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Mander Organs

willy

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About willy

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  • Birthday 09/03/1954

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    Lightwater, Surrey
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    Organs (naturally), English/European History, Music generally, Reading, Gardening.........that sort of stuff.
  1. Apologies for this very tardy note: You are spot on! It was the FTH organ which I am afraid I vandalised. In fact I did try to sell it for a modest sum, to raise some funds for a new organ in my house. Unfortunately there was not one taker - so in the end, I took the decision to rebuild the console - changing it from IIIP and 97 speaking stops, to IVP and 87 speaking stops (and used the extra tabs for more couplers). As far as possible the tabs have the original engraving, but inevitably some have been re-engraved. The ranks are drawn from a Skinner organ, plus a about 20 additional ranks to make up up additional stops. The whole thing is based on Hauptwerk and is run by a dedicated PC (hidden away inside the organ, with 14 speakers hidden behind a pipe screen. The effect is stunning - bearing in mind it is installed in a house, not a concert hall. The specification is decidedly English Town Hall of the 1930's, and includes no less than 5 Open diapasons 8' on the great, 3 32' flues an 2 32' reeds on the pedal. The work was mostly done by David Houlgate who has done excellent work on the Brighton Dome organ. Regards Will
  2. [Hi Give David Houlgate a try. He pit in the 32' at the Brighton Dome. he also built my IVP 87 stop job at home. A good chap. Will
  3. Whilst not strictly about tuning......my story goes back to school days in Smethwick, when our very talented and enthusiastic music teach, the sadly late John Sidebottom, had a vision of enlarging the School's rescued Compton (ex Empire Smethwick) by melding it with a 3 manual from St Chad's Smethwick, which was redundant. John, with us boys, did the dismantling. The organ was located above the vestry, and spoke into the chancel and down the nave, with a piperack masking both arches. Removing the Great and Choir pipes was a doddle. Getting the soundboards out was terrifying!! We took the rails off the backs of the scrap pews lying around (the church was being demolished), and used them to slide the great, heavy contraption (and it weighed a ton!) from the organ chamber down into the chancel. How nobody was killed I cannot say. After that hair raising adventure, dismantling the swell box was a breeze....NOT. The swell soundboard stood behind the unenclosed choir, raised about 4-5 feet, and by that point in the procedure, stood over a gaping hole which looked down, through where the great had been to the vestry floor, maybe 30 feet below. Being tall for my age, I and another lad stood on chairs inside the swell box, and held the roof up, lifting it off the dowells which secured it, whilst my "friends" removed the walls. At this point the entire edifice wobbled so alarmingly (the removal of the great had also removed any stability within the building frame) that my mate and I were nearly pitched, swell box roof and all, into the void. St Chad was clearly fond of school boys (in a proper sort of way), and we were spared. Happy days! Will
  4. Is a point of view i suppose. Oddly enough hundreds of organs have been build in the last 120 years to play exactly "that crap" and very few really suitable for the repertoire that serious lovers of orgn music also fail to turn up in droves to hear. More curious still that millions of pounds have been spent in the last decade on restoring these monsters!! There is room for all types of music to be played on the organ, and I venture to think that if people were a bit less snooty about organs and organ music, then it may be viewed a bit more fairly. As for organists (of every calibre) who dare to desecrate their keys with "crap", well perhaps a few of those talented people might like to respond - at least they can do it (which i suspect many of their critics can't).
  5. ...if that was dull - Hungarian Rock was excruciating (I loathed it with a passion). That said - a very worthwhile trip into town.
  6. Did anyone go to the Thomas Trotter recital at the RAH last wednesday? It was poorly attended (may have been 700-800 in the audience), which is a shame, because it was an unusual recital for the RAH, but fairly typical of what Thomas does every week in Birmingham. I thought the organ was better presented than in any of the recitals I have attended since the organ was re-opened, in that there was plenty of scope to show of the softer stops, in pieces by Whitlock etc, through the full range of the organ's resources, to full organ (and Thomas is noted for keeping something in reserve, rather than blasting everyone with the tubas from first to last). He seems to have gained a penchant for bells. We heard them twice at Birmingham Town Hall a week or two ago, and last week we were treated to two sweetmeats utilising the RAH Carillons (Solo), as well as a little demo of the Tubular Bells stop. Incidentally these are more subtle than the rather brazen (new) bells on the Birmingham organ, and nicer for it I thought, (although of course very different "species"). He also used the Bass Drum!!! The recital was typical "town hall" with a bit of Bach (that P&F), followed by some transcriptions, lighter organ fayre, then some big French stuff. The RAH organ always seems to me to have a big jump from f to ffff. The pp stops are very quiet indeed. Mr trotter managed his programme and attendant registrations whithout the customary leap in volume - the crescendi were very smooth (or at least I thought so). This playing was as usual masterly! it was great - not hifalutin - just great! I suppose the organisers won't go for a repeat because of the poor attendance which is a real shame. Regards to all Will
  7. Yes I was there - sitting a couple of rows back from Mr Mander himself. It was great to see people queuing for returns - not a seat left in the house. The organ certainly sounded different - more like it used to pre-1984 I thought (ears play tricks of course), but it was certainly very enjoyable. Thomas seemed to like the bells, but I thought they were a bit loud and clangy. Was that Stephen Disley turning the pages (and nearly falling down the stairs)? I feel better now that I know the weekly organ recitals are now back on in Brum - even though I now live in London - it is nice to know that I can pop up now and then for a fix on the old organ . There is a schedule from now to May, not only on weekly recitals at teh Town hall and Symphony Hall, but a series of evening concerts too with Messrs Trotter, Curly and Latry playing (plus another chap whose name escapes me). It will all be on the Town Hall web site if it isn't published elsewhere.
  8. Hauptwerk is a very interesting and extremely clever invention. When I first heard of it, I thought that its application would be limited, requiring touch screens and all that stuff. I also believed that you wouod have to have a specification as it was and lump it. I was very wrong. My elderly but rather magnificent 3 manual, 101 stop Compton Electrone was becoming a nightmare to keep going, and I needed to do something about it. I found a very good 4 dekker (toaster-oonie) with about 45 stops over 4 manuals, internal speakers for about £17k. It was good, had plenty of flexibility of voicing etc - but I hated the plastic keys and lighted draw stops, when compared to the 1952 opulance of the Compton. A very clever chap from Brighton had been keeping the Electrone going and he suggested Hauptwerk to replace the old Compton generators etc, and so we embarked on a journey which is slowly drawing to an end. The old console has been stripped of all its old wiring and completly refurbished, and wired for MIDI. A 4th Compron manual of the same design and vintage and matching the orginals has been procured and installed. The 101 speaking stops has been reduced to 87, plus the full range of couplers and octave couplers you wouod expect on a 4 manual instrument. I am using one sample set to "fund" the ranks for half of the Great (20 stops) the Swell, Solo and part of the Pedal. Another set funds the other half of the Great, the Choir, rest of the Pedal and a few odd stops around the organ. The specification is pure British "Town Hall" - no apologies for that - no baroque tricks in my music room thanks. The room it is in is about 25x18 feet. The sounds comes from a bank of 14 speakers including a pair of whopping subwoofers for the 5 32s on the pedal. The computer that runs all of this is hidden, and you would not know it was there - and is only unearthed when something needs changing. The total cost of this will be about £11-12k by the time it is all complete. If you want to indulge your fantasies and have a town hall in your own house I can't think of a better way than this.
  9. I went to one of the concerts at the newly re-opened Birmingham Town Hall on Monday (Programme was "I Was Glad", Colridge-Taylor's Violin Concerto, and Elarg's The Music Makers), and very fine it was too. I had not heard the organ for about 17 years - after many, many years of attending GTB's and Thomas Trotter's weekly recitals. The Hall itself has been beautifully restored in the sense that a very modern and functional interior now sits within its elegant Victorian shell, with the organ presiding as dramatically as ever over the whole piece. The acoustics seems to have improved considerably too, with the removal of the old balcony. I am sure there will be lots of controversy aboput that - but we could so easily have lost the lot had the City fathers and others decided not to fund the Hall's restoration project, which was imperative as the building was unsafe. In the Parry, i was a bit disappointed, as the organ never really emerged above the orchestra (CBSO) and the CBS Chorus (in fine voice I must say). The pedal came through right enough but that was about it. In The Music Makers, I thought we were going to have the same experience, and began to wonder whether the organ was actually all there. However, gradually as the work progressed, from "therefore today is thrilling..." onwards it projected more and more. Snarling swell reeds here, the great diapasons there, a sustained note on the 32 open metal which absolutely filled the hall, was magical. When we got to "we are afar with the dawning..." and those lofty maestoso chords, we received the full organ full on. The effect was amazing and I noted faces around beaming at the sound. As a brummie exiled in London I was so thrilled to hear "my old organ" doing its stuff again, with the CBSO and CBSC back in their old home performing with it. The Town Hall has an exciting programme for forthcoming months, with pretty well weekly recitals by Thomas or guests on the TH organ, and of course on the Symphony Hall Kleiss. The first organ recital by Thomas is next Wednesday 17th, afternoon and repeated in the evening and I will be heading North for that too. The programme says that there is a new bourdon on the bombarde, harmonic flute on the great, and a new violoncello on the pedal (replacements?), and i wondered why (can Mr Mander tell us?). Also the Bombarde division and attendant 32 reed unit on the pedals has been hushed up a bit apparently, and again I wondered why? I understand that the organ won't be playing with a big orchestra/chorus as much as it used to, but the TH may prove a better sized venue for organ related concerts on occasion in the future and i predict that the full orchestral resources will play along, plus jobs like accompanying a packed audience from time to time. The bit of extra "oomph" may well be missed. The 1982 rebuild allegedly reduced the organ's power somewhat as it returned to the Victorian Hill spirit, rather than Willis' 1933 style, and i understood the Wills reeds which sit on the bombarde and the new pedal 2/16 unit were there to compensate. Anyway - a great night and congratulations to everyone involved in bringing the TH and organ back to life. PS - new CD available now from the hall (recorded in July by TT), and on general sale in November. regards to all Will
  10. As ever a nice mixed bag of opinions I like organ transcriptions, and as one or two people have said, Thomas Trotter does them exceedingly well For me this wil be a bit of s sentimental journey. I remember as if it were yesterday being taken to the Town Hall for the first time, in our music teacher's (John Sidebottom - sadly no longer with us - but well known amongst the Town Hall crowd on Wednesday lunchtimes) old caravanette, and seeing for the first time the towering cliff face of green and gold organ pipes. GTB's recitals were electrifying! Part of the magic was watching him sitting at the old Willis III console, playing something quite ferocious, and his body would hardly move. It was as though he was just sitting there and the music was happening all by itself. And what a gentleman!! I recall David Briggs playing when he was just a boy, and being very jealous of what was even then a wonderful talent. Of course everyone thought Thomas Trotter's appointment to be a terribe mistake - how could such a youngster have sufficient repertoire to satisfy the Birmingham audience's taste and sophistication? (!). Well, everyone was, of course wrong, and Thomas has brought great credit to a great city and we all love him to bits!! The organ then sounded differently to how it did after the Mander re-build. Somehow it seemed more sonorous, had a growl about it which I haven't heard since then. Of course now it sounds wonderful (hopefully even better with the re-ordering of the hall). We moved to Surrey in 1990 and I lost touch with what was going on for a while, and when I heard that the Town Hall was closed and some of the rumours......well it was all very sad. However - Happy Endings in sight . Thomas Trotter and our grand old organ back together as they should be. I dare say GTB, Cunningham and all the other shades of organists past will be there applauding too. I can not imagine any of them pulling a face at a transcription or two. But then again...there is Bel Rondo i suppose! Enjoy the concert if you go. I'll be the chap with the biggest smile in the hall.
  11. In case you have missed the news, tickets have now gone on sale for the re-opening festival for Birmingham Town Hall. There are two organ concerts by Thomas Trotter (in October - check on the website for the dates - but i think one is already full). The organ hasn't been heard (at least by the general public) for 10 years or so, so this will be a real treat for anyone who used to attend GTB's weekly recitals from the 1950's onwards (like me). Thomas trotter's playing is usually worth hearing, and I am sure the organ will be too.
  12. I know a lot of people can be a bit sniffy about octave couplers, but they can be extremely useful for creating"effects" of one sort or another, in organs large and small. If they exist in an organ, then i think it is downto the organist to use good taste and discretion to get the most out of his instrument through their occasional use. In my own instrument I have specified Swell Octave/Sub and un/Off on Swell, Choir and Solo, and their is Sw Oct and Solo Oct to great (no room on the jambs for any more). Just a thought, I note various serious organist/composers who advocate the use of octave couplers in their regestration suggestions - so can't be all that bad a thing......can they?
  13. It seems to have gone a bit quiet on the Birmingham Town Hall front, although bits and pieces I have managed to glean from trawling through the web suggest that the hall will re-open in October, with a series of concerts and events to mark the occasion. Does anyone know how the organ is at this moment and will it feature prominently in the celebrations? is it still planned to reduce it to 4 manuals (floating Bombarde?)? Any thing else been done to the organ, and how does the old girl sound in the re-ordered hall? kind regards Will
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