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Pierre Lauwers

Worcester Cathedral's Organ

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Guest Lee Blick

I really don't blame the authorities at Worcester for wanting a brand new instrument. If I was organist there and was given the choice of restoring an ageing instrument built by a pot-pourri of organ-builders and a brand new intrument, I would most certainly go for the latter. I really cannot accept that this new organ is just a 'plaything' for the incumbent organist. I am sure much thought and prayer has gone into the overall scheme. Yes, perhaps the sound of the current instrument is unique to Worcester but who is to say the new Tickell instrument wont be as equally as thrilling? I think the new scheme will be a step forward for Worcester. I wish them good luck. :o

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I really don't blame the authorities at Worcester for wanting a brand new instrument.  If I was organist there and was given the choice of restoring an ageing instrument built by a pot-pourri of organ-builders and a brand new intrument, I would most certainly go for the latter.

 

 

Then you would have to replace 99% of the historic organs in Europe, Steinkirchen, Neuenfelden etc included.

 

 

I really cannot accept that this new organ is just a 'plaything' for the incumbent organist.  I am sure much thought and prayer has gone into the overall scheme.  Yes, perhaps the sound of the current instrument is unique to Worcester but who is to say the new Tickell instrument wont be as equally as thrilling?

 

 

 

As I said, it is quite possible, but like in Brussels it will be something else. Something that may be as good or even better, but something we can do today elsewhere, while a 1925 late romantic one we cannot reproduce today.

 

 

  I think the new scheme will be a step forward for Worcester.  I wish them good luck.  :o

 

Of course we do.

Pierre

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Guest Lee Blick
Then you would have to replace 99% of the historic organs in Europe, Steinkirchen, Neuenfelden etc included.

 

No, not necessarily. If we follow your logic then virtually NO organs would get replaced! Anyhow, I don't really see the organ at Worcester as a particularly precious historical instrument.

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No, not necessarily.  If we follow your logic then virtually NO organs would get replaced!  Anyhow, I don't really see the organ at Worcester as a particularly precious historical instrument.

 

According to the fact 99% of the organs that were replaced in the course of history we regret today, I'd tend to say: yes.

As for W..., it is above all the musical instrument that we shall miss -sooner or later-, when for instance S-S Wesley & Co will be rediscovered.

Such an organ, its music and interpretation style make part of a whole: an aesthetic.

Halas we human beings tend to rate the aesthetics like Hit-parades and other "top ten this and that"; we like to say who wins and who loses.

Of course this is subject to change every ten years.

So there are only one thing in the end: losses.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Guest Lee Blick

Hmmm, so no work for organbuilders, they all collapse because no organs wouod be replaced. :o

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Hmmm, so no work for organbuilders, they all collapse because no organs wouod be replaced.  :o

 

Not at all: they work maintaining the old organs while building

new ones for other places.

Better to have two or three different organs in a Cathedral than one

big would-be-multipurpose one, rebuilt every 20 years to follow the fashion.

And it is not more expansive.

 

Imagine this: in 1860 a romantic builder, instead of destroying a Snetzler

to re-use some pipes, leaves it alone an build a new organ in another part

of the church. Oh yes, not an as big one, say 35 instead of 50 stops.

Such a place would be a pilgrinage today...

Best wishes,

Pierre

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As for W..., it is above all the musical instrument that we shall miss -sooner or later-, when for instance S-S Wesley & Co will be rediscovered.

Such an organ, its music and interpretation style make part of a whole: an aesthetic.

Sorry, Pierre, but the Worcester instrument doesn't have anything to do with SS Wesley's musical aesthetic. It belongs to an entirely different period and sound world. Wesley's aesthetic is represented by the organ he designed for St Giles, Camberwell. There's a stoplist and brief critique here.

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Sorry, Pierre, but the Worcester instrument doesn't have anything to do with SS Wesley's musical aesthetic. It belongs to an entirely different period and sound world. Wesley's aesthetic is represented by the organ he designed for St Giles, Camberwell. There's a stoplist and brief critique here.

 

Of course this is correct -and with a mean-tone temperament-.

 

I meant Wesley as interpreted by Donald Hunt, which is a musical

monument.

Pierre

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Guest Lee Blick

Sorry but I don't think the organ at Worcester IS a musical monument. If it was an instrument, virtually untouched since its conception, maybe. Yes it may have a sound 'unique' to Worcester, but there are gazzillions of other 'romantic' organs in the UK. I don't see what makes this one any more special.

 

If the organ was considered 'special' presumably the authorities at Worcester would not be replacing it or someone would have slapped an HOC on it by now.

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Sorry but I don't think the organ at Worcester IS a musical monument.  If it was an instrument, virtually untouched since its conception, maybe.  Yes it may have a sound 'unique' to Worcester, but there are gazzillions of other 'romantic' organs in the UK.  I don't see what makes this one any more special.

 

If the organ was considered 'special' presumably the authorities at Worcester would not be replacing it or someone would have slapped an HOC on it by now.

 

Two points:

 

1) I made the same point as highlighted above, regarding Ely (1975) and Gloucester (1971). I still think that these organs are (or were, in the case of Ely) an improvement on what was there before. However, Worcester is different in several respects to many other Romantic instruments. I would be interesed to know if you have actually played the Worcester organ!

 

2) I understood from at least two of the cathedral staff (at Worcester) that they have the impression that the organ is falling apart and that it is 'the worst cathedral organ in the country'. Sorry - this is patently not true! I was also interested to hear many people (including the Dean) comment that they had not heard the organ sound so exciting and so full for a long time. This was directly following the voluntary which I played after Mass.

 

Please do not mis-understand me. I am not for a moment suggesting that my playing is superior to that of the excellent incumbent organists - this I know to be untrue! However, it does perhaps indicate that there may be a certain amount of 'under-playing', or making the organ sound worse or less adequate than is strictly the case. Certainly, I found it totally able to do everything which I called upon it to do.

 

What it may all boil down to is this: the appeal mentions the sum of £2,000,000 - this is a lot of money. It is just possible that, by spending a quarter of this sum, Worcester Cathedral may give a new lease of life to their existing instrument. With a careful restoration, there is no reason whatsoever that it should not give many years' good service.

 

Are you sure that it is not just a case of wanting two really expensive new toys?

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Guest Roffensis

Lee, so you might go for the latter? (new organ) but what right would you have to do so? we are only custodians.

 

PCNDs comments do not surprise me, and of course people with one iota of common sense will know the organ is far from past its sell by date. It was fine in 1978, so what has changed. And I beg the answer for that organ hailed in 1978 as a very fine organ,what HAS changed??. How easy to let an organ slide, to let people think it's past redemption, and for a 2 million newbie! :D:D Too much methinks. No, someones having a laugh. It's the Emperors new coat. How about £500,000 and restore the current. Less strain on the tower as well..........floor standing cases.....

 

So, again, what's new?? Answer...nothing but fashion. And also a lot of smaller firms coming into being, wanting to get a big contract and further their own causes. It is not unusual, and I am not pointing a finger at any single builder, but it does happen. So and so wants his name on the plaque. People may just wake up to the reality of Worcester before the bulldozers move in on it, and as I have said before, even those organs we hail now will in the future be under threat. Only when it is an organ we personally know and love do we take heed. Few if any cathedral organs are as built, but many still are recognisable. Far better to have a characterful organ than a anytown megastore.

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Since I don't know the instrument I may be out of turn, but over the years the Worcester organ has been widely criticised. In fact, until I read this thread I had not heard a good word about it (except for some eulogies when Hope-Jones first built it as reported in Stephen Bicknell's book). I don't claim to have had my ear very close to the ground on this, but I do get the impression that the instrument's supporters are in a minority.

 

I've heard a few recordings of it now (I'd forgotten that I have an old LP of the choir) and I must say that, while much of it sounds OK, the essentially 8ft character of the instrument palls very quickly to my ears.

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Guest Lee Blick

"What it may all boil down to is this: the appeal mentions the sum of £2,000,000 - this is a lot of money. It is just possible that, by spending a quarter of this sum, Worcester Cathedral may give a new lease of life to their existing instrument. With a careful restoration, there is no reason whatsoever that it should not give many years' good service."

 

Well it does not really matter now. The contract has been signed. I would prefer to trust the judgement of the actual organist in residence and organ consultant.

 

There was a time not that long ago in this country where there was little money to maintain, let alone provide new instruments. I think it would be utter madness not to take the opportunity to endow the Cathedral with new instruments at this time. There might not be the same opportunity in the future. Worcester will be added to the list including Chelmsford and Southwell taking a step forward to benefit many generations to come.

 

 

"Lee, so you might go for the latter? (new organ) but what right would you have to do so? we are only custodians."

 

If I was the organist at Worcester, I would have that right, in consultation with the relevant authorities, to develop the music as I see fit. It is not as if this instrument is being built on a whim. As far as I can see, it is part of a wider, properly planned project to improve the accompanimental resources within the building.

 

There is no special historical precedence why the present organ be should be retained. Let the organist and authorities at Worcester get on with it and rejoice in the fact that it is providing work for yet another organ builder who will provide a quality instrument. To label this as an 'anytown' scheme smacks of desperation IMHO.

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Since I don't know the instrument I may be out of turn, but over the years the Worcester organ has been widely criticised. In fact, until I read this thread I had not heard a good word about it (except for some eulogies when Hope-Jones first built it as reported in Stephen Bicknell's book). I don't claim to have had my ear very close to the ground on this, but I do get the impression that the instrument's supporters are in a minority.

 

I've heard a few recordings of it now (I'd forgotten that I have an old LP of the choir) and I must say that, while much of it sounds OK, the essentially 8ft character of the instrument palls very quickly to my ears.

 

Thaaaaaaaaaanks for this post which says it all.

I won't comment any more, I don't want to be

a Don Quichotte fighting against fashions and preconceptions.

I did drive a Moped several times from Belgium to hear this one,

while english people judge it without having hear it!

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Guest Lee Blick

while english people judge it without having hear it!

 

But people like you don't seem to trust the judgement of the actual custodians of the instrument who are using the organ on a daily basis who want the best musical resources at their disposal.

 

I have heard the organ many times and although I like the sound, it doesn't rank anywhere as close to Westminster Cathedral or Chelmsford or Truro, but that is my personal opinion.

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But people like you don't seem to trust the judgement of the actual custodians of the instrument who are using the organ on a daily basis who want the best musical resources at their disposal.

 

Desiring the best musical resources is an admirable sentiment - but not necessarily when one simply rejects perfectly good, restorable material for no apparently good reason.

 

Lee - I have played this organ on several occasions - I also have some knowledge and experience of organ building, in addition to experience as a consultant on several organ rebuilds. I have had the pleasure of playing at least half of the cathedral organs of the UK (some many times). The Worcester organ is one of the healthiest-sounding 'wrecks' which I have ever had the privilege of playing.

 

I still think that the cathedral authorities are being led a merry dance.

 

The new Tickell and Nicholson organs might well turn out to be good instruments - that is not the point.

 

I, for one, will not be giving a single penny to this madcap scheme!

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Guest Lee Blick

pcnd,

 

Well it still is only your opinion. I don't see many people supporting your cause. But hey, lets see what happens. Whatever happens, Worcester will be the winner!

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Well, I think that if you read back through the pages of this thread, you will find that there are some who share my viewpoint!

 

Well, I hope that you are right - but I do think that it is bad stewardship of the cathedral's resources not actively to attempt to save the existing instrument.

 

However, we could go around like this all night....

 

:D:D

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

there are gazzillions of other 'romantic' organs in the UK. I don't see what makes this one any more special.

 

 

 

Oh dear.

 

I am tempted to start listing good romantic organs that are already gone for good, but will content myself with a plaintive cry or two for now (it being after midnight). For anyone to talk glibly about there being 'gazzillions of others', so many in fact that we could afford to sweep any of them away without further worry, this attitude horrifies me.

 

How do you replace something made in a different era by workmen who were complete specialists in their own style?

 

The answer is we can not.

 

Case in point: we used to have four sizeable and complete Schulze organs imported from Germany (where Schulze organs are now rare too). Not long ago at all, they were as highly prized as organs can be. They were jealously guarded and carefully preserved. What has happened to them?

 

1. St.Bartholomew's Armley has been beautifully restored - but does not stand in the building for which is was voiced and its layout has recently been changed once again.

2. St.George's Doncaster has been severely rebuilt and added to.

3. St.Mary's Tyne Dock got moved (rather imperfectly) and installed in another building (Ellesmere College, School Hall).

The fourth (and last) is now completely unplayable. Still in its original building (St.Peter's Hindley) the case plays host to the speakers of an organ-substitute.

 

Not every organ is an art-work, and I remain to be convinced that Worcester comes into that category, but for goodness sake don't let us get flippant about what we still have. So many have been lost; so many have been spoiled. You can be sure that we will go on to lose more at a steady rate.

 

I don't expect to like it when I eventually hear it, but I was relieved to find out (from this site) very recently that there is one (1) Hope Jones job still left. The church might not like it, their organist probably hates it, the organ tuner might despair of it but it represents a living, breathing musical dodo. Wow!

 

I hereby issue a challenge to anyone who doubts this potentially dire situation:

Name me four large (40 stops+) untouched organs that will represent the work of any one firm pre 1900! To be a candidate, your nominations must be in good condition with original specification and action. Your best chance is probably with the house of Willis, but even there, I can't think of even three in toto.

 

Our remaining romantic organs are an endangered species - even if you personally don't like them, 'experts' and church authorities do not need further reasons to ditch them, I assure you.

 

After years of designing neo-classical organs, advising a major firm and having his own cathedral organ rebuilt to include at least twice as much upperwork, a famous (retired) organist in this part of the world now lives with a gentle 19th century instrument with no mixtures. What is his favourite stop? The Oboe. As soon as these instruments have gone, we will only want them back. This has been happening steadily in The States where churches in 1950-1980 blithely threw out their Skinner organs from the 20's and 30's in favour of the latest eclectic and severely 'authentic' organs. Many churches are now desperate to get them back - or anything like them!

 

Are we stupid enough to go the whole way down this dangerous path only to have trouble getting back to square one when the truth eventually dawns?

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I heartily endorse your sentiments, Paul!

 

One of my favourite stops is our GO Gamba - so much colour and versatility!

 

Why not keep the Worcester Quire and South Transept organ and add one new organ near the west end, for Three Choirs' and other special occasions?

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Guest Lee Blick

"For anyone to talk glibly about there being 'gazzillions of others', so many in fact that we could afford to sweep any of them away without further worry, this attitude horrifies me"

 

Do not twist my words.

 

I DID NOT say we could afford to sweep away 'romantic organs'. I asked what makes the organ at Worcester, as a 'romantic organ' so any more special than a 'romantic' organ anywhere else?

 

So tell me, what is so wonderful about the organ at Worcester that makes it worth saving?

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Several points:

 

I found it to be an excellent instrument to accompany choral services - I did not have to resort to complicated registrations, in order to find suitable sounds.

 

It fits the building well, in my view - it carries down the nave better than Salisbury, or Winchester, for example.

 

It has a wealth of quiet effects. Whilst there is not a traditional Solo Organ, I did not find the present disposition of the speaking stops remotely inconvenient.

 

It has three full-length 32p stops. Whilst the Tickell scheme appears to be using the flues, it is probable that they will be moved (together witl Scott's huge case) from the South Transept to the North Transept. God alone knows why this should be considered advantageous.

 

I found it to be a superb instrument for the playing of French and English Romantic music - and improvisations in several different styles.

 

There is a great variety in the reed stops - all of which I found greatly preferable to opaque Trombi, or thin trumpets.

 

There is a good chorus on the GO for the leading of the congregation in the singing of hymns.

 

Each division (including the Pedal Organ) contain a chorus, complete to quint mixtures. With careful (but not fussy) selection, Bach can be played convincingly.

 

I did not find that the organ was short of wind - I used the tutti several times (not whilst accompanying....) and I was unable to find any form of malfunction or wind shortage.

 

It has two useful solo reeds on the fourth clavier - together with a bold diapason chorus. Ideal for leading large congregations, no doubt.

 

It has excellent Pedal foundation ranks, yet with a fairly well-developed chorus.

 

It has a number of contrasting flutes of pleasing and useful timbre; as opposed to a plethora of Stopped Diapasons, or chiffing Rohr Flutes. Personally, I would not care if I never again encountered a wretched un-nicked chiffing Chimney Flute.

 

The console is exceedingly comfortable.

 

Full organ is one of the most thrilling sounds which I have ever experienced.

 

There are several other points - but at 01h14 I suppose that I had best get some sleep soon....

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Case in point: we used to have four sizeable and complete Schulze organs imported from Germany (where Schulze organs are now rare too). Not long ago at all, they were as highly prized as organs can be. They were jealously guarded and carefully preserved. What has happened to them?

 

1. St.Bartholomew's Armley has been beautifully restored - but does not stand in the building for which is was voiced and its layout has recently been changed once again.

2. St.George's Doncaster has been severely rebuilt and added to.

3. St.Mary's Tyne Dock got moved (rather imperfectly) and installed in another building (Ellesmere College, School Hall).

The fourth (and last) is now completely unplayable. Still in its original building (St.Peter's Hindley) the case plays host to the speakers of an organ-substitute.

 

=========================

 

 

Tut, tut!!

 

We had more than four Schulze organs Paul.

 

The list is Hindley, Northampton, Doncaster St.George's. Tyne-Dock, St.Barts Armley AND Christ Church, Doncaster.....that's 5 organs by Schulze, plus quite a number of organs which incorporated pipes reputedly by Schulze, such as All Soul's, Hayley Hill, Halifax and Leeds Parish Church.....the last named having a complete Schulze mini-organ within it. I forget the exact details without checking my notes on the subject, but Harrogate PC also got another Schulze after the Armley organ was removed, but although re-built numerous times, it still contains quite a number of ranks by Schulze.

 

The comments about Doncaster are a little fanciful. The history of the organ demonstrates that every organ-builder involved with the instrument have taken some degree of care in preserving the authentic Schulze sound, and it certainly SOUNDS like Schulze rather than any other. Of course, quite a bit of it was made and possibly voiced by Charles Brindley, and quite a few Brindley & Foster organs were voiced by Karl Schulze (no relative) who left the German firm to join Brindley in Sheffield. He continued to voice in the Schulze style, and one very famous, but now destroyed Brindley & Foster instrument, at Centenary Methodist Church, Dewsbury, was a Schulze in all but name....a stupendous Great chorus which rattled around the chapel in fine style. Terrible reeds were included in the package, just like those of Schulze!!

 

When Norman & Beard got involved at Doncaster, there MAY have been some degree of regulation which affected the Schulze pipework. Only at Doncaster, so far as I am aware, does one find pipe-toes which have been coned; possibly to reduce the speech effects of an alien pneumatic action. Elsewhere, they are simply cut off square, with regulation carried out entirely at the mouth.

Stephen Bicknell is of the opinion that the power of the Swell organ was also increased at the same time, which would fit late romantic sensibilities. However, the changes were not over-drastic, and could almost certainly be reversed. The additions were more or less confined to the Tubas plus a few ranks, which really have no place in the general scheme of things as left by Schulze, but which are perfectly good examples with a fine musical purpose.

 

We're also in danger of misrepresenting Armley, because Schulze re-sited the instrument there and would doubtless have carried out some degree of re-voicing....or did he? Perhaps it was ALWAYS like it is, which does rather raise the question of what the devil it must have sounded like at Harrogate, which isn't a very large building. As for raising the Echo organ to a higher position, it is very likely that the position has changed at least twice in the organ's lifetime, from the organ room at Meanwood (under a staircase), to the PC at Harrogate which isn't a very high building, to the cathedralesque magnificence of Armley. The Echo organ was so buried and so delicate, it really NEEDED to be moved to make the sound more effective.

 

On a personal note, I think I hold the distinction of being the last ever recitalist at Armley to use the Echo organ before it became unplayable, which means that I was the last one to use it in the "original" position.......fame at last!!

 

Of course, Paul will know that John Compton served his time with Brindley & Foster, which makes his heavy-pressure work all the more perplexing (if not duplexing!)

 

I guess we could have endless fun discussing the round-robin of Schulze,Charles Brindley, John Compton and Grant, Deegens and Rippen!!

 

MM

 

 

PS: The Schulze at Christ Church, Doncaster, was in an organ-builder's workshop when the official-receivers were called in. (Late 1950's/ mid 1960's?) Much of the organ disappeared scandalously, but a few ranks were rescued by a Doncaster organist, who drove to the workshop and snatched back what he could.

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Guest Roffensis
Several points:

 

I found it to be an excellent instrument to accompany choral services - I did not have to resort to complicated registrations, in order to find suitable sounds.

 

It fits the building well, in my view - it carries down the nave better than Salisbury, or Winchester, for example.

 

It has a wealth of quiet effects. Whilst there is not a traditional Solo Organ, I did not find the present disposition of the speaking stops remotely inconvenient.

 

It has three full-length 32p stops. Whilst the Tickell scheme appears to be using the flues, it is probable that they will be moved (together witl Scott's huge case) from the South Transept to the North Transept. God alone knows why this should be considered advantageous.

 

I found it to be a superb instrument for the playing of French and English Romantic music - and improvisations in several different styles.

 

There is a great variety in the  reed stops - all of which I found greatly preferable to opaque Trombi, or thin trumpets.

 

There is a good chorus on the GO for the leading of the congregation in the singing of hymns.

 

All of the manuals (and the Pedal Organ) contain a chorus, complete to quint mixtures. With careful (but not fussy) selection, Bach can be played convincingly.

 

I did not find that the organ was short of wind - I used the tutti several times (not whilst accompanying....) and I was unable to find any form of malfunction or wind shortage.

 

It has two useful solo reeds on the fourth clavier - together with a bold diapason chorus. Ideal for leading large congregations, no doubt.

 

It has excellent Pedal foundation ranks, yet with a fairly well-developed chorus.

 

It has a number of contrasting flutes of pleasing and useful timbre. As opposed to a plethora of Stopped Diapasons, or chiffing Rohr Flutes. Personally, I would not care if I never again encountered a wretched un-nicked chiffing Chimney Flute.

 

The console is exceedingly comfortable.

 

Full organ is one of the most thrilling sounds which I have ever experienced.

 

There are several other points - but at 01h14 I suppose that I had best get some sleep soon....

 

I spotted the Chimney Flute right away, and a Clarabella is the norm on the great, not a nasty little chiffer. That for for me set the tone. Note also the many similarities in the spec to the current, and this therefore supposes that something is wrong the current pipework, but we all know this is not the case. Those who moan about the mixtures being too near the men etc or the myriad of other silly excuses I have heard, should simply consider when that mixture should be used. Of course in the Hunt era the choir was excellent, and matched the organ perfectly in tone. The excuse for the transept case is repeuted to be so see some special window in the south transept. That's a feeble logic if ever I heard one. But it will cost a lot to move. More work and more money. One of the many objections to the organ has been its position and supposed time lag, but others cope. Look at Liverpool!! Just another excuse to throw at the less clued up in authority methinks.

The old pipework is on high wind, but so are many other organs, so perhaps Tickells cannot cope? or are to narrow in their designs? they clearly do not respect other organs beyond their own. This whole attitude is the thin end of the wedge. Stuffing the organ in the triforium is wrong, and other organs suffer from exactly such a position. Why advocate that now? what advantage does buried pipework have? Canterbury has tried for years to get the organ sound out of the triforium!

Note also the 32 reed, where on earth is that to go? if in the triforium then it will no doubt be half length, that will be just lovely. One can hear what the organ will likely sound like. Not the rolling gem there now, that's for sure. The prersent "I want" culture really just annoys me so much, when people cannot accept what is there. Personally I would just find an organ I did like and go there, not sacrifice a sound for my own personal fetish. All the arguing is pointless, there is no logical reason for it, but earlier in the boards another reason did surface, which i prefer not to mention, but this would fit perfectly how on earth this plan ever got off the drawing board. And all this after the south transept case was brought back into use, as if the cathedral is loaded with money. Well clearly it isn't, but there are bodies who will support this kind of vandalism. It's wrong, and it needs exposing WHY this organ is under threat, WHAT is really wrong with the existing pipework etc. I hear criticism of the Great Reeds, but in 1978 they were the best thing since sliced bread, so was everyone drunk in 1978 and didn't know what they were saying, or are we all senile now? The truth is that the whole scheme is wrong. There is no other way of putting it, and a major organ builder like Harrisons would not have damned the organ to such a sorry end. Scores of organsist I know are all thoroughly disgusted, and all ask the same questions. If Worcester can afford to bury it's head in the sand so stubbornly and rid of us of yet another unque cathedral organ then all I say is watch out for the next, it's like a cancer spreading, and a particularly cruel one. To sask what makes Worcester so special, well for heavens sake that is no justification to out any organ. But Worcester IS special. Why do you think people care!?

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