Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Musica Mirabilis


John Sayer
 Share

Recommended Posts

I wonder if anyone else was among the audience filling the choir of York Minster for Francis Jackson's quite remarkable recital yesterday evening?

 

His 80 minute programme comprised Bach P&F in E flat, Peeters - Variations on an Original Theme and his own Symphony Op 21, a wonderfully convincing piece of advocacy for his own music and all from one shortly to celebrate his 89th birthday and who has been associated with this great building for no less than 77 years. The standing ovation at the end was really quite touching.

 

My only slight criticism - and nothing to do with Dr Jackson I hasten to add - is why the audience is obliged to sit in the choir when so much of the organ is nave-oriented since Geoffrey Coffin's rebuilding. To my ears at least, the Great chorus, for example, sounded somewhat remote and the Mirabilis firing off westwards down the nave a strange aural experience.

 

JS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder if anyone else was among the audience filling the choir of York Minster for Francis Jackson's quite remarkable recital yesterday evening?

 

His 80 minute programme comprised Bach P&F in E flat, Peeters - Variations on an Original Theme and his own Symphony Op 21, a wonderfully convincing piece of advocacy for his own music and all from one shortly to celebrate his 89th birthday and who has been associated with this great building for no less than 77 years.  The standing ovation at the end was really quite touching. 

 

My only slight criticism - and nothing to do with Dr Jackson I hasten to add - is why the audience is obliged to sit in the choir when so much of the organ is nave-oriented since Geoffrey Coffin's rebuilding.  To my ears at least, the Great chorus, for example, sounded somewhat remote and the Mirabilis firing off westwards down the nave a strange aural experience.

 

JS

 

 

My experience is that this instrument is much more successful in the choir than it is in the nave. Firstly, of course, the choir organ is in the choir, not the nave. If the audience were in the nave, the choir organ would be virtually useless. But more importantly, the organ's sound becomes very distant once the listener is west of the tower. It is completely incapable of giving a lead to a large congregation, notwithstanding the tuba mirabilis. It seems to me the only solution is to put some pipework in the nave. Perhaps a set of Klais tubas, as at the west end of Cologne Cathedral would do the job :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My experience is that this instrument is much more successful in the choir than it is in the nave.  Firstly, of course, the choir organ is in the choir, not the nave.  If the audience were in the nave, the choir organ would be virtually useless.  But more importantly, the organ's sound becomes very distant once the listener is west of the tower.  It is completely incapable of giving a lead to a large congregation, notwithstanding the tuba mirabilis.  It seems to me the only solution is to put some pipework in the nave.  Perhaps a set of Klais tubas, as at the west end of Cologne Cathedral would do the job :)

 

At the last rebuild a nave organ was mooted, subject to available funds. Nothing yet, however.

 

There is a narrow gallery under the west window which is crying out for some Mander Royal Trumpets!

 

John

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My experience is that this instrument is much more successful in the choir than it is in the nave.  Firstly, of course, the choir organ is in the choir, not the nave.  If the audience were in the nave, the choir organ would be virtually useless.  But more importantly, the organ's sound becomes very distant once the listener is west of the tower.  It is completely incapable of giving a lead to a large congregation, notwithstanding the tuba mirabilis.  It seems to me the only solution is to put some pipework in the nave.  Perhaps a set of Klais tubas, as at the west end of Cologne Cathedral would do the job :)

 

 

Thanks - one possible alternative might be to seat some of the audience on the west side of the crossing, i.e. at the junction with the nave, just behind the nave altar. This arrangement seems to work well enough here in Ripon - admittedly a much smaller space - with recitalists treating the Choir division as an echo organ.

 

The ideal solution at York, of course, would be to reinstate the 3m Hill (?) instrument that stood in the nave in the 19th century and maybe make it playable from the main console.

 

JS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The ideal solution at York, of course, would be to reinstate the 3m Hill (?) instrument that stood in the nave in the 19th century and maybe make it playable from the main console.
Well, perhaps a Hill organ rather than the Hill organ, which was said to be refined, but lacking in boldness and brilliancy.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Said by who though - an impartial observer, or someone who wanted to have it rebuilt along their own lines?

 

 

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

 

Well, this was the organ which, of course, had the most absurd specification in the history of British organ-building.

 

In an attempt to fill the vast acoustic and space of York Minster, the organ specification grew and grew, and in 1859, the following registers were to be found in the Pedal and Great Organs, with a similar amount of duplication on the Swell organ.

 

Pedal CC Compass-c1 25 notes

 

Double Open Diapason 32

Double Open Diapason 32

Double Stopped Diapason 32

Open Diapason 1 16

Open Diapason 2 16

Open Diapason 3 16

Sackbut 32

Trumpet 16

Trumpet 8

 

 

Great

Compass- CC- c 61 notes

 

Open Diapason 1 8

Open Diapason 2 8

Open Diapason 3 8

Open Diapason 4 8

Stopped Diapason 1 8

Stopped Diapason 2 8

Principal 1 4

Principal 2 4

Principal 3 4

Principal 4 4

Principal 5 4

Principal 6 4

Principal 7 4 1859

Principal 8 4 1859

Principal 9 4 1859

Principal 10 4 1859

Twelfth & Fifteenth 2 2/3 & 2

Twelfth & Fifteenth 2 2/3 & 2

Fifteenth 1 2

Fifteenth 2 2 1859

Fifteenth 3 2 1859

Fifteenth 4 2

Tierce 1 3/5

Tierce 1 3/5

Larigot 1 1/3

Cornet X

Sesquialtra VII

Sesquialtra VII

Cymbel VII

Trumpet 1 8

Trumpet 2 8

Trumpet 3 8

Trumpet 4 8

Clarion 1 4 1859

Clarion 2 4 1859

 

 

I suspect that it didn't take them very long to realise, that merely duplicating a lot of refined and quietly voiced ranks does not increase the volume by very much, and this organ was something of a disaster.

 

On paper, it SHOULD have filled two York Minsters!

 

That same problem is heard to-day at York, for in spite of the Bairstow/ Arthur Harrison re-build, the addition of the Tuba Mirabilis (etc), and then the re-build by J W Walker, the original fluework is not at all assertive.

 

I believe a new chorus was stitched to the organ by Jeffrey Coffin, and of course, a new chamade now points East, but still, the basic organ sounds distant, even a few feet west of the the stone choir-screen; not helped by the huge space of the central tower, into which quite a lot of the sound gets lost.

 

The trouble is, the instrument has real character, and many people actually like it.

 

Taking a more detached view, the instrument should perhaps be totally replaced, but that would possibly cause riots on the streets of York!!

 

Sadly, in spite of the "extras" to the instrument in recent years, the big Tuba is still an essential when it comes to big congregational events such as the Christmas Eve Carol Service.

 

Frankly, it's a fairly hideous acoustic, and if ever there was a supreme case for projecting tone from tone-cabinets, this is it.

 

Not a bad building though!

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
======================

 

 

 

 

Frankly, it's a fairly hideous acoustic, and if ever there was a supreme case for projecting tone from tone-cabinets, this is it.

 

Not a bad building though!

 

MM

 

 

 

York Minster and Liverpool Cathedral are the only buildings in the UK with a larger inside space than the Millennium Dome. To fill all that vast area with one (musical-sounding) organ is asking an almost unreasonable amount.

 

I love the York Minster organ, and would be horrified if anyone were to suggest that it be binned and replaced with something that would 'do the job better'. Frankly the job mostly consists of making music in the choir area. The fact that the famous Tuba faces West is the reason for Geoffrey Coffin's new Bombarde stop, added at the recent rebuilding.

 

I agree that some more pipework further down the building might help - something along the lines of the superb Nave Organ recently added to Lichfield, perhaps. This blends so well with the original Hill (there) that it is hard to tell from which direction the sound is coming when both organs are in use. The problem is, as always, such improvements are expensive! I think I am right in saying that Nicholson's bill for a Nave Organ chorus (one manual only, no pedals stops) and a new case at Portsmouth Cathedral came to £130k!

 

Recently at HTH we had a wedding up in the choir area (not as big as York Minster, but huge for all that) with me supplying essential, artistic (and well-paid) noises from the four-manual Compton console (located as it is in the nave, some hundred yards away from God's Local Representative). Nothing unusual so far - but then the PA system went down completely. One is prompted to ask, these buildings have been around for a very long time - well before the blessing of modern aplification technology. How on earth did they ever manage with high altars and full naves in the days of yore? Only employ clergymen with barrel chests?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

P.S. Sorry to argue with you, but I reckon that Tone Cabinets are a 60s/70s fad which cannot (on their own) do all that much to improve tone or output. The single thing that they can do is make a scratchy, ill-blended chorus sound as if it belongs together! Looking at historic instruments abroad, there are at least as many organs without them as with them. Gloucester Cathedral (for instance) was proudly built with the Great covered over - but to increase the volume the tone cabinet roof was removed later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

P.S. Sorry to argue with you, but I reckon that Tone Cabinets are a 60s/70s fad which cannot (on their own) do all that much to improve tone or output.  The single thing that they can do is make a scratchy, ill-blended chorus sound as if it belongs together!  Looking at historic instruments abroad, there are at least as many organs without them as with them. Gloucester Cathedral (for instance) was proudly built with the Great covered over - but to increase the volume the tone cabinet roof was removed later.

 

 

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

 

I can't help but think that this is an ever so slightly odd reply.

 

A Swell Box can make the majority of sound go in one direction, and the concept of a "scratchy, ill-blending chorus" is just that.....not a valid argument against tone-cabinets.

 

Tone cabinets are merely acoustic devices, like the sounding-boards above pulpits. They simply focus sound....good or bad....in particular directions.

 

I too love the organ at York, and I wouldn't WANT to see it replaced, but if someone DID, I might well understand WHY they did.

 

The big problem at York is the sheer scale of the acoustic diffusion, where sound goes a long way up and a long way sideways before hitting solid rock, and it is for this reason that music tends to sound better in the choir, into which at least some of the organ speaks, or is at close quarters from a more elevated position.

 

I suspect that no organ would ever really overcome the acoustical problems, but after a while, I suppose one gets used to it. I know this, because if anyone has ever heard a choir, with orchestra, singing to the west of the screen, it can STILL sound distant, but certainly not as distant as music sung in the choir and heard from the nave.

 

A difficult building, to say the least, but ever so beautiful.

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Barry Oakley
Recently at HTH we had a wedding up in the choir area (not as big as York Minster, but huge for all that) with me supplying essential, artistic (and well-paid) noises from the four-manual Compton console (located as it is in the nave, some hundred yards away from God's Local Representative). Nothing unusual so far - but then the PA system went down completely. One is prompted to ask, these buildings have been around for a very long time - well before the blessing of modern aplification technology. How on earth did they ever manage with high altars and full naves in the days of yore? Only employ clergymen with barrel chests?

 

I think it would be interesting, Paul, to know what the set-up was at Holy Trinity pre reformation. I’m not sure that any records exist at HT of an organ so far back. But perhaps it is worth bearing in mind that in Catholic pre reformation days it was customary in our cathedrals and larger churches, particularly if there was any monastic order attached as there was at Holy Trinity (Black Friars and White Friars), for the choir only to be filled with priests and monks. The congregation was kept strictly in the nave. In many cases they were only aware of what was happening at key times during the Mass by means of the altar bell, e.g. at the elevation. The only singing would have come from the monastic element in the choir part of the building. The peace was usually brought down to the congregation from the high altar by the sub deacon. Only those seated in the choir would have received the Host.

 

Perhaps if there was an organ at HT in those long distant days the organist would probably have been located in the choir. Maybe there was just a cantor? But knowing of your plans for the HT organ, the problem you have just encountered would of course be rectified.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The ideal solution at York, of course, would be to reinstate the 3m Hill (?) instrument that stood in the nave in the 19th century and maybe make it playable from the main console.

 

Well, this was the organ which, of course, had the most absurd specification in the history of British organ-building

 

 

MM,

 

Although I doubt if anyone (except perhaps one resident of Ohio?!?) would contest your assertion that the design of the Ward/Camidge organ was utterly bonkers, are you certain that it was sited in the nave? I was always under the impression that this instrument stood on (and presumably, like its successor, partially within) the screen.

 

The 1863 nave organ by Hill:

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D07988

still exits, and stands in St Thomas, Radcliffe:

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N01665

 

The Minster’s booklet on the organs contains an old picture of the nave showing this organ situated on the north side, in approximately the space now occupied by the nave console. It also shows the screen organ with a rather unsightly swell box protruding from above the case, and I think that it is also possible to see the original Hill chamade.

 

Cheers,

 

Paul.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The ideal solution at York, of course, would be to reinstate the 3m Hill (?) instrument that stood in the nave in the 19th century and maybe make it playable from the main console.

 

Well, this was the organ which, of course, had the most absurd specification in the history of British organ-building

MM,

 

Although I doubt if anyone (except perhaps one resident of Ohio?!?) would  contest your assertion that the design Ward/Camidge organ was utterly bonkers, are you certain that it was sited in the nave?  I was always under the impression that this instrument stood on (and presumably, like its successor, partially within) the screen.

 

The 1863 nave organ by Hill:

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D07988

still exits, and stands in St Thomas, Radcliffe:

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N01665

 

The Minster’s booklet on the organs contains an old picture of the nave showing this organ situated on the north side, in approximately the space now occupied by the nave console.  It also shows the screen organ with a rather unsightly swell box protruding from above the case, and I think that it is also possible to see the original Hill chamade.

 

Cheers,

 

Paul.

 

 

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

 

Oh crumbs!

 

I was quite unaware that there had been two organs at York!

 

I don't think I actually said where the organ was, but I had assumed that it was the nave organ to which reference was made.

 

I suppose I will now discover that the 1859 spec related to a screen-organ.

 

Anyway....it was....completely bonkers!

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...