Jump to content
Mander Organs
John Robinson

York Minster organ rebuild

Recommended Posts

For those interested, Harrison & Harrison have now published their intended specification for the organ at York Minster following their current alterations:

http://www.harrisonorgans.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/York-Minster-Specification-Final-Version-AS.pdf

They have stated that they would like to restore the organ to how it sounded after their earlier work in 1931, hoping to make the organ more powerful, yet more coherent in sound.  There is, of course, a situation at present where the organ is rather lacking in power when heard from the nave.  Personally, guessing from the specification supplied, I see both gains and losses.

I find a comparison of the above scheme with reference to the present situation (provided in NPOR) to be very interesting.

Taking each department individually, I see the GREAT organ is acquiring a new, more powerful Open Diapason 1 8' which I assume would be similar to that which was removed and installed in the PEDAL organ in 1960.  The instrument will now have four 8' diapasons.  The division will also have a new Harmonics mixture including both a tierce and a seventh, and an additional 4' trumpet.

However, whilst clearly gaining power, the GREAT will be losing several 'colour' stops: 2' and 1 1/3' flutes, sesquialtera, cornet and cymbal which, I think, is a shame.  The consequence will be an overall reduction of two stops in that division, and I cannot see why at least a couple of the above lost voices couldn't be retained.  Space, I assume.

Apart from a few name changes, the SWELL remains pretty much the same although pipes of the Violin Diapason and Diapason Celeste appear to have been rearranged yet their pipes, presumably, all retained.

Similarly, the CHOIR is little changed apart from a small alteration to the composition of the Mixture.

The SOLO. too, seems to have had very little change other than some names.  The Chimney Flute is replaced by a Harmonic Flute and a 2' Harmonic Piccolo added.  One thing that puzzles me, though, is the apparent removal of the very loud Bombarde 8', which provides a powerful east-facing reed comparable to the even louder Tuba Mirabilis 8' facing west.  Why?  If Harrisons' intention was to increase the overall power of the organ, why remove this stop and, presumably, leave just an empty space?

The PEDAL organ sees some noticeable enhancement of power.  An additional Open Wood 16', presumably louder than the existing one, has appeared though I'm not sure exactly where it is going to be located.  There is also a new 8' extension of the existing 16' Open Wood.  Unfortunately, the 4' and 2' flutes seem to have disappeared, though.  The Mixture, too, will be rearranged to include a tierce.  Along with similar changes to GREAT mixtures, this suggests that Harrisons have a preference for tierce mixtures over the existing predominantly quint mixtures.  Personally, I feel that there is an advantage to having both for variety.

The PEDAL reeds also appear to be bolstered by extending the existing 16' and 8' Ophicleide unit to both 32' and 4'.  This would certainly increase the power of the PEDAL organ, though I'm not sure whether or not it is intended to make the Ophicleides louder than the existing, already imposing, Sackbut/Trombone extension which, at present, is on a higher pressure (8 1/2") than the Ophicleides (6").  I welcome the additions, though that would also see the removal of the existing 4' Shawm.  I'd be interested to know where the new 32' Ophicleide extension might be located too.  To the north, to balance the Sackbut extension on the south?

Overall, the organ will see a reduction of the total stop numbers from 84 to 82.

Apologies for the lengthy post, but I'd be very interested to hear the views of other members of this forum, especially as these proposed changes raise as many questions as answers!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't have a view but, presumably, Harrison's have had lengthy discussions on the proposed specification with the appointed consultant, with Robert Sharpe, the Director of Music and with those who control the spending, namely the Dean and Chapter.

I am presuming that Harrisons, the consultant and Robert Sharpe see the new specification as being able to 'recapture the musical character and energy of the organ as left in 1931 by H &  H while maintaining the instruments versatility within this aesthetic and bringing the diverse pipework together in a coherent tonal structure' Whether they succeed in their aims we shall see when the new rebuild is unveiled in 2020. 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is interesting to compare the work going on at York with that at Canterbury, both at the hands of the same firm. Rather in the manner of ‘neo’ H&H at one and ‘neo’ Willis at the other.  Both look to being eventually excellent for their respective buildings and uses - I do wonder however whether the next incarnation at Worcester could be ‘neo’ Hope Jones. That would be fun and there is at least one builder I can think of who might be able to build it!

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am grateful to John Robinson for interest in the York Minster organ project and for his questions.  

The H&H document states,  “An important aim of the major work being carried out in 2018-20 is to recapture the musical character and energy of the organ as left in 1931 by Harrison & Harrison, while maintaining the instrument’s versatility within this aesthetic and bringing the diverse pipework together in a coherent tonal structure.”

The 1931 stop list and wind pressures will therefore be restored as part of this aim, whilst retaining some later and new additions which fall within the same aesthetic.

The H&H document also says, “the layout will be conservatively revised, allowing the waisted lower part of the case once again to be visible.”  This involves moving the Solo swell box (which was between 1903 and 2018 hidden, along with the 1993 Bombarde, by the grey curtain to the north of the organ) into the lower part of the main case. 

That part of the Pedal organ until last year sited in the south screen will move to the slightly smaller lower north screen (joining the Violone and Ophicleide, plus its new extensions) allowing reinstatement of the stone/timber stairs to the organ lost in 1972 and a new music library room at an intermediate level within the south screen.

The new Open Wood I (and its Octave extension – this is to be part of the new rank) will be sited in its original position to the immediate north of the Double Open Diapason 32ft pipes in the south quire aisle.

The Trombas, on 15 inches wind, were more in the nature of Father Willis tubas in tone (evidenced from several recordings) and as such provided solo tuba effects on both sides of the screen.   The new Clarion on the Great completes the “normal” Great reed chorus.  On occasions when the Trombas are in use as super chorus reeds, the Ophicleide is used to balance and the enclosed tubas may be used to augment the full swell. 

The famous Tuba Mirabilis, on 25 inches wind and added for Bairstow in 1917, had a much more brilliant tone in its original voicing and recapturing this will also be part of the current work.

I hope this is useful and would be happy to answer any questions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, Robert, and I'm grateful for your provision of additional information not available in the Harrison's statement.  It may be evident to some that I have had an almost inordinate interest in the York Minster organ for many years, at least since as a young lad in the 1960s when my school music teacher, Keith Rhodes, played us a recording of the very impressive Tuba Mirabilis.

To quote you, "The H&H document also says, 'the layout will be conservatively revised, allowing the waisted lower part of the case once again to be visible.'  This involves moving the Solo swell box (which was between 1903 and 2018 hidden, along with the 1993 Bombarde, by the grey curtain to the north of the organ) into the lower part of the main case."

This, which now clarified, sounds an excellent idea which was not apparent from what I had read before.  Not only would it permit a more direct sound from the Solo but also, presumably, would include the provision of louvres facing west and east.  I think the whole case would look more attractive too; taller and rather less 'square'.  I assume that the Bombarde would not be included, though.

Your helpful explanation also answers my questions regarding the siting of the new 32' Ophicleide (and extensions) and the new Open Wood 16'.  It also clarifies the Harrison's statement that the 8' extension will be from the new Open Wood I rather than the existing Open Wood II, unless I have misread it, of course*.

"The Trombas, on 15 inches wind, were more in the nature of Father Willis tubas in tone (evidenced from several recordings) and as such provided solo tuba effects on both sides of the screen."

This too, explains a lot.  I was aware that the erstwhile Trombas on the Great were originally on a higher pressure (15"), but had no idea of their tone as I had never actually heard them!  If they can be voiced to sound like Father Willis tubas, I think that would be an excellent move.  Not that I have any dislike of other builders' tubas, but I have always particularly liked the Willis tubas at St Paul's which are atop the Great Organ and, I think, are also on 15" of wind pressure.

As you have said you'd be happy to answer other questions, if I may, could I ask whether the (new?) Swell box will also benefit from both east- and west-facing louvres, thus providing a more direct sound?

All things considered, these changes are encouraging and would seem to improve the general sound of the organ.  I intend, one day after the work is completed, to visit the Minster to see and hear the organ for myself.  Hopefully, there will also be some new recordings - video as well as sound - if not asking too much.  Perhaps Priory might be persuaded to create a new video recording of the revised organ, similar to the one I already possess!

Once again, my sincere thanks for your very helpful and interesting explanations.

(* Yes, I did!  Sorry.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

John, I am glad the explanations are helpful.  

The new Solo box will actually have its (horizontal) shutters to the north as it will be at console level.  The previous box had shutters to the south (facing into the organ) and in the roof.  The north shutters allow the sound to reflect from the tower pier to both the east and west.  You are quite right about the case which gave the impression of squatting on the screen before but will appear to rise up much more elegantly from it.  You are right that the Bombarde will not be included because it does not fit within the parameters of remaining true to the aesthetic of the earlier musical concept, and its previous location will be fully visible in the reconstructed instrument.

I am glad to hear of your thoughts about the Trombas and Father Willis tubas.  The reconstructed organ will have provision for transferring them to both the Choir (as before) and also the Solo, for additionally versatility.  

The Swell box will be new, as will all the main mechanism.  Its shutters actually opened to the south and will continue to do so, with an additional shutter front to the west brought into action by means of a drawstop within the combination couplers group.  The south shutters create that characteristic "York full swell" effect so well-known on the many recordings which surges from the organ in a controlled manner which is so effective in choral accompaniment.  The additional western louvres will enable a more direct sound to travel west when required.

We shall certainly be planning both audio and video recordings and look forward to making them!  You (and other board members) would be most welcome to visit in due course both to see and hear, and (diary permitting) play the restored organ.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One small query. What will be the effect of the Choir ‘Octaves Alone’ please?

Thanks

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, AJJ said:

One small query. What will be the effect of the Choir ‘Octaves Alone’ please?

Thanks

A

Yes, that puzzled me too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good evening Alastair,

The Octaves Alone hearkens back to the early 20th c H&H schemes where it was normally paired with a (standard) Octave. On a single drawstop it’s the equivalent of drawing Octave and Unison Off together. The Choir Organ is bracketed out over the console on the east side and is most beautiful in the eastern Quire space.  In the Nave, it’s more akin to an (effective) Echo Organ.

The 16ft Lieblich Bourdon, along with its 8ft companion, is a very seductive sound in the Quire. Both are (slightly) rescaled Hill stops. The new Octaves Alone allows the choice of either the (softer) 16ft or the 8ft to be used (and coupled to, where needed, the Swell or Solo) with a solo singer. It also offers other choices - as a happy spin-off - from the very beguiling Choir Organ stops such as OA with L Bourdon and the remarkable Walker Gamba, and OA with the 16, 8 and 1960/1903 2 2/3. 

The reason we chose not to include the usual full complement of Octave, Unison off and Sub Octave on this division was that we didn’t want the possibility of this very beautiful and (to the east) prominently-placed division to be crudely bolstered with the Octave couplers drawn with the full Choir.

I hope this is helpful.

 

Share this post


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

John, I am glad the explanations are helpful.  

The new Solo box will actually have its (horizontal) shutters to the north as it will be at console level.  The previous box had shutters to the south (facing into the organ) and in the roof.  The north shutters allow the sound to reflect from the tower pier to both the east and west.  You are quite right about the case which gave the impression of squatting on the screen before but will appear to rise up much more elegantly from it.  You are right that the Bombarde will not be included because it does not fit within the parameters of remaining true to the aesthetic of the earlier musical concept, and its previous location will be fully visible in the reconstructed instrument.

I am glad to hear of your thoughts about the Trombas and Father Willis tubas.  The reconstructed organ will have provision for transferring them to both the Choir (as before) and also the Solo, for additionally versatility.  

The Swell box will be new, as with all the main mechanism.  Its shutters actually opened to the south and will continue to do so, with an additional shutter front to the west brought into action by means of a drawstop within the combination couplers group.  The south shutters create that characteristic "York full swell" effect so well-known on the many recordings which surges from the organ in a controlled manner which is so effective in choral accompaniment.  The additional western louvres will enable a more direct sound to travel west when required.

We shall certainly be planning both audio and video recordings and look forward to making them!  You (and other board members) would be most welcome to visit in due course both to see and hear, and (diary permitting) play the restored organ.

Again, my thanks for this additional information.

The more I read about this rebuild, the more I begin to understand the good sense and foresight in the forthcoming changes.  I recall a statement by Francis Jackson (though despite much searching I am unable to locate the source) in which, talking about the 1960 changes under his watch, he describes feeling the loss of some of the voices that were disposed of at that time, but assures the reader that if the decisions made are well thought-out the results are usually found to be beneficial.  I'm sure that that will prove to be the case after the 2020 rebuild.

I can certainly see the good sense in this relocation of the Solo, for both auditory and visual reasons, and can understand how the Bombarde may not fit in well with the planned changes to the organ.  There is also the Tuba Mirabilis, of course, which I think may be worked on to restore the brighter sound that was, apparently, present prior to 1960.

Not wishing to push my luck, or anyone's for that matter, I have been re-reading several earlier threads made on this forum about the York organ, and recall that I and others have referred to suggestions that an additional nave organ, as was present in the nineteenth century, would the the ideal solution for supporting large nave congregations.  Perhaps a further half million pounds or so would suffice and I promise that, should I ever win the Lottery, I'd be happy to donate the same!

I look forward to the proposed audio and video recordings and I am very grateful for the invitation to visit the new organ, though the possibility of playing it would embarrass me as, unfortunately, I do not possess the necessary skills apart from struggling through some very simple pieces (rather badly) on the piano.  A very kind offer, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Nave organ is certainly a tantalising prospect in this vast Gothic Cathedral. It would provide one solution, to be sure. But there are many reservations too, not least the potential position of such an organ and the conflicts that might produce with modern use of the space.

However, the position of the existing organ so commandingly and centrally on the screen has much to commend it from east and west perspectives, especially with the layout introduced in 1903 by J W Walker which allows for a warm spread of sound to east and west. A major issue at York (along with also Lincoln) is the central tower lantern. Walker in 1903 chose to use enhanced wind pressure for the 8’ 4’ 2’ elements of the main principal chorus to give additional carrying power across this significant space. Harrison and Bairstow in 1917 consolidated this with larger-scaled fluework including three ranks of mixtures (the original Mixture V being on two sliders and pressures) on the higher pressure and overall revision of the chorus, and the revoiced Great reeds, as well as what was then the world’s most significant Tuba stop whose position was arrived at after experimentation with a live trumpeter with instrument, standing inside the various levels of the organ.

In 2012, we reinstated the 7 1/4 inches pressure for this flue chorus after 52 years, and the results (only affecting the 4’, 2’ and III) were spectacular. The cut-ups had not been altered in 1960 and the pipes seemed happy once again to be speaking at the place they had originally been designed for. 

In the new work, the high-pressure chorus with its energised carrying power, is consolidated by the reinstated 00000 scale Diapason (bright as well as large) as well as the existing Mixture III (the original bottom part of the 1917 Mixture V) augmented by both a new Mixture V (all on the higher pressure), and the classic Harmonics (on the lower pressure) which lends both colour and  brilliance (no break until f#43) to the whole.

Other aspects of the scheme speak for themselves, but of course the core of the organ, the Walker 1903 scheme, its layout allowing the building to lend its own special sheen to the sound, and as refined and enhanced by Arthur Harrison and Sir Edward Bairstow, remains as before. The glorious “York” sound. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Continuing thanks for all this! The more one reads the more one sees the thought and consideration that thas obviously gone into the present work. For instance, a small detail but the ‘Enclosed Solo on Swell’ coupler. The possiblilities for liturgical work will surely be greatly enhanced and one can only but imagine the ‘uber’ full Swell effect complete with Tubas!  

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for this. 

The Enclosed Solo on Swell is mainly intended to enable the enclosed tubas to be separated from the Mirabilis.  The former are very flexible in their use (perhaps better thought of as orchestral trombones in the effect they produce) and the new transfer will enable them to be used in chorus whilst the Mirabilis remains on the top manual.  The Solo octave couplers, which don't affect the Mirabilis, will transfer too and, when transferred to the Swell, the enclosed Solo stops will also couple through Swell to Great, Swell to Pedal and Swell to Choir. In the past, one would have used Solo to Swell and/or Solo to Great to use these very versatile stops in chorus but in that context the Mirabilis was not available at the same time as a solo stop.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yet more fascinating and illuminating information.  Thank you Robert.

"In 2012, we reinstated the 7 1/4 inches pressure for this flue chorus after 52 years, and the results (only affecting the 4’, 2’ and III) were spectacular. The cut-ups had not been altered in 1960 and the pipes seemed happy once again to be speaking at the place they had originally been designed for."

I had no idea about this.  7 1/4" for flues is not too far short of that in Liverpool Cathedral, and that is for the highest pressure double-languid pipes.  That surely makes a difference already, and when the new Open Diapason I and the two quint mixtures are added on the same pressure the revised Great organ must become even more commanding.  Such higher pressures generally would hopefully result in the organ being far more effective down the nave - when necessary, of course.

Another interesting improvement, now explained, is the facility for making the Tuba Mirabilis available on one manual whilst the two enclosed tubas are on another and, by further coupling, on yet others.  I suppose that octave and sub-octave couplers for the TM would be going just a little too far!

Talking of which, the sound of these two tubas and, of course, the whole of the enclosed Solo must be much clearer after its relocation to the lower case.  I often wondered just how effective the existing louvres must be, facing directly into the side of the main case only inches away.  I assume that the louvres on the top of the box (with reflector boards) must increase the sound output much more effectively.

Sorry to harp on at you, Robert, but I'd be grateful if you could answer yet one more question!  Will the newly extended Ophicleide unit be restored to the much higher wind pressure as existed when Edward Bairstow first asked for their installation to balance the Tuba Mirabilis?  (I remember that Francis Jackson asked for the bottom octave of the Sackbut to be moved to the south transept because it was too loud! ) The 32' Ophicleide will surely be at least as loud if the whole unit is on 25" pressure and would surely become one of the most powerful of its kind in the country.  Not that I personally would be at all upset by that!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I, too, have been fascinated by the depth of imagination and thought processes outlined above.

Was ‘Enclosed Solo on Choir’ considered in addition ? I could envision a scenario (although cannot, at the moment, think of a specific piece. Perhaps one could be written.) where a configuration of heavy pressure reeds on the four separate manuals (Solo Tuba Mirabilis, Swell loud reeds, Great loud reeds, Choir/Solo enclosed Tubas) might prove useful. Alternatively, perhaps, ‘Tuba Mirabilis on Choir’. 

With this iconic stop restored to its original, coruscating splendour, the historic ‘York sound’ will once more resound. I seem to recall hearing an LP with this glorious ‘noise’ being completely transcendent.

Would not sub/octave couplers on this stop breach H&S regulations ?

I welcome your thoughts, Robert.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 23/02/2019 at 22:28, John Robinson said:

Another interesting improvement, now explained, is the facility for making the Tuba Mirabilis available on one manual whilst the two enclosed tubas are on another and, by further coupling, on yet others.  I suppose that octave and sub-octave couplers for the TM would be going just a little too far!

Talking of which, the sound of these two tubas and, of course, the whole of the enclosed Solo must be much clearer after its relocation to the lower case.  I often wondered just how effective the existing louvres must be, facing directly into the side of the main case only inches away.  I assume that the louvres on the top of the box (with reflector boards) must increase the sound output much more effectively.

Sorry to harp on at you, Robert, but I'd be grateful if you could answer yet one more question!  Will the newly extended Ophicleide unit be restored to the much higher wind pressure as existed when Edward Bairstow first asked for their installation to balance the Tuba Mirabilis?  (I remember that Francis Jackson asked for the bottom octave of the Sackbut to be moved to the south transept because it was too loud! ) The 32' Ophicleide will surely be at least as loud if the whole unit is on 25" pressure and would surely become one of the most powerful of its kind in the country.  Not that I personally would be at all upset by that!

Thank you, John. 

You are right in your supposition about octave couplers for the Tuba Mirabilis!

We don’t anticipate the sound of the enclosed Solo being significantly different in the revised location. In fact the south-facing shutters of the old Solo box were more or less directly underneath the overhanging upper part of the main case with additional shutters in the roof of the box. The new shutters will be horizontal and opening north where the effect, with reflection off the tower pillar will be much as before but with the added advantage of the new box. 

The Ophicleide will return (along with other stops) to its original pressure so will be a significant effect. Its use is for Nave services and concerts in the main and it will need very careful handling if used for a Quire service. The Trombone is returning to its north aisle position where it will be possible to reassess its voicing which has been altered more than once. The Pedal Fagotto (really a metal Trombone) and Trumpet which will go on to c. 7 inches wind will be the main Pedal reeds backed when needed with the wooden Trombones. 

The Ophicleide/Tuba Mirabilis thing is interesting because although Bairstow did say in the fund-raising booklet in 1928 that there was as yet no suitable bass for the Tuba Mirabilis added in 1917, it is clear that the latter was never used as a chorus stop. The Ophicleide added the extra drive and weight to match the Great Trombas which were and will be the second set of reeds after the Mirabilis. The unusual 4’ extension of this rank, which we are reinstating, had a galvanising effect added to the other pitches beneath a vast congregation such as we have on Christmas Eve when around 3,000 people attend the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. 

I hope that is helpful by way of explanation. 

Share this post


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

I, too, have been fascinated by the depth of imagination and thought processes outlined above.

Was ‘Enclosed Solo on Choir’ considered in addition ? I could envision a scenario (although cannot, at the moment, think of a specific piece. Perhaps one could be written.) where a configuration of heavy pressure reeds on the four separate manuals (Solo Tuba Mirabilis, Swell loud reeds, Great loud reeds, Choir/Solo enclosed Tubas) might prove useful. Alternatively, perhaps, ‘Tuba Mirabilis on Choir’. 

With this iconic stop restored to its original, coruscating splendour, the historic ‘York sound’ will once more resound. I seem to recall hearing an LP with this glorious ‘noise’ being completely transcendent.

Would not sub/octave couplers on this stop breach H&S regulations ?

I welcome your thoughts, Robert.

Thank you, John, for your interest in this topic. 

I confess that Enclosed Solo on Choir was not a transfer we did consider though I can see exactly what you are suggesting such a stop might enable. However, the hierarchy of the reeds, in descending order of intensity, is as follows:

  1. Tuba Mirabilis
  2. Trombas
  3. Enclosed Tubas
  4. Posaunes
  5. Swell reeds

So the specified transfers (including Posaunes on Choir) do allow the first four of these to be played over four manuals. Using this list too, one can see how the way the reeds are used to some extent differs depending on whether the action is in the Quire or the Nave. In the former, the Tromba(s) really act as the Solo Tuba(s) in the Father Willis style (and being placed high in the case) with the Posaunes furnishing the Full Great and the little Tubas acting as colour stops. In the Nave, the little Tubas take on, when required, a chorus role and the Trombas (with Ophicleide when needed) become chorus as well as solo stops. This is when the west-facing Mirabilis can then be used. 

The hierarchy above (which reached its final form in 1931 when the little (Walker) Tubas were enclosed and the Ophicleide added) was a clever plan for liturgical requirements. The present work enhances this plan with the 4ft Clarion to support the Posaunes and the larger 32’ reed which Arthur Harrison wanted to add. 

Octave couplers and the Mirabilis is not a happy thought!

I hope this is helpful and brings further clarity. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have just dug out a booklet which I must have had stashed away for over twenty years (I have a policy of never throwing things away, much to my wife's despair): 'The Organs of York Minster' by various authors/contributors.  ISBN 0 9521539 7 1.  I'm not sure whether this publication is still obtainable, but I do think it has some very interesting and informative content which might appeal to others with the same interest as myself.

I found it interesting to compare the 1931 Harrison scheme (p21 et seq) with the new proposals as discussed on this site.

Pushing my luck even further I hope that after the present rebuild is completed, either a new chapter might be added to future reprints or perhaps a completely new booklet be written along the same lines - complete with photographs of course!

Share this post


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

 

........one can see how the way the reeds are used to some extent differs depending on whether the action is in the Quire or the Nave. In the former, the Tromba(s) really act as the Solo Tuba(s) in the Father Willis style.....

I had a flashback reading this to having lessons on the organ and ‘depping’ in the choir at Lincoln Cathedral during the mid ‘80s. The Great to Solo coupler to some extent turned the 8’ and 4’ Tubas into ‘uber’ Great reeds on the top manual to at least try to energise the huge space in the nave there. I am not sure how much it achieved this but the sound just west of the screen was stunning along with the full Swell and 32’ reed up in the triforium. I once tried adding the Tubas a Salisbury in the same way but due to the relatively enclosed space there the effect was decidedly more destructive to those below!

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, robertsharpe said:
  1. Tuba Mirabilis
  2. Trombas
  3. Enclosed Tubas
  4. Posaunes
  5. Swell reeds

So the specified transfers (including Posaunes on Choir) do allow the first four of these to be played over four manuals.

The hierarchy above (which reached its final form in 1931 when the little (Walker) Tubas were enclosed and the Ophicleide added) was a clever plan for liturgical requirements. The present work enhances this plan with the 4ft Clarion to support the Posaunes and the larger 32’ reed which Arthur Harrison wanted to add. 

Ah! That is even more satisfying - and a 'cunning plan' long before Baldrick. 

Thank you, again, Robert, for the detailed elucidation and its historical context.

Now, can anyone think of a piece which avails itself of such a splendid concatenation of brassiness ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I await developments with interest.
All my life, the York instrument always sounded a bit distant, except at close range, yet after the Walker re-build, at least it had enormous character and colour.

I'll stick my neck over the organ-loft curtain, by suggesting that the organ will ALWAYS sound distant, no matter what happens, and this is why:-
People go to Alkmaar and marvel at the clarity and cohesion of the whole; suggesting that Schnitger knew best.
People tried to copy and import the sound to the UK, with very patchy results. (York was a good example of this)

But look at the facts.

How many people realise, that the WHOLE of St Lauren's church, Alkmaar, would neatly fit into the North/South transept area of York Minster?

How many people realise that a quite large church could be up-ended and placed up the tower at the crossing?

Acoutstically, the transepts are almost cut off from the main body of the Minster, and so too is the tower space, yet that is where most pf the sound from the organ goes, before washing back as a confused mess.

Tone cabinets?  Tone chutes?  Enormous scales?  Heavy pressures?

Sorry guys......but this is York Minster; the largest gothic church North of the Alps. The only REAL way is to knock the building down and start again!

MM






 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A very interesting perspective, MM.  Yet the organ records well in the building, or it can do if done properly.  These things are rather subjective of course, but I still love the CD of Dr Jackson playing Bairstow which was recorded in 1990 (Mirabilis MRCD 902).  This was David Wyld's company and he engineered the recording.  Would he be able to comment, from a position of obvious expertise as an organ builder and a recording engineer, on the issues being discussed here perhaps?  Perhaps the comparison between a recording and actually being there is misleading, since the microphone(s) can be placed in whatever positions are considered optimum, which is seldom true for one's ears.  Also several or many can be used and later mixed down by a sensitive and expert Tonmeister (although the recording mentioned here only used a single mic position).

CEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There will always have to be some measure of compromise in our largest cathedrals.  In terms of size (not sure whether cubic volume or footprint area) John Harvey said the three largest are York, Lincoln and Winchester - he called them “these giants”.  (I will leave out St Paul’s which in so many ways is a special case.)  Like York, Lincoln's organ is on the pulpitum screen speaking (inevitably with different effect) both into the Quire and the Nave.  With their different parentage these are two simply wonderful instruments, and services in the Quire at both are always beautiful and inspiring.  I think naves are musically a problem nearly everywhere.  The issue is being addressed at York and we must all wish it well for the best outcome.  

Winchester has the hardest job of any, with the least favourable position in the longest building.  But that is really another subject.  S S Wesley wanted the Father Willis to be placed on the stone pulpitum which then existed, but was unsuccessful.  (He didn’t have a very happy relationship with the Dean and Chapter, although he did succeed in acquiring the FW organ.)  Chester is another example with an awkward position, which it seems to overcome better. 

Another ‘Methuselah’ memory.  Somewhere around 1951/ 52, I attended Evensong at York Minster.  It was sung to plainchant by the Songmen, entirely unaccompanied.  We had already left the Quire when there was, to my boyish ears, what sounded like an explosion from the organ above, with Sackbut 32’ very much in evidence.  I have always assumed that Dr Jackson was playing.  Another of those memories which last for a lifetime!  On the same occasion, my sister and I literally walked the plank with a single iron handrail alongside the roof of the South Transept - and a potential drop of possibly 100 feet.  There was no concept of ‘health and safety’ in those days!

Share this post


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

I await developments with interest.
All my life, the York instrument always sounded a bit distant, except at close range, yet after the Walker re-build, at least it had enormous character and colour.

I'll stick my neck over the organ-loft curtain, by suggesting that the organ will ALWAYS sound distant, no matter what happens, and this is why:-
People go to Alkmaar and marvel at the clarity and cohesion of the whole; suggesting that Schnitger knew best.
People tried to copy and import the sound to the UK, with very patchy results. (York was a good example of this)

But look at the facts.

How many people realise, that the WHOLE of St Lauren's church, Alkmaar, would neatly fit into the North/South transept area of York Minster?

How many people realise that a quite large church could be up-ended and placed up the tower at the crossing?

Acoutstically, the transepts are almost cut off from the main body of the Minster, and so too is the tower space, yet that is where most pf the sound from the organ goes, before washing back as a confused mess.

Tone cabinets?  Tone chutes?  Enormous scales?  Heavy pressures?

Sorry guys......but this is York Minster; the largest gothic church North of the Alps. The only REAL way is to knock the building down and start again!

MM

Thank you for these thoughts, MM. 

I wonder if I might ask if you heard the York organ in the flesh prior to 1960 and if you have heard it since 2012 when the original Great flue wind pressure was restored?

I completely agree with you about the Schnitger sound world and how that is linked inextricably with the favourable positioning at the west end of the church. I’m also aware of the relative dimensions of the crossing and lantern in York. 

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...