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Jeremy Jones

Canterbury Cathedral Organ

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An article by Ruth Gledhill in todays' Times newspaper says Canterbury Cathedral needs £50m to rescue its crumbling infrastructure, including £4m for organ refurbishment. Clearly there must be more organ tucked away up in the triforium than previously thought!

 

Anyway, I checked out the cathedral's shiny new website here where it says that "an instrument of unusual flexibility and size is required to provide thrilling music to accompany services and other events".

 

Confusingly, it states that £4m is needed for organ replacement , as part of the overall conservation bill, but then further down the page it says the Grand Organ is now in need of refurbishment at an estimated cost of £4m.

 

Well, which is it? Replacement or refurbishment? Does anyone know?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
An article by Ruth Gledhill in todays' Times newspaper says Canterbury Cathedral needs £50m to rescue its crumbling infrastructure, including £4m for organ refurbishment. Clearly there must be more organ tucked away up in the triforium than previously thought!

 

Anyway, I checked out the cathedral's shiny new website here where it says that "an instrument of unusual flexibility and size is required to provide thrilling music to accompany services and other events".

 

Confusingly, it states that £4m is needed for organ replacement , as part of the overall conservation bill, but then further down the page it says the Grand Organ is now in need of refurbishment  at an estimated cost of £4m.

 

Well, which is it? Replacement or refurbishment? Does anyone know?

 

 

Apart from the obvious lack of proper Solo stops (other than Tubas) and the rather loud Choir division, what's there is very fine in my humble opinion. I would be horrified to think that any of that would be binned. Mind you, there are always people ready to go for some latest fashion, but I wouldn't have thought that David Flood would be one of them!

 

Put it this way, there's been a fuss about Worcester and (IMHO) the Canterbury Willis/Mander is in another league altogether - small deficiencies aside. It'd be good to see it go back to four manuals at the very least. Here's one vote for a decent rebuild at the hands of Manders or H&H! They'd both make a superb job of it - I am totally convinced that this would be better than commissioning any possible brand new machine.

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Guest Barry Oakley

Perhaps Canterbury has plans to roughly revert to the lines of the 1940’s 4-manual by Henry Willis, but it’s going to be one hell of a rebuild/refurbishment if £4 million is being sought for the project. I can’t imagine this sort of money being needed, but if they do manage to raise that sum perhaps the Cathedral’s chapter might consider donating around £700K of it to Holy Trinity, Hull, for their organ’s much needed renovation. Why don’t you drop them a line, Paul?

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Guest Roffensis
An article by Ruth Gledhill in todays' Times newspaper says Canterbury Cathedral needs £50m to rescue its crumbling infrastructure, including £4m for organ refurbishment. Clearly there must be more organ tucked away up in the triforium than previously thought!

 

Anyway, I checked out the cathedral's shiny new website here where it says that "an instrument of unusual flexibility and size is required to provide thrilling music to accompany services and other events".

 

Confusingly, it states that £4m is needed for organ replacement , as part of the overall conservation bill, but then further down the page it says the Grand Organ is now in need of refurbishment  at an estimated cost of £4m.

 

Well, which is it? Replacement or refurbishment? Does anyone know?

 

I suspect it may be a new nave organ, and refurbishment of the Willis 9surely one hopes common sense will prevail here at least...... )

 

Two things.....firstly any organ in the choir which is loud enough in the nave is going to be shattering in the choir, in fact the current is very loud in the choir. Secondly, I doubt any architect would allow any large organ in the nave, I was surprised the nave organ ever went in, not least because of the classical case that contains it is at complete loggerheards to the gothic nave. This is surely our finest gothic nave, and one would not wish to see any organ obscuring the architecture. It would need in any case to be floor standing as the walls will probably not take the weight, think of the several strainer arches and you will see my point!! So ideally there, keep a small nave organ, larger than the current, but in a decent case to match the building. I have to say the current nave organ is adequate for its purpose. To return to the Willis, when you consider the solo (bar Tubas) was lopped off in 1978, and most of the choir (two stops kept) , you are faced with duplicating new pipework to blend with the older Wiliis pipework, of which very much still remains and is verey fine indeed. Certainly Willis at his very best. The 32 flue was also removed, and that should return, together with a new solo and choir built on Willis lines, and a new console ditto. In fact the return of the old 1949 would be good, as it was a work of art, easy to get around, and very handsome indeed. I seriously doubt any British builder could do all this, given their histories of what has been done to this organ and others, and have to say it will appear curious to me for one, that X builder can spoil an organ then be allowed to make up for the gross errors and to the tune of 4m no less.

Richard

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I seriously doubt any British builder could do all this, given their  histories of what has been done to this organ and others, and have to say it will appear curious to me for one, that X builder can spoil an organ then be allowed to make up for the gross errors and to the tune of 4m no less.

Richard

 

I think organ builders tend to have to do what they're told. I've never heard anyone say the work there is poorly executed.

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Guest Andrew Butler
Two things.....firstly any organ in the choir which is loud enough in the nave is going to be shattering in the choir, in fact the current is very loud in the choir.

 

I'm not sure that I agree - I have accompanied a visiting choir at Canterbury, and used up to Great to mixture with the no.1 open diap + full swell (and I'm talking choir alone in the canticles, not congregational hymns)

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Guest Roffensis
I'm not sure that I agree - I have accompanied a visiting choir at Canterbury, and used up to Great to mixture with the no.1 open diap + full swell (and I'm talking choir alone in the canticles, not congregational hymns)

 

 

Yes, but you would not want it any louder in the choir would you!! It's enough as is for that purpose, the nave is the problem, and always was has been.

 

R

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

There are still voicers who know what they're doing.... I'm 100% convinced of it. It might have been only a narrow squeak that saved us losing this vital knowledge and expertise when virtually all firms were commissioned to build almost nothing but bubble-and-squeak jobs twenty and thirty years ago, but these guys are still around. The proof is there when one can hear and really enjoy 'replacement' Hill stuff re-created by Manders at Eton and Harrisons at Lichfield. H&H have produced 're-creation' Willis at St.David's and Manders ditto at St.Pauls and The Albert Hall.

 

This talk about tonal infelicities being the builders' fault is very common. Regularly one hears moans along the lines of 'so-and-so' spoiled this job or that job. Obviously there is and always will be poor work around, not surprising since so many jobs are done on an unrealistically tight budget. In the case of well-known firms (charging proper rates) producing unpleasant results: practically always, firms have simply done what the customer or the customer's adviser asked for. As some here know, I am not currently a Nicholson fan, but I know at least one disappointing job of theirs where virtually all the inadequacies of their instrument are down to the builders being given official instructions to 'tone the instrument down'.

 

A classic case: There is a recent organ in the West End of London where the (English) organ-builders have placed a disclaimer inside the organ because they were obliged to use scalings that they considered quite inappropriate. These had been firmly set down by the adviser. The origins of said scalings are thought to lie in the papers left by the adviser's late husband!

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Guest Andrew Butler
Yes, but you would not want it any louder in the choir would you!! It's enough as is for that purpose, the nave is the problem, and always was has been.

 

R

 

No, I agree. The point I was making (not particularly well I have to say!) was that for choir accompaniment the present instrument is not too loud - which to my mind is a good thing. Try using that much great at say, Ely, or Coventry. That I find somewhat limiting.

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No, I agree. The point I was making (not particularly well I have to say!) was that for choir accompaniment the present instrument is not too loud - which to my mind is a good thing. Try using that much great at say, Ely, or Coventry. That I find somewhat limiting.

 

Indeed. In fact, at Coventry, the GO is only normally used as a coupling clavier when accompanying a choir.

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Guest Roffensis
No, I agree. The point I was making (not particularly well I have to say!) was that for choir accompaniment the present instrument is not too loud - which to my mind is a good thing. Try using that much great at say, Ely, or Coventry. That I find somewhat limiting.

 

Too true, yes Canterbury is ideal for choral work, but it needs more accompanimental stops, although used judiciously, it can still work excellently. It's also great for recitals, and perfect in the choir area. It falls short in a couple of ways, but these can be certainly addressed, without spoiling or obliterating/clouding the nucleus which remains to us a very fine Father Willis. Of the others you mention....well! :ph34r:

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Guest delvin146
Apart from the obvious lack of proper Solo stops (other than Tubas) and the rather loud Choir division, what's there is very fine in my humble opinion. I would be horrified to think that any of that would be binned.  Mind you, there are always people ready to go for some latest fashion, but I wouldn't have thought that David Flood would be one of them!

 

Put it this way, there's been a fuss about Worcester and (IMHO) the Canterbury Willis/Mander is in another league altogether - small deficiencies aside. It'd be good to see it go back to four manuals at the very least.  Here's one vote for a decent rebuild at the hands of Manders or H&H!  They'd both make a superb job of it - I am totally convinced that this would be better than commissioning any possible brand new machine.

 

I have to agree wholeheartedly with this.

 

I've got a feeling I might have expressed my views on the Canterbury organ before, but for what it's worth I'd do so again.

 

Personally speaking, I don't think anything in the choir is going to get sound into the nave. It's just the way it is. What's left of that Willis is excellent, and it would be good to get the lopped off divisions back. If space is a problem could the organ not be dispursed North/South triforia, instead of having it all packed into one side? Afterall it works at St Pauls and Westminster Abbey.

 

The current nave organ doesn't seem bad, apart from the case which doesn't really look period. How about replacing the case of the existing organ, and putting another new identical one to the replacement on the south side, if more organ is needed down there.

 

If more sound is required in the nave on occasions, I cannot see why a professional amplicifaction company with experience in dealing with cathedral acoustics could not be employed to mike the Willis through speakers concealed high up in the nave. Perhaps this would save a lot of money on a cathedral which appears to need a lot spending on it anyway. A switch located on a preferably "new" four decker console could bring the amp and speakers into play as and when required for big services.

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The current nave organ doesn't seem bad, apart from the case which doesn't really look period.

 

Period? You want to build a gothic case?

 

If more sound is required in the nave on occasions, I cannot see why a professional amplicifaction company with experience in dealing with cathedral acoustics could not be employed to mike the Willis through speakers concealed high up in the nave.  Perhaps this would save a lot of money on a cathedral which appears to need a lot spending on it anyway. A switch located on a preferably "new" four decker console could bring the amp and speakers into play as and when required for big services.

 

You could just get a digital, in that case. The principle is the same, isn't it?

 

Have a good day

Barry

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My personal theory, which I am ready and willing to accept is entirely wrong, is that nave divisions don't actually have to make much noise and have more to do with providing definition. More or less any noise at all will do - as long as there's something. If space is tight, how about this being the ideal application for an extension job - Flutes 8 4, Principals 4 2, and a Mixture or Trumpet if room?

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My personal theory, which I am ready and willing to accept is entirely wrong, is that nave divisions don't actually have to make much noise and have more to do with providing definition.  More or less any noise at all will do - as long as there's something.  If space is tight, how about this being the ideal application for an extension job - Flutes 8 4, Principals 4 2, and a Mixture or Trumpet if room?

 

 

Well, within reason. I am not sure that a Sharp Mixture and a Bourdon would be very useful. I would also prefer a choice of foundation stops - one of them a diapason.

 

I would suggest:

 

Sub Bass 16 (Pedal)

 

Quintatön 16

Open Diapason 8

Stopped Diapason 8

Octave 4

Wald Flute 4

Fifteenth 2

 

 

I am not even sure that a mixture is necessary, given that it will probably not make hearing a melody clearer for a congregation.

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I agree with pcnd about the need for foundation stops and David Coram that it doesn't need to be loud but provide definition. A 16' flue on the manuals is also useful for accompanying a congregation as it gives support to the men's voices singing the melody an octave lower. One does need to watch out for muddiness, of course. I don't know whether you'd need one on the nave division though - that could be provided by the main organ

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I agree with pcnd about the need for foundation stops. A 16' flue on the manuals is also useful for accompanying a congregation as it gives support to the men's voices singing the melody an octave lower. One does need to watch out for muddiness, of course.

 

Indeed, I am convinced that many people do not use enough 16p tone in this country. Of course, one cannot generalise, but I find my Quintatön on the GO invaluable. I hope also to have the 16p open metal diapason rank re-instated some day. (At present, it has been revoiced and is only available on the Pedal Organ.)

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Indeed, I am convinced that many people do not use enough 16p tone in this country.

I'm sure a good trip round the Hele organs in this area would cure you of that. I'm sorry, but I really can't agree that 16' manual flues support anything at all in hymn tunes. A good firm 16' pedal line should provide all that is necessary in that region.

 

16' manual flues do come into their own when playing piano reductions of orchestral accompaniments - they help fill that gaping hole between the right hand and the pedals (though personally I prefer to fill out the texture with my left hand).

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I'm sure a good trip round the Hele organs in this area would cure you of that. I'm sorry, but I really can't agree that 16' manual flues support anything at all in hymn tunes. A good firm 16' pedal line should provide all that is necessary in that region.

 

16' manual flues do come into their own when playing piano reductions of orchestral accompaniments - they help fill that gaping hole between the right hand and the pedals (though personally I prefer to fill out the texture with my left hand).

 

I know several of the Hele instruments in your neck of the woods, including a few which have been discarded and one which was lost when the church (Buckfastleigh) had an arson attack. I'd go along with you - liquid mud and not in need of any further gravitas. The only time I have ever felt a Pedal Dull Thud 16 to be inadequate was on the old Hele at St Luke's Buckfast, an exceptionally dreary instrument, now gone.

 

I can't begin to imagine hymn accompaniments without my two Gt 16 flues though! Absolutely invaluable. Then again I also have lots and lots of bright upperwork so perhaps the balance is necessary.

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My personal theory, which I am ready and willing to accept is entirely wrong, is that nave divisions don't actually have to make much noise and have more to do with providing definition.  More or less any noise at all will do - as long as there's something.  If space is tight, how about this being the ideal application for an extension job - Flutes 8 4, Principals 4 2, and a Mixture or Trumpet if room?

 

Having done a great deal of experimenting with extension, a great lot depends on the pipework and voicer.

 

If you have a metal cnnister flute, tuned at the ears for the 8 & 4, and a conical Gemshorn for the 4 & 2 and the right voicer, the result can be spectacular and musical.

 

FF

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I'm sure a good trip round the Hele organs in this area would cure you of that. I'm sorry, but I really can't agree that 16' manual flues support anything at all in hymn tunes. A good firm 16' pedal line should provide all that is necessary in that region.

 

 

Conversely, a quick trip around the (very bright) instrument in my own church (and a number of good French organs) may convince you that you may need to re-consider, VH!

 

I have heard a number of old Hele organs and would agree that one would need to use less 8p stops. However, I still maintain that decent 16p tone on the claviers is extremely useful - even when accompanying a congregation.

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I can't begin to imagine hymn accompaniments without my two Gt 16 flues though!  Absolutely invaluable.  Then again I also have lots and lots of bright upperwork so perhaps the balance is necessary.

 

But not as much (or as bright) as I do....!

 

:(

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Conversely, a quick trip around the (very bright) instrument in my own church (and a number of good French organs) may convince you that you may need to re-consider, VH!

 

I have heard a number of old Hele organs and would agree that one would need to use less 8p stops. However, I still maintain that decent 16p tone on the claviers is extremely useful - even when accompanying a congregation.

 

Just for an experiment tonight I recorded bits of choir practice and did a couple of verses of the psalms on all the 16's with the oboe. Wow!!!! Going to have to save that on a piston, I think - crystal clear to the bottom. Also - Sw Oboe, Stopped Diap, Clarion and Mixture down an octave. What a fantastic noise!!!

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