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headcase

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Everything posted by headcase

  1. Last night it was my privilege to hear Dame Gillian Weir's final public concert at Westminster Cathedral, bringing to a close a supercharged career that began there in 1964. A standing ovation of some length was a fitting tribute to a lifetime dedicated to promoting organ music. Now here's my speculative question : If YOU were to choose a 'farewell' concert programme, same venue, same format ( 2 x 40 mins), what would you play ? H
  2. Vierne: Carillon de Westminster bb 35 -59 is good for swapping. Puzzled me for ages until the penny finally dropped ! I recall seeing one notable organist struggle to make the LH do all the hard work.
  3. I've re-visited works that I thought I knew securely, using a metronome. I am astonished that one can easily slip out of sync and it really does highlight how easy it is to scurry over quavers, shorten notes on phrase-ends, etc. I get a weird sensation that the metronome is varying speed, when in reality...it's me!
  4. Martin, If you search the name 'Mushel' in the forum category 'The Organ and Its Music, you should come across quite a lot of discussion from early 2006, which may be of interest. I think there is more...but probably in an off-topic discussion !! H
  5. In Kent, there is a wonderfully gritty Conacher here. Gallic reeds and leathered lips on the Gt Open. It is unusually powerful for a village church organ. It arouses my curiosity that a provincial firm could get such distant commissions like this. Clergy connections/recommendations perhaps ? It is recorded that one of Conacher's foremen, Musson, died falling from a third storey crane doorway at Conacher's works, as this job was being despatched. The same man who worked with John Compton in his early years. H
  6. In amongst all the frivolity, I was hoping for some informed comment - particularly on the use of an equally tempered keyboard instrument as the means of 'training' amateur singers and whether this would affect their ability to pitch perfect intervals.
  7. Maybe PCND can lend you something
  8. A further thought occurs. Does anyone have a view on 'note-bashing' for choirs, using a tempered keyboard as the learning tool. I wonder if this induces a tendency for singers to pitch intervals inaccurately and thus fall into a fundamental bad habit rather insidiously ? H
  9. I've often toyed with the idea of secretly tuning a small church organ to a mild unequal temperament, just out of devilment, to see if the organist/congregation notice any difference. Naughty...but there it is. Is there anyone out there to whom this has happened - knowingly or unknowingly ? I'd also be interested in comments from singers and choir directors with experience of regularly using an unequally tempered instrument for accompaniment. H
  10. headcase

    Trends!

    I felt a few pangs of nostalgia, reading about the Bath Abbey organ. It was my joy to tune there as a young apprentice (c 1979-81), so I knew the old HN&B job pretty well. I can't deny that mechanically it left a lot to be desired but, in the best of British cut and shut traditions, it was an instrument that amounted to far more than the sum of its parts. Why that should be, I'm not sure but even now it stirs the emotions. I particularly treasure David Sanger's recording of the Jongen Sonata Eroica from Bath. The interpretation is measured, the use of the organs' resources well thought out and the final pages never fail to excite, with a towering surge of power in the final toccata-like section (triplet chords over pedals in octaves) and then the headlong rush in thirds to those huge chords in the coda. To my mind this was playing of an enduring stature that was influenced and inspired by the instrument. I recall the thrill of ascending the long ladder to the Tuba chest...the ladder was screwed to one of the largest notes of the Double Open Wood 32ft. From the top one could see the fan vaulting close up. Peering down the back of the organ from the top, one could see the Double Trumpet 32ft. The Tuba itself was a fabulous bright, ringing stop. I remember looking at the Tuba shallots, sculpted inside with red sealing wax, which Arthur Rundle used to help keep the tone bright. Tuning the old Pedal Trombone 16 & 8ft was a shock. Access to the chest was confined and the hooded top notes aimed right at you...ferociously loud! The Positive was a delight and I once met Roland Rawdings, who had voiced that section at Hornsey. He came up the spiral staircase to the console, a most polite and unassuming man. We chatted amiably for some time before he revealed himself to me ! I'm not sure that he had ever heard the Positive section in the Abbey prior to that. The Great reeds were rather awkward to tune, being a large scale and crammed in. Seeing the tuning springs was pretty difficult but the reward of a chorus of Hill Posaunes tightly in tune was worth the effort. The old Norman & Beard Solo Clarinet, Strings and Vox were full of character and the Choir Trompette quite zingy. I loved the arcaded console jambs, the sumptuous stop knobs and square sugar-cube thumb pistons. Of course, after a hard days' work tuning, there was the pleasure of 'testing' the organ with some improvisation. Can anyone else think of an instrument that is more than the sum of its parts...and why that should be. Is it just luck and acoustic flattery ? H
  11. I met him a few times 1983-4, when he was organist of Third Church of Christ Scientist, Curzon Street, London. Then I think he moved to St Katherine Cree in the City. H
  12. Unfortunately, C C's vocal interludes often last longer than the pieces being introduced. The last recital of his that I attended, several people felt distinctly short-changed. Every piece was less than 5 minutes, mostly whimsical stuff. H
  13. GOTTFRIED is the name that comes to mind.
  14. Some may not be aware that there is a dedicated web site to help find deputies, permanent appointments, etc... www.organistsonline.org
  15. A few forum members did compile some last verses/descants some time ago, though the idea never quite took off as I personally had thought it might...perhaps we're not all brave enough to bare our souls. I tried to access the files just now but the site hosting is about to be taken down permanently (31 Aug 11) and in fact the files wouldn't open or download today, so I guess they are gone already. I searched online for Tysoe's Praise My Soul descant but didn't come up with anything. H
  16. Descant : Dr Albert Tysoe, former Organist of Leeds Parish Church ( I recognised it as being the descant on GUILD GMCD 7102, Cornonation Anthems and Hymns, from St Paul's Cathedral. The booklet notes have the info.)
  17. There may be a clue in that you have a 3-phase supply. A valued colleague picked me up on this point. Is it possible the blower is rotating in the wrong direction ? I have experienced this several times. A 3 phase motor will run in either direction quite happily. If electricians have worked on church equipment (heating/lighting etc) they sometimes re-connect the phases differently. The lights and power circuits don't mind but the blower motor certainly will. A blower running backwards can usually deliver near enough correct pressure but very little volume. That might explain your symptoms. If you find that it IS going backwards, it's usually a simple job to swap the phase wiring around and restore proper function. Back to you... H
  18. If individual stops 'sag', that should tell you that it's probably not the blower. There would obviously be ample wind for one stop. It's more likely a feature of the wind system itself. How are the wedge reservoirs controlled ? Check with a wind gauge for pressure drops. Are the trunks adequate ? Are the wedges weighted. If I remember my physics correctly, the mass of weights on a wedge reservoir will have a variable effect, depending on the opening angle of the wedge. Do the soundboards have 'local' schwimmer pans, supplied from the wedges ? I would certainly recommend investigating causes very thoroughly before jumping in with a new blower, which may not solve the issue. H
  19. Reginald Davidson was a member of Elm Road Baptist Church, Beckenham (Norman & Beard, reb. KD& Co, 1966) AFAIK there was no Mr Kingsgate...he was a mythical character invented (so I was told) as a *colleague*, to be consulted on weighty issues when clients phoned with complaints ! All hearsay, I know... I guess you could describe their rebuild work as utilitarian. It invariably worked and probably went on working long past its sell-by date. As to the actual history of the firm, I can't offer much else. H
  20. ...odd, then, that Tonbridge has been used for many recordings, in solo and accompanimental roles. Kevin Bowyer, Dame Gillian Weir, Simon Preston, Jeremy Filsell, Iain Farrington, Isabelle Demers, Sarah Baldock and many others have made successful recordings on it - a dull and colourless instrument would be a poor choice, I would have thought. Maybe we need a forum 'law' that subjective judgements are made from personal experience and that hearsay evidence is inadmissable ! H
  21. I only recently realised that it is possible to HEAR death watch beetle...a very quiet ticking.
  22. I've encountered Lewis pneumatic action. This was a charge-pneumatic type action, with tubes from the key-touch box/coupler stack up to the primary rails, which had small hinged motors. However, one of the flaws in the design of this (and indeed many) actions, was the necessity for a small exhaust bleed at the primary rail, regulated by a small machine screw. The exhaust bleed is required because the touch boxes only supplied a charge to the tube but didn't exhaust it, so there would be a fundamental reluctance for the action motor to return off promptly. The trouble with introducing a bleed (i.e., a small leak) is that the impulse of the initial charge through the tube is also reduced, so one has to strive for a balance between a note that could be slow-ish on, or slow off. Trying to regulate a whole row and get them responding alike is tricky. Keeping them that way...even trickier. I suspect that many pneumatic actions are not rugged enough in design to cope with modern heating systems. Left alone in a chilly and damp Victorian church, they may well have performed more consistently. Something to ponder when considering whether to restore an ailing action. Other firms had some well thought out designs for pneumatic actions. I regard Norman & Beard pn actions very highly. They last forever, give very little trouble and respond fantastically well. H
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