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Sheffield Albert Hall Organ

Our last Saturday's impression contained a description of the Sheffield New Music Hall as far as fabric was concerned, and we reserved until to-day our notice of M. Cavaille-Coll's grand organ, which has been erected in it.
When the building of the New Hull was fairly commenced the directors of the Company begun to think of providing an organ, which from the first they determined should be of a first class character, and greater stimulus was given to thin determination by the handsome donation of £500 by the Duke of Norfolk towards the object This gift was speedily followed, by one of like amount from Mark Firth, Esq., also, by £100 from J. T. Hopwood, Esq. and several other donations of a liberal character. One of the conditions on which these munificent gifts were made was that the organ, when erected, should be used at intervals in aid of the various charitable institutions existent in the town, and this stipulation we have no doubt the Music Hall directors will see the advisability of carrying out. Matters having reached this stage the directors felt themselves warranted in coming to the conclusion to give an order for an organ adequate in every respect to the large proportions of the hall. After arriving at this decision the next point to be determined upon was, into whose hands should the building of the instrument be placed? In selecting a builder the Music hall directors had s delicate point to decide They had in their own town a firm builders of celebrity, whose organs are to be found in all parts of the Kingdom and the splendid voicing of which gains the high commendations of all professional critics. The claims of such builders upon local patronage were therefore great. Other builders in the country standing in high repute might also be considered as desirable competitors. The natural wish of many of those concerned was no doubt to give the order to an English artiste, and particularly to the Sheffield builders; but the chief element was after all where could the most complete and durable instrument be obtained? Various towns in different parts of the country Were visited before any decision could be come to. The fine examples of English organ building to he found at Birmingham. Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, etc., were inspected, and their merits thoroughly discussed. Then the work of M. A. Cavialle Coll was introduced upon the scene This artist had erected several splendid specimens of French organs in England, and some of these were examined by the committee appointed far the purpose. That in the Colston Hall at Bristol, and the fine instrument in the Music Chamber at Bracewell Hall, the residence of Mr. Hopwood, created a very favourable impression on the minds of the Committee, whose report sufficed to induce The Music Hall Directors to overlook the claims of Englishmen and give the order for the erection of the grand organ to the French builder. The cost was at first to be a little over £4,000, but the subsequent addition to the original specification of several powerful and effective registers, increased this sum by £I,000, making the total cost a little over £5,000.
Connected with so large an instrument it may perhaps be interesting to the reader to know some little of the builder. M. Cavialle-Coll is one of the family of organ builders whose ancestors for generations have pursued the same calling, and whose work has stood the test of time. Many of the largest organs n France, and particularly those in Paris, have been erected by him. Notably the Organ Its the Cathedral of Notre Dame, of Paris, the Church of St. Sulpice, etc. etc. The majority of these instruments are of the first magnitude and models of mechanical ingenuity. M. Cavaille-Coll is specially noted for the brilliancy of his reed pipes, and the purity and individuality of character of tone which he produces from them. No less noted is he for the mechanism of his organs which afford the greatest facilities to player.
Immediately after the order had been riven to M. Cavaille-Coll the work was commenced, and In the early part of last summer the instrument was so far complete that a series of Rècitals was given upon it at the builders factory in Paris by numerous French and English organists, including M. Widor, Mr. Best, the Albert Hall organist, and Mr. H. H. Smith, the organist of the Sheffield Parish Church. The Music Hall Organ Committee were present at many of these Rècitals, and from the high encomiums passed upon the instrument the wisdom of their Choice of builder was in their mind, amply confirmed. Arrangements were then made for the transmission of the organ to England, and in due time it reached Sheffield via Hull, being contained in 42 cases, the gross weight of which was 23 tons 3'cwts 3 qrs. On arriving at Sheffield it was received by M. Reinberg and M. Thiemann, two of M. Cavaille-Cole's foreman. And a posse of workmen, and its erection in the Hall was forthwith commenced. Progress appeared slow, but the whole work was revised in order to guard against any possible damage which might have been occasioned during the transmission to England. The deliberation exercised in the erection of the organ in its present position is a guarantee of the stability of the entire structure. in the most minute and apparently important details the greatest nicety of finish has been observed, realising an instrument the colossal proportions of which in the hands of a skilful manipulator will display countless varieties of tone and effect. This, we anticipate will be fully proved to the satisfaction of the public at the opening Rècital, announced to be given by Mr. Best on Monday next. Professional judgement has already pronounced as affirmative response to the sanguine expectations of the directors; and the town of Sheffield should now become as celebrated in England for possessing a large and excellent music hall organ as any of the Continental towns which have been so long noted for their splendid instruments. In the organ now under notice M. Cavaille-Coll has produced a work which we feel convinced will exercise an important influence on organ building in this country. During the progress of the work, though a certain amount of exclusiveness has been observed, many English builders and organists have sought and obtained opportunities of inspecting it, and it will continue to be the object of a visit to all who are interested in organs and organ building. The large English organs at Birmingham, Liverpool, and other towns we have before alluded to, are wonderful illustrations of mechanical ingenuity, but in the Sheffield Music Hall organ there are to be found all the mechanical effects for which the French builder is so justly noted. To enable the reader to judge of the magnitude of the instrument it will ne necessary to examine the following list of stops and accessory movements which it contains:-
Jeux de Fond
Jeux de Combination
1Montre 16 Feet 10 Octave Flute4 Feet
2Gambe 16 Feet 11 Quinte 22/5Feet
3Bourdon 16 Feet 12 Fourniture 5 ranks
4Montre 8 Feet 13 Cymbale 4 ranks
5Diapson 8 Feet 14 Bombarde 16 feet
6Viole de Gambe 8 Feet 15 Trompette 8 feet
7Flute Harmonique 8 Feet 16 Clarion 4 feet
8Bourdon 8 Feet
9Prestant 4 Feet
Jeux de Fond
Jeux de Combination
1Quintation 16 feet 7 Quinte 22/3 feet
2Principal8feet 8Doublette 5 feet
3Nacht Horn 8 feet 9Piccolo 4 feet
4Unda Maris 8feet 10Cromorne 16 feet
5Prestant 4 feet 11Basson&Hautbois 8 feet
6Flute-donce 4 feet 12Voix Humaine 4 feet
Jeux de Fond
Jeux de Combination
1 Bourdon-doux 16 feet 7 Viole d'amour 4 feet
2 Flute Traversiere 8 feet 8 Doublette 2 feet
3 Diapson 8 feet 9 Cornet 5ranks
4 Gambe 8feet 10 Cor. Anglais 16 ranks
5 Flute Octaviante 4 feet 11 Trompette 8 ranks
6 Viox Celeste 8 feet 12 Clation 4 ranks
Jeux de Fond
Jeux de Combination
1 Bourdon 16 feet
2 Diapson 8 feet
3 Flute Octaviante 4 feet
4 Flute Harmonique 8 feet 10Tuba Magna 16 feet
5 Quinte 22/3 feet 11Trompette 8 feet
6 Doublette 2 feet 12Clarion 4 feet
7 Tierce 23/5 feet
8 Clarinette 8 feet
9 Musette 8feet
Jeux de Fond
Jeux de Combination
1 Princippal Basse 32 feet 9 Contre Bombarde 32 feet
2 Violin Basse 16 feet 10 Bombarde 16 feet
3 Contre Basse 16 feet 11 Trompette 8 feet
4 Sou Basse 16 feet 12 Clarion 4 feet
5 Grande Quinte 102/3 feet
6 Violoncelle8 feet
7 Flute 8 feet
8 Corni Dolci 4 feet
1 Grand Orgue (for right Hand stops)
2 Grand Orgue (for left Hand stops)
3 Positif
4 Rècit
5 Solo (for right Hand stops)
6 Solo (for left Hand stops)
7 Pedale (for right Hand stops)
8 Pedale (for left Hand stops)
1 Effet d'Orage 12 Expression Rècit
2 Tirarse Grand Orage 13 Octaves Graves
3 Tirarse Positif 14 Copula Grand Orgue
4 Tirarse Rècit 15 Copula Positif
5 Tirarse Solo 16 Copula Rècit
6 Anches Pedales 17 Copula Solo
7 Anches Grand Orgue 18 Copula do Rècit au Positif
8 Anches Positif 19 Temolo do Positif
9 Anches Rècit 20 Temolo du Rècit
10 Anches Solo 21 Expression Solo
11 Expression Positif
To the initiated a galnce at the foregoing will show the completeness of the instrument, not only as regards the arrangement of the tone column, but also as embracing unlimited facilities for effective playing. The following Resume will enable the reader to judge the more readily how perfectly the different parts of the organ are balanced.
Registers of
Number of Pipes
Name of Claviors 32ft 16 103/5 8 4 22/3 2 13/5 1
Grand Orgue - 4 - 6 3 1 - - - 2-9 10 1403
Positif Expressif - 1 - 6 2 1 1 - 1 - 12 729
Rècit Expressif - 2 - 5 3 - 1 - - 1-1 12 849
Solo Expressif - 2 - 5 2 1 1 1 - - 12 783
Pedals 2 4 1 8 2 - - - - - 12 300
Total 2 13 1 25 12 3 3 1 1 3-13 61 4064
The several claviers of the organ are contained in a Console some feet apart from the instrument itself, so constructed that the player faces his audience. The manuals, of which there are four, occupy the centre of the console, and each side of them are 'the 'Registre de Combination," and the draw nobs acting upon the different registers of pipes constituting the departments of the organ. These are arranged in five horizontal rows, corresponding with the number of claviers. One advantage of this system is that the stops do not rise above level of the top row of keys, so that the performer can get at all the steps without rising from bis seat. Below these is the pedal clavier and the pedals de combination. The advantages of the latter innumerable, The pedals (of which there one to each clavier) operate upon their particular organs, to draw down whatever chord being played upon any other of the organs: for instance, if the Grand Orguo is in use and the Tirasse Positif be worked, the corresponding notes will brought into play upon the Positif Organ, and so on with regard to the rest. The coupling pedals are similar in principle, but instead of continuing to act only whilst the player presses upon them, as in the case of the Tirasse , the coupling is perfect so long as the pedals are held down, in fact, their action is exactly similar to that of the English draw stop couplers. The utility of the Anches pedals is that until they are brought into operation none of the reed registers will speak, although at their representative stops may be drawn out. There is also one coupler for the "Octaves Graves" or subortares. The organ is also furnished with the usual tremulant's. and. in addition, has an "Effet d'Orage" or storm stop, apiece of mechanism which acting on the deep pipes. produces a wonderful representation of a thunderstorm There are three pedals connected with the louvre shutters of the choir, swell and solo organs, and by means of them the player has the greatest facilities in his power for expressive effect, for by these shutters may be opened to the fullest extent, or minutest part of an inch, and retain in any position at the will of the player.
Entering the organ we find it is constructed three stages, the first of which the greater position of the action is to be met with, and it is surprising that in so colossal an instrument this action should occupy the little room it does. This has been effected by the use of the pneumatic apparatus which, in all Cavaille-Coll's organs is made to do important work. It is this part of the organ that the apparatus for the draw stops is seen. The pneumatic principle as applied to the keyboards of all large organs is familiar to most people, but its adaption to a whole series of draw stops is a speciality in French building, and is undoubtedly a great saving of labour to the performer, which in an instrument of this magnitude must be very light. The apparatus used by M. Cavaille-Coll for this purpose is comprised of a horizontal a box, divided into three compartments by intermediate partitions; above and below this box are two small reservoirs with parallel folds, the slabs of which being bound together, the one cannot open, without closing the other. Of the three compartments of the box only the middle one in direct communication with the bellows whilst the end ones communicate with the external air, or with one of reservoirs; a horizontal rod traverses the box from one end to the other in a direction at right angles to the partition walls, and passes across four openings made in the walls of the several compartments in one straight line. This rod has four conical pallets two in the interior of the central compartment and two outside the end compartments. These pallets are arranged in such way that when the rod is drawn in one direction the wind passes from middle one into one of the outer and thence into the first reservoir, whilst the other communicates with the air by the outer compartment. When the rod is drawn in contrary direction it is the second valve which receives the wind and the first one parts with its. A system of jointed levers transmits the action the register movement and a system of trackers and bakfalls convey the movement the rods which bear the pallets, in the motive bellows. From this arrangement a certain number of advantage arise. In the first place the draw of the stop handles is reduced to little over an inch, seeing that their mechanical work is very slight; secondly, instead of strong machinery and the consequent resistance which the hand of the organist most overcome in shifting the registers, very thin wooden trackers are used, which are kept stretched in their proper position by springs. In consequence of their small bulk, these trackers are grouped together and pass across the interatices of the organ, thus enabling M. Cavaille-Coll to keep within reasonable limits the dimensions of the draw stops, part of the console, and to arrange the 72 stop handles in five consecutive rows placed right and left, within easy reach of the organist. The number of motive bellows are equal to that of the registers, and they are grouped in a series corresponding to each soundboard, and are arranged so as to render their action as direct possible; moreover, the wind trunk which conducts the compressed air to the motive bellows is furnished with a valve of admission, which is opened or shut by the aid of a special stop. The object of this arrangement is to avoid the inevitable escape of wind from the pneumatic valves, and it supplies a system of " Registre de Combinaison." a decided speciality in this organ. In fact when the wind is not admitted to the pneumatic valves the stop handles may be drawn out or pushed with impunity ; but if the performer comes to draw the Registre de Combinaison (valve of admission) the wind rushes into the pneumatic valves ; immediately all those whose stop handles are drawn out cause corresponding registers to open, if they are not so already, and those whose stop bundles are pushed in execute the inverse manoeuvre if the corresponding registers are not shut. We may, therefore, when a certain number of stops are being used, close the combination stop (that which admits the wind into the pneumatic valves) then push in the stop handles that are out. and draw out others for a new combination, the old combination continues to act long the wind is kept out of the pneumatic valves which draw the slides, but as soon as the combination stop is drawn the new change comes into operation, and this substitution, rapid as it is, is made at the will of the organist by working single Registre de Combination."
Ascending a spiral flight of steps, the next stage is reached. This is probably the most interesting part of interior, for it is here that the majority the speaking portion of the organ to be found. Most prominent are the pipes of the "Grand Orgue," which, forming the most important part of the instrument and that which is most frequently used, occupies a position close to the case of the organ. It contains 16 stops, or 1,403 pipes, varying in length from feet to less than a quarter of inch. These pipes being of bright metal present a very imposing appearance rise, tier after tier, from the little thing not larger than a straw to the huge proportions of a 16 feet open pipe. The flue work gives tube foundation stops, three of them being of 16 feet tone, five eight feet, and two of four feet, besides the usual compliment of mutation registers. Evenness of tone is one of the chief characteristic of these stops, the notes of which appear to run into each other imperceptibly in the transition from one pipe to another. The full tone is bold and powerful, and whatever may have been said as to the lack of fulness of M. Cavnille-Coll's diapason work that re mark certainly cannot be applied to the flue registers in his Sheffield organ. The foundation pipes are supported by three reed stops, one of 16 feet tone, second eight feet, and another of four feet. The effect of these magnificent, and fully bears out the fame which the Frenchman has obtained this department of organ-building.
Separated from the Grand Orgue by a passage about a yard wide, and on its left hand side, is the Positif-Expressif, which is contained in a box about as large a moderate sized dining room. We get a peep through the lower shutters (the opening and shutting of which creates the crescendo and diminuendo effects of the swelling organ), and. see as were duplicate the Grand Orgue. The Positif contains twelve registers, and being used for accompaniment or where a soft organ required its pipes are voiced more softly than those the Grand Orgue, and are made to smaller scale. Side by side with the Positif we find the Rècit Expreasif, organ of exactly the same size, but different both in quality and fulness tone. This department of M. Cavaille-Coll's work comprises reed stops 16, 8, and 4 feet tone; the pipes of ail the registers are more strongly voiced than those of the Positif, and the effect very fine when this organ is being played upon. The pedal organ occupies places at each side of the interior of the instrument and at its back, and is, with the exception of the two 32 feet registers, which have their sound boards on the first stage of the organ, wholly situate on this elevation. The pedal department contains twelve stops, two of them having a speaking length of 32 feet, four of 16 feet, three of 8 feet and two of 4 feet, a foundation sufficient in itself for almost any required purpose; but this body of tone is further increased by the Grand Quinet which, combined with the 16 feet, give lower tones by their harmonies downwards, for instance, the Quint, coupled with a stop 16 feet gives a 32 feet tone. French builders, as a rule, are not noted for the imposing grandeur of their diapasons in the pedal department, but M. Cavaille Coll's example in the Sheffield organ proves he at least, is capable turning out some admirable specimens of this description of work. He has in this organ a 32 feet reed stop which down to the very lowest note speaks with remarkable promptness, and in conjunction with the great flue pipes, forms a most to the effective base to the column built upon it.
By another spiral staircase the solo organ is arrived at, and this is the most elevated portion of the instrument Like those the Positif and Rècit, the pipes of this organ (with the exception of the three Tubas, which speak direct into the great hall) are enclosed in a swelling box. It likewise has the same number of stops, all which speak upon an increased pressure of wind. The Tuba Magna, the Trompette and the Clarion have a still further increased wind, hence their exceeding brilliance and power. On this elevated stage the bell mouths of the 16 feet reed pipes of the Grand Orgue are to be seen springing through apertures in the floor, and in the rear of the instrument rising to the ceiling are the pipes of the 32 feet series.
The bellows, which are three in number, are placed a chamber directly underneath the organ and orchestra and require six men to work them when the full organ being used. The wind from the bellows is conveyed by trunks to ten reservoirs, which are situated in various parts of the organ, and from them it is them it is distributed by conductors at different pressures, to the several soundboards. It was contemplated to work these bellows by means of a water engine, the terms sought to be imposed by the Water Works Company were such as to cause the abandonment of the idea.
Having examined the interior of the organ we will now describe Its case which is the most striking adornment of the interior of the Hall, reaching from the top the orchestra to the ceiling, it is 38 feet high and as many broad. The design is by Mons. Simil, of Paris, and is Roman in its character. It is most elaborate in its character. It is most elaborately carved, the two side panels being fine specimens of fret work. Each of them bears a medallion head, the one of Handel and the other of Bach. Towers at each end of the case contain the large metal pipes of the diapason register, whilst a smaller tower elevated in the centre bears some of the lesser ones of the same series. Pipes of all sizes to the number of 68 occupy places in the design of the case, and these made of pure burnished tin, will, when the decoration of the case is carried out in its integrity be effective in the extreme.

Hundreds of homeward bound theatre-goers crowded the Town hall steps at Sheffield last night watching firemen coping with a blaze involving the Albert Hall, a leading picture house in the city, containing an Organ which cast more than £5,000.
The outbreak was discovered about 11 o'clock, and shortly before midnight flames, leaping through the roof, were visible for miles. A fire brigade official told a reporter that the outbreak was one of the biggest known in the town.
A woman eye witness said. "The whole of the roof appeared to be is flaming mass. Shortly before midnight, the firemen, several of whom were slightly injured by falling slates, but not sufficiently to warrant hospital treatment, concentrated on the back of the theatre, where it was feared that the flames might endanger adjoining buildings."
A tower about 40 feet high above the theatre was in danger of falling, and it was feared that If it collapsed it might set fire to other property, which included a picture house, a large garage, cutlery works, and other manufacturing establishments.

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Nottingham Evening Post
15 July 1937
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Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Saturday 13 December 1873