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John Sayer

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Everything posted by John Sayer

  1. It was done 3 seasons ago under Colin Davis - a wonderful performance - vast orchestra, choirs stacked up to the roof, 3 cymbal players etc - all suitably 'Babylonian' as Berlioz desired. The organ, then on its last legs, just about rose to the challenge with barely enough wind to supply the Tubas - and not much else - in the opening antiphonal blasts. The organ had no real solo outing in the season just ended, apart from Arvo Pärt's Trivium played by Christopher Bowers-Broadbent in a late-night choral concert by the Estonian Cahmber Choir. In past seasons there used to be 1 or 2 organ recitals at 6.30 pm with the orchestral concert starting at 8.00. Surely there is a case for reinstating them, or even having a substantial solo organ item in the main concert, particularly if it is somehow related to the other music in the programme. Perhaps we should all write to Nicholas Kenyon about this - my experience as a Prommer is that audiences appreciate the organ's contribution in all manner of works - it's all part of the RAH experience. Perhaps we should put in a a plea for Olivet in Paris at the same time? JS
  2. [ What an absurd reason! It could just as easily be argued that shiny new pipes - and freshly-painted casework - will help to occupy members of the audience during those boring, slow, quiet moments of certain orchestral works. In addition, they might actually be impressed. I understand one of the chief objectors to any repolishing of the front pipes has been the BBC, on the grounds that it will spoil their spurious and silly kinetic lighting effects which have been a feature of their televised broadcasts from the Proms this year and which have been maddeningly distracting for the audience in the Hall itself. Since the Proms must provide a large slice of the RAH's annual revenue, it is presumably difficult to gainsay such arguments. JS
  3. The Ripon Cathedral Choir under late Ron Perrin recorded the Finzi (rather ponderously) on a CD of Twentieth Century Cathedral Music back in 1991. In his accompaniment Robert Marsh starts on the big, unenclosed Tuba for the first 2.75 bars in unison before switching to full Sw & Great choruses (without Trombi) - the effect being perfectly musical. For its modest size, the Ripon organ has a formidable battery of high-pressure ammunition, needed to reach the nave across the gulf of the central crossing. Apart from the big Tuba - audible at the bus station 300 yeards away with the doors of the cathedral open - there is the smaller enclosed specimen at 16 and 8 and the Orchestral Trumpet lying on 18" wind on top of the swell box. The Arthur-Harrisonised Great trombas may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's only fair that such splendid dinosaurs should be preserved in at least one cathedral instrument, if only as a testament to early 20c organ building fashion. They have their uses, eg in the more bloodthirsty moments of the Healey Willan and, of course, on great festivals such as Christmas and Easter Day. We Yorkshire folk are proud of them! JS
  4. I had the enormous and quite undeserved privilege of playing the RAH organ in the wee small hours one day last year shortly after the restoration was finished. Yes, the reeds are truly superb and in such variety of power and tonal palette. I was much taken with the Great Harmonic Trumpets which have tremendous vitality and "zizz". The unenclosed Bombarde Tubas still "shout down" everything else, but the big 32 reed does not seem quite as rampaging as it once was. None of this can be fully appreciated from the console, of course. The best place to experience the broadside of full organ is the gallery or the balcony. From there the sound sails over the orchestral canopy and nearly lifts you off your feet. The Arena - alas for prommers - is an odd sort of acoustic dead spot. I've listened to Dame Gillian's recording of the restored organ and must say Priory have done a fine job of capturing the beats's enormous dynamic range. The only snag is that you turn up the volume to savour the delicacies of the Solo Unda Maris and Glockenspiel, when along comes a Tuba or three and nearly blows up your woofers! John S
  5. Richard Further thanks for a spendid set of pictures. Beverley Minster is one of the great ecclesiatical buildings of Western Europe with a wonderful unity and cohesion of architecural style. Seen in the distance from the racecourse it rises majestically above the town, but the approach from the surrounding narrow streets of modest terraced houses is equally impressive. The interior is lofty and somehow always full of light. At the console, the organist - lucky man - has quite amazing vistas to east and west. These visual joys must compensate, at least partially, for the lop-sided aural perspective he gets when playing. Arthur Hill's magnificent case is apparently flimsy in construction and could not accommodate any more organ, which is a pity as it would be nice to squeeze the swell box in somehow and thus reduce the amount of organ 'junk' in the south quite aisle. Nonetheless, the sound is superlative and perfectly matches the splendour of the setting. John S
  6. The recent H&H restoration at Armley dispelled the long-standing myth that the metal pipes were the work of an English maker, possibly Violette of London. The style of handwriting in these markings shows conclusively that they were of German origin. Whether that points to Schulze himself as the maker, is, of course, another matter. John Sayer
  7. However flawed or misguided the 1975 rebuild may have been, my recollection is of a wonderfully exciting reed-dominated tutti, which reached right down the nave. As I recall, there was no shortage either of soft and colourful ensembles for the accompaniment of psalms and canticles. Whit Sunday processions were a wonderful affair with the organ providing crackling 'tongues-of-fire' improvisations as the choir, led by Dr Wills in doctoral robes, sang alternatim unaccompanied verses of a hymn on their way to the west end. After a short prayer, the return to the lantern crossing, with clergy and congregation following, proceeded in equally splendid fashion, Fanfare Trumpet and all, leaving groups of suitably awe-struck tourists by the bookstall. It would be wrong to decry more recent painstaking, scholarly and, perhaps, slightly worthy attempts to recapture the style of William Hill and other 19c. builders, but I'd like to think that, just occasionally, the more 'maverick' reincarnations like Ely 1975 might be allowed to survive. John Sayer
  8. Of the 189 posts to date under this heading - though not all, admittedly, on the subject of the Worcester organ itself - 103, or 54%, come from just three contributors. We have had honest and comprehensive responses from two of the parties most directly involved, namely the cathedral organist and the organbuilder, yet these seem barely to have registered in the blinkered minds of certain forum members. For some, at least, the buzzing of bees in bonnets is becoming rather wearisome. Isn't it time we had at least a moratorium on this endless, circular debate? JS
  9. Well said: and thanks, too, to Adrian Lucas for his admirably clear explanation of the rationale behind the project. Should we not rejoice in the fact that a leading British organ builder at last has an opportunity to create a brand new cathedral instrument for the 21st century? And also, in due course, at the prospect of a second such instrument? Tempora mutantur et nos mutamus in illis. JS
  10. As I understand it, the Cathedral Advisory Commission have yet to give approval for the new choir case, not least because it will mean drilling into medieval stonework etc etc. To be fair to the Dean & Chapter, maybe they feel it better to wait until such issues are resolved and the contract signed before further public pronouncements. The same probably goes for the builder: I don't believe Ken Tickell is being unduly secretive - the poor chap is as keen as anyone else to know what is going to happen. I've seen the proposed specification, which incoporates some Hope-Jones ranks. For the moment, unfortunately, I can't recall where - sorry! Perhaps other are more up to speed on this than I am. JS
  11. But perhaps more surprisingly for some, there are people on the not-so-distant shores the far side of the not-so-deep waters who are interested in what is going on here. I find that both interesting and awakening. Don't others? John Pike Mander Absolutely. My point about ECHO was prompted by a question from a distinguished German organist as to why GB wasn't represented in that organisation. He himself had paid a number of visits to this country and given recitals on English organs. To him it was important that we should be involved in the 'organ heritage' of Europe. Many German organists, in my experience, are keen to know more about the Inselvolk and their organs, and, not least, the music we play on them. Only last week, I found myself in Waltershausen in Thuringia, where the organist had asked me to bring copies with me of Edward Bairstow's (!) music for him to try out on the amazing organ of 1730 by Heinrich Trost. Likewise, from time to time, I've heard German organists include English music from Stanley to Stanford in their recital programmes. I'm afraid we don't always do as much as we should to recognise and indeed encourage overseas interest in the British organ scene. For a start it's often difficult for foreign organists to get hold of English music in their own country. Then there is the question of recitals. On many occasions I've been asked by German organists, keen to visit this country, about possible recital openings. In reply I've found myself embarrassed to explain that organ recitals in Britain are few and far between, often poorly attended and usually offer very little financial reward. One way, perhaps, of changing this sate of affairs, would be for a far-sighted English or Scottish town or city to decide to promote its organ heritage and get involved with an organisation such as ECHO - or is that too naive a hope? John Sayer
  12. Over the years I have had the pleasure and privilege of playing the wonderful organ of 1741 by Gottfried Silbermann in the Cathedral in Freiberg on a number of occasions. On my most recent visit last week I learned that the City of Freiberg - which boasts no less than 4 Silbermann organs - is the German representative in ECHO (European Cities of Historic Organs), an organisation which exists to foster the appreciation and preservation of historic instruments, and to promote cultural exchange between the cities represented. The ECHO website has full details (and excellent photographs) at www.echo-organs.org The other member cities are:- Holland - Alkmaar Sweden - Göteborg Austria - Innsbruck Portugal - Lisbon Denmark - Roskilde France - Toulouse Italy - Treviso Spain - Zaragossa Some cities are represented by a single instrument (e.g. Roskilde), others, such as Toulouse, by as many as half a dozen notable instruments. Great Britain, you will note, is conspicuous by its absence. One may speculate why this should be. Lack of interest or typical British insularity perhaps? Or maybe it's simply that we feel there is no British city that qualifies? Whatever the reason, our apparent reluctance to become more involved with the European organ scene seems to me a pity. Why are so many British organists so dreadfully inward-looking and parochial - vide the endless (and, some would say, tedious) debate on Worcester Cathedral and the Ally Pally. There is so much to be learned from broadening our artistic and musical horizons. Surely we should be taking note of the ECHO initiative. How about possible nominations? Why not Oxford or Cambridge, say, for a start? John Sayer
  13. I agree. What utter madness it is to build the wings and engines in Britain, the fuselage etc in France, and then fly the completed plane to Hamburg to be painted and fitted out. But that seems to be the EU way of doing things. I wrote to the Senat der freien Hansastadt Hamburg, expressing surprise and concern at their apparent disregard of the city's cultural heritage, particularly in view of their earlier financial support for the magnficent reconstruction of another Schnitger organ less than 10 miles away in St Jakobi. Wir werden sehen...... John Sayer
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