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Everything posted by stewartt

  1. stewartt

    Unda Maris

    When we restored the Ginns Bros organ at Shipton-under-Wychwood (I'd better not say who the organ builder was although he did a great job for us, in case the Organ Police go after us because it was cone tuned)) we discovered that the Celeste - a lovely Willis style Vox-Angelica as one would expect given the original builder's background - was tuned randomly sharp or flat! I asked for it all to be tuned sharp on the basis that flat celestes don't help the Choir to stay up to pitch. I can't say that it sounded much different as a result. These Willis celestes are just the best, aren't they? The Swell Vox Angelicas and those fabulous Solo strings at Salisbury, roaring around the vaulting like crazy sonic angels. When I was a schoolboy in the late 60s all the experts were telling us we shouldn't have these things and I thought 'Hang on a minute - why is that every time I go into a Cathedral the organists just can't keep their hands off them?. Thank goodness that common sense has returned.
  2. I am assembling the bits for a house organ and have acquired a beautifully made R&C pedalboard. It looks like Willis or Compton work and has the frame and the sharps finished in black. It's in excellent condition but the black finish is wearing off in places. I am sure there will be some experts here who can advise me as to how to restore these parts to their former glory. I am very familiar with using shellac varnishes - is this how it was done?
  3. It is fascinating to feel the hot air that has been expended on this subject over the forty years that have passed since I was a schoolboy. As a parish church organist since I was fourteen I have played organs with Victorian tracker action, trigger swell pedals, balanced swell pedals, electro pneumatic, direct electric, barker lever etc etc. If done properly, they can all work very well, but it really doesn't matter at all which is used because the people listening can't hear the difference anyway. What matters is the siting of the instrument and the quality of the scaling and the voicing of the pipework, plus competence in winding and making it all work properly. After that, accessibility and ease of maintenance are critical. A lot on money has been wasted recreating ingenious and marvellous solutions that can now be done much better in other ways. Surely it's as simple as this, isn't it? If the layout permits, use a properly designed mechanical action. If not, use a good electro-pneumatic or direct electric. The dual console arrangements that we seen over the past couple of decades are just a stupid waste of money, aren't they?
  4. We hired Cambridge Reed Organs' Dubain instrument some years ago for a performance of the Rossini with Chipping Norton Choral Society. We engaged Anne Page to play it and the result was a sensation. We had absolutely no idea that such wonderful sounds could come out this kind of instrument in the right hands. Highly recommended and worth every penny. It completely eclipsed the two Model 'D' Steinways!
  5. Apologies for going back to Gloucester, but I had the pleasure of playing it for a visiting choir evensong last weekend. I've not encountered it before and found it to be one of the most satisfying and musical English organs I have ever played. Yes it doesn't have all the usual English cathedral organ sonic toys, but what it does have is so musical and beautiful and works so well that you don't really want anything else. Leave it alone, please - Downes got this one absolutely right. Stewart Taylor
  6. I suspect that few of us are fond of toggle touch drawstops. I have played plenty of EP organs that don't have this - H&H most notably. They used to have their drawstop solenoids made by Taylors, I think, and very nice they were too, with a deep draw and a a good 'feel'. I don't think Taylor's are still in businesss, so I don't know where they go now. Stewart Taylor
  7. Yes, P&S do a very nice top resistance keyboard. Recent examples are the new keyboards at Hereford and Salisbury Cathedrals and St Laurence's Ludlow. Doubtless there are many more. Willis used to do a similar arrangement (maybe they still do) and I have a very nice example on the 1930s Nicholson/Walker console at Holy Trinity Hereford. Absolutely nothing to do with the touch of a good mechanical action, of course, but very pleasant to play on, nevertheless.
  8. It does seem to me that there is something of a 'grumpy old men' flavour to this strand. It really doesn't have to be this bad. We've got thirteen kids in the choir here at Holy Trinity, Hereford - very ordinary kids from local schools. We're no-compromise NEH and standard 'cathedral' anthems/setting territory. The other day I asked some of our senoir choristers: 'So why do you turn up week by week?' 'Because we love the music' they said, quite unprompted by me. The trick is to find a way to clear the ignorant adults out of the way - maybe bypass the teaching profession if it isn't helping.
  9. I was lucky enough to visit Cleveland Lodge in the days when Lady Jeans was still resident. I'd gone as a BBC Outside Broadcast engineer to record her playing a harpsichord recital produced for Radio Three by Basil Lam. It was a great day out and she was a most charming host. I remember the organ in her study as being very loud and aggressively top-heavy and it seemed even worse when I went back years later and played it in the RSCM days. A good example - as others have said - as to why it is not sensible to have mixtures on house organs.
  10. It is not clear to me whether this topic is now about nightmare parishes or nightmare organists. Rather the latter, it seems.
  11. Isn't it interesting this? I asked a simple question and over half the replies are nothing to do with the question I asked. Wouldn't it be good if folks could stick to the topic?
  12. Wish I'd not mentioned BMWs - got one already, thanks.
  13. It seems that you folks are not short of an opinion on most matters, so I would like to ask your opinion. I am O & C at Holy Trinity, Hereford. As a church we are not bust and we have a decent organ (details on NPOR for those who can't resist), all of which is in good playing order. Lots of people use it for practice, which is great, and a couple of teachers teach on it. Hardly anybody pays anything. It does seem to me that people ought to expect to put something in the kitty towards the cost of heat, light, electricity and maintenance but I am in a quandry as to what might be a reasonable figure to ask. Students, for sure, should be able to use the organ as much as they want for nothing; we need to encourage the next generation. But what about well-heeled pensioners who arrive in BMWs? And should teachers pay to use the organ? Your thoughts and views will be of interest. What do other people do? What should we do? Stewart Taylor
  14. You're absolutely right here. The truth, I suspect, is that our builders are just not building enough instruments to fine-tune what is, after all, a very empirical process. Anyone who has had the privilege of being involved with a good organ builder in the fascinating business of starting from scratch, even if it's only one stop, will rapidly realise how incredibly complicated and touchy the whole business of creating sound from organ pipes actually is. I think they've now completely mastered the mechanics of actions and winding in a way that the Victorians (surprisingly) never did, but the creation of a cohesive tonal scheme that works in a particular acoustic is very hit-and-miss - and that's if you don't have clients/advisers/architects who know nothing and do everything to mess up the final result. I've played many tremendous Victorian organs that have worked really well in the context of today's parish church services and today's very different ideas about registration and articulation. We use them differently now, but they rise to the challenge. What they all have in common is that they were knocked up month after month out of standard ranks of pipework that the factory was turning out by the hundred every month. Practice makes perfect. In another field, the Steinway piano has reached the peak of perfection (if you like that sort of thing, which I do) that it currently occupies because they've been at it for so many years and built so many pianos. If I had one suggestion for where we are right now, I'd say please let the organ builders get on with it and stop interfering. The more we push them this way and that the less chance they get to perfect one particular house style. I think we'd get a better result if gave them more space. Stewart Taylor
  15. Oh please - let's not go back to the sixties and seventies when we had pompous experts tell us what we could and could not have and we got lumbered with a lot of really useless instruments (and a few good ones as well - OK I admit). Organs in English churches are there to (a) accompany hymns (:angry: accompany the choir - if there still is one © make spiritually uplifiting liturgical sound effects (don't knock it - it works) and (d) maybe play some organ music that nobody much will listen to unless you're really lucky - not necessarily in that order. So please can we have the humilty to relearn how to make those totally effective Hill/Willis/Harrison/Nicholson/Walker/Gray and Davison etc instruments that did (and still do) the job so superbly well. 14 stops is plenty if the siting is right. I think it's been going in the right direction of late and our English builders certainly have mastered how to make superb actions of all types. I'm not interested in fancy or progressive instruments - being clever is not necessary. Being good and effective and fit for purpose is. Stewart Taylor
  16. As Paul@Trinity Music so correctly observes, 'does it sound OK' is the only criterion. One reason for using stopped and opens together on old English organs is that the bass of the open is often speeded up by the addition of the stopped rank and I believe that this was the standard practice. It seems to work with a lot of Victorian organs also. I used to believe all that stuff about not wasting wind etc that one read in books but if you look at the piston settings on most Cathedral and large parish church organs you'll find both the open and stopped in there together and - frankly - most of the listeners aren't going to be worrying too much about it. Stewart Taylor
  17. I share your feelings to some extent, but these screens do seem to encourage audiences. When we first arrived in Hereford the audiences at the recitals we attended at the Cathedral were quite thin. Since the video facility was installed the Nave has been well-filled whenever we have been there. The truth is (and we organists should never forget this) that most Engish audiences find organ music rather boring unless there is some sort of angle to attract their interest. You can always shut your eyes. Regards, Stewart Taylor
  18. This, to my ears, is a magnificent instrument offering total sonic satisfaction - which is not to say that I don't love the typical Willis/H&H English cathedral organ -but somehow Bristol makes an awful lot of sense as an alternative. I am sure that Manders did a good job of what they were asked to do. The issue is that the whole idea of restoring pneumatic actions may be interesting to historians and specialists who don't have to pay for the work, but from every other point of view it is complete nonsense (as is the other nonsense of building large tracker action concert organs that are nearly always played from the alternative electric console). Nobody is going to hear the difference between a pneumatic and electro-pneumatic action and music is about what you hear, not the mechanics of how you make the sound. It might be interesting to preserve a few pneumatic action instruments as museum pieces (and they are certainly a different sort of playing experience) but to waste church money on pneumatic actions runs against common sense - a quality sometimes in rather short supply amongst organ 'experts'.
  19. I feel somewhat guilty about slagging off this stop now having been ticked off by JPM but, honestly folks, I've played hundreds of English organs and the Dulcianas are nearly always a bitter disappointment - I'm sure when they're good they're useful, but I've never heard a good one. A much more useful stop I've encountered in a few modern organs is is a Viola, which makes a very useful bridge between the stopped and open diapasons - I suppose that's just a bigger Dulciana, is it? There are things that one can use Dulcianas for apart from accompanying the Swell oboe - sometimes the Dulciana can add a rather yummy quality to the Swell Celestes or make interesting combinations with the Great 4ft flute. That said, I'm still not convinced. On a small Great it amazes me that builders have in the past chosen a Dulciana rather than a 4ft flute, which is so much more useful.
  20. Dear Pierre, Sorry, but in my experience over the years the Dulciana is the most useless stop ever invented. Its sole claim to any purpose is that it is often the only stop on which to accompany the Swell oboe. I really don't understand why it ever became as ubiquitous as it did. Miserable things - I really hate them! Stewart Taylor
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