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Mander Organs
GrossGeigen

Lesser-known Town Hall Organs

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

 

What?

 

Haarlem has TWO civic instruments.....St.Bavo and the Concertegebouw, and they're not just any old organ are they?

 

How about we swap ten of ours for two of yours?

:(

 

MM

 

Ok, you name Haarlem, but that's about all, isn't it (and for me Haarlem Bavo is 'hors concours' - for me the of the Netherlands) ? Civic organs with a sole 'concert' purpose are hard to find in Holland, there nearly all churchorgans (the ones in ConcertHalls in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Enschede aren't that fervently used or advertised).

 

And yes, I would like to swap ten of our 18th century II/P/18 we-have-enough-of-those kind of organs for two IV/P/60+ 32' foot Victorian "Town Hall" organs .

=|:-)

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Ok, you name Haarlem, but that's about all, isn't it (and for me Haarlem Bavo is 'hors concours' - for me the of the Netherlands) ? Civic organs with a sole 'concert' purpose are hard to find in Holland, there nearly all churchorgans (the ones in ConcertHalls in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Enschede aren't that fervently used or advertised).

 

And yes, I would like to swap ten of our 18th century II/P/18 we-have-enough-of-those kind of organs for two IV/P/60+ 32' foot Victorian "Town Hall" organs .

=|:-)

 

Please deliver them to Southampton Docks on September 1st. I'll have a carnation in my top pocket and an extremely large van.

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Please deliver them to Southampton Docks on September 1st.  I'll have a carnation in my top pocket and an extremely large van.

 

Hmm, you might not want to advertise your delivery so blatantly. Me and the "lads" might just have to hijack you en route. Not sure if I can get a whole pedal stop inside 3 minis though.

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They'll never get en route. My friends in the customs department at Southampton, who owe me a favour on account of keeping shtoom about the source of the booze at their office party last month, will be impounding the goods because of the potential diseases carried by the spiders.

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They'll never get en route. My friends in the customs department at Southampton, who owe me a favour on account of keeping shtoom about the source of the booze at their office party last month, will be impounding the goods because of the potential diseases carried by the spiders.

 

Curses. Foiled again.

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When my niece married she held the reception in Darlaston town hall, and I managed to have a go on the Organ. Three manual Binns, I think, recently restored the caretaker told me. It sounded quite well at the console, but I think it must be a bit difficult to hear clearly in the hall as it is buried behind the proscenium arch of the stage. Acoustics awful - completely dead.

 

Regards

 

John.

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When my niece married she held the reception in Darlaston town hall, and I managed to have a go on the Organ. Three manual Binns, I think, recently restored the caretaker told me. It sounded quite well at the console, but I think it must be a bit difficult to hear clearly in the hall as it is buried behind the proscenium arch of the stage. Acoustics awful - completely dead.

 

Regards

 

John.

 

 

What year was this ? It was in a poor condition 15/20 years ago but worked tolerably well. We must prosecute enquiries. Certainly the latest the NPOR have is dated 1903 !! surprise surprise !

M.S.

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What year was this ? It was in a poor condition 15/20 years ago but worked tolerably well.  We must prosecute enquiries.  Certainly the latest the NPOR have is dated 1903 !!  surprise surprise !

M.S.

p.s. I find this quite mind boggling. Darlaston comes under Walsall and they can't even maintain their 'magnum opus' there so I don't know about restoring a 2nd organ.

M.S.

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Not a town hall, I know, but you might be interested to read about the successful re-opening of the HNB dual purpose organ at the Dome, Brighton.

 

http://www.domeorganbrighton.co.uk/

 

I did not attend, but I have heard this organ in the past. Neither a classical or a theatre organ it is rather like Southampton Guildhall in that it performs neither job well.

 

Nevertheless the site is interesting with some good photos and gives a flavour of the challenge this project presented to David Wells.

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Not a town hall, I know, but you might be interested to read about the successful re-opening of the HNB dual purpose organ at the Dome, Brighton.

 

http://www.domeorganbrighton.co.uk/

 

"I did not attend, but I have heard this organ in the past. Neither a classical or a theatre organ it is rather like Southampton Guildhall in that it performs neither job well."

 

- - - - - - - - - - -

 

It depends who plays them. Douglas Reeve at Brighton and Reginald Porter Brown at Southampton used to get pretty good cinema sounds.

 

I remember someone coming up to me in past years complaing that the Dome organ didn't sound like a Wurlitzer - which is not surprising as it isn't. Both these instruments need very careful handling for both straight and cinema playing - putting a random fistful of stops on and hoping for the best does not work.

 

FF

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The great on the Dome organ remains without tremulants so struggles to sound like a cinema organ. RPB. who was as good as blind, had a very complex style which gave the impression that he had at least four hands. A style that I admired more than liked.

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What year was this ? It was in a poor condition 15/20 years ago but worked tolerably well.  We must prosecute enquiries.  Certainly the latest the NPOR have is dated 1903 !!  surprise surprise !

M.S.

 

2004 I think, maybe 2003. It was not particularly well finished as I recall (I only had about 10 minutes), but I think I'm right in saying the job wasn't quite complete. My recall isn't that great (sorry) I'm afraid - we enjoyed the wedding though!

 

Regards to all

 

John

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The great on the Dome organ remains without tremulants so struggles to sound like a cinema organ. RPB. who was as good as blind, had a very complex style which gave the impression that he had at least four hands. A style that I admired more than liked.

 

Well of course there's no ruling that everything on these dual-purpose jobs has to be dual-purpose. As I remember the original Dome layout there was the (almost) straight Great chorus which was un-tremmed, and a 'Collective Great' playable from the same manual which drew on the unified ranks which were on tremulants.

 

Bournemouth has the theatre ranks predominantly playable only from the Solo manual, and Southampton (with the luxury of two consoles) uses around 49 ranks to make up the concert specification, with only 24 of them playable from the theatre console - the Tibia only being available at the latter.

 

The Dome did always seem a bit of an enigma though. I believe it was a Quentin Maclean design, and it's interesting that, unlike all the other dual-purpose jobs, the bottom manual is designated Accompaniment rather than Choir, and also that the stopkeys appear to be set out in theatre style of volume within pitch, whereas the Compton dual-purpose jobs that I've seen (Bournemouth, Wimbledon and Lewisham) have flues followed by reeds, which must make them easier for the conventional organist to play. This must surely be compounded at Brighton with the unique colour coding of the stopkeys - white for the concert side and yellow for the theatre bits!

 

In terms of stops having alternate uses, Douglas Reeve - on one of his visits to Barry Memorial Hall and whilst discussing the hugely over-scaled No.1 Tibia on that ex. Regal, Edmonton instrument - told me that he often used the Swell/Solo Harmonic Claribel at the Dome as a small Tibia for occasions when the Tibia itself was too loud.

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Well of course there's no ruling that everything on these dual-purpose jobs has to be dual-purpose. As I remember the original Dome layout there was the (almost) straight Great chorus which was un-tremmed, and a 'Collective Great' playable from the same manual which drew on the unified ranks which were on tremulants.

 

Bournemouth has the theatre ranks predominantly playable only from the Solo manual, and Southampton (with the luxury of two consoles) uses around 49 ranks to make up the concert specification, with only 24 of them playable from the theatre console - the Tibia only being available at the latter.

 

The Dome did always seem a bit of an enigma though. I believe it was a Quentin Maclean design, and it's interesting that, unlike all the other dual-purpose jobs, the bottom manual is designated Accompaniment rather than Choir, and also that the stopkeys appear to be set out in theatre style of volume within pitch, whereas the Compton dual-purpose jobs that I've seen (Bournemouth, Wimbledon and Lewisham) have flues followed by reeds, which must make them easier for the conventional organist to play. This must surely be compounded at Brighton with the unique colour coding of the stopkeys - white for the concert side and yellow for the theatre bits!

 

In terms of stops having alternate uses, Douglas Reeve - on one of his visits to Barry Memorial Hall and whilst discussing the hugely over-scaled No.1 Tibia on that ex. Regal, Edmonton instrument - told me that he often used the Swell/Solo Harmonic Claribel at the Dome as a small Tibia for occasions when the Tibia itself was too loud.

Have I imagined this, or did I indeed read that a full-length 32ft reed from this organ has had to be dumped for reasons of space?!

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Have I imagined this, or did I indeed read that a full-length 32ft reed from this organ has had to be dumped for reasons of space?!

 

You're quite correct. The 32' reed from the original 1936 scheme wouldn't fit into the new and smaller chambers, so the bottom octave is now digitally generated.

 

Strangely enough the Pedal Double Open was always electronically generated, although I imagine it was a very primitive system in 1936. Even the Compton electrostatics didn't (as far as I'm aware) go down to a true 32' in those days. This (and now the bottom octave of the Pedal Open Wood 16') is also digitally generated in the new installation, but for some bizarre reason - presumably lack of space anywhere else - the speakers are in the percussion chamber!

 

Incidentally, one of the nice features which H,N & B originally built in was a set of four sliding switches which would couple the shutters of any of the four chambers to any of the three swell pedals. The slider for the Great had an extra notch which set the shutters to fully open - the nearest to unenclosed that they could get. A simple-to-use system, but the mere thought of the electro-pneumatics and the number of simultaneous relay connections/disconnections to be made/broken in the days before solid-state brings me out in a cold sweat!

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The Town Hall in Haverhill, Suffolk once boasted a 3-manual Binns, although it was removed in the late 80's / early 90's and taken to the The Mechanical Music Museum at Cotton, nr Stowmarket. I have no idea what condition it is in now - I played it about 1980 and it was in need of some attention even then.

 

Not by coincidence, the organ was a similar specification to one literally just down the road at the Old Independent Church (before the en chamade trumpets were added in 1992!!) NPOR H00676

Both organs were gifts of the Gurteen family, local mill owners, whose factory still functions in the town centre.

 

It is quite remarkable that at the time these organs were installed, Haverhill was a small market town, population c4000, yet possessed these two fine instruments. A century later, with a population of nearly 30,000 it was decided that the Town Hall shouldn't have an organ!

 

David

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As a teenager I used to play Ryde Town Hall (Isle of Wight) quite a lot. It was seemingly in perfect nick 30 years after its installation - I guess the council must have loked after it. I used to enjoy it, but that was probably because it was loud and the largest organ on the island. It certainly did lack something in the way of brightness - well, any brightness at all actually. I guess the spec was very much of its time and I think what was there was not of bad quality. The Choir, made up almost entirely of extended ranks, always seemed a bit unsatisfactory.

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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.

 

I have been Borough Organist at Walsall Town Hall for 10 years or so. We have monthly recitals though local government cuts and the need to balance the books have threatened them on a number of occasions.

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What year was this ? It was in a poor condition 15/20 years ago but worked tolerably well. We must prosecute enquiries. Certainly the latest the NPOR have is dated 1903 !! surprise surprise !

M.S.

Darlaston Town Hall organ comes under the town of Walsall. I agree that it is buried behind a proscenium arch and stage curtaining, but is in good working order and lovingly protected by Mervyn Jones, who gives a monthly concert with good sized audience. Binns III/35 and in original condition.

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I have been Borough Organist at Walsall Town Hall for 10 years or so. We have monthly recitals though local government cuts and the need to balance the books have threatened them on a number of occasions.

Peter Morris

 

And a splendid organ in an amazingly attractive hall it is too. I've been to several lunchtime recitals although I now find the journey from Stratford-upon-Avon through the heart of the West Midlands conurbation tiresome.

 

I well remember Paul Hale's concert a couple of years ago and his closing piece; "Widor meets "When The Saints...""!

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Hi

 

Re Darlaston - that's exactly the situation - no one has informed us of any changes. The survey may well come from a historic source (most likely with a 1903 survey date). We do our best - but if people don't give us information it can't be processed and included in the register.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

There have been no updates. Still splendidly original. We gave it a spectacular birthday party in 2003.

Try applying for Heritage Lottery funding if you've altered an instrument in the last 100 years....

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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".......

 

West Bromwich doesn't have a 'Borough Organist' any more, but there is a regular monthly series of free recitals which attract very good and enthisiastic audiences.

There were 3 organists - William Hartland 1878-1912; George Shephard 1912-37 and William T Good 1937-74.

 

The 1878 Forster & Andrews is still in good order and makes the recitalist work hard - no playing aids other than a few unadjustable combination pedals, 3 manuals on different actions, and longish drawstops where a rapid change can take the skin off your knuckles. A good, hearty and authentic sound. Long may the recitals continue!

 

Darlaston comes under the care of Walsall Council and again there are monthly recitals by Mervyn Jones.

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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!)

 

The organ in Walsall Town Hall - see 'The Organ' No 327 and 343 - is now in far better condition than it was when Paul came. Last year the Council put in a new humidifier system which has worked wonders and taken most of the anxieties (and sound of escaping wind) out of the instrument. They also allowed us to renew the three swell engines, which had failed. Monthly recitals on Wednesdays with big screen have survived council cuts - partly due to us absorbing costs, though from September 2011 onwards they will be on Thursday lunchtimes.

 

For those who don't know it it is a large 4-manual in a very resonant acoustic which was installed in 1908 (as a plaque above the console proclaims) as 'A Memorial to a Beloved Queen'. Which international concert organist first found amusement in the wording of the plaque?

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p.s. I find this quite mind boggling. Darlaston comes under Walsall and they can't even maintain their 'magnum opus' there so I don't know about restoring a 2nd organ.

M.S.

 

Not so, though getting a council to carry out expensive work on organs is incredibly difficult when they are so starved of funds for what even organists might acknowledge is both more immediate and politically expedient work. Our approach in Walsall has been to do things little by little - the result is that both instruments are in good fettle and are being well maintained.

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Kidderminster Town Hall. A venerable old Hill job, with some astonishingly beautiful stops, including a Cone Gamba on the Great that I could happily have played on all day. I haven't seen it since about 1983. Anyone know how it fares these days ?

 

H

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