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St Edmundsbury Cathedral


parsfan
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I have never heard this instrument. On a recent visit, there were leaflets desribing an appeal for the rebuilding of the Organ. Looking at the unattractive heap of pipes sans case, I did wonder if it would not be better to build a new instrument sited at the West End with a small chancel organ rather like the arrangement at Chelmsford. Money, I suppose, is the obstacle to a new instrument. I suppose you need £1m to commission a new 60-70 stop instrument these days. It did make me wonder where the line is between rebuilding and a new instrument.

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Hmmm.....See here:

 

http://www.stedscathedral.co.uk/560.htm

 

79 speaking stops. Would be a cheap 1970 rebuild.

Of course this can be confirmed or not only by those who visited

the instrument.

There would be N&B stops theirin, so many things to re-use.

In Belgium we talk about "Syntagmae Gyproquibus" for the cheap post WWII

rebuilds -in reference to the "Gyproc" plasterboards-.

 

Pierre

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Hmmm.....See here:

 

http://www.stedscathedral.co.uk/560.htm

 

79 speaking stops. Would be a cheap 1970 rebuild.

Of course this can be confirmed or not only by those who visited

the instrument.

There would be N&B stops theirin, so many things to re-use.

In Belgium we talk about "Syntagmae Gyproquibus" for the cheap post WWII

rebuilds -in reference to the "Gyproc" plasterboards-.

 

Pierre

 

I seem to remember from somewhere ('not sure where though) that Harrisons are may be doing the work - they will 'do good' if their recent jobs are anything to go by. Certainly Mark Venning is knows his stuff and will not do anything he does not consider 'bona fide'.

 

AJJ

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Money, I suppose, is the obstacle to a new instrument. I suppose you need £1m to commission a new 60-70 stop instrument these days. It did make me wonder where the line is between rebuilding and a new instrument.

 

 

Is there any significance in the fact that this instrument dates from the same era as that in Sheffield Cathedral (long out of use and the subject of a separate thread on this Board a few months ago), whilst Bradford must have been rebuilt round about the same time ? None of them seems to have proved particularly long-lived. Curiously all of these instruments reside in recent foundation Parish Church Cathedrals, buildings that enjoyed a long life as a parish church before being elevated to Cathedral status ? Is it possible that enhanced status was not accompanied by a proportionate enhancement in income ? If that were to have been the case, it could certainly provide a possible explanation for why the organs of some of our cathedrals seem to have deteriorated remarkably more quickly than others (re)built at approximately the same time such as Coventry or St Paul,s.

 

Brian Childs

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Is there any significance in the fact that this instrument dates from the same era as that in Sheffield Cathedral (long out of use and the subject of a separate thread on this Board a few months ago), whilst Bradford must have been rebuilt round about the same time ? None of them seems to have proved particularly long-lived. Curiously all of these instruments reside in recent foundation Parish Church Cathedrals, buildings that enjoyed a long life as a parish church before being elevated to Cathedral status ? Is it possible that enhanced status was not accompanied by a proportionate enhancement in income ? If that were to have been the case, it could certainly provide a possible explanation for why the organs of some of our cathedrals seem to have deteriorated remarkably more quickly than others (re)built at approximately the same time such as Coventry or St Paul,s.

 

Brian Childs

 

Bath Abbey too - hence the more recent transformation.

 

AJJ

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I was DOM for a short period (c.18 months) of St. Michael's, Bishops Stortford and took the choir to sing Sunday services in St Edmundsbury. This was during the period that Paul Trepte, who had been my organ teacher in Worcester, was the cathedral organist.

 

The organ was, and presumably still is, typical of Nicholson's work of the late 1960's and 70's including the dreaded "Lamberts Patent Action". Tonally undistinguished to say the least. Paul Trepte had come to St. Edmundsbury from St. Mary's Warwick and I remember commenting to him along the lines that "you must like large Nicholson organs coming here from St. Mary's Warwick". As I recall his reply was that of a forthright Yorkshireman.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

There didn't seem to be anything like the amount of money available for high profile rebuilds in the 70s as there is now. I know, we keep hearing of places now where funds cannot be raised, but the big jobs seem to float on a sea of money. I remember not so long back when 250k was an amazingly high amount of money to spend on an organ (there were two in the same year - Kingston Parish Church (new Frobenius) and Victoria Hall Hanley (HN&B rebuild- since rebuilt again!). Recently the budget for high profile organs has leapt. I think I'm right in quoting 700k plus for Bridlington. St.David's and Hereford were also huge outlays - dwarfing anything that had previously been spent on them in real terms.

 

Compared to that, the 70s rebuilds (virtually always on the cheap) often accomplished quite a bit. The specifications tried to be eclectic (which makes them out of fashion now), but in some voicers' hands the results were not bad at all. At St.Edmundsbury, for instance, there is plenty of good material, it just doesn't add up to many people's idea of a good organ. I have recently been listening to Scott Farrell's 1997 Herald CD of Vierne, Langlais and Jongen. This organ just should not work in this repertoire, but actually it does! I deplore the current tendency to say 'chuck the lot' when all a large job really needs is a mechanical overhaul and a good voicer going over it. Replacing a few important but unsatisfactory ranks might often effect the necessary improvement for a fraction of the cost.

 

How often is the problem with an organ the upperwork (insufficient or unblending) or the reeds (too smooth, too snappy or too strident)? The bread and butter stops (i.e. the other 80% of the organ) can be splendid and nobody notices! How often do you sit down at a newer instrument and regret that the Swell Oboe (for instance) does not do what you expect? Happens to me all the time!

 

My recollections of the Edmundsbury job: I reckoned that the Great Chorus was the weakest element - it just didn't hang together. Mind you, with Norman and Beard foundations and typical 70's upperwork this is not that surprising - oil and water don't mix. Did they ever sort out the choruses at Wells Cathedral? Another hamfisted attempt to go baroque in one easy move!

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Did they ever sort out the choruses at Wells Cathedral? Another hamfisted attempt to go baroque in one easy move!

 

Wells has many supporters and if one takes care it can work well liturgically in the choir of the cathedral both from the point of view of the singers and the player. But - I personally do not find it a very satisfying instrument - there is still a Romantic H & H lurking underneath that does not really sit happily with the 70s work (wasn't Clutton responsible? - now there's a topic for a thread!) and in the nave much is lost even a small distance west of the crossing. Something that the newer upperwork has not really done much to help. I went to a recital there some years back (not by one of the then resident crew who largely control it well) and it was a very unsatisfactory experience with the quiet sounds lost in the building, the louder effects (Tuba, Pedal reed etc.) shouting and opaque and nothing much in between. I once also had to sing from directly west of it for the enthronement of a new bishop (long service - big music - full house etc.) and the continuous full organ effects were very wearisome!

 

AJJ

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"I deplore the current tendency to say 'chuck the lot' when all a large job really needs is a mechanical overhaul and a good voicer going over it. Replacing a few important but unsatisfactory ranks might often effect the necessary improvement for a fraction of the cost."

(Quote)

We observe one interesting thing in Belgium: there is no money at all in the south (Wallonie); we have good consultants, who respect every organ style, commissioning

simple repairs on a limited basis.

In the north (Flanders), there is still money available; the would-be-baroque rebuilds continue. You get luxury wood carvings aplenty, but behind it often nothing left as historic substance.

So...

The problem with money available might be the tendancy to share it with consultants aplenty, the result being a Hotch-Potch of contradictory wishes.

And then in 2006, we have often elderly people beholding "the saying" -the younger being money-less and thus not credible- which explains why the Neo-baroque fancy lasts so long.

I showed my teacher (a consultant with many excellent jobs behind him, the last being Gerpinnes) Mr Mander's Portfolio. He said like other builders, this one should be left alone in an historic organ after just some discussions about the goals and means, and then not interfering any more with the work.

(It works. Gerpinnes was done that way with the belgian builder Rudi Jacques).

 

Pierre

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Wells has many supporters and if one takes care it can work well liturgically in the choir of the cathedral both from the point of view of the singers and the player. But - I personally do not find it a very satisfying instrument - there is still a Romantic H & H lurking underneath that does not really sit happily with the 70s work (wasn't Clutton responsible? - now there's a topic for a thread!) and in the nave much is lost even a small distance west of the crossing. Something that the newer upperwork has not really done much to help. I went to a recital there some years back (not by one of the then resident crew who largely control it well) and it was a very unsatisfactory experience with the quiet sounds lost in the building, the louder effects (Tuba, Pedal reed etc.) shouting and opaque and nothing much in between. I once also had to sing from directly west of it for the enthronement of a new bishop (long service - big music - full house etc.) and the continuous full organ effects were very wearisome!

 

AJJ

One wonders if it is only a matter of time before this instrument is being discussed in the past tense.

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Bath Abbey too - hence the more recent transformation.

 

AJJ

 

Hi

 

Apart from the removal of the Nave section, Bradford Cathedral is still in use, and it's its 1970's guise. The "budget" rebuild shows at the console, where some couplers refer to "choir" and others to "positive" - actually the same department! I gather that the Nave section was removed to suit the ideas of the clergy at the time, and a Bradford-system department put in its place, the only survivor being the "Purcell Trumpet" which now is at the top of the chancel case firing South.

 

It actually sounds much better than it deserves to - and is unlikely to be rebuilt again soon because the Diocese of Bradford has severe financial problems.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Some of the comments about Wells seem just a teeny weeny bit OTT and apocalyptic. Wells does have its problems - it is a screen organ that needs to service both the Quire and the Nave, but doesn't have the necessary resources to do so. Like Truro it has a big Tuba and matching 16ft pedal reed, wheras a smaller 16ft and corresponding 32ft reed would probably would underpin the tutti better - Wells is certainly big enough to make the lack of a 32ft reed a notable omission. But as I have said elsewhere, despite the 1970s work, if you close your eyes and just listen, it is still essentially a Willis organ, and one that should be retained. The suggestion that we could soon be talking of this instrument in the past tense is risible.

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Some of the comments about Wells seem just a teeny weeny bit OTT and apocalyptic. Wells does have its problems - it is a screen organ that needs to service both the Quire and the Nave, but doesn't have the necessary resources to do so. Like Truro it has a big Tuba and matching 16ft pedal reed, wheras a smaller 16ft and corresponding 32ft reed would probably would underpin the tutti better - Wells is certainly big enough to make the lack of a 32ft reed a notable omission. But as I have said elsewhere, despite the 1970s work, if you close your eyes and just listen, it is still essentially a Willis organ, and one that should be retained. The suggestion that we could soon be talking of this instrument in the past tense is risible.

 

H & H have fairly recently done good jobs at places like Glasgow, Dublin and Ely rebalancing the excesses of 70s work - probably that's all Wells could do with (if anything) next time it is due for a 'tinker'.

 

AJJ

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Hi

 

Apart from the removal of the Nave section, Bradford Cathedral is still in use, and it's its 1970's guise.  The "budget" rebuild shows at the console, where some couplers refer to "choir" and others to "positive" - actually the same department!  I gather that the Nave section was removed to suit the ideas of the clergy at the time, and a Bradford-system department put in its place, the only survivor being the "Purcell Trumpet" which now is at the top of the chancel case firing South.

 

It actually sounds much better than it deserves to - and is unlikely to be rebuilt again soon because the Diocese of Bradford has severe financial problems.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

I am glad to learn it is in better health than I Had been led to believe, especially in view of the fact that there is no money to replace it. I assume that part of the problem is the size of the active congregation, given the ethnic composition of the local community coupled with the decline in attendance by those who are nominally Christian, meaning that there are very few people amongst whom the load can be shared.

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I am glad to learn it is in better health than I Had been led to believe, especially in view of the fact that there is no money to replace it. I assume that part of the problem is the size of the active congregation, given the ethnic composition of the local community coupled with the decline in attendance by those who are nominally Christian, meaning that there are very few people amongst whom the load can be shared.

 

 

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

 

Actually, the cathedral and the diocese went into hyper-spend mode in recent years, with a ridiculous and ill-judged capital venture.

 

There was a point in time, when many wondered if the cathedral was being run by lunatics.

 

MM

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H & H have fairly recently done good jobs at places like Glasgow, Dublin and Ely rebalancing the excesses of 70s work - probably that's all Wells could do with (if anything) next time it is due for a 'tinker'.

 

AJJ

 

I am not sure about that, Alastair - I played Dublin last year and it was in a fairly bad state. Either the cathedral did not get ther moneys' worth, or they did not have enough money to enable H&H to do the job in the first place. In addition, H&H had done what David Wells did to Carlisle - they had partly altered the 1960s work carried-out by Walkers to the extent that the choruses did not make logical sense, yet they also did not fully represent what had been there previously (and God knows, there are enough extant 'Willis' choruses around to form a clear idea for restoration).

 

There were a few stops which did not work, some that were out of tune enough to be unusable and the console was in a fairly poor state. Whilst this latter point is not necessarily something for which H&H could be held responsible, nevertheless, I was a little shocked at the state of the poor organ.

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Hmmm.....See here:

 

http://www.stedscathedral.co.uk/560.htm

 

79 speaking stops. Would be a cheap 1970 rebuild.

Of course this can be confirmed or not only by those who visited

the instrument. ...

Pierre

 

I played it a couple of times some years ago. Whilst it does look unspeakably ugly, it did not sound that bad - I have certainly played worse.

 

As Paul states, the GO chorus is not as good as it might be. The console was also oddly planned, with the stop jambs unnecessarily wide - four staggered rows of two, where all could have easily been accommodated on three rows of two, without overcrowding.

 

There were (are) some strange items in the stop-list. I could never find a use for the solitary Larigot on the Solo Organ. Now that it has been changed to a Septième, can think of even less for it to do, being spatially separate from the other mutations on the Positif Organ (which itself could do with a 4p flute).

 

There is also the question of a lack of a 16p chorus reed on the GO. Personally, I would add this before a 32p reed. I dislike the onic 'gap' on organs which do not have a 16p reed on the GO, but possess a 32p reed on the Pedal Organ. There always seems to be an aural 'hole' somewhere in the texture.

 

Having said that, I agree with Paul. It is quite possible that another Worcester could be avoided here. Some restoration, re-setting on speech, revoicing, attention to mixtures and the possible substitution of a few ranks for those which could be considered less useful would probably result in a fine instrument.

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I have never heard this instrument. On a recent visit, there were leaflets desribing an appeal for the rebuilding of the Organ. Looking at the unattractive heap of pipes sans case, I did wonder if it would not be better to build a new instrument sited at the West End with a small chancel organ rather like the arrangement at Chelmsford.

 

I doubt it - the Nave at St. Edmundsbury is long and narrow - considerably longer than the nave at Chelmsford. Any West End organ would be too remote for most services (and I am referring to the accompaniment of a congregation - not a choir!) Anyone wishing to feel a part of a service held in the Nave would probably wish to sit as far forward as possible. I am not sure how effective a west end organ would be, particularly since the musical parts of services would not follow the format of that in use in most large French cathedrals (where the west end organ is used for the Entrée and Sortie and usually at moments such as the Offertoire and Communion). Even at Nôtre-Dame, the main organ is used to accompany some of the congregational responses - and to provide versets in between the verses.

 

In addition, since any 'small chancel organ' is going to have to accompany the cathedral choir in anything from Britten to Vaughan-Williams, it will need to be quite a comprehensive 'small organ'. Even then, it is likely to be unduly restricive in its resources - something of which I suspect that the incumbent musicians would tire rather quickly.

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I am not sure about that, Alastair - I played Dublin last year and it was in a fairly bad state. Either the cathedral did not get ther moneys' worth, or they did not have enough money to enable H&H to do the job in the first place. In addition, H&H had done what David Wells did to Carlisle - they had partly altered the 1960s work carried-out by Walkers to the extent that the choruses did not make logical sense, yet they also did not fully represent what had been there previously (and God knows, there are enough extant 'Willis' choruses around to form a clear idea for restoration).

 

There were a few stops which did not work, some that were out of tune enough to be unusable and the console was in a fairly poor state. Whilst this latter point is not necessarily something for which H&H could be held responsible, nevertheless, I was a little shocked at the state of the poor organ.

 

I heard it pretty soon after the work was done and then only in the context of a smallish service so maybe you got a better picture of it more recently - I quite like Ely as it is now though.

 

AJJ

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