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Mander Organs


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Posts posted by ajsphead

  1. 8 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

    If anyone knows how to write the computer code that will recognise my vocal command "next page!" or perhaps "go back a page" on my music display tablet they deserve more than a pint or two. Better still is there a way of getting the camera to recognise frantic gestures and translate them to page turns that too would be good. My home practice organ has thumb and toe pistons for page advance and page back, as I believe does the console at Kings College Cambridge but that's not much use when both hands and feet are employed simultaneously!

    Voice and gesture commands already exist and are in mass production as part of the "infotainment" system in a number of premium German cars. A trawl of the internet suggests that they are still not entirely successful. With voice commands unless the organist was wearing a microphone i suspect that the sound of the instrument might corrupt the vocal data reading. An innocent conversation happening behind you could also lead to some very interesting registration changes.

  2. Whilst there are a number of aspects to consider within the debate, not least of which is a perception of musicality which is undoubtedly subjective but also emotional, one small but I think key factor was almost brushed over above. The comment about the Oxford college being unaware of it's use of an unequal temperament. 

    When pinned down to absolute precision, equal temperament is a mathematical exercise, sometimes reached by accident when tuning but very regularly approximated to and identified as such, actually erroneously so. All temperaments are like this to some extent and by existence in the real world and the influencing factors found within it, are only as reliable in many instances for the duration in which they have been laid, and in some instances not even that long.

    Perhaps the debate leaves S_L cold because it is largely theoretical and at least with organs lacking in constancy.

    This in no way contradicts the amazing way in which some music comes alive when played on a period instrument with a period type temperament, and indeed the way some instruments themselves come alive when tuned as such.

  3. Not all congregations are as unaware as we might think. I recently transported my 1 rank 85 note continuo organ to our local catholic church which has never had an organ. It's a small building perhaps seating 120. There have been numerous electronic organ simulations there over the years but each person that spoke to me commented how different a real organ sounded and how much they preferred it, including one Polish lady, a trained pianist who believed she had an almost pathological hatred of the organ. She admitted that she would now have to re-appraise her position.

  4. 10 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

    How utterly mesmerizing. I can't figure out how to get onto the balcony from the nave however, does anyone know where the stairs to the organ loft are at Beverley?

    Regarding other cathedrals, I can't figure out how to get down from the dome into the nave at St Paul's Cathedral, though you can walk around the Whispering Gallery, from which you get a fine view of the Dome Organ.

    But surely the weirdest Google Street view of organ pipes has to be on the outside wall of the Morrisons superstore in Wednesbury, West Midlands. I think the sculpture was supposed to represent examples of local historic industry, though the only organbuilders I was aware of in the local area, Nicholson and Lord, had their workshop three miles away in central Walsall. It's now a carpet warehouse.

    Seeing this reminds me whether St Paul's is the only organ with an en chamade 32' reed on the pedals.

  5. 19 hours ago, David Drinkell said:

    The specification in Sumner is odd - I cannot recall a Compton organ actually being built to a scheme like that.

    Ian Bell's fascinating Compton article a few years back in the BIOS Reporter diminishes, even perhaps demolishes the commonly-accepted idea that extended ranks need a lot of special treatment.  He maintained that, provided the voicer was careful about the upper and lower octaves, nothing particularly out-of-the-ordinary was required.  As he, and others point out, what lets down extension so often is the fact that it could be used by less-skilled practitioners to provide cheap, instruments using any old pipe-work that might be available and a standard of workmanship which might not stand the test of time.  Compton's organs were well-made and the voicing (particularly, I've always thought, of the reeds) of high quality regardless of the use or otherwise of extension.

    Indeed. Having had the pleasure of playing and maintaining a couple of Comptons over the years, they are very cleverly and solidly manufactured. We should remember that in some of Compton's advertising literature the firm were proud to announce that Comptons were not cheap organs. The skill of those men has I think been tarnished by poor practitioners using the same principle but without an ounce of the ability.

    As a by the by, I recall reading that some of Compton's reeds were voiced by Billy Jones, and I agree that there are very fine. Having heard many of their instruments, I am yet to find a duff HP reed even if some of the Tubas are a bit close toned for my own liking.

    Playing one introduced me to some of the most ravishing soft combinations I have ever used. One favourite was Dulciana 8 Std Flute 4 Nazard (ind) 2 2/3 and Tremulant.

  6. My congregation although small, like about 5 mins but don't mind a bit more. What matters to them more is whether they can enjoy or appreciate the music. Sadly much of what I want to play doesn't fall into that category like a larger scale JSB Praeludium played on beautifully clean 8 & 4 Principals which just doesn't cut it for them. A corresponding Fugue delivered in the late 19th / early C20th style however goes down really well and coffee cups are always put down to give me a short show of appreciation.

    The congregation love their organ and are proud of it despite it not being very large or visually impressive and they want to hear it used.

  7. 5 hours ago, headcase said:

    Good point, Colin.  All the organ humidifiers I have encountered are controlled by  a Humidistat, typically set to 55-60%.  Chest magnet armatures can be vulnerable to over-enthusiastic humidification. The leather gasket can separate from the metal disc.


    If a humidifier is fitted, all soundboards should be fitted with bleed valves to control this type of problem.


  8. 21 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

    Thank you David for bringing this to the forum's attention.  It reminded me again how thoughtless it is of organ builders to use luminous stop controls, something I've often pondered on.  If it only applied to the Compton era maybe it's a criticism which has less relevance today in the pipe organ world, but the fact that most electronic organ makers still use it widely shows a surprising (and somewhat callous?) disregard of the difficulties of those with visual impairment.  And as for touch screens ...

    Regarding S_L's remarks about Hollins's music, I was surprised to read some years ago that Hollins's own favourite was apparently the Andante in D, considering the other superficially more impressive works he penned.  However it gave me encouragement in that I was able to play the Andante reasonably competently, which could hardly be said for some of his other pieces!


    I believe that Compton's were chosen by the BBC for the installation in broadcasting house because of the luminous light touch stop controls. They create no noise when operated. 

    I am struggling to understand the link between luminous stop heads and problems for partially sighted organists. Some help from partially sighted concert organists who have to familiarise themselves with a variety of instruments and would have a well established technique for doing so might be helpful. In short, it seems to me that if you can't see the stop heads then whether they are illuminated or not doesn't really matter. Therefore there must be another way that partially sighted organists manage the instrument.

  9. 8 hours ago, John Robinson said:

    I wonder what happens with a 2-rank stop, such as Unda Maris I-II 8'

    Would these ranks be positioned well apart from each other, bearing in mind that they would, presumably, be on the same slider?  I'm sure someone here will know for sure.

    A single drawstop can draw whatever you want it to with electric stop action. With mechanical stop action, one drawstop can still be made to draw more than 1 slide.

    There are also many instances of the 2 main designated beating ranks being on adjacent slides and the effect working perfectly well. It does occasionally require a little more skill from the tuner.

  10. 23 hours ago, sprondel said:

    In German organbuilding, there is the term “Terzschwebung”, and I understand that this is the most frequent method of celeste tuning. It refers to the tuning process: Both ranks are pulled, and a major third is played; in the sharp rank, the upper pipe is silenced, while in the unison rank the lower one is. Then both remaining pipes are tuned to a pure major third by way of sharpening the celeste pipe. For a flat celeste, the silencing would be done the other way round. That way, the beats per note will increase with the pitch in a pleasant way, and it’s quite easily done.

    Is this the usual method with British builders as well?

    All best wishes,


    I think I have encoutered this and to English ears it doesn't sound very natural and is rather too fast to produce the type of effect we are used to. Again though, it depends on the tone of the string rank and the effect desired.

  11. 15 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

    Thinking a bit further, David Drinkell's preference for a sharp celeste rank might be related to the impure-octave temperament imposed on the detuned rank as I explained above.  A sharp celeste rank has slightly narrower octaves than the exactly-tuned octaves of the in-tune rank.  This means its thirds will be slightly better in tune (narrower) than they would otherwise be, and it is the rapidly-beating thirds in many temperaments (and certainly in equal temperament) which are the most objectionable - ignoring extremes like Wolf intervals here for the sake of argument.  On the other hand, a flat celeste rank has slightly wider octaves and therefore wider thirds also.  These will beat even faster than they do in ET and consequently they will be that bit more objectionable to someone whose ears can detect the difference.  It is therefore quite possible David is picking up on this difference when he expressed his preference for a sharp celeste.

    Hope-Jones provided three-rank celestes in some of his organs, e.g. at Worcester cathedral.  There was one unison rank, one tuned sharp to it, and one tuned flat.  The unison and sharp ranks spoke when the stop tablet was first pressed, and the flat rank was added when it was pressed again.  (At least, I think that's how it worked, though the tablet might have had an extra mechanical detent which you moved through using extra finger pressure if you wanted all three ranks).  However he used the first (double-touch) method widely, including in some quite small organs such as that at Pilton (Devon), where the detuned rank is still added to this day to the Phoneuma on the swell if you press the tablet twice - at least, this was so when I last played the instrument.

    I think similar arrangements were provided by other builders.


    Tuning undulants however is not always done mathematically - they are a stop solely for effect, not part of structured organ tone. The rate of beat should increase in the treble to maintain the shimmering effect, so they are tuned by ear. My preference is to set a beat at mid C slightly slower than an equal temp C-G interval so long as the ranks will take it. Most English Salicional/Dulciana type undulants I tend to find are too quick in the middle registers, however more biting strings can benefit from a quicker speed. It really is all done by ear.

  12. 3 hours ago, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:


    All Saints', Weston super Mare

    The little brother to Downside, apparently the church authorities visited Downside as part of their decision making process for a rebuilt organ. All Saints also has a straight Swell and a straight "solo".

  13. 15 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

    And I presume blowing into a metal flue risks lead poisoning!

    You shouldn't ever see any good organ builder blowing directly into any pipe tip particularly not with old pipes. You place your hand around the tip and blow into that.


    13 hours ago, David Drinkell said:

    Henry Willis 4 told a party of students visiting the Petersfield works in about 1977 that one shouldn't blow into reed pipes because the alcohol on one's breath corroded the brass.

    Well he would say that!

  14. 18 hours ago, ptindall said:

    One of the problems with wholesale replacement of any part of an organ, such as the action, is that the eager custodians are tempted to do other things as well, such as altering the physical arrangement of the instrument, the soundboards or the winding. To say nothing of tonal alterations to satisfy 'the changed role of the organ' or the 'more sophisticated technical demands....of contemporary organ music'. Bright and shiny reasoning is always produced as to why these changes should be made,, but the result has been that almost every British cathedral or pseudo-cathedral organ has been constantly transformed, at enormous cost, and it is always a triumph. Until thirty years later. Since the Bristol organ is uniquely, comparatively little altered, surely it should be restored in its present state?

    Correct, to a point. As our hosts know only too well, the Bristol action, particularly the divisions using drum purse exhausters is very changeable. It can be made to repeat as quickly as any electric job at a given time on a given day preferably without an r in the month but with no guarantees for the next day. It could be made to work better and kept as t/pn but not without substantial redesign and hence is of questionable value and utility outside that of a museum piece. The additional maracas voice controlled directly from the Swell keys not relyant on a drawstop is also at best distracting unless Latin or Caribbean music is being performed.

  15. I would entirely endorse Andrew Moyes's remarks. However I do feel we may be collectively jumping the gun a bit in assuming the comps are at fault. Having been faced with some complex winding problems in the past, the only way of identifying the cause, be it single or multiple in nature, is to test each component. Start with the blower and work your way along, testing either side of each component with static pressure and then under load. I'd hate for you to think the comps need replacing when the problem could be more simple, or indeed lie in other areas. Apart from the fact, you'd have to answer the question about which comps need replacing as you can't assume the fault lies with the division you hear it worst in. There's no substitute for a methodical approach, assuming nothing at the outset.

  16. Interesting comments. I used to work with one of the old JWW (pre 75) men. I remember him telling me that there was a period when the independent comps did give trouble and that, if he encountered one from that period he'd advise chucking it out and replacing with a new unit. Problem is, I'm struggling to remember why. 1967 is a date in my head but I couldn't be confident. Apologies if I have the wrong end of the stick, concussions tend to be be on the ends of soundboards and sometimes units to steady the wind demand. I would have thought that your Walker had independent compensators and few if any single or double rise bellows. Probably just one breakdown after the blower. Before going there, I'd want to check that the cfm rating of the blower was adequate (I'd expect it to be fine, or maybe as you say an element of this problem has always been there, perhaps it isn't), that the air supply to it was not impeded and that any roller blinds were correctly adjusted. I'd also want to check the wind pressure from the blower and then check it at various points in the system ending up with the soundboards to make sure there is no resting drop in excess of what should be expected and then seeing if there is a significant drop at various points when under load. Basically you have supply volume and pressure maintenance and a sytematic approach should reveal where the issue/s lie.

  17. I have seen the room once, admittedly a while ago whilst on another job. What I'm getting at is not so much loudness or blunt density of tone, but the job a concert hall organ does and that the balance here doesn't look right to me. Certainly the job of a full scale concert hall organ isn't appropriate but this really does look like more of a large scale teaching instrument rather than a performance organ. I don't know what the intentions for use in toto are, so maybe this is right. Sadly I've heard far too often, instruments of a very similar style by high class buiders and they all fail in their balance in exactly the same way.

    I'd have to write something close to an essay to put this in proper justifiable depth. That however is only one side of things. The other side is a lack of imagination in making the best use of limited resources to achieve the most appropriate outcome for the expected use of the instrument. Doubtless the designers would be confident of their success and I can see how in some respects I would definitely agree with them, at this stage in principle at least. I shall want to hear it in the acoustic to be convinced that I'm not going to get an excess of clarity from specific registers alone and in combination, at specific points of the compass where the notes are communicated par excellence but the music is not, despite the competence of the player. The existence or lack of reverberation to a small degree - a large degree would be irrelevant here - can both hinder and help, so the instrument needs to be balanced for that in addition to the above. It's quite an art form to get it right but you need to be starting from the right place with the right picture in your head. It's not the artistry I'm questioning it's the picture. What I see on paper doesn't in all respects contain the framework for the right picture to me.


    I hope to have past experiences mollified and if possible I'll be happy to allow this example to provide an additional view to my mental construct. I'll wish them well for now.


    As far as the other suggestion you mentioned goes, I'd have to agree. Worthy in itself but just not appropriate here.

  18. Interesting. No comments on quality of work but I'm not sure how this, on paper at least, looks like a Concert Hall organ, or indeed is going to sound like one. A nice, almost luxurious teaching instrument maybe but I'm sure it'll have to work with choirs and orchestras and I just don't see how a single Pedal Subbass, a single manual 8' Principal, and 1 manual chorus mixture are going to carry it unless they are very bold, giving an indication of how the rest of the sound will be in balance. As for choral accompaniment it's not such a problem but if the sound is the one that's in my head it would explain why so many Northern mainland European establishments with choral traditions are buying up redundant English organs.


    Proof of pudding and all that but I suspect yet another establishment has gone down the same route as so many others and have a super quality machine that ultimately just misses the point and doesn't quite satisfy. You open the biscuit tin expecting custard creams but all that's there are nice and rich tea, nothing wrong with that, just a bit of a disappointment.

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