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Simon Walker

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  1. I'm sure I remember seeing a notice on a German organ console with the words 'nicht fur gefingerpoken'. It didn't take me many guesses to know what it meant... my German speaking best friend tells me that it's colloquial....
  2. I was listening to the recent BBC Radio 3 Choral evensong online, from Christ Church Oxford. I've heard this choir a couple of times during their tours to Toronto, Canada - they've made no less than 3 trips over here in the last 5 years. The choir is always excellent, and many stellar organ scholars have emerged from there (Particularly Ben Sheen who really is a tremendous player). Old news to many, but I was disappointed in this broadcast once again by the organ which just doesn't have what is required to accompany settings like the Darke in F canticles, and it only proved marginally more suitable for Walton's Coronation Te Deum, where some of reeds could at least make an appearance from time to time without sounding jarring. The playing was top-notch of course - but how can they put up with an instrument without swell chorus reeds under expression for the purposes of accompanying? I would go as far as saying the organ is simply not fit for this purpose. And all of the reeds make an intrusive, thin, nasal sound and the mixtures come across as shrill on numerous recordings. That essentially leaves flues and principals only for accompanying, and the results, needless to say are very lacking in subtlety and interest, even in the hands of the best players. Of all the instruments supporting daily choral foundations in the country - is the tonal design of this one the least fit for purpose? Not a comment on the quality of execution of the design, but rather one of suitability... (I know the organ at Magdalene, Oxford has come under some criticism for the kind of design that was opted for, but to my ears both it and Trinity Cambridge are more tonally suited to accompanying that CCO) All of these organs come from a time 30+ years ago when there was great interest in building classical instruments of superior quality, much more true to existing historical instrument than earlier 'neo-classical' attempts, but as a result sometimes seem very out of place and just to uncompromising. That said I'm not convinced the CCO Reiger organ really achieves highly on any level.... Dare I say it - In an ideal world should the CCO organ be replaced with something more suitable? It is very interesting that the tables have well and truly turned in favour of more romantic leaning instruments in choral establishments - judging by recent cathedral organ designs at Llandaff, and St Edmundsbury, Keble College Chapel Oxford etc.
  3. Someone asked about quint reeds earlier.... Here in Toronto we have two organs with a manual 'Quint Horn 5 1/3'. One is at St Paul's Bloor Street, a 1913 Casavant, with reeds voiced by Harrison and Harrison, and the other is entirely Casavant, 1930, at Metropolitan United Church (largest organ in Canada). At St Pauls it is placed with the 16,8 and 4 enclosed Tubas, there is also a much louder 8 ' Tuba Mirabilis' in addition to the enclosed chorus. At Metropolitan the quint horn 5 1/3 is alongside the 16,8 and 4 unenclosed Tubas on the Bombarde division, which are in addition to the enclosed 'orchestral' tubas which don't have a quint horn. In both cases I would say that when the 16, 8 and 4 Tuba choruses are played the addition or subtraction of the 5 1/3 quint is a little hard to detect. It adds a bit of pleasant colour to the ensemble - and particularly at St Pauls it seems to me to be effective to add it to the very usable enclosed chorus - for example in the famous 'March Funebre' section of the Willan Introduction Passacaglia and fugue - the instrument for which it was written. One would definitely not want to use the stop without the complete tuba chorus drawn - it would sound odd with just the 8 foot. Admittedly the quint horn is voiced a bit less loudly than the others, but the intention is presumably to reinforce the harmonic series. Both of these organs were built with more or less limitless budgets, and admittedly these 5 1/3 stops really are almost superfluous - I couldn't see any builder including such a stop in a scheme today.
  4. Ok... thanks for that. I see it must be computer issues at my end to blame. Phew!
  5. Hello all - it's ages since I last posted anything here - but I do still read. Anyway - does anyone know what happened to the useful website 'Encyclopedia of organ stops'. I have no idea whether the website is British or American or whatever. It had grown quite large, with sound clips, and an absolutely huge number of definitions and quotes from various sources. Now when I try to log on to it I get 'website could not be found'..... Shame - what happened?
  6. Mutations or mixtures? If you could have one or the other which would you prefere? I imagine most British Organists would prefere to have a mixture in the chorus on both manuals before thinking about the benefits of having the nazard and tierce, but it's obvious that back in the 30's some regarded the mutations as an important new addition to the standard specification. In Canada Casavant were maybe just a few years late in joining the Neo-Baroque movemnt, and when they did (with the arrival of Lawrence Phelps on staff in the late 50's) the change was nothing short of radical. Mutations appeared on large Casavants after about 1930, but it wasn't until the 50's when they became common place. Interestingly, in the early 50's Casavant would sometimes provide mutations on the choir but still not include mixtures. An example of this was the recently dismantled organ of Kew Beach United Church in Toronto, no mixtures anywhere to be seen, but choir mutations and their standard 'dolce cornet' on the swell (a cameloen of a stop... useful in chorus, or as a solo cornet, or even with the strings like to produce a 'cornet de viols'(!)). The one other difference this organ possessed from the old 1930's practices of the firm, was an open metal 16' on the pedal instead of the usual Open Wood - I do wonder whywhen so little else in the tonal design changed... The 1950's is an interesting time for organ building, but you need to go to North America to see most of it as Britain didn't have much money for organ building by that time. It's interesting to see how practices changed gradually, and many 'tranistional' organs exist. There are a few in the UK - Willis III's rebuild at the McEwan Hall Edinburgh is good example. The most marked change in the Casavant firm came in the changes to voicing practices in 1958. I know several instruments from this year, and some have classical voicing (open toe, lower pressure, spotted metal) and others (presumably completed earlier in the year) have traditional Romanitc voicing. There even some other odities. I came accross on 1958 Casavant with neo classical voicing - lots of chiff - and the spec read: ped 16,8, Gt 8,8,8,4 Sw 8,8,8,8,4,8 !! This one wasn't exactly successful in my books, but another 'transitional' I saw was. It included an enclosed Gt and Sw, with mixtures to both manuals and mutations on the swell, all Romantically voiced, although smaller pipe scales used throughout, making the organ rather less thick toned than those back in the 30's - especially nice are the slightly brighter reeds of this period. This proved a versatile instrument, and a refreshing change from the very thick tone present most 20's and 30's built instruments in the city. Although Casavant built over 200 organs in Toronto in the 20th Century, most have been rebuild - more often than not, rather unsympathetically IMHO. Finding nice original instruments here is always a pleasure, whatever the period.
  7. The current Director of Music is Tom Edwards - I believe he's giving up the job as he plans to emigrate. There have been recent plans to restore and complete the organ - not before time! It would seem that very few music directors has stayed there for a considerable time in recent years.
  8. I'm sorry to hear about your disappointment with the remarks made by the examiners - I suppose it just goes to show how subjective the whole process can be. But you did pass on the pieces overall. I think that very few people get marks much over the pass mark. Basically a pass is a pass, and you should be pleased, because if for one moment they don't think you're worthy of it you won't be awarded it. If its any consolation, the Bach piece that I played for my ARCO came in for some criticism. To this day I still think that I play this piece (Nun komm der heiden heiland) well - I always felt a special connection with it. Their comments read 'Despite a basic awareness of style this was a rather prosaic performance.' In my opinion - that was never true. Perhaps I was a touch more cautious on the examination day, but I felt that the comment was way off the mark, and probably just because one of the examiners had a slightly different opinion of how the piece goes. My advice - throw the comments away - a pass is a pass and that's all that counts. Take what you can from the comments - but disregard anything which is unhelpful to you. You don't have to agree with every bit of criticism the examiners make, and you're absolutely free to make your own interpretations in the real world. Exams and competitions don't count for everything!
  9. To be honest - I think you're expressing too much concern about an issue which isn't entirely relavant, though one should alsways be concerned about performance practice. My advice would be to make sure you perform to your best - don't try to make your performance contrived. When I did my ARCO, in the fairly recent past, there were only 3 instruments upon which to perform the exam. All three were tracker of the modern classical veriety, but I don't think any of them would claim to be historical replicas. Therefore expect a modern pedal board and some registration aids at your disposal. The main concern for the examiners is that you project your performance in a manner that is appropriate to the music. I would personally advise you to use some caution here, as don't want to present something that is at risk of the examiners strongly disaggreeing with. On the other hand a very dull performance will be lucky to gain you the pass mark. So long as you have experience with the kind of instrument you'll be playing the exam on (a modern tracker), you should be able to feel that the instrument is a suitable vehicle to project the music to your interpretation. Get all the notes right, have a feeling for the style, the music and you should be fine. When it comes to early music techniques such as fingering and pedalling etc, you must do what is comfortable for you to express the music to your best - the examiners are listening, not watching. Try to find an appropriate half way house. I dare say that neither a Ton Koopman inspired performance, or a Thomas Haywood 'Town Hall organ' style performance, while both of these musicians are amazingly inspired, is going to get you very far in an RCO exam. Almost nobody ever gets top marks - I thought I'd just scraped a pass at my ARCO, and was then very surprised when I found out that I'd won one of the prizes!
  10. There's a suite called 'The four winds' which is rather good, impressionistic in style. Pual Derrett, previously known to this forum as 'Cynic', has recorded them in one of the volumes on his 'Benchmarks' label.
  11. I thought I remembered hearing that they were proposing to enclose the choir division (it's currently unenclosed, at one side of the choir stalls rather seperate to the rest of the instrument) Chester is like that, and I've often thought would be much more flexible if it was enclosed. Anyway, I take these plans have been dropped?
  12. Does anyone have stories of having difficulty obtaining the agreed fee for a wedding? I played one this Saturday, and invoiced the 'middle man', ie the venue who did all the organising, which in this case is a college chapel rather than a church. When I stipulated that I require the fee within one month, they replied that they cannot make any guarentees..... I'm not going to respond to that, but it does worry me.
  13. James Hugh Reginald Dixon - organist of the RC Cathedral in Lancaster in the middle of the 20th Century was often confused with the famous Blackpool organist known by same last two names - sometimes in the press.
  14. Sounds like a very bad idea to me... if you must have a 32' reed and are short of space (and in my view there are often many more worthwhile uses for the money), I'd advise the electronic option. Fractional length reeds give very little fundamental tone and it's unlikely to sound very musical.
  15. Definitely try America / Canada... Nearly every United or Methodist church has a set whatever the quality or size of the organ, and plenty are closing down resulting in many spares becoming available. You should be able to obtain a set very cheaply, though you'll have to pay a bit in shipping. You're most likely to find one with an electric pneumatic mechanism (be sure to know that the leather is good) the mechanism will be fully adjustable etc. for good volume regulations. Avoid anything modern and cheaply made with direct electric actions - there are plenty of those knocking around in Toronto and don't generally work well. You may as well find a harp to install to... Good luck with you're search CD
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