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Father John Gilbert

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    Helston, Cornwall

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  1. Presumably the master tapes must still exist - I can't imagine they would have been destroyed or disposed of?! How amazing it would be if they were 'rediscovered' and the recordings reissued on CD! I am aware that on Colin Smythe's website digital technology is criticised. I quote, ".....the organs of the great churches, cathedrals and halls no longer sound quite as good on CDs as they did before, on vinyl. Digital recording has removed the highest and lowest notes from the range available to the listener, with the result that recordings cease to supply these extremes...." On the other hand, I'd have thought it better for this immensely valuable material to be made available in digital format than be lost and forgotten altogether.
  2. The main information I have found is here: http://www.colinsmythe.co.uk/cslinks/vistarecords.htm
  3. I'm afraid I don't know a great deal about WH. He was a friend of the late Stephen Daw, (a teacher at the B'ham Conservatoire who was an acknowledged authority on J S Bach); it was through SD that the request for two assistants came, for the recordings at Coventry. All I knew at the time was that Hillsman was an American who, (if my memory serves correctly), said he had some lessons from Marie Claire Alain, amongst others. This fact came up in discussion with Michael Smythe during a 'break' one evening. Hillsman and Smythe were discussing various points of interpretation and registration in Alain's 'Litanies'; Hillsman's performance was very much informed by what Marie Claire had taught him. He was a pleasant unassuming man, as I remember. On the odd occasion when one of the assistants mistimed a stop change or made some other slip, there were no tantrums; he remained perfectly calm and collected, even if another 'take' was required as a result. He was not quite 100% happy with the organ: I remember there was one note on a reed which clearly needed attention to the voicing/regulation. I've forgotten which piece it featured in (as a solo), but the 'rogue' note drew scathing comments and whenever I hear the recording now, it brings back memories of WH's mutterings! The other thing I recollect was the creaky (adjustable) organ bench. At the end of each 'take', the three of us at the console had to remain as still as statues until Michael Smythe's voice came over the speaker to say we could move; the bench was the most likely culprit in terms of unwanted noise (apart from the traffic outside). After each piece had been recorded, there was a trip down to a room below to listen to that particular 'take' before moving on to the next. We must have been there from 5 or 6 pm until quite late (10 or 11pm?) for 3 or 4 evenings. We made two LPs at Coventry, called something like, 'Organ Music by pupils of Paul Dukas.' The two LPs were made in two different years; each one required several evenings' work for those involved, including rehearsing with we two young assistants in the late afternoon before starting the actual recording. Smythe was not well at the time and was in significant pain. I learned later that he was suffering with cancer. One of the finest recording engineers we have ever had in the organ world, sadly the poor man did not have much longer to live. http://www.colinsmyt...istarecords.htm Sorry about the ramblings.... writing about Hillsman has brought back all the memories. Here is a picture of WH as I remember him: http://www.google.co...ved=0CDAQrQMwAw
  4. Walter Hillsman made two fine records of music by Durufle and Alain at Coventry Cathedral in the 1970s, on the Vista label (Michael Smythe). I was a nineteen year old student at the Birmingham Conservatoire at the time and was asked by one of my tutors, (Stephen Daw, a friend of Hillsman), if I and another student would be prepared to spend several evenings at Coventry assisting with the recordings. So it was that I spent many hours turning pages and manipulating stops and pistons for the recordings. It was quite an experience in many ways. The cathedral was in darkness apart from the console lights, so in the fortissimo passages, there was this massive wall of sound coming out of pitch blackness! What impressed me about Hillsman was the way in which he made that technically demanding music look so easy. I still have the two LPs which Michael Smythe gave me at the time. I wish the recordings could be released on CD as well, as with various other recordings from 30-40 years ago, because the superb performances certainly deserve a new audience! Michael Smythe was also a master of his 'trade' and the recordings are worth hearing for that reason too.
  5. Fr John Gilbert, a catholic priest in the Diocese of Plymouth. I was born and grew up in West Cornwall, where my father was a Methodist local preacher. From a young age I accompanied him on his travels around the local chapels, the majority of which had organs. By about the age of 3 I was well and truly 'hooked'. Piano lessons from the age of 6 were followed a few years later by organ lessons. At the age of 13 I was playing at a local Anglo-catholic church, on a beautiful little two manual organ by Noble of Derby. I held office there until going to the Birmingham Conservatoire in 1976 as a first study organist. At Birmingham my organ teacher was the great George Miles, who had been a pupil of Karl Straube at Leipzig. I studied piano with Marjorie Hazlehurst, another very distinguished teacher. Following a year's PGCE course at Reading University, I taught for six years at Wells Cathedral School before training as an Anglican clergyman at Mirfield in West Yorkshire. I was ordained in 1991 and served in the dioceses of Peterborough, Ripon, Sheffield and Exeter. In the latter two dioceses I had brief spells as Diocesan Organ Adviser. Previously, as assistant curate at St Bartholomew's, Armley in 1994-6, I was actively involved in the plans for the major work on the splendid Schulze, along with Graham Barber and others. In December 2010 I was received into the Catholic Church and after spending a year at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, (where I spent many happy hours on the fine 1860s 'Father' Willis organ), I was ordained to the diaconate in June 2012 and to the sacred priesthood in December 2012. I maintain a strong interest in music and the organ and manage to 'keep my hand in' reasonably well as a player. I appreciate a range of organ music and styles of organ building. Having been a pupil of George Miles, it will come as no surprise that I revel in playing Bach on an appropriate instrument, (not that there is anything of the kind in West Cornwall, sadly!), but I can equally well appreciate a fine Willis, Hill or other distinguished 'Romantic' instrument. My philosophy is that it is not so much the style of an instrument that is important as its musical qualities (and of course, good mechanical design giving reliable, responsive action, etc). Ultimately a good instrument is one on which one can spend many hours without tiring of the sound, whether it be large or small, 'Romantic', 'Classical' or whatever. For example, one organ I particularly enjoyed playing in recent times was the Tickell at Douai Abbey, on which I was privileged to spend several hours last year during a visit. Very different from the old Willis at Wonersh, but both instruments in their ways were very rewarding to play. At home I have a Viscount Canticus 1, which (for the record) is by far and away the best 'toaster' I have ever encountered. In terms of 'feel' and sound it is streets ahead of any other electronic instrument I have ever tried - and I have played and heard a good few 'toasters,' some costing £30,000 plus. Rarely, it is an instrument on which one can play for many hours without getting tired of the sound. There are two main organs in the Catholic Parish of Falmouth and Helston: at Falmouth we have a Hele of about 1895 vintage, in near original condition. A Mixture was added to the Swell in the 1970s and is not entirely satisfactory. The organ has two manuals, mechanical action, pneumatic pedal. On paper the specification looks dull, but the sound belies that. (Ped16,16(from Sw); Great 8,8,8,4,4; Swell 16,8,8,8,8,4,2,II,8). There is a superb Cornopean on the Swell, which in combination with the fine 16' flue makes a stunning sound, aided in no small measure by one of the most effective Swell boxes I have encountered. The organ is scheduled for a clean and overhaul later this year by Henry Willis & Sons Ltd. The Mixture will be recast and regulated to improve its blend and a new Fifteenth will replace the rather poor Great 4' Flute, which does not appear to be original. Otherwise the organ will remain unaltered in every detail. At Helston there is a two manual instrument provided by Lance Foy some years ago using (I assume) mostly second-hand pipework. It is in a West gallery and has a divided case, with the console downstairs. It makes a good sound overall, if rather big for the size of the building.
  6. Hehe! The same redundant Brindley & Foster in Sheffield that provided the pedal reed had been rebuilt some years ago by Conacher, so the Tierce came from the same instrument. Christopher and I donned overalls and spent several days salvaging what we could from the wreckage of the redundant B & F. We then hired a van and brought the stuff back to base. We still have a Tromba and its chest in our church cellar, waiting for a good home. It was heart-breaking to see what had happened to that organ. It would not be diplomatic of me to say where it was - suffice to say it was in a significant building in Sheffield and had been replaced by a 'toaster' whose installers had done a LOT of damage inside the B & F in order to make room on the rackboards for their speakers. (Great pipework pulled out and just chucked back on to the pipes behind, for example). Discerning readers may be able to work out which instrument I am writing about. The 'owners' were, I think, very embarrassed about what had been done and in offering us anything we could salvage, were probably trying to make up in some small way for the vandalism that had taken place. J.
  7. Lol - DW beat me to it.... sorry about the resulting duplication of information!
  8. Yes, this is the same organ, now with a slightly different specification, different 'front' and various modifications. I realised only this morning that it does not appear on the NPOR and have rectified that - it should appear there soon! Christopher Wren is still the organist and still the DOA. He and I have done some work over the years (before Willis took it over) to keep it working, notably in doing some releathering of the action. We also added a pedal reed from a 'scrapped' Brindley & Foster in Sheffield, which sounds as if it were made for the instrument and has completed the scheme very appropriately. Thank you for the suggestions RE: grants. The present specification is as follows: GREAT ORGAN 1 Open Diapason 8 2 Stopped Diapason 8 3 Spitz Flöte 8 4 Principal 4 5 Wald Flute 4 6 Twelfth 2 2/3 7 Fifteenth 2 8 Mixture III 9 Tromba 8 Swell to Great SWELL ORGAN 10 Bourdon 16 11 Open Diapason 8 12 Hohl Flute 8 13 Keraulophon 8 14 Voix Celestes 8 15 Principal 4 16 Piccolo 2 17 Mixture II 18 Cornopean 8 19 Oboe 8 20 Vox Humana 8 21 Clarion 4 Tremulant Swell sub octave Swell super octave CHOIR ORGAN 22 Lieblich Gedeckt 8 23 Dulciana 8 24 Suabe Flute 4 25 Nasat 2 2/3 26 Doublette 2 27 Tierce 1 3/5* Tremulant Swell to Choir Choir sub octave Choir super octave Pistons to Pedal *Conacher, salvaged from a redundant organ. PEDAL ORGAN 28 Sub Bass 32 29 Open Wood 16 30 Bourdon 16 31 Octave 8 32 Bass Flute 8 33 Trombone 16* Great to Pedal Swell to Pedal Choir to Pedal *Brindley & Foster, salvaged from a redundant organ. ACCESSORIES 5 thumb pistons to Great 5 thumb pistons to Swell 4 thumb pistons to Choir Great to Pedal reversible Swell to Great reversible 4 Combination pedals 1 Great to Pedal reversible When Willis's took over the tuning and maintenance a few years ago, David Wyld advised that (at that time) a thorough overhaul/rebuild would cost around £50,000 if new action were provided and around £80,000 if the present pneumatic were retained. Since the present action is a veritable 'dog's dinner' with parts from various different instruments (with components of more than one compass!), there is no good reason for keeping it . Apologies for the fact that this thread is going seriously off topic! John.
  9. Hi - thanks very much for the words of welcome Yes, money is a big problem. With 33 speaking stops over three manuals the organ at my church is hardly a chamber organ, I'm afraid and now requires a very thorough overhaul, since it did not receive one when it came fom Upper Norwood in the 1970s, but was simply installed as it was. Indeed, it is a minor miracle that it works as well as it does. Harrison's inspected it in the 1980s and said it was in imminenet danger of collapse and that the best thing was to throw it out and replace it with a worthy redundant organ: but it has foiled that prediction and almost twenty years on continues to work reliably with the minimum of maintenance and it makes a superb sound into the bargain. An experienced tuner from Willis's has told me that much of the pipework is of very high quality; this would seem to be confirmed by the amazing stability of the tuning - even of the reeds. When the temperature rises and the reeds and flues part company, the remarkable thing is that when the temperature drops again, everything falls more or less back into place and the whole instrument comes back together once more! Rarely (if ever) have I known an organ do that. But this one has done so consistently over the eleven years I have been here. John.
  10. My name is John Gilbert. I was born in 1957 in West Cornwall. I have just returned to 'Invision' after a long absence, (February 2013). Having forgotten I'd written this post, I've put another one with updated information about myself elsewhere on this board.
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