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John Furse

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  1. John Furse

    British Organ Going To Germany

    Sad ! Strange that it was not snapped up for export as happened to the above - possibly as a ‘choir’ instrument. Yes, there are many organs ‘out there’, but I’d hazard a guess not all that many of this quality. It would be good to know if the pipes had, at least, been salvaged for future re-use.
  2. John Furse

    Trinity College, Cambridge

    I can only now dimly recall the 18th century, but practice had to be arranged in advance and necessitated some expenditure, with a child manning (boying ?) the bellows. There were H&S issues (even though this hadn’t been invented): the stench in the streets was unimaginable; war was a constant menace; I had to remember to heft my sword out of the way (to avoid injury) and beware of those dangerous candles, threatening to burn the curly manuscripts on which I’d painstakingly copied the music. On Sundays, I then had to pay for the assistance of several students to manipulate the stops for my brilliant concluding toccata - since my arms were, sadly, not six feet long. There is a limit to ‘authenticity’/historically informed performance. (Some of these might lead to hysterically- . . . !) We now use standardised pitch; the wind is electrically supplied . . . I see no problem in replacing extra arms with pistons, etc. A Rollschweller might, however, be going too far. We here, of all people, should know that organs change complexion: they evolve and even have facial and other transplants. And have been for hundreds of years.
  3. John Furse

    British Organ Going To Germany

    Unusually pour moi, I have to be 'contentious': an 1874 Hill, “substantially in original condition” and with a complete Great & Swell ? Many would give their right arm for one of these. Then, however, they wouldn't be able to play 'the Widor', composed only five years after this instrument. I quote from a report (it is worth reading. How many more such wonders are languishing out there ?) made on its condition, presumably with a view to its proposed sale [https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59af83217131a5b42453b1db/t/59cd3a9f90badefdc2524937/1506622134118/All+Saints+Parish+Church+final.pdf]: “This instrument has received excellent attention throughout its life”. “This is an outstanding instrument which has had an illustrious history and demonstrates all the qualities for which its builder was renowned. The chorus work is brilliant and full . . .” May be unloved, but definitely not to be sniffed at. I know what ‘destroyed’ means; but, what does ‘destroyed’ mean ?
  4. John Furse

    Chapel Royal history

    There seems to be a gap in the market. Perhaps the excellent Dr Gant could turn his mind to a history of the music in the various Chapels Royal*, once his forthcoming magnum opus is out of the way. * I was surprised to see that these include three locations in Ontario, Canada and two at the Tower, in addition to the oft-forgot (and ‘under-used’) Brighton and Plymouth.
  5. John Furse

    Recitals for children

    True and wise. It's easy for me to spout my above ideas, having been retired nigh on five years ! If you were interested in the 'links', make sure that their teachers (who should be more than well-versed in this, if primary) pursue these.
  6. John Furse

    Recitals for children

    When doing my PGCE, I was told that all the subjects in the National Curriculum but one could be delivered (a ‘trending’ word !) through Music: Food Tech. That this is not until June will allow even more preparation with their teachers, if you/they’re so minded, Jonathan. Some possibilities include curricular links with Maths & Science (pipe lengths, acoustics [instrumental & architectural], action, winding), language (stop names), creative writing (English: a poem or news item subsequent to the visit), Art (case, building), History, Geography, Religion (obviously). I’m sure Colin and others will have even more ideas in this direction.
  7. John Furse

    Recitals for children

    I once played a Year 8 class his Les langues de feu (Messe de la Pentecôte) and asked them to grade it - for how successful it was as a composition. They did this for their own work (composition & performance) all the time. They gave it a B (good) - on a scale from A (excellent) to D (poor). One of the criticisms was that they’d like the fire to be more ‘flickery’ !
  8. John Furse

    Recitals for children

    I hope I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, Jonathan, and don’t mean in any way to appear patronising, but get the impression you’re not a teecha. What follows is more a series of thoughts than anything else: a draft for how I might approach the same now. In these days of Bluetooth, your smartfone might play a part - with you morphing from a recording of the ‘real thing’ on that (or another device) to the same piece, but played on your fabulous instrument. Or, the other way around. You could record bits beforehand and show them on screen, to facilitate ‘viewability’. Have some (quiet) recorded organ music (probably something they won’t know from your programme and recorded at St Michael’s) playing as they are brought in. This’ll settle them down. Later, you can ask them if they’ve heard that before: as you play a bit in real time. Depending on the age of your audience, a variety of techniques is useful. If they’re younger primary, then your examples will need to be shorter - as AJJ says. Keep testing them: kids like to succeed. ‘What’s that ?’ ‘Flute/reed/string/mixture.’ Plenty of contrasts: loud/soft, fast/slow, old/new. And a mixture of ‘pure’ (re innate) and arrangements. Can you borrow a pipe (more than one) to blow ? You’ll need a written plan (one copy on the console music stand, one in your hands/shirt pocket/on the music stand from where you’ll deliver your brief talking bits) and to decide whether you’ll start quietly (Harry Potter. I’ve been at a very successful demo where the presenter kept coming back to this in various guises), or dramatically (Bach’s Toccata. This one of the BBC’s Ten Pieces. There are now 30: you might ask their teacher/s which they have ‘done’.). They watch a lorra TV and the movies: more possibilities. There’s no harm in showing off (e.g. elaborate pedal ‘solo’); they’ll love it and applaud vigorously. It is by such events as this that the next generation of organists (and listeners to the instrument) is ‘hooked’. Also, and unless they’re older teenagers, they have few preconceptions and will ‘take’ the most esoteric repertoire: Ligeti, Cage (a bit of 4’33’’ ? ? Most probably won’t have ‘heard’ it before.), Messiaen is good, as so illustrative. Drones and ostinati lead quite naturally to a Passacaglia/Chaconne (Louis Couperin ?). Could they concoct an organ rap and perform it with you ? As you can see: yes, yes, yes to participation and beforehand preparation ! (What Colin has just said.) Good luck.
  9. John Furse

    Appointments 2

    That is what I, too, have been informed. Subsequent to his accident and other serious health issues last year, these are things which cannot be taken lightly. Despite all this, and once out of intensive care and back at the helm, I was told he did not miss a single practice with the boys. Commitment and dedication, indeed. He will need to pace himself, so that he returns fit to take up the reigns as he draws towards the end of his distinguished tenure.
  10. John Furse

    Westminster Abbey

    I've just listened to parts of this fitting Service for the second time. Being 200% Welsh, I intend that Blaenwern be sung at my funeral - albeit to the 1747 words of Charles Wesley: "Love Divine, all loves excelling". I find the tempo perfectly judged and note that HM found it sufficiently stirring to sing along with the creditable volume (almost amounting to hwyl) emanating from the congregation. In this, and were it in my gift, I would accord them honorary citizenship.
  11. John Furse

    Manchester Town Hall

    It's a pity I didn't discover the website sooner. This all looks excellent. I can only wish success for the whole project. It could become an example of how to 'reach out to' and educate (in the widest sense, as Colin writes above) the public in the organ, its non-liturgical repertoire and its life outside church buildings. All of these things pertained in Victorian Britain: civic pride, educating the 'masses', an interest in cultural enrichment and 'improvement', etc. A series of silent films with improvised accompaniment; the sentiments of Copland in his Fanfare for the Common Man and its 'outings' by Emerson, Lake & Palmer are just two instances. The wheel doesn't need re-invention, but imaginative and innovative application. (But, not like the apocryphal committee who re-designed the horse with five legs, so that it neither went forward nor back.) The casework and pipes seem to have been cleaned - recently ? They look gorgeous. The sound, even now, is a thrilling foretaste of what we could hear in a few years. The principal donor at the Cathedral having his name 'attached' to the instrument proves the point I made in my Tuesday post. Everything (legal) should be attempted in these cases - short of extortion ! The rich are used to being asked for dosh. It's the manner of asking that matters. Good luck MTH.
  12. John Furse

    Manchester Town Hall

    Agree with the majority of both S_L’s and Colin’s posts. Whilst ‘the organ’ is usually a niche market, it needn’t always be. A well-targeted and publicised campaign, led by one or more ‘names’ can do the trick. Just look at the effect/success of Blue Planet II. One of the advantages of being a sole/major donor is that you can get your name attached to said ground/building/instrument. And this applies in the most prestigious of institutions, too.
  13. John Furse

    Manchester Town Hall

    ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ And, that’s only one way to go. Manchester, as one of the UK’s great musical/sporting/education/insert other criteria cities, has so much to offer. In the last few decades, as has been stated, the Bridgewater Hall and now the Cathedral have had major new instruments. Well-run, imaginative and innovative fund-raising should, easily, meet its target. The Town Hall is a glorious building and is entitled to the restoration of its Cavaillé-Coll. There are football clubs, rich people, a thriving social scene . . . Can we not reach out to these and evoke civic pride ? Is it really beyond a primary school (or whatever they’re called, these days), say, to sponsor a pipe ? Only by new thinking (!) like this will some of our greatest organ heritage be saved from the ‘skip’. We cannot expect commercial enterprises (organ builders) to stop paying their skilled employees and work for next to nowt. They would go under immediately. There is a parallel situation in Middlesbrough, with their Town Hall and its historic Hill. I fervently hope that both instruments are given the recognition and restoration they so deserve.
  14. John Furse

    Blind Listening Experiment

    It is not for nothing that the woodwind were omitted from Poulenc's Organ Concerto. Modern orchestral instruments almost always sound ‘off’ in such a context: rarely sounding ‘comfortable’ in combination with both their earlier (‘authentic’) incarnations and/or an organ. Flutes would probably ‘blend in’ the most successfully.
  15. John Furse

    List of beautiful English Organs

    http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N07978 It’s very broad and very plain, David. If there was some decoration/ornamentation (carving, gilding, painted panels, grille-work, anything !) between the top of the font and the en chamade . . . Perhaps the finances didn’t stretch (?). I wonder if semi-detached pipe towers would have helped. At least it sounds (all u ü-Tubas) good.