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I've not started a topic before, so I hope this is in the correct section of the forum. Two questions about 32 ft flues.

(1) Why did Willis I use metal at Carlisle and Salisbury, but (assuming only one 32ft flue) wood elsewhere? At Carlisle they're the first thing that greets you when you walk in, and metal looks better.  But at Salisbury that is not the reason - they're no more or less obvious than those at, say, Durham, Hereford, Winchester. Metals sound rather different - they can have more 'drive' - but not that much.

(2) Arthur Harrison 'inherited' full length 32ft flues from Willis and others, but installed very few himself. Why? I can't think of a single full length Harrison-made 32 flue in a church/cathedral other than Temple Church, London, which (I assume it's full length *) in any case was made for a ballroom. His lowest 5 or 6 notes were usually acoustic. Acoustic 32s can sound good in loud combinations, but they're no use for quiet stuff. Height is an issue at some places (Redcliffe for example), but is there another reason? Did he think that they were just not worth the expense?

* It occurs to me that Temple open 32 might be acoustic, for there's a 32 bourdon for the quiet stuff.

Maybe others know something that I've missed. Any thoughts?

 

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8 minutes ago, Stanley Monkhouse said:

Why did Willis I use metal at Carlisle and Salisbury, but (assuming only one 32ft flue) wood elsewhere?

 

Wouldn't it be because metal pipes are much more expensive than wooden ones (aren't they)?

Ian

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I don’t have any technical answer, and doubtless someone with organ building experience will enlighten us.  

Of the organs mentioned, the one I know best, and it is the earliest in date, is Winchester.  In a print of it in its earliest incarnation at the Great Exhibition 1851 the 32’ pedal woods are very evident.  They came, with about two-thirds of the Exhibition organ, to Winchester in 1854 when this organ, much larger than anything previously, was precariously perched on the roof of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre under the north tower arch - very much against the wishes of S S Wesley who wanted it to be on the stone pulpitum between the quire and nave which then existed.  (Surely he was right about this.  The organ has suffered, and still suffers, from its cramped enclosed position.)  The 32’ wood and 16’ were at the back of the organ and rather unsightly.  I believe H&H much later painted them ‘battleship grey’, but they have recently been completely concealed at the instigation of a former Dean behind an enormous and gaudy cloth masquerading as a kind of tapestry (but, of course, nothing of the sort).  The 32’ was originally named “Double Double Open Diapason”.  It was of massive scale which was reduced by H&H in their 1938 first rebuild.  The 32 notes compass was also reduced to 30 then.  The late Anthony Caesar used to relate that as a boy chorister at the time he crawled through the original bottom C pipe.  Sadly, that was ignominiously used as a workbench and lost - together with, among others, the FW Vox Humana and Tuba Clarion - a sad example of changing tastes.

Apologies for this long digression.  Winchester is not properly written-up on NPOR - in no way the fault of NPOR - simply that no one has undertaken the task.  But in 1854 it was a remarkable instrument: 49 independent speaking stops, tracker action with Barker lever assistance and hand-blown (three levers) but, in other respects, the ultimate in modernity: thumb pistons, radiating and concave pedal board and (I believe) the first Father Willis ‘full swell’ anywhere.  The organ didn’t have that feature (or the radiating pedals) at the Great Exhibition.   From the beginning it had complete diapason choruses and mixtures on three manuals and pedals, and a nascent and tentative solo organ.

One can see stylistic changes in FW’s later organs: Salisbury and St. Paul’s came a quarter of a century later, and the last, Lincoln, almost half a century.  Inevitably they all differ, and in spite of rebuilds each retains its own unique character.

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On 31/12/2019 at 09:20, Stanley Monkhouse said:

I've not started a topic before, so I hope this is in the correct section of the forum. Two questions about 32 ft flues.

Why did Willis I use metal at Carlisle and Salisbury, but (assuming only one 32ft flue) wood elsewhere? At Carlisle they're the first thing that greets you when you walk in, and metal looks better.  But at Salisbury that is not the reason - they're no more or less obvious than those at, say, Durham, Hereford, Winchester. Metals sound rather different - they can have more 'drive' - but not that much

 

Sadly, I have never had the opportunity to directly compare a 32' Wood with a 32' Metal, but I had assumed that the metal pipes would have more harmonic development than the wood ones, giving the metal ones more 'drive' as you describe it, and the wood pipes possibly being more weighty and 'foundational'.
I'd be interested to know whether or not that is, in fact, the case.

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I thought there might be some significance in the dates: 1875 for Carlisle and 1876 for Salisbury.  In that same decade Father Willis had built the Royal Albert Hall and Alexandra Palace organs with 32’ open metals.  By then he had moved to the Rotunda Works in 1866, and all of these examples would have been made there.  But that idea is disproved at an earlier date: 1855 St George’s Hall, Liverpool where FW provided Open Diapason 32’ wood and Open Diapason 32’ metal.  I have often wondered how these huge pipes were transported.  Can David Wyld assist?  

Some of our organist colleagues with experience of both ought to be able to help on the tonal question.  Of course, voicing variations will come into play, e.g., a Contra Violone 32’ as comparison.

The questions about Arthur Harrison had never occurred to me before Stanley Monkhouse asked them.  I suspect MM might well know the answers.

Edited by Rowland Wateridge

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7 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

 ... I have often wondered how these huge pipes were transported ...

Yes, it's a very good question which is seldom if ever addressed by organ historians.  Elvin is perhaps the best example of one who let his mind wander laterally across these sorts of questions, though I don't recall him actually writing about this one.  In 19th century Britain there had already been an extensive canal network for some time, and steam was also coming along fast.  But, widening the issue, I've often wondered how these things were done centuries earlier, particularly in Northern continental Europe.  In fact how were those monster organs ever built at all?  I imagine it was in some sense child's play compared with the buildings themselves, which were built by peripatetic journeymen who decamped for years and lived on site with their families until the job was done, their children succeeding them into the trade.  It was probably the same with the largest organs.  One can see some sort of correlation between these organs and the courses of the major rivers such as the Elbe, Oder and Vistula, which the famous Netherlandish builders might have used to get to where they wanted to be in the 16th century or so.  But their pipes and everything else would have been made on site - it was merely the rivers which made long distance travel easier than jerking for hundreds of miles on unmade tracks over the landscape in a cart.  And thus were their ideas and techniques probably propagated Europe-wide by little more than accidents of geography in the landscape, with smaller builders subsequently picking up on them in particular regions and then making a living more locally.

Asking these sorts of questions also makes one realise what a fabulous engineer an organ builder has to be.  Imagine the hidden substructure within the base of a 32 foot pedal tower with 9 pipes or so.  Imagine not just the weight of each pipe but the sheer pressure exerted on the region of a few square inches where it sits.  And they didn't fall down - far from it, they lasted for centuries.  (Well, like the buildings themselves, I suppose they fell down from time to time, thus teaching the builders valuable lessons as to what would work in engineering terms and what wouldn't.  We don't see the ones which fell down ... ).  Gabler's organ at Weingarten Abbey leaves me speechless, not the instrument itself (which of course is also wonderful) but its visual impact.  Yet its filigree appearance strung across those windows without obscuring them conceals stories of structural design which only an engineer today could properly marvel at, and I am not one I'm afraid.  I find it as moving to look at, let alone listen to, as any contemporary painting in an art gallery.

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This is all fascinating. Thank you. It's good the way one thing leads to another. Regarding AH and apoustic 32s, I've thought of one now infamous example, namely Gloucester. The 12 note (presumably) 32 ft extension of the large scale 16ft open wood was added 1920. Maybe my original question is rendered pointless, but the fact is that AH was responsible for a large number of 32 Woods acoustic below bottom F or thereabouts. His early ones included St Nicholas Whitehaven, which I' played in 1970, not long before destruction, and the St Bees extension to the Willis 16 ft, played more recently (needs a lot of money now). If anyone would like to read my recollections of Whitehaven, email me wsmonkhouse at gmail etc.

Back to Gloucester finally. It's worth remembering when commentators write about Howells having the Gloucester instrument often in mind, that his most famous organ works such as the three rhapsodies and the first three psalm preludes were written before AH came on the scene and the pedal had only four ranks, 16 16 8 16  (no 32).

Once again, thank you. I look forward to more  comments. There's another topic in my head: it will be posted soon.

 

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Newcastle City Hall apparently has a full length 32' Open Wood.

In his monograph on the H&H in All Saints, Maidenhead, Relf Clark comments on transport arrangements for the organs, all quite a logistical exercise.

 

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We know that the Hill 32’ pipes for Sydney Town Hall (and doubtless the famous 64’) went by sea, lashed to the ship’s deck!  I believe it was a sailing ship.

But I have often wondered how the much earlier ones were transported - Birmingham Town Hall, 1834 and Winchester and St George’s Hall, as already mentioned 1850s, and both at just about the beginning of the railway age.  The most visually prominent (and earliest?) that I know are the spectacular 32’ pedal Violone pipes standing on the floor of the south transept at Exeter Cathedral.

I wrote this before reading Colin Pykett’s post.  Yes, in some of the above examples, possibly Birmingham, there may have been transport by canal.  Somewhat later, Truro was transported by sea and river.

I wonder whether David Wyld has any records about the early Willis examples. 

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I remember pictures of the bottom CCC 32' Open Flute arriving at Symphony Hall in Birmingham arriving on a canal boat at Brindley Place when the Klais organ was installed.

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On 02/01/2020 at 11:29, undamaris said:

I remember pictures of the bottom CCC 32' Open Flute arriving at Symphony Hall in Birmingham arriving on a canal boat at Brindley Place when the Klais organ was installed.

Those pictures are still on the ClassicFM's website. I seem to recall reading from John Norman that the same mode of transportation, canal, was  used 150 years previously to transport William Hill's 32 foot Open Diapason to the nearby Town Hall.

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