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Pierre Lauwers

The 1908 Organ Of Ely Cathedral

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We must decide wether an organ is an art piece or a.....Piece of furniture.

If the owner of the "Joconde" -whoever he/she may be- decided to

"better" it with acrylic paint, this would harm the whole community

of art's friends, so it's not his/her matter alone.

 

What disturbed me at Ely -I heard it after the 70's rebuild so I do not know hot

it sounds now after the following one!- was that remaining 1908 stops apart, like the

Solo Viols, the new additions sounded very much like any neo-classic belgian

organ from Delmotte or Stevens.

Why to cross the Channel then?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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if we forget that the owner has some say in the matter and not the organist then its a case of organist jones over here versus organist smith over there and did u see what he did to that historic organ in his church...how shameful.....naughty naughty...its none of our business...we r not the client nor the builder...we have no right to stick our noses into other peoples affairs....what is done to a pipe organ is the decision of the principals....owner/client advisor/consultant,organist,builder(s)

At the end of the day it boils down to keeping up with the Jones's. :P

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
the recordings of ely post 1975 solo and with choral r excellent in my view. the revisions and additions do not seem at odds with whatever remained of the previous 1908 masterpiece so-called.

 

 

The Ely organ certainly recorded well - or more correctly, sounded better on disc that it could do live in the building. One can be so deceived by recordings. Steve might, for instance, not believe me whan I say that the sound of neither the 75 incarnation, nor its better-temopered rebuild makes it down the nave of Ely suffic9enmtly to lead a congregation.

 

Playing it after the 1975 rebuild/tonal alterations, the most striking thing was how well-mannered tha fluework was and how little that prepared you for the rreds. A slightly similar experience could still be got at Christ Church, Oxgford. In both cases, the organist/designers was keen to make a cathedral organ sound French. Way would they want to do this? That is the

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
the recordings of ely post 1975 solo and with choral r excellent in my view. the revisions and additions do not seem at odds with whatever remained of the previous 1908 masterpiece so-called.

 

 

I agree that the 1975 Ely organ could record well. For the benfit of anyone who has not heard it live, in the building itself things could be somewhat different. Placed as it is, and even voiced more-or-less 'flat out' as the reeds were for a while, it made surprisingly little impact in the body of the building. Below though, in the choirstalls, those revoiced H&H reeds were devastating.

 

The 1975 rebuild at Ely and the more-or-less contemporary Rieger at Christ Church Oxford shared the same curious character - well-blended fluework leading (with a terrific shock) to really blatant reeds trying their hardest to speak 'in the French style'. You may ask why a UK Cathedral organ has to be made to sound French. Simple - the organists' preoccupation in both cases was that of playing French music.

 

Why did Ely get changed back? An English cathedral organ's main purpose is not recitals, let alone recordings. It is that of accompanying the cathedral choir and (rather less often) a big congregation. In that role, the 'French' reeds are not always what works best.

 

An organ which spoke with a forked tongue now speaks (as many folks now agree) with a much better-blended, cohesive and less agressive character.

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Guest Roffensis

Having heard the Ely organ many times, I think the most recent rebuild is excellent, and has toned down it's brashness, which was not typically English tone, and the great reeds were the main culprits, far too rough. Of course it records well, any organ will, as one can be careful where to mike from, and Ely from down the nave, never sounded brash as the building was then heard more in blalance with it. under the octogon, and particularly in the chancel, it could be downright unpleasant, but f course no one is going to use great reeds with a choir really anyway. The recent rebuild was not a reversal, and they certainly did not go back as far as 1908. It needs also to be remembered that as at Kings, a vast quantity of it is Hill, and it has already been well and truly altered from then.

As to museum pieces, it's the old argument, but organists are custodians, and many do a great deal of damage through sheer whim. Having witnessed so much wanton destruction of some very fine organs, some organsists should be sacked on the spot. Others may care to move and let others take over and appreciate what fine organs are stlll around. Organs are art works, and they are balanced at build, and it is a brave man indeed who would go into and want to alter a Salisbury, Westminster, or Chichester so that we no longer recognise it. But some will want to, and there needs to be legislation in place to stop it, and there needs to be unbiased consultancy work going on as well. The truth is that organ building here is not what it was, and respect went out of the window yonks ago. It is also true about hankering on about such things on a website such as this. it is just a website. It's only when the hammer hits a particularly renowned instrument that anyone takes note, and rest assured that the many people who care about their musical heritage in this country have no say. At least a website allows that privilege.

Richard. :P

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Dear Richard,

 

Ten years ago there were no forums at all, so the VIPs -whatever this may mean- were the only ones to speak.

Today they still have the say, no doubt, but at least we can annoy them a little

trough the Web, and that is already somewhat better.

And we are better informed by far about what's happening next door...

 

As to the situation in Britain, one curious aspect, from aboard, that seems to obtain

is a discrepancy between the "british market" (I mean the taste, what the "customers want") and many a british builder.

The british builders are very up to date and competitive. Recently one of them got an important rebuild project in Europe which is a milestone towards an extremely clever

and interesting synthesis, without writing off any valuable ancient material.

Britain, 10 points...Strange for me to tell that, isn't it?

 

As a Website administrator I can assure you a Website such as this one is an excellent

marketing tool. It is read worldwide, I can link interesting stuff to mine. And you would be very surprised to learn who happens to read there from time to time -this is true on Plenum, so it should be the same here-.

So virtual might mean a bit more than only virtual.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Well said John, it was radical, but look at what was happening elsewhere, it was relatively conservative!!. I think the latest rebuild has toned down some nasty "corners" it had from 1975, and the replacement of those way too loud great reeds with a more English sound has worked wonders. Of the flaws??...to my mind? well why try to "frenchify" a typically English organ!!?? it slaughtered me then and it still does!! I think as it stands now it has reached its zenith. We have all learnt in time errors in thinking, in Ely's case just in time.

 

Hi All,

 

I Just wanted to throw in my two cents worth. I am not going to defend nor condemn the 1975 rebuild at Ely, instead I only want to say that even tho I am usually against any radical tonal modifications (unless they are clearly an improvement) over the previous builder's work, but can we really please everyone's ear in all cases? I think not. I don't recall if I have ever heard any recordings from Ely prior to the 1975 rebuild, and even tho I'm really not in favor of trying to "Frencify" English organs, one recording comes to mind that is very special to me. The 1991 recordings made by Jeremy Filsell of Marcel Dupré Organ Works (Gamut Classics). These are without any doubt, the finest non Cavaillé-Coll recordings ever made of Dupré and surley could not have been achieved on a typical "English organ" Of couse Blackburn would also have been a very nice venue for the music of Marcel Dupré, and even as much as I love the organ at Blackburn (and the glorious acoustics there) it really isn't a true "English organ" at all.........is it? Since we are on the subject, I had to dig out my "Great European Organs No. 9" CD by Arthur Wills, and I must say that the organ (as it was recorded here in 1988) produced an equally pleasing, and very respectable sound for both the music of Widor to the music of Sir Hubert Parry.

 

Cheers,

 

][\/][][\/][

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Well Steve,

 

I won't argue -I'd need to write another book- just some questions:

 

-Are E.M. Skinner's and Holtkamp's not enough to state there are truly

american styles?

 

-Wasn't Don Harrison an englishmen whose former employer was content to

see landing the other side of the big lake? This *resembles* some "promotions"

to China I've seen happen with people who did not possess the very first quality

everyone needs to survive in any corporate culture: the ability to shut ones mouth!

 

-Among the huge US monsters I agree West Point Chapel is a gem and a truly musical

instrument. So it's possible. But do we actually need to name "Spanish this" or

"French that" parts that are only remotedly inspired by the originals? A more credible

nomenclature would help, i.e. an american one.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Dear Steve, Tough I speak french this is not my mothertongue, and I learnt

german before as well!

 

To me an american nomenclature could well be the 19th-century anglo-german one from the time H. Roosevelt and later E-M Skinner employed a majority of german-speaking

people -see the Erzähler story-.

 

And yes to built a french Trompette or Cromorne without fully open shallots

is a non-sense.

I see the american organ as a synthesis of english and german/Dutch influences first, that later develloped its own way according to the peculiar acoustics of the churches there. And that style is just as good as any other. From Tannenberg up to Schoenstein and Co there are quite enough good things.

 

The french Orgellandschaft still has to recover from the Orgelbewegung craze. Like in the rest of Europe we have now a "Post-neo-baroque" period. Like with every "Post"-this or that what's interesting is the fact we have still less ans less "Truths", and ever more and more questions.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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...The removal of [Ely Cathedral's] Great 32ft Sub Bourdon may now be seen as regrettable. One suspects the purpose of such a stop may not have been fully appreciated, indeed it is only with our own recent research into the organs of Schulze that we have come to understand how such registers enhanced the effectiveness of a manual division. We have therefore proposed that this interesting attribute is restored to the organ.

 

...as indeed it was, when H & H carried out the rebuild. The rank in question was originally a (full-compass) Great 32' Bourdon available on the Pedal, subsequently extended into a unit playable at 16' (only) on the Great remaining at 32' on the Pedal, so the original pipes remained playable throughout, and restoring the Great 32' was a matter of electrical wiring.

 

If John or anyone else able to comment is still monitoring this thread (I notice that tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the above-quoted!), I'd love to hear more about what exactly the Schulze researches revealed and in what way a manual division is enhanced by a 32' stop.

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20 or 30 years ago- I remember going to a talk by Arthur Wills in which he explained how the rebuild had put the organ back towards its original sound. I asked how he could say that when the Great 32ft had been removed. It was clearly an unwanted question and I received a short and fuzzy reply - which I unfortunately don't remember. It is interesting how one person's improvement is another person's vandalism.....

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I too would be interested to read of good reasons for including 32 foot manual tone. One of the more convincing I know is (was) that of Cavaille-Coll, who placed emphasis on using suboctave couplers even when 16 foot registers were present. He, and at least some of the French school of symphonic composers (such as Widor) who composed for his instruments, apparently maintained that the use of both (i.e. 16 foot stops plus suboctaves) enabled loud music to be played high in the compass without losing too much gravitas. C-C included both even in some of his smallest 2 manual instruments, which would typically have a 16 foot Bourdon on the GO and a 16 foot Trompette on the Recit, with a suboctave coupler from Recit to GO.

 

Some of his (admittedly rather weird) mixture compositions also included 10 2/3 foot ranks in the top octaves, thereby introducing resultant 32 foot beats with the 16 foot stops. However there is no acoustic energy produced by a resultant - one hears only the beat frequencies, which are not at all the same thing. But don't get me onto that hobby horse here ... Nevertheless, it's another piece of evidence pointing in the same direction.

 

Whenever I listen to French and Anglo-American organists playing this sort of music on C-C organs I try to detect how they are registering it. It's difficult to be dogmatic without having been present at the console, but the French players do seem to use the suboctaves more frequently in loud combinations than do the Anglo-American ones, judging purely from the sounds they produce.

 

CEP

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... and a 16 foot Trompette on the Recit, with a suboctave coupler from Recit to GO. ...

 

 

In fact, such stops are relatively rare on a small two-clavier Cavaillé-Coll. Even the rather larger three-clavier instrument at Ste. Clothilde (as originally built) did not possess any stop at sub-unison pitch, either reed or flue, on the Récit. For example, the organ in the church of Saint-Louis d'Antin, Paris, has three reeds on the Récit-Expressif (Voix Humaine, Basson-Hautbois and Trompette) - all at 8ft. pitch, whereas the 16ft. Bombarde (not Trompette) is found on the G.O., and completes a family of three reeds. Interestingly, whilst it has an 'Octaves Graves G.O.', there is no sub-octave coupler for the Récit.

 

Another example, the organ in the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Long-sur-Somme has two 16ft. flues on the G.O. (Violoncelle and Bourdon), but a solitary Basson et Hautbois (8ft.) on the Récit.

 

Where Cavaillé-Coll did insert a 16ft. reed on the Récit of a smaller instrument, it was more likely to be a slender Basson - or even a Cor Anglais.

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The 32! based chorus here:

 

http://www.musiqueorguequebec.ca/orgues/france/bordeauxsc.html

 

Is amazingly effective and although geared towards a very specific repertoire exhibits a complexity and gravitas from the apprpriately centered mixture work. I have a recording of Marie-Claire Alain playing Couperin there and the effect is a logical sonic continuation of the 8, or 16' based GO choruses on smaller 'classical' instruments. There is also a 16' Bombarde for a 16/8/4 'Grands Jeux' effect if desired.

 

The same could be assumed about S. Denis near Paris, Liverpool Cathedral, Donncaster PC etc. and it was interesting to read about how important this complexity of tone was in the last H&H rebuild at Ely with new tierce mixture work and the reintroduction of the 32' into choruses more akin to Hill than early 20th Century H&H.

 

A

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Generalising a bit here, but a C-C organ is a big crescendo machine, played with the couplers on most of the time. The Recit plays less of a part in things than an English Full Swell, but the Positif is rather more important in the build-up. The big stuff, including doubles and sub-couplers, tends to be on the Grande.

 

In his autobiography, Arthur Wills stated quite categorically the opinion that an organist should be able to fashion his instrument to suit his taste. I can't imagine how he thought that he was doing anything to recreate the old Hill sound. The reeds, of course, had been altered some time before the rebuild (and some mutations improvised from existing ranks on the Choir Organ) and lowering the pressure had made them extremely loud. I don't think either Arthur or Sam Clutton, the consultant, could be said to be particularly sympathetic to the 1908 Harrison, and both were very keen on French music of all periods.

 

I once remarked to Paul Trepte that the Wills rebuild had made the organ frighteningly loud, and he said that there were times when one needed that amount of power to get the sound down into the nave. The 1908 organ would not have been designed with this particularly in mind. All the same, I reckon that Wills and Clutton (and Michael Howard before them) had tone in mind and the increased volume was a natural result of that, bearing in mind the scaling. There was a drawstop allowing one to transfer the Swell reeds to the Pedal, which at least gave a manageable amount of reed tone down there.

 

I have heard the organ a few times since the last rebuild, but not played it. It certainly seems more generally useful, without losing excitement.

 

Firm sub-unison tone is, I think, essential for a lot of French Romantic music - a fact that was often ignored from the sixties onwards - and a manual 32' could be a logical inclusion on a very big instrument. I was sorry when they ditched the one at Peterborough. I also feel, though, that open tone (as at Liverpool) makes a better blend than a bourdon (I feel the same about 16' flues - I've rarely met a 16' Bourdon that I really liked!).

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I also feel, though, that open tone (as at Liverpool) makes a better blend than a bourdon (I feel the same about 16' flues - I've rarely met a 16' Bourdon that I really liked!).

 

As ever, a reasoned, impartial and scholarly summary of the situation if I may say so, David. Regarding open 16 foot pedal flues, our hosts recently overhauled a tiny two manual Walker (1858) at St Mary Ponsbourne (Newgate Street village in Hertfordshire). It has an open and therefore full length 16 foot pedal stop. How often did that occur in such a small instrument, I wonder? I'm afraid my knowledge is not as encyclopedic as David's! However I am reasonably familiar with the Ponsbourne instrument, and have always been rather taken with its unusual pedal stop.

 

But I'm taking the discussion somewhat away from Ely. Sorry.

 

CEP

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... In his autobiography, Arthur Wills stated quite categorically the opinion that an organist should be able to fashion his instrument to suit his taste. I can't imagine how he thought that he was doing anything to recreate the old Hill sound. The reeds, of course, had been altered some time before the rebuild (and some mutations improvised from existing ranks on the Choir Organ) and lowering the pressure had made them extremely loud. I don't think either Arthur or Sam Clutton, the consultant, could be said to be particularly sympathetic to the 1908 Harrison, and both were very keen on French music of all periods.

 

I once remarked to Paul Trepte that the Wills rebuild had made the organ frighteningly loud, and he said that there were times when one needed that amount of power to get the sound down into the nave. The 1908 organ would not have been designed with this particularly in mind. All the same, I reckon that Wills and Clutton (and Michael Howard before them) had tone in mind and the increased volume was a natural result of that, bearing in mind the scaling. There was a drawstop allowing one to transfer the Swell reeds to the Pedal, which at least gave a manageable amount of reed tone down there.

 

Firm sub-unison tone is, I think, essential for a lot of French Romantic music - a fact that was often ignored from the sixties onwards - and a manual 32' could be a logical inclusion on a very big instrument. I was sorry when they ditched the one at Peterborough. I also feel, though, that open tone (as at Liverpool) makes a better blend than a bourdon (I feel the same about 16' flues - I've rarely met a 16' Bourdon that I really liked!).

 

 

With regard to Arthur Wills, I doubt that he had a moment's thought in the matter of restoring the 'Hill' sound at Ely Cathedral. As you observe, both he and Cecil Clutton were extremely fond of French music and wished to have an organ which could fulfill Wills' desire to play much of this repertoire.

 

Is it the case that, once again, this instrument is not quite able to cope with a full building on great occasions?

 

in the matter of 16ft. flues on the claviers, I find that a well-voiced Quintatön is often preferable to a Bourdon - although if it is a choice between having or not having any kind of 16. clavier tone, I should still prefer to have a Bourdon; at least there is then some kind of sub-unison tone.

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In the early 1970s, I played for a service (I can no longer remember whether a wedding or funeral !) at St Andrew’s, Halstead, in Essex ( http://www.halsteadchurches.co.uk/index.cfm/id/131 ). This is a smallish, 3-manual Father Willis from 1882, last rebuilt in 2002. Previous organists included George Oldroyd (1909-1915)- a detail which seems to have eluded his all-too-brief Wikipedia article.

 

But, why I write now is that this thread did remind me of my belief that, in the 19th century, pedal stops were often a little louder in comparison with those built later. I think of some wonderfully stringy, even slightly boomy (to our 20th century ears- I await rebuke from a teenager !), stops which, nonetheless, do blend and balance- in a different way.

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Hi

 

In answer to Colin's query, early pedal stops on English organs tended to be open wood pipes - sometimes at unison pitch & sometimes at 16ft. I'm not sure when the provision of an Open 16 as the first pedal stop changed to the Victorian era ubiquitous Bourdon. Scope for some research there maybe.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Thanks for these views on 19th century pedal stops. Just for completeness, the little Walker at St Mary Ponsbourne not only has an open 16 foot stop (one pipe of which had to be awkwardly mitred to fit in the chamber), but a 16 foot Double Diapason on the swell as well. However all is not quite what it seems, because the latter is a stopped rank down to tenor C only. In fact all the swell stops end at tenor C, thus there is no pipe longer than 4 feet inside the box. For the lowest octave of the swell the Stopped Diapason Bass on the great is used. Slightly disappointing when one first discovers it, especially given the luxurious full length 16 foot rank on the pedals. But it's still an interesting little organ and quite rightly has an Historic Organ certificate.

 

(As before, it's nothing to do with Ely I'm afraid).

 

CEP

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