Ratcliffe College is an English Roman Catholic School (Rosminian Order) situated in Leicestershire part way between the city of Leicester and the town of Melton Mowbray. Details about the history of the organs are slightly confusing due to there being different buildings and sites over time. There are records of a two manual and pedal 32 stop Lloyd and Dudgeon instrument containing 100 year old pipe work rebuilt by Walker in 1955 and there are also records of a two manual and pedal undated 20 stop Henry Willis instrument which was originally at Mount St. Bernard's Abbey in Coalville, Leicester. It would seem that some of that instrument formed the basis of the current instrument.
In 1962, the organ was rebuilt by Walker who revoiced and enlarged it and this was followed by a later rebuild and enlargement in 2014 by Alan Goulding. The new chapel in which the current organ is situated also dates from 1962. The chapel itself is spacious with a very flattering 4+ seconds reverberation period helped by a large dome over the central space. The pipework is situated within a large raised concrete chamber on the left hand side of the sanctuary fronted with a decorative metal grille. The console is situated virtually opposite on the right hand side of the sanctuary.
The rebuilt instrument was designed by the current Director of Music; Edward McCall. In addition to being a respected music teacher and organist, he is also known as a recitalist outside of the school environment.
Although the instrument could be considered to be a conglomeration of additional stops from several sources this is not uncommon in many instruments. Even "brand new" instruments will often contain re-used pipework where it is of good enough quality and matches well, in order to save costs. Credit must be given to Alan Goulding Organ Builders for creating an instrument that produces a viable musical result and is capable of producing a recognisably grand cathedralesque sound.
The following description of the organ is taken from the opening recital programme:
"On completion of this superb Chapel, built in 1962, the College was very fortunate to have acquired the Willis III organ from Mount St. Bernard Abbey, Coalville. Placed in the purpose built chamber on the north side of the Sanctuary, it gave 75 years of service. When the organ was moved from Coalville by J Walker organ builders, a very small number of tonal changes were made, but essentially using the same action and pipework. Moving an organ from one building to another is seldom satisfactory since the instrument would have been designed for the building in which it was to be used with considerations for the size, acoustic and liturgical style. Although an impressive sound, the old organ was not hugely versatile or fit for purpose. In the few years and months before restoration work commenced, the action was increasingly unreliable with some stops failing completely. Letters have been found dated from the 1990’s stating the need to urgently rebuild the instrument. The school was keen to have the maximum versatility possible from the new instrument and it was always part of the vision that the organ should not just be a ‘hymn machine’ that many school Chapels have. The organ should be capable of accompanying large and small congregations, instrumentalists, choirs, cantors as well as being able to teach the students up to and in including conservatoire or Organ Scholar level. All this as well as being able to cope with the wealth of varied repertoire for solo organ. This is a tall order indeed! The organ you hear today has the previous instrument at its core, but is much enhanced by the additional stops. A great deal of care has been taken to source pipe work from instruments from the same period, arguably when organ building was in its heyday in Britain.
The Willis organ played its last note in August of 2013 and was dismantled in the following term. This in itself proved to be a history lesson, having discovered the Swell Box was lined with newspapers from December 1937, one of which was complete and dated Christmas Eve of that year, the headline; the abdication of the King! These fascinating pieces of history have been stored by the College and will be on display during the interval. The opportunity has been taken to reconfigure the chamber to allow a better egress of sound into the nave of the Chapel. One of the idiosyncrasies of the old organ being that, when the Chapel was full, the organ did not have the ‘weight’ to accompany the Chapel at full capacity. All the chests and action are new and the Swell Box has been made using wood from the original instrument. The second hand, three manual console has had new jambs and key slips to allow for the increased number of stop and playing aids. Prior to the restoration, the old console was in a pit facing the Choir Stalls. This was unsatisfactory in terms of the organist being able communicate with the Priest during services and so the console now stands on the south side, allowing the organist to conduct the choir if need be as well as seeing the altar and the West End door.
Tonally, we were keen to design the new instrument true to Willis’ style of voicing and specification. Given that a large amount of the instrument is not Willis, it is hard to tell".
The specification is as follows:
RATCLIFFE COLLEGE HW LIMITED COMPASS DEMO SET
A trial version of the organ is available for download at
N.B.This consists of the complete set without cut outs but with manual stops limited to two octaves and pedal stops to one octave. Those stops that are extended will not play fully or at all depending on pitch over the two octaves or pedal and for the same reason octave and sub-octave couplers will only work in part.
This is a dry demo set provided so that potential purchasers can evaluate what the set might sound like on their own systems.
RATCLIFFE COLLEGE FULL SET (Close sampled DRY set) Includes MDA dongle unlocking fee.
THREE MANUAL AND PEDALS 49 SPEAKING STOPS:
For the Hauptwerk instrument we have provided a few additional pistons and situated them in logical positions. Unfortunately we are not able to provide a Gt. to Ped. Combinations Coupled nor a Generals on Swell Toe Pistons facility. Since Hauptwerk allows for the assignation of virtual pistons to any physical piston (s) via the program itself, this can be catered for via Hauptwerk if required.
On the original instrument, the Choir organ is unenclosed however, we have enclosed it for the HW set since it was felt that this would be more desirable.
Whilst we have almost achieved the Divided Pedal feature, it doesn't quite work the way that it should so this feature has not been included for the moment.
* Denotes new stops
As far as possible, we have reproduced the original instrument pipe by pipe. However, at the time of sampling some pipes were speaking badly or silent due to the very hot weather and matching notes resampled from adjacent pipes have been substituted where this was the case.
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