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Mander Organs

Vox Humana

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Everything posted by Vox Humana

  1. Vox Humana

    School choirs and organ suggestions

    Quite a few times! Thinking back to my grammar school days I can remember the school choir singing - and enjoying - the following: Brahms - How lovely is thy dwelling place (from the Requiem) Britten: Noye's Fludde Bach: Christmas Oratorio pt.1 (needs soloists) Bach: Cantata 140: "Wachet auf" (also needs soloists) Other approachable possibilities (but, again, all requiring soloists): Vivaldi: Gloria Vivaldi: Magnificat Pergolesi (attrib.): Magnificat
  2. Vox Humana

    "THE" Toccata

    I add my condolences to those already expressed. If your father liked and wanted the Widor, it is irrelevant whether it is passé or not. Also, given a choice of having it played on Durham Cathedral organ or an ordinary church organ I think I can probably guess which he would have preferred. I am sure you have done the right thing.
  3. There is an interesting thread running in another forum about the standard of organ playing expected these days by conservatoires. Rather to my surprise, considering the general decline of interest in classical music amongst the general populace over the last half-century or so, it was suggested that entry standards are now very much higher than they used to be. I can't for the life of me work out why this should be, but of course it's excellent news. For organists it is apparently expected that you will be of at least ARCO standard and have already held an organ scholarship at a cathedral. It was said that, at an audition for an unnamed conservatoire, the transposition test one candidate was confronted with was a Bach piece from the grade 8 syllabus. If so, I'd say that's FRCO stuff, not ARCO. I note that the organ department at the RCM at least is very much smaller than it was fifty years ago and I wonder whether these facts are connected. All this highlighted just how much out of touch I am. Can anyone enlighten me further on the current situation?
  4. Vox Humana

    Organ Scholarhips and Conservatoires

    I don't know that I'd accuse the education system of lower standards, although I accept that the comments I made in an earlier post could be read that way. It's more that, in music and English at least, syllabuses seem to have moved to exclude what I would regard as essential "nuts and bolts". Maybe it's something to do with removing elements that are considered guaranteed to bore the pants off the lowest attainers in a comprehensive education system, I don't know. My son did "A" level music and it was certainly no push-over. The scope of the exam was much wider than I had had to study and it needed just as hard work; it just didn't include any musical notation whatsoever. As for GCSE, composition was concocted on computer/keyboard, recorded, marked aurally and that was it. His school lessons wouldn't have equipped him with a clue how to compose a coherent piece on paper. Mind you, he's now a Tonmeister and makes more money than I ever did as a sound designer, so that puts me in my place. As for English grammar, both of my children say they were taught nothing about it at school and have learnt all they know about it from me - and goodness knows that's little enough.
  5. Vox Humana

    Organ Scholarhips and Conservatoires

    Thank you very much, Wolsey. That is a quite fascinating list which I feel sure must encompass a variety of potential experiences. There are more parish churches there than I anticipated. How does this compare with the scene fifty years ago? Anyone old enough to know?
  6. Vox Humana

    Organ Scholarhips and Conservatoires

    That doesn't surprise me in the least. I really don't want to start a political argument which I am sure we can all do without, but it does seem to me that musical theory has become a casualty of the modern need for education syllabuses to cater for people of all abilities - along with English grammar. I hope that not all schools are the same as the ones I know. On the subject of an organ scholarship now being essential (if it really is) for entry to a conservatoire, how has the scholarship market developed since, say, 1970? It's likely just my ignorance, but other than the scholarship I held I don't think I was aware of any others outside the Oxbridge colleges. I have a feeling that Norwich cathedral might perhaps have had one in the '60s so there may well have been others. I am aware of Sidney Campbell in his Ely days having what amounted in all but name to an articled pupil. Am I correct in thinking that the scholarship industry has burgeoned in the intervening decades? Has this affected the conservatoires' approach to auditions?
  7. Vox Humana

    Organ Scholarhips and Conservatoires

    It's yours! - but the Trompeta Real is out of bounds until you have passed grade 8.
  8. Vox Humana

    Buckfast Abbey

    I don't think I am breaking any confidences by mentioning this as the abbey are not being secretive about it and the information is circling independently on the grapevine, but I have been told by two sources within the abbey that they are currently seeking quotes from a range of organ builders for two new organs, a west-end instrument and a quire organ. Both my conversations were unfortunately interrupted so I have no further information. I do not know whether there will be two consoles or whether both instruments will be controlled from one. I would guess the latter since I do not see any need for two and I doubt there would be room in the west gallery (though I have never been up there). We will have to wait and see. Either way, it would seem, prima facie, to be goodbye to the Downes/Walker organ.
  9. Vox Humana

    Organ Scholarhips and Conservatoires

    Yes, that was my impression too. I remember that, admittedly a few years ago now, I heard from the father of a very highly competent organist that the situation was so bad that the lesser colleges at one of these universities were appointing scholars who were of no higher standard than grade 5. That might perhaps have been a slight exaggeration, but I could cite an example that is broadly in line with this opinion.
  10. Vox Humana

    Can we all try a bit harder?

    There are various reasons why the great and the good no longer post here. One got banned, another received some somewhat feral comments, while others I suspect are all too aware that anyone who posts regularly on the internet is unlikely to emerge from it well. Sadly there are people out there who regard this forum with contempt - for no very good reason that I can divine, but that's human nature. It is sometimes suggested that organists' worst enemies are the clergy. I've never believed this: organists' worst enemies are other organists. I used to post here rather a lot - probably far too much - but do so less frequently these days. There are three reasons for this: 1) I've sent most of my hobby horses to the knacker's yard and haven't very much new to say; 2) a few years ago I gave up playing the organ in public (not by any means for the first time in my life) and barely even practise these days , to the extent that I now appear to be incapable of playing note perfectly - and I'd rather not play at all than play badly; and 3) I've never been an organ buff, my main interest lying elsewhere. Yes, it would be good to see more new topics being posted for discussion - but might I humbly suggest that these would be much better raised in separate threads rather than here?
  11. Vox Humana

    Buckfast Abbey

    Just a heads-up that the Christmas midnight mass at Buckfast Abbey will be broadcast live on BBC1. https://www.buckfast.org.uk/whats-on/christmas-services
  12. Vox Humana

    Westminster Abbey

    Her Maj always sings hymns.
  13. Vox Humana

    Westminster Abbey

    The whole service was absolutely wonderful. Professional, edifying and uplifting. Everything was so very well done. The icing on the cake for me was the dignified speed of the hymns, which were absolutely right for the large congregation present (although arguably Blaenwern was pushing it just a small fraction) and the two last verse arrangements were models of the type. That's how a church service should be conducted.
  14. Vox Humana


  15. Vox Humana

    Finest Organ-builders of England

    Having once been resident in Bristol, I have played many instrument by Percy Daniels and I would have to say that he wouldn't figure in my personal list of fine builders, at least from the artistic point of view. The only experience I have of Roger Yates's work is the two manual instrument at Stogursey Priory in Somerset, on which he was working when he died and which was finished by Bill Drake. I've played it a few times over the years and have always found it a joy, even though it has by some margin the most dangerous tracker action I have ever encountered. Quite literally, the touch of a coat cuff is enough to sound a note. I've played heavier harpsichords. Personally I love it. Bill Drake was undoubtedly one of Britain's Rolls Royce organ builders. His organ at St John's, Bridgetown, Devon is one of the finest in the county. His artistry was matchless. He once took a friend and me around several organs he had worked on in Devon and it was quite evident that, whatever he worked on, he breathed gold over it. Talking of Devon, I suppose that I ought to mention Hele & Co, even if they are in a similar bracket to Daniels. Under John C. Hele they, too, were undoubtedly builders of the finest workmanship, albeit very much of their time. Artistically their tonal schemes and voicing tend to be less than musical, tending towards stiflingly opaque sonorities with insipid and useless Choir divisions, but their organs were built like tanks. And they did build a few instruments that sounded well. Their organ at Chagford parish church (alas no more after an extensive rebuild a few years ago, not yet reported to NPOR) was fascinatingly orchestral for such a comparatively modest instrument, if a tad underpowered (one reason for the rebuild). His organs at St Matthias and St Simon's, Plymouth were two of the finest in the city, although both are in parlous condition and under threat - if, indeed, they still survive. St Matthias has been taken over by HTB, who have no interest in the instrument, and they have designs on St Simon's also. The latter in particular would be a major loss. Originally the Harris/England/Hedgeland/Hele instrument from St Peter Mancroft, Norwich replaced by Hele's in 1912, it retains some very early pipework and is/was capable of sounding like an organ of cathedral proportions.
  16. Vox Humana

    Ecce Sacerdos Magnus

    I must admit that I never can get used to the notion of lay canons. But that's just me. The rank is of great antiquity and no more odd than the Use of Sarum's recognition of boy canons, who had precedence over the other boys and stood to the west of them (to be nearer the dean and precentor) in the front row of the choir on each side. Ecce sacerdos magnus is a text that has been set by many composers. Probably the best known one is by Tomás Luis de Victoria. There's also a setting by Elgar which I've not heard but which I sincerely hope isn't as trite as it looks on paper.
  17. Vox Humana

    Manchester Town Hall

    Perhaps there's no alternative, but this sounds like the thin end of the wedge. Will it ever be reinstated, I wonder?
  18. Vox Humana

    Blind Listening Experiment

    A couple of issues spring to mind here. It is certainly true that a pipe organ can last 100 years. There are one or two Hele organs I know that, for all their artistic shortcomings, were built like tanks (as was the norm with Hele's) and are still just about managing to function despite having had no serious investment since they were originally built. Amazing, really. However, if a pipe organ is to last 100 years it needs building/renovating and maintaining by a top quality firm with all the investment that this implies. Entrusting instruments to what I will politely call jobbing locals who tailor the work to the budget available seems mostly to be a false economy - or even no economy at all. A church local to me (who were soundly advised, but who chose a different route because they "knew best") recently spent £20k having their organ restored. The work was botched and, quite seriously, the organ emerged in no better musical condition than it was before, although the Swell is now electrified and has octave and sub-octave couplers. Well, whoopee. 100 years? It didn't even manage two months! It is far from the only local church in this position and I have no doubt at all that this scenario has been repeated up and down the country. And what if a church does invest £100k plus in restoring their organ properly? The restored instrument may last 100 years, but will the church? At the current rate of decline in church attendance, I would be surprised if any church is viable a century from now, except for the Oxbridge colleges, most cathedrals and maybe a few major city-centre churches. All the churches and Christians I know are committed to being optimistic about the future, but I would be very surprised if concerns about long-term continuity do not influence the thinking of those who hold the purse strings when it comes to financing organs. Short-termism is bound to favour the cheaper option. I actually suspect that this is the root of the problem. And, let's face it, when it comes to sound quality, even many discriminating musicians are now happy to put up with the convenience of recorded music in mp3 format rather than the superior CD quality - let alone vinyl.
  19. Vox Humana

    New Bach Edition from Breitkopf

    This looks interesting. It seems that vols 5 and 6 are already available. Has anyone seen them? Any opinions? Will this supersede NBA as the most authoritative edition? The inclusion of supplementary material on CD-ROM seems an excellent idea.
  20. Vox Humana

    New Bach Edition from Breitkopf

    I'd not noticed a size change with the NBA either, though I've not seen any recent printings. All my NBA volumes are blue, but what did change was the covers and the colour tone. The earliest volumes I bought had dark blue PVC covers, but Bärenreiter later abandoned these for lighter blue ones of card.
  21. Vox Humana

    New Bach Edition from Breitkopf

    That's "shrinkflation" for you. My ancient Novello set of Bach suffered from the same phenomenon, thus undergoing the same fate as Rowntrees Fruit Gums, tins of Quality Street and countless other products. Still, I suppose we should be thankful that they didn't go the Toberlone route and perdiodically miss out chunks of pages.
  22. Vox Humana

    Basil Ramsey (C&O)

    Obituary in the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jul/24/basil-ramsey-obituary
  23. Vox Humana

    Flamboyant showpieces

    It's a bit of a devil to play though! I have to say that I love all five of Dallier's Cinq Invocations., which make a great alternative to Vierne's impressionism. No. 2, O clemens, O pia, is within even a modest player's grasp, very atmospheric and worth anyone's time. Vierne mentioned Dallier briefly in his memoirs, but clearly didn't like him. As for flamboyant pieces, this one is great fun but fiendishly difficult. This performance is super, but there's an even more jaw-dropping one by Roger Sayer at the Rochester Cathedral organ on a CD from Regent.
  24. Vox Humana

    Flamboyant showpieces

    OOTH, I am aware that you probably have an interest in the second performance, but I have to say that, personally, I find Kerry Beaumont's speed much more musical. What creates excitement is rhythm, impetus and élan/panache, not speed. Although there is such a thing as taking a piece too slowly, speed is not crucial to musical excitement. In fact, sometimes it can actually destroy it. One should always play principally for those who are not already acquainted with the music and it's worth remembering that such people may not be very quick on the uptake. People need time to assimilate what's going on musically. The faster you play, the less you may communicate.
  25. Vox Humana

    New Bach Edition from Breitkopf

    Just for the record, the Breitkopf edition does indeed allocate the inverted mordant to the left hand.