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Salisbury Cathedral solo strings


stewartt
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Someone told me today that the spectacular solo strings that HW3 added in the 30s were actually Wurlitzer ranks. Anyone know if there is any truth in this?

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  • 2 weeks later...

The short answer is ‘no’, but I would have thought it unlikely that Sir Walter Alcock would have permitted it if he had known.  The HW III trompette militaire at St Paul’s Cathedral has often been incorrectly attributed to Wurlitzer - some of these things can just be careless talk.  I think it is understandable that the trompette militaire as a very special stop with spun-brass resonators was ‘bought in’ (from the USA, as it happens), but surely it would have well been within the firm’s capability to make the Salisbury strings in house.  

As a slight aside, Stephen Bicknell claimed that HW III’s Cor de Bassett (his personal gift to Joseph Bonnet) in the organ of St Eustache, Paris is the best stop in that organ!  

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"Within capability" might not be the only factor, though. Availability of staff, timescales, and economies of scale are likely to play a part?

For example, for nearly every organ builder today that has the capability of making their own pipework, they sometimes do, and they sometimes buy it in from the supply houses, but to their specifications. Provided the required quality can be met, why wouldn't it make sense to "sub it out"?

Another example: most of the pipework for the Liverpool Met - which is now being restored as a grade one example of Walker's 1960s work - came from a supply house. Even CC is known to have used them extensively!

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1 hour ago, swalmsley said:

Within capability" might not be the only factor, though. Availability of staff, timescales, and economies of scale are likely to play a part?

Fully accepted, and I recall reading in Charles Callahan’s book of the correspondence between HW III and G Donald Harrison of Aeolian-Skinner that Willis ordered some ranks of pipes from them and specified that they were not to bear any Aeolian-Skinner identification.  As I recall, they were to be flue pipes to Willis’ scales.  However, I’m sceptical that Wurlitzer ranks found their way into Salisbury Cathedral in 1934 under the watchful eye of Sir Walter Alcock. Also bear in mind that this was a very major rebuild for which Willis must have carefully planned.  I believe Father Willis considered Salisbury to be his finest cathedral organ.  I doubt that his grandson HW III would have taken such liberties in such an important instrument.  I’m willing to be proved wrong, but will be astonished if I am.  

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38 minutes ago, D Quentin Bellamy said:

…  …  what wind pressure the Salisbury "Wurlitzer" strings are on.....

Solo flues and orchestral reeds all 4 inches according to NPOR.  

Do I detect a certain lèse-majesté in some of these comments about the Salisbury masterpiece?   In an entirely different context, I recently received a robust “Keep your hands off our Dean!” from Salisbury after tentatively suggesting that he might be a good person to be the next Bishop of Winchester!  I’m sure they are equally protective of their Father Willis - possibly more so!

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1 hour ago, D Quentin Bellamy said:

Perhaps a clue would be to explore what wind pressure the Salisbury "Wurlitzer" strings are on..... :D

 

As Rowland says,  the Solo Fluework is all on 4" wind (and always was).

I have the 1926 - 1938 files in front of me, on my desk:  The Violoncello was in the Specification from 1933 but Alcock requested that a way be found of having a 'Cello Celeste(s) - sic to go with it,  in December 33.   HW3 wrote back saying that a clamp must be added to the Solo Flues soundboard to accommodate the celeste and while there is no letter of agreement from Alcock the 'Cello Celestes appears in the engraving list of January '34.   

The Violoncello pipes were already made by that time,  the celeste pipes (only to tenor c of course) followed.   There is no suggestion (or even possibility in my view) that these pipes could have been from Wurlitzer.   There is no Wurlitzer file in the archive,  there are no references anywhere to any pipes ever having been imported from Wurlitzer.   So,  StewartT,  perhaps you should let your 'informant' know that he's talking balls?

David Wyld

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