The Organ in Holy Trinity Church, Coventry

By Hughes, Bryan | Musical Opinion, June 2001 | Go to article overview

The Organ in Holy Trinity Church, Coventry


Hughes, Bryan, Musical Opinion


The parish Church of The Holy Trinity, parts of which date from the 13th and 14th Centuries, is a large mediaeval building situated in the centre of the City. Coventry's modern cathedral stands on a few yards away. Holy Trinity is in complete contrast to the nearby Cathedral. It is a lofty, wide and spacious building with seating for 1500 people. Acoustically it is good for sound and sympathetic to organ tone. The building suffered damage from airraids during the 1939-45 War; but the magnificent tower and spire rising 265ft remained intact.

Early records of the organs at Holy Trinity refer to 'a pair of organs with seven stops, with the image of the Trinite on toppe of the case', built by John Howe and John Clynmore in 1526. In 1570, part of this organ was sold; Holy Trinity was without an organ for almost 60 years, when in 1632, a new instrument was given by a cleric. This instrument was subsequently damaged at the hands of the Puritans in 164 i, and afterwards it too, was sold. The church was again without an organ until 1684, when Robert Hayward who was an organ builder from Bath built a small Chancel organ. This instrument lasted until 1732, when Robert Schwarbrick built a new instrument costing 600, of two manuals with twelve stops on the Great and ten stops on the Choir. Later a Swell organ of five stops was added which had an octave of pedals to pull down the keys of the Great and Swell manuals. The organ builder Parsons of London carried out this work in 1829.

Holy Trinity received its first large organ in 1860, the work of Forster & Andrews, organ-builders of Hull. This 800 instrument consisted of three manuals and pedals, forty-three speaking stops and seven couplers. It was rebuilt in 1871 by Parrit of Leicester then again in 1900 by William Hill & Son, of London. They enlarged the instrument to one of four manuals and pedals, with a detached console placed on tubular pneumatic action. Much of the Forster & Andrews pipe-- work was retained. The blowing plant at this period was hydraulic, this was replaced in 1923 by two Discus blowers. In 1907, the care of this instrument passed to Jas Charles Lee, organ-builder of Coventry who supplied new soundboards and swell boxes to the solo and swell and also a considerable amount of new pipework in 1925. Later he also provided piston actions to both manuals and pedals. By this time the instrument contained pipework by Schwarbrick, Forster & Andrews, Win Hill & Son, Porritt, Cavaille-Coll of Paris, and JC Lee.

Nothing further was done to the instrument until 1961 when a complete rebuild was carried out by Henry Willis & Sons, organ-builders of London. The pipework now occupies a large portion of the floor area on the south side of the chancel just beyond the crossing, there is a paneled case work up to impost level above which is a functional pipe display. This pipework has adequate speaking room both above and on three sides of the casework.

Tonally this is a very flexible instrument. On the Great are three diapasons, all of different timbre and voiced with a natural unforced tone. The No 1 has carrying power and dignity and upon this a rich chorus may be built, whilst No 2 appears to be stringy with a rich supply of upper partials. The No 3 Diapason has a soft 'purring' sound which is extremely useful in quiet chorus effects and soft accompaniment and may also be used as a solo register. Amongst the flutes the Stopped Diapason is a lovely example of bright lively sound, with the Twelfth or Fifteenth, it has a tone of bell-like quality or it will take the octave, where as a secondary chorus it is a contrast to the No 2 or No 3 Diapasons. The Dulciana is excellent, firmly voiced and in effect an echo diapason, this rank is evenly voiced throughout the compass with a very light but firm bass. The Mixture contains the Tierce rank which in this instance provides a `reedy tone to the flue chorus whilst adding a brightness and binding the whole ensemble together.

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