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stewartt

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About stewartt

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    Gosport
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    Organ technology and music. Electronics.

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  1. Thank you, gentlemen, for this useful food for thought although the Saffron Walden scheme is very much more extensive than I have in mind. Nevertheless the information is very helpful. What we might offer is on a much smaller scale - just three or four services a month and tuition provided elsewhere by others much better qualified than I. There is little opportunity in our part of West Sussex, as far as I know, for young aspiring organists apart from St Mary Portsea (again on a completely different scale). We would like to do something to address that, but it's not grand.
  2. I play at a village church with functioning SATB choir including juniors, middle-of-the road Eucharistic services including anthems, voluntaries and improvisations, congregations of 75+ who really sing the hymns and a very fine Tickell organ. I have had one or two enquiries from up-and-coming young organists about the possibility of an organ scholarship. I'd like to encourage this as I think we could offer really useful experience but I have no idea what the going rate is for this type of arrangement in a small parish church. These would typically be people in their final year of school or first year of college/university and would probably be around during term time only. In my last church we paid choral scholars £100 per term. Is this the right sort of number do you think? All advice/comment gratefully received.
  3. For all you experts out there: sorry to be such an ignoramus, but I've been trying to find out where I can buy Dupre's arrangement of this piece and I can't seem to track it down. Also, I believe that Guilmant also arranged it although most people seem to play the Dupre one. Any comments on the relative merits of the two?
  4. Can anyone explain why some otherwise excellent organ builders persist with a design of pedalboard that has a pin through a felted bush at the toe end? (I have no idea what our host does, so apologies if necessary, or congratulations if not). In my experience, after ten to fifteen years (not long in organ terms) the felt wears through and then the pedals rattle annoyingly. H,N&B used this design as did many others. It doesn't work. There is a much better way - the toe ends of the pedals work between dowels and are covered with sheepskin. Pedalboards to this design seem to last almost forever. Why doesn't everyone do this?
  5. I absolutely agree with David. My experience is that the less you mess around with tuning the better. Generally the fluework should stand well between one annual tuning and the next. The reeds will need to be moved to stay with the flues as temperature changes but it is absolutely a waste of time trying to retune with the heating on because the front of the organ will respond to building temperature changes at a different rate to that of the back and large pipes 'warm up' more slowly than small ones. What works very well for us, with a large two manual with three swell reeds, is to retune the reeds on days when the building temperature has been stable for several days. So I tune reeds at 12 C, 14 C in the winter and 16, 18 and 20 in the summer. The other golden rule is: don't be too fussy, if it's just a little bit out leave it alone and if it's nearly right then don't mess it about. And try and move the pitch when tuning as little as possible - this needs a sensitive touch as the tuning wires will often vary in stiffness from one note to the next.
  6. When holding notes for tonal finishers, I have always been struck by how changing the pitch of a pipe takes the voicing almost back to square one. Is it really wise to change the pitch of an historic organ, I wonder? Isn't this why the Salisbury instrument (largely cone-tuned and flat pitch) has been so fiercely protected by its custodians?
  7. I retuned our three magnificent Billy Jones reeds at Holy Trinity Hereford today. I do this as little as possible between the professional tuner's annual visits - perhaps three times a year. Generally I find that 14 deg C is a good winter temperature at which to tune (factoring in the rather fierce heating) and 17deg is a good early summer temperature. Then the professional goes through the whole instrument in August at around 20 deg. What was interesting today was that the trumpet v the flues was not much out in the bass yet much out in the treble and the oboe was exactly the opposite. Is this typical and can anyone explain why it might be?
  8. We run a deeply appreciated parish choir at Holy Trinity Hereford but people don't want choral evensong in parishes these days. I really don't think that there's much point in flogging a dead horse. The genre is very much alive and kicking in the cathedrals, however, so we keep the repertoire alive by doing lots of cathedral visits. I feel very passionately that I want our choir kids to take this repertoire away with them when they complete their ten or so years with us and they do love singing it in the cathedrals.
  9. I've played this organ, both in its previous setting in Homer and in its new home. At Homer the action was horrible to play and the only good-sounding stops were those of the Hill choir organ. It's all very well for the BIOS types to knock the transposition to Hay (and, to be fair, the case does look a bit odd on the gallery) but the fact remains that the people at Homer had no interest in preserving this instrument and now it is loved and cherished in its new home. I've played it in the new venue and it's OK. The installation has been done very tidily and there is a nice new Renatus drawstop console. Is it a great instrument? Well no, but a hell of a lot more satisfying and effective than 90% of those Victorian instruments doomed to a century of incarceration in a tiny chancel organ chamber.
  10. Thank you, Mr Drinknell, my point is made perfectly. I am not sure that electrifying a pneumatic action necessarily has to change the touch at the keys but - let's face it - the feel of pneumatic touch boxes isn't usually particularly agreeable and it's perfectly possible to copy it (go and try the electrified classic 1913 N&B in Witney Methodist Church, for instance, which felt exactly the same after it was rebuilt). Whether you would want to do this when instead you could have a lovely new set of P&S keys with bone facings and magnetic toggle touch is another matter - I know which I'd go for. (I think I am right in saying, incidentally, that at Westminster Abbey the pneumatic part of the console is those incomparable Harrison electro-pneumatic drawstop machines - probably too expensive these days - nothing ever worked quite as snappily as they did). There is a frame of mind which says that the only way to maintain organs is to take the whole instrument out and redo everything - this is a route to pipe organs being impossibly expensive to maintain. There is no reason why, if the layout permits, everything shouldn't be accessible for maintenance and replaceable piecemeal when it goes wrong or wears out. If pallets, for instance, are pinned at the back rather than glued on leather hinges, then they could be taken out and releathered with the windchest in situ. Compound magnets can replace delicate primary magnets and pneumatics and can be easily replaced if they give trouble. Diode/transistor note switching systems can be simply repaired (I am not so enthusiastic about microprocessor note switching systems - they're cheaper but if they go wrong on Sunday morning or get struck by lightning you've had it). Modern windchests, if constructed out of the right materials, will last almost for ever. Direct electric action can be pretty good, too. Of course we all agree that mechanical action is best although - let's face it - some people have made a pretty serious mess of those over the last fifty years (never our hosts, to my knowledge). But given the materials at our disposal today I really don't see the point of restoring more than a few pneumatic actions as historical curiosities. Yes they can work quite well, but they don't work as well as modern electro-pneumatic or direct electric actions.
  11. Given the notoriously dodgy nature of this particularly tricksy action design, I would have left a year between completion and the opening recital, even if they have got one of the best firms in the business doing it. I know that all the experts will be horrified by this suggestion, but I really can't see the point of this kind of restoration. A good modern electro-pneumatic action would work much better, could be made to feel very similar at the console and nobody would hear the difference. It typifies the waste of NLF money that gave us all those instruments with two consoles where nobody uses the tracker action action console. Organs are (can be - sometimes, very occasionally) musical instruments, not some kind of exhibit out of a steam engine museum. This restoration will, I am sure, be done as well as it possibly can be, but I am quite confident that the tuner's book in 20 year's time will tell a sad story. This Walker action design is simply too complicated - it's just not worth perpetrating it in a working church instrument, where it will be nothing but trouble. Doubtless many people much more knowledgeable than I will now explain why this is an idiotic point of view, but I know that I am right!
  12. Last year I was offered the choir organ section from the organ at Prinknash Abbey; the monks were down-sizing from the enormous modern abbey buildings built in the sixties back to the exquisite mediaeval house they occupied when they first came to Gloucestershire and they no longer had any need for the organ. This was the organ built by Father Charles Watson and known as ‘the plainsong organ’, later the choir division of the three manual instrument in the ‘big abbey’ chapel. In its original form it consisted of five ranks of pipework on an old slider and pallet soundboard fitted with a modern suspended action, a new oak case (made by the Abbey carpenter) and reverse colour playing keys. In 1995 (pace NPOR) it was incorporated into the larger organ and when I first saw it the mechanical action had been replaced by large lever arm magnets mounted on the old roller board working directly on the pallets of the old soundboard, the console still in-situ, and now played from the three manual console of the main organ. I wonder if anyone can remember from where the various parts of this instrument came? NPOR cites ‘Horace Clarke 1930’ – who was he? ‘Classical Organ in Britain’ states that it was assembled in 1970. The old soundboard is of rather unusual construction, with the mahogany table made in sections to match the upper boards, sitting on felt gaskets and screwed to the bars rather than glued; it would be very easy to repair in situ and I wonder why all builders didn’t do this (too expensive I suppose). The Salicional is an old Peter Conacher TC stop in spotted metal: the paper label on the C pipe identifies it as from Job No 1044 (Mr Wyld, do you have this in your records?). The 8ft Gedackt is an old and very solid affair in varnished pitch pine and the 4ft flute is also an old wooden stop with the cut-up lowered. The 4ft principal looks practically new, in spotted metal with low cut up and very little nicking as does the 2ft, a tapered rank perplexing stamped ‘Flute’. The BOB blower is well documented on a label inside and was made in 1970. I am currently rebuilding this instrument as a house organ on a new direct electric chest, so if anyone wants 56 K-A heavy duty pallet magnets and five KA electric stop motors they are free to anyone who wants to collect them from Hereford. Just email me at stewart.m.taylor@btinternet.com.
  13. I've found that Alan Wilson's 'Mass of All Saints' works very well everywhere I've used it.
  14. Now I'm sure that everyone participating in this discussion will accuse me of being completely crazy but I'd just like to ask what it is that you are doing in the privacy of your own home on these amazing things with zillions of stops and gadgets? Not practicing properly, I should imagine. I have at home one rank of nice gedackt pipes played from two manuals and pedals on direct electric action and - guess what - I've ended up doing nearly all my practice on it, because I don't much like practicing in a freezing cold church and also because the pedals actually play in time with the manuals, which certainly doesn't happen on my church organ. Because there are no gadgets to fiddle with I just get on with learning the notes and listening properly to what I'm doing. Once that's all sorted out I take it to the church and add all that stuff that tries to get in the way of the music - swell pedals, combination pistons, stop changes, fiddling about with CCTV cameras, seeing what mischief the choristers are up to etc etc and now that's easy because I've learned the notes properly. And try learning a big French toccata on one rank of fast-speaking gedackt pipes in a completely dead acoustic and you'll be amazed how easy it is when you get it on the church organ - it'll just play itself. Back to basics, chaps.
  15. O.K. Perhaps there's something wrong with my hearing then.
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