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Brian Childs

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Everything posted by Brian Childs

  1. Hmm.... it is often difficult enough for organists to persuade other professional musicians to take the organ seriously as it is - particularly orchestral players. I remain unconvinced that percussion effects and other toys will serve to advance our cause. If one is going to add useful accessories, I would prefer a mini-bar. Perhaps even JSB could be wrong! Dear pcnd5584 Since JSB was human I am certain he could be wrong but that does not mean he was this time ! The mini-bar (comme Ratzeburg presumably) would need to have a time lock fitted to prevent its being drawn until after the service or recital , at least if added to the instruments presided over by some I have known who would make Inspector Morse look like a babe in arms when it comes to the delights of real ale. As to the point of substance you have every right to your opinion, as I have to mine. However, it is a matter of fact that tonal percussion stops have been being fitted to organs for the last 3 centuries, give or take a few years (vide Weingarten); they are not uncommonly fitted to the larger modern organs of Klais and Rieger; and they are widespread in the United States. Now tuned bird whistles and a klaxon would be a little more over the top.... Perhaps were I a professional musician with a need to be concerned about what other professional musicians think I would share your view. But I am only a bog standard member of the paying public /congregation. About the only right this gives me (but it is a right) is the right to vote with my wallet in the sense that no one can oblige me to pay (and certainly not £10 a throw) or even just make myself physically present even without payment in order to listen to what somebody else thinks I ought to like (or feels it is professionally respectable to play) rather than what I have learnt over the course of my life I do. How is this relevant ? Well, I have been attending organ recitals for close to 40 years now and the general trend in audiences has been relentlessly downwards. According to Gerald Brooks' letter in the current edition of Organists' Review artists of the calibre of Lionel Rogg and Daniel Roth can play to audiences of less than 50 in London. The picture here in Ulster would be much worse. We used to have FREE lunchtime recitals on the Ulster Hall organ for an audience which frequently did not make double figures. So of course we do not have them any more. The only organist in my experience who has come close to attracting the kind of attendance which was once taken for granted for the Alexandra Palace recitals by the likes of Cunningham is Carlo Curley. Go figure ! Is it possible that the desire for professional repectability has lead to the creation of an ever widening gap between the wishes of the performer and the desires of the potential audience ? If so the normal economic principle of consumer sovereignty would indicate that it is the performers who will have to give way: the usual result of continuing to produce something for which the market does not exist is bankruptcy ! A final confession and last thought. The confession : I am a member of the Cinema Organ Society with a distinct fondness for Christies, Comptons and Wurlitzers and Sydney Torch playing Hot Dog would be one of my 8 Desert Island discs. { I also much prefer the authorised version of the Bible and the BCP 1662 -people are complex!}The thought : that those worried by the prospect of being outed in favour of drums and synthesizers might do worse than install a percusion section and toy counter : at least then the effects would be under their own control ! (And I do not expect this thought to be taken too seriously !) Best wishes, Brian Childs
  2. I sincerely hope not. Oh, don't be a spoilsport. Some of us quite like tonal percussions for quiet effects. Anyway it might help it to double up as an entertainment organ and so encourage some more people to attend recitals thus helping to defray the costs. And didn't JSB ask for the addition of a set of bells to the organ at Arnstadt ? BAC
  3. No - read my post more carefully!! I was referring to the bizarre (and un-labelled) foot-piston layout on the H&H console. Because the pistons were laid-out in such a strange way and beacuse they were also un-labelled, whether or not one obtained the stop-changes which were desired was somewhat arbitrary - that was the reference to the fruit-machine! To the best of my knowledge, Conrad Eden was a superb musician, who knew his instrument intimately and was able to make full use of it at virtually every service. [] Dear PCND5584, I think MM is teasing you, at least that is the way I read it. Perhaps his sense of humour was what caused Conrad Eden to walk away in the first place, though this would seem somewhat discourteous to the other 39 people present unless they shared exactly the same sense of humour, and they had somehow collectively got up his, that is CE's, nose. But whatever his shortcomings as a host may have been, I totally agree that Conrad Eden was a superb musician and certainly the only player who has ever come close to persuading me that the Schoenberg Variations on a Recitative are worth taking the time to listen to , never mind the time required to learn to play them. It is a pity that more of his artistry was not preserved on record. Apart from the first 5 Rheinberger Sonatas for Vista, I know of only two LPs one of which is Vol 9 in the Great Cathedral Organ Series. Does anyone out there know of anything else ? Brian Childs Best wishes, BAC
  4. I have an LP from Salisbury's cathedral (Richard Seal playing Bach, Liszt and Franck), recorded in January 1981. The organ was then maintained by H&H since 1976, and before that by Noël Mander. Was it then already "butchered"? Ditto an LP from Hull city Hall (Peter Goodman playing Hollins, Kellner, Harwood, Sweelinck and Guilmant's fifth's Sonata), recorded in 1975 (published 1977). Am I erring in liking it -as far as an LP can tell,I didn't hear it live)?. Best wishes, Pierre Lauwers. Dear Pierre, Why should you think you are "erring in liking it....." ? Until the thought police finally triumph and the world of George Orwell's 1984 becomes reality you are free to like whatever you wish in terms of organ timbre, action, size etc, etc. It does not matter in the slightest whether or not other people agree with you. And the impression I have gained from various postings by you which I have read is that you wish to preserve the widest possible spectrum of types of organ so that others too can have the opportunity to hear and make up their own minds, an objective which I would entirely support. I also have both the LPs you refer to above and I like them too. I do not know Salisbury well (so I cannot judge how recorded sound compares with the reality as heard in the building)l but as a student I attended numerous recitals by Peter Goodman between 1966 and 1971 and got to know the Hull organ quite well. I think the LP conveys as accurate an impression of it as was possible to achieve with the technology at the disposal of Michael Smythe when he made the recording, bearing in mind that a single LP cannot possible demonstrate every facet of an organ of this size. If you have not already got it Priory Records PRCD 489 Organ Works of Whitlock Vol 1 is a CD of the Hull organ you ought to enjoy. You could have fun trying to identify which of the solo reeds is used in which of the pieces. I have it on the authority of Graham Barber himself that they all get an outing ! There was also once available a Priory CD of Adrian Lucas (of Worcester fame) playing various transcriptions , including the Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker with the melody on the solo orchestral bells. Is it even possible that the new Worcester organ might have a couple of percussion stops?After all Hereford has one. Best wishes Brian Childs
  5. "Sermons and voluntaries, material, originality of: irrelevant. Should not the same preparation be given? Equally, have you ever been in a clergymanist's study and not found shelf after shelf heaving with tomes containing metaphors, themes and worthy anecdotes for inclusion in sermons?" For the sake of clarification, I fully agree that originality is not relevant and that the same preparation should be given to both the preparation of the sermon and the practice of the concluding and/or introductory voluntary. But originality was NOT the point of my previous posting. Any preacher whose message was completely novel would seem to be,almost of necessity, likely to be a heretic. My initial motivation was to weigh in on the side of the underdog , as I usually tend to do, and since the majority of comments were about "tedious sermons I have known/had to sit through" I sought to suggest that there may be explanations. To explain is not to excuse, and there can be relatively few legitimate excuses for a badly prepared or thought out sermon. I also sought to point out that not all organists always practice their music as much as they need to, or could, and there are some who do not bother to provide any recognisable organ music at all. Again there are likely to be explanations and in all likelihood a far greater range of legitimate excuses for this state of affairs . I would need to be convinced that the task of writing a letter (even with the aid of a book of precedents of suitable letters for various occasions, a thesaurus, a dictionary, and a guide to grammar) is the equivalent of reading out a letter written by somebody else . The clergyman who attempted to pass off someone else's sermon as his/her own would be a deceitful plagiarist, but the organist who attempted to improve on a prelude and fugue by JS Bach would be a conceited fool. Are these equivalent in their iniquity ? If not, which is worse ? Two final points. Firstly, it seems to me that this discussion has been carried on on the implicit assumption that , whilst there may be exceptions, the norm is for sermons to be badly thought out and repetitive. In my experience, life is rarely so black and white, and there are likely to be many more gradations on the scale from the inspirational at the top to the completely naff at the bottom than this discussion has heretofore appeared to assume. Secondly, with a sermon the source of the problem may be in the content (or lack thereof) or it may be in the delivery , or of course in both. It is possible that a well thought out sermon may be ruined by woefully bad presentation. This calls for a different remedy than is needed where lack of preparation is the problem. With the organist, on the other hand, if a performance of BWV 532 is perceived by its listeners to be dull and lacklustre it would be unusual to seek for the explanation in the deficiencies of the composer ! On a completely different tack, I know that elsewhere people have addressed the issue of aliases. For me the problem is not so much one of anonymity as of experience - after all I have written this under my real name and I would be very surprised if anyone reading this would have a clue who I was if they met me in the street - and experience tends to be, at least in part, a function of age: the older you are the more you tend to have and vice versa. When someone writes, for example, as someone might have done, that stoplists are generally useless is this the product of experience derived from the last 60 years or the last 6 months ? I think that is relevant information to have in deciding on what weight to accord to their opinion. Has anyone any ideas how one might provide guidance on this point apart from asking everyone to provide their date of birth ? Best wishes, BAC
  6. I think the last point is fair but a clergyman (and I am not) would be justified in pointing out that the exact same is true of organists. Also, just to play devil's advocate no one thinks it odd if an organist performs music written by somebody else but not a few eyebrows would be raised in the congregation if the incumbent ascended the pulpit and proceeded to read out (however brilliantly and with whatever expression ) a sermon written by somebody else ! Furthermore, one should make some allowance for the difficulty of the task being undertaken. Having spent my working life as a university teacher where at the outset of my career I had the privilege of addressing the intellectual elite of the country [ we will pass by without comment the situation that prevailed when I retired] I know from experience how difficult it is to present complex ideas in an interesting and accurate fashion to an audience. That task pales into insignificance beside that of presenting the complexity of religious ideas to a mixed ability audience in a context which traditionally does not permit those who have not grasped the point to indicate that fact and request further explanation. All of which is not to say that there are not dire sermons - I have sat through a fair few in my time which is why I am so appreciative of our present rector, and so sympathetic to those who have from time to time to stand in his place and who inevitably suffer by comparison. Personally I find it quite easy to listen to the efforts of those who are doing the best they can and are aware of their own limitations : those who hold a more inflated opinion of their own talents I find it harder to take but perhaps I should be more forgiving. It used to be said of lectures (at least in my discipline) that their disadvantage was that they passed from the paper of the lecturer to the paper of the student without having passed through the mind of either ! The congregation are not expected to take notes but perhaps steps one to three apply ?
  7. "...I think the heaviest pressure employed on any theatre organ is that applied to the "Bugle" rank of the St.Fillipo residence-organ in the US.....it's quite a large residence! I seem to recall it to be on 100" wg, but it may be 50" wg. It is, of course loud....very, very loud....in fact, ear-splitting!! (I'd like to guess that there are no pneumatic motors involved in that particular rank, but I don't know for certain" On a point of information, the sleeve notes to the recent Jelani Eddington CD "Musical Fireworks" give the pressure of this rank as 26"wg - considerably less than the Trompette Militaire, or Tuba Magna at Liverpool for example . However, it is en chamade which I am given to understand effectively doubles the impact, as with the Tuba Mirabilis at York (which used to be on 25" the last time I looked). It seems you need to blow a conventionally disposed tuba at 50" to get the same impact for those "in the line of fire" as a horizontal tuba on 25" will produce. I am no technician and do not have the knowledge to assess whether what I have been told is correct or arrant nonsense, but it would seem that its being true would account for the belief that the 100" pressure Hope-Jones wanted to use for a Tuba at Worcester and which was employed in Atlantic City had now been used in an organ which it is possible to hear played.
  8. I generally agree, though the slap in the face , whilst it might well work in the short term and provide instant gratification, would be likely to prove counter productive in terms of the subsequent court appearance and adverse media attention. I have in my possession a book by Harvey Grace, "The Compleat Organist" ,although I cannot find it to check my recollection, but I have a distinct memory of his advice to choir directors -- that NO ONE should be in the choir stalls who would not otherwise be in the pews on Sunday. I assume he would have thought the same applied to the organ bench.
  9. It is a fair few years since I studied Constitutional Law but I do seem to recall that (1) the supreme law maker is Parliament (or the Queen in Parliament if you so wish) and (2) "one Parliament cannot bind its successors". It follows that a legal status conferred by one Parliament can be removed by a subsequent Parliament. While there are some fairly obvious real world restrictions on this - statutes conferring independence on former colonies can hardly realistically be reversed (at least without going to war first to grab the land back) , these would hardly seem to apply to a statute which confers power on some emanation of a local community within England to do something , such as, for example, to build and run the Alexandra Palace. Therefore, whilst it may very well be the case that the EXISTING legislative framework(and I am so unfamiliar with the basic facts that I am not even aware if a private Act of Parliament is the source of the powers though that would have been usual for the period) effectively prevents any schemes to "out" the organ, what is the basis for the belief that it is not possible to have a NEW legislative framework which permits this to be done? Given the various arguments I recall about the legal efficacy of schemes to "entrench" constitutional rights , it seems astounding that nobody was aware that this problem had been effectively solved in the middle of Victoria's reign ! [Exactly the same holds true if interlocking covenants rather than legislation are the source of the power to set up and operate the Palace. These can equally well be overturned by legislation.] And while I seem to have a hazy recollection that there are conventional restraints on the exercise of Parliamentary Supremacy in such situations, it would surely not be beyond imagining that a government prepared to abolish the centuries old office of Lord Chancellor would not lose too much sleep about ignoring or overriding these. On a positive note, I think a CD of the organ as it is now would be an excellent idea and I would certainly buy a copy. My understanding is that it is not the costs of producing a CD which are the problem, especially if you "own" the venue, have an artist who will donate his or her services and stick to music which is out of copyright: rather it is the costs of MARKETING which frequently prove prohibitive, since there is no guarantee that the campaign,however well conceived and executed, will actually produce the required sales. It would be interesting to know if anyone has any idea of how many units (= individual CDs) would need to be sold and at what price to make such a project financially viable. Regards, BAC
  10. Unlike the majority of contributors to this theme I have the good fortune to atttend a church where the rector's sermons are invariably interesting and frequently brilliant :unfortunately the same cannot be said of the music, which on many occasions reduces me to a state of apoplexy. Given what I go to church for I think this has to be the right way round (after all one is not attending a concert) although presumably no one would dissent from the proposition that consistently thought provoking preaching allied to appropriate music performed with conviction and enthusiasm and style would provide the most enjoyable church-going experience. Turning to the vexed subject of the Gloucester organ I am on the side of Paul Derrett, though it is undoubtedly true that those who like that sort of thing will find that the Gloucester organ is exactly the sort of thing they like. However, I fail to understand why the inability of the former organ to be able to provide an authentic/satisfying performance (whatever that is - views do seem to change) of the organ works of JSB should be seen as of any particular significance, after all the function of that organ was as a liturgical instrument, not a concert one. As far as I am aware the Anglican liturgy does not require the works of JSB to be played and in the church I now attend I can never recall hearing one , with the possible exception of an arrangement of "Sheep may safely graze" which presumably ought not to count ! ( Since my CD collection contains 4 "complete" sets of the organ works, and numerous collections of selected works, the aforementioned fact has not prevented me from acquiring a certain degree of familiarity with Bach's music). So is the argument that Cathedrals have an obligation to educate their congregations by exposing them to only the best in music, an obligation which is not owed by lesser establishments ? Or is it a question of economics - that an organ more suited to performing the works of Bach can be marketed more successfully to more people who will pay to use/hear it and so make it, if not a source of profit, at least a lesser drain on cathedral funds than one which is not so suitable? Or is it just the preference of the player (s) who wish(ed) to play Bach rather than music for the performance of which the organ as it was was perfectly suitable ? Given that the majority opinion of contributors here definitely inclines to the view that most of the public do not listen to what is provided for them, one has to wonder why players should feel it necessary to bother. Surely any old thing should do as cover for the noise of a retiring congregation who are paying no attention anyway ? Of course, the fine music might be for the benefit of the Almighty himself but as He already has both JSB and GTB and even Virgil Fox (depending on what style of playing He would like to hear today) it might be thought that His needs were already fairly comprehensively provided for. The fact that an organ cannot play certain music convincingly is only a relevant factor if a convincing performance of that music is what the organ is there to do. It does not appear to have been demonstrated how the fact (if fact it be) that the old organ was not the ideal Bach organ impacted in any way on its ability to do its actual job!
  11. Well its nice to have power and loudness when required, but a skilled organist will ever use the sensitive accompaniment and registration refinements needed to create a musical and pleasing effect. For me in church, the words come first, and in recitals the music and composers wishes, and not my ego. Sad then to hear when any organ is being judged on being loud, but thats life. There a lot of power finatics out there. As to Chelmsford, I have also to say that although the new organ is very fine in the right hands, I would have thought some ranks could have been salvaged, but I may be mistaken. Its also worth mentioning that the old organ was not generally up to cathedral standards of versatility, being rather limited for that new purpose, having been built for a parish, rather than cathedral use. I personally only heard bad reports of it, and it was certainly not in the class of Worcester, which is very versatile and musical. <{POST_SNAPBACK}> I have never heard Worcester live, only on records, but I am certainly not arguing that Chelmsford was a better or even an equal organ, only that it was not the complete rubbish that seemed to be implied. Chelmsford Cathedral is , of course, a Parish Church. It was built as such and its elevation in status did not miraculously transform the fabric or the furnishings - I think successive generations of Provosts might have been grate had that been the case. Anyway that is a side issue. The purpose of this thread seems to be to defend the Worcester Organ from being scrapped, an objective I completely support.
  12. If Worcester was a hopeless case then maybe one could agree to ditch it, but it isn't. If anyone wants to hear what can be acheieved by respecting what is there but enhancing where needed, go to Rochester. This organ sounds very akin to Worcester in many respects, but the excellent rebuild by Manders really has resulted in an organ that can hold its own. Little or no extention, put into logical order, new soundboards nd actions, but still Rocherster at its heart. One wishes............. <{POST_SNAPBACK}> As someone who grew up in Chelmsford and worshipped at the Cathedral during the tenures of Philip Ledger and John Jordan perhaps I might be allowed to own up to a sneaking fondness for the old organ. Of course I was less knowledgeable about organs then but having, as a student in the East Riding, made the acquaintance of the organs of Hull City Hall and Beverley Minster amongst others , I have some basis for comparison and I do not think the old organ was as bad as all that, certainly from the point of view of the listener in the pew.(We had them then!)I do not know what it was like to play and its reliability must have been suspect I suppose, but I have heard far more unpleasant sounds since,not all the fault of the player! Having lived and worked in Northern Ireland for 30 years, returning but rarely, I have not heard the new organ but my Aunt , a cathedral parishioner for close to 60 years , tells me it is certainly loud. Whether it has charm as well as power I hope to discover for myself some day.
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