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Hi all,

I hope that my fellow members of this forum, along with their families, are managing to maintain good health in these troubled times: my good wishes to you all.

In the midst of the current situation details have been released of substantial planned refurbishment / restoration works to the organ in the Cathedral of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Bristol. No builder has been chosen as yet for the work (although Dr. William McVicker is given as the consultant for the project) and I think we can safely assume that there will be a delay in this due to the current COVID-19 episode.

Among the works proposed are revisions to the tonal scheme of the instrument comprising of new stops (eg. on the Great: replacement of the Fouriniture III-V with a new Clarion Mixture of either 3 ranks - 22.26.29, planned to be modelled on the 1889/1892/1965 JW Walker organ at St. Mary's Portsea - or 4 ranks - 19.22.26.29) and extension or revision of others.

Proposals are currently out to consultation from 20th April until 17th May and details can be found at https://bristol-cathedral.co.uk/music/bristol-cathedral-organ-project-public-consultation and the proposed resulting specification can be found in the first link on that page. If the work goes ahead as proposed I look forward, as a member of the congregation, to the result.

Hope this is of interest. Stay safe all.

Dave

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As a former member of the cathedral congregation, and having played this organ, this seems a sensible scheme - particularly the Clarion Mixture.  Clifford Harker used to play RH up an octave with a big congregation.  However, I am surprised at the same nomenclature for two Clarinets...?  I am also struggling with the logic of an Acoustic Bourdon at 32' AND a separate Quint stop from the Bourdon.....?

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2 hours ago, Andrew Butler said:

As a former member of the cathedral congregation, and having played this organ, this seems a sensible scheme - particularly the Clarion Mixture.  Clifford Harker used to play RH up an octave with a big congregation.  However, I am surprised at the same nomenclature for two Clarinets...?  I am also struggling with the logic of an Acoustic Bourdon at 32' AND a separate Quint stop from the Bourdon.....?

As far as I can see the Acoustic Bourdon will use the 10-2/3 for the lowest octave only whereas the Quint will be available for the whole pedal compass. Nicholsons have done this recently in a number of schemes.

A

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As everyone knows, a problem of only quinting the bottom notes of a 32 foot resultant is the awkward and often unpleasant 'join' between the lowest pipe of the 16 foot rank and the beginning of the quinted notes as you descend the compass.  It can sometimes be ameliorated by having the 16 foot rank go some way below bottom C so that only the lowest few notes, rather than the entire bottom octave, is quinted.  However, having a full compass Quint removes this problem.  So, whatever 32 foot effect you get, for better or worse, is at least shaded gradually from the top to the bottom of the compass rather than having a sudden discontinuity at some point.  It can be particularly effective when using digital pedal stops, where an additional problem is the difficulty of getting reasonably compact and economical loudspeakers which will radiate the lowest notes of a true 32 foot flue bass.  In these cases the 16 foot and quint ranks can be radiated from different loudspeakers, allowing the two tones to combine naturally in the auditorium just as they do from real pipes.  I don't think I need to offer too abject an apology for mentioning this here, given that so many pipe organs now use digital pedal stops.  It can be even more effective in a domestic setting for a home organ, where there are many problems connected with radiating a quiet, 'breathing' 32 foot bass in a way which sounds reasonably natural.

I have come to this view as a result of many experiments in rooms both large and small, although there is more than one way to achieve one's 32 foot Nirvana and I wouldn't want to be seen as dogmatic.  Having both options, as at Bristol, would seem to offer the best of both (imperfect) worlds.  Apart from anything else, it allows you to use the separate Quint with all the 16 foot flues rather than it being inextricably tied to just one of them.  It might be found that the acoustic quirks of the building result in one combination being better than another.

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Thanks for posting this Dave - very interesting and good to see that the cathedral is seeking to forge ahead with their organ scheme.

What do I know? And I'm sorry that I have never heard the Bristol organ, but I know it to be much revered and in need of restoration. It looks to be a really excellent scheme that makes the best use of the stops available whilst fully respecting the original. I'm not sure I have fully grasped the significance of the Quint business. Obviously, I know what a Quint is and what its effect is, but wouldn't a 'proper' smaller scaled 32 flue be better if the space could be found? I may sound ignorant in saying this, but I can't remember an instrument where having a Quint as a substitute for a 32ft was really successful.

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5 hours ago, Andrew Butler said:

As a former member of the cathedral congregation, and having played this organ, this seems a sensible scheme - particularly the Clarion Mixture.  Clifford Harker used to play RH up an octave with a big congregation.  However, I am surprised at the same nomenclature for two Clarinets...?  I am also struggling with the logic of an Acoustic Bourdon at 32' AND a separate Quint stop from the Bourdon.....?

The Clarion Mixture is a stop that I have heard of but, AFAIK, have never heard used. Same as an ordinary mixture or different in some way? I did try a YouTube search but to no avail.

Dave

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On 23/04/2020 at 06:42, Andrew Butler said:

As a former member of the cathedral congregation, and having played this organ, this seems a sensible scheme - particularly the Clarion Mixture.  Clifford Harker used to play RH up an octave with a big congregation.  However, I am surprised at the same nomenclature for two Clarinets...?  I am also struggling with the logic of an Acoustic Bourdon at 32' AND a separate Quint stop from the Bourdon.....?

I can think of at least one Cathedral organ with both a Choir and a Solo 'Corno di Bassetto', both of different character however.

It seems like a useful idea to have the Bourdon available at 32ft pitch as a softer alternative to the 32ft Open Wood, especially further up the compass where an Open Wood would tend to be too big to use underneath Swell strings, for example.  The Walker at Sacred Heart Wimbledon has this feature and it is very useful.

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2 hours ago, Philip Moore said:

A lovely organ.  I am so pleased it will be restored.  It sounds rich and warm.

Indeed. I attend Evensong on Wednesdays and tend to find that if the organist uses one of the low pedal notes it makes the stall vibrate (I tend to sit on the Cantoris side, below the organ) which is a strange feeling in some ways.

Dave

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This might be apocryphal, but I was told by an organist who came with a visiting choir at Winchester that he was asked by the choir to demonstrate the 32’ Contra Bombarde, fondly known locally as “Bertha”.  He said that when he did so, the floor in the organ loft literally started to shake.  I certainly remember a time when there was a noticeable acoustic rattle in one of the 32’ Open Woods.  I haven’t heard it for a long time now, so somehow it was cured.  It was a well-known phenomenon at the time and, although I haven’t checked the story with him, I was told that Colin Walsh on a visit improvised a theme on the pedal rattle.  That would have been long ago, I suspect when he was at Salisbury.

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On 25/04/2020 at 14:29, JWAnderson said:

It seems like a useful idea to have the Bourdon available at 32ft pitch as a softer alternative to the 32ft Open Wood, especially further up the compass where an Open Wood would tend to be too big to use underneath Swell strings, for example.  The Walker at Sacred Heart Wimbledon has this feature and it is very useful.

Absolutely agree - but the point I was seeking to clarify (and which has been answered further up) was why have an Acoustic Bourdon (ie quinted) AND a separate Quint borrowed from the Bourdon.

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