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Vox Humana

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. Does that price suggest effectively a new organ? One wouldn't come amiss...
  7. 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.
  8. It's fine for me. (I'm using a desktop.)
  9. I can only echo the comments above. We have lost an exceptional organist who was always worth hearing.
  10. And does it contain a fugue? But of course! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JerkzA43OI
  11. 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.
  12. Indeed it was—in 1971. https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio3/entries/7a95ff16-7e1e-368b-9e7e-e28114fca08b
  13. This interpretation of the 'Dorian' is right on the nail for me. Speed, articulation and organ all first class. I do like the way Leo van Doeselaar carries the trill on the top E in bar 29 to carry right through to the end - but it's a pig to do; it took me weeks to get it right.
  14. Hells bells, and I thought I played the 'Dorian' toccata fast. It works, though. Nice organ, too. One thought. Shouldn't the canonic chorale in O Lamm Gottes BWV 618 be double pedalled? Bach's MS seems to imply this, or at lease permits this interpretation. The chorale parts are notated at sounding pitch so must be played an octave lower on a 4' stop.
  15. Guidance is there for people's safety - in theory, anyway. Throughout this pandemic people have been ignoring governmental safety advice when they find it inconvenient. Nothing new there. But the issue here is: why is the government treating amateur singers and professionals differently? What is the logic? I can guess, but had better not do so here.
  16. The composer Lord Berkeley had something to say about this to the House of Lords last Tuesday (starting from 19:04:20 in the link): https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/7ef38a00-f644-4567-bb19-090a97b48563?fbclid=IwAR2XSEj0O18VA6hq9KiKHhP0CYyhzY52rueThXWhn7IqViToVQbMbTqQWuU
  17. It's great! I used to look forward to that when it appeared in the music lists of my youth. Does anyone still do it? As I recall, it's not difficult and the ascetic texture (basically two-part, S+T, A+B ) makes for a pleasant change.
  18. So the recitative intro in CfC3 is a Willcocks confection then?
  19. Here is 'Wengen'. It was more tricky to find than I expected! https://archive.org/details/hymnsancientmode0000unse/page/552/mode/2up
  20. O little town of Bethlehem Perhaps the standard hymn book of the Church of England at the end of the nineteenth century was Hymns Ancient and Modern. This was first published in 1861. In 1875 some 'Supplemental Hymns' were added and, in 1889, yet more in a 'Second Supplement'. This second supplement included the carol 'O little town of Bethlehem' to Walford Davies's tune 'Wengen'. I do not know whether this was its first publication, but searching other hymn books (many of which are online in the Internet Archive) would likely be the best place to test this. His tune 'Christmas Carol' appeared in the hymn book Songs of Praise (Oxford University Press), at least in the second edition (I do not have the first and neither seems to be available online). Songs of Praise gives just a plain, four-part arrangement of the tune with this name. Who gave the tune the name 'Christmas Carol' I do not know. Walford Davies's 'original version' is reprinted (from where I don't know), without any name for the tune, in Carols for Choirs 3 (Oxford University Press, 1978). This original version starts with a recitative introduction and the first two verses are unison or solo.
  21. Yes, it seems to have keeled over. It was working when I posted - I checked the link.
  22. I have mentioned this organ before. Rebuilt out of all recognition a few years ago, it was one of Hele's (or was it Dicker's?) more interesting efforts, being, for its modest size, a surprisingly effective orchestral concept. The reeds were not loud. Adding the Swell Cornopean to a flue ensemble gave the effect a whole orchestral string section joining the ensemble. The Great Trumpet was also more of colouring agent than a climax stop. No high pressure stop, it was quite thin toned—just the thing, in fact, for English Baroque trumpet voluntaries. As a solo stop it was quite useless. Until you added the Gt Open Diapason. This both filled out the tone and blended perfectly, producing a perfectly adequate, louder solo Trumpet. The problem then was that you didn't have all that much left with which to accompany it. I am not sure how well this ploy would work with louder, fuller-toned Trumpet stops: I've never had to try it.
  23. I think the answer to that is 'on the whole, very well': http://trinitycollegechapel.com/services/service-list-archive/ No music is fatally compromised by a lack of 32's and there is more than enough quality music out there that doesn't require a Tuba. But sometimes you just wish...:
  24. Having played St John's for a choir concert, what I can say is that it is somewhat underpowered—a result, I am led to believe, of the pipework being crammed into a relatively small space. I do like to be able to use the Sw Celestes on their own, but this was quite impractical with a choir singing. Of course one adjusts one's registration and you have to expect any organ to have its individual quirks—isn't that part of the fun? On that brief acquaintance, I thought it a fine instrument and comfortable to play. But I don't doubt that, if I had to play it daily, I would become aware of a greater range of drawbacks. I don't have that intimate knowledge, so I'm in no position to judge. Nevertheless I wonder how that Willis will fit in. I hope it won't go to the opposite extreme.
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