Current Projects etc.
Below are photos and details of some current projects. Many of the instruments shown were originally sampled for stops to contribute to the Bruton Project. All of the stops sampled will be available in the Master Series mentioned elsewhere but some of the instruments featured will also be released as self standing libraries in their own right.
1886 FATHER WILLIS
A tiny little organ which is in a private chapel. As a result, the pipework is of better than average quality and has never been altered. It has been described by the former organist of Salisbury Cathedral as sounding just like Salisbury did in the old days. Although very limited in terms of specification with less than 10 stops, the various ranks have found their way into Bruton in one form or another.
This organ has some of the oldest extant pipework in existence - certainly in Britain. It is vaguely possible that the earliest pipes may date back to 1524 but this seems to be unlikely. Certainly some pipes very definitely date back to 1696 and others to 1770 but a lot are of a very much later vintage by Father Willis in 1867. However, FW respected that which had gone before and whilst some ranks obviously bear the FW stamp, the instrument does not sound like his work as a whole. The case is particularly fine and is the work of Grinling Gibbons who was responsible for the case at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Many of the stops in this instrument were used in the Georgian Series of libraries.
This is a small chamber organ in an equally small church in the same parish as Bruton. originally incomplete with 3 stops, the instrument is now complete to the original planned specification of five stops. There are several other similar or near identical instruments in Kings College, Cambridge and a number of other university music departments. This organ is currently subject to preparation as a stand alone instrument and part of a separate project.
1830 ? 1859 J.W.WALKER
This started of life as a chamber organ by Walker but was enlarged and moved to its current position in 1859. Not a particularly inspiring specification as such on paper but the quality and tone of the pipework is really quite fine. This instrument forms the basis of the Georgian Series of sample libraries with a few necessary additions.
Unfortunately, most of the pipework in this organ proved to be impossible to sample successfully on account of excessive action magnet noise. However, the main reason for sampling this organ was to capture the genuine Trompette en Chamade at the West end. As can be seen, the stop has copper resonators and looks quite splendid. the original stop was by Harrison and Harrison but was remade and revoiced by the now sadly defunct Rogers pipemakers of Leeds.
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Some of the instruments shown below have been sampled either in part or fully and may contribute stops to future libraries or become facsimile libraries in their own right.
This little instrument is shown in various stages of restoration / cleaning. Although dated as 1882, some of the pipework is suspected to have been secondhand and thus considerably older. The church itself has recently featured in a forthcoming TV series. The organ is generally a fairly pleasant instrument although despite a new blower still slightly noisy. Some fairly good stops and a main chorus but in many ways it is let down by the inability of both divisions to blend into a cohesive whole. It is quite possible that the instrument started off as a single manual and was enlarged with a new action etc. at a later date to form a two manual. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that much can be used from this particular instrument
This is another very small instrument which underwent a couple of alterations some decades ago. Somewhat peculiar specification and not a vast amount to excite anyone but the Diapasons are really quite pleasant and the one and only manual Flute and Salicional (both on the Great) are also quite acceptable. Otherwise, there is a fairly unpleasant Keraulophone and a somewhat asthmatic Oboe. The Gt. Fifteenth is relatively new and may be useful in a constructed mixture for the future.
PROSSER @ Pre 1883 ?
A small single manual which is cleverly designed and under the hands of an experienced player would lead most to believe that they were hearing a two manual. For such a limited specification, it does a remarkable job and could be described as being absolutely perfect for the church in which it is situated. The basic Diapason chorus is completely unforced and very musical and the Gamba is almost identical to many of those built by more illustrious names. Unfortunately, the action is a little noisy in parts which makes it less than ideal when sampling but nonetheless, some useful stuff may emanate from the samples obtained. This instrument has been resampled fairly recently and the results are very much improved.
Whilst we were in Mallorcaa few years ago, we visited several organs including the magnificent Jorgi Bosch instrument at Santanyi. Of course, this organ has been produced as a very fine facsimile wet sample set by Jiri at Sonus Paradisi. Playing it requires a little getting used to as to what controls what and where but the sound is absolutely magnificent in a generous acoustic. For the organist, much of the main sound goes straight over the player's head whilst the "ruckpositive" is directly behind and quite up front. The 26 rank Mixture is something else and the reeds both horizontal and otherwise are very impressive. I did sample several stops up close but this exercise was more to gain examples of various tonalities so that I can model new stops rather than any serious attempt to obtain usable HW stops. Up close, the action tends to be a bit noisy and quite a few of the reeds were off speech on the odd note but the experience overall was quite overwhelming.
BACK IN THE UK............
Over the last few years living in Somerset, I was able to sample several more instruments and whilst the majority aren't anything very special and have perhaps just one or two stops worthy of merit, others are a little more interesting. Of particular note is a 1790 Davis chamber organ which is very nice and a slightly larger Forster and Andrews which is renowned for having a "very good tone, most particularly the diapasons". I can second that and it really has a lot going for it. Just a pity it's not a little larger.
A few years ago I was able to visit a small Bevington at "The Cathedral of the Canals" where there is quite an extraordinary little Bevington with an unusual specification. The N.P.O.R. speaks highly of the Trumpet and it is quite a good stop albeit not perhaps quite as noteworthy as it describes. Sadly, not only was the blower somewhat noisy overall, but there was an excessive mains hum which could be heard throughout the church. As a result, it was only possible to sample the Trumpet which has come out better than expected.
Whilst on my travels here and there, I came across a Taylor instrument (the first that I have ever played) which came from somewhere in Birmingham and replaced a water damaged Hill of no great pretensions. At the time of my visit, the Great organ was suffering from several runs after the hot summer and these may close up in due course with damper conditions. There are some pleasant voices on it and a half decent 16' reed on the pedal which replaced an Open Wood 16'. lack of time and the problems on the Great allowed only for a quick sampling of the 16' reed which isn't too bad.
During a house hunting trip to North Wales, I was able to play an organ that I had known for many years but had never got around to playing. I also managed to sample several of the more interesting stops which I may be able to use at some time in the future. Unfortunately, the noise of the blower was exceptionally loud despite the organ having been restored a few years ago. Some of the stops were really delightful and date back a couple of centuries. If nothing else, they may provide a useful reference point for modelling other stops if nothing else. Unfortunately I was not able to gain access to a very fine Hill and unbelievably, the cathedral was closed in the middle of the afternoon.
Several other instruments have come to my attention which may repay a little revisiting at some time in between my other major planned projects. none of them are particularly noteworthy as complete instruments but most have at least one or two redeeming features which might be worthy of consideration.
The old harmonium that I sampled some years ago finally had some work carried out to produce a small extended sample set for use in the Rossini Messe. It isn't anything wonderful as an instrument in comparison to some of the instruments by more famous manufacturers but it does the job adequately and is of course, at A440 pitch. It has been used by a well known Music College as well as several other venues.
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