Branksome: Saint Aldhelm. This is an impressive example of a hall-church (with all aisles the same height). It houses a two-clavier instrument, originally by Gray & Davison, then rebuilt in 1967 by Geo. Osmond & Co., then restored and enlarged by Lance Foy, of Truro, in 1995-96. Perhaps the most striking feature of the re-modelled organ, is the Pedal and G.O. reed unit, comprising a Bombarde (16ft.), Orchestral Trumpet (8ft.) and an Orchestral Clarion (4ft.). In collaboration with my colleague, I designed the scheme (including specifying the voicing and providing full-size drawings for the altered console layout), so it is difficult to comment objectively.
This instrument is also infamous locally for its ‘extra’ draw-stop (which was entirely my fault) – Labelled ‘Choir to Pub’, the engraver queried it twice, before he produced it. Intended to open a small hatch to reveal a mini-bar, it has (so far) never been connected, so it is little more than a curiosity.
Bournemouth: Saint Peter. The Civic Church of Saint Peter stands amongst shops and nightclubs, its spire a landmark which is visible for some distance.
The organ is a large three-clavier instrument, which was formerly a ‘vintage’ Harrison, replete with the standard G.O. Trombe, Pedal Ophicleide and Choir Tuba. However, in 1976, it was rebuilt by Rushworth & Dreaper, who provided several new ranks and re-modelled a number others. As it now stands, it is an uneasy compromise between two styles, unfortunately satisfying neither. The rebuild largely failed to address the fact that much of the instrument still sounds a little remote in the Nave – despite the G.O. reeds speaking on a wind pressure of 250mm.
In 1987, HN&B undertook further work, including the transposition (and re-tuning) of the Choir Organ Salicet (4ft.) as a TC undulant, which now forms an effective céleste with the Viola da Gamba.
This instrument is played from what is almost certainly the ugliest and cheapest-looking detached console in the area. Apparently constructed from Lego and boxwood, it is placed on a mobile platform normally sited at the east end of the South Nave Aisle. The plastic wood-grain-effect stop-jamb panels do nothing to dispel the atmosphere of 1970's tackiness.
Bournemouth: Saint Stephen. This glorious church, designed by JL Pearson, in his favourite French Gothic style boasts stone vaulting throughout, double aisles and a superb apse. It also boasts (perhaps a little unfortunately) what look rather like large sodium street lights in the Quire – which somewhat detract from the beauty of the building.
Skulking in a loft in the South Transept is a three-clavier instrument by Hill, rebuilt by Rushworth & Dreaper in 1951. It has recently been restored by Principal Pipe Organs.
This organ always possessed a noble sound; however since the latest work, it now seems rather louder – and a little more coarse. The Tuba (which is possibly a Rushworth replacement – or perhaps they just revoiced it) has a brighter quality than that at Saint Peter’s.
Playing this instrument is not for those with acrophobia – the console is attached, the stool placed close to the stone parapet – which is buttock-high….
Chichester Cathedral. The organ in this building is arguably one of the most beautiful in the country. Whilst comparatively small in size, it has an old-world charm that was carefully retained and discreetly enhanced by Mander Organs, who conservatively and most sensitively rebuilt it in 1984-86. Amongst the additions at this time were a small Solo Organ and a 32ft. reed on the Pedal Organ. However, it had to wait until two or three years ago before it received a much-desired Swell to Choir coupler. There is a legend that the consultant simply forgot it when drawing up the scheme – and no-one else noticed. I am not sure if I believe that one.
Prior to the re-commissioning of the pipe organ, the cathedral was served for many years by a toaster – either by Allen or Morphy Richards, I cannot now recall.
Salisbury Cathedral. This instrument is probably one of the best known in the organ world. Built in 1876 by ‘Father’ Henry Willis, it has a huge personality. Colourful strings (particularly the Solo Violoncelli – ‘not a dry seat in the house’), an array of gorgeous flutes and some of the most superb reeds ever voiced. I almost even like the Tuba and Tuba Clarion. The organ also possesses a good 32ft. flue (of metal) and a quiet 32ft. reed.
One or two unusual features are: the claviers for the Swell and Solo organs have short keys, so it is quite easy to press pistons accidentally – the generals are above the Solo and there have been incidents of unintended kaleidoscopic changes in registration during various pieces - clearly somewhat disconcerting to the player. In addition, I have the privilege of playing this organ occasionally for visiting choirs and, every time I get there, it seems as if another section of the console has had the ‘Willis’ ebonised effect removed and the oak polished in its natural hue. This does mean that it is less dark up in the loft.
Wells Cathedral. This has a slightly unusual scheme for an English cathedral organ. At the last major rebuild (Harrison & Harrison, 1973), a number of Pedal foundation stops were ditched, in order to provide a Positive section. At the same time, the G.O. compound stops were re-cast as quint mixtures (with enough subsequent brightness to cast a sheen on the darkest of winter evensongs), and a Cornet was also added.
As ih one or two other H&H jobs, the G.O. reeds (formerly a family of opaque trombe) were revoiced as trumpets. However, the Pedal Ophicleide was left largely alone, with the result that it seems a little uncouth under the rest of the instrument.
It is one of the few cathedral organs in this country without any kind of 32ft. Pedal stop – there is certainly no room in the case and nowhere else it could go; not without disfiguring this rather beautiful building, at any rate.
Winchester Cathedral. This superb edifice is reputed to be the longest medieval church in Europe. The organ stands to the north of the Quire, in a somewhat undistinguished case. A second case, to house the Nave Organ, was added by Harrisons, in 1988. This case is somewhat less successful than the main case. It is a little squat for its width and the impost is too high – with some rather plain panelling below. The gilded pipe-front is supported with slender iron rods, and retained with pierced horizontal iron bands.
The organ, whilst being quite large, does not really have the personality of that at Salisbury. One has to search quite hard for colourful effects. It contains the only example of a 32ft. reed by Hele & Co., in 1905. Given its prodigious power and very foundational tone, this is probably a blessing. They also decided to solve the problems of tone projection down the exceptionally long Nave by duplicating most of the G.O. chorus – in some cases, several times. Fortunately, Harrisons found an alternative solution to the dilemma – and so the G.O. now looks rather less like the disastrous Hill organ of 1859, in York Minster. (This was possibly the strangest scheme ever realized in an English cathedral – Hope-Jones included.)