Jump to content
Mander Organs
Pierre Lauwers

Worcester Cathedral's Organ

Recommended Posts

Hello ladies and gentlemen,

 

I learned on this forum one of my preffered english organs might be in so desolate a state that a replacement is planned.

 

I heard personally the Worcester Cathedral's organ in 1976, and it deeply impressed me. This organ had the "magic" the best romantic and late-romantic organs can convey ; I mean, for instance, such moments when a boy voice is accompanied with a 32' Sub-bass and a celeste, nothing more, but you are glued to your chair with tears that want to come !

 

Or these big Diapasons that roll trough the nave like a storm of sound...That's irrational, of course, but it is the way such an organ works on our souls.

 

I still have the LPs I came back with -on a Moped !- in Belgium.

 

I find it sad, but of course I do not know in what state the organ really is so I do not want to "blame" for a decision that might be wise if things are that bad, I just wish to know a little more about the matter, and if there are plans to re-use the Hope-Jones stops that are still present in this organ.

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With the exception of the Solo department and larger pedal stops the current Worcester organ is split between two floor-level cases on the north and south sides of the choir, right up next to the choir stalls. This results in particularly thrilling effects when one sits in the quire for cathedral evensong as the sounds and vibrations of the organ are so close to you.

 

Full swell at Worcester is very exciting, and settings like Howells St Pauls service, or Jackson in G, which include trumpet fanfares coming through the texture (played on the fiery Gt. Possaune) create an unforgetable experience.

 

It does seem hard to believe that this pipe work is to be scrapped. What I've heard, but may not be correct, is that completely new instruments are planned, and I've heard Tickell mentioned as the likely builder.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you go to:

 

http://www.worcestermusicandlight.com/aims.html#pipes

 

you will see the proposed designs for both instruments. The coloured one on the left is for a Nicholson organ and the one on the right is Ken Tickell's design. I think the proposal is that both organs are to be built, maybe with a common console as well.

 

John Pike Mander

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The current Worcester Cathedral organ is a disaster and has been for many years - you cannot judge an instrument just by hearing it on a CD recording.

 

The proposals for two new organs look interesting, but why the need for two instruments? I am not that familiar with the layout in Worcester but surely a unified scheme would be a more musical option.

 

The only good thing from the old Worcester organ was the 1874 Gilbert Scott case in the South Transept. If the case cannot be retained in the new scheme, I hope a good home can be found fot it.

 

Jeremy Jones

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well Mister Jones,

 

I heard it of course by myself, as said above. More: I did spent *some* hours ramping between the soundboards, as I did in *some* hundreds organs in Britain, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands between 1970 and 1980.

 

Remember this : Schulze organs, Cavaillé-Coll organs were also "disasters". There is no one Schulze organ left in Germany ! Now when I post about Armley on the german forum, they are booking for travel...

 

It may happen that the Worcester's organ is in a desesperate state, which would involve high costs. Something like a "rebuilding round the pipes", retaining the same soundboard design and pressures. Would it be necessarily more expansive than two new organs? If no, then we may conclude that the decision may have "aesthetical" (read: fashion) grounds.

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just for the record, there are still some Schulze organs left in German, the largest (I believe) in Markneukirchen in Thüringen. There are a few smaller ones near by, some of which are in remarkably original condition. We inspected a number of them in some detail when we did our research into the Doncaster Schulze when there was a chance it might get restored. The Markneukirchen one has been well restored by Christian Wegscheider and is worth a visit too. Schulze's house still exists and the remains of a fish farm behind it which he is supposed to also have run (or so we were told).

 

With regard to the reason for two new organs at Worcester, I believe it is in part because the whole cathedral gets turned round for the Three Choirs Festival. In any event, the proposed two instruments are some way apart from each other.

 

John Pike Mander

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is good news indeed.

 

I should update my "database" -rather piles of papers- about areas that were "Terra incognita" in the 70's ( with something like a wall in the way...). I asked about Schulze's organs in Germany, but never got any answer. These gems may be still scarcely known.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been to worcester cathedral recently and plans include moving the Hill organ case to the other trancept. This will enable the larger pedal stops to be used on both organs. I agree the organ after the rebuild in the 1970's made a wonderful sound, but on hearing it recently it sounds tired and loosing wind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Barry Oakley

I know little of the Worcester Cathedral organ, but I guess that the need for two organs is based on the fact that many of our cathedral main organs were designed to speak into the choir (or quire if you prefer it) and not so much into the knave. This is the case at Southwell Minster where a second, nave organ (largely a wonderful instrument originally by J J Binns) was installed in the cathedral's triforium for nave congregations. The fine and comparitively recently installed Nicholson organ on the choir screen still speaks largely into this part of the building. Still awaiting a pipe replacement for the now long silent Mander at Sheffield Cathedral, I understand that a two organ solution is also planned for there in the future.

 

In the case of instruments sited on choir screens, I guess this does create problems for the designer in producing an ideal concept able to adequately serve the needs of both nave and choir.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would suggest that the Hope-Jonesophiles will be massing over this. But isn't the new organ scheme just a logical progression of the ongoing organ history of this and so many other Cathedrals. We of the early twenty-first century seem to forget our organ history all too readily and claim that only the instruments of our own time should be preserved or jealously guarded.

 

It is acceptable that if an organ in its total is not satisfactory for its current task no matter how good some components are then it should be given up for the greater good.

 

The opportunity for Worcester Cathedral to take a lead and install two new purpose built English instruments is to be applauded.

 

Finally I think some commentators are a little blinkered in there understanding of what really makes a 'Howells organ' if there ever were such a thing. Even an AG Hill instrument such as that at Sydney Town Hall is not right for him!

 

Best wishes from a Kiwi down under.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is interesting Mr Cox,

 

The "logical progress" has been claimed since some centuries to justify the deleting of many instruments we would be quite happy to have today.

 

I do not like particularly Hope-Jones. Actually, he gave many arguments to the "Orgelbewebung" to destroy late-romantic organs, including better than Hope-Jones's!

 

But I believe we do need to respect all the previous milestones in history -with special care for what we do not like-.

 

When I visited Worcester, anyone there agreed the Hope-Jones flue stops that were still in use to be particularly beautiful. Nobody on the continent has ever heard H-J's Diaphones. They are still there at Worcester -disabled, but there-. Yes, I heard many arguments "that's good for ships, etc". But having them restored does not imply their mandatory use everytime. And we stupid foreigners could, while in U.K., pay a special visit to hear these strange things.

Are these ideas so "special"?

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think many of us sad people who have fond memories of Worcester would argue in favour of retaining the organ on the basis of its Hope-Jones history. I'm sad to think of it being scrapped because it made an exciting Harrison english cathedral sound when I knew it. It is a real hotch-potch and certainly does not have the artistic integrity of other organs such as the Willis in Hereford or the Walker in Bristol.

 

I do agree that, if there is a real need to start afresh, we should at least be delighted that the contracts are going to two British builders.

 

I can understand the requirement for two organs. Worcester has no pulpitum (stone choir screen) and hence, as I described above, the present organ is largely contained in the divided north/south cases in the quire. This location is too remote to be effective in the nave, with the result that what is called the solo division, in the south transept, is in reality a second great division consisting of a large scale diapason chorus with high pressure reeds. This is not fully effective in the nave either as the huge transept case is too far back in the transept for the sound to be effective in the nave.

 

Seating in the nave is frequently reversed, not just during the Three Choirs Festival, but whenever staging is errected for choral concerts by the Worcester Festival Choral Society or whoever. There was for a time a 2-manual Harrison organ on mobile platforms which could be used on these occasions, but in recent years organ sound in the nave has been provided by a 3-manual Bradford electronic instrument.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The 1925 H&H rebuild was not *that* deep as one could believe. Later works have been not too fundamental as well, so that the foundations at Worcester are still Hope-Jones's.

 

The main problem with the original organ was H-J's electro-pneumatic action, which was sorted out with the 1925 H&H work.

 

As for the need of a second organ, here follows a link that might be interesting:

 

http://www.mander-organs.com/html/stavanger_cathedral.html

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I appreciate your thinking Pierre.

 

If you and other readers want to find out more about Robert Hope-Jones and the instruments still extant by him in England (not to mention his considerable influence elsewhere) then consult the writings of Dr Christopher Kent, past articles in the English Organists' Review and a publication of his work by a chap called Fox which is available through the Organ Historical Society of America.

There is plenty of opportunity to preserve Hope-Jones and Hope-Jones influenced organs elsewhere than a few ranks at Worcester. Stephen Bicknell makes some fine points in his wonderful book on English organ history as well.

 

It amuses me how people rant on about the Harrison & Harrison pipework but forget about the William Hill & Son material which is still extant- which I would of thought was more historically valuable. As Christopher Kent has pointed out it was the Hill organs (Transept & Choir) for which the Elgar Sonata was composed. The specifications are in Hopkins and Rimbault and we would rejoice at such schemes today with Posuane reeds, abundant quint mixtures, liquid flutes etc.

 

Many English commentators are so obsessed with the 'full swell sound' that they forget that any reasonable builder can create this using the acoustical reflection of stone walls and cathedral ambience.

 

By the way the instruments of Eustache Ingram utilise Hope-Jones ideals. It was Ingram's sacking for his untoward personal activities that caused a hasty migration to America. Hope-Jones also had a real influenced on Norman & Beard for a period and their Diaphonic Diapasons and massive Opens on Great divisions around 1905-1914 are partly due to him.

 

We must applaud Robert Hope-Jones in the same regard as we hold the creator of the Titanic, in a period of history where extreme technical achievement outstripped previous aesthetical beauty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Splendid post, Michael !

 

I like going a bit deeper in the matters, and if we can do it with humor it's even better.

 

Of course, Hill is something more important than Hope-Jones as long as sound organ-building is concerned.

H-J was no genuine organ-builder, rather an outsider who carried new ideas.

 

Of course, we do not need to see Worcester as a Hope-Jones organ, it is an hotch-potch. I love it that way, because it is one of the instruments that impressed me the most with their musical qualities.

 

However, the introduction of the electric action allowed our happy hoping Robert to redesign *slightly*Hill's previous scheme. Another poster mentionned the thrilling effect of this organ to be due to its particular layout -in short, not quite timidly scaled pipes directly above your head-.

 

Let's go back to Hill.

 

-Quint mixtures? Really?

I encounter incredible difficulties convincing french players of today that the "romantic organ" they are in search of might actually rely, to ensure that beautiful Tutti, on Tierce mixtures. Even in Cavaillé-Coll organs, despite the french "Truth" that states, since at least the 18th century, "there will never be any Tierce in the Plein-jeu". Even Marcel Dupré still held to that. So it may be that some "Quint mixtures" in romantic organs today were Tierce mixtures -I mean previously- that encountered someway somewhere a kind of "re-education seminar". See what Mr Mander wrote on the "Tierce mixtures" thread about Willis and Hill.

 

About the full swell.

 

This is something else as a merely "roar", as full as it may be. It is pecularly british, tough the french organ can display something of the kind, but the difference lies with the mixture. In the french organ, you have the "demi-grand-choeur", that is, all flues 16-8-4, with the couplers, plus the Récit's reeds. In the english organ, all what you need are the 16-8-4 chorus reeds on the Swell plus the mixture ( with Tierce). Slightly different, isn't it?

 

About the Titanic.

We absolutely need to reconstitute this one; of course, in order to stay historically correct, we also need to reconstitute the iceberg as well. Wether we shall reconstitute the crash is open to question. Anyway, we have our Titanics of today, but they usually only crashes between stock exchanges -or between changing fashions...-

 

Back to Hill, I found this page that shows how fast the ideas evolve today. It's about a 1913 Hill in Melbourne, disfigured in 1960, but with a quite happy end in 1996. Refreshing!

 

http://www.organconcertsaustralia.com.au/Toorak.html

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

H-J was no genuine organ-builder,

rather an outsider who carried new ideas.

 

I don't think I quite agree with this statement- he was trained as an electrical engineer and a telephone technician but he was also an active organist who saw the application of current technology to a centuries old craft. The electronic organ systems we so gladly rave about today in mechanical action organ installations can be linked to him.

 

 

Let's go back to Hill.

 

-Quint mixtures? Really?

Absolutely. Look at the spec of Sydney Town Hall. All the Great Mixtures are quints. AG Hill had a huge knowledge of continental styles and like others before him was firmly influenced by organs in Amsterdam and Haarlem with their rich flue choruses. His swell mixtures often had a tierce rank in the tenor octave but this was a hangover of the 18th Century English organ. Hill's contemporaries stuck to Quint mixtures too. Henry Willis CHANGED that fashion. The firm of Hill remained conservative.

 

I believe there is not a great diiference to the application of the Fonds/anches concept of the English and French late romantic organ. A Full Swell works best against static (unenclosed) 16-8-4 Great Diapasons. Even with my own organ here in Auckland the 1977 neo-Baroque reeds work well with the older romantic Great registers in this way as long as the box is not fully opened. This kind of registrational practice is very common in high Victorian/Edwardian repertoire.

And it was how people were taught to register throughtout the 1920s & 30's.

Reeds such as a Swell Oboe came on early in piston schemes. Look at how often French composers ask for Hautbois with Recit fonds.

 

 

 

Back to Hill, I found this page that shows how fast the ideas evolve today.

It's about a 1913 Hill in Melbourne, disfigured in 1960, but with a quite happy

end in 1996. Refreshing!

Yes- I know this work. We do similiar things in NZ like this too. The builder was Peter Jewkes- a very good chap who has a substantial awareness of such aesthetics. He is now working on some wonderful projects with our own South Island Organ Company of Timaru. There's an excellent article on this organ in a Sydney Organ Journal of around 2000. Send me a fax number through my email and I'll send it to you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Michael,

 

I'm of course interested, but could you scan it and send it by E-Mail instead? As a member of the board at "Lost beauties New Zealand" (an association busy with protecting old found roses is NZ), I have had the time to note Fax communications do not work that well between Auckland and Belgium.

 

I noted these mixtures designs where the Tierce was not present troughout. These are to be found in Germany too.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember this : Schulze organs, Cavaillé-Coll organs were also "disasters". There is no one Schulze organ left in Germany !

 

This is not quite true, the Schulze in Markneukirchen was restored by Wegscheider a few years ago. But of course the prestige instruments are all long gone (Lübeck, Bremen).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And there are other smaller Schulze organs nearby. We visited about 5 in all when we were researching the organ at Doncaster. One of them had an almost identical "stirrup" method of manual blowing to that described and pictured in the documentation which is left of the Doncaster one.

 

John Pike Maner

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would rather doubt that the pipes are made of zinc myself. I think this may be ab error. Making very small pipes of zinc is not easy.

 

Incidentally, it might be possible to produce a .pdf copy of our report on the Doncaster organ if there were enough interest. If there is, please let me know directly to ManderUK@mander-organs.com. It may take a while before we can get it ready for sending.

 

John Pike Mander

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Greetings Gentlemen!

 

As one who is from Worcester and was taught and brought up on the old girl, I must say that she really is somewhat past her sell by date. It is sad that the sound of that instrument will be lost, however, it is an absolute hotchpotch of Hope-Jones, Harrison and Harrison and Walker and Wood Wordsworth. The instrument is very much on its last legs and we must be kind and have her 'put-down'.

 

The original Hill instrument was taken out (all except the Transept Case) when Hope Jones built the then new instrument - if you wish to hear a large part of this and see part of the original quire case from the instrument, then visit the church of All Saints, Cheltenham, Glos - this is where a large proportion of it remains!

 

Also, given the size of the Cathedral at Worcester I must say that I think it is an excellent idea to have two instruments... What we tend to forget in the UK is that most of our Cathedral Organs cannot fulfil their job effectively as they are trying to do two several things at once... not least try and fill two spaces... that of the Quire and the Nave. This is the problem that is inherent at Worcester, and with any luck should set an example to us all and lead us forward.

 

With very best wishes,

 

James

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks James,

 

The question is to know wether the old Lady will be sent to her retirement because her bones are rotted or if it is because she is an hotch-potch.

 

Which is something very different. Up to about 20 years ago, we had an organ of the same kind in Brussel's cathedral: an hotch-potch where nearly all belgian romantic builders had worked.

 

It was an huge Choir organ, nothing for recitals. You could not play Bach nor even Mendelssohn on it. Franck......yes, but. It revealed itself with simple music. Boellman's "Suite gothique" was a tremendous experience, something unforgettable! It was extremely good as accompaniment for the voices, with that "magic" I talked about above. Even the old ladies kept silent.... Now there is a modern Grenzig. A splendid, very beautifully made instrument, excellent for recitals. But the "magic" is gone, for "perfection" instead.

The old ladies may chat again...

 

Do you know what will happen to the old lady's bones?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was reading over the Worcester specification on the NPOR, when I noticed the Swell lacks any sort of mixture or mutation.

 

How does this affect the Worcester 'Full Swell' in contrast to the traditional English swell?

 

Thanks

James Goldrick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...