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I loved the HW4 interview back at Petersfield, which if memory serves went something like

 

HG 'How many men work here these days?'

HW4 'Oh, most of them.'

 

Or did I dream that?

 

Tell you what, I bet none of them dare not work nowadays.

 

I can't remember that bit - but I do hope it's true!

 

HW4 was interviewed at St. Georges's Hall and explained the importance of 'town hall' recitals in the Victorian and Edwardian era to bring transciptions of orchestral music to those who otherwise wouldn't hear it. Howard Goodall said "A bit like Classics for Pleasure?". Cue long pause from HW4 - along with vacant expression - followed by "I'm sorry - I haven't a clue what Classics for Pleasure is!"*

 

HW4 seemed from that programme to be a nice enough chap, and the personification of the Victorian eccentric. I liked him - as I liked Fred Dibnah - because I don't think there are nearly enough good old British eccentrics left. The main problem is that most of those we have got are involved with organs in one way or another!!

 

(* My favourite quote from the Howard Goodall series involves the Duke of Marlborough explaining the roll player attached to the FW in the library at Blenheim. At the end of his explanation HG chimed in with "So I suppose you could say it's the original 'Duke Box'!")

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I loved the HW4 interview back at Petersfield, which if memory serves went something like

 

HG 'How many men work here these days?'

HW4 'Oh, most of them.'

 

Or did I dream that?

 

Tell you what, I bet none of them dare not work nowadays.

 

Ha! I had forgotten that, Paul. (Did you get my e-mail, incidentally?)

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I met HW4 several times and found him bombastic and uncompromisingly rude in public. In private, he could be charming and helpful.

 

Once, when addressing a meeting of the Federation of Master Organ Builders, he stood up to begin, whereupon Dick Van Heck tactfully drew his attention to the fact that his flies were undone.

With a great show of drawing up the zip he declared 'Never mind, a dead bird never falls out of the nest, Dick!'

 

Last time I saw him was quite by accident. I was singing at St Paul's with a visiting choir on a hot August day. Passing through the OBE chapel on the way to our robing area, I was surprised to see a sweaty and dirty HW4 dismantling the organ. Greeting him with a handshake, I asked him how he was...

 

"I'm 70 and I'm ****ing well ****ed off." (not sotto voce, either). Typical.

 

H

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Met Henry Willis 4 once.

He was a nice bloke.

 

....who ruined a lot of nice organs. Nobody can forgive him for Johannesburg or Durban city halls, or, if they do, there's more pity than justice in the world.

 

On the other hand the Joburg City Council got some very nice bookshelves out of their lovely 32' open. At a price.

 

B

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
....who ruined a lot of nice organs. Nobody can forgive him for Johannesburg or Durban city halls, or, if they do, there's more pity than justice in the world.

 

On the other hand the Joburg City Council got some very nice bookshelves out of their lovely 32' open. At a price.

 

B

 

 

I speak as someone totally unconnected with HW4 or the Willis firm, but I do have several ranks of pipes personally voiced by him for a friend. I feel moved to make a few points in his defence, and I'll try to be brief.

 

1. HW4 is/was a real eccentric but he did absolutely know his business. Not all directors of organ building firms do. Still fewer can actually voice and get a musical result.

2. I happily accept Barry's point about two spoiled Town Hall organs but I have to ask, was HW4 doing what the advisers wanted? I think it is likely that he carried out a scheme for the simple reason that he could not afford to turn it down. When you have a full-time permanent labour force, you are responsible for doing your best to keep the firm's order-book full enough to be able to pay them.

3. I do know that in two cases, HW4 talked himself out of rebuilding organs when he thought that the customer was just plain wrong. The two I'm thinking of are both high profile and I don't think I will get sued for repeating them here.

Firstly, at Salisbury Cathedral he was asked (by Christopher Dearnley) to replace the ISG swell-pedals with a mechanical system. HW4 said that it couldn't be done. Another firm took the tunings over more-or-less on the back of saying firmly that it could! When the moment actually came, the replacement firm (which had better remain nameless) went back on their word and admitted that the best they could do was an electrical system. This is all that Salisbury have to this day - it might be 15 or 20 stages, but it isn't a mechanical link - nor is it as smooth as an ISG.

Secondly at Liverpool Cathedral: Noel Rawsthorne drew up a scheme in the early 70s which involved wholescale reducing of wind-pressures and a certain amount of revoicing. HW4 refused to carry these ideas out, saying in effect 'this is my father's greatest work, and I won't be responsible for altering it.' He lost the contract to H&H who, fortunately, talked Noel Rawsthorne out of some of the pressures which he had planned to use - based (of course) on knowledge of normal pressures in normal installations!

 

I would have a deal less respect for HW4 if he had simply gone around needlessly spoiling things, actually, he tried to give customers what they were asking for - OK fashions have changed back. Hindsight is a great thing!

 

If we're pointing fingers at firms who did weird things, we're never going to stop! Just to give you one example: At Norwich Cathedral (an enormous organ, largely built by the Norman family and their pride and joy) there is still only one 8' flute on the Secondary (i.e. bread-and-butter) Great. This Stopped Diapason is a 'John Norman special'. Unlike the rest of the Great, it coughs, splutters, hisses, supplies consonants etc. etc. To play normal-sounding music one is frequently reduced to coupling up the Solo 8' flute and using that instead. Even HN&B probably wouldn't do this today!

 

The point is, those were the days when a lot of players were tired of bland, smooth tones and wanted a bit of liveliness back in the pipe speech. They also laboured under the delusion that a few coughing flutes and some excessively high-pitched mixtures would make their traditional war-horse sound like the Schnitger at Alkmaar. Unfortunately, this sort of voicing (particularly when using un-nicked pipes on electric action) can end up sounding a lot less musical than what they had before.

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If we're pointing fingers at firms who did weird things, we're never going to stop! Just to give you one example: At Norwich Cathedral (an enormous organ, largely built by the Norman family and their pride and joy) there is still only one 8' flute on the Secondary (i.e. bread-and-butter) Great. This Stopped Diapason is a 'John Norman special'. Unlike the rest of the Great, it coughs, splutters, hisses, supplies consonants etc. etc. To play normal-sounding music one is frequently reduced to coupling up the Solo 8' flute and using that instead. Even HN&B probably wouldn't do this today!

 

Hi

 

HNB won't be doing anything today,as they ceased trading a few years ago!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Hi

 

HNB won't be doing anything today,as they ceased trading a few years ago!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

Dear Tony,

yes, I did know. Sorry if my comment sounded totally ignorant.

 

It would have been both more accurate, more insulting and much more exciting (to get the intended moan thoroughly off my chest) if I had said

 

"Now that Mr.John Norman is in such an illustrious position,

viz:

*highly successful author

*regular columnist for Organist Review,

*Major contributor to organ-building trade periodicals,

*Designer of at least one organ-scheme for Bradford Computing Organs

*even promoted as the next likely President of BIOS (!)

 

even he might not be prompted to remove a traditional stop from a large and important organ built by his (ancestors and) family firm and put in its place something so out of keeping with the prevailing tonal concept that it stands out a mile even in large combinations and irritates those who are perforce obliged to use it."

 

 

It's a good thing I didn't, isn't it?

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"I speak as someone totally unconnected with HW4 or the Willis firm, but I do have several ranks of pipes personally voiced by him for a friend. I feel moved to make a few points in his defence, and I'll try to be brief.

 

1. HW4 is/was a real eccentric but he did absolutely know his business. Not all directors of organ building firms do. Still fewer can actually voice and get a musical result.

2. I happily accept Barry's point about two spoiled Town Hall organs but I have to ask, was HW4 doing what the advisers wanted? I think it is likely that he carried out a scheme for the simple reason that he could not afford to turn it down. When you have a full-time permanent labour force, you are responsible for doing your best to keep the firm's order-book full enough to be able to pay them."

 

It is easy to pontificate on what should have been done but believe me often when a contract depends on the whims and fancies of organists who play for a hobby, not a living and amateur organ advisors well paid in some other profession (at least now we have some professionals available) using their hobby as a egotistical power base life, could be very difficult keeping the workforce busy.

 

I used to breath a sigh of relief that nearly all skilled organbuilders happened to be men who do not normally become pregnant and seek maternity leave. Things are now different and with sexual equality men have gained their `rights'. If you are a smallish company, not necssarily an organ builder, but have highly skilled workers unreplacable by temporary casual labour, this legislation is yet another avenue for loss of production and an increase in overheads.

 

FF

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2. I happily accept Barry's point about two spoiled Town Hall organs but I have to ask, was HW4 doing what the advisers wanted? I think it is likely that he carried out a scheme for the simple reason that he could not afford to turn it down. When you have a full-time permanent labour force, you are responsible for doing your best to keep the firm's order-book full enough to be able to pay them.

 

No, he wasn't. The proposals were his. He was lucky enough to be able to do the two jobs back to back; and the number of stops that disappeared from one organ only to turn up expensively in the other, sometimes admittedly cut in half and soldered onto the top of something else, or half of something else, suggests that creative accounting did not die out with HW III. Sorry, Paul, it would have been nice to have granted you this, but it just ain't so.

 

One pleasant memory however was of a panel discussion in Cape Town involving HW IV and Joseph von Glatter-Götz. The question of open-toe voicing came up. HW's contribution to the debate: "I don't know of any other way of getting the wind into the pipes."

 

In spite of the rather over the top language, http://www.albany.edu/piporg-l/JCH.html is worth a read.

 

Cheers

Barry

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

Quote from Frank Fowler follows:

 

"It is easy to pontificate on what should have been done but believe me often when a contract depends on the whims and fancies of organists who play for a hobby, not a living and amateur organ advisors well paid in some other profession (at least now we have some professionals available) using their hobby as a egotistical power base life, could be very difficult keeping the workforce busy."

 

You know, I thought my posting this afternoon was provocative; it was nothing, Frank, by comparison with yours!

 

Let us consider the illustrious names who come into your definition

"organists who play for a hobby, not a living and amateur organ advisors well paid in some other profession"

 

these would include

Noel Bonavia Hunt (who, I would agree, didn't know nearly as much as he thought he did!)

Col. George Dixon

Cecil Clutton

Michael Gillingham

Revd.Nicholas Thislethwaite

just to give you some prominent names. There will be countless smaller schemes which have been drafted by those who are primarily only 'enthusiasts'.

 

Of course, there are also those who turned to organ-building after other careers:

Robert Hope-Jones (telephone engineer)

T.C.Lewis (architect)

Maurice Forsythe Grant (electrical engineer)

Kenneth Jones (engineer)

Andrew Moyse (engineer)

all of whom have added greatly to the diversity and strength of our native instruments.

 

Put it this way, if you think that organ-builders would be better off without all of these and want to throw their lot in with those designers of organs who are primarily professional organists:

Sir Walter Parratt

William Wolstenholme

Ralph Downes

Simon Preston

Gillian Weir

Thomas Trotter

might we see a vast difference in the excellence/variety of our instruments?

To the contrary, I reckon you'd have seen more outlandish schemes not less and probably a good sight more imports too.

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But every organ building project has an advisor somewhere - the customer. In order to impress a customer and win a contract it could be argued it's necessary to provide something of what the customer wants, whether it be right or wrong. At the time, it was a hard-fought contract to give the boys something to do for the next six months - all firms did it - even our hosts' firm has some stuff from the 60's and 70's which may be regretted today, and one of our most prominent and respected independent advisors has his name firmly stamped on some of these jobs. Make no mistake though, in such economic (and non-global) times the alternative would have been shutting the doors, and it wouldn't have done a bit of good for the instruments - as another firm would have cheerfully come along and done exactly the same style of work. It's just the way things are and we should be thankful that in the case of the better firms, old material was preserved and re-used, even if occasionally altered - much can be undone. I always cite the Romsey Tuba, which was added in the 80's - the organist was going to get his tuba from somewhere come hell or high water, and I think it's better that it was done by a firm who set out to do it in a way where it could be removed leaving no trace of its existence than done by the other firms, who were all wanting to add lots of upperwork to the Choir and fit a detached console. Sometimes, what may appear to be wanton vandalism may actually be selective protection from the excesses of others.

 

I'm sure in the 60's this forum would have been full of people bemoaning the horror of what went on 35 years before. Much has been made on orgue-l of instruments designed and signed off by Bach - was he not in a way vandalising what came before him? There have always been, and will always be, consultants with a personal agenda, susceptible to brown envelopes full of deutschmarks (euros?) and firms tripping over each other to win contracts, and do what the customer wants. I'm not entirely sure of my dates but I would be inclined to feel that Norwich has more to do with Brian Runnett than John Norman - correct me if I'm wrong, please, but I thought he was behind the tonal re-ordering (which, for the most part, one would have to say was successful). Bearing in mind the secondary Great is in the middle, and there are good Open Diapasons on the enclosed Choir, Positive and Swell, I wasn't that bothered by the Great and think it's probably better as it is than cramming more pipework into an already tight case.

 

The only person I know who can get away without doing any of that rubbish is Bill Drake, who will basically provide a scheme and a price and say "you either want it or you don't, and if you do, we can start work in 2018." John Norman, William McVicker, Canon Thistlethwaite have all advised on recent projects. It could equally be argued that such single-mindedness and integrity will impress those customers who want a musical instrument, rather than a personal legacy.

 

Even on a small scale, one sees once-interesting old organs of a clearly defined style and finds a plaque on the side - "To the Glory of God, the Voix Celeste and Scharffzimbel were added in 1958 through the generous gift of Lady So-and-so in memory of her dog Mr Truffles", and then you arguably have either a ruined instrument or one on which it's open season for others to come along and stamp their identity on it too. The only possible future outcome is that these things will one day need to be undone. I have recently been working on a very old instrument indeed, lots of G P England pipework in a fine case, which had such things done to it in the early part of the century and was then subject to a dramatic reconstruction in the 1960's, which was done in the spirit of the age - Mixtures with such open feet as you're not sure which end of the pipe you should blow into and a variety of farty reeds hiding behind German names, even though that's not what the pipes are (and in some cases they've still got G P England boots on). Out it all comes... And still it goes on today, in other ways - I am in the process of removing into storage a really wonderful small Walker of about 1900, original in every way with the exception of an electric blower added (in addition to the hand blowing, not in place of), which has been usurped for one with a plug on the end of it - yet there are respected IBO-registered firms locally that were quite happy to take the metal pipes out and make a bonfire of the rest, and in no small way facilitated its demise by whipping up "asbestos in the blower" scares. That really is shocking. What the hell is the IBO for?

 

Willis IV was onto something when he observed that the future of organbuilding lay in small craft workshops, like Tickell, Drake et al rather than in large firms.

 

One day someone will start moaning about the fact that we no longer have any of these exciting 1960's reconstructions left!

 

Doesn't HN&B still exist as a trading name for someone else?

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But every organ building project has an advisor somewhere - the customer. In order to impress a customer and win a contract it could be argued it's necessary to provide something of what the customer wants, whether it be right or wrong. At the time, it was a hard-fought contract to give the boys something to do for the next six months - all firms did it - even our hosts' firm has some stuff from the 60's and 70's which may be regretted today, and one of our most prominent and respected independent advisors has his name firmly stamped on some of these jobs. Make no mistake though, in such economic (and non-global) times the alternative would have been shutting the doors, and it wouldn't have done a bit of good for the instruments - as another firm would have cheerfully come along and done exactly the same style of work. It's just the way things are and we should be thankful that in the case of the better firms, old material was preserved and re-used, even if occasionally altered - much can be undone. I always cite the Romsey Tuba, which was added in the 80's - the organist was going to get his tuba from somewhere come hell or high water, and I think it's better that it was done by a firm who set out to do it in a way where it could be removed leaving no trace of its existence than done by the other firms, who were all wanting to add lots of upperwork to the Choir and fit a detached console. Sometimes, what may appear to be wanton vandalism may actually be selective protection from the excesses of others.

 

I'm sure in the 60's this forum would have been full of people bemoaning the horror of what went on 35 years before. Much has been made on orgue-l of instruments designed and signed off by Bach - was he not in a way vandalising what came before him? There have always been, and will always be, consultants with a personal agenda, susceptible to brown envelopes full of deutschmarks (euros?) and firms tripping over each other to win contracts, and do what the customer wants. I'm not entirely sure of my dates but I would be inclined to feel that Norwich has more to do with Brian Runnett than John Norman - correct me if I'm wrong, please, but I thought he was behind the tonal re-ordering (which, for the most part, one would have to say was successful). Bearing in mind the secondary Great is in the middle, and there are good Open Diapasons on the enclosed Choir, Positive and Swell, I wasn't that bothered by the Great and think it's probably better as it is than cramming more pipework into an already tight case.

 

The only person I know who can get away without doing any of that rubbish is Bill Drake, who will basically provide a scheme and a price and say "you either want it or you don't, and if you do, we can start work in 2018." John Norman, William McVicker, Canon Thistlethwaite have all advised on recent projects. It could equally be argued that such single-mindedness and integrity will impress those customers who want a musical instrument, rather than a personal legacy.

 

Even on a small scale, one sees once-interesting old organs of a clearly defined style and finds a plaque on the side - "To the Glory of God, the Voix Celeste and Scharffzimbel were added in 1958 through the generous gift of Lady So-and-so in memory of her dog Mr Truffles", and then you arguably have either a ruined instrument or one on which it's open season for others to come along and stamp their identity on it too. The only possible future outcome is that these things will one day need to be undone. I have recently been working on a very old instrument indeed, lots of G P England pipework in a fine case, which had such things done to it in the early part of the century and was then subject to a dramatic reconstruction in the 1960's, which was done in the spirit of the age - Mixtures with such open feet as you're not sure which end of the pipe you should blow into and a variety of farty reeds hiding behind German names, even though that's not what the pipes are (and in some cases they've still got G P England boots on). Out it all comes... And still it goes on today, in other ways - I am in the process of removing into storage a really wonderful small Walker of about 1900, original in every way with the exception of an electric blower added (in addition to the hand blowing, not in place of), which has been usurped for one with a plug on the end of it - yet there are respected IBO-registered firms locally that were quite happy to take the metal pipes out and make a bonfire of the rest, and in no small way facilitated its demise by whipping up "asbestos in the blower" scares. That really is shocking. What the hell is the IBO for?

 

Willis IV was onto something when he observed that the future of organbuilding lay in small craft workshops, like Tickell, Drake et al rather than in large firms.

 

One day someone will start moaning about the fact that we no longer have any of these exciting 1960's reconstructions left!

 

Doesn't HN&B still exist as a trading name for someone else?

 

 

An excellent response, David. I hope people read it!

P.

 

By the way, how very restrained of you not to be more specific about the (now-departed) 60's rebuild at Dulwich College - congratulations on your tact and diplomacy! [Pity mine are running dry.]

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Doesn't HN&B still exist as a trading name for someone else?

 

Heritage Pipe Organs - Bernie Whitmill - I believe. They used the HNB name for a while, but I haven't seen anything recently. I think they may have recently relocated to Devon (from Surrey)

 

JJK

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Even on a small scale, one sees once-interesting old organs of a clearly defined style and finds a plaque on the side - "To the Glory of God, the Voix Celeste and Scharffzimbel were added in 1958 through the generous gift of Lady So-and-so in memory of her dog Mr Truffles", and then you arguably have either a ruined instrument or one on which it's open season for others to come along and stamp their identity on it too.

 

Arguably these "generous gifts" can wreak even more havoc in a large scheme.... summed up in the two words 'West Point' :D

 

I do know of one otherwise original H & H locally which actually bears a plaque to the effect that the tremulant was provided in memory of some high-profile member of the congregation. Presumably the one who used to stand at the back and sing with a very warbly voice.....

 

(I also know of a church clock which was installed in memory of someone who was late for church every week!)

 

S

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West point is splendid, though...

Pierre

 

Perhaps it and others like it are an acquired taste which I have yet to acquire. I just wonder whether the curator of West Point does actually feel that every additional stop adds something musically useful and appropriate to the instrument, or is just pleased to take the money and make the thing just that little bit bigger....

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Perhaps it and others like it are an acquired taste which I have yet to acquire. I just wonder whether the curator of West Point does actually feel that every additional stop adds something musically useful and appropriate to the instrument, or is just pleased to take the money and make the thing just that little bit bigger....

 

......And its sings, anyway. Acquired taste? How could I in my little Belgium with

a vast majority of little, rather old organs?

 

Pierre

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Heritage Pipe Organs - Bernie Whitmill - I believe. They used the HNB name for a while, but I haven't seen anything recently. I think they may have recently relocated to Devon (from Surrey)

 

JJK

 

 

I may be wrong here, but I thought that when HNB disolved all the organbuilders went their own way and most set up on their own in one way or another. Rook Hall Farm just outside Finchingfield, Essex is home to The Village Workshop (which on my visit was displaying the HNB Royal Warrant), the pipemaker Kevin Rutterford and Keith Bance.

 

PJ Wells

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Perhaps it and others like it are an acquired taste which I have yet to acquire. I just wonder whether the curator of West Point does actually feel that every additional stop adds something musically useful and appropriate to the instrument, or is just pleased to take the money and make the thing just that little bit bigger....

 

 

Or whether the policy is not a musical one at all?

 

The whole point of stops being added to the West Point instrument is that they are given in memory of young men who have been killed in action. I rather like the thought that something would 'sound on' after a life has been lost.

 

It is a pity that more people don't leave money to organ projects....though I freely agree that the absence of money is often the only thing that preserves an organ 'unspoiled' for later generations.

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It is easy to pontificate on what should have been done but believe me often when a contract depends on the whims and fancies of organists who play for a hobby, not a living and amateur organ advisors well paid in some other profession (at least now we have some professionals available) using their hobby as a egotistical power base life, could be very difficult keeping the workforce busy.

 

This is a bit rich. I was DOM at St. Michael's, Bishops Stortford for around 2 years c1984. The organ was (and presumably still is) a pleasant though unexciting 3m last restored by Walkers in the 1940's. At the time that I knew it it the electro-pneumatic action was very unreliable and hence a further overhaul was urgently required.

 

I believed that the organ deserved attention from the top builders of the day. Its regular tuning and maintenance was performed by Bishops, who were invited to quote, as were HNB and H&H. Bishops quoted free of charge (indeed I believe John Budgen took me out for lunch), HNB required an up-front payment of (from memory) £100 for Frank Fowler to come out, H&H required agreement in principal for £150 for Mark Venning. These fees were agreed and the HNB fee was paid in advance.

 

In the event Frank Fowler did not grace us with his presence, the local tuning rep turned out. We received no refund or explanation for this. He was in the church for about an hour and a half having no previous or immediate familiarity with the instrument. By contrast Mark Venning arrived and spent all day in church, in fact the vicar had to give him a key to let himself out after normal locking up time as he hadn't finished. I don't believe we ever received a bill for Mark Venning's visit even though H&H did not receive the contract.

 

One of the problems with the organ was that both swell and great speak into the chancel and are of limited effect in the nave. I felt that there was an opportunity to develop the choir, which in part spoke west into the south aisle, but stressed to each of the three builders that I was a provincial organist, not an organ designer, and that it was up to them to advise and offer recommendations.

 

In the case of both H&H and Bishops this worked well. Our experience of HNB however was far less satisfactory. We had great difficulty getting a report out of them at all, and then the local rep kept ringing me up and asking "now what was it you said you want". No matter how many times I replied "No, you're the organ builder, we want your recommendations and advice" this message simply was not welcome, effectively their response was always "just tell me what you want the report to say".

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Or whether the policy is not a musical one at all?

 

The whole point of stops being added to the West Point instrument is that they are given in memory of young men who have been killed in action. I rather like the thought that something would 'sound on' after a life has been lost.

 

It is a pity that more people don't leave money to organ projects....though I freely agree that the absence of money is often the only thing that preserves an organ 'unspoiled' for later generations.

 

Sorry Paul, I didn't mean to decry the purpose of the donations, and I absolutely agree with you that it would be nice if more people did remember the parish organ project in their wills. Indeed that has been the case in two neighbouring parishes here which in due course should benefit the instruments concerned.

 

What I was suggesting (and I'm quite prepared to be shot down in flames for it) is that there must surely come a time when - however large the building - an organ has all it is ever likely to really need from the musical standpoint. Do we then question the wisdom of making additions, or keep on growing because we have the space and the money? It's not a situation we're likely to encounter in the UK - unless the RAH and Liverpool Anglican decide to play an advanced game of 'keeping up with the Joneses' but there are some positively enormous instruments in the USA that do sometimes leave me wondering.

 

I like the big jobs as much as anyone - Liverpool, RAH, St. Sulpice (hoping to go there in the Spring!), but to be honest I was recently revelling in the glories of Hereford, and came away thinking "What more could you ever want from an organ?"

 

Mind you - people do say I'm easily pleased..... mostly those who've heard me play :blink:

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Sorry Paul, I didn't mean to decry the purpose of the donations, and I absolutely agree with you that it would be nice if more people did remember the parish organ project in their wills. Indeed that has been the case in two neighbouring parishes here which in due course should benefit the instruments concerned.

 

What I was suggesting (and I'm quite prepared to be shot down in flames for it) is that there must surely come a time when - however large the building - an organ has all it is ever likely to really need from the musical standpoint. Do we then question the wisdom of making additions, or keep on growing because we have the space and the money? It's not a situation we're likely to encounter in the UK - unless the RAH and Liverpool Anglican decide to play an advanced game of 'keeping up with the Joneses' but there are some positively enormous instruments in the USA that do sometimes leave me wondering.

 

I like the big jobs as much as anyone - Liverpool, RAH, St. Sulpice (hoping to go there in the Spring!), but to be honest I was recently revelling in the glories of Hereford, and came away thinking "What more could you ever want from an organ?"

 

Some good points, Stephen.

 

I would agree, particularly with regard to some of the behemoths from the U.S. With reference to Hereford - the same is true (and to an even greater extent) at Chichester. This beautifully-voiced, highly musical instrument has a wealth of tone-colours and not an ugly or over-inflated sound anywhere. The only changes which I would wish to make (having played a fair number of services on it), would be to remove the G.O. 2p flute and Tierce, replacing them with a Cone Gamba and a Harmonic Flute - which are arguably more in keeping with what Hill might have done, in any case. Oh - and a Swell to Choir coupler. The omission of this is the only irritating thing about this organ.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I like the big jobs as much as anyone - Liverpool, RAH, St. Sulpice (hoping to go there in the Spring!), but to be honest I was recently revelling in the glories of Hereford, and came away thinking "What more could you ever want from an organ?"

 

Mind you - people do say I'm easily pleased..... mostly those who've heard me play :blink:

 

 

In the case you quote, you could be right. Hereford is one of my all-time favourites too.

 

I think once you have electric action, provided that you don't overstrain the wind-system, I can't see any harm in adding stops so long as they do not block the sound from the ones you already have. I have a case in point to offer you, for the purposes of discussion: At HTH we already have almost everything, but there is a huge gulf between the Great Tromba and Posaune - both forte reeds of good quality and the quite splendid Tuba which is fff and proud of it.

 

From the point of view of wishing to accompany the choir 'in proportion' and not overdoing it every week in a voluntary, I would really like a solo reed between the two volume levels I already have. Will this spoil the organ? No. Will it do harm? no - it will do good. I will be able to save the choir from having to shriek or miss a vital part of some wonderful accompaniments and the congregation will not get blasted quite so many times in final voluntaries. The Tuba can be kept for special occasions. The organ sounds pretty good without it - it was more than a year into my tenure when I first got to hear it in any case!

 

I respect the need to preserve an antique/irreplaceable console, but that apart, why not add a stop if you have room? What we would ideally like here is a new console and any slight additions to the scheme can go on that and the historic one stay undisturbed. The new one can also have all the 'new' / 'must-have' gadgets.

 

I realise that these comments will stir up a certain amount of worry amongst the purist wing. Here is a thought, however:

If in the past on any decent organ, stops that were missed by the current organist had simply been added on extra chests and the existing stuff left alone, we would (in fact) have been in a far better position to regain an original sound than if replacement or revoicing of ranks had happened. The classic case, I believe is Durham Cathedral where the late great Conrad Eden had a whole new division and several extra stops added by H&H in the 1970s.....but everything else remained in place (and available). Sensible man.

 

Actually, I think if you asked most organ-bulders whether they would prefer to stuff a new stop where an old one has been taken out, or to add an extra chest for the new stop, I think I know which they'd pick. One of the problems with the replacement idea is that so often things end up in the wrong place. A reed or a mixture (for instance) needs to stand more-or-less over the pallet. Not only will they speak better, but they are far easier to get to for tuning and maintainance. I have seen (and heard) too many Mixtures which have been placed on old 16' or 8' slides - never the same, trust me!

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