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The St John's College newsletter informs me that they are hoping to replace the current Mander organ with a Father Willis organ in 2024-5. Does anyone know anything about this and where it might be coming from?

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I’m certain that this has already been discussed on the Forum.

Very interesting that the St John’s College page which VH linked has an illustration of the College Chapel on which the FW organ of Truro Cathedral is superimposed!  Doubtless a reflection of Andrew Nethsingha’s affection for that wonderful instrument, but not the one being acquired, of course!

As an afterthought, this is also an oblique reference to the fact that the FW organ at St Peter’s Brighton has a very similar specification to Truro’s, but visually they are very different.  Truro surely has one of the most impressive ‘caseless’ pipe displays of any organ.

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2 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Only one, apparently.  Emmanuel United Reformed Church, 1880 restored to original state with the addition of a pedal trombone in 1992 by Harrison & Harrison.

https://www.harrisonorgans.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/CAMBRIDGE-URC-2020.pdf

Emmanual URC has recently closed, and the building was sold to Pembroke College.
I *think* I'm right in saying that Pembroke are retaining the organ, and using that space to rehearse their new girls choir.

The Emmanuel congregation has merged with that of the church formerly known as St Columba's.
Over the last year the latter building has been completely gutted and rebuilt, and is now known as Downing Place URC.
There are now two joint DoMs (one from each former congregation), and the Minister is also an organist.
They are all very excited about the arrival of their new organ next week (using a system which I'm not allowed to mention here...).

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15 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Only one, apparently.  Emmanuel United Reformed Church, 1880 restored to original state with the addition of a pedal trombone in 1992 by Harrison & Harrison.

https://www.harrisonorgans.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/CAMBRIDGE-URC-2020.pdf

Hi

It seems Willis did very little work in Cambridge, but until 2019 there was another Willis in the city (or technically, in its suburbs). The Lady Margaret Beaufort Inst. of Theology in Newnham had a Willis Junior Development Plan organ until the chapel was reordered - see NPOR P01115.  

A builder search on NPOR also reveals 3 other instruments worked on by Willis at various times - all now either superseded or removed.

Every Blessing

Tony

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Thank you for those details, but sbarber49’s challenge was to identify any other organs by Father Willis currently in Cambridge.  Emmanuel seemed the only candidate, and I relied upon H&H, no less, for providing authoritative confirmation.  Now we are told that Emmanuel, or its building, has gone with the hope that the FW organ will be preserved by Pembroke College.  If so, when the organ from St Peter’s Brighton has been transplanted to St John’s, that will mean two Cambridge colleges possessing a FW.

But, as you say, the firm of Willis seems to have done very little work in Cambridge where other builders, including local ones into modern times, have predominated.

It’s not difficult to guess the identity of the new organ arriving at St Columba’s.  Maybe in due course DHM will reveal which instrument(s) whose sounds it reproduces!

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4 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Maybe in due course DHM will reveal which instrument(s) whose sounds it reproduces!

Not yet finally confirmed, but probably Hereford (Willis), Caen St Etienne (C-C), Haarlem St Bavo (Müller), Friesach (Eisenbarth)....

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43 minutes ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

I wondered whether Willis might figure!  Hereford would be excellent, but somewhat larger than what it is replacing!

Bear in mind the organ won't only be used for leading services, but also for teaching, study and concerts.
To the best of our knowledge this will be the first installation of its kind in any religious building in Oxbridge.

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Far be it from me to indulge in speculation (returning to Cambridge), but several questions leap into my mind.

The first is, of course, who will do the job ?

There would seem to be more than enough room to house the Brighton instrument in the Chapel. Will there be some additions/enlargement ?

I would have thought such a Pedal, and given its location and usage, ‘required’ both (a) 32’ flue and reed. The current (John’s) department contains mostly 1839/1869 pipes. Will some of these be retained ? 

Similarly, Brighton has only one choir of strings. Is this sufficient ? 

Will the Trompeta (iconic for more than a half-century) survive ? The Tippett Magnificat (rivetingly and revelatingly performed in the Choir’s 2019 recording) was, of course, composed with this specifically in mind. Others’ works, subsequently. 

No doubt, members will add to these.

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Bit of a philosophical question.  When is a Willis a Willis?  If Harrison's or Manders (or someone else) take some old Willis pipes and relocate them elsewhere - does this then become a Harrison organ?  Does the whole organ have to be transplanted pretty much unchanged to qualify as a Willis?  Does the console and case need to come too?  Or can it just it just be the pipes?  Even then - how much needs to stay the same to retain the "essence" of the original.  

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That's a question to which there can be no black-and-white answer, as it is all a question of degree of sympathy and respect for what's there and of the particular situation

For example, did the Royal Albert Hall organ become a Mander, despite the fact that nearly all the mechanism and soundboards were new in 2004? In purely organbuilding terms (i.e. excluding tonal aspects) it is a Mander. However, because we mostly notice the case and console, and the tonal aspects, it is  regarded as a H&H, or even, if you're the BBC, a Father Willis!

Did the hugely successful Father Willis transplant - with additions - to Leiden, stop being a Father Willis? Nobody who has heard it will be in any doubt!

Will the painstakingly reconstructed organ of Manchester Town Hall be more or less Cavaille-Coll than the instrument which was removed last year?

Next door to St. John's, one of the most famous organs of all was recently replaced with what's essentially a new instrument, but with all the old pipework and console. 

Also worth bearing in mind that many of the most revered historical organs (Haarlem, Groningen, Alkmaar, St Jacobi Hamburg, etc) are actually 20th-century reconstructions, to a greater or lesser degree, of material lost either to the 19th-century romantic trends or to the second world war.

So, in my opinion, a relocation of the Brighton organ will inevitably involve changes to fit the space available and to speak effectively into the chapel, possibly additions to suit the proposed usage, and reversal of the HN&B changes. However, if done sensitively, perhaps drawing on the numerous examples elsewhere, it's entirely possible for the result to sound almost as if there always was a Father Willis in that building.

Also in my opinion, the principal firms have all shown in their recent work that they're very accomplished at dealing sensitively with historic material.

 

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It's a "Ship of Theseus" question, with the addition of the item still being in use. Apparently in the US there is a specific "ship of theseus" tax fraud, where people restore old cars beyond all recognition and sell them as vintage cars with the accompanying tax concessions, but incorporating so little of the original that they are essentially new and in fact subject to higher tax. But who wants the Inland Revenue to decide on this question for organs?

I would have no doubt that the Willis now in Leiden is a Father WIllis. Despite its travels it wasn't essentially altered while elsewhere in the Netherlands. Willis gave it a thorough rebuild with a couple of additions, but really only replaced the worn out components you'd expect to. Nothing needed to be undone or re-created. It sounds marvellous here, but of course in a completely different acoustic from its original home.

Equally, I'm sure that Farnborough's Cavaille-Coll/Mutin will come out of Willis's current restoration sounding just like it did when it was installed, and will only be thought of as a genuine CC, just with the normal repairs expected over time.

Manchester's CC is different. Reading the Flentrop publicity, I understand that the electric action is to be replaced with a copy of the original. I guess this will make it more of a CC, because I think that the sound formation is pipes + action. Although the pipes themselves are much more significant, there has been plenty of discussion here and elsewhere of the difference in attack from electric chests, and of course the difference to the player's touch. I think changing the type of action, rather than simply restoring or renewing it is much more significant. Going back to the original style of action will certainly make it more authentic if not actually original, and probably result in better pipe behaviour, so it would be reasonable to keep calling it a CC. In other situations where, for example, pneumatic action had been replaced with EP action because the original was unrepairable/inaccessible/never worked properly anyway, I'm not so sure people would be terribly worried about authenticity if the "authentic" or original version was of limited value. 

At least the change of location for the Brighton Willis might not result in significant need to adjust voicing, for example. The Leiden Willis came from a more or less coastal location in Liverpool to a similar location here, and Brighton and Cambridge are both at sea level and with similar climates - apart from the bitter northerly winds in the Fens. This minimises the potentially irreversible messing around needed.

swalmsley is right in saying that present builders are very accomplished at dealing sensitively with historical material when asked to do so. It's both admirable and delightful that such restorations are documented thoroughly and made available on their websites so that everyone, including enthusiastic dilettantes like me, can enjoy and appreciate the work.

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Having read through this thread, and having previously read the other thread, I can only say that the idea of removing the current instrument with the FW from Brighton is utterly ridiculous. Is the present instrument in St John's that bad? And is it really in such a poor state that it warrants removal for another?

As it is the FW instrument is significantly smaller than the one it will replace, and as alluded to before will need additions, particularly 32' provision on the Pedal. And that's just one example of many others needed.

 

 

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Having played St John's for a choir concert, what I can say is that it is somewhat underpowered—a result, I am led to believe, of the pipework being crammed into a relatively small space.  I do like to be able to use the Sw Celestes on their own, but this was quite impractical with a choir singing. Of course one adjusts one's registration and you have to expect any organ to have its individual quirks—isn't that part of the fun?  On that brief acquaintance, I thought it a fine instrument and comfortable to play.  But I don't doubt that, if I had to play it daily, I would become aware of a greater range of drawbacks. I don't have that intimate knowledge, so I'm in no position to judge. Nevertheless I wonder how that Willis will fit in. I hope it won't go to the opposite extreme.

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I like it, AndrewG.

Both Brighton and Cambridge cases are of high quality. This will pose a conundrum in several ways - not least as regards ‘heritage’. An elegant (?) solution would be to use both, as at Jesus. Thus, the E Oldrid Scott case would be kept (in a stroke possibly solving the Trompeta ‘problem’), with the W one replaced by that from Brighton. I have done the most basic of photographic mock-ups, and it ‘works’.

As for size, St P’s is over one-third longer than the Chapel. I have ‘measured’ this by the most basic of GoogleMap comparisons. It should prove more than adequate. I’m sure this, and many other considerations, will have been taken into account, before going ahead with this plan.

And, on the YouTube recording (Concert at St Peter’s Brighton: Guildford Cathedral 1977 (Philip Moore) - YouTube) St P's sounds very, very good.

The Brighton console may not be adequate for the requirements of St John’s. I am unable to trace a photo of this, though.

I presided for a time over a fabulous instrument that had some 17th century pipes, some by Snetzler, a revamp by Father Willis and more in the 20th century . I suppose you could say it had an evolving identity, but was mostly a Father Willis – and, most importantly, sounded like a Father Willis. I feel sure, however, that the intention here is to preserve the central character of Father Willis - who was known to enlarge his own instruments. And I totally agree with swalmsley: “it's entirely possible for the result to sound almost as if there always was a Father Willis in that building.”

combined cases 25.jpg

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Truro Cathedral, larger than both St Peter’s and St John’s, is clearly the inspiration: the hints on the St John’s page which VH linked above (post number 2) could not be more obvious, and Andrew Nethsingha is the common denominator.  This, if it happens, is still a little way ahead anyway, and doubtless St John’s will employ the best builder to ensure success both tonally and whatever is decided about the case.  At St Peter’s the console is en fenëtre, and it’s difficult to see, although not impossible, that this would be repeated at Cambridge.

Stephen Bicknell was largely the person responsible at Mander’s for the present organ, and clearly was seriously unhappy with the result!  This lengthy article from an American University website also deals with his views about St Martin-in-the-Fields and others (and over-sized organs generally!), but read on until about three-quarters of the way down to see what he says about St John’s.

https://list.uiowa.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind0505C&L=PIPORG-L&P=R2843&1=PIPORG-L&9=A&I=-3&J=on&d=No+Match%3BMatch%3BMatches&z=4

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4 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Truro Cathedral, larger than both St Peter’s and St John’s, is clearly the inspiration: the hints on the St John’s page which VH linked above (post number 2) could not be more obvious, and Andrew Nethsingha is the common denominator.  This, if it happens, is still a little way ahead anyway, and doubtless St John’s will employ the best builder to ensure success both tonally and whatever is decided about the case.  At St Peter’s the console is en fenëtre, and it’s difficult to see, although not impossible, that this would be repeated at Cambridge.

Stephen Bicknell was largely the person responsible at Mander’s for the present organ, and clearly was seriously unhappy with the result!  This lengthy article from an American University website also deals with his views about St Martin-in-the-Fields and others (and over-sized organs generally!), but read on until about three-quarters of the way down to see what he says about St John’s.

https://list.uiowa.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind0505C&L=PIPORG-L&P=R2843&1=PIPORG-L&9=A&I=-3&J=on&d=No+Match%3BMatch%3BMatches&z=4

Bravo for bringing that to us, Rowland - and... well, yikes!!

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9 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Stephen Bicknell was largely the person responsible at Mander’s for the present organ, and clearly was seriously unhappy with the result!  This lengthy article from an American University website also deals with his views about St Martin-in-the-Fields and others (and over-sized organs generally!), but read on until about three-quarters of the way down to see what he says about St John’s.

Well that was interesting, and unexpectedly entertaining! I’ll never look at the SMITF organ the same way again......

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3 hours ago, DariusB said:

Well that was interesting, and unexpectedly entertaining! I’ll never look at the SMITF organ the same way again......

“Inimitable” is, I think, the technical term for the late Mr Bicknell’s style.

I wonder how literally we should take his specification for Walker’s for S. John’s. The point about a smaller instrument is well made, but is that really the absolute maximum? For instance, it’s all very well to denigrate “party horns”, but there’s a fair amount of quite decent repertoire, both solo and choral, which requires a loud reed. It would be odd if such pieces were virtually unperformable at a place like S. John’s.

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Well, Trinity College next door only has one more speaking stop than Stephen Bicknell’s original Walker design for St John’s, and it likewise has no “party horns” and no 32’s.  How do they manage?  Probably Stephen Bicknell had in mind a different tonal structure, presumably a traditional English one, although we do not know that.

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