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John Robinson

York Minster organ rebuild

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3 hours ago, robertsharpe said:

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. 

Sorry Robert, I was being slightly cryptic, but I think you will understand where I was coming from.
Unfortunately, my experience of York only began with Francis and the Walker re-build, but I have heard the organ in recent years, when I popped through the West Door and heard a wonderful performance of the Bach A Minor. It still sounded like it was coming from Hull or Selby!

Never mind chamades, you need DIAPHONES!

MM
 

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3 hours ago, MusoMusing said:

Sorry Robert, I was being slightly cryptic, but I think you will understand where I was coming from.
Unfortunately, my experience of York only began with Francis and the Walker re-build, but I have heard the organ in recent years, when I popped through the West Door and heard a wonderful performance of the Bach A Minor. It still sounded like it was coming from Hull or Selby!

Never mind chamades, you need DIAPHONES!

MM
 

Thanks for clarifying both re pre-1960 and more recently, MM.

The Walker 1960/FJ work resulted in so many wonderful (and iconic) recordings and of course Francis’s legendary playing and accompanying were at the heart of these. What an absolute legend he is and it’s extraordinary to think he is in his 102nd year!  We are so fortunate in all respects to have Cocker, Willan, Mulet, Bossi et al. They were, and remain, such an inspiration alongside the other recordings.

The north west door lends its own distance to the (very far away) sound, of course; please come and visit again next year and I will be happy to welcome you to play and listen. One big disadvantage of visiting is the (essential) entrance charge which, I guess, kept you at the back of Nave last time. Although valid for a year, and a really necessary aspect of our budgeting (not including the organ!), to some it’s off-putting. Please email me ahead so we can make guest arrangements . (Other board members would be most welcome too, of course, but we may need to arrange a special visit if there are lots of interested people, which would be great).

 

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I was at York Minster on 27th February for the consecration service of two new Bishops (one of whom was the wife of my local vicar) and it was a pity to have had an electronic organ in place of the pipes. The information provided by Robert is most interesting: thank you Robert.

Dave

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1 hour ago, DaveHarries said:

I was at York Minster on 27th February for the consecration service of two new Bishops (one of whom was the wife of my local vicar) and it was a pity to have had an electronic organ in place of the pipes. The information provided by Robert is most interesting: thank you Robert.

Dave

Thank you, Dave. And congratulations to the new bishops. I was sorry to be absent for this particular Consecration which fell during our (one-week-later-than-most) half-term. 

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21 hours ago, robertsharpe said:

Thanks for clarifying both re pre-1960 and more recently, MM.

The Walker 1960/FJ work resulted in so many wonderful (and iconic) recordings and of course Francis’s legendary playing and accompanying were at the heart of these. What an absolute legend he is and it’s extraordinary to think he is in his 102nd year!  We are so fortunate in all respects to have Cocker, Willan, Mulet, Bossi et al. They were, and remain, such an inspiration alongside the other recordings.

The north west door lends its own distance to the (very far away) sound, of course; please come and visit again next year and I will be happy to welcome you to play and listen. One big disadvantage of visiting is the (essential) entrance charge which, I guess, kept you at the back of Nave last time. Although valid for a year, and a really necessary aspect of our budgeting (not including the organ!), to some it’s off-putting. Please email me ahead so we can make guest arrangements . (Other board members would be most welcome too, of course, but we may need to arrange a special visit if there are lots of interested people, which would be great).

 

How very kind Robert; thank-you.
Actually, I was restricted to the west end by time rather than money, but seeing people emerging from the west door as I made my way to the station, I just managed to squeeze in the A minor Fugue from a distance. It was a superb performance, I have to say. I couldn't agree more with your comments about FJ, but then, I was the 14 year old kid on a bike, who would pedal to York and back (about 90 miles) at least once a week in the school-holidays, just to hear "The Doctor".

It's a funny thing, but having heard hundreds of performances in recital and at the end of services, nothing much sticks in the mind, yet I can still recall the SOUNDS and the PHRASING of Francis playing the St Anne at Leeds PC back in the 1960's. (I'm now getting towards 70). As my late friend Carlo Curley may have said, "That's organ power!"
 

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2 hours ago, robertsharpe said:

Thank you, Dave. And congratulations to the new bishops. I was sorry to be absent for this particular Consecration which fell during our (one-week-later-than-most) half-term. 

No worries Robert: I trust you had a good break. One of my nephews is a cathedral chorister (probationer, final year) so I frequently go to Choral Evensong when he is singing and the hard work that they put in always shows so I don't doubt that the holidays are welcomed by the choristers and those who train them. The service on 27th February was the first time I had ever been to a consecration service: great music but I had no idea they went on for so long. As for the (Suffragan) Bishop whose consecration I was there for she will be a very good appointment for the part of NW England she will be working in.

Sorry to go off-topic but, as for the service yesterday and while I think of it, I did notice one thing which made me curious. The music for the responsorial psalm (Psalm 119, v. 165-174) was credited to the Archbishop of York (except for the descant which was credited to Andrew Lucas): I did wonder if that was a misprint although it does say "Music: John Sentamu 1949- " as the credit. There is nothing on his Wikipedia entry to suggest that the Archbishop had ever composed music (although it does say that he played African drums at his enthronement service) but it was very good.

Dave

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2 hours ago, MusoMusing said:

How very kind Robert; thank-you.
Actually, I was restricted to the west end by time rather than money, but seeing people emerging from the west door as I made my way to the station, I just managed to squeeze in the A minor Fugue from a distance. It was a superb performance, I have to say. I couldn't agree more with your comments about FJ, but then, I was the 14 year old kid on a bike, who would pedal to York and back (about 90 miles) at least once a week in the school-holidays, just to hear "The Doctor".

It's a funny thing, but having heard hundreds of performances in recital and at the end of services, nothing much sticks in the mind, yet I can still recall the SOUNDS and the PHRASING of Francis playing the St Anne at Leeds PC back in the 1960's. (I'm now getting towards 70). As my late friend Carlo Curley may have said, "That's organ power!"
 

How lovely to hear all of this, MM! The cycle trip is quite something at 14: fantastic. FJ inspired so many. 

His performances of the St Anne attract universal admiration, and your comments about the late Carlo remind us all of that sad loss both of a performer and an advocate of the instrument. 

As to York’s organ, I can see that no further discussion will be useful until you visit when it’s back! I wish it wasn’t so long to wait. 

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19 minutes ago, DaveHarries said:

No worries Robert: I trust you had a good break. One of my nephews is a cathedral chorister (probationer, final year) so I frequently go to Choral Evensong when he is singing and the hard work that they put in always shows so I don't doubt that the holidays are welcomed by the choristers and those who train them. The service on 27th February was the first time I had ever been to a consecration service: great music but I had no idea they went on for so long. As for the (Suffragan) Bishop whose consecration I was there for she will be a very good appointment for the part of NW England she will be working in.

Sorry to go off-topic but, as for the service yesterday and while I think of it, I did notice one thing which made me curious. The music for the responsorial psalm (Psalm 119, v. 165-174) was credited to the Archbishop of York (except for the descant which was credited to Andrew Lucas): I did wonder if that was a misprint although it does say "Music: John Sentamu 1949- " as the credit. There is nothing on his Wikipedia entry to suggest that the Archbishop had ever composed music (although it does say that he played African drums at his enthronement service) but it was very good.

Dave

Good to hear about your nephew, Dave. I hope he’s having a great time. What a wonderful opportunity for him!

Yes, Consecrations are normally about two hours long and this one was a double one, of course. The Archbishop is a brilliant supporter of the Minster Choir (whose front row of choristers was missing of course this time, being half-term). He wrote the psalm in question though I’m not sure if there is a significant amount of other music written by him. 

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I've been in Vienna for several days, so have lost touch with discussions on this subject.  However, I'm catching up and am pleased to see that there are a number of people who continue to find the developments of this organ particularly interesting.  Incidentally, I saw that the long out-of-use west-end organ (of about 120 stops) in the Stephansdom is presently being restored to use at a cost of 1 million Euros.  I did notice that all of the visible pipes had been removed, and the console is being displayed on the church floor, presumably to help elicit financial support from visitors.  What a good idea!

With regard to the discussion of the acoustics of the Minster due to its large size and the position of the organ, I think there is also another factor that should be considered when comparing it to other buildings, and that is the wooden vaulting which, compared to a stone vaulting, I suspect would tend to absorb higher frequencies.  I remember reading somewhere about the excellent acoustics of King's College, Cambridge and also that it could be compared in size to the chancel of York Minster, the difference being that the King's chapel has a stone vaulting.  I'm sure that the composition and voicing of the York organ would have taken that into account, of course.

I do have another question that I hope Robert might find time to answer, and that is regarding the Swell 8' diapasons which, on the face of it, might be thought to have simply been renamed.  However, looking at the source of each, the existing Violin Diapason was added by Walkers in around 1904 and the Diapason Celeste by Hill in the mid-19th century (but later de-tuned to produce a celeste effect when used with the Violin Diapason).  The new arrangement will comprise a Hill Open Diapason and a Violin Diapason, stated to comprise two ranks,  being a mixture of Hill and Walker pipes.  What I don't quite understand is where the necessary additional pipes will come from.

Yet another question if I may (sorry!) is whether Harrisons have determined yet whether some of the existing display pipes, presumably existing since the 1830s Elliot and Hill build, can be restored to speech.

May I also join others in thanking Robert for the very kind offer of arranging for a guest visit for board members to see and hear the rebuilt organ.  I personally would be very pleased to attend if possible and, when the arrangements become definite, would be grateful if I too could email you to confirm my request.  I assume that your contact details will be provided.

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On 04/03/2019 at 21:05, John Robinson said:

I do have another question that I hope Robert might find time to answer, and that is regarding the Swell 8' diapasons which, on the face of it, might be thought to have simply been renamed.  However, looking at the source of each, the existing Violin Diapason was added by Walkers in around 1904 and the Diapason Celeste by Hill in the mid-19th century (but later de-tuned to produce a celeste effect when used with the Violin Diapason).  The new arrangement will comprise a Hill Open Diapason and a Violin Diapason, stated to comprise two ranks,  being a mixture of Hill and Walker pipes.  What I don't quite understand is where the necessary additional pipes will come from.

Yet another question if I may (sorry!) is whether Harrisons have determined yet whether some of the existing display pipes, presumably existing since the 1830s Elliot and Hill build, can be restored to speech.

May I also join others in thanking Robert for the very kind offer of arranging for a guest visit for board members to see and hear the rebuilt organ.  I personally would be very pleased to attend if possible and, when the arrangements become definite, would be grateful if I too could email you to confirm my request.  I assume that your contact details will be provided.

Hello John and thank you for your questions.

The Walker 1903 scheme provided two Diapasons on the Swell.  The Open Diapason (standing on the lower pressure soundboard) was in fact the Hill Great Open Diapason No 1.  In its new position inside the Swell, it was of great beauty and effective also as a solo stop.  Bairstow is known to have enjoyed its use as such with the tremulant which is certainly most effective in the acoustic.  The Violin Diapason stood on the higher pressure soundboard (which also served the strings as well as the reeds); it is a brighter sound.  At some point in the 1960s/70s, Dr Jackson had the former stop tuned flat to undulate with the Violin Diapason.  The stop was then renamed Voce Umana.  It was then not possible to use it as a solo stop with the tremulant.  

In the 1993 work, this arrangement was retained but the stop was renamed again as Diapason Celeste.  A few years ago, these two stops were reversed in their tuning (although the stop names remained unchanged).  The Hill Open Diapason (but labelled Violin Diapason) was tuned normally (allowing the solo effect with tremulant once again to be available) and the Walker Violin Diapason (but labelled Diapason Celeste) became the undulating rank.  This arrangement was most effective.

In the restored scheme, we wanted to retain this characteristic effect but find a way of naming the stops which sat more happily with the aesthetic of the organ.  We therefore decided simply to retain the 1931 nomenclature of Open Diapason and Violin Diapason but make the latter stop plural - Violin Diapasons - and arrange for it to work both stops together on the single drawstop.  The plural together with the violin suggests the undulating effect.  There are no additional pipes.

I hope this explains the thinking behind this.

With regard to the display pipes, the north and south fronts are all to be new but decorated exactly as before and will all speak again.  In the east and west fronts, around two thirds will once again speak; some of these will be restored and some renewed (where restoration is not possible) and decorated identically.  The speaking pipes in the east front will include the parts of the Pedal Violone and Choir Open Diapason; in the west, parts of the Great Double Open Diapason; in the south, parts of the Great Open Diapasons II, III & IV; and in the north, parts of the Pedal Violone and Principal.

A visit will be further discussed in eighteen months or so.

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Thank you, Robert.

The changes to the two Swell open diapasons is a little more complicated than I thought!  However, your explanation clarifies matters completely.  The end result of the 'Violin Diapasons' bringing on BOTH stops makes a great deal of sense, but was not clear in Harrisons' list.

So many display pipes being restored to speech is, I think, very welcome and will also, presumably, have the benefit of creating a little more room inside the case!

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Robert: am I to understand, therefore, that the Voce Umana (now renamed) was, in fact, intended as an imitation of the Italian Renaissance/Baroque ‘effect’ ? If so, would that not be unique in our organs of the time ? I don’t suppose this single drawstop will be able to be half-drawn (?).

Sorry to labour on: what is the hierarchy (in decibels, as it were) of the loud reeds west of the Screen, please ? And, would the Swell reeds still then be #5, even with the West Shutters open ?

Many thanks.

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An interesting question about the reeds, John Furse.  I'm sure Robert will enlighten us.

As for the Voce Umana, I assume it was given that name as the Italian stop of the same name is a principal in tone (rather than string).  Not that the English stop here would have quite the same sound as Italian principals, they being on very low pressure for one thing.  The Voce Umana was a detuned (flat, I think) open diapason and worked as such when drawn with the Violin Diapason (as was).

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20 hours ago, John Furse said:

Robert: am I to understand, therefore, that the Voce Umana (now renamed) was, in fact, intended as an imitation of the Italian Renaissance/Baroque ‘effect’ ? If so, would that not be unique in our organs of the time ? I don’t suppose this single drawstop will be able to be half-drawn (?).

Sorry to labour on: what is the hierarchy (in decibels, as it were) of the loud reeds west of the Screen, please ? And, would the Swell reeds still then be #5, even with the West Shutters open ?

Many thanks.

 

I’m not sure that it was intended to be an imitation as such, but the name would imply the Italian influence. I’m not certain exactly when it was first tuned in this manner and whether it preceded Arthur Wills’ Fiffaro at Ely. There won’t be any half-draw option. 

The hierarchy of the reeds mentioned in my earlier post is as heard to the west. To the east, the Tuba Mirabilis is much further down the list as it is ultra-directional in its projection westwards. It’s an interesting question about #5 with the new west shutters; my guess is that #4 and #5 will be closer than they were before the dismantling. 

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19 hours ago, John Robinson said:

 The Voce Umana was a detuned (flat, I think) open diapason and worked as such when drawn with the Violin Diapason (as was).

That’s right, John. The same arrangement persisted after 1993 when the name was changed to Diapason Celeste. In more recent years, the tuning has been reversed with the VD rank being the undulating one, and the OD tuned normally. This will be the arrangement in the restored organ. 

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Again, many thanks, Robert.

From NPOR: Dr Wills’ Fiffaro was in the 1975 H&H rebuild - well into the British neo-classical revival (see trending other thread).

From what you have written, this Voce Umana ‘effect’, with a detuned stop, was only possible from the 60s/70s. 

Might Dr Jackson’s ‘innovation’ have prompted Dr Wills to imitate this sound ? Is there any possibility of your finding out about this ?

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5 hours ago, John Furse said:

Again, many thanks, Robert.

 

 

 

From NPOR: Dr Wills’ Fiffaro was in the 1975 H&H rebuild - well into the British neo-classical revival (see trending other thread).

From what you have written, this Voce Umana ‘effect’, with a detuned stop, was only possible from the 60s/70s. 

Might Dr Jackson’s ‘innovation’ have prompted Dr Wills to imitate this sound ? Is there any possibility of your finding out about this ?

'The Organs of York Minster' lists the Swell Open Diapason becoming the Voce Umana along with the reinstating of the Solo and part of the Pedal in 1972 following work on the building.

'The Organs and Organists of Ely Cathedral' doesn't mention the Fiffaro before 1975. However, it does mention work done in 1956 (Choir flues transposed into a cornet) and 1962 (repair work and revoicing of reeds). Arthur Wills, in his book 'Organ' (Menuhin Music Guides) discusses the retuning of two Choir flues to become Unda Maris and Fiffaro in the same paragraph as the cornet, and implies this was all done before the 1962 work.

Paul

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I don't know how far things have got with the York re-build, but while editing the Compton Story, I came across the following.

"At Canterbury Cathedral, problems associated with the position of the organ and the acoustics of edifice, an auxiliary Compton organ (1937) was installed in a remote out-building, and the sounds relayed into the cathedral through dozens of loudspeakers scattered around the building. How successful this arrangement may or may not have been, doesn't seem to have been recorded for posterity, but suffice to say, the detached Compton organ didn't remain in situ outside the cathedral for very long!"

MM

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Hi MM
 

I'd not heard of that in relation to Canterbury Cathedral, but Elvin mentions a similar arrangement at Salford Cathedral in "Pipes and Actions", quoting an item from Musical Opinion in 1938.  Perhaps you could let us know the source of this information.

Every Blessing

Tony

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7 hours ago, D Quentin Bellamy said:

I'd understood that Canterbury had a Hammond.  So was that their second foray into electronics?

See HERE

It would seem that that instrument wasn't the last Hammond to grace Canterbury. They apparently used one at least for the Christmas services in 1963. There is a photo of it (or one like it) in The Illustrated London News for 14 Dec 1963 with the following caption: "AN ELECTRONIC ORGAN - A HAMMOND CONCERT MODEL - OF THE TYPE NOW INSTALLED IN CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL, HERE BEING PLAYED BY DR. SIDNEY CAMPBELL.  Music for the Christmas services at Canterbury Cathedral will be played this year - for the first time - on an electronic organ , the cathedral thus breaking with tradition to become the first cathedral in the country to install an electronic organ." I know nothing of the background to this (NPOR doesn't mention any major work to the pipe organ then), but Campbell did have a sideline demonstrating Hammond organs - not many people know that.

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There was a Hammond in the nave at Canterbury by the end of the time I was at school there (1960-65), and even then, as a teenager knowing nothing in particular about organs, I found its sound oppressive and uncomfortable.

Paul

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Hammond mentioned Canterbury Cathedral in some of their adverts in the post-war years, when they were advertising regularly in "The Organ".  Not sure about the 1960's era - I'd have to dig out my back issues and check, and that's not going to happen at present.  Bear in mind that, IIRC, the early 1960's was prior to the building of the Nave organ, so perhaps the presence of an electronic in the Nave isn't such as surprise, especially if the then organist had one available!

 

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