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On The Screen Or Not?


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Oh dear! The poor suffering people of Holland!

 

:D

 

MM

 

 

Or Belgium, surely. It's not that loud!

 

JS

 

[The Brussels Cathedral instrument is rather fine, though having the swell division literally beneath one's feet is an odd sensation. From the vertiginous gallery you can just make out the fibreglass tracker wires to the detached pedal towers on each side. They're completely invisible from the nave below - very clever].

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.......fibreglass tracker wires to the detached pedal towers on each side.

 

 

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

 

Fibreglass is rather brittle and does tend to degrade.

 

Are you sure they're not carbon-fibre?

 

MM

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[The Brussels Cathedral instrument is rather fine, though having the swell division literally beneath one's feet is an odd sensation. From the vertiginous gallery you can just make out the fibreglass tracker wires to the detached pedal towers on each side. They're completely invisible from the nave below - very clever].

 

 

And it sounds pretty fine too - on CD at least

 

AJJ

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John - I think our friend MusingMuso means that practically all Dutch organs are at the west end.

 

I am a fan of west end organs as much as anyone, but it does depend on the size of the building. Surely this is why so many French churches have orgues de choeur. The Brussels consultant (Jean Ferrard, to put a name to him) maintains that in a large church the sound, or maybe the clarity, of the west end organ disappears long before it reaches, say, the crossing because it has nothing to "bounce off". I have seen comment that this is a problem at Antwerp cathedral although I have to say I enjoyed hearing it on my two visits there. M. Ferrard says that in Brussels the organ can be heard throughout the nave but also the sound can bounce off the opposite wall and thus travel throughout the building. No doubt an acoustic engineer can comment on this aspect further.

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John - I think our friend MusingMuso means that practically all Dutch organs are at the west end.

 

I am a fan of west end organs as much as anyone, but it does depend on the size of the building. Surely this is why so many French churches have orgues de choeur. The Brussels consultant (Jean Ferrard, to put a name to him) maintains that in a large church the sound, or maybe the clarity, of the west end organ disappears long before it reaches, say, the crossing because it has nothing to "bounce off". I have seen comment that this is a problem at Antwerp cathedral although I have to say I enjoyed hearing it on my two visits there. M. Ferrard says that in Brussels the organ can be heard throughout the nave but also the sound can bounce off the opposite wall and thus travel throughout the building. No doubt an acoustic engineer can comment on this aspect further.

 

 

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

 

Believe it or not, the incomparable St. Bavo Organ does sound quite "mushy" from the crossing, as much of the clarity disappears. In fact, it begins to sound very romantic at that distance.

 

On the other hand, I was astounded when I partook of an experiement during a Bach recital at Groningen, when I went right to the far eastern end of the Martinikerk, and could still hear ever note with crystal clarity.

 

The latter is a much better vehicle for Bach and his contemporaries.

 

MM

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I think the organ of Chartres Cathedral is superbly effective, and wonderful to listen to, from its position in the South triforium. However, I'm aware from comments on previous discussions that this instrument is not held in univerally high regard.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

An interesting topic and one that exercises the minds of the British more than most. However, I tend to think that many of today's problems stem from the fact that we try to put a strangely different instrument into the case provided. Almost all of the pulpitum or screen positions left to us are organ cases from an earlier century when the words symphonic, high pressure, and 30 or more note pedal organs were unknown. The Tudor days of having choirs and organs belonging to different chapels was a luxury but yet, a marvelous solution to such a problem. A vast cathedral or abbey church had many uses of course and some could have accommodated the population of the local town or city- once or twice over as seats were never in abundance. Diocesan services were only possible with transport. Even today with strong driving some cathedrals are an hour and a half away. Pilgrims were another factor that we forget about today. We have a more secular society that visit these places and who are sometimes charged for the privilege. In a number of places towards the time of an Office, a verger puts up ropes and starts to herd folk out when in fact they should be locking them in!

A single organ should not in many of these places be the sole musical resource. Unfortunately, in my mind actions have led to riotous and strange visions of construction because pipes can be placed anywhere so long as a blower can be hitched up to them. I can't help but think that un-mechanical actions have contributed to many a church going electronic. At the moment I can think of no church 'going digital' in preference to restoring a mechanical instrument. (Do tell? I would really like to know).

Of course the solution is back to the good all days of multifarious positions and resources - a challenge and perhaps a required injection to Make Music of substance. Liturgy in the C of E is no longer Tractarian and so chancels, robes and bunged-up vestries and chapels with over-sized organs that speak normally North-South (or vice versa) with pedal East-West are hard to support. The notion of joining everything up to one giant console is quite horrific - both for music and the player. If an instrument cannot be considered to be built mechanically then I believe we are allowing make-believe and dreaming to become a nightmare. And more so for the next generation who will have the task of funding it. If a congregation (for about 5 hymns in a service) require such an instrument, we have got most things out of proportion, I think. Just relay the music as best you can through the speakers (PA system). They will join in - or arrive earlier the next time to get a seat nearer the action.

The one thing that electronic substitutes and a great number of large instruments have in common is Action. I long for the day of a 'suspended electronic' - and not just from a gallows.

 

Sorry for the length. All best.

Nigel

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At the moment I can think of no church 'going digital' in preference to restoring a mechanical instrument. (Do tell? I would really like to know).

 

I can think of several dozen...

 

If an instrument cannot be considered to be built mechanically then I believe we are allowing make-believe and dreaming to become a nightmare. And more so for the next generation who will have the task of funding it. If a congregation (for about 5 hymns in a service) require such an instrument, we have got most things out of proportion, I think. Just relay the music as best you can through the speakers (PA system). They will join in - or arrive earlier the next time to get a seat nearer the action.

The one thing that electronic substitutes and a great number of large instruments have in common is Action. I long for the day of a 'suspended electronic' - and not just from a gallows.

 

I assume you are talking at a parish level here. Even so I think tonal qualities ought to be coming first. I can think of a large number of fairly recent tracker organs I would unhesitatingly chop up for firewood and welcome an Allen, or a guitar, as a preferred alternative. I can think of hundreds of electropneumatic (and even one or two clever extension) instruments which are far better voiced (with music in mind), and much more musical in general, than some of the indifferent mechanical stuff I have seen from the last 50 years or so. Example one; minor town centre church, splendid Willis rebuilt Harrison, electropneumatic action, a widely varied tonal pallette refraining from extremes of colour, a respectable and restrained number of playing aids; example two, minor town centre church with fairly recent (1980's) tracker product adhering strictly to neo-baroque principles, indifferently applied, made from generally poor quality materials (languids collapsing on bass pipes, coupler controls constantly breaking, badly worn bushings on aluminium action which make it sound like a hailstorm in an aircraft hangar) and voiced in a factory somewhere to scream its head off. I know which job I'd apply for, and which one I'd probably turn down a funeral at.

 

Of course these are extremes and there are countless opposing arguments. If a church is fortunate enough to have a good musical instrument, that can come in many shapes and sizes; shouldn't we be a bit further on in our outlook than discriminating solely on the grounds of action?

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If an instrument cannot be considered to be built mechanically then I believe we are allowing make-believe and dreaming to become a nightmare.

 

 

I long for the day of a 'suspended electronic' - and not just from a gallows.

 

 

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

 

 

Somewhere in America, there is a pipe-organ suspended from the roof, which half-resembles that space-ship in "Close encounters of the third-kind."

 

Don't ask me how the organist gets up there, unless he/she is a former employee of Jerry Cottel or Barnum & Bailey, but I quite like the idea of the organist "flying-by-wire" rather than the electric-action doing the same. There are a few organists I would happily shoot up there from a cannon, and a few canons I would happily do the same with, but I digress.

 

"The organist will now descend for the communion," could really be the focal-point of the worship.

 

:o

 

MM

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I suspect that a pulpitum organ, assuming the screen is fairly central as at Gloucester and not too far east, is probably still the best position for a single instrument to have any hope of being effective in both quire and nave. This does bring its own problems of balance of sound with west-facing and east facing divisions. Whilst we organists may find the sight of the organs in Exeter and Norwich (for example) stunning its only fair to acknowledge that many other people take the view that they spoil the vista. Its most unlikely that a new organ screen would ever now be constructed in a cathedral where this is not a long-standing historic architectural feature.

 

Interestingly there was a debate at the time of the 1933 rebuilding of the organ of Exeter Cathedral (and, I believe, again in 1965) when many views were aired and so many wished to have the organ removed from its commanding position on the pulpitum that the BBC actually produced a mock-up (presumably photograhic) of what the cathedral would look like, were the organ to be removed from the screen. Well, it looked like a long, low tunnel*. Fortunately, the cathedral authorities had the good sense to leave it were it was - and still is.

 

 

 

*It should be remembered that the vault at Exeter is comparatively low. About twenty years ago, when the interior of the cathedral was cleaned and much of the stonework painted, the height of the vault was re-measured. It is but sixty-eight feet from pavement to the apex of the vault.

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An interesting topic and one that exercises the minds of the British more than most.............

If a congregation (for about 5 hymns in a service) require such an instrument, we have got most things out of proportion, I think. Just relay the music as best you can through the speakers (PA system). They will join in - or arrive earlier the next time to get a seat nearer the action...............

 

Nigel

 

There seems to be a trend of choirs singing in the nave rather than the quire for large/communion services. They still sing communion settings, anthems, etc as though they were in the quire. They need an organ capable of accompanying everything from a pp psalm verse through to the last verse (with descant) of a congregational hymn.

 

So, where is the best position to place an organ?

 

:o

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There seems to be a trend of choirs singing in the nave rather than the quire for large/communion services. They still sing communion settings, anthems, etc as though they were in the quire. They need an organ capable of accompanying everything from a pp psalm verse through to the last verse (with descant) of a congregational hymn.

 

So, where is the best position to place an organ?

 

:o

 

Maybe something like Southwell - though I have not heard the Nave organ in action with choir and congregation in that part of the building so have no first hand experience to back this suggestion up!

 

AJJ

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I would agree that an antiphonal division would work best for congregational singing. One such example is St. James Cathedral in Toronto. Although this cathedral is on a smaller scale than most English cathedrals, it is still large, measuring 200 ft (61 m) long, 84 ft (26 m) high and 98 ft (30 m) wide at the porches.

 

The main organ is at the front of the church split on the two sides of the quire: Great, Choir and Pedal divisions in Epistle (south) case, Swell in Gospel (north) case, Auxilliary (antiphonal) Manual and Pedal in aisle case at the rear of the Cathedral. The console is located beyond the quire on the north side.

 

This is usually quite effective for recitals, choir and congregational accompaniment, from the nave's perspectives (I have sat at different places in the nave). However, it's a completely different story for the organist.

 

The DOM, who is also a fully licensed pilot and flies himself to recitals, likens playing the organ to flying an aircraft. He explained that you have to trust your instruments rather than your senses. In a plane, when you cannot see anything out the windows, you have to rely on your instruments to tell you which way is up, north, and how fast you are going, etc. Playing the cathedral organ, if the instruments tells you the antiphonal division is engaged, you have to assume that it is playing, because you won't hear it for another five seconds, long after the other divisions have finished.

 

I also noticed one interesting fact, that the enclosed divisions at the front all have nave and chancel shutters and can be separately controlled. Perhaps this helps to minimize unnecessary sound sources bouncing around too much?

 

As for the problem of a great window at the west end, perhaps the nave division does not have to be all the way at the back. What about three quarters of the way down, housed just above the side aisles? Or perhaps jutting out from the triforia on either side near the west?

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I would agree that an antiphonal division would work best for congregational singing. One such example is St. James Cathedral in Toronto. Although this cathedral is on a smaller scale than most English cathedrals, it is still large, measuring 200 ft (61 m) long, 84 ft (26 m) high and 98 ft (30 m) wide at the porches.

 

The main organ is at the front of the church split on the two sides of the quire: Great, Choir and Pedal divisions in Epistle (south) case, Swell in Gospel (north) case, Auxilliary (antiphonal) Manual and Pedal in aisle case at the rear of the Cathedral. The console is located beyond the quire on the north side.

 

This is usually quite effective for recitals, choir and congregational accompaniment, from the nave's perspectives (I have sat at different places in the nave). However, it's a completely different story for the organist.

 

The DOM, who is also a fully licensed pilot and flies himself to recitals, likens playing the organ to flying an aircraft. He explained that you have to trust your instruments rather than your senses. In a plane, when you cannot see anything out the windows, you have to rely on your instruments to tell you which way is up, north, and how fast you are going, etc. Playing the cathedral organ, if the instruments tells you the antiphonal division is engaged, you have to assume that it is playing, because you won't hear it for another five seconds, long after the other divisions have finished.

 

I also noticed one interesting fact, that the enclosed divisions at the front all have nave and chancel shutters and can be separately controlled. Perhaps this helps to minimize unnecessary sound sources bouncing around too much?

 

As for the problem of a great window at the west end, perhaps the nave division does not have to be all the way at the back. What about three quarters of the way down, housed just above the side aisles? Or perhaps jutting out from the triforia on either side near the west?

 

Strewth. Sounds like a complete nightmare. I'm beginning to favour Nigel's idea for a nice 20-stop tracker job piped through the speakers!

 

One of my favourite tricks at Romsey is to play a trio sonata with one hand on the Choir, the other on the Nave. In actual fact the console is the only place in the building where the timing of the sound doesn't work, and that's where the clicking Barker Levers come in handy. Have always wanted to try this at St Paul's. Wonder if that would work here - do you know if anyone's tried???

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I would agree that an antiphonal division would work best for congregational singing. One such example is St. James Cathedral in Toronto. Although this cathedral is on a smaller scale than most English cathedrals, it is still large, measuring 200 ft (61 m) long, 84 ft (26 m) high and 98 ft (30 m) wide at the porches.

 

Playing the cathedral organ, if the instruments tells you the antiphonal division is engaged, you have to assume that it is playing, because you won't hear it for another five seconds, long after the other divisions have finished.

 

 

If the speed of sound is 1100 feet per second, I think five seconds is a bit of an exaggeration, though I accept the point you are making. Why not install a microphone in the antiphonal division to feed a near field monitor speaker at the console to assist the organist? Provided it is closely positioned, it need not disturb anyone else.

 

QUOTE(Nigel ALLCOAT @ Feb 3 2007, 11:57 AM)

 

If an instrument cannot be considered to be built mechanically then I believe we are allowing make-believe and dreaming to become a nightmare. And more so for the next generation who will have the task of funding it. If a congregation (for about 5 hymns in a service) require such an instrument, we have got most things out of proportion, I think. Just relay the music as best you can through the speakers (PA system). They will join in - or arrive earlier the next time to get a seat nearer the action.

 

 

Sorry to disagree with Nigel, but the congregation are the paying customers. If the problem lies at the console then that's where to solve it rather than adopting the organist's ideal solution at the expense of others.

 

JC

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

 

Believe it or not, the incomparable St. Bavo Organ does sound quite "mushy" from the crossing, as much of the clarity disappears. In fact, it begins to sound very romantic at that distance.

 

On the other hand, I was astounded when I partook of an experiement during a Bach recital at Groningen, when I went right to the far eastern end of the Martinikerk, and could still hear ever note with crystal clarity.

 

The latter is a much better vehicle for Bach and his contemporaries.

 

MM

 

Well, yes - but remember that Sint Bavokirk is a very large building ...

 

http://pub21.bravenet.com/photocenter/albu...rnum=1769289593

 

http://pub21.bravenet.com/photocenter/albu...rnum=1769289593

 

... with a very fine organ ...

 

http://pub21.bravenet.com/photocenter/albu...rnum=1769289593

 

When I was there last February, it was considerably colder inside the church than it was outside - where it was snowing.

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

 

Then take a building like York Minster, which has a garage acoustic. The sound flies everywhere, and returns in its own good time from far-flung regions. Much of the choral sound swirls around the choir, and can barely be heard in the nave. The organ, sitting on the screen (and elsewhere), has to somehow fulfil the task of both choir and congregational accompaniment instrument, but not with any great success even now.

Much of the sound goes into the very wide and high central tower, some of the sound projects east and some of the sound (including the big Tuba) is projected west. Rather like the old RC priest with his holy-water, everybody gets a bit, but it is like being rained upon from all directions at the same time.

 

The transept position at Chester is wonderful for organ-recitals and congregational hymns, but the choir can easily become dwarfed by the sound of the instrument, and the distances involved present problems of cohesion and balance.

 

MM

 

This organ in York Minster is very much voiced for the Quire, and as far as accompaniments go for services held in the Quire (about 95% I'd say) I don't think I would be wrong to say that there is nothing quite like it; it does it's job extremely well! The problem comes when services are in the Nave; the Choir division renders useless, the Solo Tuba and Bombarde can hardly be heard, and the acoustic is so big that leading a big congregation becomes very difficult.

 

You hit the nail right on the head with Chester though. It is such a loud instrument, that it is extremely difficult to accompany the Choir (in the Quire) without drowning them out! But like you say, its great for recitals. :rolleyes:

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One of my favourite tricks at Romsey is to play a trio sonata with one hand on the Choir, the other on the Nave. In actual fact the console is the only place in the building where the timing of the sound doesn't work, and that's where the clicking Barker Levers come in handy. Have always wanted to try this at St Paul's. Wonder if that would work here - do you know if anyone's tried???

 

On a similar tack, I believe one of John Scott's tricks when demonstrating the St Paul's organ was to play the opening of the Fantasie in Eb (Saint-Saens), one hand played on the chancel organ, the other on the west trumpets. Instead of repeating the chords as written, he would play both chords simultaneously. Due to the delay, the result was exactly as Saint-Saens intended - apart from the registration!

 

G

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This organ in York Minster is very much voiced for the Quire, and as far as accompaniments go for services held in the Quire (about 95% I'd say) I don't think I would be wrong to say that there is nothing quite like it; it does it's job extremely well! The problem comes when services are in the Nave; the Choir division renders useless, the Solo Tuba and Bombarde can hardly be heard, and the acoustic is so big that leading a big congregation becomes very difficult.

 

You hit the nail right on the head with Chester though. It is such a loud instrument, that it is extremely difficult to accompany the Choir (in the Quire) without drowning them out! But like you say, its great for recitals. :rolleyes:

 

 

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

 

As a born and bred Yorkshireman, I of course adore York Minster, but as Richard will have rapidly discovered, it is something of an acoustic nightmare West of the choir-screen. I suspect that the problem is not just the vast area of the central-tower space, it is further aggravated by the sheer width and hieght of the nave.

 

I would hazard a guess, that even a baroque organ with a tone-cabinet directing the sound into the nave, would not be a lot better in terms of clarity. In fact, York is possibly the nbearest thing to the sort of acoustic found in Spain, such as at Seville.

 

That said, the combination of choir and organ East of the screen is superb, as Richard points out.

 

I always have empathy for the organist at the Carol Service, in which the big Tuba tends to play slightly more than a quick celebrity cameo role, due to the fact that it's the only thing which can be used for crowd-control.

 

But it's a gorgeous place with a fine choir, and an organ which is wonderfully subtle when it comes to accompaniment.

 

MM

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

 

As a born and bred Yorkshireman, I of course adore York Minster, but as Richard will have rapidly discovered, it is something of an acoustic nightmare West of the choir-screen. I suspect that the problem is not just the vast area of the central-tower space, it is further aggravated by the sheer width and hieght of the nave.

 

I would hazard a guess, that even a baroque organ with a tone-cabinet directing the sound into the nave, would not be a lot better in terms of clarity. In fact, York is possibly the nbearest thing to the sort of acoustic found in Spain, such as at Seville.

 

That said, the combination of choir and organ East of the screen is superb, as Richard points out.

 

I always have empathy for the organist at the Carol Service, in which the big Tuba tends to play slightly more than a quick celebrity cameo role, due to the fact that it's the only thing which can be used for crowd-control.

 

But it's a gorgeous place with a fine choir, and an organ which is wonderfully subtle when it comes to accompaniment.

 

MM

It just leaves you scratching your head all the more at the decision to sell the 1863 Hill from the Nave at the time of the tonally "surpressive" Walker rebuild of the screen organ in 1903/4. I understand the theory was that, with the console moved to the south side of the screen, any player could get a decent view down the nave and accompany from the main organ. Only last year I heard that this Hill still sounds magnificent in its home for the last hundred or so years at Radcliffe - depite being "nobbled" mechanically in more recent times.

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It just leaves you scratching your head all the more at the decision to sell the 1863 Hill from the Nave at the time of the tonally "surpressive" Walker rebuild of the screen organ in 1903/4. I understand the theory was that, with the console moved to the south side of the screen, any player could get a decent view down the nave and accompany from the main organ. Only last year I heard that this Hill still sounds magnificent in its home for the last hundred or so years at Radcliffe - depite being "nobbled" mechanically in more recent times.

 

 

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

 

I can't help but think, that when an organ has either been replaced, revoiced or totaly rebuilt every 30 to 40 years, and radical changes made, it probably demonstrates a certain underlying dissatisfaction with the building.

 

Other places demonstrate a slow matamorphosis, as at Salisbury, Beverley or Hereford; to quote just three examples among many.

 

Acoustically, I don't think any other country in the world has quite such a variety as can be found in British cathedrals, except perhaps America, but I may be wrong.

 

MM

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It just leaves you scratching your head all the more at the decision to sell the 1863 Hill from the Nave at the time of the tonally "surpressive" Walker rebuild of the screen organ in 1903/4. I understand the theory was that, with the console moved to the south side of the screen, any player could get a decent view down the nave and accompany from the main organ. Only last year I heard that this Hill still sounds magnificent in its home for the last hundred or so years at Radcliffe - depite being "nobbled" mechanically in more recent times.

 

I believe that it was mooted to install a new nave organ in York Minster to supplement the screen organ. This would appear to be the only practical solution to the problem of accompanying nave services.

 

Has anyone heard any more of this?

 

John

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Guest Barry Oakley
=================================

 

...Other places to demonstrate a slow matamorphosis, as at Salisbury, Beverley or Hereford; to quote just three examples among many.

 

Acoustically, I don't think any other country in the world has quite such a variety as can be found in British cathedrals, except perhaps America, but I may be wrong.

 

MM

 

 

Lincoln, too, is a classic example of largely one-way sound egress into the quire.

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Does the organ position work at Truro? There’s no screen, so the organ should be just as useful in the nave as the quire. Do they move the choir into the nave for large services?

 

:rolleyes:

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I believe that it was mooted to install a new nave organ in York Minster to supplement the screen organ. This would appear to be the only practical solution to the problem of accompanying nave services.

 

Has anyone heard any more of this?

 

John

I imagine Geoffrey Coffin is longing for that 'phone call. Perhaps they might acquire a redundant instrument for the nave (can't help thinking about the ex-Manningham Hill that has been taken) as Southwell did.

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