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Pierre Lauwers

Worcester Cathedral's Organ

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Well,

 

Of course the Hope-Jones organ had no mixture at all. When Harrison & Harrison revised the organ in 1925, they left the Swell without mixture and mutations still. When I visited (1978) for the second time, the swell had:

 

-Mixture 3 ranks

-Sharp mixture 5 ranks

 

Plus an independent "Octave Quint" 2 2/3'.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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There are definitely two mixtures on the swell organ.

 

A complete & correct specification can be found on the Worcester Cathedral Choir website http://www.worcestercc.freeserve.co.uk/wor...dral_organs.htm

 

Stops shown prefixed by an asterisk (*), which include the Octave Quint on the swell, date from the Words-Wordsworth rebuild c1976.

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Guest Roffensis

The Organ at Worcester had some remedial work done to it terms of winding very recently. From the recordings done by Regent and also Priory, this organ sounds in fine fettle, but of course recordings can lie. The truth is really that this organ started out as a fine Hill organ, was severely bowdlerised by Hope Jones, and then in 1925 Harrisons did further work on it, with in still more in 1972. Wood Wordworth rebuilt it in 1978, which is when i first heard it live, at its opening. I found it a truly amazing sound, and one that one immediately recognises as Worcester. When Donald Hunt was there and a lot of French music was sung, the organ truly came into its own, with its brassy reeds and bold choruses. In 1978 so much could have been lost, but those in authority realised at least the perils of "fashion", and it was given a new life. As a an organ it is a hybrid, and it has evolved slowly. What remains of Hope Jones has mostly been toned down, and the basic sound of it derives from the Hill and Harrison eras. To denounce this organ as poor is to denounce the entire English Tradition. Here remains a typical English cathedral organ. I have to say that any organ can be made to sound bad, a few windleaks, bad tuning, ciphers, all can play their part to convince us that really the old girl is fit for the scrap heap. If something were to replace it then it would be a hard act to follow, and the Transept division alone with its power not least in the pedal will mean a hard driven organ in both nave and Chancel, which is what the compalint seems to be, it's too loud??? Do we really want another "anycathedral sound" tracker organ in a Batman?Gotham City style case so out of touch with the building itself? surely the best thing is to look at the pipework fairly, and to keep the essential character of the instrument intact. We already have lost a great deal and what one man dislikes another may worship, so really we should retain even that which we personally as organist may hate? or move away ourselves to pastures new? No, Worcester is a fine organ, a gem, wioth a lot of character, which deserves better treatment than being slung out. A good concientious restoration will continue to move me almost to tears, rather than shedding them over the loss of yet another fine instrument.

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I was interested to read the post concerning Worcester Cathedral.

 

I had the pleasure of playing the organ of Worcester Cathedral last Summer, for several services.

 

Personally, I found the experience wonderful. Everything worked perfectly well (apart from the Swell Gedeckt, which had been temporarily disconnected). The instrument was also in tune. I used just about every stop available (not necessarily at the same time...) and found everything quite satisfactory. The action seemed reasonably prompt and the H&H console was exceedingly comfortable. To my ears, the instrument produced the most glorious sounds, both loud and soft - those three full-length 32ft stops!

 

I wonder; is it just possible that, if a quarter of the figure mentioned for the appeal (I heard £2,000,000) was spent on tidying-up the Hope-Jones/H&H instrument, that this could result in a rather nice instrument, which would be perfectly adequate for everything? It is, of course, possible that a Nave console and an enlarged Nave/Solo division might be desirable for use at the Three Choirs' Festival).

 

I have had the privilege of playing at least half of the cathedral organs in this country and several others in continental Europe (Bonn and Bamberg cathedrals, Antwerp Cathedral, St. Eustache, Paris (I know, it's not a cathedral) and I remain totally unconvinced that the organ of Worcester Cathedral is musically inferior or not worth keeping in its present incarnation.

 

I shall sit back and await the fall-out.

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Guest Roffensis

Surely the solution at Worcester is to do exactly what Manders did so well at Rochester. Here also was a Organ that had evolved into something of the proverbial hybrid, based also on extension in this case as regarded the Choir. The original Scott cases were however, sensibly recognised as architectural features of the cathedral and it was insisted that these remain for that reason. The fact also being that as at Worcester, they fit the building like a glove. Nothing "shouts" at you. The original tone of the organ was respected, and again suited the building like a glove, as at Worcester. But it was enhanced with new Solo and Choir stops, Great 8 and 4 reeds, Mixtures here and there, and a 32 Pedal reed. The totally shattering 16 foot pedal reed was rightly toned down a little. In essence, the organ was respected, and preserved, and it sounds well nigh exactly as it did, but enhanced in the right directions. Manders are to be congratulated for such a sensitive and far reaching approach to what had become very much a added to jumble with conveyances and odd bit of Organ stuffed into places as they could. So we got new soundboards and a new console, new action and all else, a new Choir case to house a delightful little choir organ, but still Rochester!!! It has proved itself a gem, and has received very much attention in broadcasts and also CD recording. People LOVE it. WHY oh WHY cannot MANDERS do Worcester in the same way? surely this is the way forward. Even at Rochester there was a proposal to out the whole organ AND cases!! A new tracker organ in a new case had been proposed, but fortunately common sense prevailed. Think what we could have lost.......and for what? personal preference? if you doubt me, go and hear it or even play it like I have, it is truly a magnificent organ. Worcester, with the same care, can be another Rochester.

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Talking about Schulze in England and Germany: The Schulzes and their remaining instruments have been a focus of the recent volume (4/2004) of "organ", the magazine published by Schott Music, Mainz, Germany (Ed. Wolfram Adolph).

Open the magazine's HP here:

http://www.schott-music.com/produkte/Publi...rgan/index.html

(in English!)

I'm sorry to say that the recent issue sample available online is not about the Schulze articles.

Greetings

Karl-Bernhardin Kropf

Neuenfelde, Hamburg, Germany

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Well,

 

Maybe it's a bit late to stop the process, and to launch anything like a "contest" might be contra-productive. I believe what could -and should- be done now is to ensure the organ does not go to the scrap. If I was anything like a big chief in my area I had it rebuild in the Namur Cathedral by Mr Mander, no doubt. Maybe someone else here has a bit more "say" in his/her own area....

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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I accompanied the RSCM Cathedral Singers' evensong in Worcester on Saturday, the first time I have played the old dear for 25 years.

 

The Swell Gedeckt is "permanently" disconnected, and the instrument did seem to be struggling through wind leakage, but the sound remains thrilling. I still regret the throttling back of the swell organ in the Woods-Wordsworth rebuild which affected the balance between great and swell, but the swell organ remains very powerful and thrilling. This is a superb organ on which to accompany the daily office.

 

The canticles sung were Howells "Gloucester" service, the organ suited this music perfectly with the beauty and variety of soft sounds and solo voices available and real power in the swell box for the more climatic moments.

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Fine !

 

So the dear old Lady is momentarily still alive. And yes, of course, this is above all an accompanimental instrument -for the very very best choral music-.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Certainly does seem a shame to dump yet more heritage in the name of progress.

 

Thing is, surely if the Great is on 5 and 10 inches of wind, there is always going to be a problem with the winding, actions and soundboards only a few years away? That is an awful lot of wind to keep from going to the wrong places.

 

As to cabling etc etc - you can now have a 2mb wireless broadband connection. Surely it's only a matter of time before someone develops a wireless networking solution going straight from console to underaction without any cabling whatsoever. Maintenance wouldn't be a problem either because you could fit a router and set up remote desktop so the builder could log in from home and sort any action problems out from there. (Or allow the organist to play the final hymn and voluntary from the saloon bar?)

 

It's just that I know I've used the words 'beyond economic repair' when I don't like something and want a new one. And, to be honest, a corporate organ builder faced with spending an indeterminate amount of time grubbing around trying to make old stuff work or making something in the workshop then spending ten days putting it together on site is always going to go with the latter, because (commercially at least) you know exactly how long it's going to take to do, know it's going to be profitable, know it's going to be good for the legacy and British organbuilding in general at this time of grey imports, and (hopefully, though not necessarily in the case of the corporate organ builder I was thinking of) won't be going back every six weeks for major repairs.

 

It does seem a shame, though, when we are clearly approaching a time when it will be possible to cut the cable at both ends and just put a small home PC with cheap wireless network cards at each end and overcome all those problems.

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Although I do have some sympathy with those who would wish to retain the existing Worcester instrument, sometimes a line has to be drawn in the sand.

 

Now I did once hear a story that Stephen Cleobury wanted to replace the King's Harrison with a neo-classical instrument the like of which one finds in most Oxbridge chapels these days. Whether true or not, the fact remains that the existing Harrison organ, despite a few changes made in the intervening years, neverthless still retains the unity of vision of its creator, Arthur Harrison, has not been subject to rebuilds by various different organ builders, and is to my knowledge in excellent working order.

 

The same cannot be said of the Worcester organ, which is an amalgum of Hill, Hope-Jones, Harrison, Nicholson, Wood Wordsworth etc. and in very poor condition. The plans in hand for two new instruments by Tickell and Nicholson are exciting, and can only re-invigorate the Cathedral's music making in a way that the dead hand of a further rebuild of the existing instrument could never do.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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Hmm. Taking that amalgam argument to its logical extension would surely mean scrapping some of the finest instruments in existence. Surely the answer is to not tart around doing bits and bobs and trying to 'improve' things - but to rip out the lot, fit entirely new actions, soundboards and winding (i.e. do a proper job on the troublesome bits), and incorporate a two-manual 15 stopper at the West End for the choral society, all played from a moveable (possibly wireless) console, with the option of an upstairs tracker for the west end?

 

If that's not possible, then I can only hope that a) the wind system is patched up a bit and some damn good recordings made, or preferably :P it gets put up somewhere else. Yes, a line must be drawn in the sand. If it ain't bust, don't fix it. Tonally, it's far from bust.

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I'd certainly not advocate a X-"further rebuild" at Worcester, but rather something like a downsizing: remove what's too much theirin in the first place. And then you can build new soundoards -of the same type-. (Remember RAH?). No need for computer gadgets. Of course with such stops -and layout!- you need to stick to electro-pneumatic action. The simpler the best, this is not an organ where experimentations need to be done. This is an ancient organ, best suited to the 1850-1950 repertoire...

With a few less stops, the remaining ones can be given a bit more space to speak even better.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Downsizing would be a good idea.

 

Versatility is what they seek; and experimentation is what, historically, they have always done. How else did Hope-Jones get the contract in the first place? At the end of the day, such an experiment could be done whilst retaining the ability to very quickly revert to a fixed console with hard connections, possibly even through USB?

 

I'm a tracker man through and through, but in an extreme circumstance like this I think technology needs a nudge - just as the composition pedal gave way to solid state, so solid state and thousands of miles of cabling can give way to something cheaper and more reliable that might save this old beastie.

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I've not heard recent Nicolson organs, such as Christchurch, but I've never heard a Nicolson organ with anything like the quality of the existing Worcester instrument. I would have thought the approach of replacing the worn out infrastructure but reusing as much of the existing pipework as possible would be the correct approach.

 

I also find it impossible to believe that building two new, large organs would be more ecconomic than restoring one existing organ. I wonder what future generations will think of having to cope with keeping two cathedral organs in good running order in one, smallish provincial cathedral?

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I wonder what future generations will think of having to cope with keeping two cathedral organs in good running order in one, smallish provincial cathedral?

 

Future generations will surely think whooppee, our cup run'eth over.

 

As it is, Worcester is not exactly over endowed with good instruments right now. When the Three Choirs Festival comes to town every 3 years, as far as organ recitals are concerned within the city walls they have Trevor Tipple's marvellous organ at St Martin's and ... er.... that's about it.

 

A new Nicholson and Kenneth Tickell in the Cathedral would not only provide more choice for solo recitals, they would also be a great addition for works for orchestra and chorus. They would re-invigorate the Cathedral's music life in a way that a restoration of the existing tired instrument would not. As for Worcester being a provincial Cathedral, you only have to look at somewhere like Lincoln, which is comparable (in a provincial sense) to Worcester, to see what the combination of a superb organ and the right personnel can do to project an image way beyond the immediate environment.

 

Lincoln's programme of organ events for 2005 is spectacular for a so-called 'provincial' cathedral. A series of four recitals by French players based at La Madeleine, St Eustache, Notre Dame and St Etienne-du-Mont. There is a series of all-Messiaen recitals by Colin Walsh as well as a couple of mixed programme recitals. Next month they are holding a 9 hour Organ Marathon and in October are staging an Organ Spectular featuring all 4 cathedral organists.

 

Now if that lot's provincial, this 'townie' wants some.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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The plans in hand for two new instruments by Tickell and Nicholson are exciting, and can only re-invigorate the Cathedral's music making in a way that the dead hand of a further rebuild of the existing instrument could never do.

 

Does anyone have details of these? - I'd be interested...

AJJ

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They would re-invigorate the Cathedral's music life in a way that a restoration of the existing tired instrument would not.

 

(Citation)

Really?

 

I had some friends today, and we did hear to these LP's again.

We all disagree with this; Worcester's is a valuable organ, moreover

it's unique. There is a "Worcester sound", an incredible mix of "presence",

dynamic range, poetry.

An interesting remark from one organist was that the Mixture work, obviously

of later vintage than the foundation stops, do actually blend with them, and

this is something very rare indeed.

 

So I wonder why any Cathedral could not enjoy a splendid musical life

with an organ such as that one. If we had it here in Namur....

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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I am in complete agreement with M. Lauwers.

 

Having played the Worcester organ - it is true, only for a few days' services last summer - I thought that it was an exciting instrument with many beautiful tone colours.

 

There is much mis-information concerning a restoration of this instrument. I suspect that its present condition has been somewhat exaggerated, possibly in order to encourage the faithful to part with their money for the new instruments.

 

To be honest, I found that everything (apart from the Swell Gedeckt) worked perfectly. There were no ciphers, no wind leaks, virtually everything was in good intonation and every part of the console and action worked perfectly.

 

The appeal names the sum of £2,000,000. I do not recall if this is entirely to be spent on the organs, or whether it will also provide an endowment for the cathedral choir. If a quarter of this were spent on the existing instrument - notably the action and winding, but with a few minor tonal adjustments, I think that it is highly possible that a superb, reliable and musical instrument would emerge.

 

Incidentally, I thought that Worcester Cathedral was quite large! I would not personally see the need for reducing the organ in size - at present it fills the building with the most glorious sound and has a good variety of softer ranks.

 

Insofar as celebrity recitals are concerned, on the evidence of last year, I wonder if the Worcester organ is really too unreliable, or too 'wheezy' to organise a series?

 

I used virtually every stop (not necessarily at the same time) and played several big pieces. The choral accompaniments included RV-W's Let all the World; nothing failed, there was no shortage of wind and I personally loved the sound of the full organ.

 

I can only speculate as to whether or not there has been some attempt to 'play down' the organ, or to make it sound worse, in order to get the new instruments. Whilst I would not wish to accuse the incumbent organists at Worcester of such activities, I have to say that I thought it was one of the most robust and healthy 'worn-out' organs it has ever been my privilege to play.

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I've not heard recent Nicolson organs, such as Christchurch, but I've never heard a Nicolson organ with anything like the quality of the existing Worcester instrument. I would have thought the approach of replacing the worn out infrastructure but reusing as much of the existing pipework as possible would be the correct approach.

 

I also find it impossible to believe that building two new, large organs would be more ecconomic than restoring one existing organ. I wonder what future generations will think of having to cope with keeping two cathedral organs in good running order in one, smallish provincial cathedral?

 

As far as Christchurch goes, I think that you may be disappointed. It is now loud enough, but only because, after spending about half a million pounds on the main rebuild/re-instatement, a further £50,000 or so was spent adding 16p and 8p chorus reeds to the Nave Organ, revoicing the Tuba and revoicing the Nave Mixture (undoing what had been done in the rebuild). I believe that there have been further alterations to the GO mixture and the Choir Corno di Bassetto, amongst other ranks.

 

I played in an orchestral/organ concert on the new organ and despite using full organ, with my page-turner filling in chords, the instrument was totally inaudible against the orchestra.

 

I was, incidentally, present at the opening recital of the re-instated organ at the Priory. Nicolas Kynaston was the artist. He used the tracker console (upstairs) for the first half and the electro-pneumatic console (downstairs) for the second half. Interestingly, several of us thought that his articulation was actually clearer on the downstairs console. Certainly, having tried the upstairs console, I found the touch heavy. (Perhaps somewhat predictably, this console is used almost exclusively for tuning the instrument.) We further thought that Nicolas Kynaston had played the first half on the Swell Organ only - this was, apparently, not the case. Certainly from about halfway down the nave, the full power of the organ (as it was then) was decidedly unexciting.

 

For the record, I believe that it is fair to say that Nicholsons fulfilled their brief to the letter. The standard of workmanship within the job is excellent, although the voicing of certain ranks is less happy. This may, of course, be at the behest of the designer (Nicolas Kynaston).

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Some divisions are a little "cramped"; by downsizing I meant only

removing some stops to give it more air.

Of course I do not "know" what to remove. Only the organ-builder

could decide.

 

Why not build a second organ, of a completely different style?

For this one one would have complete freedom of choice.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Now this is also a good idea. It could be sited in the nave triforium and be particularly useful when the Three Choirs' Festival comes to Worcester.

 

That way, the H-J/H&H/Wood&W could be restored and used daily for services in the quire.

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Maybe ultimately one has to have faith in the needs and knowledge of the incumbent musicians - after all they use the instrument day in day out. For instance there was a great deal of fuss amongst the great and good when it was discovered that Klais had got the contract to do the work at Bath Abbey. Knowing the organ before (unreliable and really at odds with itself) and after, in my opinion one can only marvel at the versatility of the instrument as it now stands and the fortitude of Peter King and the others involved to achieve this end. (The same could probably be said for Paul Hale at Southwell, Graham Elliott at Chelmsford and isn't Sheffield planning something quite spectacularly different too?)

Most certainly, however there seem on the whole to be fewer schemes that show peculiarities of taste on behalf of consultants or incumbent organists these days in 'ecclesiatical' organs than in some of the concert instruments being built - maybe there is more accountability to parish or cathedral body etc. - or perhaps less money around.

Having said this, however - are Worcester's plans actually public or is all this line of discussion supposition? - it would be interesting to know more!

AJJ

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Yes, the plans for the Worcester organ(s) have been public for some time, now.

 

I must be more cynical - I am not at all convinced that, in the case of the Worcester instrument, the incumbent organist(s) really do know best.

 

It seems strange to me that a few of us have played it at various times and not only liked it and found it an excellent instrument for accompaniment but also were unable to find much wrong with it. I played it during the summer - the time of year when organs often play up; the tuning slips, the woodwork of the soundboards and sliders dry out, ciphers abound - that sort of incident. Interestingly, I experienced no evidence of any such malfunction.

 

As I stated, Worcester Cathedral appears to possess one of the healthiest supposedly 'worn-out' organs I have ever played. I would gladly play it daily. If it does need some work on the wind system and action, then I cannot imagine that this would cost anything like as much as two new four-clavier pipe organs.

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