Its rebuild by Henry Willis IV seems not to have met with universal approval, to say the least, but it remains a big job, complete with 32' stops (I'm told that the 32' open wood was converted to a sub bourdon at the rebuild).  St. Mary's Cathedral in the same city has a big Rushworth with a Double Open Wood.  Pretoria City Hall has a 4 manual Kimball with 32 flue and reed.  The Feather Market Centre in Port Elizabeth has a large organ built in 1999 incorporating parts of the previous instrument, but whether it has 32' stops, I don't know.  There may be other big civic organs.

This link mentions the organ in the Anglican Cathedral in Durban as having 32' pipes https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/durbans-largest-organ-turns-100-1276864

I didn't know that Colin Hele had died. We were friends and had joint charge of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall organ for several years. The Durban B&F was rebuilt by Willis IV in the 70's. He crammed it with extra stops and maintenance became next to impossible. The last I heard it was no longer working. The same can be said for Johannesburg City Hall. Another Willis IV disaster, in fact it was already falling apart before he'd finished the rebuild. I know because I was in the hall rehearsing the Johannesburg Bach Choir the evening it happened. We suddenly heard the soundboards cracking. Mr W went mad !!  I played the organ a few times after that and it was very feeble. You had to tie all 4 manuals together to get a reasonable full Swell to Great. It was generally agreed that the Pietermaritzburg organ was by far the finest English organ in the country. I'd say it certainly deserved that reputation.

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