CD 165: Twentieth Century British Organ Music Roger Fisher
St. John's Church Ranmoor Sheffield
Herbert Sumsion: Introduction & Theme (Ostinato) (1932).
Charles Macpherson: Fantasy-Prelude (1900) & Prelude in G (in memory of Parry) (1924).
Heathcote Statham: Rhapsody on a Ground (1944). Healey Willan: Prelude & Fugue in C minor (1908).
Edwin Lemare: Rondo Capriccio Opus 64 (1910) & Toccata & Fugue in D minor Opus 98 (1915).
Christopher Steel: Variations, Toccata & Fugue on Two Croatian Carols.
St John's Church, Ranmoor
The first church of St John's, Ranmoor was built in 1877 to the design of architect E.M. Gibbs in the Early English Style. The church was built amongst the mansions of the steel barons for a very select congregation. On Sunday 2 January, 1887 before the morning service, the verger returned to find the organ screen on fire. Unfortunately, the fire soon spread to the roof : the Tower and Spire were the only parts of the building to survive the flames. It transpired later that a beam of wood, in the organ chamber, was too near a ventilation brick in the chimney flue and had caught fire. A new and grander church was built and opened for worship in 1888. Pevsner, the renowned church historian describes the church as 'opulent, both inside and out in the Early English Style'. The church is 130ft long, 60ft wide (including aisles) and 50ft high.
There are no details in the church archives about this Brindley and Foster organ.
The new Brindley organ of 1889 was built with ventil chests and tubular-pneumatic action. (Each pipe would have had its own pallet). The console was underneath the North Chancel casework.
In 1900 the organ was enlarged, in the fashion of the time, with its wealth of string and imitative reed stops in the orchestral tradition. A new chancel case was made to incorporate the basses of the pedal Violone and great Open Diapasons.
In 1911 an Orchestral Oboe was added to the choir and an extra 12 pipes were added to the Sub bass to make it sound at 16ft pitch. There were 9 coupler draw-stops, 9 composition pistons and 15 coupler and composition pedals. In 1914 an electric fan was installed in place of the water engine and in 1927, all the bellows motors were renewed (3000 in number!) and a new pedal-board added.
Fortunately, the organ remained in a relatively good state till the 1950's when mechanical problems became evident and the instrument was due for an overhaul. There were quotations from Walker, Harrison and Nicholson for a full rebuild, including new slider soundboards with electro-pneumatic action and some tonal modifications to improve the instrument's impact. One of the more radical ideas put forward included a small division in the Triforium (for which there would have been very little space available!). The contract was awarded to Nicholson on Mr Norman Barnes' recommendation. On a budget of £10,000, a comprehensive scheme for renovation was undertaken. The tonal revisions included new swell reeds at 16ft and 4ft, mutations on the choir, a more independent pedal division and a Tuba/Ophicleide rank. The organ gave good service to the church over many years and proved to be reliable. In the early 1990's, some 30 years after the rebuild, some minor problems began to occur in the action. Some notes didn't work, others ciphered from time to time: the stop machines had noisy air-leaks. The inside of the organ chamber needed cleaning, after the accumulation of many years' dust and dirt.
Mr John Norman, an adviser with many years' experience, was appointed consultant to the P.C.C. and submitted a thorough report on the organ. Several firms of organ builders were called in to report on the condition of the organ and a possible future scheme of work. One of the most important factors in the present scheme of work was the desire to make sure the organ was fully equipped to serve future needs, especially in supporting the long-established choral tradition at St John's. Just as important was the organ's role in supporting all the needs in worship, including giving an effective lead in hymn singing and other congregational music.
The acoustics of the church did not help the sound of the organ to travel down the nave and this problem is compounded by the fact that the North aisle arch, which is the most direct line of sound to the congregation was completely blocked by the expression (swell) box to the pipes of the choir organ. It was felt by the consultant, the organ-builders and Director of Music that the logical course of action was to remove this box and open out the whole organ chamber to enable all sections to travel down the building to best effect.
Therefore, the design of the choir organ, with the expression box removed, was altered to include a Diapason Chorus, (wide-scale, low mouth) to support congregational singing. Other alterations included relocation of the Tuba/Ophicleide rank above the great organ with higher wind-pressure, the addition of 12 pipes to form a 32ft Contra Trombone ( full length to low F#), a new expression box for the orchestral reeds and new chests for the pedal upperwork at the top of the chamber. Careful regulation has greatly improved both the tone of individual stops and the ensemble.