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Contrabombarde

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  1. Utterly fascinating Colin as ever - so are you saying the best conditions for listening to organ music are a cold wet day or a cold dry day? My grand piano (a 1900 Bechstein, but with recently rebuilt action and new hammers) definitely feels lighter and more inviting to play when the living room is on the chilly side and except in mid summer I try to keep the room at around 17 or 18 degrees C for that reason. That's probably as much to do with the action though.
  2. Many thanks - I've looked through a few double piano versions and thought that would probably be the most straightforward option though if there are any published organ versions it would be less work. Playing music scored for piano on the organ often needs some degree of reworking. But what a lovely effect as borne out with the performances above! The Rachmaninov except above (thanks Paul) is gorgeous - and then comes that tuba at 6'37! Organs and pianos are so rarely scored together (off the top of my head I can only immediately think of the Saint-Saens concerto).
  3. As per thread title, I wonder if any piano concertos have had the orchestral parts reduced to solo organ score and if there are any recordings of piano concertos using just piano and organ in place of the orchestra? I doubt I'll achieve it in this year's resolutions but my bucket list includes learning to play the piano part of a piano concerto. As my living room has an organ with MIDI playback and a grand piano my imagination is running riot at the thought of accompanying myself one day. Any suggestions for organ reductions would be most welcome!
  4. Those pictures are still on the ClassicFM's website. I seem to recall reading from John Norman that the same mode of transportation, canal, was used 150 years previously to transport William Hill's 32 foot Open Diapason to the nearby Town Hall.
  5. I would add a note of caution to Colin's comment, that of not letting the best be the enemy of the good. In his case, I would disagree that we shouldn't encourage students to learn on a cheap self built virtual organ console in preference to a high quality turnkey solution - a high quality new digital organ for home use can cost several tens of thousands of pounds and if that's the only acceptable alternative to a pipe organ and a pipe organ isn't available to practice on, we can't expect students to flock to learning the organ. I'd love mammoth covered Laukhoffs on my home Hauptwerk console but had to settle for £250 Fatar "tracker touch"keys instead. That's double what a cheap MIDI keyboard would cost, but my Fatars are supposedly used in high end digital organs. I have to say they are vastly better than most electronic organs I've ever played which I find surprising - it's almost like electronic organ manufacturers are involved in a conspiracy to make their organs as unattractive to play as possible. The closest pipe organ to where I live is over a mile away, is mechanically in poor condition with ciphers and wind running, has no nameplate to embarrass the builder but it was a poor design to begin with and is in a church that will never be able to afford to look after it. I do wonder how bad a pipe organ has to be before we would concur that practising on a digital organ with cheap MIDI keyboards could be an improvement. Unfortunately the reality is that for every high quality pipe organ that is a joy to play and learn on, there are plenty of other organs that are entirely unmemorable, in poor working order and difficult to commend as suitable for practising on. I don't think that's so different from the world of pianos where there are countless uprights a century old being given away for nothing to students who quickly discover that learning on an untunable instrument with sticking keys is a quick way to kill off any passion for the piano. I appreciate this is a pipe organ forum and discussion of electronic organs is actively discouraged so I am cautious about extolling their virtues too far. However, I hope I may be permitted to describe one further advantage that I don't think has been touched on in the "DIY virtual organ" scene, namely the educational value of designing one's own organ (console). Historically probably few organists have ever been in a position to design and see being commissioned a pipe organ. We are now in an era when a GCSE student (in my pupil's case) can design a practice organ, including having to consider how many manuals, understanding the relative position of manuals and pedals to RCO standards, position of stop controls and music desk, how many pistons and expression pedals etc etc - and build it from cheap components sourced from the internet in the comfort of his own home. That acts as an additional incentive and catalyst to learning that those of us who grew up in an era where if we were lucky we might get to practise once a week in a cold dark church can only dream of surely. So my proposition on the topic of the future of the English organ is that from the perspective of practising and learning opportunities, things have never been better than they are today. Furthermore there is a "democratisation" that comes from online resources - students from across all social classes today are in a position to build their own practice instrument, which as interest and finances permits, can be upgraded. When I was studying at school I had to buy all my organ music at considerable cost. Today's student can download most of the organ repertoire at no cost from imslp and listen to and learn from performances by the world's finest players on Youtube. Time will tell whether we embrace the huge opportunities for learning the organ that are within our reach, and whether that leads to a generation of organists whose technique is impaired from learning on cheap plastic keyboards using old scanned music scores or whether it leads to a resurgence of interest from organists who are passionate about the music they are learning, and who being inspired by the astonishing beauty of the finest instruments that they play samples of, demand the highest standards from pipe organ builders, thus preserving our musical heritage.
  6. This is an interesting and in parts, a sobering thread, and Colin's observations from several years ago were prescient and well grounded. A few thoughts of my own. 1. I recall some while back someone theorising on the reaction, if electronic organs had been invented first, on someone trying to market a pipe organ. I think the response as rather along the lines of, why on earth would you invent such a complex invention when electronic sound generation can do all that so much more simply. 2. I have commented previously on these fora that a major challenge facing organbuilders is the craftsmanship element - the cost of training and employing small numbers of specialists forces organ building to be a niche occupation. Meanwhile the affordability of repairing organs is becoming more and more difficult. If you think churches are struggling to maintain their organs spare a thought for local authorities (the comment above that maybe there was a future for concert hall organs). With few exceptions, I expect most councils that have a pipe organ in the civic hall are so cash strapped under the burden of social care to consider even tuning them. When major repairs or rebuilding next looms there is no prospect of funding their repair other than external means such as Lottery funding or philanthropy. If only organs weren't so ruinously expensive to keep going - finding several hundred thousand pounds to restore an instrument is simply impossible for many. 3. Many people have no idea what is involved in maintaining an organ and don't notice when it has been maintained. Case in point, I was asked to play for a few services at a local church that I haven't played at before this Christmas. It has a small two manual, no name plate, probably not been turned on once in the past decade and noone at the church could recall it having been played in living memory. They usually sing to recordings. The request for me to play was to bring a portable keyboard but I suggested at least turning the organ on and seeing if anything happened. Impressive wind leaks aside, it actually sprang to life albeit appallingly out of tune and most of the notes worked. So at my expense I arranged for it to be tuned and spent several hours keyholding for the tuner. Not one person complimented me after the services on the fact that I'd striven to get the thing going again and attempted to play it for the services rather than the usual canned music source, and presumably noone knew how much effort it had taken. 4. Digital sound generation is here to stay and the pipe organ is an illustrious predecessor of the ability to shrink a performance to a single player, whether it be the orchestral transcriptions of Lemare or the ability of theater organs to accompany film. The theater organ had an even bleaker history than the history of liturgical organ music, since the former lasted at most four decades before "talkies" eliminated the need to accompany films to organ music, while liturgical organ kmusic has been a part of Western history for four centuries. 5. Learning the organ shouldn't be the increasingly rare preserve of the small numbers of pupils privileged enough to attend a public school with a chapel and Oxbridge expectations. We need to think creatively about how the organ and its music can become more accessible to more "mainstream" pupils, something the RCO has certainly recognised. My own recent experience as an organ teacher includes a state-school education pupil from a minority ethnic group and no church history who approached me with a school challenge to learn BVW565 for a Duke of Edinburgh award. Progress was slow at first as he lacked access to any church organs, but a bit of online research was sufficient for him to build his own three manual virtual organ console (refurbished pedalboard and MIDI keyboards) at home. Since then his technique has come on massively and he is now looking to study the organ at university. Whilst digital organs are understandably beyond the scope of any extensive discussion on a pipe organ forum I would maintain that now we are at a point where for a few hundred pounds a teenager can buy the kit to build an RCO-spec organ console it's actually never been easier to practice the organ at home and therefore one of the biggest traditional blockages tpo practising - namely the need to have ready access to a decent church instrument - is no longer present. 6. The church's primary obligation is to bear witness to Jesus Christ, not to glorify and worship the organ. Where the organ and its music supports its primary function it must be embraced; if or where the church's witness is hindered by its reliance on the organ then the church must move on and other means of supporting the continuation of the organ must be found to keep our music tradition going. Having recently directed a Christmas lessons and carols service that included orchestral instruments, choir, organ and rock group and music that ranged from Bach to a Freddie Mercury pastiche, I am personally very comfortable promoting the organ alongside other musical styles in the service of God. I recognise not all will be so comfortable, but in my experience the organ can thrive in its own right and in combination with other instruments both "traditional" and "contemporary" if it's allowed to. However, the Christian church cannot allow the organ to become worshipped in its own right and must part company if that particular idolatry creeps in. 7. From a purely practical perspective I think it's vital not to throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak and lose all connection with the past. The first year I led a totally traditional Nine Lessons and Carols at my (evangelical CoE) church I realised with horror that most people under about 30 didn't actually know how any of the Christmas carols went and I realised it was because you simply never hear them any more when out and about shopping in the run up to Christmas - everything now is all about Santa and his reindeer. So I've been very clear about the need to include as many carols as possible and rotate them at most every couple of years so that they remain familiar to people as it might be the one night of the year that they get to sing O come all ye faithful! I absolutely get the concern that even secular choir singers probably don't know many hymns now. Whilst cathedral congregations might be increasing, that might simply represents people haemorrhaging from parish church Choral Evensong who might have previously attended their local church choral evening service until such became unsustainable. Eventually if we're not careful only the larger cathedrals will be able to continue to justify choral services and people will have to travel even further. In summary, firstly I think we have barely scratched the surface of exploring the role virtual organs have as a teaching and learning aide and if we embrace and indeed encourage them for home use then the number of new organists coming along and the interest in the genre of organ music can only increase. I don't think that in itself should be a terminal threat to organ builders - after all how many people can afford the cost or the space required to commission their own newly built home practice pipe organ? If a resurgence of organists then puts pressure on institutions to commission digital organs in preference to pipe organs because they are cheaper that would obviously hurt the organ building trade (unless organ builders move into supplying practice consoles for virtual organs). Secondly, the greatest challenge is the cost effectiveness (or lack of) in terms of the cost of building or repairing large pipe organs (including the space they take up) relative to the number of people who are willing to pay for them in some way (whether by donations to the organ repair fund or ticket sales to recitals). It's that cost that needs to fall if pipe organs are to be as cost effective as they were say 100 years ago when one would be a standard fitting in any newly built church. The relative cost of an organ compared to the total building cost is huge compared to the relative cost of a digital organ (or worse, a CD player and speakers) in a new building. I've suggested before on these fora and will ask again - for the organ to survive in the long term the cost of building and of repairs/restoration needs to fall dramatically. To what extent can we use modern technology to help contain costs - for instance computer aided design to make maintenance access easier, more robust materials or 3D printing of parts most likely to wear out etc. Finally, there is a complex relationship between the organ, its music and its role in the church that we as organists and organ lovers need to recognise and not necessarily take for granted.
  7. It surely depends on the church - mine doesn't hold many weddings or funerals but at both the music groups (as we have several who rotate each week) are at least as likely as the organist to be asked to play.
  8. Midnight service - as I was finishing the final chords of Bach In dulci jubilo I kid you not but Santa Claus walked into the church from off the street to bring mince pies to everyone! I couldn't resist a few bars of "Rudolph". I caught him as he left the church and wandered up the road to his reindeer - cars were swerving as they drove past! On Christmas Day I played Charles Quef's lovely Noel Parisian.
  9. I've probably told that story once too often to my lovely vicar. As for defining "irreverence", I claim sole responsibility for introducing a song by a Christian, Canadian, Freddie Mercury tribute band during our Lessons and Carols service last week. (For the record, it's called "How many kings" by Downhere, is easily found on Google and has beautiful words and a tune you won't be able to get out of your head). Of course we also had a choir, children's brass band and sang music from a wide range of centuries. And I reminded myself that if Stephen Cleobury considered it worthwhile to have a new piece of music introduced each year at the Kings Cambridge carol service, why shouldn't I? Besides, one of the members of the original Freddie Mercury band Queen, Brain May is himself an organist so maybe the connection isn't quite as tenuous as it might at first seem. I appreciate that some vicars would consider it several steps too far to sing Jerusalem in a service, however well we're doing at the World Cup at the time. But up and down the country every week churches sing Stuart Townend's wonderful hymn "In Christ alone" - which of course fits Parry's famous hymn's meter perfectly.
  10. There's nothing to beat Bach's In dulci jubilo on organo pleno and zimbelstern tinkling in the background. At least, there wasn't until this unconventional take on the zimbelstern...train lovers beware.
  11. A few people commented on the slight but annoying delay with digital hearing aids when this was last discussed in 2017. Not a bad idea to revisit the discussion since the delay is down to processing power and over a couple of years technology will have moved on somewhat so perhaps the delay is less annoying now. Alternatively ditch the expensive digital and scan Ebay for old analogue hearing aids being given away that have decent treble frequency adjustment! At least they won't have any processing delay.
  12. Fascinating indeed - I do love the organ at Pershore Abbey. Colin you could make a a nice little income selling the samples for a well known software product should you wish to transgress! Interestingly one of the first instruments I learnt on was also a Rushworth and Dreaper, a modest three manual built five years later in 1932 for the great hall of Manchester Grammar School. It was in very poor condition and during my time at the school it was replaced by a smaller Peter Collins though much more suitable for learning technique on. As far as I know the Rushworth is still present - the pipework was hidden behind oak grilles above the stage so was not removed when the Collins was installed. The console used to sit where the grand piano is and my father and I, with the assistance of a physics teacher carefully dismantled it one Saturday afternoon just before the Collins was finished. You would never know there was a three manual organ behind that now! Immediately prior to dismantling the console we also recorded every pipe - somewhere I might still have the tape though I doubt I'd have the patience to process it as a sample set for aforesaid software program. The specification was much more limited than Malvern and was a very unsatisfying instrument to learn on. Maybe times have changed and it would be considered more fashionable now but I doubt it. Specification: https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N02431
  13. Forgot to add this fine specimen of a case though it's a redundant instrument now - the Rushworth and Dreaper in Manchester Grammar School. As far as I'm aware the pipework is still in place behind the oak carved grills above the stage though the console was removed in 1987 when a new Peter Collins instrument was installed in the hall. The console was fixed and located approximately where the grand piano is:
  14. Yes that Didsbury organ is quite the mammoth two manual organ. Paid for by the city council in compensation for changing the position of the main door of the church due to a road widening scheme that never quite happened - what a contrast to today where the same council is unable to afford the restoration of one of the country's finest Cavaille-Coll organs during the restoration of Manchester town hall.
  15. The sound these contraptions make doesn't exactly advertise themselves as candidates for inclusion in forthcoming ABRSM exams but I for one am glad someone's tried them even if the results are disappointing. At least we know what the limits of acoustics are! The vibrations of the octobass strings remind me of Atlantic City Hall's CCCCC Diaphone Dulzian 64' which has a glass cover that allows the curious visitor to see the reed flapping in the wind. Having heard it in the flesh I can best describe it as like a helicoptor landing in front of you. The concept of the Racket isn't that dissimilar to Compton's polyphone; aside from the scaling issue at higher pitches, it seems quite a sensible approach in both cost and space utilisation to have what is effectively a giant flute whose pitch can be modified via values in the side rather than a rank of 32 foot pipes. I'm surprised it wasn't more widely adopted. That also begs the question as to why if the organ needs each pipe to be scaled individually, the orchestral flute manages to work when the highest pitched notes are effectively far wider scaled than the bottom end of the range. As we are mentioning eccentricities that work on the principle of air vibrating in long tubes which is rather like how pipe organs work, could I raise a salute to the very wonderful tubulum? I always wondered what plumbers did with all the excess PVC pipework they seem to end up with whenever they do any work on my house, now I know!
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