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Also, I believe the Choir Bourdon gave way to a Mixture and the Piccolo to a Spitzflute.

 

Since the rebuild I've only heard it on Graham Barber's CD of the Howells Sonata ans 6 pieces, so can't comment other than to say that, on that, the Great Mixture sounds a disaster. It just doesn't blend; it sits there on top of the chorus, tinkling away like a Cymbelstern. I can't help wondering whether there was a mix-up in Durham and somewhere there's a neo-Baroque organ with a Mixture intended for Hereford.

 

Hello V.H.

Yes, I have heard a few people say similar to yourself, but not being an organist myself, I leave it to others to have the final say. All I do say is that Roy Massey is very pleased with this new mixture, and I'm sure he would discuss this if you were to write or email him.

 

What I do say, and hearing it nearly every Sunday, is that its sounds never tire, from the exquisite flutes and quieter colours to the full organ, I remain completely overwhelmed by its musical and majestic sounds. Unlike organs by lesser builders it never ever sounds harsh or overbearing no matter how loudly it is played. I have to say that at the Eucharist service every Sunday, at which Peter Dyke, our Assistant plays, he sends one into ecstasy, almost, by his brilliant improvisations, particularly upon the Recessional hymn which never stops; he plays from the heart and the theme of the service is transmitted through his hands and the outpouring of sound is almost more than a soul can bear. The organ continues at 'absolute full steam', echoing and re-echoing around the sacred stones in tones of utmost grandeur completely enveloping and enfolding those within in a cocoon of glorious sound. Blasts of tuba, until finally the whole lot comes together in an almost cataclysmic welter of sound. Absolutely WONDERFUL, thrilling beyond all words. We then leave the Cathedral feeling totally uplifted both by the service itself and our marvellous organ.

 

Sorry if I got a little carried away there, but those from afar that were here this week will testify to that.

 

M.S.

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Sorry if I got a little carried away there, but those from afar that were here this week will testify to that.

 

M.S.

 

Re-reading my ultimate paragraph I must comment further. Hope I'm not sounding a bore, but those from afar who attended the Opening Service of The Three Choirs did somewhat disgrace themselves, as regards their incessant babble. Before the service after Peter had played his set pieces:

Toccata in C - Pachelbel; Piece d'orgue - Bach; A Fantasy - Tomkins; Prelude and fugue in D minor - Mendelssohn, most of which those of us who were seated at the West end had difficulty in hearing owing to the deafening hubbub of conversation. There was then a gap before the Philharmonia orchestra struck up with Elgar's Imperial March. Peter filled in by doing one of his masterly improvisations BUT the louder he played so what the cognoscenti who attend this function like to describe themselves as 'the great and the good' so the louder they yapped ! Finally the mighty Willis was absolutely ' flat out' with Tubas and still they yapped. Admittedly they did have the decency to give him a huge round of applause.

I had difficulty in hearing this whereas others in the north transept, opposite the organ, were overwhelmed. I could hear the TUba and the 32' Ophicleide but not much else.

 

I'm afraid this has nothing at all to do with the subject in question, but, hopefully, this little aside will be of interest.

M.S.

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Michael, thanks for that evocative portrait. It sounds quite magical. I do agree with you that the rest of the organ sounds truly magnificent. I played it for a week in the early 70s - so before the rebuild - and really enjoyed it (even though it felt a bit the worse for wear in those days!)

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Michael's comment about the SE at Hereford almost makes me want to move there !!. He has described it well. This is the best sort of improvisation done in the context of worship. Beats the old 'Improvisation on a submitted theme' at recitals.

 

JSW used to provide a similar improvisation at the end of the Hymn, while the choir recessed at the end of Saturday Evensong at York. However, a blessing now follows the hymn ending a long cherished York tradition.

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Michael's comment about the SE at Hereford almost makes me want to move there !!. He has described it well. This is the best sort of improvisation done in the context of worship. Beats the old 'Improvisation on a submitted theme' at recitals.

 

JSW used to provide a similar improvisation at the end of the Hymn, while the choir recessed at the end of Saturday Evensong at York.  However, a blessing now follows the hymn ending a long cherished York tradition.

David Davies, my esteemed colleague here at Guildford, is a genius at this sort of liturgical improvising - as was Geoff Morgan. We've always been lucky for that sort of thing here.
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HEREFORD.

 

I live here at Hereford and would like to correct 'Goldsmith' in his statement no 7 post.  I will quote Roy Massey's remarks:

As in 1933 it was decided that restoration and conservation was the correct proocedure, and consequently there has been no re-voicing or alteration of the Willis pipeworkm although the opportunity was taken to provide a few additions to amplify the original tonal concept.

The Great organ gained one new stop - a 4 rank mixture 19,22,26,29, which carries up the brilliance of the Willis 4ft and 2ft ranks and acts as a bridge between the fluework and the wonderful family of 16,8, and 4 ft Trumpets.  The original Willis Tierce mixture 17,19,22, remained unaltered.

The pedal organ gained independent metal diapason ranks at 8 ft and 4 ft pitch with a 4 rank mixture 19,22,26,29 to complete the chorus and give a degree of independence.  A stopped flute 8ft Open flute 4ft and Schalmei 4ft were also added to give variety to the quiter pedal registers.

At our latest rebuild this Schalmei was altered to a trumpet 4 ft, maybe called a Clarion, I forget.

The Swell organ remained exactly as before although in order to improve tonal egress 2 additional shutters were added to the Swell front and a baffle board errected over the box to direct the sound forward.

The Solo organ gained a 2ft flute by the transposition of the old Hohl flute 4ft and the Glockenspiel gongs lost their swell shutters inh an attempt to make their charming tones more audible.  The Tuba was moved to a commanding new position over the Great organ as its pipes formerly blocked the triforium arch and masked the tone of the Swell organ.

The Choir organ was moved from its rather buried position at the back of the chamber to a new position in the centre of the organ case where the old 1893 console used to be.  This division was brightened by the addition of a tapered Spitz flute 2ft in place of the old Piccolo and a 3 rank mixture 15,19,22 replaced the Lieblich Bourdon 16 ft.

 

The Willis 1933 console, notable for the luxurious completeness of control which it offered the player was retained.  Again this was retained at our latest rebuild suitably modernised with memory systems etc.

 

I was only talking to Roy yesterday and this came up.  One doesn't have to use the new 4 rank mixture on the Great which remains exactly as Father Willis left it.

 

At the recent rebuild Geraint Bowen also decided restoration and conservation were the correct procedure.

 

We are now left with one of the finest organs in all the land.

 

Hope this information has been helpful.

 

M.S.

 

Thank you Michael, for confirming what I had already read about the Hereford instrument. :D

 

In my post, I expressed the view that the additions had not enhanced the organ, and I'll stick by that. As ever, this is a matter of personal taste.

 

For me, there are a couple of phrases in the text you quote which give the game away: 'opportunity was taken to provide a few additions to amplify the original tonal concept' and 'This division was brightened by...'.

 

It's all very well to suggest that additions need not be used by players wishing to convey the 'original' sound of the instrument, but in practice this is unlikely. It's not ususally intended that such additions are obvious to the visiting player!

 

All that said, I don't think you're alone in rating this instrument very highly indeed, and I have never been fortunate enough to hear the organ in a liturgical context.

 

So apologies for any offence caused.

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Yes, Stephen, some cathedrals do well with assistants who improvise well. Hereford was also blessed at having David Briggs.

 

As well as tailing off hymns another point in the SE where improvisers can shine is at the end of the reading of the Gospel. Martin Baker and Andrew Reid, at the Abbey, and Ian Bell at Bristol come to mind as organists who could improvise apocalyptic chaos at this point.

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So apologies for any offence caused.

 

HEREFORD

Hello Goldsmith and also Vox Humana,

No you haven't caused me any offence whatsoever; many people have indeed commented adversely about this 4 rank mixture on the Great, and, actually, at the recent rebuild it was indeed re-modelled and now fits in wonderfully with the full chorus.

M.S.

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Pardon my Scouse, as I've never heard the organ in St George's Hall live, but from what I have heard on CDs recorded by Christopher Dearnley, Ian Tracey and David Briggs, I remain resolutely underwhelmed by what I have heard. I know, I know, you should never judge an organ by a recording, but to me it has sounded like a poor mans Lincoln Cathedral, with out of tune reeds and an insufficient supply of wind. Were there in fact ever the glory days when this organ was in full working order, and is there anybody still alive who can remember them. And finally, if this organ is such a gem, why haven't the famously generous people of Liverpool dug deep into their pockets (and I do mean the people, not the local authority) and raised the necessary funds to put the sparkle back in this so-called jewel in their crown?

 

 

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

 

 

I'd overlooked this post from Jeremy.

 

The chequered history of Liverpool has involved both corruption and the machonations of an anti-art council. Add to this the fact that new regulations meant that the hall was regarded as a fire-risk, due to the under-floor heatng system, or somesuch, which could potentially have acted as fire-flues.

 

The hall therefore became something of a white-elephant, and remained unused for some time; the organ being allowed to fall into a parlous state of repair and tune.

 

Prof Ian Tracey and David Wells fought tirelessly to save the organ, and without payment....all credit to them.

 

When Christopher Dearnley recorded on this instrument, it was already in a poor state, and much work had to be done in making the recording possible at all.

 

Now if you skip back to "when aye were a lad" visiting Liverpool, they had a hall in regular use, they had an organ in fairly sound condition and a City Organist in the form of Caleb Jarvis. Caleb Jarvis was, I believe, a Jewish musician, and quite brilliant; though I know little about him. I recall him as a very dapper gentleman indeed.

 

After Caleb Jarvis, I think Noel Rawsthorne was nominally City Organist, but the powers that be had little or no interest in organ recitals and things, resulting in that described previously.

 

Now, unless one has heard the organ in the hall, it is easy to suggest that it is "under-whelming" but, in fact, in the hall, it has a brooding presence second to none; perhaps encouraged by the most spectacular acoustic, thanks to a magnificent mosaic floor.

 

Notwithstanding the changes made by HW3, and the rather coarse additions of heavy-pressure chorus-work, the organ did indeed sound tremendous when I first heard it. The big Tuba (on 30" wg?) is still a huge sound, but not quite the fiery solo stop it first was when Fr.Willis left it.

 

Of course, the original chorus-work has the tierce sound associated with Fr.Willis, and clarity has never been the instrument's strongest point, as the sound mingles and bounces around the hall. It goes without saying that the full swell is stunning, whilst the quiter effects are absolutely ravishing.

 

I suspect that David Wells has been fire-fighting over a long period, with attention focusing on leatherwork and action components. I seem to recall that the stop system was changed at some point, but memory fades.

 

One thing I do know....the visual presence of this organ is like no other in the UK. The inlay woodwork of the console is worth seeing alone....beautifully crafted, like the magnificent and very Victorian facade and diapered pipes, which include the 32ft metal rank.

 

This is an organ which, if fully restored in the manner of the RAH, would easily be the best concert instrument in the country; not least because it is in a better acoustic than most, and very much of a piece on the gallery. I suppose it's the English equivalent to Methuen.

 

I'm not sure one would want to get rid of the big chorus-work added to the instrument. They are additions and can be left silent if one so chooses. Personally, I would love to hear the chorus reeds and Tubas restored to their former Fr Willis glory, but again, without specific detailed knowledge, I may be talking rubbish.

 

Lest we forget, Mr Best presided over this organ for many years, and some of the most illustrious organists in the world have played it.

 

Having heard this organ under the capable hands and feet of Dr.Caleb Jarvis, when I was 15, I know how good it sounded then. My hope is that the instrument can be fully restored to at least that which I knew as a boy.

 

It is the hall, rather the organ, which makes this venue special, for I can think of no great Willis instrument which speaks into a better acoustic......certainly not the RAH or Sheffield City Hall; one of which is jumbled and the other of which is as dead as a witch's mammory gland.

 

Aren't I the lucky one? I have an old LP of Dr Caleb Jarvis playing this organ when it was in good condition, and joy of joys, it even includes the Brahms Prelude and Fugue in A in all its' syncopated glory. Also, the rarely heard or played Flor Peeters "Lied" works....."Lied to the sun" and "Lied to the flowers etc"

 

What does anyone know about the late Dr Caleb Jarvis?

 

MM

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I am grateful for MMs reply to what was admittedly something of a rant. But it does get up my nose how those oop North one minute don their rose-tinted specs and go into raptures about the organ in St George's Hall, and the next are sharpening their knives with relish prior to going in for the kill concerning the RAH organ.

 

Both of these instruments started life as the work of Father Willis and both were later rebuilt with varying degrees of success. One has been the subject of frequent use, as a solo instrument, with symphony orchestras and choirs at the Proms and during other classical concerts, for other various events such as the annual service of Remembrance, Songs of Praise, numours Christmas concerts etc, and considered worthy of having £1.7m spent on it so that it can continue doing so for many years to come. The other, meanwhile, has been allowed to quietly decay, with any work carried out very much on a patch and mend basis, rather than attempting to deal with the underlying problems.

 

I take no pleasure in what has been allowed to happen to the St George's Hall organ, but a little objectivity over the merits or other wise of the Liverpool and RAH instruments would be welcome.

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

 

 

 

 

It is the hall, rather the organ, which makes this venue special, for I can think of no great Willis instrument which speaks into a better acoustic......certainly not the RAH or Sheffield City Hall; one of which is jumbled and the other of which is as dead as a witch's mammory gland.

 

 

 

RAH acoustic jumbled? Have you heard it recently?

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RAH acoustic jumbled? Have you heard it recently?

 

 

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

 

Well it's better than it was, but it still remains the acoustic equivalent to an elepitical casserole-dish.

 

All credit to the acoustic-engineers, who haven't felt compelled to shoot themselves this time around.

 

;)

 

MM

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I am grateful for MMs reply to what was admittedly something of a rant. But it does get up my nose how those oop North one minute don their rose-tinted specs and go into raptures about the organ in St George's Hall, and the next are sharpening their knives with relish prior to going in for the kill concerning the RAH organ. 

 

Both of these instruments started life as the work of Father Willis and both were later rebuilt with varying degrees of success. One has been the subject of frequent use, as a solo instrument, with symphony orchestras and choirs at the Proms and during other classical concerts, for other various events such as the annual service of Remembrance, Songs of Praise, numours Christmas concerts etc, and considered worthy of having £1.7m spent on it so that it can continue doing so for many years to come.  The other, meanwhile, has been allowed to quietly decay, with any work carried out very much on a patch and mend basis, rather than attempting to deal with the underlying problems.

 

I take no pleasure in what has been allowed to happen to the St George's Hall organ, but a little objectivity over the merits or other wise of the Liverpool and RAH instruments would be welcome.

 

 

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

 

 

I don't recall that I sharpened my knife and went for the kill concerning the organ at the RAH, which I think sounds splendid.

 

As for the Liverpool instrument, I thought I had explained the difficulties of safety regulations, which caused a major headache to the local council and resulted in very expensive remedial action, at a time when the social problems of the city were almost overwhelming.

 

In fact, the organ had been restored as recently as 1957, but by circa.1985 (?) the hall could not be opened to the public, save for the odd guided tour of a weekend.

 

Without heating, and unused, the organ suffered as a consequence.

 

The London equivalent was the total indifference shown to the organ of the Alexander Palace, but in that case, it was sheer bloody-minded neglect and council incompetence.

 

SGH remains a much less spoiled instrument than that of the RAH; the latter given the Arthur Harrison make-over which altered the character of the original considerably, and which has only recently deserved the restoration it so richly deserved.

 

As I sit writing this, I have just been listening to the late Dr Caleb Jarvis putting the SGH organ through its' paces with a Purcell Fanfare which fairly rattles the inner-ear, the Alain "Le Jardin Suspendu" which soothes the inner ear and the Toccata from the Suite in E minor, Op.14, by Paul de Maleingreau.

 

Now I shall listen to the magnificent performance of the Brahms Prelude & Fugue in G minor, the lovely "Lied to the flowers" and the exciting "Lied to the sun" by Flor Peeters.

 

Of all the recordings I have ever heard, THIS is the one which best captures the awesome sound of this instrument live in the hall, and isn't it odd, how the name of the recording engineer, Michael Smythe turns up again and again, in the best recordings?

 

Those tierce chorus mixtures have to be heard to be believed......they are so strong....a real musical connection with 1855 and an older tradition of English organ-building. As for the way the Tuba Mirabilis totally dominates the full flue choruses combined, and with just single notes, that is an experience second-to-none. I recall being utterly shocked by that Tuba as a boy of 15.

 

The quieter effects and orchestral reeds are worth the train-fare to Liverpool alone.

 

As I draw to a close, I am being "underwhelmed" by the "Lied to the Sun" and the cat has made a run for it!

 

Wow! It's the only word.

 

To anyone who can find a copy of the old Caleb Jarvis Recording (RCA VICS 1664) I would say, don't hesitate to get it.

 

MM

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

 

 

As I sit writing this, I have just been listening to the late Dr Caleb Jarvis putting the SGH organ through its' paces with a Purcell Fanfare which fairly rattles the inner-ear, the Alain "Le Jardin Suspendu" which soothes the inner ear and the Toccata from the Suite in E minor, Op.14, by Paul de Maleingreau.

 

Of all the recordings I have ever heard, THIS is the one which best captures the awesome sound of this instrument live in the hall, and isn't it odd, how the name of the recording engineer, Michael Smythe turns up again and again, in the best recordings?

 

Those tierce chorus mixtures have to be heard to be believed......they are so strong....a real musical connection with 1855 and an older tradition of English organ-building. As for the way the Tuba Mirabilis totally dominates the full flue choruses combined, and with just single notes, that is an experience second-to-none. I recall being utterly shocked by that Tuba as a boy of 15.

 

.

 

To anyone who can find a copy of the old Caleb Jarvis Recording (RCA VICS 1664) I would say, don't hesitate to get it.

 

MM

 

 

I am fortunate to own this already:indeed it still retains the original price sticker - 99p. I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that there were plans afoot to reissue this on CD together with additional material recorded by Dr Jarvis but for the life of me I cannot remember where or when I came across this. Perhaps I imagined it or possibly Amphion are now moving in to the era of the LP. Does anyone else know anything ?

 

To change the subject, is it not the case that the Tuba Mirabilis, Solo Diapason and Grand Chorus were all added to St George's Hall organ by Willis III in 1930-31 as a reflection of/ complement to developments taking place at the Cathedral at that time? But if that is so, then what happened to the original solo reeds whose "scorching brilliance" was supposedly altered then ? I had always understood there were four (8,8,4,4) though I do not know why I think this and the NPOR (or at least the version I have been able to access) gives the specification as of 1994 after remedial work to the action but no links to the instrument as it was when W.T. Best or Dr Peace played it. Presumably three of those ranks would form the basis of the existing 16,8,4 Tuba chorus but it is difficult to believe that a stop of reputedly exceptional brilliance was revoiced to provide the French Horn that is the fourth HP reed on the enclosed Solo. Quite apart from the issue of just how easy it would be on a technical level to move in effect from one end of the spectrum to the other - an issue I am not competent to judge but on which others on this forum can provide an informed opinion - it is difficult to see the point of so radical a change. HWIII was not unfamiliar with, nor averse to installing, brilliant solo reeds - the Trompette Militaire at St Paul's dates from this time, and that in Sheffield City Hall must be roughly contemporary, so it is not as if the policy was for the ultimate in closed tone. As far as I am aware Willis have never produced chorus reeds or tubas with the degree of smoothness to be expected of a Harrison Tromba chorus. Certainly the Trombas on the Solo at Liverpool Cathedral sound to me nothing like stops bearing this name that would have emerged from the Harrison stable. Can anybody shed any light on this, please?

 

BAC

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To change the subject, is it not the case that the Tuba Mirabilis, Solo Diapason and Grand Chorus were all added to St George's Hall organ by Willis III in 1930-31 as a reflection of/ complement to developments taking place at the Cathedral at that time? But if that is so, then what happened to the original solo reeds whose "scorching brilliance" was supposedly altered then ? I had always understood there were four (8,8,4,4) though I do not know why I think this and the NPOR (or at least the version I have been able to access) gives the specification as of 1994 after remedial work to the action but no links to the instrument as it was when W.T. Best or Dr Peace played it. Presumably three of those ranks would form the basis of the existing 16,8,4 Tuba chorus but it is difficult to believe that a stop of reputedly  exceptional brilliance was revoiced to provide  the French Horn that is the fourth HP reed on the enclosed  Solo. Quite apart from the issue of  just how easy it would be on a technical level to move in effect from one end of the spectrum to the other - an issue I am not competent to judge but on which others on this forum can provide an informed opinion - it is difficult to see the point of so radical a change. HWIII was not unfamiliar with, nor averse to installing, brilliant solo reeds - the Trompette Militaire at St Paul's dates from this time,  and that in Sheffield City Hall must be roughly contemporary, so it is not as if the policy was for the ultimate in closed tone. As far as I am aware Willis have never produced chorus reeds or tubas with the degree of smoothness to be expected of a Harrison Tromba chorus. Certainly the Trombas on the Solo at Liverpool Cathedral sound to me nothing like stops bearing this name that would have emerged from the Harrison stable. Can anybody shed any light on this, please?

 

BAC

 

 

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

 

Well now.......as it 'appens!

 

Good old Cecil Clutton to the rescue with this, with his account of the organ at SGH, which appeared on the inside of the record sleeve to the Christopher Dearnley recording, which I also have.

 

In 1855, the Great Organ had 21 stops, of which 5 were Mixtures, but after the re-build in 1897, this was reduced to a mere 3 Mixtures, consisting of "only" 11 ranks.

 

There were 4 Solo heavy-pressure Tubas at 8, 8, 4 & 4ft pitches.

 

The organs was blown by a STEAM ENGINE, but the heavy-pressure Tubas, (on a mere whiff of wind at 9.5"wg) were powered by hand-blowing!

 

Interestingly, the organ was originally tuned to meantone, under the direct instruction of S S Wesley.....possibly going some way towards explaining the wealth of Mixtures with their tierce ranks.

 

W T Best had the tuning changed in 1867, and at the same time, Fr.Willis re-voiced the Tubas, using his new method of screwed brass weighting for the reed-tongues: at the same time hiking up the pressure to 22" wg.

 

The organ also had a CC compass pedal as originally built, but GG compass manuals.....another quirk of history from S S Wesley.

 

In 1897, when Dr Pearce was City Organist, the re-build included the enclosure of the Solo Organ, but the big Tubas remained un-enclosed.

 

In 1931, Henry the 3rd rebuilt the instrument fairly substantially, but not to the point of tonal destruction by any means.

 

The Choir Organ was enclosed and the four Tubas were "replaced" (re-voiced mostly?) but made into 16, 8 & 4ft as a chorus on 25" wg pressure, with a Tuba Mirabilis on 30" wg).

 

Cecil Clutton doesn't confirm this in his writing, but I "think" the 16,8 & 4ft Tuba Chorus is now enclosed, with the big Tuba un-enclosed and sitting at a very strategic position near the top of the instrument, from whence it strikes like a cobra when least expected.

 

At the same time as all this was done, the 7 rks Grand Chorus was added, and it is a rather fine sound, if somewhat unnecessary to the whole behemoth.

 

Brian's mention of the French Horn has no relationship to the Tubas; this being the most wonderful rank, which Henry the 3rd more or less "borrowed" from Ernest Skinner of Boston, USA. (Try listening to the superlative orchestral reeds at Yale University, and you will understand why).

 

Fortunately, the great glory of the SGH instrument remain the original Swell and Great, which were never altered in any way at any subsequent re-build, and these are what dominates the musical character of the instrument.

 

I would add, that for the big Tuba experience, one should forget the Anglican Cathedral. That is certainly one ginormous sound, but it is in a HUGE building. SGH is large, but not very large, with a huge 5 to 6 seconds of reverberation. The marble flooring ensures that no sound is lost, and when that big Tuba is used, YOU KNOW ABOUT IT!

 

As almost a footnote, I'm grateful that Brian brings up the Trompette Militaire stops at St.Paul's and Sheffield City Hall, both of which have spun-brass resonators. For years, the name of Wurlitzer was associated with these ranks, but in reality, they were made by the same reed-maker who supplied Wurlitzer, so the myth isn't quite true.

 

That said, one must assume that they are very much the same as a Wurlitzer rank, with plenty of attitude and a rather strident demeanour.

 

Finally, Cecil Clutton stated, right at the end of his account, that (this organ) "must be accounted as one of the world's half-dozen finest organs"

 

He may well be right, but in any event, it is an instrument which leaves an unforgettable memory, but be warned, should anyone get to play this instrument as I have, you will have absolutely NO IDEA just what sonic hell is hitting the hall behind you, as you sit almost in the bowels of the instrument, at that lovely console, which somehow reminds me of a Duesenburg Phaton or a Bugatti Royale.

 

Cecil Clutton would have preferred the latter, I think!

 

MM

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Guest Roffensis

All well said, but the reverb in the hall is a clean 8 and a half seconds when empty. I know because I have timed it by stopwatch. It also goes without saying that this organ was hailed as the "Poe of Organs" ;) whatever that means......and is still considered one of the five finest in the world. I do not know what the other four are supposed to be!

R

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This may sound like heresy, but I actually walked out of a recital at SGH last year, unable to stand any more of the deluge of decibels from the distinguished recitalist. To my taste, at least, it is all too big and too loud.

 

I do not know whether anyone has drawn up a considered strategy for the restoration of this historic instrument - I doubt it somehow. Surely the money spent a few years ago on new drawstops and fancy capture systems would have been better spent on more urgent and essential repairs.

 

The present instrument is a far cry from that presided over by Best and Pearce, and I, for one, would like to see this unique Victorian survival returned to an earlier incarnation, certainly pre-1930, perhaps to a state either of these gentlemen would recognise and one more in keeping with the ethos of the beautifully restored Hall itself. Should we be seeking to preserve an overblown monster in a city which already has one, albeit superlative, very grand organ.

 

How far back should one go? How 'historically informed' should any restoration be? These are the sort of conservationist questions we should be asking. Maybe BIOS should take a lead with a Conference or Symposium on the subject.

 

All this may be purely hypothetical but maybe it's time we had some original thinking.

 

JS

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This may sound like heresy, but I actually walked out of a recital at SGH last year, unable to stand any more of the deluge of decibels from the distinguished recitalist.  To my taste, at least, it is all too big and too loud.

 

I do not know whether anyone has drawn up a considered strategy for the restoration of this historic instrument - I doubt it somehow.  Surely the money spent a few years ago on new drawstops and fancy capture systems would have been better spent on more urgent and essential repairs.

 

The present instrument is a far cry from that presided over by Best and Pearce, and I, for one, would like to see this unique Victorian survival returned to an earlier incarnation, certainly pre-1930, perhaps to a state either of these gentlemen would recognise and one more in keeping with the ethos of the beautifully restored Hall itself.  Should we be seeking to preserve an overblown monster in a city which already has one, albeit superlative, very grand organ.

 

How far back should one go?  How 'historically informed' should any restoration be?  These are the sort of conservationist questions we should be asking.  Maybe BIOS should take a lead with a Conference or Symposium on the subject.

 

All this may be purely hypothetical but maybe it's time we had some original thinking.

 

JS

 

 

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

 

 

Mmmmm!

 

Somehow, I can quite believe this, as indeed I can the same thing about the organ of Hull City Hall; another enormously powerful instrument.

 

Interestingly, both instruments share a common problem, in so much as the performer does not hear what is going over the top of the head; especially at Liverpool, where the console is a bit like a cave entrance.

 

However, John Sayer raises an interesting point about restoration, which I think would present particular problems at Liverpool. The organ, as originally built, had the long-compass manuals, but a CC pedal, as I mentioned previously. More importantly, much of the original Mixture work was removed, and various things were re-voiced, including the Tubas. Critically, this work was done by Fr Willis.

 

Of course, in the 1930's rebuild, the Choir organ was enclosed, WHICH MUST HAVE BEEN A GOOD THING. Anyone who has lived with a Fr Willis organ, as I have, knows that the unenclosed Choir can be something of a headache, and really rather inflexible.

 

Apart from the enclosure of the Choir, and the re-voicing and enclosure of the revoiced (new?) Tuba chorus at 16, 8 and 4ft, plus the new French Horn among other things, the only real addition to the original instrument was the new Tuba Mirabilis and the Grand Chorus Mixture.

 

The interesting thing about the Grand Chorus Mixture is the fact that it adds power and body, but the quality of sound is no better for it or without it.

 

Big Tubas are big tubas, and the SGH example is as good as they come. If the "old" Tubas were to be restored, I somehow doubt that the organ would be less powerful than it is at present.

 

The Swell, Great and most of the Pedal organ remain original.

 

So even taking the organ back from whence it started, would have little effect on the overall power of the instrument, but would ensure that it became a much less expressive beast than it is to-day, and much less capable of ravishly beautiful softer sounds.

 

Far from being "overblown," the organ at SGH is realtively modest, compared to (for example), a Compton organ.

 

The Swell, Great, Choir, Solo and Pedal flues are all on pressures between 4.5" ad 5" wg, whilst the chorus reeds are largely on 6" to 6.5", with the exception of two Swell reeds on 6" to 8.75"wg.

 

That is fairly standard Fr Willis practice; the highest pressures reserved for the harmonic trebles.

 

The highest pressures are reserved for the big reeds and orchestral reeds, which

vary between 10" and 30", with the Pedal reeds being on 20" wg.

 

Make no mistake, this was always a very loud organ, and it falls upon the organist to make best use of what is available, without going over-the-top with massive registrations.

 

MM

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

Mmmmm!

 

Somehow, I can quite believe this, as indeed I can the same thing about the organ of Hull City Hall; another enormously powerful instrument.

 

 

 

Hi MM,

 

Many thanks for all the useful information about the SGH organ. Although I do have a copy of the Dearnley LP it is away somewhere safe and hardly accessible.

 

As regards the Hull City Hall organ the last time I heard it live was under the hands of Peter Goodman when the luminous touch Compton console was still in situ which could of course be moved to the front of the stage and invariably was for solo recitals. I do not recall it being unduly problematic then to form an impression of the volume level being generated, so I wondered if you consider that the new fixed console has been the cause of, or at least a major contribution to the problem ?

 

Brian Childs

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Hi MM,

 

 

As regards the Hull City Hall organ the last time I heard it live was under the hands of Peter Goodman when the luminous touch Compton console was still in situ which could of course be moved to the front of the stage and invariably was for solo  recitals. I do not recall it being unduly problematic then to form an impression of the volume level  being generated, so I wondered if you consider that  the new fixed console has been the cause of, or at least a major contribution to the problem ?

 

Brian Childs

 

 

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

 

 

I played the organ at Hull City Hall about two years after the R & D re-build with the console in the fixed position.

 

I warned the OA members present, that I would use absolutely full organ only once, and very, very briefly for the last chord of the Widor.

 

At the console, it sounded impressive enough, but a glance in the mirror said it all, as the assembled company bowed their heads and grimaced....absolutely over the top in the volume stakes.

 

I always recall what Peter Goodman said to me, "Don't use all the reeds at the same time. It's rather loud!"

 

Andrew Leach, of Hull, put it rather more pointedly, when he said, "It's a hell of a bloody noise, flat out, you know."

 

I haven't played it since they put the carpeting down.

 

Hull City Hall used to be quite resonant, and not a lot of volume was lost, due to the fact that the organ is quite shallow but very wide. St George's Hall is similar, but "in extremis" in terms of resonance and a total lack of absorbency in the building, so that even quiet things sound "mf" very often.

 

In fact, I checked the dimensions of SGH, and it is only 176ft long and 77ft wide...roughly 3 articulated trucks by 1.5 trucks....certainly not cathedral size by any means, and with a clear sight line to the organ from almost everywhere.

 

I think this is the nub of the problem, for nowadays, we tend to hear both these instruments in fairly empty halls, whereas, in the heyday of organ concerts, they would both be packed out, resulting in less resonance and increased absorbency.

 

Of course, the astonishing thing about SGH is the fact that Fr Willis was only around 30 years of age when he built that instrument, and it was his first really big concert organ.

 

Other than his great rival William Hill, could anyone have done it as well?

 

MM

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This may sound like heresy, but I actually walked out of a recital at SGH last year, unable to stand any more of the deluge of decibels from the distinguished recitalist.  To my taste, at least, it is all too big and too loud.

 

I do not know whether anyone has drawn up a considered strategy for the restoration of this historic instrument - I doubt it somehow.  Surely the money spent a few years ago on new drawstops and fancy capture systems would have been better spent on more urgent and essential repairs.

 

The present instrument is a far cry from that presided over by Best and Pearce, and I, for one, would like to see this unique Victorian survival returned to an earlier incarnation, certainly pre-1930, perhaps to a state either of these gentlemen would recognise and one more in keeping with the ethos of the beautifully restored Hall itself.  Should we be seeking to preserve an overblown monster in a city which already has one, albeit superlative, very grand organ.

 

How far back should one go?  How 'historically informed' should any restoration be?  These are the sort of conservationist questions we should be asking.  Maybe BIOS should take a lead with a Conference or Symposium on the subject.

 

All this may be purely hypothetical but maybe it's time we had some original thinking.

 

JS

 

I couldn't agree more re a historic restoration. But some of the organ was so drastically altered in 1931, that it probably just isn't feasible. Restoration status qou is probably the only safe way to do it. The current restoration work will doubtless improve the winding of the instrument. I am sure Nicholsons will be concienciously using very best quality leather for this unique and important organ, rather than farming out the work to a small firm who for example may be cheaper but not up to scratch, as some other builders in the world may do today, by sub contracting out. I am sure Nicholsons will do an excellent job. I imagine they see their work as a real privilege, and I am sure they value it immensely. I very much look forward to hearing it again.

R

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as the "Poe of Organs"  :lol: whatever that means......

 

 

I suspect a simple misprint at some stage. Either "pope" or "poet" would make more immediate sense to an ordinary hearer, unless the reference is to the habit of having the organ as the instrument of choice in films of Gothic horror stories.

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I suspect a simple misprint at some stage. Either "pope" or "poet" would make more immediate sense to an ordinary hearer, unless the reference is to the habit of having the organ as the instrument of choice in films of Gothic horror stories.

 

Any organist with a regular church job would recognize the nightmare that is Poe's "Three Sundays in a Week".

 

Michael

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Any organist with a regular church job would recognize the nightmare that is Poe's "Three Sundays in a Week".

 

Michael

 

The organist might well but would the organ ? Unless it would, or is to be treated as so doing, it is difficult to imagine a line of thought that connects the saying with a description of the organ.

 

BAC

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