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Paul Isom

Spurden Rutt

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I had the pleasure of playing a rather nice Spurden Rutt at St Bartholomew's Church, Otford this morning.  It's the first time I have really spent a lot of time on a S/R instrument, and it was a really lovely instrument.  I suspect this instrument may appeal to varied tastes, rather like Marmite, but to me it was a really good accompaniment instrument.  On occasions I felt the voicing was a little too refined in places, lacking edge, but on the whole it did the job very well.  I have a little experience of other S/R organs - one two manual (extension) at West Byfleet which was in two separate swell boxes.  The West Byfleet organ had a little more devil in the reeds as well and sounded like a vintage Harrison.  I remember their little organ at Croydon Crematorium and was also blown away by the quality, even in such a small organ.  I'm interested in their history and what others have to say about the S/R organs.  I get the impression that they may have used a well known reed voicer on occasions for some of their reeds as there is a similarity between their reeds and another illustrious company................  There must be a book in this!

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As Paul implied, there is a lot to be said about Rutt.  Information is fairly easy to assemble from the internet (for starters just do a Google search for 'Spurden Rutt' without the quotes) and sundry print sources (such as Elvin's rather scattily-organised 'Pipes and Actions' book), but it would indeed be nice to have it all in one place considering the firm's overall impact on the British organ scene.  I don't know whether such a book has been written, but if it has I've never come across it or heard of it, though that doesn't mean it doesn't exist of course.   Regarding their reeds, they forged a relationship with the celebrated reed voicer W C (Billy) Jones which started early in the 20th century (or possibly even before that) and it lasted for several decades.  The NPOR throws up a reasonably comprehensive list of their work and it also gives a fair amount of information about the firm itself.  They even built a few cinema organs and one of them is in the care of the St Albans music museum, its console sitting on stage next to their Wurlitzer.  It has the most beautiful Tibias, quite different to those on the Wurli, though I have a dim recollection that the late Bill Walker (then the museum's curator) once told me that they were not Rutt pipes.  Be that as it may, it is a delightful and rare organ to explore tonally, and I 'sampled' its individual pipe sounds some years ago when I was doing the same for the Wurlitzer.

Like Paul, I was impressed by my first acquaintance with a Rutt organ, many years ago now.  This was the substantial three manual at the large Methodist church at Southfields, near Wimbledon south of London.  The building was of the 'central hall' type common in the first half of the 20th century, an invention of J Arthur Rank I believe, who integrated the church premises with money-making enterprises such as shops.  I was organist and choir trainer there for a time while a student.  The instrument had a detached horseshoe stop key console and the organ spoke very well indeed into the building, spread horizontally on one level across the entire platform inside a shallow case.  The minister was very supportive of and interested in church music, and in his sermons he would often incorporate something about one of the hymns sung at the service.  (He was a young and dynamic chap, the Rev David Sixsmith - I wonder where his career subsequently led him?).   At that time I was also fortunate to have unrestricted access to another fine 3 manual instrument, the Willis III in the chapel at King's College in the Strand thanks to the kindness of the late E H Warrell, and although the two were not the same in concept or execution, the Rutt certainly acquitted itself well against such august competition in my humble opinion.  Unfortunately though, it needed quite a lot of action work even then.  Neither organ nor building now exists.  See:

http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N05504

I'm not convinced that some details of this stop list are quite correct.  For example, I'm pretty sure those stops marked Trumpet were in fact called Tromba at the console, though with the passage of time I wouldn't argue the point with someone who knows better.

CEP

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The Southfields stop list is derived from the builder's advert in "The Organ", and may well indicate what was planned rather than the final stop nomenclature of what was installed - a not uncommon problem.  The only SR I've played regularly is in Burnham on-Crouch Baptist in  Essex.  See E00328  A mere 11 stops but surprisingly versatile - and the metal flues NEVER drifted out of tune, being cone-tuned pipework.

Every Blessing

Tony

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As a teenager, I remember being impressed by the sound of this instrument in the late 1970s when a student friend was assistant organist at the church. Sadly, it is long gone, and I am somewhat apprehensive about its fate.

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Rutt received quite a lot of coverage, off and on, in "The Organ".  William Lloyd Webber was a fan and wrote at least two articles.  One, I think, concerned Denham Church, Bucks, (which has since been replaced) and another featured organs in East London, notably the new Becontree Estate.  I'm trying to locate the relevant copies, as well as the first of two by Bryan Hughes (I have the second one in front of me!).  In an article in "Musical Opinion", E.M. Pinkney described the qualities of the Rutt at St. Cyprian, Clarence Gate, (http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N17044) as "ripe", which I think was perceptive.

Personally, I have rarely found a Rutt organ that I liked.  St. Peter's, Colchester (http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=H00583) is a shocker, yet if Compton had done it with the same resources it would probably have been pretty good.  As a young teenager, I used to practice on the little Rutt at Wivenhoe Congregational Church, Essex (http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N08676). It was very well made, with a decent case (which migrated with it from an earlier building elsewhere in the town), but tonally it was an extreme example of a few soft stops plus a big diapason.

Rutt came from Purleigh, near Maldon in Essex, and St. Mary's, Maldon, has a nice two-manual with Rutt's name on it, but the best bits (and case) are from its original incarnation by Holdich.  Rutt added the Swell.  The best Rutt I have encountered  is St. Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge (http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N17699), a very fine Romantic instrument which deserves to be better known.  However, a lot of it is recycled from previous rebuilds and is therefore perhaps not typical.  Tunbridge Wells Baptist (http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N17873) was pretty good, but was rebuilt by HN&B in 1974, shortly after I played it.

Like AJJ, I played St. Martin-in-the-Fields towards the end of its life.  It was a clever scheme, with its divided mixtures and illuminated stop-keys, but it was awfully ponderous and I doubt whether it was ever any better, even when it was in good condition.

There's no doubt that Rutt built a lot of organs and was well thought-of by many.  It's entirely possible that my view was jaundiced early on by my experience of St. Peter's, Colchester, (I first played it in my early teens and subsequently quite a few times, but it still sticks in my mind as one of the most gormless contraptions I've ever handled).  "Fanfare for an Organ Builder" contains some piercing remarks by Noel Mander.

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