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Vox Humana

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  1. Ah yes, of course. I should have remembered that. Thank you. I did read something, somewhere, though mentioning a date of c.1500. Maybe it's just the word 'stop' that makes it's first appearance around then. Or maybe I'm just completely confused! 🙂
  2. Tangential query: When do we get the first mention of stops? So far as I know, it's as late as c.1500.
  3. The discovery is not that new, apparently. https://jeremymontagu.co.uk/Bethlehem organ J L-D.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3zPGz7gVRVWazI12dYlcMqRE3rrOqLCY9nJfgD7zwUELkQDc9oDFjShdY
  4. https://aleteia.org/2021/07/24/reconstructing-a-12th-century-pipe-organ-discovered-in-the-holy-land/?fbclid=IwAR203wjhaOKBT_TykcFvZ2VhXcLm6ggOx4syk96oXumdEac4M9F_biINU8E
  5. The trouble is that incumbent organists always seem to be adamant that the alterations they want are 'needed', irrespective of what others think. A case in point is the two-manual Father Willis I mentioned above. I could mention other cases, as I am sure we all could.
  6. The first organ I ever set my mitts on was a humble II/P parish church Father Willis, still in original condition. It was, of course, of Rolls Royce quality, but, being buried in a brick organ chamber in a sizeable and very lofty church with a dead acoustic, it was barely adequate for the job, especially the small Swell, which was largely ineffective when the congregation was singing. Inevitably a later organist had it rebuilt in the '70s, much to my regret. I have to say that the firm (Deane's) did a very good and musically artistic job (and left the Great mostly untouched), but it's hardly a Father Willis any more. One of the wonderfully chameleon characteristics of the Windsor organ was that full organ could sound either English or French as you wished, depending on which stops you used. The Swell reeds, the Solo Orchestral Clarion and the Pedal Trombone had French shallots, although tonally the Swell reeds were more English Channel than either pure French or English. So, for Whitlock, say, your full organ would consist of full Great and Swell, but the moment you added the Solo Trumpets the sound would take on a distinctly French flavour. Coventry was almost a twin of Windsor, specification-wise, the main differences being (1) that its Solo division is another chorus, rather than Windsor's more traditional selection of solo voices and (2) it doesn't have a Chair Organ. Apart from that it was (IMO) probably the better organ in that the whole thing was newly constructed and therefore had a tonal integrity that Windsor lacked in one or two places owing to the use of second-hand material. Playing it felt rather different, due to the detached console, but, from what I remember (from a fleeting acquaintance) the sound was quite similar, even down to the Solo Trumpets. I'm not at all up to date with Coventry, but, so far as I know, it is still largely untouched, except that the Solo trumpets have been revoiced.
  7. For all that there is a growing opinion that organs should be left alone, it takes only one person to compromise, or destroy, one on the grounds that certain things need 'improving'. No organ is safe. I'm no better than anyone else. There is not one organ that I have known intimately, which I would not have 'improved' in some little way, had the money and opportunity been available, even if it were only replacing a stop with a similar one of better quality. How many organs do we now have on which it is possible to hear Stanley and Boyce voluntaries exactly as the composers heard them? - i.e. organs that have had no alterations or reconstructions whatsoever. Not many, I think. It's not only Britain. The late Prof Peter Williams, always one for challenging assumptions and making people think, once wrote that he could not be entirely sure how an Arp Schnitger organ originally sounded. No doubt someone will have mentioned Cappel, to which I have no doubt that Williams pointed out that it was not voiced for the church that now houses it. Perhaps he was splitting hairs, but, along the same lines, all the organs at which Bach presided have been lost. How sad is that? The reconstruction at Arnstadt is precisely that; it is not the organ that Bach played. The neo-Baroque movement of the '50s and '60s is now seriously out of favour - to put it mildly. I am tempted to suggest that this is because it was espoused primarily by certain leading players of the time who prized clarity of texture and genuine, idiomatic organ music above vague, stodgy effect. A good benchmark was the end of the Adagio of BWV 564: you could judge how musical an organ was by how clearly you could hear the semiquavers just before the final chord. The iconic, eclectic instruments of that era are gradually disappearing. Buckfast Abbey has gone, replaced by an instrument generally considered to be inferior, and St George's Windsor, possibly the most eclectic of them all, has been significantly compromised, with its French elements removed. We still have Gloucester, St Alban's, Coventry and Brompton Oratory (only the latter unaltered), but for how much longer? And where does the RFH fit into this picture? Some of these organs are idiosyncratic, to say the least, but they are part of our musical heritage and, as such, ought to be preserved. Today orchestral arrangements and the old 'town hall' style of entertainment is in fashion. This is also part of our musical heritage, but that is no excuse for forcing every instrument to confirm.
  8. I am sure you did not intend to make it sound as though it is the bishop's fault. It is at least good to know that this issue has been aired. The PUSS's dead-bat answers to the various questions posed really just demonstrated what little understanding the government has of this issue and how little it cares. What has the government got against amateur singers? So far as I can ascertain, their decision is based on slender evidence consisting of that well-known incident in the USA at the start of the pandemic, where an unmasked choir taking no precautions caused an outbreak of infections, bolstered by a couple of other studies, one of them in Australia. Anything more?
  9. Perhaps that begs questions about current attitudes to music tuition in state schools in our governments and to church-going and choirs amongst the general public. A complicated picture, I suspect. The days when ordinary parish church choirs had large enough top lines to breed a steady trickle of organists seem long over.
  10. Does that price suggest effectively a new organ? One wouldn't come amiss...
  11. Perhaps it's also worth mentioning that football spectators still need to be socially distanced with total numbers limited to 25% of the stadium's capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000. What actually happens in practice I can't say as I have no interest in the sport. But why socially distanced amateur choirs are not also allowed I cannot guess, except that it seems entirely typical of the Keystone Cops style of government we have had to endure.
  12. It's fine for me. (I'm using a desktop.)
  13. I can only echo the comments above. We have lost an exceptional organist who was always worth hearing.
  14. And does it contain a fugue? But of course! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JerkzA43OI
  15. I was thinking only the other day that he has fallen out of favour. A pity that, as his organ sonatas are all first rate and very well written for the instrument - although IMO they are very much better suited to neo-classical organs than the Romantic ones he apparently had in mind. Hearing his organ concerto (played by Marie-Claire Alain, I think) on what was probably still then called 'The Third Programme' was the first Hindemith I ever heard. I was totally unprepared for his style of chromaticism. It remains the only time a piece of music has given me motion sickness.
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