met Nicholson & Co
We are delighted to have been commissioned to undertake the
historical reconstruction of the organ in Manchester Town Hall. The
organ was built by the Parisian organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in
1877, enlarged by him in 1893, and then rebuilt by the English firms
Lewis & Co. in 1912 and Jardine & Co. in 1970.
We will be undertaking the work in an equal collaboration with our friends and esteemed colleagues from the English firm of Nicholson. The organ will be returned in almost every way to its 1893 condition, including the re-establishment of the original pitch, the manufacture of new actions (with three new Barker Lever machines), new console, chests, and aspects of the wind system, all in a strict replica of the Cavaillé-Coll style. The casework will be returned to its original 1877 appearance with the recreation of the wooden staircases built into either side of the facade.
The reconstruction of the organ, the most significant surviving instrument of the few built in the UK by arguably the world’s finest organ builder of the nineteenth century, forms part of a much wider Our Town Hall project to safeguard and repair the whole of the Grade 1-listed building. The organ will be wholly dismantled in the late spring of 2020, with completion to coincide with the re-opening of Waterhouse’s much-loved building. The consultant for the work will be Dr William McVicker.
|Grand Orgue C-c4
||Récit expressif C-c4
|Jeux de Fond
||Jeux de Fond
||Jeux de Fond
||16'||Cor de nuit
||8'||Viole de Gambe
||Jeux de Combinaison
||Jeux de Combinaison
|Jeux de combinaison
||8'||Jeux de Fond
Positif Expressif, Grand Orgue and Récit Expressif: mechnical, each with Barker Lever assistance
Solo: charge penumatic
Pédale: mechanical except Soubasse 32'and Bourdon 16'which are charge pneumatic
Balanced expression pedals to Positif Expressif and Récit Expressif.
Pédales de Combinaison (left to right):
Tirasse du Grand Orgue
Combinaison du Grand Orgue
Combinaison du Positif
Combinaison du Récit
Copula Grand Orgue pneumatique
Copula du Positif au Grand Orgue
Copula du Récit au Positif
Tremolo du Positif Expressif
Tremolo de Récit Expressif
1) The organ is featured on the hoardings outside the Hall
2) Section of lower casework removed
3) Dismantling the Expression box for the Swell/Récit
4) Looking up the ceiling of the Swell/Récit expression box
5) Expression box dismantled.
6) Removing casework pinnacle
7) The angel removed from the top of the case. Two boots give a
sence of scale.
8) Looking into the case from the front, at the side, showing (painted green) the pipe block for the original side façade, and (painted red) the Soubasse 32’ / Bourdon 16’ rank added by Cavaillé-Coll in 1893 in place of an original staircase.
9) Surviving top step and risers of one the 1877 staircases, hidden from sight since 1893.
10) Looking across the stage at the front of the organ, with
11) The huge scaffolding required to facilitate safe access to all parts of the casework, and to lift out the heavy internal components.
12) More of the scaffolding
13) Another pile of dismantled components and pipework grows. The
dismantled organ eventually filled some 3 vans and 6 lorries.
14) Part of the Soubasse 32’ / Bourdon 16’ rank added by Cavaillé-Coll in 1893. These were originally stopped pipes, but were converted to an open Great Bass 16’ / Octave 8’ by Lewis & Co. in 1912, and partly painted green by Jardine & Co. in 1970.
15) The last three of the Soubasse 32’ / Bourdon 16’ pipes await removal. This photo illustrates how much decorative architecture at the sides of the organ became hidden from view with the removal of the side staircases in 1893.
16) The largest six Soubasse 32’ / Bourdon 16’ pipes in the Bees
Gallery outside the Great Hall.
17) The high-pressure reservoir added in 1912 to feed the 32’/16’/8’ Bombarde rank.
18) In 1877, the only dedicated Pédale stops were a 42-note Contrebasse 16’ / Flûte basse 8’ rank, and a 42-note Bombarde 16’ / Trompette 8’ rank (the other ‘Pédale’ stops were borrowed from the Grand Orgue). The two dedicated Pédale ranks were mounted on two (C and C#) slider soundboards, each with 4 slides. When the organ was rebuilt in 1912 by Lewis & Co., these slider soundboards were reduced in size to 2 slides (for the Contrebasse 16’ / Flûte basse 8’). The 42-note metal Bombarde 16’ / Trompette 8’ rank was moved to two new 21-note chests at the lowest level of the chamber, revoiced on higher pressure, and a 12-note 32’ wooden extension was added on two new 6-note chests located in the space that had been created by reducing the depth of the original slider soundboards. This image shows the C# side of the 1877 Contrebasse 16’ / Flûte basse 8’ rank (painted green) on the far left, sitting on its original (but truncated to 2 slides) 1877 slider soundboard; while in the middle of the image is the 1912 Lewis & Co. chest for the six C#-side notes of the 32’ reed extension. On the right of the image is the edge of the Choir / Positif expression box, with side shutters removed. The original Pédale slider soundboards are to be returned to their original configuration. The Bombarde 16’ / Trompette 8’ rank will be returned to its original location at this level, and also to its original pressure.
19) A clearer view of one of the 1877 Pédale soundboards, showing
the two extant slider locations in use for the Contrebasse 16’ / Flûte
basse 8’, and the remains of the Bombarde 16’ slider location cut in
20) Both the Choir / Positif (shown here) and the Swell / Récit expression boxes have shutters on their sides as well as their front faces.
21) The dismantling work has included careful examination of the Cavaillé-Coll pipework to ascertain what changes have been made. Many original markings remain, such as this pipe from the Tuba mirabilis 8’ added by Cavaillé-Coll in 1893 as part of the new Solo division. Despite its drawstop nomenclature, it is marked ‘Trompette’. In the Lewis & Co. rebuild of 1912, this stop and its 4’ companion were mounted on a new dedicated high-pressure soundboard, and were racked in vertically in the normal manner. Between 1893 and 1912, however, they were fed directly from the Solo soundboard. We know that these two stops were described during this period as being mounted ‘en chamade’, albeit hidden from view behind the casework. Cavaillé-Coll is known to have used at least two different constructions for reeds mounted internally en chamade: for example, at the Sacré-Cœur in Paris, the pipes are wholly horizontal, in the way we would expect to see external chamade pipes. However, at Saint-Sulpice in Paris, the pipes are mounted vertically but with very long horizontal hoods. We have not yet concluded whether the Manchester chamade reeds were of the Sacré-Cœur or Saint-Sulpice type, or potentially yet another, but there are some clues from the pipework that require further study.
22) We believe that the resonators on these two stops are 1893
Cavaillé-Coll, but that the blocks were replaced with new Lewis &
Co. blocks in 1912. These first impressions will be tested by further
examination and study.
23) Evidence of changes to the resonators of these two stops: the location of the original regulating scroll has been soldered up and a new one cut out in a nearby position.
24) Marked-up conveyancing from the Great / Grand Orgue soundboard to the front pipe block (out of shot) and the adjacent off-note block for the basses of the GO Flûte Harmonique 8’ and Bourdon 16’.
25) Cavaillé-Coll was renowned for his ventil playing aids: the wind
supply to the upperwork and reeds could be shut off by means of a
ventil wind valve. This allowed the player to draw an intended
registration on these stops, but they would not sound until a
hitch-down pedal was depressed at the console, opening the valve inside
the soundboard. Such aids were provided instead of the mechanical
combination pedals that English organs of this period might have had
instead. In this image can be seen remains of these valves in one of
the four Great / Grand Orgue soundboards, which will be reconstructed.
The stops that were always ‘live’ were known as the ‘jeux de fond’ and
the stops affected by these ventils were known as the ‘jeux de
26) As alluded to above, several of the Great / Grand Orgue stops were duplexed onto the Pédale, by means of separate grooves with the soundboards. The GO Bourdon 16' was available on the Pédale as a Soubasse 16', the GO Bourdon 8' (wholly independent from the Bourdon 16') was available on the Pédale as a Bourdon Doux 8', and the GO Violoncelle 8' was available on the Pédale as a Violoncelle 8'. This image shows the 1912 Lewis & Co. pneumatic action for these notes. Visible above is the cross-trackering that links the pallets for the jeux de fond and the jeux de combinaison.
27) The underside of one of the two Choir / Positif soundboards removed from the instrument. All of the soundboards are beautifully constructed of oak. The original integral concussions appear to have been removed and blanked over.
28) One of the façade tower pipe blocks.
29) Cavaillé-Coll prided himself on providing his instruments with a robust wind supply. For example, the Great / Grand Orgue division at Manchester features separate winding for the C and C# sides, and then also separate winding for the bass and treble (the treble is on slightly higher pressure): four reservoirs for one division. These winding arrangements are not to be confused with the ventils described earlier that allowed the wind supply to the upperwork and reeds to be isolated. Visible here are the two reservoirs for the C# side. The lower reservoir is fed from elsewhere and in turn feeds the C# side trebles via a solid trunk, and the upper reservoir via a concertina trunk. The upper reservoir, on slightly lower pressure, feeds the C# side basses via a concertina trunk. The concussion unit on the side does not seem to be original, and we suspect that it may have been cannibalised from one of the Barker Lever machines that were made redundant in 1912, possibly made necessary because some of the integral concussions in the Great / Grand Orgue soundboards were blanked over at that time.
30)Looking out from a rear corner of the chamber during dismantling. The photographer is standing roughly where one of the side walls of the Choir / Positif expression box met the rear wall. In front of the scaffolding handrail can be seen the building frame that supported the Great / Grand Orgue soundboards, beyond which was positioned the now-removed façade.
31) The C side Choir / Positif soundboard of 1877, with its own
reservoir below, and the 1912 Lewis & Co. pneumatic action power
motors that replaced the original tracker runs from the Barker Lever
machine that would once have existed on the floor below. Between these
motors and the underside of the soundboard can be seen a square beam to
link the jeu de combinaison pallets (visible above with faceboard
removed) and the jeu de fond pallets (out of shot).
32) A view at the lowest level of the instrument, looking to the rear wall of the chamber. Wind enters the chamber from the ‘chambre de la soufflerie’ behind, via trunking through the wall. The angled trunks are feeding the C and C# Choir / Positive reservoirs above.
33)The C#-side reservoir that feeds the C# side of the Pedal (excepting the Bombarde) and Great / Grand Orgue divisions.
34) A view inside the ‘chambre de la soufflerie’, a mezzanine tunnel
located in a corridor directly behind the organ chamber. Above the
camera is a reservoir that once had feeders connected to an engine,
while in the distance is a stack of two reservoirs with manual pumping
35) There are clear markings on the floor which we believe to be from the hydraulic engine fitted in 1877 by Cavaillé-Coll, and its electric motor replacement fitted in 1907 by Charles Mutin.
36) Holes for wind trunks into the rear of the organ chamber.
38) A small pile of mechanical action components was found discarded inside the organ.
39) A clear silhouette on the front of the Choir / Positif expression box showing the location and size of the original rollerboard that will be reconstructed.
40) A view from the hall floor after removal of all casework, and
all material at upper level. The underside of the four Great / Grand
Orgue soundboards can be seen.
41) Looking across the empty chamber after removal of the last remaining parts of the organ. The silhouette of one of the original staircases is clearly visible on the far wall.
42) A reminder of the scene before we started.
43) A view not seen since 1877 – the completely empty organ chamber.
The weight of the front half of the organ is borne by the stage floor.
The weight of the rear half of the organ is borne by the steel beams
visible approximately 2m above the stage floor. It is again clear how
much decorative architecture was hidden from sight when the original
staircases (whose upper access arches are clearly visible here) were
removed and closed in.