Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/599

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

organ; and as it contained examples of most of the varieties of stop of which mention has been made, this notice of the progress of organ-building abroad may for the present be fitly closed with the foregoing account of the enlarged form of the earliest 32-ft. C compassed organ that was ever made, so far as can be ascertained.

Having traced the history and growth of the organ in various kingdoms, attention may now be devoted to its special progress in England.

1407. Ely Cathedral.

The earliest record known to exist that gives any particulars as to the cost of making an organ in England, is that preserved in the Precentor's accounts of Ely Cathedral, under the date 1407. The items, translated from the Latin, read as follows:—

s. d.
20 stones of lead, 16 9
4 white horses' hides for 4 pair of bellows, 7 8
Ashen hoops for the bellows, 0 4
10 pairs of hinges, 1 10
The carpenter, 8 days, making the bellows, 2 8
12 springs, 0 3
1 pound of glue, 0 1
1 pound of tin, 0 3
6 calf skins, 2 6
12 sheep skins, 2 4
2 pounds of quicksilver, 2 0
Wire, nails, cloth, hoops, and staples, 1 0
Fetching the organ-builder, and his board, 13 weeks, 40 0
 Total, 3 17 8

These particulars, although scanty, contain entries that help us to trace a few of the features of this early instrument. The 'ashen hoops' indicate that the bellows were of the forge kind. The '12 springs' were doubtless the 'playing springs,' and if so, denote that the organ had a compass of is notes; exactly the number required for the Gregorian Chants (C to F), with the B♭ added. The metal for the pipes, compounded of '1 pound of tin' only to '20 stones of lead' must have been rather poor in quality and texture. The circumstance of the organ-builder being fetched, and his board paid for, indicates that the useful class of artificers to which he belonged sometimes led rather an itinerant life, as we shall presently see they continued to do two centuries later.

About the year 1450, Whethamstede, Abbot of St. Albans, presented to his church an organ on which he expended, including its erection, fifty pounds—an enormous sum in those days. This instrument, we are told, was superior to everything of the kind then in England for size, tone, and workmanship; but no record is left as to where or by whom it was made, nor as to what its contents or compass were.

1500–1670. A Pair of Organs.

The term 'pair of organs,' so much used in the 16th and the greater part of the 17th centuries, has been a source of as much difficulty to the commentators, as the spelling of the words themselves became to the scribes of the period. (See note below.) It grew gradually into use; and the most interesting fact connected with it, namely that there were various kinds of 'pairs' in use, has passed without hitherto receiving sufficient notice. At York in 1419, 1457, 1469, and 1485, the instrument is spoken of in the singular number, as 'The organ,' or 'The great organ.' In 1475 it is referred to as 'An organ.' In 1463 we meet with 'ye players at ye orgenys,' and in 1482 a payment is made for 'mending of organys.' In 1501 the complete expression is met with, 'one peyre of orgynys'; and it continued in use up to the time of Pepys, who wrote his 'Diary' in the second half of the 17th century.

One commentator considered the term 'pair' to refer to the 'double bellows'; but besides the fact that a single bellows is sometimes itself called a 'pair,' a 'pair of virginals,' containing wires, required no wind whatever. Another annotator thought that a 'pair' signified two organs conjoined, with two sets of keys, one above the other—'one called the choir organ, and the other the great organ'; but this explanation is answered by an entry of the expense incurred for 'a pair of new organs' for the Church of St. Mary at Hill, in the year 1521, which, including the cost 'for bringing them home,' amounted altogether to 'xs. viijd.' only. If this were not sufficient, there would be the fact that many churches contained 'two payre of [1]orgyns'; and if they were of the bulk supposed, there would be the question how much room, if any, could have remained in the church for the accommodation of the congregation. A third writer suggested that a 'pair' meant an organ with two pipes to each note; but 'a pair of regals' sometimes had but a single pipe to each key. The term in all probability meant simply an instrument with at least one complete set of pipes. It might have more, as in Duddington's organ noticed farther on.

The most interesting question here, however, is not simply the fact that a church had frequently two pair of organs, but, when so, why one was generally 'the grete orgones' and the other 'the small orgones.' It is quite possible that the custom mentioned by Prætorius, and already quoted, may have prevailed in England, of regulating the pitch of the organ according to the prevailing pitch of the voices (whether high or low), and that when there were two organs, one was made to suit each class of voice; and as an alteration of pitch, made for this purpose, of say half an octave, would have caused one organ to be nearly half as large again as the other, their difference of size may have led to the distinction of name as a natural sequence. This opinion seems to receive support from the fact that at Bethersden they had not a 'great' but 'a base peare of organes.'

  1. Ashford. 'Item ij payer of great organes.'
    Canterbury (Westgate). 'Item, two paire of organs.'
    Guildford (Holy Trinity). 'Item, ij paire of orgaynes.'
    Norwich (St. Andrew). Item. ij pair of orgonnes.'
    Singfield. Item. ij peyr of orgens.'