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Musings & Amusings

TIP: Click on the thumbnails below to see the pictures in full
See footnote

Lövstabruk (Leufstabruk) church in Sweden has an organ of outstanding interest. Built by Johan Niclas Cahman in 1728, it serves as the focus of an Annual (Summer) Organ Academy; other notable instruments in the area are also used.

For 2007 — the academy’s 12th year — the theme will be organ music and cantatas of Buxtehude. More about the programme may be found at the site here . Teaching and discussion are in English — a language widely spoken in Sweden —so this is an “accessible” course.

In Cahman’s organ case (picture 1) the classical arrangement of divisions is seen (click on the thumbnail to see the full extent of the façade) — main case, with positive in front and pedal towers at the sides. Here the latter are detached from the main case, possibly for visual reasons and perhaps, also to distribute weight along the gallery. The whole composition is redolent of Sweden, lighter and more graceful than many North European examples. The delicate mouldings seem to make the gilded areas less oppressive than those sometimes seen elsewhere. Is it imagination, or do the upper parts somewhat resemble the crowns worn by Swedish brides?

(For more on this organ see "The Organ As a Mirror of Its Time - North European Reflections,1610-2000" Snyder, Kerala J. (EDT) OUP pub. 2002.)

English cases of the period were much less exuberant, though often of excellent proportions and elegant design. Visible pipes were frequently gilded, but the application of gold elsewhere was rare, except to ornaments, such as cherubs and angel trumpeters. More usual decorations were crowns and mitres — usually a single crown on the centre tower and mitres on others. Some cases have been shorn of these and their proportions ruined as a result An example that has survived, against the odds, perhaps, is in the USA, at the King’s Chapel, Boston. From this page it will be seen that limited headroom has meant that the crown has had to be lowered and mounted in front of the pipe-shades. This organ has been rebuilt several times, most recently by C.B. Fisk.

The original case pipes were probably gilded, like those at St Margaret Pattens, in the city of London and in many other places (picture 2). St Margaret’s case was made about 20 years after that at Löstabruk, and for a smaller instrument with no pedals. The “flats” are not flat at all but form elegant double-curved fronts between the towers. The photograph itself is unusual; note how effectively a reflective sheet has been used.

It may well be that English builders gilded case pipes because the relatively poor-quality metal they used had an unattractive appearance. At Appleby Parish Church, in the North of England, much pipe-work remains from an instrument built in 1661 for Carlisle cathedral. The front pipes, which were subsequently shortened and, later, restored with a better-quality material, demonstrate how unsightly was some of the material then used — dull and grey, a sad comparison with that used in Europe and exemplified at Lövstabruk. (see more here).

A remaining set of Father Smith's case pipes is positively ugly; examination of some 18th century examples of case pipes show these to be of poor metal. No wonder they were gilded!

Gilding and painting, sometimes in combination (picture 3), continued well into the 19th century, until influence of builders like Hill and Willis, who adopted spotted metal, was generally felt.

Finally, a quick return to Sweden. Here, as elsewhere, expatriate communities established their own churches, schools and hospitals. Numbers of German merchants, their families and employees formed — and form — a substantial community at Stockholm. The German church of St Gertrude is a building that impresses the solid worth of its community on those who see it.

Does anyone know an organ with more gold leaf? (pictures 4 and 5). (There is more about this instrument here in an article from The Organ)

FOOTNOTE: Philip Bailey thinks the Klais organ in Trier Cathedral gives St Gertrude a run for her money. Jenny ("I Can Go One Better") Webmaster reckons that St Anne's, Warsaw, tops both.

Editorial comment: "Pass the aspirin - I feel a competition coming on"

Picture credits - with thanks:-
1, 3, 4 & 5: Philip Wells
2: English Heritage - NMR.

1. Lövstabruk

St Margaret Pattens

2. St Margaret Pattens

Usk Parish Church

3. Usk, Parish Church

St Gertrude, Stockholm
4. Stockholm, St Gertrude

St Gertrude
5. St Gertrude - detail.

Prettier than Gertrude?

St Anne's, Warsaw
(Click for entire image)

Feel free to email David with questions or feedback

David Bridgeman-Sutton, 2007