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Rushworth and Dreaper - Guildford


Martin Cooke
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Forumites may be interested in this little demonstration of the Guildford organ. It hasn't really been possible to discover much about the David Wells work, and although this video doesn't clarify on that score, it is interesting, and is a great reminder that second hand instruments can be absolutely outstanding as this one seems to be. Am I right in thinking that R & D has a rather mixed reputation? And if so, why is that when Guildford and Chester seem so good? 

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A lot of people seem to "write off" certain large church/cathedral instruments if the are not in the style, or made by the likes of H&H, Willis, for example. I personally had not heard the Guilford organ until the other day (through Beauty In Sound), and its stunning, whether or not it was second hand, it fits the building like it was made for it

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If you have a silk purse from the outset, the end result is somewhat different to starting with a sow's ear and both Guildford and Chester have outstanding material as the heart of each instrument.  At Chester, some of the R&D additions/work is well done, but some is a bit rough and ready, IMHO. 

As part of the DWOB work at Guildford, lots of leatherwork was done - reservoirs, actions, etc.  and the Choir division spec was tweaked along with lots of other little bits and pieces here and there.  The console received a lot of attention with the woodwork being re-finished in its original white oak style, a new piston system fitted and the layout of the stops & pistons rationalised.   

Adrian

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On 25/06/2021 at 19:30, Contrabombarde said:

I suspect the reason the organ in Guildford Cathedral sounded like a magnificent Harrison and Harrison is because it was a magnificent Harrison and Harrison, of 1900 vintage and transplanted to Guildford Cathedral by Rushworth and Dreapers.....

Partially correct. The organ was originally built by Nicholson of Bradford in 1886 for the Rosse Street Baptist Chapel in Shipley (W. Yorks). It was enlarged and a solo division added by H&H between 1889 and 1900. A major reason for it sounding so good is down to the acoustics of the cathedral.

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On 15/01/2022 at 02:51, Lausanne said:

Partially correct. The organ was originally built by Nicholson of Bradford in 1886 for the Rosse Street Baptist Chapel in Shipley (W. Yorks). It was enlarged and a solo division added by H&H between 1889 and 1900. A major reason for it sounding so good is down to the acoustics of the cathedral.

Ah yes, the acoustics are the best stop on any great organ....

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11 hours ago, sjf1967 said:

The building really helps the organ now - it's a much more engaging experience than it was 20 years ago, when the acoustic was like a bag of wet sand.

I don't know Guildford Cathedral at all other than from a very hasty visit 30/40 years ago. But it's very much on my list of places to visit. What has changed about the acoustic in recent times?

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57 minutes ago, Martin Cooke said:

I don't know Guildford Cathedral at all other than from a very hasty visit 30/40 years ago. But it's very much on my list of places to visit. What has changed about the acoustic in recent times?

Probably removing all the asbestos laden plaster.

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yes, all the dingy old acoustic damping plaster has come down (it was riddled with blue asbestos, a large chunk of which fell off the day I was interviewed there in 1999) and has been replaced by lovely shiny new stuff, whch has added about 5 seconds to the reverb time - it can't be far off St Paul's Cathedral resonance levels now. And the interior looks glorious. Worth a visit! At one point a few years back it seemed the building would have to be closed indefinitely on H and S grounds, so it's good news that it's back in business. Do stay for Evensong if you can - the choir will appreciate some company, it's lonely up on the hill.

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Encouraging to read about the work carried out on the cathedral.   been on my list of " musts " for years but not had the chance to get there as yet.   the design both internally and externally is superb so I won`t witter on about that.     The exterior somewhat resembles that of St. Pauls Stoneycroft in several respects  (   Wikipaedia )

Just dusted down some vinyl of Barry Rose  recorded in `74 and the organ sounds pdg, about a 4 second reverb so not bad even then; mind you the recording was done by Culverhouse so one would expect it to be of high quality.

From what I recall R&D`s work was on the whole pretty solid, reliable, and good.   Chester stands out pretty well as one of the instruments they worked on.

Never really found out what happened to the firm.   Heard that Alistair R just closed up shop,destroyed the records and Willis bought the building; which is worth a mention in its own right as the original business carried out there was  carriage building.  Even today on the exterior one can still see tombstone like signs carved out of granite proclaiming their line of business which includes " broughams, wedding, and funeral carriages and ancilliary furnishings ".      Quite quaint really.  Hey - ho.

 

 

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 Rushworth & Dreaper, I believe, had a music shop in Liverpool which contained a 3-manual organ. This was moved to the church of St Alphege in Bath. It is currently being replaced with a redundant instrument from a church in Scotland. Does anyone know the fate of the R&D organ ? I played it once and it was a pleasant instrument which sounded well in an acoustically favourable environment. Given its previous location, it is quite possible that some readers of this message might well have played it. With regard to the firm's reputation my only bit of hearsay knowledge is that they once had a very highly regarded voicer called LlewellynSimon.

 

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R&D also had a music shop in Chester.  Many, many years ago I admired a baby grand piano there which they were willing to deliver to Winchester at no extra charge!

I have only played one organ of theirs (since further rebuilt by others), St Mary’s, Andover in Hampshire, in itself their rebuild of a Hele.  I thought it was a fine Romantic instrument with a particularly sumptuous and comfortable console. But it’s certainly the case from earlier threads here that the company had a mixed reputation - or, perhaps reception - for some organists.

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Not Guildford, but speaking of acclaimed R&D instruments, the 4 manual in St Andrews Plymouth looks very fine on paper - I have never heard it in the flesh, but have been in the building. Two sections, North and South in a very wide building with a handsome detatched console

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The removal of the ceiling plaster in Guildford Cathedral has certainly added a few seconds to the reverberation time. But I think it is more significant to realise that without the sound absorption that that plaster must nave provided the organ now sounds enormously and unpleasantly louder! Several of the previous contributors to this thread have expressed an enthusiasm to hear the instrument, but I would like to warn them that they may be dissapointed. I have been to a number of recitals and services there since the 70s (and also played there with a visiting choir) and I am sorry to say that (in my opinnion) the sound is nothing particularly special; but it is what it is and well serves the cathedral's purpose.

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Somewhere out in the ether ( maybe in the depths of this forum ? ) a dissertation can be found which chronicles the demise of R&D. The author appears to have had remarkable  access to various individuals, accounts and company records. 

My recollection of the conclusion was that the organ building side of the business was turning a profit, whilst everything else was haemorrhaging   money. The organ building part of the business was effectively bled dry , with the (one of?) final death knell being the loss of a major contract in Italy (?)

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Thanks - fascinating.  The Telegraph's obit on Alastair Rushworth (23 March 2016) mentioned the Italian contract going sour, but there is a lot more detail in Mr Wong's thesis.

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On 19/01/2022 at 09:49, madorganist said:

Somewhere out in the ether ( maybe in the depths of this forum ? ) a dissertation can be found which chronicles the demise of R&D. The author appears to have had remarkable  access to various individuals, accounts and company records. 

My recollection of the conclusion was that the organ building side of the business was turning a profit, whilst everything else was haemorrhaging   money. The organ building part of the business was effectively bled dry , with the (one of?) final death knell being the loss of a major contract in Italy (?)

Thank you very much for your archaeological work in extracting this piece on  R &D.

Only had time to give it a skim but it all looks most interesting.

One addition to a previous comment I made re` R & D can anyone confirm a story I heard many centuries ago that the console for Liverpool Cathedral was actually exhibited in a shop window in Liverpool.    Don`t know if Willis actually had a retail outlet in Liverpool city centre but Rushworths certainly did.

The two firms were in premises  on Gt. George  St, virtually backing onto each other. Maybe they had an agreement?

One last boring bang on -  Their premises on Queen Anne St. I think still has the marvellous  Art Deco  tiles and joinery in the office area . Saw this a few years ago, presume Willis will have left that in situ?

 

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On 18/01/2022 at 20:48, OmegaConsort said:

... speaking of acclaimed R&D instruments, the 4 manual in St Andrews Plymouth looks very fine on paper

It does. Whether it also sounds it depends on your point of view. It does have its fans. In the days when the great and good came to give recitals, some of them professed to loving the instrument and I think they meant it. Although its design in 1957 was nominally overseen by a committee comprising William Lloyd Webber, Sir William McKie and Osbert Peasgood, it seems that they had very little input into the final result. The organ is essentially the concept of the church's then-ancient organist, Harry Moreton (1864–1961), a man who could say, "Sebastian Wesley said to my teacher that...", who advised his choirboys to imagine how a driver of a "four in hand" had to control the reins, who had no time for Bach or any earlier music, and whose idea of a tonal chorus could just about tolerate the most delicate of Dulciana Mixtures. Consequently, for all its appearance on paper, the organ is essentially an octopod. Its aesthetic is not dissimilar to a Sauer or Walcker, with tonal colours perhaps best described as 'subtle', or, more bluntly, 'monochrome'. The stops are voiced smoothly for blend and seamless "orchestral" crescendos. Thus the upperwork is non-assertive and all the stops sound somewhat alike: even the Orchestral Oboe and the Great Opens inhabit the same tonal spectrum. The Tromba chorus is oily smooth and completely obliterates all the fluework, while the equally lugubrious Tuba drowns the whole lot.  I don't call this machine "The Foghorn" for nothing. In 1993, in an attempt to impart some brightness to the instrument, Deane's added a second 2' and a Fourniture to the Great. They did the job with such professionalism and artistry that you would never know that the stops were later additions: the Fifteenth and Superoctave are so alike that it is barely possible to tell them apart. However, brightness came there none. As the then organist said, "The only way you will ever get any brightness out of this instrument is to scrap it and start again". All that said, even if tonally the organ is doing its utmost to pretend that it's not really an organ at all, the quality of the pipework, voicing and regulation is very high. And there are some very fine sounds. The Full Swell is actually quite impressive, albeit different from that of a Father Willis. The beautiful Flute Bouchée Harmonique is perhaps the finest sound on the organ, with the possible exception of the French Horn, which is wonderfully realistic. But, in the final analysis, I think the late Bill Drake summed the organ up perfectly: "It's horrible."

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