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Contrabombarde

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Everything posted by Contrabombarde

  1. I've been asked if I can draw attention to this one manual and pedal Renn circa 1840 and featured in the Organ Magazine May 2018: https://www.ibo.co.uk/resources/pre-owned/detail.php?refNo=637 It's in a private home now and I understand the owner is seeking its relocation.
  2. Some good news at last - Government guidance issued last Friday now states that organists are now permitted to go into churches to practice the organ (provided we maintain appropriate social distancing and comply with all the other precautions). Obviously that means no page turners or registrants and still no lessons unless taught remotely via Zoom or Skype etc. Furthermore it has to be assumed that hard surfaces such as keys, stops and pistons could potentially be contaminated by someone who was playing whilst infectious, and remain so for possibly 72 hours. So if other people are hoping to play later in the week, a safe way needs to be established to decontaminate (bleach is probably not going to do wood or ivory much good, but wiping with dilute household detergent should be a reasonable compromise). We are in uncharted territory with this pandemic and a very careful and gradual release from lockdown is imperative to minimise the risk of rebounds. There is growing evidence that singing or shouting is an effective way of transmitting the virus to other people, so I'm afraid it looks like choirs will remain silent or practice "virtually" for some while to come. From this week's guidance: 4. Guidance for individual prayer within a place of worship Principles ... Activities such as singing and/or playing instruments should be avoided, with the exception of organists who are able to use buildings for practice with appropriate social distancing.
  3. Not sure about the logic of having a swimming pool on the roof but there is certainly precedent for baptismal pools at ground level. I once got into a spot of bother at a large evangelical Anglican church where I'd been asked to accompany a service as the regular organist was away that Sunday. Arriving moments before the start of the service due to delays on the Underground I was confronted by a large organ at the front of the church and lots of wires, plugs, sockets and switches in the vicinity of the organ but no obvious blower switch. By this point the vicar had come to the front of the church and had begun to announce the opening hymn. I started to panic. Flicking every switch and socked I could see, I eventually noticed the blower switch hidden away in one corner of the console. The organ burst into life and I saved the day, though I couldn't help wonder why the thing sounded so noisy when I wasn't playing. Halfway through the service a kindly churchwarden came alongside me. "I don't suppose you would have any idea why the baptimsal pool pump is running when the pool is empty, do you?" he enquired.
  4. Oh do be more ambitious! Three manuals? Check. 16 foot pedal? Check. May I present this example: https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N01165 I played it many moons ago on an organ crawl and most impressive it was, not least for being able to pack an eight stop three manual into a case seemingly no bigger than many two manual 8482 practice instruments. Or even more ambitious, https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N04526 More ambitious still, and with a resultant 32 foot in the pedals, https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N04594#PhotoSection
  5. Thanks for the Messian clip - that surely has to be one of the finest performances of La Nativite ever made, and not even on an organ! Hearing Dieu parmi nous played so convincingly on an accordian is beyond phenomenal.
  6. The Vierne is here. Nice to see that the band have credited Vierne as the composer! But I think the Widor is in a different parallel universe it's incredible.
  7. Interesting question. Here's the original case: https://www.orgelbau-krawinkel.com/organ-projects/organ-relocation/organ-st-bartholomaeus-gackenbach.php This is what it looks like after it was relocated from the UK to Germany and converted into a four manual instrument: http://orgel-gackenbach.de/die_orgeln/ That case has clearly been put on steroids but doesn't look big enough for three 32 foot stops. But no mention of "cheating" on the disposition list: https://www.orgelbau-krawinkel.com/organ-projects/organ-relocation/organ-st-bartholomaeus-gackenbach.php The church also boasts a two manual Cavaille-Coll style instrument on its west balcony - lucky them!
  8. Please correct me if I am uninformed but I thought that the livestreaming offered by Youtube and Facebook etc is essentially one way and hence not interactive? If you are broadcasting to several hundred people from a single location that's entirely appropriate. Our church service this morning consisted of about fifty families all watching one another on our laptop screens (over 100 people "attending") with the vicar having the ability to put the words of the hymns and the readings on everyone's screen to the side of the many user "windows" (for want of a better description). Although Zoom allows the "meeting organiser" to mute or unmute everyone else, in practice he didn't and it was up to individuals to mute themselves if not actively contributing because at various points in the service different people would read, I would accompany hymns, and all from our various living rooms. From the point of view of needing to conduct a service in which different people contribute from a variety of locations as opposed to being broadcast entirely from one location it met our needs very well; it would just be even better if we could improve the audio quality of live music. Whilst we've never worshipped in this way before as a church family, it was a profound experience.
  9. Thanks Tony, I tried that setting (it appears it has to be activated by the organiser, in my case the vicar) but it made little difference.
  10. My church must be one of many to be attempting its first livestreamed service tomorrow morning and I will be accompanying hymns from the relative safety of my living room. We are using the free version of Zoom with a Windows 10 laptop and I did a test run this morning with the vicar. I have a grand piano and organ in the living room; although the organ is digital and runs Hauptwerk I see no reason why it shouldn't sound any different to a pipe organ when recorded with a simple microphone and livestreamed. In the practice run this morning the piano worked fine but the organ apparently kept cutting in and out and was unusable. I later tried recording both instruments using the Windows video camera feature and found something probably similar - despite playing on a constant registration the sound kept dipping in and out. I have adjusted the Zoom audio settings with every available combination and level of filtering background noise etc including disabling filters altogether. However I cannot find any way of 1having constant audio levels when playing the organ. Yet the piano sounds fine and it looks like the hymns will have to be on that tomorrow instead. I have tried both the built in microphone and an external USB microphone but not found any improvement. If anyone can suggest how to make organ music more acceptable in Zoom I've love to know what you are doing differently.
  11. OK in fairness, the organ was controlled by two stop-tab consoles, one five manuals, the other seven. The five manual is currently disconnected and was an exhibit in the lobby when I visited a few years ago. My understanding from what was described (correct me if I'm wrong) was that the five manual was intended to be completely "straight" and reflected the entirety of the organ without duplication or transmission through extension, whereas the seven manual was the whole shebang. Not sure what the point of extension is in such an organ, but with over 30,000 pipes under its control the five manual console without the extensions is still pretty big as organs go!
  12. Whilst we're on the subject of 32 foot stops, the Austin has over 14,000 pipes, yet its only non-digital 32 rank is a (presumably) stopped Bourdon! It has four digital 32 foot flues and a 32 foot digital reed. You'd have thought it they wanted a proper 32 foot sound they could have swapped a few smaller ranks for 32 foot length pipes surely? As for Wanamaker and Atlantic City, I believe there was some friendly rivalry and of course they are only about 50 miles apart. Presumably this is long past as many of the team who look after the Wanamaker organ are also leading the Atlantic City restoration. Tonally they had quite different inspirations - Dupre amongst others advised the Wanamaker which is a much more "symphonic" instrument, whilst Senator Richards took a surprisingly classical inspiration for his choruses. If I had to choose one to play all day I think it would have to be the Wanamaker which just seems and sounds much more musical, but I'm glad the Atlantic City organ exists even if it is something of an organic monument to biting off more than one could reasonably chew. Senator Richards had huge problems just getting builders to tender for it - some of those who did respond deliberately put in impossibly high quotes as they didn't want the reputational risk of being involved in the project, and for a while he pursued Willis III fresh from his Liverpool Cathedral magnum opus, but to no avail. The range of pipework and materials - including some pipes built of papier maché - and the huge dynamic range that comes from such a wide range of wind pressures, the challenge of designing a console with seven reachable manuals, the world's loudest and longest organ pipes...it's a veritable textbook of organ building all right, just not one that's readily transferable to more modest buildings.
  13. Thanks for the link. I'm fortunate enough to have actually heard that pipe speak in the flesh (and seen it in the remarkably informative and popular tour inside the Atlantic City organ) and can best describe it as the sound I would expect a helicopter would make if one was landing in the hall. Or several helicopters, as the hall is big enough for an entire squadron to fly around it. It was heartening to read in the latest Organist's Review of the progress being made to restore it to full working order, it truly is a remarkable beast. I couldn't help but feel when I heard it four years ago that it was rather overblown and overscaled, though out of necessity given the size of the room. That might just have been the registrations available and working at the time. As it's a short drive from there to Philadelphia I also heard the Wanamaker in concert and of the two I'd take that in a heartbeat with its luscious strings and delicate beauty. The store has fallen on hard times over the years and whilst the central hall is several floors high, all but the lowest of the galleries are glazed in as most of the building is now offices rather than a giant department store. This must surely have changed the sound considerably (and possibly for the better I wonder - can anyone recall how it sounded when it played throughout all floors)?
  14. Considering the space and expense of the bottom octave of an Open Wood 32 I'm surprised this strategy hasn't been more widely adopted. Whilst the scaling of the two, three or however many more notes that share the same pipe would be increasingly wide as you go up the octave, is that effect any worse than the difference in scale that comes from playing middle C or treble C on an orchestral flute say? After all the flute is effectively a single pipe with a large number of valves!
  15. On another thread I recently commented on the way in which (whatever you may think about it) people are now able to construct a practice instrument out of a couple of MIDI keyboards, a pedalboard and a computer running virtual organ software. To be fair, such a "heath Robinson" approach to practising was probably similar to what many of the Baroque organists had at their disposal, though obviously they wouldn't have MIDI keyboards in those days. They would have had pedal harpsichords or stacked clavichords on top of one another, but that would still be enough to learn your trio sonatas on as this sensational new clip shows:
  16. 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.
  17. 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).
  18. 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!
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
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