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Everything posted by Contrabombarde

  1. OK, it's maybe a frivilous topic, but having spent a few thrilling hours getting to know the organ at Lausanne Cathedral over the weekend I wonder if I could begin such a thread. Even with the mobile console halfway down the nave, and playing on Great principal chorus it's pretty deafening. Add the Great reeds and couple to full Swell and your ears start to ache. Couple that to the Bombarde heavy reeds and tiles come off the roof. Add the Bombarde chamades and full Pedal down to 64' (32 plus 21 1/3) plus Great 32' flue and the Pacific seismographs start to pick it up. It's one amazing instrument (5-manual mechanical action!), though it is more than a bit loud! Organ in question is a 2003 Fisk from the USA. They should get Jeremy Clarkson to feature it on Top Gear in a noise shootout with a Ferrari. It reminds me of the organ in Lake Avenue church, Pasadena, a Casavant dating back around 10 years. Enormous four manual, with 32 bourdon on Great and 32 foot REED on Swell. Again, voicing on a collosal scale, though in a vast, windowless auditorium wth the acoustics of a cinema, and I thought that though it was a thrilling instrument it was just a bit too loud to be able to control sensitively. So, for the bit of the schoolboy in us all, what's the loudest organ you've ever encountered, whether measured at console or in church/auditorium? And how loud can an organ be and still remain musical? Examples please! Contrabombarde (conflict of interest: my alias' name!)
  2. I've been rumbled...yep, it was the 2003 Fisk in Lausanne Cathedral. Ear-shatteringly loud from the mobile console halfway down the nave, so maybe it's as well I wasn't up in the organ loft. I wonder if Health and Safety have made earplugs obligatory for organists up in the loft directly under the chamades? Seriously, it's got to be easily the loudest organ I've ever played. And as nobody was objecting, and indeed I had quite a crowd of japanese tourists surrounding me at one point, I thought I'd get my money's worth out of the Guillmant sonata in particular. Apologiies if I disturbed you, at ful pelt you could probably hear it from the UK! Still, you only live once (twice?) and one's gotta have a bit of fun now and again. Beats flying Concorde, that's for sure;-) I can see another thread coming along here...
  3. The Continentals seem rather less enamoured with pistons than we Brits. For instance the British versions of Johannus organs have pistons to each manual plus toe pistons whereas the continental version only have around 8 generals. That has become my biggest (only?) peeve with my own 3-decker, as I hadn't appreciated how limited that can be, and how often I might want to change one manual's registration without affecting the rest of the organ. There again, I only have 40-odd stops to contend with. Yesterday, attending a service in a cathedral in Switzerland, I got chatting with the organist after the service who calmly said "take it away - there's the Off switch after you've had enough"...and went home. Four hours later... But the five-manual beast in question, with well over 100 stops had just 12 generals, under the Positif, and a sequencer. OK, so there were thirty levels of memory, but most were locked and I couldn't figure out how to operate the memory. Nor did any series of pistons appear to have a remotely intelligent series of combinations. Nevertheless I rompted around some of the French romantic repertoire, but couldn't help but wish for a more comprehensive series of pistons. Its redeeming feature was that at least it had a general crescendo. Anyway, I certainly can't complain about the instrument - it's not every day one gets to spend half a day with such an amazing creature! Incidentally, an unrelated question, and probably for another thread - why build a 5 manual organ with 120-odd stops, down to 32' on the Great and 64' on the pedals, with mechanical action and a mobile console in the nave? Nothing wrong with 5-manual organs, but it seems the mechanical console a few hundred feet up level with the triforium arches is hardly ever used. And my experience of Birmngham and Manchester halls has been that the mechanical action consoles there are seemingly never used either. Why go to the engineering trouble, cost and design restrictions of a massive mechanical action organ only to then only ever use the obligatory mobile console? Contrabombarde
  4. I enjoyed playing Redcliffe, but being slightly different, of the organs in Bristol one of my favourites to play is actually the cathedral...at Clifton!
  5. When our lovely 3 manual Bishop found itself looking wistfully up at the sky after the church roof came off thanks to the famous Birmingham tornado we were offered £1000 by a Dutch firm who specialised in buying up old Victorian British organs and fully restoring and relocating them; or a higher figure for scrap and conversaion into an extension organ. PCC, DOA and myself were unanimous in rejecting the higher offer and observed a very professional removal. Initially £1000 didn't sound a lot compared to the half million or so originally the instrument would cost to build in today's currency, but on realising how blessed we were to have a sympathetic buyer I think we actually did extremely well out of the tornado. As the organ was already in a perilous condition and would not have had any money spent when it eventually died, for it to be completely restored, albeit in new surroundings, was an opportunity we could not afford to pass on.
  6. There's yet more to my tale...as I have recently accepted a job in Africa for a couple of years and the pile of wood and metal at my local church died last Easter Sunday (the blower was disconnected during Holy Week during church building works and the first I knew of it was the prolonged silence that followed the vicar's Easter greeting and announcement "The organ will now Humn XX"!!!). Faced with renting my house out to a non-organist I have decided to lend the church my organ whilst I am away. I'm dreading getting it out the door, but at least I took the precaution of planing the doorframe down a full cm after I installed the organ for such time as I might part company with it...And it's a chance for the church to decide whether to get the pipe organ fixed or invest in a decent electronic. I guess the latter is more appropriate for a church with very limited funds that uses the organ only for the early Sunday service and major events like weddings and funerals. The only thing is, I suspect we will end up playing mine through the church PA system (though it is pretty hefty and does a good job with the worship band). Contrabombarde
  7. I should add that I flew over to Holland for the day on a cheap flight to check out the instument before I bought it. The dealer was a few minutes' out of Amsterdam airport. The cost of shipping it over to the UK was almost negligible, but on the morning of the Great Day when the lorry pulled up outside my house, the driver looked on in dismay and disbelief to my answer to his question "Where's the forklift?" The organ had come in an enormous cardbox box containing console, pedals and bench, and was on a wooden palatte. It had been loaded onto the lorry at the local depot by forklift, and it wasn't coming out any other way. After frantic phone calls to the depot, we decided it would go back (the Midlands warehouse for this particular shipping company was only a couple of miles away from my house). I went to the depot to take all the bits out the big box and arranged for a piano removal firm who had experience of moving organs, to pick up the three pieces and drive them to my house. It was when we got stuck trying to get the console through the door that I wondered whether there was any point to life... Happily we did get it through. Only to then realise that the radiator on the wall closest to the door was too close to the door to let the organ through. At which point I knew there was no point to life. Happily, by this time a couple of friends had arrived as well as the two guys driving the piano van, and the five of us managed to lift the console over the radiator and into position. But I reinforce the lesson: measure every possible corner. Make a paper cutout of the maximum area and try manoevering it around your doorways. Once you get a 3-manual into the house it scores so many points over a 2-manual for purposes of practice and overall playing satisfaction. But for goodness sake, make sure it will fit! I think that the Viscount 3-manuals are narrower (70cm) than Johannus Opus (74cm) which are narrower than Johannus Sweelinck/Rembrandt (75cm). A British doorframe is typically 75cm. Incidentally, coming back to importation costs, it cost me substantially more to have it driven 2 miles from the importer's warehouse to my house, than the several hundred miles from Holland to Birmingham...
  8. Interesting thread, and actually quite difficult insofar as it risks showing all sorts of examples of poor taste for which I could be flamed! Please allow me to indulge in sharing some of my all time favourites (how interesting to see so little duplication in above posts). There's something of a bias towards instruments I've actually played, rather than merely heard of in person or by reputation, which cuts out most cathedral instruments! Cat 1 Best small organ (2 manuals under 20 stops) Haven't played many one manuals, though I love the 1755 Snetzler in Clare College Chapel, Cambridge. There's a delightful little 2-manual Walker of early 1830s in the tiny parish church of Shearsby, Leicestershire; I'm also very partial to the Gern/Arthur Harrison 2-manual at St. John's Keswick. Cat 2 Best medium-size instrument (Up to about 40 speaking stops - any number of manuals) So many to choose from, but for starters what about Dunblane Cathedral Flentrop, or off the beaten track, St Peter's Belper (1855 Holt 3-manual), and St Bees' Priory Father Willis? Cat 3 Best large organ (about 40 - 100 stops) As church organs go how about St Mary Redcliff's Harrison for the romantic repertoire and the Marylebone Reiger for baroque? Cat 4 Best very large organ (100+ stops) Not much choice here as I believe only St Paul's Cathedral, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, RAH and St George's Hall have over 100 stops. Cat 5 Best cathedral organ Unconventional choice perhaps, but how about the Clifton Cathedral Rieger? Ooooh, far too different, but a joy to play. OK then, perhaps more "straight", Lichfield (though I haven't heard it since last rebuilt). I recently had a go on Liverpool Metropolitan's organ and was pretty impressed given the poor reputation 1960s organ design seems to be remembered for. Cat 6 Best city/town hall organ As Leicester has already been mentioned, may I make a plug for the Harrison at Caird Hall, Dundee? And I've only heard, not played, Manchester Bridgewater Hall but it sounded pretty good to me (I gather it's been slated for being too quiet, but sitting up in the gods I thought I got my money's worth listening to Wayne Marshall drowning out the orchestra with the Jongen symphony concertante). Cat 7 The best of the best None of the above...if I could take one organ to Heaven with me when I die it would have to be the Armley Schulze. Why, oh why, does this instrument not have (at least the last time I looked), a historic organ certificate??? If it had a 32 foot reed it would be perfect ;-) Contrabombarde
  9. I've enjoyed my Johannus 3 manual for a couple of years now, and frankly the extra versatility of having a choir/positive is gold-dust. That said, for goodness sake if getting a three manual, make sure it will fit comfortably through your door. Mine wouldn't go through as the doorframe, being slightly bowed in with age, was narrowest at keyboard height. Cue van blocking road, organ stuck halfway through front door (with door taken off doorframe) and me madly planing away the frame to get it narrow enough to go through with neighbours looking on in disbelief. If you really want the most organ for your money, there are many times more second hand instruments available in Holland on a Dutch organ auction website or dealer websites and the price can be lower than the UK. I sourced mine from a dealer in Holland, and even with transport and swapping straight flat for conc- rad pedals, I got my 3 manual Johannus for under £3k. There is also an internet directory of second-hand French electronic organs if you want the French sound. Regards, Contrabombarde
  10. I generally use slippers at home. I don't find playing in socks that easy, partly because of the lack of heel but mainly because I kep stubbing my toes on the black notes and it's painful! Though the triple pedalling at the end of Guillemant I is easier with the extra flexion afforded in socks. When buying shoes I try to find ones with as thin a sole as possible that doesn't look so thin it will fall apart. Increasingly difficult as soles seem to be getting thicker. But I don't carry organ shoes with me and so expect that if I find myself playing somewhere, I should expect to play in whatever shoes I'm wearing. I prefer rubber soles and heels - indeed the one organ playing pair of shoes I once bought I don't care for much as the leather sole is too slippery for me. But they are incredibly lightweight. Weight, and thinness of sole is for me paramount.
  11. I'm leaving these (British) shores in the autumn to take up a job with a relief organisation (no pun intended) in the north-east Democratic Republic of Congo. I can't for one minute imaging there are any working organs in DRC (if there are, they're probably a few thousand miles downriver in Kinshasa, though depending on weight limits I might be able to pack a 5 octave keyboard). So I wonder if anyone knows of organs in east Africa that I might be able to try out and hopefully get some practice on? Every few weeks I'll be travelling to Kampala, and hope to get to Nairobi too. South Africa is a longshot though I guess there would be something in Joburg. What about Malawi or Tanzania? Oh, and if anyone fancies a bit of restoration, I have come across this instrument that's in need of rather a lot of TLC at a gamepark in Kenya: http://www.voxlancastria.org.uk/stopt.htm Contrabombarde
  12. Thanks for the Organ Extravaganza link - I've ordered the CD and look forward to receiving it some time in the next few months. The program is almost the same as my tape with a couple of additions though piece lengths are somewhat different so I only hope, if Dudman re-recorded it, that he included the same stupendous cadenza. I've never heard anything like it elsewhere and at the risk of being barred from these fora I'd say JSB would have been proud of it!
  13. Does this qualify as a house organ? http://organ.wicks.com/display_page?p=145&a=5 Ranked 20th in the world, over 11,000 pipes...that guy must have one big living room. Not so much, "there's an organ in my house" as "there's a house around my organ".
  14. There are so many good recordings (sigh) - but - Two that I couldn't live without on my desert island and that haven't already been listed would be: 1. Thomas Heywood: Who needs an orchestra. Deservedly an Editor's Choice some while back in OR, this guy is transcribing and recording the complete Beethoven symphonies. I can't believe noone's ever done it before, but WNAO takes transcription to a new level wth Beethoven V. Unmissable. 2. Michael Dudman: Sydney Opera House. One of the first recordings I ever had, and so far as I know only on cassette, which is a shame as I've played it over again to the point of destruction. I remember it, not just because of the brilliant execution of a diverse program, but in particular for the Bach Passagaglia. Just when you think you've come to the end of it, at the suspenseful Db major chord, off he goes on a journey of discovery with an extraordinary and flamboyant cadenza lasting easily a minute. You just think "where on earth did that come from". Definiately not something to include in a competition performance, but it might be nice to hear once in a while just to remind oneself of what an exceptional piece the Pasacaglia is and to stir you out of complacency. I gather that E Power Biggs made a recording inserting a cadenza at this point but I've never heard it and wonder whether it's the one Dudman used; anyway, whosever it is, I want to borrow it! Contrabombarde
  15. Streuth! That Widor Youtube just totally cracked me up. I think I just fractured a rib laughing. I once gave a recital in which the final piece was a duet (William Tell) played with my pageturner to great amusement. I'm planning on a recital in a few week's time - will someone dare me to play the Widor duet with them as an encore???
  16. Regarding the suggestion of playing Widor's toccata, one idea for Big Brova would be playing WT as fast as humanly possible after consuming apprpriate quantities of alcohol. I assume you it can be done, note perfectly, though the cameras on Big Brova might be a hindrance. Tip: when everyone else is getting merry and you are being offered a double whisky beforehand, surrepticiously swap it for something teetotal that looks similar, apple juice will do. Then stun your friends by playing perfectly when you should be far too drunk to even get onto the bench. I've done it, and sure is an impressive stunt.
  17. I was once asked to play, as the retiring voluntary for a friend's wedding, John William's The Throne Room (from Star Wars) - starting off with trumpet flourish so could initially be confused for Mendlessohn's wedding march. I'll spare the groom the embarressment of further identification in case he's on these forums as he is a cathedral organist!
  18. My former organ at Christ Church Sparkbrook (3-man 1877 Bishop) had a Choir suboctave to Great coupler (but no unison C-G). Actually really quite useful as it was the only way of getting a 16 foot effect on full Great. Never seen this anywhere else. Contrabombarde
  19. Not an organ tale as such, as I discovered the church didn't actually have an organ so I was left playing a ropey old piano, but I once played for a wedding for which the bride was forty five minutes late. I'd not brought much music with me, principally the ubiquitous Favourite Wedding and Funeral Tunes ilk, and having already played each of the wedding themes at least twice over, with a deep sigh and improvisation block that day, delicately launched into a Funeral March. During which the bride showed up.
  20. Is this a dangerous thread for an organists' forum? Not far from where I live in Birmingham there was a rather splendid Johannus installed the year before last - three manual, horseshoe terraced illuminated drawstop console, French spec and Cavaile-Coll samples. Thrilling sound, and with the unfortunate exception of a few ranks that did sound slightly synthetic, most of the time it was fairly indistinguishable from the real thing. When I went searching for a practice instrument I ended up buying second hand from a dealer in Amsterdam. I was looking for a three manual instrument and even secondhand the prices and choice in the UK were severely limited. I spent under £3 grand including transport for a digital, modified by Johannus to give me a concave radiating pedalboard instead of the original straight flat. Iin the showroom I compared it against a recent (late 1990s) Sweelinck, new Rembrandt and new Monarke. IMHO it wasn't much different from the Sweelinck in sound and half the price. The (drawstop) Rembrandt three manual was a step above the Sweelinck in sound, but the Monarke was clearly the best of the lot - there again it is the luxury end of the Johannus range, but I think at that sort of price the position of the speakers actually makes the difference. For with the Rembrandt, sound was coming out from the kneeboard; with the Monarke the speakers were above the music stand pointing towards the ceiling. Even so, the price was under £10k for a two-manual, white-on-black wooden keys, wood drawstops etc baroque console style. From my limited experience I would certainly countenance a Johannus again, and am currently looking at options for my church (inner city, un-noteworthy and inadequate pipe organ died and a decent electronic could be ours for half the cost of restporing the pipe instrument. It might even inspire some of our young members to learn, who understandably think the present instrument is a pile of junk... Pricewise Johannus seemed to compare favourably, though I should add that I was quite astonished at the range and (low) prices of used digital organs from a number of manufacturers and dealers in Holland. It might seem a bit extreme to go looking for secondhand organs on the Continent, but in the end I discovered several dealers and websites that listed a much wider range of digital organs, and at much keener prices, than I've ever seen in the UK. Has anyone else done this?
  21. I love these tales! May I add an anecdote about the worst wedding I ever played for? It was on a very dilapidated 1930s Rushworth that clearly hadn't been played for a very long time. A few weeks before the wedding I met the couple (friends of mine) in the church to demonstrate different possible voluntaries etc. Apart from intermittent ciphers, at one point the organ suddenly developed the most remarkable banshee wail that initially I thought must be a treble tromba ciphering - but it continued with all stops in and was out of tune with the Great tromba. I discovered on entering the organ that a flap of reservoir leather was torn and every so often popped out under wind pressure causing the shrill noise. More problems developed on the morning of the wedding whilst rehearsing with the choir, until in despair I dispatched a bass to go off to the local B&Q with a shopping list of emergency repair items such as duck tape and superglue. Thus in the interlude before the start of the wedding I found myself crawling arond the inside of the organ in my best suit taping over the cracked leather of the Great reservoir and hoping it wouldn't pop out again during the service. (Note: if any organ builders are watching this forum, could you please let me know if what I did was unforgivable vandalism or heroic salvage? I'd hate to think I caused expensive damage to the instrument wth a botched repair). Five mintes before the bride was due, horror of horrors, the ivory of the Great Middle C fell off. I found it too difficult to play without an ivory (the bride was coming in to the Hallelujah Chorus and exiting to Widor) so I decided to liberally apply the remaining superglue to the underside of the ivory and stick it back on again. Except that I put a bit too much on and found that not only was Middle C now stuck to B and D, but my left hand was stuck to Middle C. I managed to unstick it all eventually and the wedding passed off, mercifully, without any further embarressment. But I've never been back to the church again and hope I never have to. Oh rats, I just discoved our curate's been posted there and wants us all to come to his induction service... Contrabombarde (new to the forums - I've posted a bit about me on Introduce Yourself).
  22. Hi everybody! I chose the name Contrabombarde, not because I'm contrary (most of the time) or bombastic (hope not), but I have to confess it is my favourite stop on organs that have one (used in moderation of course!) In reality my name is David (Pitches); I originally studied organ at Manchester Grammar under Andrew Dean, then was an organ scholar at King's College London where I studied medicine. For the last seven years I've been living and working as a doctor in Birmingham, during which time I've seen the demise of no fewer than two church organs. Firstly Christ Church Sparkbrook, which did have a rather nice if dilapidated 3-manual Bishop of 1877 untill two summers ago when a tornado literally raised the roof. Lots of frantic emailing around the world led to a Dutch firm who bought the organ from us to save, restore and relocate. I made a valedictory recording of the instument before the rains came, with part of the organ chamber open to the sky and me having to wear a hard hat for safety. Having moved up the road to St Christopher's, the organ there recently died too - this time due to building works next the the church that evidently required the demolition of the blower house. I just wish somebody had told me before I started to play the first hymn on Easter Sunday... The instrument in question is a small Ingram with some Hill pipework; once again I'm trying to get it rehoused. For practice I have a three manual Johannus at home (complete with 32 foot reed of course). I'm not sure that on these forums it's considered polite to mention electronic organs but I wouldn't swap it for anything... Contrabombarde Later this year I expect to be moving abroad to work with a medical charity (to central Africa - anyone know of any decent organs there?) but while I'm able to I'd like to be able to join in the chat on these forums - thanks for welcoming me!
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