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Jonathan Thorne

Bristol Cathedral - Organ Restoration

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I'm sorry to disagree with Pierre concerning Schulze reeds, which are very, very ordinary sounding things. As I explained previously, the 32ft reed at Doncaster is completely mis-scaled.

 

Without wishing to tread on toes here, I think this is a little bit of a sweeping statement. The 32ft reed at Doncaster is a bit of a bruiser to be sure. It is of a unique construction being a free reed. It is very difficult to regulate and I don't think we can be sure it is regulated. It may never have been. There is a similar stop in the other large Schulze organ at Markneukirchen. That one is quarter length rather than half length and when I heard it, it sounded wild, but I gather it has now been tamed. That one was a reconstruction of the original. The other reeds sounded interesting and not boring or that brash in Thuringia.

 

As to what might have happened at Doncaster had it been restored, it is all a bit academic now of course. But the following facts would (I think) have justified an authentic restoration:

 

1. It is the largest Schulze left anywhere in the world in restorable condition, in its original location.

 

2. Whilst there would inevitably have been some conjecture in the reconstruction, the more we looked at the organ and the more we saw in Thuringia when we went to investigate there, the less conjecture there was and the more clarity emerged. The winding, action, barker lever and all, could have been faithfully reproduced.

 

3. Musically, it would have been more stunning than interesting and whilst it may not have had all the mod cons of a modern organ (or the new console) it would have been very playable and we do keep forgetting that so much of the music we now see as unplayable without mutli-level pistons and what all else was written before such things were commonplace.

 

I honestly think that had the Doncaster organ been restored, many who now think it might have been a waste of time would have been converted. Just to sit at that grand console with all the innovative features of the time (not least the derived echo organ) would have been an experience.

 

John Pike Mander

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Without wishing to tread on toes here, I think this is a little bit of a sweeping statement. The 32ft reed at Doncaster is a bit of a bruiser to be sure. It is of a unique construction being a free reed. It is very difficult to regulate and I don't think we can be sure it is regulated. It may never have been. There is a similar stop in the other large Schulze organ at Markneukirchen. That one is quarter length rather than half length and when I heard it, it sounded wild, but I gather it has now been tamed. That one was a reconstruction of the original. The other reeds sounded interesting and not boring or that brash in Thuringia.

 

As to what might have happened at Doncaster had it been restored, it is all a bit academic now of course. But the following facts would (I think) have justified an authentic restoration:

 

1. It is the largest Schulze left anywhere in the world in restorable condition, in its original location.

 

2. Whilst there would inevitably have been some conjecture in the reconstruction, the more we looked at the organ and the more we saw in Thuringia when we went to investigate there, the less conjecture there was and the more clarity emerged. The winding, action, barker lever and all, could have been faithfully reproduced.

 

3. Musically, it would have been more stunning than interesting ..........

 

I honestly think that had the Doncaster organ been restored, many who now think it might have been a waste of time would have been converted. Just to sit at that grand console with all the innovative features of the time (not least the derived echo organ) would have been an experience.

 

John Pike Mander

 

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

 

 

I think there has always been a case for restoration at Doncaster, but the funding would have been a huge problem for the church, bearing in mind that, as at Armley, it would have taken a very long time. An exact restoration would have been astronomically expensive. As notjing has been changed tonally, it is still a future possibility.

 

I can well understand exact (as possible) restorations of old Dutch organs for example, because these organs were contemporary to some rather important music........but is that true of Doncaster?

 

Organ music was still in a lull, but beginning to take off again. Of the big compositions, we would be restricted to Reubke, Liszt, Mendelssohn and perhaps Rheinberger. Important certainly, but is it important enough to justify the cost?

 

Also, there is the belief that the voicing at Doncaster may have been altered from the original, even though Norman & Beard claimed to "respect" the Schulze pipework. However, I have a copy of a document which Magnus Black unearthed, which suggests that Norman & Beard "regulated the pipe speech." That suggests messing around with the pipe-tips to compensate for the more explosive action of pneumatic motors.

 

As Mr Mander suggests, the provision of new reeds would have been conjectural. The ones that are now there are rather good and certainly in keeping with the chorus-work, but perhaps a good bit louder. We need to ask whether replacing the existing chorus reeds would serve a musical function, and if so, what? As for replacing any Clarinet or Orchestral Oboe with one copied from Schulze, that would be like copying a "smiley face" and sticking it over that of the "Laughing Cavalier."

 

I think it is possible to wear two hats when considering the Doncaster instrument, and I would personally wear one or t'other quite happily.

 

The only point I would argue with concerns the statement that the Doncaster organ is the only one in its' original home. I don't think this is quite true, for Schulze firm were involved in the installation of the Armley instrument at Armley. Furthermore, Schulze seems to have had a standard way of doing things, and God only knows what the organ must have sounded like in the organ-room of the Kennedy Mansion at Meanwood, or in the rather dead "barn" known as Harrogate Parish Church.

 

At Armley, the organ sounds tailor-made for the building, but it wasn't, as we all know. In fact, it is a least two and a half times the size of Harrogate PC, possibly ten times the size of the organ-room at Meanwood, and now enjoys a reverberation period which takes up a substantial part of the day.

 

Musically, both Doncaster and Armley have always been stunning of course, and they still are. Small mercies are better than none at all, I suppose.

 

MM

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Organ music was still in a lull, but beginning to take off again. Of the big compositions, we would be restricted to Reubke, Liszt, Mendelssohn and perhaps Rheinberger. Important certainly, but is it important enough to justify the cost?

(citation)

 

Wouldn't this statment fit in the "repertoire mentality?"

A Schulze sounds superb, and that is all that's needed.

Of course, these choruses are not "classic" ones. But we can

still understand, perceive in them the link to the german baroque

tradition.

I heard Bach at Armley, and it was rather tolerable...

 

As to the N&B reeds, coudn't them be re-used in order to rehabilitate

genuine N&B organs?

For instance, the restoration of our Walcker in Namur will let us with

about 18 Delmotte's stops from 1962. Mind you, we already know where

they will go (in Delmotte's organs that badly need them!). They will be

sold for 50% of new stops price, so this will even pay for some of the

reconstitued ones.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Organ music was still in a lull, but beginning to take off again. Of the big compositions, we would be restricted to Reubke, Liszt, Mendelssohn and perhaps Rheinberger. Important certainly, but is it important enough to justify the cost?

(citation)

 

Wouldn't this statment fit in the "repertoire mentality?"

A Schulze sounds superb, and that is all that's needed.

 

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

 

We must ask what purpose restoration serves if it is not about music, and how music sounded originally.

 

I know it hits sensitive nerves in sensitive regions, but I suspect that the organ, as a musical instrument, must first serve the needs of music. Of course, I immediately know that this is a nonsense, because certain instruments are so good, that they stand apart as works of great art; and not just the great European organs we all admire so much.

 

Did F C Schnitger worry about the Hagabeer organ he enlarged at Alkmaar?

 

Did Arthur Harrison respect Fr.Willis reeds, or refuse to change Fr.Willis organs beyond recognition?

 

There are no answers: merely questions, but it is at least important that we approach change and/or restoration in an informed manner, and with the highest integrity. Once we go down the path of whim and fashion, we deserve what we get.

 

Incidentally, the Norman & Beard reeds are not great over-blown fog-horns. They are voiced on a modest 6" wg of wind, except for the addded Tuba, which is quite separate from the rest of the organ.

 

Of course, the absolute restoration of Doncaster would have resulted in the original absurdity of a fifth manual entirely derived from the Swell and Echo, with the exception of just one independent rank! It was never REALLY a 5-manual instrument, but it certainly LOOKED like one. The fifth manual was a glorious waste of money the first time around, and it would have been an equally glorious waste of public-funding to repeat the confidence-trick once again.

 

MM

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the organ, as a musical instrument, must first serve the needs of music.

 

(Quote)

 

Here is the hazard: What is "music's needs"?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers

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Talking of Doncaster, which we were earlier, the problem with at least one big would-be grant-giver who might have been presumed to support the work there in recent years was that a condition of their grant was made that Doncaster should agree a reconstruction of the (long-gone) original man-powered blowing installation.  To my mind, this is as inappropriate a use of funds as the provision of the mechanical consoles (some of us would guess - installed for politically correct reasons) at Christchurch Priory, Bridgewater Hall etc. etc. *

This plan (and therefore the possible grant also) were turned down by the church council.

 

*I think some advisers seem to have forgotten that many of the greatest works in our literature were concieved for consoles with mechanical assistance, and the ones that weren't still benefit from a console position where the organist can hear what he or she is actually doing.  Sorry to be so politically incorrect as to give my true opinion here.

 

Dear Mr. Derrett,

 

I think I agree with you - but I am confused! I am probably just being stupid, but your footnote appears to give a slightly different reading than the last paragraph of your post.

 

I agree heartily that there have been recent occasions when a mechanical en-fenetre console was specified apparently without due regard to practicalities - Christchurch Priory being a case in point. It is now the proud possessor of an expensive chocolate chastity-belt up in the organ loft. It also has one of the ugliest nave consoles I have ever seen. I cannot imagine why it was deemed necessary to make such a squat console. Watching the conductor from the console of the old toaster in its original position perpendicular to the back of the (Cantoris) stalls was never a problem. They are now encountering real problems trying to locate places for the extra draw-stops for the desired additions to the scheme. (However, that is quite another story.)

 

However, I am puzzled by exactly what you mean in your footnote. Are you advocating mechanical action for (by way of an example) a more faithful performance of a Widor symphony? (Also, do you mean Barker-lever assistance - or even electric?). I am not aware of any action which has 'mechanical assistance'. Please could you clarify?!

 

However, on balance, I am fairly certain that I agree with what I think you mean... :blink:

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In answer to who is looking after the Bristol Cathedral organ as far as I know the work of tuning and regulation was entrusted to Tony Cawston who also looks after the Symphony hall Organ and the Organ at St Chad's Cathedral Birmingham. I don't know if it was Mander's who recently altered the piston combinations and provided more memories. If there are serious problems with the up keep and maintenance of the Organ then surely it's the responsibility of the Cathedral Organist and Advisors to address these problems you say are current. I have not played the Organ for a few years so I can't comment on recent developments.

 

Sorry just to put the record straight. Tony Cawston is not longer looking after St. Chad's or Symphony Hall. I look after St. Chad's now!

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