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Mander Organs


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Everything posted by Contrabombarde

  1. I have a confession to make: I wasn't in the mood for anything serious last Friday evening so sat down with a glass of something to waste two hours of my life watching Kingsman II: the Golden Circle. I had to sit through the entire film to wait for the most interesting scene which was in the final minute when I discovered that Elton John is secretly a church organist. No, seriously. Elton John was playing himself (!) on the organ of Greenwich Naval College Chapel at the wedding of the two principal characters. I shudder to think what his wedding fees are?
  2. There are several large pipe organs in Nigeria (Christ Church Cathedral Lagos has a four manual Oberlinger and Abuja has a large organ in the Christian centre) so you might well find a 32 footer lurking around but specifications seem hard to pin down. You ruled out acoustic 32s in your question but the 1950s 3+P Walker in the Anglican cathedral in Nairobi Kenya has an Acoustic Bass 32. East Africa may not have any 32 foot stops but does manage to have a few musical gems nevertheless. There is a really rather lovely 2+P Positive organ from the 1930s in Uganda's Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala which is well maintained by Peter Wells and recently had a 16 foot reed added to the pedals, undoubtedly the stunning acoustics of this brick cathedral help magnify the organ's sound. And there is a small but charming 2+P Father WIllis in the Anglican Cathedral in Zanzibar, again nowhere near big enough to sport a 32 foot but also rather lovely. When I last visited it, the organist provided me with a mechanical assistant to stand inside the case to rectify all the sticking trackers as I was playing!
  3. Not just pneumatics that take up space - there is a colossal void the size of a large room behind the console of the great organ of Liverpool Cathedral where the electric relays (combination or couplers, I don't remember) used to be before solid state rendered them redundant. I expect you could put an entire pipework division in it if the cathedral intended to enlarge the organ even further!
  4. Interesting comment from John above - I didn't know that any organbuilder's workforce would ever routinely check blood lead levels but kudos for doing so (and hopefully in the process helping to nail the regrettable proposed lead organ pipe ban a few years ago by demonstrating that you had no increased occupational exposure). Of course there are hazards with organs - at least one tuner has fallen to their death from the top of a pipe (Westminster Cathedral) and theoretically a humidifier could be a source of Legionella and bugs could be dispersed throughout the pipes of an organ - though I'm not aware that's ever been reported! Would it be advantageous for all organs to have at least a thin (acoustically transparent) covering over the unenclosed divisions, if not a solid wood roof that projected sound forward, just to keep dust, roof plaster etc from settling inside pipes? How does one best protect an organ from getting covered with dust over time, other than a decent filter over the blower? (And checking periodically the condition of the blower filter - I know of one organ that was disposed of as the winding was so inadequate. It was assumed the reservoirs and action must have terminal leaks. During the dismantling, the blower was decommissioned and found to have so much dust clogging the filter it was a wonder any pipes had managed to speak, but it was too late to stop the dismantling by that stage as a replacement organ was already being assembled in the building!)
  5. At the risk of totally derailing the thread I went on an "organ crawl" many years ago arranged by the local organists' association on a dreary wet day to visit two equally uninspiring instruments. The first at least had the advantage of having recently been rebuilt with a solid state electric action, but our visit had to be curtailed prematurely after it blew a fuse during the first player's performance and nothing could be done to get it going until the builders/electricians could be contacted during the following week. The second organ started off not much better, an ageing tracker action with cyphers on each of its manuals. These were rapidly fixed by one of the organ crawlers lifting up the music desk or clambering into the case I forget which, and the show was back on the road. Elsewhere I have regaled the story of the church I played a wedding at, and had to send a member of the choir with a fast car down to the nearest B&Q during the choir practice immediately before the wedding with a shopping list of Superglue and duct tape to patch up the appalling wind leaks coming from the reservoir and undertake various other emergency repairs such as the ivory falling off Great Middle C (and before anyone asks, I'm an amateur musician, not an organbuilder, so goodness only knows what damage I must have caused running duct tape over the cracks in the reservoirs.) However, much to my amazement and satisfaction the organ was still working five years later for another wedding I played at, except that during the Widor I managed to knock the Great ivory off again :-) Back to Malvern - I was visiting only last week and have played it since the rebuild which I thought was fantastic including lashings of lush softer stuff. However, I do believe that at their best, British organbuilders churned out some pretty fine Romantic warhorses in the first half the 20th century and I'd love to meet the Foghorn one day.
  6. I'm pretty sure I know the organ Colin alludes to above as its description is hard to disguise! I wasn't aware the flues had been revoiced and I'm not sure why the Choir Dulciana or its Pedal duplex had to go either but I do recall comparisons being drawn with Armley which was restored at around the same time. In the latter case the pneumatic action was retained but rather than revoice the organ which would have been criminally reckless, the soundboards were moved around to ease sound projection, just as the soundboards in the other instrument were moved partly to improve projection and partly to ease internal access, and the result seems to have been very successful. As for the question as to why cathedral organs seem to have frequent rebuilds, I do wonder whether it's largely related to the type of action used. It seems to me that large organs with mechanical action are far less susceptible to major rebuilds than organs with electric action (think of the various three and four manual organs installed in concert halls over the past say 40 years, how many if any have had any significant changes or additions to their specification? Then think how many large cathedral organs with electric action haven't had significant changes over that same time period). You can't just add a whole load of new stops to a mechanical organ, usually the case won't be big enough to cram in any extra pipework and even if there was the space, you couldn't easily enlarge the soundboards to accommodate extra stops. Yet something like St Paul's Cathedral started off life as a (by today's standards) small three manual, and whilst the case is still there, most of the present organ is anywhere but inside the case, and that's only possible thanks to electric transmission.
  7. And I presume blowing into a metal flue risks lead poisoning!
  8. Interesting development, thanks for sharing and nice to know of the Walker organ's successful relocation. Is the intention to keep the new organ where it has been installed (a bit off-centre to the pillars, and some way in front of the old pipescreen judging by the photo) or would it be pushed back in due course? And I do worry a bit about organs whose pipes are within reach of curious or malicious hands, I hope the church is either locked or attended at all times! What's the plan for the old Jardine, or is there nothing worth saving there? Organ scholarships are available in several Scottish universities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, At Andrews, Dundee and Aberdeen. I was an organ scholar at King's College London and this position still exists. Some of these are open only to music students whilst others accept more diverse applications - I read medicine for example.
  9. I think pneumatic actions are fascinating mechanically but can't help wondering whether they would ever have existed if electricity was more advanced in the second half of the nineteenth century, or if the desire for ever bigger and higher windpressure organs during that period had been delayed just a decade or two. Since the time of the Great Exhibition experiments were being done to connect keyboards electrically with pipes and one of the earliest organs to be built with an electric action was by Bryceson for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in the 1860s. Had these actions been just a little more robust I suspect tubular pneumatic actions would never have needed to have been developed and organs like Bristol would have built from the start with some sort of electric action.
  10. Oh dear, a thread appears about an exciting new Italian pipe organ and half the posts seem to be about various types of toasters (in the case of the Comptons, you probably could use them to make toast...) On the topic of toasters however, i wonder if they have ever been used in a big space when designing a pipe organ to test how the acoustics would vary depending on its siting? Of course an organ designer could do the same experiment just as easily with a few big speakers hauled around the church. Given the (probably rare) situation where there is a genuine choice of locations in which to install a pipe organ in a building, how does one go about determining the most suitable location, bearing in mind the comments attributed to John Norman at Pershore Abbey above?
  11. As an addendum to the Buckfast thread, I was minded to look at Ruffati's website which explains research they have done to create a much more effective "hyperdynamic" swell box with much better seals between the shutters. It also mentions a device in the box which somehow reduces the volume further when the box is shut, I wonder what that might be?
  12. Curious specification. What would be the purpose of a 4/5 mutation on the Positive? Why two flutes on the Great (plus Principal)? And are there any rules around what fractions mutations are written at - on the Great there's a 3 foot twelve, yet on the Positive an octave higher is a larigot at 1/1/3 not 1/1/2.
  13. I seem to recall hearing about an organ that survived fire damage because the previous visiting organist had forgotten to leave the box open - there are advantages to having tightly fitting shutters! Can anyone remind me of the instrument in question? On a related note (excuse the pun; the question relates to air pressure), if you play a note with no stops drawn, then release the note, the wind pressure in the channel below the pipes will equalise with that of the bellows. If you release the note and immediately draw a stop would the increased wind pressure directly under the pipe be sufficient for the pipe to speak transiently? On some organs I've seen what look like tiny holes drilled into the side of the windchest, would those be designed to equalise the air pressure, or would that lead to excessive wind leakage?
  14. Reminds me of a comment I heard once from someone bemoaning the fact the new organ had to be so big when it only had perhaps a couple of dozen pipes. They clearly hadn't appreciated that there were far more pipes in it than on it!
  15. Birmingham's Central Methodist Hall is home to a large three manual Walcker which was originally built for a church in Germany, and was brought to eh UK in 1903. I played it about 30 years ago and thought it was a very grand, if somewhat tired, creature. Sadly the hall has been disused for many years, having ceased to be a nightclub venue some time after its ecclesiastical function stopped. Today's local paper says that it is to be converted into a new hotel and leisure centre. What particularly struck me in the report was a claim that as part of the refurbishment the organ is to restored. Can anyone shed light on this potentially very welcome news? http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business/commercial-property/neglected-birmingham-landmark-set-hotel-13715984 http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N07419
  16. Just remember when screwing them in that you may need to put a heavy clamp or something over the bottom rest where you are screwing in to stop the wood from splitting!
  17. You really need an organ builder to respond to this one! An American pipe organ parts supplier lists music desks at a "standard 19 degrees", which looks a bit shallow, though I think I've seen elsewhere 17 degrees cited. http://www.organsupply.com/assets/CatalogPDFs/Full-Catalog.pdf My home (Hauptwerk) practice organ has a PC monitor attached to an angled wall mount that is tilted at the maximum the mount permits which is 15 degrees, and I find that acceptable for holding paper music (it has a Perspex sheet in front of the monitor with a flat base for when I play from paper music). Having said that, I can't remember the last time I played from paper music since having everything visible in electronic display has so many advantages I think. So my gut feeling would be anywhere between 15 and 19 degrees. As you have an inclinometer why not try it out on a few different organs and see which feels the most acceptable to you?
  18. So what's the smallest reed pipe that can easily be made (ie how many notes above top C of an 8 foot stop that would be 3 inches long for an open flue)? And a related question - what's the smallest open pipe that can be made? Top C of a five octave keyboard at 2 foot pitch would be 3/4 inch speaking length, and mixtures and mutations higher than 2 foot pitch would normally break at this point. Are any flues made even shorter? Could you have a double length harmonic 1 foot top C that would be 3/4 inch speaking length with a hole halfway up?
  19. Thank you for the explanations about the isolated 16 foot Positive regal, though it seems its purpose is still somewhat a matter of conjecture! If the intention was to create a baroque pseudo-"full swell" effect though, surely the logical place to have put it would have been on the Swell not the Positive?
  20. Could anyone enlighten me as to the purpose of the 16 foot Holzregal on the Positive? I mean, I get having an 8 foot Krumhorn as the only reed on the Positive, though in this case the Krumhorn is on the Hauptwerk instead of a Trompete. But a 16 foot fractional length as the sole reed on a manual? When would you ever use it?
  21. To add a further consideration, don't expect to spend a fortune on a microphone and get outstanding quality without consideration for how you mount it. I bought a fairly expensive mic for my camcorder's camera shoe and was most disappointed with the amount of noise it picked up from people walking around the room and such extraneous vibrations. The solution was surprisingly simple and cheap - a little plastic tube (from Ebay) that clips to the camera shoe and has four elastic bands stretched over it to create a square in the centre of the tube that the mic slips into. Result - no transmitted vibrations and outstanding sound recording.
  22. There are over forty different classical music genres at http://www.classicalradio.com and the audio quality seems to be very good. One such channel is devoted to organ music http://www.classicalradio.com/organworks Perhaps the best known 24/7 station is Organlive, which itself has four different genres: https://www.organlive.com/ http://www.organexperience.com/ http://www.positivelybaroque.com/ plus at Christmas time, there is a dedicated 24/7 Advent and Christmas organ music channel. A wide range of recordings are played; some are of relatively poor audio quality (tape? vinyl) but of merit nonetheless.
  23. Bottazo's Melodia, opus 120 number 4 is very pretty if you are looking for a quiet solo piece.
  24. More about the extraordinary talents of the proud owner of this wonderful instrument here, who just happens to be a Vice President of the Royal College of Organists in addition to running one of the world's busiest airports: http://gulfnews.com/culture/people/i-have-done-planes-trains-and-airports-1.1041977 Total respect!
  25. Plug and play might be asking for problems, but plug, revoice and play? If you could find a rank from another instrument with approximately the right scaling, though quite possibly not the same wind pressure, how much work would have to be done to the pipes to get them to blend appropriately (if indeed it would be possible - though I assume it must be since plenty of old pipework seems to get recycled)?
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