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Mander Organs

Lesser-known Town Hall Organs


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Another instrument is the 3 manual N & B in Colchester Town Hall. Sadly I had to give up on it earlier this year as it has so many leaks, the bellows wouldnt go up. A shame because the Council obviously dont really care whether it works or not. And what an accoustic!

 

Resurrecting a post that is several years old, but this is a fabulous organ - I don't know of another quite like it.

 

Colchester is my home town and as a teenager I used to attend the monthly Saturday afternoon recitals. I think the last time I heard the organ was in the mid-seventies when it had been overhauled and the Choir Organ positivised. I am afraid that I was responsible for a piece of misinformation in NPOR (N08698) in saying that the action had been electrified, and I am contrite.

 

A few years ago, ex-mayor Nigel Chapman started to agitate for the organ to be restored. William McVicker visited and reported but hit a bad day when the organ was in such a state that a fair impression of its capabilites could not be had. Nevertheless, he considered it a'hidden treasure'. I went along a couple of summers ago and Nigel took me into the Hall. Hewent to find the key but said that the organ was unplayable. Switching on, I must have been lucky. Bottom D on the Great was off and the Great Clarion wasn't working, but otherwise everything functioned. Having not heard it for so many years, I was absolutely blown away by how fine it was! As Dr McVicker mentioned, it gives the impression of having twice the resources that it actually possesses. It is a devilishly clever scheme, concentrating on essentials - for example:

 

Great: Double Open Diapason, Grand Open Diapason, Claribel Harmonic Flute, Octave, Hohl Flute, Fifteenth, Mixture 12.15.19.22, Posaune, Clarion, Sub Octave Reeds

 

This is quite remarkable for 1902, but was during the short time that T.C. Lewis was with N&B. It seems very likely that he had something to do with the scheme. I can't think of another N&B of the period with such a straightline Great.

 

There is now a formally constituted 'Friends of the Moot Hall Organ' and Heritage Lottery funding is being sought. They have a website- www.moothallorgan.co.uk - which includes a picture of the case (by John Belcher, the architect of the Hall).

 

If anyone passes through Colchester, it's worth contacting Nigel Chapman. All comments are grist to the mill.....

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Resurrecting a post that is several years old, but this is a fabulous organ - I don't know of another quite like it.

 

Colchester is my home town and as a teenager I used to attend the monthly Saturday afternoon recitals. I think the last time I heard the organ was in the mid-seventies when it had been overhauled and the Choir Organ positivised. I am afraid that I was responsible for a piece of misinformation in NPOR (N08698) in saying that the action had been electrified, and I am contrite.

 

A few years ago, ex-mayor Nigel Chapman started to agitate for the organ to be restored. William McVicker visited and reported but hit a bad day when the organ was in such a state that a fair impression of its capabilites could not be had. Nevertheless, he considered it a'hidden treasure'. I went along a couple of summers ago and Nigel took me into the Hall. Hewent to find the key but said that the organ was unplayable. Switching on, I must have been lucky. Bottom D on the Great was off and the Great Clarion wasn't working, but otherwise everything functioned. Having not heard it for so many years, I was absolutely blown away by how fine it was! As Dr McVicker mentioned, it gives the impression of having twice the resources that it actually possesses. It is a devilishly clever scheme, concentrating on essentials - for example:

 

Great: Double Open Diapason, Grand Open Diapason, Claribel Harmonic Flute, Octave, Hohl Flute, Fifteenth, Mixture 12.15.19.22, Posaune, Clarion, Sub Octave Reeds

 

This is quite remarkable for 1902, but was during the short time that T.C. Lewis was with N&B. It seems very likely that he had something to do with the scheme. I can't think of another N&B of the period with such a straightline Great.

 

There is now a formally constituted 'Friends of the Moot Hall Organ' and Heritage Lottery funding is being sought. They have a website- www.moothallorgan.co.uk - which includes a picture of the case (by John Belcher, the architect of the Hall).

 

If anyone passes through Colchester, it's worth contacting Nigel Chapman. All comments are grist to the mill.....

 

Absolutely.

 

It upset me greatly to give up on it. The big problem was always that one or two people in the Town Hall got enthusiastic about restoring the organ, then after a year or so moved on so nothing ever happened. Meanwhile the heating got to it more and more (The Moot Hall is on the second floor).

 

Peter

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Absolutely.

 

It upset me greatly to give up on it. The big problem was always that one or two people in the Town Hall got enthusiastic about restoring the organ, then after a year or so moved on so nothing ever happened. Meanwhile the heating got to it more and more (The Moot Hall is on the second floor).

 

Peter

 

 

Yes, I hope that at last something will happen. Even a few years ago, the instrument was not highly regarded - it was out of fashion and people were more likely to remark on the tired action than to notice that the sound was actually rather splendid.

 

Reg Lane had a story about the plumbers who came to connect the water supply to the humidifier. They ran the overflow pipe out just above the pavement in the High Street (you can still see it there) and when they tested it they drenched some poor woman who happened to be passing.

 

If the beast behaved itself as well as it did when I was in a couple of years ago, there would be a good argument for risking a recital on it to show what it can do - although I suppose it would then be said, 'Nothing much wrong with that to justify spending half a million'.

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Discovered this old thread via a Google search. There is an instrument in New Zealand that goes by the name the Blitz organ. It is attributed to Willis, and is said to have been made of parts salvaged from bombed instruments around Liverpool and Wallasey, the bulk of it being from the Wallasey Town Hall. (One soundboard converted into two divisions). Prior to the Wallasey Town Hall the instrument was in Leinster House (Royal Dublin Society) and is said to be one of Father Willis's last instruments 1899.

There are some photos of the damaged instrument in the Wallasey Town Hall, but no search showing the intact instrument.

(In theory this should be linked to posting number 10, but it looks like if technology has outsmarted me yet again)

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There was a picture and photo in Willis's house magazine 'The Rotunda' around the time that the organ was installed at Wallasey.

 

 

Very glad to report that Harrisons' have commenced a complete restoration of the outstanding Norman & Beard organ in Colchester Moot Hall. There were two very well attended public sessions last week when William McVicker explained the nature of the work and the importance of the instrument, described by him as 'a hidden treasure'.

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The Rotunda article on Wallasey Town Hall was vol1 no.4 page five. Unfortunately the archive copy I have access to starts at page seven....

(Oh the frustration...)

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As a boy, I remember playing the Walker 3 manual organ in Ryde (IOW) town hall. Does anyone know if it is still playable, or even still there?

"Vox Humana" might know. I remember him demonstrating it to me almost half a century ago.

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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.

 

As a boy, I remember playing the Walker 3 manual organ in Ryde (IOW) town hall. Does anyone know if it is still playable, or even still there?

 

"Vox Humana" might know. I remember him demonstrating it to me almost half a century ago.

 

I haven't been back to the Isle of Wight for 20 years. However I did find this, which suggests at paragraphs 7 & 8 that the organ had become unplayable by 1980, may have been restored in or after 1986 and is probably still there. I must confess, however, that I did not feel sufficiently masochistic to read the whole screed.

 

https://archive.org/details/435252-delegated-rydetheatre-1

 

There is a photograph of the Walker console here: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/IsleOfWightTheatres.htm

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  • 5 years later...
On 14/07/2006 at 23:03, GrossGeigen said:

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".......

Ryde, Isle Wight Town Hall. 3 manual Walker in not good shape. Some unfortunate work carried out on it in the 60s. The building, as I understand no longer belongs to the Council, but the organ still in place. I have a picture of the console half covered, surrounded in garbage etc. A trust was set up for its restoration, but understand this is now defunct. Sorry cannot up load picture yet. I am a newbie so learning with this my first post.

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On 29/06/2020 at 12:06, Cantoris said:

Ryde, Isle Wight Town Hall. 3 manual Walker in not good shape. Some unfortunate work carried out on it in the 60s. The building, as I understand no longer belongs to the Council, but the organ still in place. I have a picture of the console half covered, surrounded in garbage etc. A trust was set up for its restoration, but understand this is now defunct. Sorry cannot up load picture yet. I am a newbie so learning with this my first post.

Does any Member have the specification of this Ryde TH Walker instrument? And or details of subsequent work carried out on it? Be interesting to know as I lived on the Island for several years, and no doubt be good to have details on npor. If not already on npor of course. The resident OB Andrew Cooper may well be the source of information on this of course.

Thankyou.

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3 hours ago, Cantoris said:

Does any Member have the specification of this Ryde TH Walker instrument? And or details of subsequent work carried out on it? Be interesting to know as I lived on the Island for several years, and no doubt be good to have details on npor. If not already on npor of course. The resident OB Andrew Cooper may well be the source of information on this of course.

Thankyou.

The 1940 specification is on NPOR. But the work, you mention, carried out in the 1960's isn't there. It's times like this when I think of the late David Drinkell - I bet he would have known the instrument and could fill you in!!

 

I have some interest in the town hall in Middlesbrough. My late wife's great-grandfather, on her mother's side, George Hoskins, was the architect. NPOR gives a 57 stop, 4 manual originally built in 1911 by William Hill & Sons with work done in 1930 and, again, in 1970 by HNB. The survey of 2018 gives it 'in bad state of repair'.

XMLFunctions.cgi?Fn=GetPicture&Rec_index

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4 hours ago, Cantoris said:

Does any Member have the specification of this Ryde TH Walker instrument? And or details of subsequent work carried out on it? Be interesting to know as I lived on the Island for several years, and no doubt be good to have details on npor. If not already on npor of course. The resident OB Andrew Cooper may well be the source of information on this of course.

Thankyou.

Here is the NPOR specification and this exactly is as I remember it. I played the organ fairly regularly until I left the IoW in 1967 and, although at the distance of half a century my memory may be faulty, I don't remember being denied access because of work being carried out.  Certainly, when I last played it in a concert in 1973 the specification was still the same.  I would imagine that Walker's workmanship was of high standard, but artistically I thought it a very unrewarding instrument, to be honest. It was tonally designed to emphasise 8' pitch at the expense of all others and the Tromba unit was oily-smooth and suffocating. As I mentioned above, all the non-unison pitches on the Choir are extended.

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Andrew Cooper has just passed this on to me...

The organ is still there, though the Town Hall is closed and unused, having been sold, and so I have not seen the instrument for about 10 years. 

It was overhauled by Willis in 1986, received solid state switching in 1988, and the console was made moveable when the hall was converted to a theatre in the early 1990’s.  A further overhaul took place in the mid 1990’s.

The Ryde Town Hall Organ Trust which organised concerts and raised money for maintenance was wound up after the building was sold.

=========

And I remember it being a very satisfying organ to play. I have several reminiscences from my time on the IW in the 80s/early 90s. There was one re-opening recital at some point by Thomas Trotter, which of course was excellent. I recall the G minor Fantasia and Fugue. But I also recall another recital by someone I can only describe as an imposter! He called himself Dr something or other and his recital programme consisted entirely of spurious items by composers that I had never heard of before or since. I think, to be honest, he made them up as he went along - it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life and was utterly appalling!

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2 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

Andrew Cooper has just passed this on to me...

The organ is still there, though the Town Hall is closed and unused, having been sold, and so I have not seen the instrument for about 10 years. 

It was overhauled by Willis in 1986, received solid state switching in 1988, and the console was made moveable when the hall was converted to a theatre in the early 1990’s.  A further overhaul took place in the mid 1990’s.

The Ryde Town Hall Organ Trust which organised concerts and raised money for maintenance was wound up after the building was sold.

=========

And I remember it being a very satisfying organ to play. I have several reminiscences from my time on the IW in the 80s/early 90s. There was one re-opening recital at some point by Thomas Trotter, which of course was excellent. I recall the G minor Fantasia and Fugue. But I also recall another recital by someone I can only describe as an imposter! He called himself Dr something or other and his recital programme consisted entirely of spurious items by composers that I had never heard of before or since. I think, to be honest, he made them up as he went along - it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life and was utterly appalling!

It wasn't "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" by any chance ??!

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