Pipe organ St John's Cathedral, Salford

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pdsfd
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Pipe organ St John's Cathedral, Salford

Post by pdsfd » Sat Dec 29, 2018 12:14 am

I'm just asking if anyone has any vivid memories of playing the old pipe organ at Salford Cathedral, or of it being played? What were its main strengths and weaknesses? Was it heavy on the ears or a tame instrument? I can't find any old recordings of it on youtube unfortunately, although it is a few years since it was replaced with the enormous (and high quality) digital organ in place now.

Hare
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Re: Pipe organ St John's Cathedral, Salford

Post by Hare » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:26 am

I can remember hearing it in broadcasts, but never played it. Last time I was there was in 1994; the console was in the South aisle I think and the pipework in a west gallery. All looked pretty dilapidated IIRC. Quite a large 2-manual, with 16 8 4 Great reeds. Jardine rebuild of the old Compton which had its pipework in a remote chamber, with the sound relayed by microphone to loudspeakers in the building! Not sure how effective or reliable that was!

dmu3tem
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Re: Pipe organ St John's Cathedral, Salford

Post by dmu3tem » Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:14 pm

I think there was an article about its replacement by the digital organ by Martin Barry in Music and Liturgy some 10-15 years ago
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Southern Comfort
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Re: Pipe organ St John's Cathedral, Salford

Post by Southern Comfort » Sat Jan 05, 2019 3:37 pm

The question that I have never found an answer to is why the original 4-manual instrument was ditched in favour of the Compton in the 1930s. Perhaps Martin can enlighten us.

oopsorganist
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Re: Pipe organ St John's Cathedral, Salford

Post by oopsorganist » Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:28 pm

There is a little info on the National Pipe Organ Register. Not much.
uh oh!

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mcb
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Re: Pipe organ St John's Cathedral, Salford

Post by mcb » Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:36 pm

pdsfd wrote:
Sat Dec 29, 2018 12:14 am
I'm just asking if anyone has any vivid memories of playing the old pipe organ at Salford Cathedral, or of it being played? What were its main strengths and weaknesses? Was it heavy on the ears or a tame instrument? I can't find any old recordings of it on youtube unfortunately, although it is a few years since it was replaced with the enormous (and high quality) digital organ in place now.
Hi pdsfd,

'Heavy on the ears' is a good description. When we were deciding 'what to do about the organ' in the late 1990s we commissioned a report from Ian Bell, who said that some of the ranks (the open diapason on the great and the trumpet on the swell among others, if memory serves) seemed as though they had wandered in from a much larger organ and a much larger building. They were part of the legacy of the short-lived experimental Compton instrument that Hare describes above. Overall the instrument was of indifferent quality and had been greatly neglected between the 50s and the 90s. Ian Bell's recommendation, in short, was to replace the organ with a new one (though I don't suppose he had a digital instrument in mind). We made sure there was a blow-your-socks-off pontifical trumpet on the new instrument, as a kind of tribute to the old one.

I guess the main drawback with the Jardine instrument was the layout, with the pipes in a very cramped west gallery ("oppressive in its bulk", Ian Bell said), and the console in the south aisle near the crossing, opposite the choir who sat at the same position in the north aisle. Keeping together was a real problem, since the choirmaster had his back to the organist, and the pipes at the back meant that the organ either drowned out the congregation or was inaudible to the choir. (In contrast, the enormous flexibility with layout for a digital instrument, in support of the liturgy, was what persuaded me to go down that route.)

It wasn't all bad! Ian Bell was complementary about some of the upperwork. (I remember the clarabella fondly, if that counts as upperwork.) But overall there were no 'heritage implications' in replacing it, and it was a good opportunity to show how a digital instrument could be very carefully tailored to be a servant of the liturgy.

I don't know why the Richardson instrument from the 1880s was scrapped in 1939. (It wasn't the original organ, btw - the account of the cathedral's opening in 1848 mentions that the organ was acting up. So there must have been one, even if the details are lost now.) I've seen a photograph of the Richardson case in the north transept, and today on the walls of the transept you can still see the scars, so to speak, of where the gallery once was.

Martin

pdsfd
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Re: Pipe organ St John's Cathedral, Salford

Post by pdsfd » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:07 am

Thanks so much mcb - excellent info! Thanks also to everyone else. I have managed to find a very brief recording of part of an ecumenical service held at the cathedral in early 2000 and an organ can be heard accompanying, albeit not very clearly. Was the pipe organ still in situ at this point?

I attended Mass at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham a few years ago and to my non-expert ears, the organ there sounded a bit over-powered for the size of the building, at least on some of the reed stops. Is this organ a similar comparison with the Jardine that was at Salford?

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mcb
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Re: Pipe organ St John's Cathedral, Salford

Post by mcb » Wed Jan 09, 2019 1:21 pm

pdsfd wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:07 am
...in early 2000 and an organ can be heard accompanying, albeit not very clearly. Was the pipe organ still in situ at this point?
Yes, the pipe organ was still in action by that stage. (It bit the dust in early 2002.)
I attended Mass at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham a few years ago and to my non-expert ears, the organ there sounded a bit over-powered for the size of the building, at least on some of the reed stops. Is this organ a similar comparison with the Jardine that was at Salford?
I've only heard the organ at St Chad's a few times, but my instinct is that there are no problems there comparable to the bloated sound of our old instrument.

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