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Ralph Downes and his smaller instruments

Paul Isom

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I happened on this link this morning:


I’ve had the brochure on this organ for some years and always wondered how successful the organ was. There are some interesting videos which also give a flavour of the organ.  I think that Downes was also involved at Chigwell, possibly others.  The Carmelite organ is obviously in a generous acoustic, and sounds like a really versatile instrument.  Does anyone have experience of the smaller instruments that he was involved with?

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  • 2 weeks later...

No experience as a player, but recollections of Ralph Downes talking about two instruments at the London Oratory and hearing him play them.  

He was certainly involved as Consultant in the St Mary, Chigwell organ, 1963 Walker (EP) 27 speaking stops, NPOR N01148.

On a memorable association visit to the RFH he confided that he preferred his organ in the Oratory Church, 1952/54 Walker (EP) 45 speaking stops, NPOR N18498.  I’m not sure that he went as far as saying it was his favourite.  This might not qualify as small, although clearly smaller.  His other organ is in the ‘Little Oratory’, 1975  Flentrop (tr) 16 speaking stops housed in a beautiful case, NPOR N08959 (sadly no photographs).  Both were totally to his design of course.  Others may be able to contribute their playing experiences and details of other possible instruments by him. The larger ones are well known and have been discussed on earlier threads.

I had brief dealings with him when arranging the visit to the RFH.  He was very courteous, taking considerable trouble including providing printed meticulous programme notes, complete with his registrations, of repertoire extending over several centuries.  Of the RFH organ’s versatility and his own playing, by then in his 80s, I think, no one could have been left in any possible doubt.

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