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The State Of United Kingdom Organ Preservation


Michael Cox
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Hi Pierre

 

It was a Hill Norman & Beard organ. (Or was the firm still just Norman & Beard at the time when it was built? I tend to think of them as HN&B regardless of the date.)

 

Just to clarify, the original consol was to control the organ as it would have come to us from its former home. The second consol was to control it as altered. However, nothing was to be removed entirely, and a summary of the changes would be as follows:

 

Pedal: Add Trombone 16' (new stop, extended from Trumpet 8' on the (unenclosed) Solo). Borrow Fagotto, 16', Cornopean 8' and Clarion 4' from Swell.

Great: Diapason Phonon 8' and Tromba 8' removed to new 4th manual, Solo.

Solo: Diapason Phonon, 8', Tromba 8' and Clarion 4' (extended from Tromba as on Choir) playable from this manual. Add new Trumpet 8'.

 

In some ways, I still think these proposed changes were relatively conservative for the time. (I'm pretty sure it was 1988.)

 

Kind regards

Malcolm F

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've been heartened and excited by some of the posts I've read on this thread. I am in the enviable position of being organist of a parish church in the UK where we are having a new organ built. :D And this organ is definately in the camp of the discussions on this post! :D

 

The church was designed by Alred Waterhouse in the 1870s and includes an organ case to his design in the chancel. The old organ - an 1860s Walker - was installed in this case, the original pipes being used as speaking pipes in the case. Walker advised the organ could be expanded for the larger new church but money didn't allow.

 

Over the following century the organ suffered various machinations at the hands of the local organ man and has ended up in an instrument of no great quality, which has lost its artistic direction and is unreliable.

 

Our project has evolved into constructing an organ, using the case and existing Walker pipes from the 1860s (thankfully, largely unmolested) to determine the style of the rest of the instrument, which will be recognisably linked with its Victorian surroundings and core. Our vision is to recreate what Walkers may have done when the church was originally built. New pipework and mechanisms will be constructed along Walker lines, informed by our research of existing period Walker models. Things like console details will be copied closely as well to ensure the organ has the right "feel". The work is being done by a leading British builder with a reputation for quality and sensitivity. I don't think it would be fair to call it conjecture because we're not trying to reconstruct the organ to a previous state but informing the style and character of what is effectively a new organ built in the Walker spirit, which we feel will be most appropriate for the church and most effective musically.

 

During the project I have been very concious that the only person who really knows anything organs in the church has been me - the organist. I feel that if my tastes had been different, it would have been just as possible - if not, easier - to have used the opportunity to have introduced an expanded tonal scheme (possibly with electronic additions) and "improved" console by a lesser builder. I've wondered what other organists around here would have done in my situation and my thoughts on this subject have been depressing.

 

It has worried me that I could have easily steered the church down a path that I - and I think the people who have contributed to this thread - would privately deplore. I would welcome any initiative to ensure that churches and public places which house organs received well considered advice that speaks in theirs - and the organ's - best interests. The IBO, BIOS and AIOA certainly help but I will welcome the day when it becomes policy rather than guidance and best practice.

 

I also think that it would be great if organists, frustrated with the limitations of the organs in their churches, could be given better opportunities to play their dream organs. I certainly felt much happier with the organs at my disposal after I had played a few of my "dream organs" (e.g. Alkmaar) - the experience allowed me to savour the resources and capabilities of the organs in the places I play, without trying to register them along dehydrated Schnitger lines, and feeling more contented with what they offer. Indeed, I think my musicianship and my approach to all organs I play has improved because of my self-created opportunities to play my dream organs. This means that I avoid playing organs that I don't like - but it's interesting to note that my "black list" is composed solely of organs which have been heavily rebuilt and added to (or are just a compedium of cobbled-together 2nd hand parts) and are divorced from their orginal style.

 

Anyway, it's been great writing this post while I do my other job - moderate another forum - and look likve I've been working hard!

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  • 2 months later...

This is really heartening - why aren't more builders going down this road? There is a fairly big place near me with plans afoot to do all manner of completely insane things with the electrics to enable you to have 9,482 pistons and stuff which all makes eminent sense if players feel they can't cope without it. Personally, even with all this stuff at my disposal, all I ever tend to do for a 90 minute recital is set up three generals and know the organ well enough to grab fistfuls of stuff or push them in as required.

 

JPM did absolutely the right thing at Bristol, I reckon. I just wish the damn thing was being looked after properly - was up there again at the weekend having read the stuff on here and the action is really, really suffering. There should be an RSPCO.

 

Interestingly, on the useability question, we are not helped by some builders who seem to create historical relics for the sake of it. Eg, William Drake. It's all well and good and historically accurate to be finding your way around Ftopt Diapafon Bafses and Ftopt Diapafon Trebbles, operating a trigger swell and having bouncy wind but just kinda pointless. Jesus College, Oxford (all-new) was a good opportunity for him to create a new instrument with strong identity and at least fairly conventional design, and instead they've got something 200 years older than what it replaced. It's almost a shame that the action, construction and attention to detail is so damn good, which means you can't criticise it as a musical instrument.

 

As usual there's a common sense middle way that works for everyone and upsets no-one.

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This is really heartening - why aren't more builders going down this road?  There is a fairly big place near me with plans afoot to do all manner of completely insane things with the electrics to enable you to have 9,482 pistons and stuff which all makes eminent sense if players feel they can't cope without it.

 

As you say, it sounds insane - so where is this church? :blink:

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I've been heartened and excited by some of the posts I've read on this thread. I am in the enviable position of being organist of a parish church in the UK where we are having a new organ built.  :blink: And this organ is definately in the camp of the discussions on this post!

 

Excuse me asking, but, since the contract has presumably been signed and it sounds as if work is in progress, may we know the location of the church and the identity of the builder, please? Cheers!

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[

Interestingly, on the useability question, we are not helped by some builders who seem to create historical relics for the sake of it. As usual there's a common sense middle way that works for everyone and upsets no-one.

 

I cannot concur with these sentiments at all. William Darke is one of the best influences in English organ building in the last 20 years. Its because he maintains the one style that he is SO successful. Clients who commission a Drake organ do so because they wish that period style. I have visited his workshop twice, spent time with him and know Grosenvor Square and his wonderful continuo organ at Victoria University in Wellington. These instruments are fine for a particular repertoire that so many others can't handle authentically. Drake organs can play a great deal more too. They are so musical and as I have stated in the forum before- limitations make an instrument better.

 

Middle of the road realises no special result. Witness the Frobenious at Kingston Parish Church- compromise, compromise.

 

It is no coincidence that in the 1980s Drake's organ enterprise and John Wellinghams teaching environment created a completely new breed of player- the historically informed.

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You wouldn't like it at all - terrible 1960's thing with - can you believe? - a horizontal reed.  I'd better not say any more because the sub organist is a complete nutter, and I've heard he sometimes appears on here.

 

Hmm. OK, I am assuming that this has to be the Walker organ at Wimborne Minster - Cirencester has an horizontal reed, but it does not qualify as a 1960s organ. In addition, I believe you mentioned that you used to play at a church in Bournemouth, so it has to be Wimborne.

 

I do not know the Sub Organist, so I cannot comment on the matter of sanity; however I believe that the organ is a good one, if somewhat under-powered. I hope that it will not be spoiled by any proposed work. I would be interested to hear of any future developments with regard to this.

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Here we go then.

 

On the Drake question - I unhesitatingly agree about the quality of the instruments, the musicality of the voicing etc etc etc - and totally concur re: the advantage of a clear mandate over the please everyone, satisfy no-one school occupied particularly by Frobenius - every instrument of theirs I have seen has been a bit of a hotch-potch. I've played a lot of Drake machines as well, spent some time with him in the workshop and on site and am a complete admirer of the craft. For me, personally, though, it seems peculiar to follow up the effective restorations/reconstructions of historic instruments (Grosvenor and Lulworth) with a series of all-new instruments with, for instance, trigger swells and no playing aids which may be just a little too puritanical. A strong identity is one thing, but surely there ought to be some discreet concessions to the modern world, or else I might as well go and put solid tyres on my car.

 

On the other question, pcnd, you are entirely right about all those things - it is basically a wonderful machine, if somewhat stuffed in a corner and unable to speak. Tonally, it's probably one of the finest products of the 1960's, and everything that even quite recent Frobeniae (Oundle for example) would love to be - cohesive, eclectic, sensible, versatile and eminently distinctive, with just enough nods to enough styles to do genuine service to each one. Why not come and see for yourself?

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Does any one know what's actually planned for Cirencester - surely one of the most disappointing Willis organs in the country.

 

I hear the plans include adding a fourth manual which seems ludicrous to me - there's already a gross fanfare trumpet and a very nice corno di bassetto playable from the choir organ.

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Excuse me asking, but, since the contract has presumably been signed and it sounds as if work is in progress, may we know the location of the church and the identity of the builder, please? Cheers!

 

Since you ask... Twyford, just outside Winchester in Hampshire. The builder is H&H.

 

We considered William Drake too, along with Manders. We saw his organ at Grosvenor Chapel, which I thought was something really rather special. I agree to a point about re-creating stick swells, etc on new organs - but why can't some organ builders put the (balenced) swell pedal in the right place any longer?!

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Does any one know what's actually planned for Cirencester - surely one of the most disappointing Willis organs in the country.

 

I hear the plans include adding a fourth manual which seems ludicrous to me - there's already a gross fanfare trumpet and a very nice corno di bassetto playable from the choir organ.

 

I have not heard anything about that - I would be interested to know, too. I directed an RSCM course there, a few years ago, but I do not remember much about it (the organ - not the course...). I do remember thinking that the Fanfare Trumpet was not that bad, though. Possibly the most serious defect is the position of the instrument, on the South side, facing out into that huge nave, but largely placed in a kind of dog-kennel on the side of the very small, low chancel. Probably anything would sound disappointing in such a situation.

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