House Organ update


As promised about a year ago, here is a page describing improvements/additions and progress since the original House Organ Page was written.


In Autumn 2019, tired of waiting for certain stops to play from the big console (which I can still not afford to complete) I worked out a way to get extra ranks playing.


Pedal Reed

The three-manual console was always designed to have a pedal 16' reed, but this was to have been the Double Trumpet from the Solo organ, an excellent rank, Rushworth and Dreaper supplied it when they rebuilt and enlarged the Ladies College organ in 1961.  A unit supplied Swell reeds 16', 8' and 4' and was borrowed to the pedal.  My policy has always been 'no manual extension' so when I installed the original Cheltenham Swell organ, I replaced the extended rank with a straight soundboard containing independant reeds, my Swell currently has no fewer than five reed ranks in it, viz Double Horn, Trumpet, Oboe, Vox Humana and Clarion.


Anyway, since the Solo organ still isn't playing - the soundboards are there, but so is a lot of clutter and dirt! - I couldn't wait for my pedal reed and cooked one up in a bit of spare space near the console.  The pipework is pretty rough, consisting of odd bits and pieces of dead Oboe ranks. Notes 1-12 are half-length using one 8' bottom octave of Oboe pipes, the boots consist of 8' tongues and shallots but they are now weighted down, that is to say the tongue energy is tamed to the point where the reed can be tuned to an octave lower than it was really made for.  Sounds bizarre, but it works.


You can see it in the second of these photos (which  for no particular reson today seem not to be moveable by me) just to the left of the economy lightbulb.


Choir Celeste

A visit to see Geoffrey Morgan last November prompted my decision to find a space to install an extra 8' rank in my (apparently) already full Choir Box.  His house organ has Celestes on both Swell and Choir and they are splendid!  My Swell Celeste is quite gentle, a Gray and Davison rank, it most resembles a Father Willis-type tone.  In my Choir I already had an 8' Stopped Diapason and an 8' Bell Gamba, the Gamba is quite keen, so the extra partner rank had to be the same.  The Tenor octave is squeezed into a small (access) space at the back of the box, while the three other octaves are on a converted top-note chest anchored to the treble end wall of the Box.  Fortunately, celestes can be very small scale and this one is.  It was an effort to get it in, but that addition has made such a difference to the division, I use it almost every time I play the organ.  Third photo shows the chest for the top three octaves of this.


Great Mixtures

There was already a III Fourniture with 17th in the bottom 1.5 octaves to give a little 'old-English' flavour;  it's a good stop.  In my plans for the large console, I thought a couple of extra Mixtures would add a lot, a low Mixture to include the 16' harmonics (as is very common in France and Germany) and a higher Mixture to add a little glitter on top of the Fourniture. I gave them unusual names when I had the (five decker) console tabs re-engraved, I called them Undertones II and Overtones II. 


The lower mixture is exactly as originally intended, it gives the 5.1/3 and 3.3/5 but due to lack of space near the main soundboard, I have made the bottom octave break back electronically, this has saved a lot of space as even a narrow scale 5.1/3 pipe is quite large.  The ranks are all ex strings, softened where necessary.  A couple of friends who usually know what they're talking about told me that string ranks would not work as mutations, but they do!  I felt confident all along, the Downside Abbey Compton is full of this sort of thing.


The Upper Mixture I originally thought might have been Septieme and a high Tierce, but in practice having a 2.2/3 (which pitch is mostly missing in the Fourniture) and a 1' made more sense. That works.  It also makes quite an unusual piquant Mutation-type solo sound when drawn with flutes and without the other mixtures.  Once again, they are old string pipes revoiced a little. They are near the console, so they had to be bearble at close quarters.


Fourth photo shows an end-on view of both stops: nearly 200 pipes are on a chest measuring 9" wide by 30" long. It's as tight as the pallet magnets will go!


Swell extra Stops

A little chest I originally placed a Septieme on now has a Tierce on it instead, mostly harmonic Flute pipes (following an idea from Jean Guillou).  Once again, the effect is so good, I use the rank all the time.  It completes a large-scale Cornet sound on the Swell.  The Piccolo and Vox Humana which were on the soundboard but could not be played because there were no drawstops for them have also been connected up to some little switches so I can draw them when I want at the three-decker console.  Fifth photo is of my little Tierce chest.


Swell Box Improvements

Neither box was very effective and with time on my hands, I decided that the time had come to arrange something better. I stripped them out and over a period of a couple of weeks replaced both sets (which were horizontal) with wider-opening, thicker shutters and tried to do a proper job this time. the Swell is still mechanical, but the Choir box is operated by an electric machine with 8 or so stages. it had to be this way, because I need to be able to control the Choir box from both consoles and the five-decker is very awkwardly placed relative to the Choir.






My friend Michael Walters visited a few months ago and recorded a few quick videos for demonstration purposes.



JS Bach Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV 543 - YouTube


Charles Marie Widor, Movt 1 (Variations) Symphony V, F minor - YouTube


Cantilene in A flat, William Wolstenholme - YouTube



Obviously they are far from perfect, but I'm posting them here as being a good bit better than nothing if I want people to see what this organ will do!


Noticeable at the end of the Widor in particular is that the wind runs out a little on full organ.... not surprising since the whole lot including several additions is still only on the one blower.  The Pedal 32' Bourdon takes the most but I love it.


The tuning is rather 'off' what the French call 'Phesante' - as in 'hung like meat'.  That is what comes of recording in the heat of the summer. Us beggars can't be choosers.




UPDATE - October 2022

Most recent work on the organ


The ex-Cheltenham Rushworth and Dreaper Tromba was much too loud in my barn so I have given it to a friend who plans to incoprorate it in a  scheme for a Norman & Beard organ he has rescued from St.Stephen's Church, Gloucester and is installing in the West gallery of a large church in France.


In its place, I have put a Swell Cornopean which I spotted in an instrument a friend was taking out of a disused church in Leeds. I have given it its own tiny reservoir and revoiced/re-regulated it as a Tuba. It's very promising.  It's possible that the rank was originally made by Hill & Son.


As a result of these labours, I now have a choice of large solo reed when I practice - Orchestral Trumpet or Tuba.