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Everything posted by MusingMuso

  1. Does anyone know the definitive birth date of John Hayward Compton? This should be so easy, but it's proving troublesome without crawling around Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire and digging through records. I'm even struggling to piece together the family history. Best, MM
  2. ===================================== I was thinking more in terms of history to be honest, and I'll tell you why. I came across someting on the internet about village life in Newton Burgisland, (the birthplace of John Compton, (unless he was actually born in Swepstone in variously 1874, 1875 or 1876 but definitely NOT in 1865....nothing is easy or straightforward about this man). Anyway, a very elderly lady wrote her memoirs about village life in the late Victorian era, and mentioned that ordinary people would not be acknowledged by their superiors, but they would acknowledge them, with men and boys touching their caps with ladies and girls giving a quick curtsey. She mentioned walking down the street near Compton's shop; (the evidence pointing to some sort of clothing or millinery shop), which would have distanced the Comptons from the hoi poloi. This explains how John Compton was able to attend one of the best schools. (King Edward VI - Birmingham), which would have incurred school fees, (unless he had gained some sort of bursary or scholarship, as was sometimes the case with boy choristers in cathedral choirs for instance. One may well imagine that the Compton family must have been very disappointed when their beloved John chose to work as a lowly apprentice after leaving school and failed to pursue the academic option. (Some failure ) What this shows is an extraordinary demarcation in the populus of the day, but one which also applied even within the ranks of the "educated class". The fact that most (if not all) organ-builders during the Victorian era chose to establish a trade rather than pursue university and academia, would also have been a barrier, and would have made them subservient to the top professional musicians of the day. It's no co-incidence that many a titled organists made good money from being organ consultants, when in reality, they possibly didn't know very much about organ-building. The emergence of the new middle-class is a compelling story in its own rights, because it was they rather than the 'hoi poloi' and the 'toffs' who built the golden age of technology and mass production. So although my knowledge is incomplete, I think it would be fair to suggest that most of the great Victorian and Edwardian organ-builders were not particularly accomplished organists, save for the few exception we know about. William Hill, for instance, was always the humble tradesman, yet J J BInns was apparently a good (at least competent) organist, who used to arrive by horse and carriage to practice at the upmarket Calverley PC, near Leeds, where I was once OC. If we go back further still, it was not unknown that great organists would petition their superiors and employers, to ensure that the poor organ-builder got paid enough on which to humbly survive. I suspect that the situation to-day is very different, and should our kind host find himself having dinner with the great and the good, and mention the fact that he re-built the organ of the Albert Hall, it would impress people rather than provoke a withering look from those who would immediately inspect his fingernails. Best, MM
  3. =========================== Thank you Barry, because it is this type of first hand experience which is quite difficult to come by, and which is worth a thousand anecdotes at third hand. Quite irrelevant to the subject, it is actually quite rare to find organ-builders who are also very good organists, though Mark Venning, Fr Willis and Robert Noehren spring readily to mind. Best, MM ========================= Thank you for the information David, which makes sense of the things I've come across. Still, it doesn't confirm or refute the statement I read concerning Hill, Norman & Beard and Rushworth & Dreaper supplying pipework, but the fact that Walker's supplied things does tend to suggest that when pushed to meet orders or ran out of production capacity, Compton were more than willing to outsource things from other organ-builders, just as happens to-day. I still haven't read Ian Bell's account of Compton in the BIOS Journal, but I will get around to it in due course. As you rightly point out, many untouched Compton organs continue to function well after what is now 60 years, while others (especially theatre organs) are as good as the day they were made, thanks to the continuing attention by enthusiasts. It's actually quite interesting, because one authority claims that Compton actions were never as good as those of Hope-Jones, but it rather begs the question as to how good an organ-action needs to be before it is declared fit for purpose. If non-mechanical actions function well enough after 60 years, (or even at all), it says something about the build and engineering quality, and I cannot think of too many non-mechanical actions which function quite so well after quite so long.....those of J J Binns excepted. The original Compton action, after a bit of cleaning and care, still functions after more than 80 years at the Bournemouth Pavillion. Incidentally, my inflation accounting was a bit wide of the mark. £6,000 in 1935 is equivalent to around £350,000 to-day, which is still an awful lot to pay for an 8-rank theatre unit-organ. Best, MM
  4. ========================== Thank you.....I've edited the post accordingly. It's amazing how something can transmute in the course of five minutes. I wrote the name immediately after reading it!! Attention span of the average flea. Moving swiftly on, I've also discovered an uncorrobrated source which claims that Hill, Norman & Beard supplied reed registers to Compton, and Rushworth & Dreaper made Flutes for them. Now that's got me scratching my head, especially as a notable authority on theatre organs once told me that Compton kept J W Walker & Sons busy during the depression years, and virtually kept them alive and kicking making "things" for theatre organs. It's grindingly difficult to get hold of all the information in the absence of company records and most of the original staff, but a lot has been unearthed and put on file. Best, MM
  5. The research continues on John Compton and his company, and stumbling across something interesting sparked another possible avenue of enquiry. I wasn't aware that Jimmy Taylor, (who ran things after the death of John Compton), was quite an accomplished organist, and served as Honorary Assistant at St Bride's, Fleet Street, until his death, duirng the time that Gordon Reynolds was there. Equally of interest to me was the fact that he also gave an opening concert in Birmingham, on a new theatre organ. So how good an organist was he? Was he a dual talent....playing both light and classical music? Aniother question springs to mind....the comparative costs of Compton extension organs compared to straight instruments. I was surprised to learn that one theatre organ built and installed in 1935 cost £6,000, which was quite a lot of money in those days. A whole house would probably cost between £500 and £1,000, depending on location in those days, which makes £6,000 sound something like £1,000,000 to-day.....surely not!!!!! Best, MM
  6. ================================= I don't think it ws me that said it Guv! I have only briefly glanced at the Southampton spec, and I don't recall that I've ever commented about it. I may be wrong and ready for the glue factory, but I don't think so. Best, MM
  7. ============================= I don't know how any church would cope with my tastes. I like traditional hymnody, but I wish people would write good, modern words which could be set to newly composed tunes. As for the Bible.....I'm afraid much of it is not only irrelevant, it is downright untrue or misleading. I don't think they've invented my church yet. Best, MM
  8. Pretty pics of progress. http://www.stmaryscathedral.org.uk/cathedral_life/renovation/organ_gallery.htm Best, MM
  9. ================================== I've probably been to more recitals by Francis Jackson than anyone else, and he was particularly partial to Guilmant's excellent "Grade Choeur," which he played with real swagger and style, wonderful detachment and a pizicatto bass in the middle "waltz" section, which always raised a smile of approval. My God, he could play! Melville Cook would almost always play Reger, and Philip Tordoff at Halifax is very partial to Rheinberger, but beyond that, I can't think of many instances of "signature tunes." Of course, Carlo made that Sinfonia his own, and it never once became tedious or predictable. I recall a senior clergyman at Blackburn Cathedral saying, "I will enjoy the whole concert, but I've really come to hear him play that opening Sinfonia to Cantata no.29 by Bach." The way Carlo would play to the gallery and the space was just amazing, and of course, with a huge concert organ like Hull City Hall, with all those big reeds and lots of glitter, he could start a concert off by not so gently lifitng the roof. "Ladies and gentleman, did you know that J S Bach invented rock & roll?" Best, MM
  10. I love John Cage. This is the link:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pX8c2nF_YY Tip for searching....always go in the order...... Sheet Music/Arranger/Composer I just searched for Sheet Music Howard Cable Gershwin, but it isn't coming up with much. This sounds to me like a conductor-score transcription....a common method used by theatre organists when playing orchestral works/arrangements on the organ....it could even be a piano reduction score. I'll keep on trying various avenues, but this could be tricky, as I suspect that it doesn't exist as an organ arrangement. Best, MM
  11. You may well be absolutely right 'Vox', and that brings us back to the "apprenticeship" route of the old school....a nod here, a wink there....knowing the right people etc. Of course, the other factor may be the increased competition for the few available scholarships; no doubt as a result of a broadly din#minishing leve of church music as we would understand it. How many higher education institutions now offer organ-scholarships, I wonder? Clearly, I am very out of touch and probably have nothing to add of any great value, but best wishes to Michael all the same. Best, MM
  12. ================================= Having had time to look at the details of this plea for help, I just wonder if it isn' an example of someone being over-qualified? I'm probably very out of touch with church-music generally, but I am old enough to recall the stable days when the institution of church-music was predictable and shared at varying degrees across a range of churches, from cathedrals downwards. Even university shcolarships were often attached tp specific places of worship...Hull/Beverley, the various University College Chapels at Oxbridge and so on. In other words, it tends to be an undergraduate learnig opportunity; perhaps based on the quite ancient principle of apprenticeships, which once dominated the professions, and where the principle reward was free tution and involvement with professionally led music. Church music has changed SO much, and although the cathedrals stagger on in an uncertain and changing climate, most other churches have changed the style of music used in worship. In fact, we are probably nearer the American model nowadays, where the organist is either just a hired organist, or more likely, may be the musical director of choirs, praise bands, orchestras and whatever else they happen to have. What it means, is that with only 48 (?) anglican cathedrals in the UK, (some of which will have an educational/practical link with a place of higher education as the source of organ-scholar), a few of the more enlightened RC cathedrals, a few major collegiate and abbey foundations as well as the VERY important parish-churches. the actual availability of outsourced organ-scholarships is probably quite small or even close to non-existent. The only organ-scholar I know at the moment is Elizabeth at Leeds RC Cathedral, and she has just started undergraduate studies at Huddersifled University....again, an example of someone mixing a music degree education with the specialism of church music as an additional area of study. I have absolutely no idea how many of the major parish churches have organ-scholars, but Halifax and Leeds certainly do or at least recently did....again I'm out of touch slightly. I'm not quite sure as to where organ-scholarships lead. It seems to me that the most successful are those who don't go into the cathedral organ loft, but instead, diversify and find careers in other areas of music; perhaps even radio broadcasting, recording comanies or the musical press.. I know none of this helps very much, but the current state of change and the financial constraints imposed by a decline in formal religion need to be kept in mind, and were I to advise anyone to-day, I might be tempted to suggest that it is an increasingly lost cause in all but the few select places. What we must never do is feel bad about it, because I can tell you that in Hungary for instance, there are some stupendous organists, but absolutely no jobs specifically for them. The very best maange to earn a living teaching, playing concerts and making recordings, but they don't survive purely as organists; that's for sure. Best, MM
  13. ======================= That would have meant an interview for the late Robert Maxwell, and probable rejection for a dyslexic Richard Branson. My best friend is clumsy with words, cannot read very well and struggles to write. He's worth about £30m and has the sharpest business mind I've ever come across. Best, MM
  14. Don't worry Vox, it's science-speak.....they do it al the time. The pinnae is what you and me would call your lug-holes....those flappy things on which people hang rings and sometimes have pierced. Seriously, it sort of makes sense to me, but I confess that I was going more by instinct and observation than by design or scientific knowledge. However, there are certain other factors which come into play for us as organists, because it is absolutely remarkable how cognitive hearing compensates for strange directions of sound and the acoustic ambience in which they are heard. It's not unlike the way we can hear a familiar voice in a crowded and noisy room, because we recognise and can make sense of familiar patterns of speech, pitch and timbre even in the midst of random background noise. It;s amazing how those born blind will often "see" a room or an open space simply by listening to it, and that demonstrates how remarkable human hearing really is. The things we learn on ths forum....indeed. Best, MM
  15. I smile at this, because anyone who wants cheap, but also wants quality sound, could do worse than obtain a battery powered, Sony condenser such as I have. I have some very expensive microphones, but my old Sony ECM99 is almost a match for them, and ideal for organ-music. All that is required is an adaptor from 1/4" jacks to the usual mini-jack of to-day, (I use a mixer unit), and you can get one of these microphones for about £10 on e-bay. There's nothing wrong with old (1970's in this case), if it's also quality sound. Best, MM
  16. Being relatively small is also a problem. Had the late Carlo Curley ever shouted at me, "Play from the heels toots," I wouldn't have been able to respond in kind. I thereofre tend to be fleet of toe rather than fleet of foot, often using the sides of my shoes where other might use heels. Because of it, I tend to use different pedalling for different pieces, which is not a problem until you forget something or haven't practised for a while. Thank God for Stanley and Walond! They had the right idea. Best, MM
  17. What an absolutely fascinating observation. Thank you. I'd never have thought of that. I think I could add the possibility that the more the number of registers drawn, all attempts at speech control become a nonsense in any case. The spatial disposition thing is equally fascinating of course, and while I haven't sat at the console of New College, Oxford or Marlborough, I have sat at the consoles of Haarlem, Alkmaar and the big Marcussen at the Lawrencekerk, Rotterdam. As I stated previously, one is very aware of a certain remoteness from sonic reality; the pipework of the topmost tier audibly later, while behind, there's this curious "cabinet" organ effect of the Rugposotiv, which unbeknown to the player, has about the same impact down the nave when the Cornet is drawn, as does the big Tuba at York . Interestingly, even with these big tracker organs, the player soon adjusts to the delays, which are really discernable time lags. Some distance away, the listener is completely unaware of it of course. Much more disconcerting are those organs which are divided or which spread dramatically left and right. You tend to see eyes moving left and right among the listeners, because we tend to instinctively look in the direction from which sounds emerge....no doubt part of a basic survival instinct. What's interesting, is that no-one listening is usually aware of ups and downs but they can be distracted by lefts and rights. All this actually supports the case for detached consoles, where an organist, like a conductor, controls events from a distance. As for coupler action, the Rotterdam Marcussen has, I believe, an electric servo device to lighten the touch when manuals are coupled. I hated it, and fortunately, it can be switched off at the console. It just feels so unnatural and springy, but like everything else, I expect it is possible to get used to it. Best, MM
  18. ========================== I'm lucky to play just such an instrument, and when it comes to technique, I can tell you that there is nowhere to hide....what you play is what you hear. I know that I'm very out of practice at the present time, and a tracker action reveals every defect; not just in technique but actual muscle-tone and finger control. Play a light electrc action, and it's amazing how this can go unobserved. My hands will be fighting fit one more by Christmas.....hopefully. Best, MM
  19. I.m mot sure if that makes much difference, but it isn't something I've specifically investigated. For me, the great advantage of tracker action is the fact that it is usually consistent from one manual to the next, when it is coupled and when played anywhere in the compass. In other words, it is the organist who controls what is going on, without having to make adjustments for action delays and problems. I know I've mentioned this previously, but the ultimate nightmare was playing a recital at St Bart's, Armley, in the days prior to the re-build of the instrument by Harrison & Harrison. All the notes worked, but all of them operated at a different speed; the feeling being that I was only marginally in control of the end result. The recording I have verifies this, because I was over compensating in places, while trills were just a blur of merged sound. Of course, the regular organist at the time (Arnold Mahon), knew the organ and its problems so well, it was not a handicap, but to a visiting organist.......horrendous! I always maintain that consistency of response is far more important than delay in response, and it is for this reason that I really don't mind what kind of action I'm presented with, so long as everything works at the same time. That said, relative distance can also be a problem initially, and it takes some getting used to. Believe it or not, there is a time difference between the manual divisions with a tracker-action instrument such as the Bavokerk, Haarlem, but only at the console. Go down the church, and that is not apparent. At the console, the sound from the windchest above the Hoofdwerk has to travel perhaps 20-30 feet further as direct sound, and yet most people would not think this possible. Of course, because it is consistent, the ear soon adapts to it. However, with an instrument such as that in the Royal Albert Hall, the sound at the console may come from a long way away, and that can be much the same as playing a worn and inconsistent action. Again, making sense of the sound and the acoustic is all part of the learning curve. I think that on all but the most compact of instruments, tracker-action is not quite the ally that one necessarily expects, but of course, everything will work as it should and the ear will do the rest after a while. It's all part of the challenge of being an organist.I suppose; especially when we often play in circumstances where a classic west gallery siting of the organ is the exception rather than the rule. It always amazws me how some of our organists, (and those in America), cope with divided or scattered instruiments. St Paul's is a classic example, but perhaps the most striking is to hear the State Trumpet at St John-the-Divine, New York from the console or thereabouts. I haven't cared to measure the time differnece, but I suspect that it may be a quarter of a second, which is a long time in music. Neverttheless, when you sit in the middle of the nave, it all comes together miraculously, even though the organist is hearing something very different. Best, MM
  20. s someone who does actually play a tracker organ with a modern suspended action, I can tell you that it is impossible to affect the speed of pipe-speech; even using a thumb and a finger on one note, and levering it down very slowly. I have played organ in the Neherlands with much deeper key-travel, but even there, affecting the speed of pipe=speech is probably optimistic. I wonder if it isn't more psychology than actual control, though I would be happy to be proven wrong. Best, MM
  21. ======================= Blimey! I guess it's a thumbs down then. Best, MM
  22. If the answer is yes, I guess that's a thumbs up then. Best, MM
  23. ================================= Anything which is an aid to improved learning is to be welcomed, and as someone who was almost totally self taught, I sometimes used a bit of ingenuity in the process. Everyone knows how tedious it can be learning new repertoire; especially when one is young and impatient. While others spents weeks and months preparing and learning Bach Trio Sonata movements, I "discovered" a new way, (I'm sure I didn't), which works extremely well as a way of speed learning. The trick was to record the right hand and pedals, and then replay it; adding the left hand. The great joy of this, is the fact that one immediately becomes a single player in a trio, and at the same time, it is possible to enjoy the music in its entirety while still learning it. The further advantage is seeing and hearing how the left hand fits into the contrapuntal scheme of things. What I discovered, is that memorising a left hand part makes it all so easy, (relatively speaking), because most things in Bach are dominated by the top and bottom parts, with contrapuntal ingenuity woven around it. This means that onve the left hand is properly learned, the right hand and pedal just seem to fall into place; all the terrors of vertical learning evaporating instantly as the linear falls immediately into place. I'm not sure how much time is saved by this method, but it is considerable. Best, MM
  24. ========================= With all respect, what has a cathedral choir school or choral foundation got to do with organs, beyond the fact that they are used to accompany choirs? One could argue that it was an inappropriate subject in the first instance. Why should we show deep respect for the Dean and Chapter if we have no dealings with them? They're only a management structure like any other. As someone who has only ever taught in a school for six miserable months, the wider issue of exatly how Ripon Cathedral gets around the problem is of interest to me, and one which requires a fairly wide understanding of the educational context. There is the saying that stupid people talk about other people, mediocre people talk about events amd intelligent people talk in concepts. Concepts require a broad, multi-disciplinary approach of course, and this is precisely the reason why intelligent discussion moves away from and then returns to the original subject matter and context. It has a name, and the name is "academic freedom"; a concept in which most respectable universities and academies find agreement. Sorry to be a bore. Best, MM
  25. --------------------------------- My God! I'm going to have to defend Cam Car for once. Even in America, opinions and reactions are sharply divided concerning two very distinctive playing styles; one of which is the extremely scholarly approach championed by E Power Biggs with the backing of the entire early-music academia and musical exponents of the historically informed school. The second style derives from German romantic influences, with what I term the expressionist syle of performing, which is not unrelated to the orchestral transcriptions of the organist/arranger/conductor Leopold Stokowski. (Think BWV565 and the film 'Fantasia'). Divided opinion and reactions are not necessarily a bad thing; especially since both styles of playing have been around long enough for them to qualify for the title "historically informed". Earlier in this thread, I posted alink to a video of Xaver Varnus playing the Passacaglia in C minor by Bach, in which the expressionist style is very much in evidence, with quite kalaedoscopic changes of registration and counterpoint melodies highlighted with solo registers. It harks back to the Berlin school of romantic playing, and was taken to America by such as Middelschulte, who in turn taught Virgil Fox, who in turn taught Carlo Curley etc etc. To pull off an orchestrallly inspired organ-version of the music is no mean feat, and requires a great deal of careful study and meticulously planned execution. It also happens to work rather well on romantic German instruments and on American symphonic instruments, if the performer takes the trouble to get it right. Somewhere, I came across some fascinating sound clips and videos, and if I can find them, I'll tag them to this post. Poor Cam Car is the victim of this tradition, and sticking my neck out, I would suggest that he actually doesn't understand the music of Bach, and consequently misses any sense of simultaneously bringing expression to Bach's organ music while remaining faithful to the musical structure. At its best, the expressive style is very musical and comelling, and although I would never want to emulate it, I can be deeply moved by those who do it well, just as we can all be moved hearing Bach's '48' played on a Steinway concert grand by a master. So I don't think Cam Car is daft or immature in pursing the expressionist way, but he gets it very wrong much of the time. Best, MM
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