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S_L

St Michael-le-Belfry, York

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I see that the, long silent, three manual, Wm. Denman organ that has been languishing, seemingly unloved and un-used, in the  North aisle of St. Michael-le-Belfry, the church next door to York Minster, for years and years, is to be rebuilt and re-located to St. Laurence's Church in York. St. Laurence's has been without a pipe organ since 2011 when the organ from there was rebuilt and went to Lastingham in North Yorkshire.

Nicolson's of Worcester are to do the work and there is an interesting review of the work they are doing on their website.

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The last (and just about the first) time I went to that church, I had been dragged to a charismatic free-for-all, where people babbled like animals, threw their arms in the air (quite competitively, I thought) and screeched "Jesus" without the slightest provocation or need. After half-an-hour of this, I stumbled past the Jesus freaks, left the church and went to a local pub for a pint. (The one opposite the west door of the Minster)

This is their mission statement:-

Our vision for the project is to renew and enhance the historic Church building of St Michael le Belfrey in order to inspire and enable 21st century worship and mission, to meet the needs of the people we serve and assist God's plan to transform the North of England from the heart of Yorkshire.

The mission for the building of St Michael le Belfrey is to provide a significant and attractive resource facility for engaging and welcoming people into the family of God, realising our strategic emphases of making disciples, nurturing disciples, developing leaders and planting churches.

This requires creating a space which provides an open, welcoming, accessible and warm Church environment, with a flexible interior arrangement while remaining faithful to our heritage. The reordering will seek to embrace the use of current technology to its fullest, while at the same time preserving the most significant historical and architectural aspects of the building.

-------------------------------------

Quite clearly, the organ has no historic value whatsoever, but hey ho, that's Britain to-day!

Denman, I think, worked for Hill in his earlier years, but I've always been interested in the York organ, which during the past 55 years, I've never heard played.

At least the organ will go somewhere where it will be appreciated.

MM

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LOL - my experience of going into St. Michael-le-Belfry was being asked at the door by a welcomer if I "had been saved!!" - I went into the 'York Arms' too! Getting rid of the organ will enable them to have more room for another screen or drum-kit or whatever other impedimenta they use for the worship of Almighty God!!

Certainly the organ will be appreciated in St. Laurence's which is undergoing a dramatic revival. Not of charismatic fervour but of, slightly, High Church Anglicanism - which I thoroughly approve of!!! 

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When I was an impressionable teenager I attended an Anglican evangelical church, and on one occasion my father decided to accompany me to a service.  On entering he was asked by an earnest elderly lady whether he had been saved.  "From what?" he replied, much to my mortification.  During those years though I myself was "saved" by a rather fat though pale imitation of Billy Graham called Eric Hutchings.  Looking back I can only cringe at my memories of what an utter load of rubbish it all was.  How embarrassing it now seems.  Actually I now realise that the only reason I went to church at all was because the buildings contained organs, and that particular one had quite a respectable three-decker which they allowed me to practice on.  I doubt that would have been the case had I not agreed to be "saved" ...

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Every self-respecting organist knows the saying, that ......."churches are there to keep the organs dry."

MM

PS: Does anyone know the source of that quote?

PPS:  I was wrong about Denman working for Hill. I think it was the York organ-builder Ward, that I was thinking about. I seem to recall that Ward was Hill's foreman when he did York Minster.

Edited by MusoMusing
addition

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At a slight tangent, but still in York, by a remarkable coincidence at precisely the same time, 7.30 pm on Wednesday 26th June, Thomas Ospital from Saint-Eustache, Paris will be giving a recital at St Olave's, York, while Olivier Latry from Notre Dame, Paris will be playing at the Temple Church in London.  I don't know any details of Thomas Ospital's programme.  For Olivier Latry's recital, see organrecitals.com.

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1 hour ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

I don't know any details of Thomas Ospital's programme.

Mozart - Fantaisia in F minor K608
Bach - Trio Sonata No 5 in C, BWV 526
Liszt - Prelude and Fugue on the name BACH
Duruflé - Prelude and Fugue on the name of Alain
Bartók - Six Romanian Folk Dances (transcribed by Thomas Ospital)
Improvisation on given themes

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4 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

Actually I now realise that the only reason I went to church at all was because the buildings contained organs, and that particular one had quite a respectable three-decker which they allowed me to practice on.  I doubt that would have been the case had I not agreed to be "saved" ...

To be perfectly honest, I too am of the same motivation.

Yes, I was a choirboy but (apart from my mother insisting I attended church and Sunday School) the real reason I went to church was to have a look (and possibly a listen) at the organ.  It is with some slight embarrassment that I admit that despite having been confirmed at Bradford Cathedral, I have since 'seen the light'.

Even now, to my wife's chagrin, wherever we go for a day out (or longer) we find ourselves inside (unless it is locked up) a promising church for that exact reason.

As a slight aside, we recently stayed for a few days in the Lake District and, needless to say, popped into one or two churches.  One in particular turned out to be particularly interesting.  St Mary, Ambleside rejoices in possessing a Hope-Jones organ of 1898 which, although with the inevitable alterations, still contains a 16' Diaphone on the Pedal despite having a total of only 24 stops.  It was restored in 1999 and, thankfully, is still fully playable.

I should have loved to have heard it.

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9 hours ago, John Robinson said:

 - but it is a long time agoI should have loved to have heard it.

Are you sure about that? I heard it - once - but it is a long tome ago!!

I think there is very little Hope-Jones left. All of the choir, save the Tuba, is from the 1935 Hill, Norman & Beard rebuild and the Great and Swell have additions from 1905 and 1935. I think, if I remember rightly, it has had a rebuild reasonably recently with all of Hope-Jones electrics being removed and put 'on display'. The console is, broadly speaking, Hope-Jones but the stop keys are not the original ones!

I think that the church has seen some re-ordering also - and, very slightly I'm under the impression, along the lines of St. Michael-le-Belfry in York!

…………………. but it is in beautiful part of the world!!!

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There is an article in the September 2012 edition of Organists Review by Paul Hale about the Ambleside organ, available from his website here https://paulhale.org/interests-articles.htm, which doesn't address all the points above, but is very interestng to read and has nice photos.

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6 hours ago, S_L said:

Are you sure about that? I heard it - once - but it is a long tome ago!!

I think there is very little Hope-Jones left. All of the choir, save the Tuba, is from the 1935 Hill, Norman & Beard rebuild and the Great and Swell have additions from 1905 and 1935. I think, if I remember rightly, it has had a rebuild reasonably recently with all of Hope-Jones electrics being removed and put 'on display'. The console is, broadly speaking, Hope-Jones but the stop keys are not the original ones!

I think that the church has seen some re-ordering also - and, very slightly I'm under the impression, along the lines of St. Michael-le-Belfry in York!

…………………. but it is in beautiful part of the world!!!

Yes of course.  As I mentioned, there has been much alteration (and additions) since the Hope-Jones original.

I had intended to include a photograph I took on that visit of a wall plaque near the console which provides a brief explanation of its history.  Unfortunately, in order to make the photograph acceptable for addition to this forum I had to reduce its size/detail substantially to the extent that the text was unreadable!

One interesting detail that is not mentioned in Paul Hale's article (supplied by Damian, above) that was included on the plaque is that the original  Hope-Jones organ action electromagnets were powered by "a great many Leclanche cells covering the chamber floor".  I can't imagine the problems that must have existed in ensuring that they were all maintained in a charged-up state.  This, of course, in the days before mains electrical supplies were common, especially in remote locations.

Oh dear!  Surely that church is not going 'happy clappy' like to many others have?  What would happen to the organ?

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6 hours ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

There is an article in the September 2012 edition of Organists Review by Paul Hale about the Ambleside organ, available from his website here https://paulhale.org/interests-articles.htm which doesn't address all the points above, but is very interestng to read and has nice photos.

Thank you very much for that, not only for the information about the St Mary organ, but also for other of his informative articles I was unaware of.

I'd still be very interested to hear that diaphone as I can honestly say that I have never actually heard one, at least in 'real life'!  I'd hazard a guess that a diaphone would sound rather different from a reed, bearing in mind that it uses a beating valve that is either 'open' or 'shut' rather than a reed which, I assume, opens and closes gradually.  I imagine that would be something along the lines of a square-wave compared to a sine-wave?

Perhaps, if I discover a forthcoming recital, I might take the trouble to travel there - assuming, of course, that the diaphone would actually be used!

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6 hours ago, S_L said:

Are you sure about that? I heard it - once - but it is a long tome ago!!

I think there is very little Hope-Jones left. All of the choir, save the Tuba, is from the 1935 Hill, Norman & Beard rebuild and the Great and Swell have additions from 1905 and 1935. I think, if I remember rightly, it has had a rebuild reasonably recently with all of Hope-Jones electrics being removed and put 'on display'. The console is, broadly speaking, Hope-Jones but the stop keys are not the original ones!

I think that the church has seen some re-ordering also - and, very slightly I'm under the impression, along the lines of St. Michael-le-Belfry in York!

…………………. but it is in beautiful part of the world!!!

Many moons (ions?) ago, I played the Ambleside organ, and I was pleasantly surprised. It had some lovely individual registers, and if one stuck to pretty tunes and string/flute accompaniment, it delivered what it was intended to deliver. The Norman & Beard additions were entirely in keeping, with the exception of a Nazard 2.2/3ft, which at a trise, converted the otherwise romantic Choir into a Neo-Baroque version.

It's a pity about the original electrics, but they would have been very expensive to refurbish I expect, and at least they've kept the bits and pieces for future generations to ponder over.

Far from a poor organ, it is nevertheless not one I would wish to spend the rest of my days with.

MM

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42 minutes ago, John Robinson said:

Thank you very much for that, not only for the information about the St Mary organ, but also for other of his informative articles I was unaware of.

I'd still be very interested to hear that diaphone as I can honestly say that I have never actually heard one, at least in 'real life'!  I'd hazard a guess that a diaphone would sound rather different from a reed, bearing in mind that it uses a beating valve that is either 'open' or 'shut' rather than a reed which, I assume, opens and closes gradually.  I imagine that would be something along the lines of a square-wave compared to a sine-wave?

Perhaps, if I discover a forthcoming recital, I might take the trouble to travel there - assuming, of course, that the diaphone would actually be used!

Have you never been to Wakefield Cathedral?   The 16ft Contra Bass is Diaphonic, but ever so civilised and un-reed like. In my forthcoming tome about John Compton, there is included a whole section on Diaphones, and how John Compton utterly mastered their production and voicing. I was playing the organ(s) at Southampton Guildhall 18 months or so ago, which has both a 32ft Diaphonic Diapason bass and a 32ft Posaune. The Posaune is absolutely superb.....not over loud.....very high quality, top drawer voicing, as one might expect.  By contrast, the 32ft Diaphone is monumental; producing a flood of sound which can actually be felt in the rib-cage area.

Incidentally, wind-pressure variance has little or no effect on tuning when it comes to Diaphones, and when Hope-Jones used them at Worcester (still buried inside the organ, unused?) they came with  variable volume....lighter pressure for pp and highest pressure for "bloody Nora!".

I shall dig out a You Tube extract and edit the link in when I've finished writing. It is probably the best example of just how massive a 32ft Diaphone can sound, even in a big space.

MM

PS:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_npr5vxqVA

 

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7 hours ago, MusoMusing said:

Have you never been to Wakefield Cathedral?   The 16ft Contra Bass is Diaphonic, but ever so civilised and un-reed like. In my forthcoming tome about John Compton, there is included a whole section on Diaphones, and how John Compton utterly mastered their production and voicing. I was playing the organ(s) at Southampton Guildhall 18 months or so ago, which has both a 32ft Diaphonic Diapason bass and a 32ft Posaune. The Posaune is absolutely superb.....not over loud.....very high quality, top drawer voicing, as one might expect.  By contrast, the 32ft Diaphone is monumental; producing a flood of sound which can actually be felt in the rib-cage area.

Incidentally, wind-pressure variance has little or no effect on tuning when it comes to Diaphones, and when Hope-Jones used them at Worcester (still buried inside the organ, unused?) they came with  variable volume....lighter pressure for pp and highest pressure for "bloody Nora!".

I shall dig out a You Tube extract and edit the link in when I've finished writing. It is probably the best example of just how massive a 32ft Diaphone can sound, even in a big space.

MM

PS:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_npr5vxqVA

 

Many thanks for this, MM.

I have been in Wakefield Cathedral, though the last time was many years ago before I moved to the inferior side of the Pennines.  Even then, I don't remember ever actually hearing the organ.  Also, I'm afraid that I wasn't aware that the Contra Bass was a diaphone, but thanks for the information.  I suspect that there are many more of the beasts about of which I am unaware.  I should be interested to read your 'tome' when it becomes available.

Yes, I was aware that there is/was(?) a diaphone at Worcester.  I believe that the original case (and contents?) is still present in (I think) a transept and have often wondered why it wasn't retained as playable when the new organ was installed.  Perhaps they intend to restore it to use when they have a bit more brass.

Yes, I recall reading some time ago that diaphones don't vary much in pitch with different wind pressures and am sure that the facility to alter the pressure, presumably from the console, could be very useful.  I wonder whether that could be achieved with some sort of swell/crescendo pedal.  I have a feeling that that may have been done with some free-reed stops, perhaps in Germany.

I just listened to the link you kindly provided and, although I am no fan of cinema organs, I must admit that there is a variety of interesting sounds in that recording.  I can only hear that on my quite limited laptop speakers which, of course, can only imagine the reproduction of a 32' sound!  Nevertheless, the section where the diaphone appears (if I'm correct) is impressively loud.  I must dig out my headphones, which will reproduce such sounds far more accurately, and have another listen.

Thanks again.

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As a footnote, the most common Diaphones were of Diapason quality, but potentially much louder. They usually morphed back to open flue pipes as the notes ascended.

The use of a Diaphone at Wakefield may well have been Compton's reacting to the acoustic. Although a fairly resonant building, sound does not travel well from the Chancel to the Nave; especially bass notes, and the best place to hear the organ is actually in the chancel, where it sounds immense.

In conclusion, I think it may be said that the majority of Compton diaphones are somewhere between Open Wood and Open Diapason in tonal quality, and unless someone mentioned it, most people wouldn't know that a diaphone was installed. The huge advantage of a Diaphonic Bass is the fact that the resonators can be folded with relative impunity and without loss of quality, thus making them suitable for restricted spaces. That's why they found their way into cinema organs, where space was usually at a premium.

Not to anticipate anything too much, but what John Compton had to say about Diaphones is just amazing.......that man really knew his craft, and the fine detail is astonishing.

MM

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8 hours ago, John Robinson said:

 

Yes, I was aware that there is/was(?) a diaphone at Worcester.  I believe that the original case (and contents?) is still present in (I think) a transept and have often wondered why it wasn't retained as playable when the new organ was installed.  Perhaps they intend to restore it to use when they have a bit more brass.

I'm bound to get this wrong. The Pedal 32' and the 16' Open Wood, at Worcester, are in the Hill Transept case. At the moment they are 'prepared for' on the Chancel Organ but will be brought into play when, or if, the new Nave Organ is built! I think that is right - but, no doubt, there will be someone here who can correct me if I'm wrong!

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10 hours ago, MusoMusing said:

As a footnote, the most common Diaphones were of Diapason quality, but potentially much louder. They usually morphed back to open flue pipes as the notes ascended.

The use of a Diaphone at Wakefield may well have been Compton's reacting to the acoustic. Although a fairly resonant building, sound does not travel well from the Chancel to the Nave; especially bass notes, and the best place to hear the organ is actually in the chancel, where it sounds immense.

In conclusion, I think it may be said that the majority of Compton diaphones are somewhere between Open Wood and Open Diapason in tonal quality, and unless someone mentioned it, most people wouldn't know that a diaphone was installed. The huge advantage of a Diaphonic Bass is the fact that the resonators can be folded with relative impunity and without loss of quality, thus making them suitable for restricted spaces. That's why they found their way into cinema organs, where space was usually at a premium.

Not to anticipate anything too much, but what John Compton had to say about Diaphones is just amazing.......that man really knew his craft, and the fine detail is astonishing.

MM

The Compton polyphone at Hull Minster (32ft Sub-Bass), speaks with beautiful effect, especially with Swell strings. It’s a wonderful stop, one that you don’t so much hear but feel. It’s as if the ground is gently shaking.

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It sounds to me that polyphones can be very useful stops and have some distinct advantages over flues and reeds.

Perhaps they should be more widely used.  Perhaps they already are, as you often wouldn't know from the name alone.

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I'm not aware of anyone making Diaphones anymore; possibly because they are quite complicated and expensive to make. The trouble is, in pursuit of the "rock crushing" bass, they got a bad name in the era 1890-1940 or so, but there are many examples of quite subtle Diaphones, of which Wakefield is one, and as Barry points out, Holy Trinity Hull is a second example.  (I wasn't aware of it when I first played that organ, but I must have used it).

People react to Diaphones in different ways.  This is my favourite:-

 

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8 hours ago, MusoMusing said:

I'm not aware of anyone making Diaphones anymore; possibly because they are quite complicated and expensive to make. The trouble is, in pursuit of the "rock crushing" bass, they got a bad name in the era 1890-1940 or so, but there are many examples of quite subtle Diaphones, of which Wakefield is one, and as Barry points out, Holy Trinity Hull is a second example.  (I wasn't aware of it when I first played that organ, but I must have used it).

People react to Diaphones in different ways.  This is my favourite:-

 

Another example of a very effective polyphone is at Bridlington Priory, a building with excellent acoustics. The NPOR entry covering the last rebuild by Nicholsons, attributes the 32ft Sub-Bass (Soubasse) to Anneesens. I feel with some measure of confidence that it is the work of John Compton who installed it when he rebuilt the Priory organ in 1948-1949 and also added further ranks that have not been attributed to him.

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I believe the Compton diaphone at Christchurch Priory was retained at the 1999 Nicholson rebuild.  I played it at that time, and if my recollection is correct it survived as the 16 foot Contra Bass on the Nave pedal division.  It certainly was not of the 'foghorn' variety, having a quiet grip and definition which many flue registers at that pitch could do well to imitate.  However, if you prefer something of a more visceral (even if not quite foghorn) nature, you could try the well-trodden Hope-Jones examples at Pilton, Devon and Llanrhaeadr, assuming they are still there - I haven't been near either for some while now.

There is also an 8-note Compton polyphone unit at Christchurch as I recall, forming part of the 32' Sub Bass pedal stop.

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20 minutes ago, Colin Pykett said:

I believe the Compton diaphone at Christchurch Priory was retained at the 1999 Nicholson rebuild.  I played it at that time, and if my recollection is correct it survived as the 16 foot Contra Bass on the Nave pedal division.  It certainly was not of the 'foghorn' variety, having a quiet grip and definition which many flue registers at that pitch could do well to imitate. .....   etc

Yes, and that's the big difference between Compton and the rest. His mastery of the potential "beast" being nothing short of oustanding, while others just wanted to crush rocks.

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12 hours ago, John Robinson said:

It sounds to me that polyphones can be very useful stops and have some distinct advantages over flues and reeds.

Perhaps they should be more widely used.  Perhaps they already are, as you often wouldn't know from the name alone.

It always happens.....everyone gets confused about what is what and what it does.

Just for the record:-

    When people refer to "Polyphones", they are often referring to "bi-phonic basses" , where six stopped pipes (producing two notes each) play the full 12 notes of the 32ft Octave. They work by having a tube attached at to the pipe, closed off by a valve arrangement. When the valve opens, the additional volume of the pipe + tube produces a lower note. So bottom C is the lowest bi-phonic pipe with the valve open, and bottom C# is the same pipe sounding with the valve closed and isolating the additional volume created by the attached tube.

The Polyphone proper, is a single large pipe; often laid horizontally, like a large coffin. The "pipe" has one very large mouth, and usually produces just 8 notes, using valves to increase/decrease the speaking length of the pipe in what is a complex internal labyrinth.  The principle is not unrelated to the Haskell Bass....the "pipe within a pipe" idea. The usual range is low EEEE to CCC (16ft)....anything lower requiring a much larger pipe. They are usually about 8ft in length, and there is a picture of one at the following link:-  https://www.theladyorganist.com/rco-summer-course-name-pipe/    

The Diaphone is a bit like a reed pipe, but usually fatter and squatter....often mitred and folded. The principle of operation is not far removed from a conventional reed, except that the reed is replaced with a sprung valve, which oscillates against a hole .....a bit like a rapidly oscillating version of a Saxophone or Clarinet valve.

MM

Edited by MusoMusing
Inaccurate description

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