Royal Albert Hall Organ

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Grand Organ (pipe organ) in Royal Albert Hall (behind stage)

The Grand Organ situated in the Royal Albert Hall in London, is the second largest pipe organ in the United Kingdom. It was originally built by Henry "Father" Willis and most recently rebuilt by Mander Organs, having 147 stops and 9,997 speaking pipes.

The Willis organ[edit]

The original organ was built by Henry Willis & Sons in 1871. It had four manuals and 111 stops and was, at that time, the largest in the world.

Harrisons[edit]

The Durham firm of Harrison & Harrison rebuilt the organ in two stages in 1924 and 1933, during which it was increased to 146 stops (including three percussion stops) and converted to electro-pneumatic action. It was still the largest organ in Britain at that time.

In the 1970s, Harrisons refurbished the console and replaced the switchgear in the action, made minor changes to the voicing and added a roof to attempt to project the sound forward, which was not successful. One interesting note in this period is that composer Wendy Carlos featured the organ during the closing title sequence of the 1982 Disney science fiction film Tron, performed by organist Martin Neary.

By the end of the 20th century, the organ was again in a state of disrepair, with an ever-increasing number of stops unusable due to leaks in the wind system, cracks in the soundboards, and other problems. By 2002, it was maintained only through "heroic efforts" on the part of Harrisons and could not be used at all without their staff present, in case of mishap. The wind chests and pipes were leaking noisily and wind pressure was insufficient to support full use. The leatherwork in the actions was also failing.

The Mander rebuild[edit]

In 2002, the Royal Albert Hall Organ was taken out of commission for an extensive rebuild by Mander Organs. Some consideration was given to restoring the organ to its original Willis specification, but the subsequent alterations and enlargements had made this impractical. The organ was by now, in truth, a Harrison, not a Willis, instrument, and it was felt that it should remain essentially as-is.

The dryness of the Hall had damaged the soundboards, so these were replaced and new and larger wind trunks provided. The roof was removed, and the reed stops in the Great division were restored to their 1924 wind pressures. The 1970s split of the Great Organ (allowing two independent Great Organs to be registered and played simultaneously on different manuals) was rationalised, effectively offering separate Willis and Harrison choruses and a Fourniture IV was added, with 147 stops and 9997 speaking pipes.

The organ was re-opened at a gala concert on the evening of 26 June 2004 with David Briggs, John Scott and Thomas Trotter playing, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Richard Hickox. The organ featured prominently in the 2004 BBC Proms series. The first recordings on the newly rebuilt instrument were by Dame Gillian Weir.

In December 2007, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral regained the title of largest pipe organ in the UK with the addition of several stops creating a 'central organ' (now with 10,268 pipes). The instrument has also been used by progressive rock band Muse when playing Megalomania, originally recorded on another Willis organ, at the church of Saint Mary in Bathwick. During a live performance at the Royal Albert Hall on the 12 April 2008, Muse's frontman, Matt Bellamy, had commented that "since we're here, it would be rude not to play this beast".[1]

Stoplist since 2004[edit]

I Choir and Orchestral Organ C–c4
First Division (Choir)
unenclosed:
37 Open Diapason 8′
38 Lieblich Gedeckt 8′
39 Dulciana 8′
40 Gemshorn 4′
41 Lieblich Flute 4′
42 Nazard 22/5[Ann. 1]
43 Flageolet 2′
44 Tierce 13/5[Ann. 1]
45 Mixture 15.19.22 III
46 Trumpet 8′
47 Clarion 4′
Second Division
(Orchestral) enclosed:
48 Contra Viole 16′
49 Violoncello 8′
50 Viole d’Orchestre I 8′
51 Viole d’Orchestre II 8′
52 Viole Sourdine 8′
53 Violes Celestes II 8′
54 Viole Octaviante 4′
55 Cornet de Violes 12.15.17.19.22 V
56 Quintaton 16′
57 Harmonic Flute 8′
58 Concert Flute 4′
59 Harmonic Piccolo 2′
60 Double Clarinet 16′
61 Clarinet 8′
62 Orchestral Hautboy 8′
63 Cor Anglais 8′
VI Tremulant


II Great Organ C–c4
64 Contra Violone 32′
65 Contra Gamba 16′[Ann. 2]
66 Double Open Diapason 16′
67 Double Claribel Flute 16′
68 Bourdon 16′[Ann. 2]
69 Open Diapason 1 8′
70 Open Diapason 2 8′
71 Open Diapason 3 8′[Ann. 2]
72 Open Diapason 4 8′
73 Open Diapason 5 8′[Ann. 2]
74 Geigen 8′
75 Hohl Flute 8′
76 Viola da Gamba 8′[Ann. 2]
77 Rohr Flute 8′[Ann. 2]
78 Quint 51/3
79 Octave 4′
80 Principal 4′[Ann. 2]
81 Viola 4′[Ann. 2]
82 Harmonic Flute 4′
83 Octave Quint 22/3[Ann. 2]
84 Super Octave 2′
85 Fifteenth 2′[Ann. 2]
86 Mixture 8.12.15.19.22 V
87 Harmonics 10.15.17.19.21.22 VI
88 Fourniture 19.22.26.29 IV [Ann. 2]
89 Cymbale 19.22.26.29.31.33.36 VII
90 Contra Tromba 16′
91 Tromba 8′
92 Octave Tromba 4′
93 Posaune 8′
94 Harmonic Trumpet 8′
95 Harmonic Clarion 4′
III Swell Organ C–c4
96 Double Open Diapason 16′
97 Bourdon 16′
98 Open Diapason 8′
99 Viola da Gamba 8′
100 Salicional 8′
101 Vox Angelica 8′
102 Flûte à Cheminée 8′
103 Claribel Flute 8′
104 Principal 4′
105 Viola 4′
106 Harmonic Flute 4′
107 Octave Quint 22/3
108 Super Octave 2′
109 Harmonic Piccolo 2′
110 Mixture 8.12.15.19.22 V
111 Furniture 15.19.22.26.29 V
112 Contra Oboe 16′
113 Oboe 8′
114 Baryton 16′
115 Vox Humana 8′
XVII Tremulant
116 Double Trumpet 16′
117 Trumpet 8′
118 Clarion 4′
119 Tuba 8′
120 Tuba Clarion 4′


IV Solo and Bombard Organ C–c4
First Division
(Solo) enclosed:
121 Contra Bass 16′
122 Flûte à Pavillon 8′
123 Viole d’Amour 8′
124 Doppel Flute 8′
125 Harmonic Claribel Flute 8′
126 Unda Maris II 8′
127 Wald Flute 4′
128 Flauto Traverso 4′
129 Piccolo Traverso 2′
130 Double Bassoon 16′
131 Corno di Bassetto 8′
132 Hautboy 8′
133 Bassoon 8′
XX Tremulant
134 Double Horn 16′
135 French Horn 8′
136 Carillons
137 Tubular Bells
Second Division (Bombard)
138-144 enclosed in Solo box
138 Bombardon 16′
139 Tuba 8′
140 Orchestral Trumpet 8′
141 Cornopean 8′
142 Quint Trumpet 51/3
143 Orchestral Clarion 4′
144 Sesquialtera12.15.17.19.22 V
145 Contra Tuba 16′
146 Tuba Mirabilis 8′
147 Tuba Clarion 4′
Pedal C–
1 Acoustic Bass (from 7) 64′
2 Double Open Wood (from 7) 32′
3 Double Open Diapason (from 9) 32′
4 Contra Violone (from 64) 32′
5 Double Quint (from 9) 211/3
6 Open Wood I 16′
7 Open Wood II 16′
8 Open Diapason I 16′
9 Open Diapason II 16′
10 Violone 16′
11 Sub Bass 16′
12′ Salicional 16′
13 Viole (from 48) 16′
14′ Quint 102/3
15 Octave Wood (from 6) 8′
16 Principal (from 8) 8′
17 Violoncello 8′
18 Flute 8′
19 Octave Quint 51/3
20 Super Octave 4′
21 Harmonics 10.12.15.17.19.21.22 VII
22 Mixture 15.19.22.26.29 V
23 Double Ophicleide (from 25) 32′
24 Double Trombone (from 27 in Swell) 32′
25 Ophicleide 16′
26 Bombard 16′
27 Trombone (in Swell) 16′
28 Fagotto 16′
29 Trumpet (from 116) 16′
30 Clarinet (from 60) 16′
31 Bassoon (from 130) 16′
32 Quint Trombone 102/3
33 Posaune (from 25) 8′
34 Clarion 8′
35 Octave Posaune (from 25) 4′
36 Bass Drum
  • Couplers: I Choir to Pedal, II Great to Pedal, III Swell to Pedal, IV Solo to Pedal, V Choir (unenclosed) on Solo, VII Octave Orchestral, VIII Sub Octave Second Division (Orchestral), IX Unison off, X Swell to Choir, XI Solo to Choir, XII Reeds on Choir, XIII Great Second Division on Choir[Ann. 2], XIV Choir to Great, XV Swell to Great, XVI Solo to Great, XVIII Octave (16′, 8′, 4′ stops only), XIX Solo to Swell, XXI Octave, XXII Sub Octave, XXIII Unison off, XXIV Octave Bombard (16′, 8′, 4′ stops only), XXV Bombard on Choir, XXVI Tubas on Choir.
Annotations
  1. ^ a b Harrison & Harrison 1974.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Cf. XIII. Great Second Division on Choir.

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External links[edit]

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