The organ at Ripon is not especially large in comparison to other cathedral instruments, but it is admired for both its character of tone and its power. The first of these attributes is thanks to the craftsmanship of TC Lewis, whose work forms the heart of the Ripon instrument. It might be best described as a three manual organ by Lewis but with the reeds (excepting the Choir Clarinet) and a fourth manual by Arthur Harrison.
The qualities of Lewis organs exceed the label of being merely ‘Romantic’. The Great Diapason chorus has the breadth, warmth, and full-blooded character associated with the typical English organ sound, yet possesses a brilliance that means it speaks with a convincing accent for continental music and nearly all styles and eras of composition. Lewis was, after all, a disciple of Edmund Schulze. By the same token, the family of Lieblich flutes on the Choir would not sound out of place in a Classically-voiced organ. These elements are complimented by the usual trappings of soft Swell strings, harmonic flute stops and a general abundance of 8-foot tone.
The reeds speak with the clean and bright tone that has come to be the hallmark of Harrison & Harrison organs. The Great Trombas which replaced Lewis’ more modestly-scaled reeds are at the top of the case and do not function as part of the Great chorus as they are no less powerful than tubas (the Choir transfer being very useful in this regard). The Arthur Harrison Solo department is small but provides all the usual ‘paintbox’ colours. Of particular note are the Corno di Bassetto and Contra Tuba which, although presented at 16-foot, possess an extra octave of pipes at the treble end making them available at 8-foot pitch by means of the Octave and Unison Off couplers. The enclosed Contra Tuba can also be utilised as a chorus reed for the Great in lieu of the Trombas and is available on the Pedal division. The big Tuba is by no means outdone for power (yet at no cost to its thrilling tone) and complimented further by the Iberian flavour of the Orchestral Trumpet added in 1988. Consequently, Ripon could be said to possess no fewer than six tubas.
The organ’s position on the screen affords it to speak easily into both the Quire to the East and the Nave to the West, but each side reveals different aspects to its character. Originally it was built and voiced to sound most coherent in the Quire, the organ nonetheless manages to project well into the Nave, where it enjoys the larger acoustic. In the case of the Choir and a substantial portion of the Pedal, which are on the East side of the screen, they dominate somewhat in the Quire but sound very distant in the Nave. The build-up the Great is much more satisfactory to the East too, which means the character of the organ in the Nave relies on the clarity of the Swell division which has shutters in both directions. Here, we have tried to achieve the best of both worlds, with a synthesised balance of the organ on both sides of the screen
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