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The Most Frequently Rebuilt Organ


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

To get the ball rolling, my nomination: Sherborne Abbey.

 

If we consider the starting date to be 1887 Gray and Davison- essentially a new organ and case.

[and I'm counting only those times when the instrument was substantially altered]

They then call in Kirkland in 1900 and 1921

J.W.Walker in 1955 - a downstairs console and electropneumatic action

John Coulson in 1971 - featuring the (apparently) unique Steiglitz III on the Great

Bishops in 1986 - console back in the gallery, tracker action

Derry Thompson in 1991 - a number of replacement stops and additions including a Contra Batten (sic!) 32'

Kenneth Tickell in 2005* - with a new Nave section (on electric action)

 

The list of advisers is truly impressive too. NPOR tells most of the story.

 

 

As a random check, I called up St.Paul's Cathedral and that seemed to have been worked on less than half as many times in the same period.

 

 

 

*As an interesting sidelight, I gather that the prime mover in the last of these rebuilds (Mr.Joseph Sentence) has already left his post as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Sherborne.

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To get the ball rolling, my nomination: Sherborne Abbey.

 

If we consider the starting date to be 1887 Gray and Davison- essentially a new organ and case.

[and I'm counting only those times when the instrument was substantially altered]

They then call in Kirkland in 1900 and 1921

J.W.Walker in 1955 - a downstairs console and electropneumatic action

John Coulson in 1971 - featuring the (apparently) unique Steiglitz III on the Great

Bishops in 1986 - console back in the gallery, tracker action

Derry Thompson in 1991 - a number of replacement stops and additions including a Contra Batten (sic!) 32'

Kenneth Tickell in 2005* - with a new Nave section (on electric action)

 

The list of advisers is truly impressive too. NPOR tells most of the story.

As a random check, I called up St.Paul's Cathedral and that seemed to have been worked on less than half as many times in the same period.

*As an interesting sidelight, I gather that the prime mover in the last of these rebuilds (Mr.Joseph Sentence) has already left his post as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Sherborne.

 

 

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

 

I can't actually prove it, but I suspect that certain Theatre Organs have been moved, refurbished/modified/rebuilt more often than any others.

 

The Wurlitzer at Brighouse started life in Oldham, was rescued from drowning, went to Harrogate, went to Pudsey nr.Leeds, went to Brighouse and now it's about to go walkabouts again; all in the space of 70 years.

 

I'm sure this is one of the less moved/rebuilt examples.

 

MM

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

Delicious topic but Posters, have a gygercounter at the ready if you are asked to meet a couple of organ builders in a posh central London hotel preceded by a few sushi nibbles elsewhere.

 

I submit two organs - (one though, being a place where three new organs have been constructed since 1975!) so might not be included here. Nevertheless, it might need a Board all on its own. (Any other places where money has been spent so freely on new instruments?)

 

St Mary the Virgin, Bourne Street, London

1875 J.W. Walker & Sons

1913 Lewis

1928 Henry Willis & Sons

1984 N.P. Mander

2005-6 Harrison & Harrison

 

Selwyn College, Cambridge

c1890 J.W. Walker

1937 Rushworth & Dreaper (Organ transferred elsewhere)

1975 Harrison & Harrison (Organ transferred elsewhere)

1993 William Johnson & Peter Collins (scrapped?)

2004 Létourneau

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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(Any other places where money has been spent so freely on new instruments?)

 

Hmm... should we perhaps mention also Christchurch Priory?

 

1865 Willis

1886 Willis

1890 Ginns Bros

1932 Willis

1952 The John Compton Organ Co

1964 Degens & Rippin

1999 Nicholson

2000 Nicholson

2006 Nicholson

 

I believe there were also some small alterations made in about 2002/3.

 

Bearing in mind this is a new, half-million pound organ - three major bouts of tonal alterations might seem pretty steep. No matter - the results are now excellent (apart from the winding...)

 

Also bear in mind they had an electronic for 20 or so years!!!

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Brecon Cathedral and St Davids Cathedral seem also to have been in a state of constant rebuild - although the recent work at St Ds seems to have stopped things for the better there. I have not heard the results of the H & H work but by all accounts it is a vast improvement

 

AJJ

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Brecon Cathedral and St Davids Cathedral seem also to have been in a state of constant rebuild - although the recent work at St Ds seems to have stopped things for the better there. I have not heard the results of the H & H work but by all accounts it is a vast improvement

 

AJJ

 

 

I found the rebuilt St.David's organ just a touch odd. Of course, you've got to hand it to the cathedral, H&H and Roy Massey (who designed it) because an extremely thorough and expensive job has been done.

 

I've had the benefit of attending a few services, attending a recital (given by Margaret Phillips) and giving a recital myself. The case is splendid. The old Choir, being the original Willis stuff restored is excellent as are the Swell and Great. The quasi-Positive, quasi-something on the West side, (in the quasi-chair case) is Willis-style and probably Willis scaling but considerably louder than FHW would have made it - I found it good but quite a surprise. It wasn't clear what musical use to put it to - was it a 'super choir' or really a Nave Organ? It isn't a second Great and the Cremona seemed to me to be equal in power to the FHW Great Trumpet/Tromba.

 

The Pedal is scattered around a bit (as it was before) and the new 32' reed is devastating in the Choir - so large as to be unuseable, I would have thought, but then it is inaudible, or virtually inaudible in the nave. Meanwhile, the 32' Violone (that came, I think from the old St.Marylebone organ) is glorious everywhere.

 

The console looks a treat and was done to special order - it looks perfect 'old H&H style', but it most definitely doesn't feel like 'old H&H style'.... again most curious! I couldn't put my finger on what was adrift. I'm fairly sure that the keys are not either ivory or bone, and plastic keys always get on my nerves, so it may just be that. I was told that H&H ditched their 'standard' console several years ago, so they may also have lost a few of the critical measurements (i.e. spatial relationships between the various bits) because I firmly suspect that they were not the same. I've lost count of how many 'standard' H&H consoles I've sat down at over the years, but (until this one) they all feel the same and they all feel comfortable.

 

It seems to record well, I have Timothy Noon's 2002 CD (York Ambisonic) and that's fine, good playing too; I did wonder how many mikes they had to site in order to get the 32' reed to sound appropriate!

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No one's mentioned Gloucester yet, but looking at NPOR it would seem to have been put through the mincer by a succession of strong minded characters looking to put their stamp on it: Father Willis, Arthur Harrison, Ralph Downes, David Briggs... As I've said many times before, time to bin the lot and start afresh.

 

Mention of St David's - Tim Noon has made a second, and much better, recording on the organ in 'Little England' which was recently released. I think it's called 'Rhapsody' and includes Whitlock's Plymouth Suite.

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I was told that H&H ditched their 'standard' console several years ago, so they may also have lost a few of the critical measurements (i.e. spatial relationships between the various bits) because I firmly suspect that they were not the same.
Oh dear. I don't think I wanted to hear that. I've always found H&H consoles so comfortable that it's almost impossible to play a wrong note at them. I exaggerate, of course, but I'm sure anyone who has ever played one will know exactly what I mean.
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Oh dear. I don't think I wanted to hear that. I've always found H&H consoles so comfortable that it's almost impossible to play a wrong note at them. I exaggerate, of course, but I'm sure anyone who has ever played one will know exactly what I mean.

 

Absolutely, Vox. I do not think that I have ever found a more comfortable (or elegant) console than that for the organ of Exeter Cathedral. Coventry comes a close second - the pedal-board is even more comfortable, I am just still not sure about all that leather.... :blink:

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Absolutely, Vox. I do not think that I have ever found a more comfortable (or elegant) console than that for the organ of Exeter Cathedral. Coventry comes a close second - the pedal-board is even more comfortable, I am just still not sure about all that leather.... :blink:

Could be that the smell of all that leather helps the organist to better appreciate the moo-sic. :P

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  • 2 years later...
I found the rebuilt St.David's organ just a touch odd. Of course, you've got to hand it to the cathedral, H&H and Roy Massey (who designed it) because an extremely thorough and expensive job has been done.

 

I've had the benefit of attending a few services, attending a recital (given by Margaret Phillips) and giving a recital myself. The case is splendid. The old Choir, being the original Willis stuff restored is excellent as are the Swell and Great. The quasi-Positive, quasi-something on the West side, (in the quasi-chair case) is Willis-style and probably Willis scaling but considerably louder than FHW would have made it - I found it good but quite a surprise. It wasn't clear what musical use to put it to - was it a 'super choir' or really a Nave Organ? It isn't a second Great and the Cremona seemed to me to be equal in power to the FHW Great Trumpet/Tromba.

 

The Pedal is scattered around a bit (as it was before) and the new 32' reed is devastating in the Choir - so large as to be unuseable, I would have thought, but then it is inaudible, or virtually inaudible in the nave. Meanwhile, the 32' Violone (that came, I think from the old St.Marylebone organ) is glorious everywhere.

 

The console looks a treat and was done to special order - it looks perfect 'old H&H style', but it most definitely doesn't feel like 'old H&H style'.... again most curious! I couldn't put my finger on what was adrift. I'm fairly sure that the keys are not either ivory or bone, and plastic keys always get on my nerves, so it may just be that. I was told that H&H ditched their 'standard' console several years ago, so they may also have lost a few of the critical measurements (i.e. spatial relationships between the various bits) because I firmly suspect that they were not the same. I've lost count of how many 'standard' H&H consoles I've sat down at over the years, but (until this one) they all feel the same and they all feel comfortable.

 

It seems to record well, I have Timothy Noon's 2002 CD (York Ambisonic) and that's fine, good playing too; I did wonder how many mikes they had to site in order to get the 32' reed to sound appropriate!

Just back from a weekend of playing and conducting in St David's with the RSCM Cathedral Singers. Having not visited St David's for over 30 years I was really looking forward to playing the rebuilt organ. I must say I found it a bit of a disappointment.

 

The East Choir was by far my favourite section, but as all services were in the nave of more or less no use to me on this occasion. The swell organ was fine and worked very well for accompaniment. I found the balance with the great to be poor, maybe this is less true away from the console, but to my taste the great completely overpowered the swell. I didn't like either of the mixtures on the great, both of which seemed rather shrill.

 

Like Paul, I found the console not quite right. It looks like a Harrison console, but when I sat down to play it just didnt feel comfortable and it took me some time to acclimatise to it.

 

The Manual I-IV reverse coupler is useful but, as I found to my cost, a trap for the unwary. Its very easy to set a general without noticing that this coupler is on from a previous setting and this can lead to spectacular errors!

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