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Does anyone have experience of some of the lesser-known Town Hall organs which still remain? I'm thinking of the likes of Cheltenham, Darlaston, Dover, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich. I suspect some of these places may continue to employ a "Borough Organist".......

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Does anyone have experience of some of the lesser-known Town Hall organs which still remain? I'm thinking of the likes of Cheltenham, Darlaston, Dover, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich. I suspect some of these places may continue to employ a "Borough Organist".......

 

I heard West Bromwich on a BIOS trip about 20 years ago - not long after Nicholsons had worked on it and it sounded very fine - played by Geoffrey Morgan I think.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N04938

 

AJJ

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Does anyone have experience of some of the lesser-known Town Hall organs which still remain? I'm thinking of the likes of Cheltenham, Darlaston, Dover, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich. I suspect some of these places may continue to employ a "Borough Organist".......

 

=================

 

Well, I'm sure I could think of lots, but for starters, there is a fascinating re-installation of an organ which once graced the "Victoria Hall" Settle, in the Yorkshire Dales; built (it is thought) by Wilkinson of Kendal.

 

Now in St.Aidan's Church, Hellifield, (just down the road from Settle) it was installed there in 1909.

 

It's not a very large organ, but the Great is fairly substantial, and the last time I heard it, it sounded rather good. Check it out in the NPOR.

 

MM

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Guest Barry Oakley
Does anyone have experience of some of the lesser-known Town Hall organs which still remain? I'm thinking of the likes of Cheltenham, Darlaston, Dover, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich. I suspect some of these places may continue to employ a "Borough Organist".......

 

When as a young boy I used to attend wartime symphony concerts in Watford Town Hall it did not (I believe) have an organ. It does now, I think it's a Compton, but there's never any mention of it or if Watford has a civic organist which I very much doubt.

 

On the subject of civic organists are there many, if any, left? Peter Goodman was the last official "organist and custodian" at Hull City Hall and I know Hull Corporation paid him a derisory pittance.

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Guest Roffensis

There was a Willis in Wallasey Town Hall, which I think was bomb damaged, but from a photo looked roughly intact, beyond a rather shattered facade. What became of it I don't know, I recall someone mention once about a church in Manchester getting it (was it Christchurch, Heaton) and rebuilding it in a reduced form. Any takers?

Richard

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Does anyone have experience of some of the lesser-known Town Hall organs which still remain? I'm thinking of the likes of Cheltenham, Darlaston, Dover, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich. I suspect some of these places may continue to employ a "Borough Organist".......

 

Cheltenham has a three-manual Rushworth & Dreaper of 1928 designed by Herbert Brewer. It's a fairly bold, but thick-sounding job, not the best R&D of the period by any means. I'm comparing it to New College Oxford (the old organ!) and Malvern Priory. CTH is not, in fact, an organ that I would pay to hear anyone play upon though I have to admit I did go once, just to see what someone I knew made of it in public performance! The best stops are probably the smooth but beautifully finished reeds. It remains exactly as built and was recently overhauled by Trevor Tipple of Worcester, since which time it has worked better and wheezed a lot less. It is used once or twice a season for an organ recital in the lunchtime series of concerts and I've given a couple of these over the years (my personal taste flexes sometimes when anyone waves money in front of me!). There is no Borough Organist and choral societies etc. make their own arrangements if they want an organist. Anyone wanting to pay a visit would probably get a helpful response, the TH number is 01242 521621 and the officer who deals with the organ is Mrs.Alison Luna.

 

Great 16 8 8 8 4 4 2.2/3 2 8

Swell 8 8 8 8 4 IV (including Tierce) 16 8 8 8

Choir (enclosed) 8 8 8 4 2 8 8 (Great Tromba)

Pedal 32 16 16 16 8 8 16

 

 

You haven't asked about Kidderminster which would probably count as 'lesser known'. This is an excellent old Hill three-manual with some more recent internal workings from HN&B including optional electric coupling. It's still used fairly regularly and the Borough Organist (Kidderminster comes under Wyre Forest District Council) is Tim Morris, who is also Organist and Choirmaster of St.George's Kidderminster. W.F.Central Services Department is on 01562 820505. Once again, I think they are proud of their instrument and would probably be sympathetic to a polite approach.

 

Most fortunately quite a lot of TH organs seem to have survived - lack of money is a great blessing sometimes. I particularly like Oxford, Rochdale and Nottingham, and also know Hull City Hall and Brangwyn Hall, Swansea quite well. These last two are both monsters which I firmly believe could kill in the wrong hands, but can sound wonderful if players are selective. Hull City Hall can sound quite different month to month, reflecting the taste of those that visit us. For example, Colin Wright (from Beverley Minster) who played very recently hardly used the full organ (or anything like) and the whole recital experience came off extremely well. I'd better not say who has made it sound worst in the last year's-worth of concerts (a very well-known name) Just to pick a couple more out.... Carol Williams turned it inside out and enjoyed the Theatre Organ Sounds to a large extent, and Carlo made it sound nothing less than world-class in everything he played! IMHO The Brangwyn Hall is a contender for the loudest organ in the UK along with Notre Dame de France, Leicester Place and Liverpool (plenum plus new reed).

 

A lot of the best TH organs don't seem to get much of an airing (or if they do, we never seem to get to hear about what is going on) I would list Reading and Huddersfield here. Maybe I just read the wrong magazines.

 

BTW I think VH was having fun when he reminded us of TT at Birmingham. Actually (ignoring everything TT does in the new hall) Birmingham TH proper hasn't been heard for quite a while I think.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

P.S. I was recently taken to try the organ at Wallsall TH. I had hoped to include it on a Wallsall 'Benchmarks' CD - you know, six organs from the one area. Anyway, I thought the organ in seriously bad nick. Recording it and publishing the results would do nobody any favours. They have moderately recently appointed Peter Morris, the organist of St.Matthew's Walsall (another big organ) to replace Harold Britton as Borough Organist. Maybe he can get something done. Harold Britton kept an eye on the instrument while he was incumbent and in the not-so-distant past a well-known builder (though not one you would expect) added a complete family of Tibias on the top manual. The local firm, Hawkins, have done some work......... (...stops sentence early!)

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There was a Willis in Wallasey Town Hall, which I think was bomb damaged, but from a photo looked roughly intact, beyond a rather shattered facade. What became of it I don't know, I recall someone mention once about a church in Manchester getting it (was it Christchurch, Heaton) and rebuilding it in a reduced form. Any takers?

Richard

 

Hi

 

Npor again - http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N04378 says "destroyed by enemy action". If you know for certain that it (or parts of it) went elswewhere, it would be good to know.

 

Birmingham Town Hall has been out of use for some time - I hear that work should be completed on the building soon, so maybe the organ will be recommissioned. Other than those already mentioned, the only town hall organ I can think of is Portslade in Sussex, which at one time had a small (2 manual?) straight job - now removed and replaced by a theatre organ of somewhat varied pedigree (to put it politely). Not town halls, but similar buildings are the Assembly Hall, Worthing (another large Wurlitzer from various sources) and the Dome, Brighton (HNB/CHristie dual-purpose instrument recently restored by David Wells). That might be an interesting contendor. St' George's Hall, Bradford is unplayable - and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Cheltenham has a three-manual Rushworth & Dreaper of 1928 designed by Herbert Brewer. It's a fairly bold, but thick-sounding job, not the best R&D of the period by any means. I'm comparing it to New College Oxford (the old organ!) and Malvern Priory. CTH is not, in fact, an organ that I would pay to hear anyone play upon though I have to admit I did go once, just to see what someone I knew made of it in public performance! The best stops are probably the smooth but beautifully finished reeds. It remains exactly as built and was recently overhauled by Trevor Tipple of Worcester, since which time it has worked better and wheezed a lot less.  It is used once or twice a season for an organ recital in the lunchtime series of concerts and I've given a couple of these over the years (my personal taste flexes sometimes when anyone waves money in front of me!). There is no Borough Organist and choral societies etc. make their own arrangements if they want an organist.  Anyone wanting to pay a visit would probably get a helpful response, the TH number is 01242 521621 and the officer who deals with the organ is Mrs.Alison Luna.

 

Great 16 8 8 8 4 4 2.2/3 2 8

Swell 8 8 8 8 4 IV (including Tierce) 16 8 8 8

Choir (enclosed) 8 8 8 4 2 8 8 (Great Tromba)

Pedal 32 16 16 16 8 8 16

You haven't asked about Kidderminster which would probably count as 'lesser known'. This is an excellent old Hill three-manual with some more recent internal workings from HN&B including optional electric coupling.  It's still used fairly regularly and the Borough Organist (Kidderminster comes under Wyre Forest District Council) is Tim Morris, who is also Organist and Choirmaster of St.George's Kidderminster. W.F.Central Services Department is on 01562 820505.  Once again, I think they are proud of their instrument and would probably be sympathetic to a polite approach.

 

Most fortunately quite a lot of TH organs seem to have survived - lack of money is a great blessing sometimes. I particularly like Oxford, Rochdale and Nottingham, and also know Hull City Hall and Brangwyn Hall, Swansea quite well. These last two are both monsters which I firmly believe could kill in the wrong hands, but can sound wonderful if players are selective.  Hull City Hall can sound quite different month to month, reflecting the taste of those that visit us.  For example, Colin Wright (from Beverley Minster) who played very recently hardly used the full organ (or anything like) and the whole recital experience came off extremely well. I'd better not say who has made it sound worst in the last year's-worth of concerts (a very well-known name) Just to pick a couple more out.... Carol Williams turned it inside out and enjoyed the Theatre Organ Sounds to a large extent, and Carlo made it sound nothing less than world-class in everything he played!  IMHO The Brangwyn Hall is a contender for the loudest organ in the UK along with Notre Dame de France, Leicester Place and Liverpool (plenum plus new reed).

 

A lot of the best TH organs don't seem to get much of an airing (or if they do, we never seem to get to hear about what is going on) I would list Reading and Huddersfield here. Maybe I just read the wrong magazines.

 

BTW I think VH was having fun when he reminded us of TT at Birmingham. Actually (ignoring everything TT does in the new hall) Birmingham TH proper hasn't been heard for quite a while I think.

Gordon Stewart has presided at Huddersfield Town Hall (job description "Kirklees Borough Organist"!) since 1989, overseeing the fortnightly Monday lunchtime series. He has recently relinquished the post, and although the recital series for next season is now in place, it is not known as yet if the post will be continued.

I was pleased to be able to get a copy of the re-released Priory recording of Kidderminster - it's a miracle the organ has survived so relatively unscathed.

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Gordon Stewart has presided at Huddersfield Town Hall (job description "Kirklees Borough Organist"!) since 1989, overseeing the fortnightly Monday lunchtime series. He has recently relinquished the post, and although the recital series for next season is now in place, it is not known as yet if the post will be continued.

I was pleased to be able to get a copy of the re-released Priory recording of Kidderminster - it's a miracle the organ has survived so relatively unscathed.

 

I understand Gordon Stewart is also heading for a job in the USA - maybe this (see also John Scott, David Briggs, Graham Elliott, the gent at Washington National Cathedral whose name I have temporarily forgotten, Ross Cobb from Bristol who is now at the Anglican Cathedral in Sydney etc.) should be the start of another topic though.

 

AJJ

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Guest Barry Oakley
Hi

 

Npor again - http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N04378 says "destroyed by enemy action".  If you know for certain that it (or parts of it) went elswewhere, it would be good to know.

 

Birmingham Town Hall has been out of use for some time - I hear that work should be completed on the building soon, so maybe the organ will be recommissioned. 

 

 

I hope you are correct about the Birmingham Town Hall organ being recommissioned after completion of the building work. I just have a feeling this wonderful organ may become largely another museum piece now that there is so much preoccupation with the instrument in Symphony Hall. It would be an awful shame if that were to happen.

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When as a young boy I used to attend wartime symphony concerts in Watford Town Hall it did not (I believe) have an organ. It does now, I think it's a Compton, but there's never any mention of it or if Watford has a civic organist which I very much doubt.

 

On the subject of civic organists are there many, if any, left? Peter Goodman was the last official "organist and custodian" at Hull City Hall and I know Hull Corporation paid him a derisory pittance.

 

 

=========================

 

 

Watford TH organ is indeed a Compton, but so far as I am aware, it is now disconnected for whatever reason.

 

It's only back in around 1986 or so, that Watford were advertising for a Borough Organist capable of performing "dual purpose" music. I was quite interested in the reasoning behind it, and actually sent off for the "job description" just to find out what they had mind and what it involved.

 

I'm not sure that anyone was ever appointed!

 

There is another Compton job at Lewisham Town Hall and the other interesting organ which is seldom heard, is the large 3-manual at the Halifax Civic Theatre, built originally by Hill and re-built by R & D with a functional-display front. Again, I don't think there is any "civic" organist involved at either venue.

 

There is also the Compton at Blackburn Town Hall, but what state it is in I do not know. Carlo Curley was supposed to be playing there about three years ago or so, but the recital was cancelled.

 

Sheffield City Hall organ was brought back from the brink by local enthusiasts, but to what extent I do not know.

 

The dreadful old 3-manual Willis rebuild, (of an old Holt organ) at Bradford, St.George's Hall, has been silent for years.

 

Sadly, no-one in authority seems to take the slightest interest in the organ, but thereremain a few beacons such as Brighton, Leeds, Huddersfield, Hull and a few other venues dotted around the country.

 

What a pity the heady days of the great town-hall recitals could not be revived.....but would anyone attend them?

 

MM

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I hope you are correct about the Birmingham Town Hall organ being recommissioned after completion of the building work. I just have a feeling this wonderful organ may become largely another museum piece now that there is so much preoccupation with the instrument in Symphony Hall. It would be an awful shame if that were to happen.

 

The Birmingham City web site has a section about the Town Hall renovations, (http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/GenerateContent?CONTENT_ITEM_ID=37460&CONTENT_ITEM_TYPE=0&MENU_ID=27) and these pages definitely imply that the renovation of the organ is included in the plans for the building work, with the contract having been awarded to Mander Organs. Also, last time I walked past the Town Hall, albeit a year ago, the organ was mentioned on the information notices on the hoardings. It is some time since the Town Hall web pages were updated so I hope that the work on the organ is still going to go ahead. I certainly plan to attend its opening recital.

 

Dave Mills

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What is the current situation of the Harrison at the City Hall in Newcastle-upon-Tyne? Some years ago, I heard that it had been at least partly brought back into working order (for some sort of a "private function", I understood), but I've heard nothing since.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Guest Barry Oakley
=========================

Sheffield City Hall organ was brought back from the brink by local enthusiasts, but to what extent I do not know.

 

MM

 

Sheffield City Hall organ was indeed brought back into playing order by local enthusiasts within the last 10 years and by an altruistic gesture of David Watson, the former Willis-trained man in the city when it was a family firm. He now runs his own set-up.

 

When I lived in Sheffield I knew pretty well what was happening by way of recitals. I do know that within the last 10 years John Scott-Whitely made a recording for Priory on the organ. And whether there has been any change, Graham Barber was the last city organist, but I don't think he's ever given any recitals on the instrument.

 

Before the hall was recently refurbished to the tune of £12 million the organ only really sounded decent in an empty auditorium. I've not been to Sheffield since the hall was refurbished and I'm curious to know if the acoustic has been improved for the benefit of the organ and concert-goers.

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I too had heard that the Newcastle City Hall organ had been played a while ago, I also heard that Carlo Curley had been investigating it, wether that is true or not, I do not know. has any one read the "Harrison Story" by Laurence Elvin?? that makes fasinating reading when they talk about some of the TH instuments.

I did have a CD by J. Bielby playing works by Ireland on the Rochdale organ, also Priory re released one of his Huddersfield recordings that some of you may have on LP

Peter

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I too had heard that the Newcastle City Hall organ had been played a while ago, I also heard that Carlo Curley had been investigating it, wether that is true or not, I do not know. has any one read the "Harrison Story" by Laurence Elvin?? that makes fasinating reading when they talk about some of the TH instuments.

I did have a CD by J. Bielby playing works by Ireland on the Rochdale organ, also Priory re released one of his Huddersfield recordings that some of you may have on LP

Peter

 

The Newcastle Town Hall organ was in somewhat fragile playing order at the time of an Organ Club visit in 2004, but was able to give at least some impression of its former glory. I particularly remember an absolutely scorching Solo 16-8-4 Orchestral Trumpet rank. The sound is not helped, however, by the heavily carpeted and upholstered auditorium.

 

We were told the City Council was aware of the historic importance of the organ. However, the future of the hall itself (and of the adjoining swimming pool) is uncertain not least because of doubts over its structural soundness. The fate of the organ is inevitably bound up with whatever the Council decides to do - restore or redevelop - both likely to be hugely expensive. One thing seems clear - the instrument is too big to transfer into the new (organ-less) Sage Concert Hall across the River Tyne.

 

Perhaps someone with better local information can correct me if I'm wrong.

 

JS

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Does anyone have experience of some of the lesser-known Town Hall organs which still remain? I'm thinking of the likes of Cheltenham, Darlaston, Dover, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich. I suspect some of these places may continue to employ a "Borough Organist".......

 

 

=================================

 

I had forgotten about the Ashton Hall organ, Lancaster, where local enthusiasm and initiative seems to be keeping the organ alive.

 

http://www.ashtonorgan.musicnw.co.uk/ashto...ification.shtml

 

You can hear an improvised demo of the organ on the specification page. Better still, you can go along and play the organ!

 

I think that it's very interesting that the theatre-organ and local organ enthusiasts have done more to keep town-hall organ-music alive, than almost any other body of people.

 

I personally spent a couple of gruelling days helping to rip out the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, Wurlitzer, which has now found a splendid new home at Stockport Town Hall.

 

I can vouch for the fact that armsful of wooden Tibias and Flutes were heavy when they are being carried down 7 flights of steps from the roof chamber above the stage!!

 

MM

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I've commented under previous topics that, unlike Paul Derrett, I quite like the Cheltenham Town Hall organ. I would probably agree with Paul that its not an ideal recital instrument and certainly is not the instrument upon which to play the works of J S Bach, nevertheless it does superbly well at supporting large carol concerts and the like and is probably the best organ I know for providing the organ parts in the orchestration of the great Elgar choral works. Full swell is remarkably rich for so few stops. Its also an intrument on which you can bring the house down with pieces (for the non-purists) like the Liberty Bell or Blaze Away.

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No one has so far mentioned the the fine Arthur Harrison organ in the Caird Hall in Dundee which, I believe, was built in collaboration with the blind organist/composer Alfred Hollins. I know what has been said about judging an instrument purely on the basis of hearing a recording (Chris Nickol on Priory), but even so this does sound like a fine instrument. I believe they are putting on a handful of summer recitals during August and September and that a new CD has recently been made there by Delphian Records featuring Tim Wyram-Bigfield playing music by Hollins.

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I'm not an organist myself but have some experience of Town Hall organs.

MIDDLESBOROUGH; In the 1970's I became very friendly with the Borough organist here - Eddie Dalby and his wife. A fine 4 man Hill organ, but I assume that these days the organ may well be in a state of collapse as I hear nothing about it.

DARLASTON: Comes under the umbrella of Walsall; and 15 years ago it was extremely neglected. A 3 man Binns still with its original Binns patent piston system. Hidden away behind the curtains at the rear of the stage.

WALSALL: Paul Derrett has just written very comprehensively about this organ. I used to attend Harold Britton's monthly concerts regularly; he was responsible for having it rebuilt in 1988 by Manders. He was Borough Organist here for 42 years and as he himself says " the first 40 years were wonderful years" That says it all about the Council etc. 'nuff said. Another organ that has fallen into a 'slough of despond'.

WEST BROMWICH: regular lunchtime recitals are held here. 3 man Forster and Andrews I think; restored Nicholsons.

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I forgot to mention DOVER TOWN HALL

whilst I was working on the Railway ships at Dover in the mid 1970's I frequently attended recitals at the Town Hall given by the Borough organist - Reg Adams.(I think). A 4 man Norman and Beard occupying 3 sides of the Hall. Quite often some of the great piano concertos were played with himself playing the orcehstral part on the organ.

The organ has long since been thrown away for scrap.

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