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This is alarming, but I cannot quite see it happening here. On the other hand...

 

http://www.leparisien.fr/culture-loisirs/la-cathedrale-de-rouen-privee-de-ses-grandes-orgues-02-11-2019-8184978.php?fbclid=IwAR1GG4LDYMOPHTDm4hqt9da0iquM3A99enm0VOYMEvJGxklbpveQAF9gtMo

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I'm in danger of contravening forum rules here, but how long did Chichester have that Allen (well over 10 years, surely?) - and why?

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There's no detail about the problem, apart from the organ's wiring not conforming to the current wiring regulations. But after Notre Dame, who can blame them? Any suggestion of wiring problems, even if the installation is just old, could and should elicit a similar reaction. What's really a pity is that a schedule of works was approved in 2001, but nothing has been done. I wonder, without knowing of course, whether routine maintenance would have forestalled this.

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1 hour ago, Vox Humana said:

I'm in danger of contravening forum rules here, but how long did Chichester have that Allen (well over 10 years, surely?) - and why? 

Someone, I forget who, told me that the Allen belonged personally to John Birch, and he certainly seemed to have a fondness for it.  His reign at Chichester lasted from 1958 to 1982.  The Allen stayed in the Cathedral, I believe moved to the west end, and was occasionally played with orchestra and for choral festivals after the 1984/86 Mander rebuild of the pipe organ.  Before the rebuild the Hill organ (in its fine Arthur Hill case) was in poor shape and disused, although John Birch had earlier made a memorable recording on it on the Ryemuse label.  I think it was England’s smallest cathedral organ with only 34 speaking stops on tubular pneumatic action, the last work on it having been done by Hele in 1904.  Reputedly Hele did a good job with a sensitive restoration and modest enlargement, and I believe it may well have been on the strength of this that they were chosen to make their controversial enlargements a year later at neighbouring Winchester Cathedral in 1905 (since totally removed with the exception of two ranks).

I’m afraid this doesn’t answer the question of the timescale for the Allen.  George Thalben-Ball made a 1975 recording on it.  Somehow, I think it was in regular use for something like 20 years, but that is subject to correction by someone with more local knowledge.

Rouen, of course, immediately conjures up the name of Marcel Dupré.  As well as being natives of Rouen, both he and his father were organists there.

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Thank you, Rowland.  I do recall it being there for a long time. I accompanied a choir in a concert there back in '76 and when John Birch showed it to me he did seem fairly enthusiastic about it. I didn't realise it was his own instrument though. Your comments about the state of the Hill confirms what I had understood. Hele's would certainly have done a first-class job structurally. They were always very sound in that respect.  Sorry, this has nothing at all to do with the problem at Rouen.  It just popped into my head when I saw the words "installation électrique" and before I'd taken the trouble to read the article. 

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I was speaking to Alan Thurlow after a recital by Roger Fisher at Chichester in the early 2000's when he said that the Allen was still in situ and at the west end.  Sorry to be taking the thread further away from Rouen though.

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59 minutes ago, Colin Pykett said:

I was speaking to Alan Thurlow after a recital by Roger Fisher at Chichester in the early 2000's when he said that the Allen was still in situ and at the west end.  Sorry to be taking the thread further away from Rouen though.

It was still there in 2016 when I took my choir to sing for week. At the West end up in the triforium to the right (South side). You can see the console and a large pile of speakers.

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(Just in case of confusion, there's no mention of a digital organ in the article about Rouen; the orgue de choeur will be used for services while the grande orgue de tribune is out of action.)

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The Chichester Allen organ was installed in 1973 and was in full use until the pipe organ was reinstated in 1986. I am not sure at all about the Allen belonging to JB himself and doubt that being the case. A post above asks 'Why?' Well, at that time, there was a lot going on at Chichester in terms of repair work and I think the feeling was that this had to take precedence over the organ, for obvious reasons. This may not have been based on finance alone - I imagine they were thinking that there would be a fair amount of dust and dirt flying about for some years to come, and they decided not so much to mothball the organ, but to just leave it. It must have been inadequate, in any case - not sure, really, about its adequacy even now. I attended the opening recital by JB himself. I was right at the back of the cathedral, and I had never heard the pipe organ before. To say that the impact was disappointing would be an understatement. That said, I have enjoyed playing it a couple of times for evensongs in the 90s, and it was delightful for accompaniment. With the pipe organ in a poor state, it seems to me very likely that the arrival of the Allen was greeted with considerable enthusiasm. It worked well in all intents and purposes and with the swell organ speakers concealed in the pipe organ's loft, it deceived plenty of people. The other chancel speakers were in the triforium, more or less opposite the pipe organ but slightly further East because of the south transept. There were switchable speakers to the West of the Bishop Bell screen which were just for the Great, Choir and Pedal - thus, the Swell only sounded through the speakers concealed in the pipe organ. A remarkable Tuba effect was obtained by using the card reader on all four Alterable Voice tabs on the swell together with another tab called Reed Solo which actually amplified the volume of any swell stop by some huge degree. JB had this set up on General 12 with more or less full Great, Choir and Pedal, but it was only any good if you had remembered to program the alterable voices. There were other 'cards' as well, including a Chrysoglott - I think you had to select a tab to go with that called Percussion. Around this time William Allbright wrote a Missa Brevis for Chichester which required percussion effects from the organ. Most cards were never used - just the Orchestral Tuba - (think it was called).

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When I wrote my earlier post I was away from home and relied entirely on memory about the ‘old’ Chichester organ.  Having now checked the details, it did indeed have only 34 speaking stops, three manuals and pneumatic action - surely the smallest cathedral organ in the land in the second half of the twentieth century?

My best recollection is that someone told me that John Birch paid for the Allen.  That also struck me as being unlikely.  This could have been mere gossip (it wasn’t said at Chichester as I haven’t been there for several years).

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Along the road from Chichester, at about the same time, Lancing had a three manual Johannus organ for several years and the Walker was in storage. I know nothing about the history of Lancing College chapel but I think it is one of those buildings that has taken all its life to finish. So, I think it was in the late 70s that they built or rebuilt the west end of the chapel - complete with huge and very beautiful rose window designed by Stephen Dykes-Bower. From the school website, it is interesting to note that they have a well-advanced scheme for building a handsome 'proper' porch that befits this magnificent building. 

Here is a link to Lancing College chapel.

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Hi

A friend arranged a session for me on the Lancing College Chapel Walker back in the '60's when the Walker had been erected on a temporary gallery - in 1914!  Not managed to get back since.

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I played both the large partly Edwardian Walker and the smaller Frobenius choir organ at Lancing some years ago.  At that time the Walker had an unusual mix of actions ranging from mechanical through pneumatically-assisted through tubular pneumatic through electropneumatic to electric couplers.  This is not to disparage a basically exciting playing experience, but when I then transferred to the smaller Frobenius I was overwhelmed by its tonal beauty and the precision of its meticulously conceived action.  One can also have the best of both worlds in that the Walker can be played electrically from the Frobenius console.

(Still nothing to do with Rouen, I'm afraid, though my excuse is that I'm clearly not the only sinner here in this respect ... )

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Is Thalben-Ball's recording on the Chichester Allen available anywhere? Would be a fascinating document- such a pity there are so few recordings of GTB! 

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I have the LP Allen record by Thalben  Ball at Chichester Cathedral, Polydor Select 2460 243. It is a stereo record with a note on the sleeve saying that it can be played on a mono system with a stereo compatible cartridge. I got it from the Allen organ supplier in Kent when Allen first appeared

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1 hour ago, ross cobb said:

Is Thalben-Ball's recording on the Chichester Allen available anywhere? Would be a fascinating document- such a pity there are so few recordings of GTB! 

There is one for sale on Amazon UK for £17 including postage.  I guess it will go to whoever responds quickly!

Rouen is not forgotten, and the link which SomeChap provided is very much worth looking at both for details of the Grand Orgue as well as the Orgue du Choeur.  I recall reading many years ago in Marcel Dupré’s biography (autobiography ?) about his father’s Cavaillé-Coll house organ, but didn’t know that MD had donated it to Rouen Cathedral. From the specification it looks to be a lovely and versatile instrument - I suppose the closest equivalent in this country being the C-C/ Mutin at Farnborough Abbey, surely one of the most successful small organs anywhere.

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22 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

From the specification it looks to be a lovely and versatile instrument - I suppose the closest equivalent in this country being the C-C/ Mutin at Farnborough Abbey, surely one of the most successful small organs anywhere.

Agreed, it might need miking up to fill the Nave but in that acoustic I'm sure it sounds wonderful.

I was surprised to learn the Grand Orgue isn't a Cavaille-Coll; maybe that's held back the restoration project?

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Well, the Grand Orgue pre-dates Cavaillé-Coll by a couple of centuries!  As I understand, it was the work of successive organ builders, and at least three of the names are familiar.  It happens that Cavaillé-Coll wasn’t “called in” to work on it and, of course, there are other major French cathedral organs which aren’t by Cavaillé-Coll.  There was a lengthy restoration after damage in World War II in which Rouen suffered grievously.  What an amazing continuity of organists since 1383!  The link tells us that the case dates from the late 17th century, and it also suffered in WW II.  It is classed as a National Historic Monument (as are several of the major Paris organs with historic cases).  I can’t think of any equivalent recognition by the State of organs and their cases in the UK.

Several Francophile members of this board (and at least one, to my knowledge, French resident) may know more and have first-hand experience of the Grand Orgue.  It would also be interesting to know how well the Orgue du Choeur would sound without electric amplification.  I well remember during the last major Willis restoration (i.e., pre-Mander) at St Paul’s Cathedral the ‘Willis on Wheels’ positioned under the dome (usually played by Harry Gabb or Richard Popplewell), effectively filled the Cathedral with sound, but I suppose that might be due to the unique St Paul’s acoustic. 

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Good to see mention of the Willis on Wheels, Rowland, and I fully agree that it has, or had, exactly the reputation you ascribe to it which I have always found fascinating though haven't had a chance to assess it for myself. I have heard it played - it was during the John Scott/Andrew Lucas years, and the main organ was having its piston apparatus updated, so the W-o-W had to be pressed into action for the Saturday evensong I attended. It was a chorister reunion. The organ was parked just below the chancel step on the Cantoris side and I was sitting the same side but the other side of the choir so I wasn't optimally located! I think I have read comments especially about the Cornopean. At my church in Bradford on Avon we have a Willis III with a Cornopean on the Swell and it is extraordinarily versatile... I suppose that by that, I mean it is huge and we're lucky to have a newly serviced and very effective set of swell shutters. Anyway, I have often wondered if the dimensions of our Cornopean at BoA were on a similar scale to those on the Willis on Wheels. And it would be great to hear more of your experiences of St Paul's, Harry Gabb or Richard Popplewell.

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Well, at that time (early-mid 1960s) the Wilis on Wheels was caseless and, it has to be said, not lovely to look at.  As I recall, one side had a backing of plain black material, and the swell shutters were nakedly exposed at the opposite end to the console.  As it was in use in place of the Grand Organ for a lengthy period it wasn't being wheeled, and to the best of my recollection was chocked up on blocks.  It was in the same place as you describe, essentially below the north-east corner dome, and largely concealed by a domestic folding screen.  Harry Gabb or Richard Popplewell would briefly appear in cassock and full-sleeved surplice, with academic hood, winged collar and white bow tie (not bands), and disappear behind the screen for the duration of the service.  I always thought RP looked distinguished, tall and very upright; HG shorter and a little plump (?), but my recollection of HG may not be accurate!  In both cases the playing was distinguished, and it was the Great diapasons which filled the building during the hymns.  I don''t recall the Cornopean being that much used, but on more than one occasion RP played one of the Franck Chorals.  I remember commenting to a Virger (hope that's the correct spelling for St Paul's) that we never seemed to see Dr Dykes-Bower, to which he somewhat haughtily replied "He doesn't come to this service"!  This was the 6.30 pm 'additional' Evensong sung by the choristers with the Gentlemen of the Evening Choir.  The boys had already sung umpteen earlier services, and were allowed to leave before the sermon which was at the end of the service and the final hymn was sung by the men alone.  In the time that I attended I remember several performances of the Rogationtide anthem "Thou visitest the earth, and blessest it" by Maurice Greene.  The hymnal was AMR, and quite often the alternative tune was used, (e.g., 'Old 104th' never 'Hanover' for "O worship the King").  I don't recall anyone conducting, even in the anthem.  I think a lay vicar on either side kept the beat (equally the case at Winchester Cathedral at that era).  Although evening, the St Paul's 'Wandsmen' wore formal morning coats, as I believe they still do to this day.

I never heard the Grand Organ in its Willis incarnation, but the console was then on the north side concealed within the duplicate choir case which Father Willis provided new when he divided the organ.  It was reached from the north choir aisle through an elegant door inscribed in gold letters "Organista".

 

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1 hour ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Well, at that time (early-mid 1960s) the Wilis on Wheels was caseless and, it has to be said, not lovely to look at.  As I recall, one side had a backing of plain black material, and the swell shutters were nakedly exposed at the opposite end to the console.  As it was in use in place of the Grand Organ for a lengthy period it wasn't being wheeled, and to the best of my recollection was chocked up on blocks.  It was in the same place as you describe, essentially below the north-east corner dome, and largely concealed by a domestic folding screen.  Harry Gabb or Richard Popplewell would briefly appear in cassock and full-sleeved surplice, with academic hood, winged collar and white bow tie (not bands), and disappear behind the screen for the duration of the service.  I always thought RP looked distinguished, tall and very upright; HG shorter and a little plump (?), but my recollection of HG may not be accurate!  In both cases the playing was distinguished, and it was the Great diapasons which filled the building during the hymns.  I don''t recall the Cornopean being that much used, but on more than one occasion RP played one of the Franck Chorals.  I remember commenting to a Virger (hope that's the correct spelling for St Paul's) that we never seemed to see Dr Dykes-Bower, to which he somewhat haughtily replied "He doesn't come to this service"!  This was the 6.30 pm 'additional' Evensong sung by the choristers with the Gentlemen of the Evening Choir.  The boys had already sung umpteen earlier services, and were allowed to leave before the sermon which was at the end of the service and the final hymn was sung by the men alone.  In the time that I attended I remember several performances of the Rogationtide anthem "Thou visitest the earth, and blessest it" by Maurice Greene.  The hymnal was AMR, and quite often the alternative tune was used, (e.g., 'Old 104th' never 'Hanover' for "O worship the King").  I don't recall anyone conducting, even in the anthem.  I think a lay vicar on either side kept the beat (equally the case at Winchester Cathedral at that era).  Although evening, the St Paul's 'Wandsmen' wore formal morning coats, as I believe they still do to this day.

I never heard the Grand Organ in its Willis incarnation, but the console was then on the north side concealed within the duplicate choir case which Father Willis provided new when he divided the organ.  It was reached from the north choir aisle through an elegant door inscribed in gold letters "Organista".

 

Rowland Wateridge’s mention of the Organista door reminded me when as a schoolboy I met Dr Dykes Bower as he was exiting that door...a polite but timid request to view the console was granted immediately with full close up inspection granted. Memories of those elaborate bronze jamb panels on five manuals still remain today- in those times Valentines did a console postcard - now a treasured memento of meeting a gracious generous musician who found time to share with a young organ enthusiast from Aberdeen.

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Sorry, we're way off-topic now! But, thank you both for those enjoyable memories. So, Rowland, did you sing with the adults at the 6.30 service? I remember it well from a chorister's point of view. Yes, we'd done 10.30, 11.30 and 3.15pm though, mercifully, with only two sermons, and then the Decani and Cantoris boys took it in turns to sing the 6.30pm. If I recall, it was often the Assistant Sub-Organist, so Richard Popplewell, Timothy Farrell and then Christopher Herrick in my time. Minor Canon Cochrane often conducted the anthem - he was MA, MusB, ARCO and had been Director of Music at Christ's Hospital. He had a bit of a reputation for drink - whether it was true or not, goodness knows! The worst aspect of the 6.30pm service was that the duty choristers had to remain in their horrid Eton suits with their nasty stiff collars until afterwards, but the non-duty crowd could change back into their everyday suits - yes, suits! We had no home clothes (or other comforts at all, actually - no curtains in the dormitories even in the new school when I left in 1970. By the way, lest we should have too much free time on a Sunday, between 3.15 evensong and the 6.30 service, we had 45 minutes of the headmaster reading aloud to us whilst we were issued with two Quality Street.

And, Philip, as probationers, we waited outside the Organista door to 'go in' for services. You will know that as well as accessing the organ loft, you could go through an 'invisible door' to the choir stalls. Amongst many memories, I remember that in the cupboard at the bottom of the loft stairs where the organists kept their robes (DB - Oxford DMus, Harry Gabb - FRCO* - RIchard Popplewell FRCO - later, Christopher Dearnley wore Oxford MA or Oxford BMus - (never FRCO) - Christopher Herrick wore his Oxford BA then MA hood, (never FRCO) - there was a metal box with a number of pitch pipes, sitting on the floor. The organists didn't trust the 'dial' on the pitch pipes, and so used to tune them to the organ before playing before the service. On a Friday, when different pitches might be need for psalms, canticles and anthem, they had to have several pitch pipes, all pre-tuned in their pockets! Choristers used to volunteer to go to the loft after evensong to turn pages and generally observe. DB realising that, (a) I was from the county of his beloved Truro organ and (b) being unable to miss the fact that I was already mad keen on organs, suggested that I be allowed to visit the loft in my first term. This was unheard of, but he selected a senior chorister to accompany me - none other than James Lancelot! He allowed me to press the Cancel piston when he finished. The old organ loft was truly special. Not only was the 5-manual console very special in its own right, but I had never seen an organ bench with a back rest before. There was a telephone, two large signal lights, gauges for the infinite speed and gradation swell pedals, a general crescendo swell pedal, and... a Full Organ piston, complete with special red light. But what I loved the most were all the peep holes that enables the organist to see what was going on at the altar, the west doors and down in the choir. I have many memories of visiting the organ loft with all those mentioned except RP who only played at times when we couldn't really go up. I am not surprised that DB granted you a visit, Philip - he was a real gentleman. Turning the pages could be quite as challenge - (a) following the music, but (b) reaching all the way up and then getting a page of the large Novello Bach books to turn fully over was quite hard for a small boy. Christopher Dearnley once asked two of us to pop up after the 1130 Eucharist - I was amazed to find him playing BWV 541 from a miniature score! 

 

* Harry Gabb generally kept his chocolate and blue FRCO hood at St Paul's, but around this time, the new rose damask and grey hood (current) was introduced. He wore this at St James' Palace but would bring it to St Paul's if he needed it for special services. And the norm would be for him to conduct while DB played. Eventually, he inherited a second 'new' FRCO hoos and wore that full time at St Paul's. 

 

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Off topic or not, it's been fascinating to read these reminiscences about the great and the good. I love this sort of thing and wish people would be more forthcoming with similar recollections.  I'm sure there must be a few worth posting.

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