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Everything posted by MusingMuso

  1. I can scarcely believe the problems we are having with what should be a very straightforward and normally very reliable mechanical action. Great minds sometimes think alike, and when the organ tuner pondered the possibility of an earthquake, exactly the same thought had crossed my mind.....the action is all over the place; quite literally. The symptoms include the following:- Pedal notes cyphering when the 16ft Bordun is drawn The Brustwerk keys resembling a roller-coaster visually, and some so far down, the notes will not speak properly, with many notes not coupling through properly. The problems began in late February with the pedal 16ft, which required me to back off the adjustment of the leather buttons at the pedal board.....that worked, but other notes soon followed. I then made the mistake of re-tuning the Brustwerk while coupled to the Hauptwerk; not realising that the action was not working correctly. The end result within a couple of days was horrific, and required a full re-tune by electronic means. I think I now realise what the problem is. The church is generously heated most days, and seldom falls below 50F even in the coldest weather. Add to this the incredibly dry winds we have had from the east, combined with the extreme cold of the air, and I suspect that the wooden action components have shrunk; tightening up the action and causing the cyphers and uneven keys. It really has to be seen to be believed.....some keys are half an inch lower than others. My question is this:- Have any organ-builders/organists/tuners ever experienced anything like this, and particularly in the past month or two? My hope is that when the rain and south westerly winds return, things may self correct. If not, it's going to be a big job to re-adjust almost every note on the organ, and even then, the adjustments may go "walkabout" unless the wood has returned to normal levels of moisture content. Having known this organ for 38 years, I've never known anything like it in all that time. On Sunday morning, the organ was almost unplayable, but we managed to make a few acceptable squeaks. Best, MM
  2. =========================== Another small bit of useful information, for which I am grateful. Best, MM
  3. The end of an era in many ways; especially the first hand knowledge of her brother's music, which she recorded for posterity. Rest in peace Marie, but let us also be joyful of the legacy, the scholarship and the inspiration. Two back to back programmes featuring Marie Claire and her brother Jehan Alain are available on Pipedreams, from Minnesota Public Radio:- http://pipedreams.pu...ings/2007/0728/ http://pipedreams.pu...ings/2007/0729/ Best, MM
  4. ===================================== A fascinating reply from Karl, for which I am grateful. He reminds us, quite rightly, that the use to which medieval cathedrals were put was originally very different to what it is now, and I'd forgotten my history lessons. Even the idea of mass worship is a relatively modern one, and I think I'm right in thinking that seating was not provided in those far off days. I believe the usual thing was for visitors, pilgrims and local people to come and go freely; perhaps offering prayers, perhaps meditating on the beauty and images of a cathedral, perhaps joining in the saying of mass at a side-chapel or performing the various rituals associated with the stations of the cross, where people would wander from one stage to the next. High Mass, (often said behind a stone screen or 'rood'), was celebrated on behalf of the people in some isloation. So yes, a very different use of large enclosed spaces to that which we know to-day. Acoustically, it isn't just the style of architecture and changing roof structures, (with the usually obstructive nave/chancel arch), but the fact that many cathedrals built on a cruciform plan, (east/west/with transpets) include a large, often little used, central space. Place a tower above that space, (as at York Minster), with an internal height of considerable size, and the acoustic void is just too large to overcome; almost by any means. In such buildings, there will always be a divide between east and west; like a permanent cold-war. Wherever a choir is located, one or the other side will suffer remoteness by virtue of distance; esecially in long, narrow buildings with high vaulting. The "bubble" idea is, I think, largely unknown in the UK; though I couldn't swear to that. (Someone will come up with an exception, I feel sure). However, organs placed in transepts are certainly known here, as at Chester Cathedral, which I feel would work very well, but for the fact that the choir sit in the chancel some distance away. It makes choral accompaniment very difficult indeed, because the organist cannot really hear what is going on, and there is the constant problem of balance. However, if the choir sat either with or opposite the organ, in the transept area, that problem would be much less acute. Perhaps there is no single solution to the problem of organ sighting, which could possibly satisfy all needs, and I think that were I to place a body of singers in a cathedral chancel, I think I would want a chancel organ to go with it. Interestingly, just about the entire Anglican repertoire could be accompanied very satisfactorily on a good extension organ with perhaps 8-10 ranks of pipes, but I think that might upset German organists. Nevertheless, I still feel that the west-end gallery position is the most favourable all round, where a choir and organ can be united as a single musical entity. Best, MM
  5. ========================= I'm not sure we got the full effect of the organ, but did I detect that it sounds MUCH better in the re-vamped hall? Best, MM
  6. ========================= I don't know whether you mean the two organ or the hall church.....no matter...I was thinking Grimsby PC and Shipley PC; the latter just a great oblong box, with the organ situated at gallery level in a fine acoustic. (Harry Bramma's favourite Binns, on which he used to practice). The positioning of the organ became a huge problem after the introduction of surpliced choirs in the sanctuary, but a few of the later churches got around this by allowing the organ to speak clearly from a high position at the corner(s) of the chancel entrance(s) as at Liverpool Cathedral. (Even that sounds very different, depending from where you are listening). There is no doubt but that a west-end position is the ideal acoustically, but would we be willing to sacrifice a sanctuary choir? Sorry about not posting the pretty pictures, which all being well should be ..............here:- http://www.bing.com/...edral&FORM=IGRE Best, MM
  7. ============================= Two organs can work; I know from personal experience, but England is almost unique, (so far as I know), in having a much narrower, lower chancel area on average. Almost invariably, because of the height restriction, organs have to be installed at "ground zero" and built sideways or lengthways, rather than vertically. (I know one glorious exception, where the building is almost, by design, a continental hall-church, with which you will be familiar). The major problem in England is the requirement that the East window should remain unobstructed, which means that organs have to be built into the sides of the chancel area; more often than not under quite low arches, and as I say,horizontally disposed. But it is worse than that, because there is usually a main chancel-arch between nave and chancel, at which point the roof level drops dramatically; often with the worst possible roof structure consisting of a V-formation. Thus, whatever sound may find its way out of the organ, then bounces around inside the chancel area; never really getting out into the nave. A classic example is Bradford Cathedral, currently being discussed . At the console, (directly opposite the organ chamber), the sound is rather fine and certainly not lacking in volume. Go down the nave, and it tends to sound like it is in another country, for the simple reason that just about everything is heard as reflected sound. Here are a few pictures of the cathedral and the interior, showing the V-formation nave roof, the low side-asiles and the chancel arch. Just beyond the chancel-arch, on the right, can be seen the position of the organ console half way up the chancel wall; the organ-chamber being directly opposite. All that can be said in defence of an east-end organ, is that in the right building, it can work quite well, so long as there is a clear sightline between the congregation and the organ itself. Where the chancel area is spacious and the roof-line maintained, (preferably with a flat roof or a very wide V-formation which is almost flat), then an east end position is not a problem if the nave follows the same style. Best, MM
  8. ============================== Walter Hillsman clearly fell below the radar for me in the 1970's, yet I have a number of Vista recordings from the era, including that stupendous disc from Blackburn, played by Jane Parker-Smith. (The definitive "early" version of the Durufle Toccata IMHO). I thought I might find something out about Hillsman, and thought I'd struck gold on the internet, only to discover that Walter Hillsman had found his wife in bed with a local church minister, and promptly shot her to death. Fortunately, when I read the date, it was around the 1870's, so the crime of passion we can pass on. Hillsman did record American music at Southwark Cathedral, so I guess he may well have been living and working there, but that leaves the field wide open. As for his recordings, the nearest library stocking any or all of his LP's appears to be 5,800Km away, which is pushing the boundaries of dedication and research. So what do we know about the great man? Best, MM
  9. =========================== Chips are my favourite bytes, I'm afraid. Best, MM PS: Re the inverted commas, those of us who know are aware of the fact that it stands for Pierre Cochereau Notre Dame, therefore it is more abbreviation than it is pseudonym. I suppose it may be better written p.c.n.d., like E.R.A racing cars or A.J.S. and B.S.A.motorcycles, rather than like BL or BMC, which I feel are technically flawed, as indeed they often were. I think that my use of the inverted commas is therefore a warning that pcnd is not quite what it appears to be. This means, OF COURSE, that I have been writing M.M.incorrectly for over a decade. PPS: Best 'horse joke' of the month....."I see they've discovered Zebra DNA in the supermarket bar-codes"
  10. ================================ Sorry to misled 'pcnd'......I meant tracker action for new organs rather than re-builds of existing ones....not always easy in Anglican churches unless we get the choirs back where they belong, at the west end. I wonder if the "transmission" was changed to solid-state back in 1977, when Walker's got involved? In my experience, the old "bush telegraph" system of H,N & B was pretty reliable on the whole, and I often wonder why these can't be re-furbished rather than replaced with all-singing, all-dancing digital systems. Considering the fact that I've personally consumed 5 computers in the past thirteen years, maybe I'm understandably suspicious. Best, MM PS: The tracker job I play was cleaned three years ago, but ot because anything was choked. It was more to do with a winding system which had been faulty for a long time, and which various measures had failed to rectify. So it had managed almost 35 years from new in 1975, and didn't cost an awful lot to put right. The main cost was replacing old-style slider seals with new ones, which was considered prudent as the winchests had to come out in any event.
  11. The scheme to which the link refers was the original Norman & Beard re-build of the old Booth organ, which few still alive will recall I suspect. You have to be aware of the fact that Bradford Cathedral was originally a big wool-church; not unlike Halifax, Rotherham, Sheffield Cathedral etc. No acoustic much, a quite low chancel; the organ buried under arches. It was a church which needed something like the big wood basses of Norman & Beard and heavy pressure chorus reeds. All that changed dramatically when Sir Edward Maufe designed the new chancel, with marble flooring, high arches and a very resonant space. Because the nave is so dead acoustically, everything sound very distant, yet in the chancel, the musical effect is marvellous and the organ sounds good. (Pity about them taming that original H,N & B Trumpet Major, which was Brian Rundle at his fiercest!) Without completely re-designing the building, it is difficult to see how ANY organ can sucessfully direct sound into the nave from where it is. The curious thing is, that the prospect originally contained the Pedal 16ft metal, but these rather large pipes must have been shoe-horned into the chamber somehow, since the "new" case includes the Positif division planted centrally. It amazes me, however, that after only 35 years or so, the organ needs yet another major re-build, which tends to re-inforce my belief that tracker-action is the ONLY answer to the problem of reliability and longevity. It's fast getting to the point that pipe-organs are no more reliable or long-lived than digital electronic ones. Best, MM
  12. ======================= What was the Buxtehude work? Best, MM
  13. ========================= Call me cynical and manipulative, but when I played my finals programme, I did my homework. They had a well known cathedral organist from Scotland. whom I decided must have been the alpha male, So my first port of call was my record collection, to find a recording of the great man playing what I was going to play, and then I copied exactly what he did with the Bach P & F in B minor. It obviously worked! Best, MM
  14. This is the sort of musicianship I had in mind:- Best MM
  15. ===================== I play a rather nice neo-baroque organ in a splendid acoustic, (a sort of mini Bavokerk sound), and attention to detail is greatly rewarded. I've also played quite a number of historic instruments in Zwolle, Alkmaar, Leiden, Haarlem and elsewhere. I can safely tell you that almost ALL neo-baroque organs do not feel like historic instruments, no matter how well they sound, and the one I play is no exception, with its modern suspended action and RCO pedalboard. In fact, organists would be better prepared for the real thing if they practised on a restored Victorian instrument with an original tracker action and hopefully a flat pedalboard or at least non-concave. But so what? The best live performace of Bach I have ever heard in the UK was the St Anne Prelude & Fugue, played by Francis Jackson at Leeds PC. He didn't hide behind "early fingering" or "toes only" or "pleno only".....he just played his heart out. The radiance on the faces of all those listening to it caught my attention. It was like looking at the faces of those who were listening spellbound to a great preacher or political orator. Why? Because Francis Jackson is firstly a musician, and whatever scholarship he is in posession of, (which is considerable), serves the sole purpose of musical understanding and projection. How many organists attend to the structures, the voice-leading, the need for expressive rubato, the need for daylight in articulation, the very precise mimicking of voices in the concerted style (even in inversion, stretto, or whatever)? This is where the secrets of a musical performance are to be found. It's so easy to hide behind false values, and so difficult to feel the music and respond accordingly. If you ain't a musician, go and grow vegetables! Best, MM
  16. ====================== No,no! The first example below is a small child let loose on an instrument, and the second is a poseur making idiots of all those who are daft enough to listen. http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=boy+electone+winner&oq=boy+electone+winner&gs_l=youtube.3..33i21l2.937.6625.0.6703. Best, MM
  17. =========================== An interesting and informative reply as always Stephen, though I'm not sure it helps with the very early pneumatic unit-chests! (I doubt any still exist as they were origially made, but the Methodist church at Launceston was one of them). The information about the grouping of chests has solved a mystery for me, because I could never quite understand those funny little switches, usually low down at the bottom of the RH stop-jambs. which had a list of things the ventils silenced, when I was really expecting individual switches for each rank). The fact that the ventils were at the regulator makes perfect sense now. Now somewhere in the back of my mind, I associate the name Noterman with compound magnets. Am I right in thinking that he was the inventor? Kegglade chests were indeed used by Compton, and one organ so made is that at St Bride's, Fleet Street, and the late Compton job at St Alban's, Holborn, among others. (I think I can now add Wolverhampton to that list). The BBC job was turned down by everyone else apparently, such was the difficulty of installing anything in that particular space. I suppose another one had to be the Bournmouth Pavilion, where the organ is built into two concrete tubes. I'm interested by the standard height of bass pipes, which seems to be a later innovation. If I understand something Ian Bell wrote elsewhere, all the basses were made to set patterns and used standard templates. They would be, for the most part, metal pipes when they (obviously) were not wood. I suppose the same thing applies to them, thinking about it. However, the bit that surprised me was to learn that the basses were made in the factory out of zinc, to absolutely stock dimensions, and even the nicking used a standard template and was done by apprentices. Even the cut ups were done by (presumably) gauges, but more importantly, even before the ears were soldered on! The Diaphonic basses were made to a scale which was exactly possible, and no greater, than that obtainable from a standard 3ft sheet of zinc. This is a real throw back to Brindley & Foster, who used more or less stock scales once the old man Charles Brindley had shuffled off. Even when he was around, I have found evidence of the same in at least one organ dating from 1878 or so. (Actually a Choir Salicional...which would have been buried under the Swell Organ originally....on which the stamped markings read ....."Op. Diap.2") Now if the above is correct, and I assume that it must be knowing the source, it is another insight into the repetitive, industrial nature of the various components and the manufacturing techniques employed. Other organ-builders may have done similar things, but not on such a factory scale. So much of this is incredibly forensic, but it continues to hold my attention and keep me very busy. Thanks for the reply, Best, MM
  18. ===================================== I suspect that the problem at Hull may be threefold. Hull is not terribly prosperous, though there are successful businesses and individuals of course. However, the sheer scale of the building is such that it MUST be the overwhelming priority, and knowing how soft the local stone is, I suspect that it takes a lot of upkeep. That's the first problem. The next problem is whether Trinity now enjoys any sort of "tradition"......I don't actually know to be honest. The third problem is the existence of the superb "beast" in the City Hall, which is one of the real show-stoppers of the organ world with regular recitals. Organ enthusiasts could not ask for anything more, and of course, just up the road at Beverley (only 11 miles away), there are other fine organs. (York isn't very far away also). There is also the broader problem of disinterest or at the very least, ignorance. If we delved into the history of Hull, we would find a city which once had more theatre organs than anywhere else in the country bar London, in addition to a lively classical organ scene. All that has largely gone. Perhaps another "problem" (though a bit of a strange problem), is the fact that the Trinity organ was first and foremost a Forster & Abdrews instrument, with legendary build-quality. Add to this the Compton electro-pneumatics and electro-mechanicals, which seem to go on almost forever, and it is probably the case that it has been patched up successfully over the years and continues to function after a fashion. It seems to me that many cathedrals spend huge sums of money on re-builds, and twenty years down the line, it all starts over again as fashons change and organists want to tinker with things and leave their mark. To be brutally honest, I can't think of many cathedral organs which have been greatly improved by the process, but I know of some which have. Best, MM
  19. ============================ It's a pity "they" decided to get rid of the Nave Organ and replace it with electronics. It's a very strange building acoustically, with a very resonant chancel and an almost dead nave, and to me, there seems no other solution, (if we're talking proper pipe organs), than getting a west end division back in place. Best, MM
  20. =========================== Thanks for that but of information. If this is the same church and organ, it looks like an interesting story! http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=D01736 Best, MM
  21. ======================== Somehow, I can well imagine this, immediately foolwed by a sideways glance to left and right; his eyes twinkling and a hint of a smile on his face. He did something very similar at Liverpool, when Alastair Rushworth was rabbiting on about playing Bach P & F's on two "balanced choruses" on the new neo-baroque (electric action) job at Speke PC. "What piece of Bach requires two?" He fairly boomed, and then smiled impishly as he waited for the reaction. He was certaily a character and he was great fun.....but he was no fool. Best, MM
  22. Now here's a bit of a stunner! I was going through some of the Compton patents, and filed by John Compton himself is a very curious type of pipe indeed, which may or may not operate bi-phonically, depending upon what is required. That isn't the important bit. The patent shows a wooden VARIABLE WIND PRESSURE PIPE, using a curious triple inlet valve arrangement snd a double EP action arrangement. Cunningly, there is a sliding top-lip actuated by a pneumatic-motor, complete with a beard, which goes up an down to make adjustment to the pipe speech, according to the pressure delivered at the wind-way. Having invented the thing, one must assume that it found an application somewhere, but I can't say it's something I've heard of previously. The only thing which came close, which I dimly recall from my youthful foray into organ-building, was 16ft bass which supplied a pp and ff bass using the same pipes, but it certainly didn't have the slightest degree of sophistication and may well have been out of tune half the time. Best, MM
  23. I think I mentioned the fact that Dr Dixon had an invention to his name, which was to do with a combined suction/compression reed organ, which combines harmonium and american organ methods of operation. I'm sure this will be of interest to Tony. It can be found at the following:- http://worldwide.esp...191213262A&KC=A When it comes up, just click on "original document" to see the whole thing page by page. Best, MM
  24. Now here's an interesting one which I've never come across, but which emerged from the Compton research. It's a crescendo and diminuendo device, presumably consisting of two pistons; one being an adder < cresc. piston and the other a > dimin. piston on the appropriate keyslip, and which acts independently of any stop-combination selected. In effect, it's a thumb operated version of a Crescendo pedal, but not, (so far as I can work out), a General Crescendo pedal. So it's really a divisional adder and subtractor device. Anyway, for those of a highly technical disposition, the patent no. is GB436739 and the inventor was A H Midgely.The date is around 1934/5. Best, MM
  25. ===================== Indeed, and just looking at the church/dual purpose organ from 1928 to 1939, the list includes some big new instruments, but more siginificantly, some big re-builds which must have upset the normal working pattern at the works. Davis Theater 1928 Bournemouth Pavillion 1929 Downside Abbey 1931 St Luke's Chelsea 1932 BBC Radio Theatre, Langham Place 1933 St George's, Stockport 1935 Ealing Abbey 1935 BBC Maida Vale 1936 St George's Hall, London 1936 Southampton Guildhall 1937 Walsall Town Hall 1938 Hull, Holy Trinity 1938 Derby Cathedral;, 1939 The last four are especially notable, and Holy Trinity, Hull, (a huge, largely straight instrument), following on from the Guidhall at Southampton, must have kept everyone fairly well occupied on top of the normal output of smaller instruments. Best, MM
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