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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
  16. Many thanks for that David - very interesting to read. Nice to see the photos on the website too. CD PS - isn't it quaint how Casavant used the phrase 'General release' instead of Cancel!
  17. David - would you be willing to post some details about your instrument including spec? I'd love to hear a bit more about it - I'm assuming it's quite an original old Casavant. That's very rare here in Toronto. Despite the fact that Casavant built 160 instruments in this city, hardly half a dozen 3 or 4 manual instruments are fully original. The ones that remain 100% intact are almost completely forgotten about. It seems that many people wrote them off years ago as dull and uninteresting, but when used well they needn't be so. When seeing this thread I immediately thought 'Old Casavant' because they actually did produce quite a large number of versatile and impressive sounding small 4 manual specifications - my suggestion was a made up one but not untypical, though the Doppel Flute would have been more unusual in a scheme of this size.
  18. How about this? You can play Bach on anything right? Ped. 16' Open Wood 16' Bourdon 8' Bass flute 16' Trombone Gt. 16' Double Diapason 8' Open Diapason 8' Doppel Flute (Wood, double mouths) 8' Gemshorn 4' Harmonic Flute (metal, harmonic) 4' Principal 2 2/3' Twelth 2' Fifteenth 8' Trumpet Sw. (Enclosed) 16' Gedact 8' Violin Diapason 8' Stopped Diapason 8' Viola de Gamba 8' Voix celeste 8' Aeoline 4' Flauto Traverso (Wood, harmonic) 2' Harmonic Piccolo (Wood, harmonic) III Dolce Cornet (12-15-17) 8' Vox humana 8' Oboe 8' Cornopean Trem Ch. (Enclosed) 8' Dulciana 8' Unda Maris 8' Hohl Flute (Wood, open) 8' Open Diapason 4' Rohr Flute (Wood, pierced stoppers) 8' Clarinet Trem Solo. (Enclosed) 8' Gross Flute 8' Gross Gamba 8' Cor Anglais (free reed) 8' Tuba Trem 16' and 4' couplers on every manual, except Gt which would have just a 4' coupler. All manuals C compass, with 67 notes - 5 extra for use with the octave couplers. Electro pneumatic action throughout. Modest wind pressure (c 5 inches throughout, except for Tuba, on a higher pressure.) PS. This is not very original, I don't doubt at least one member here will know what I'm gaining inspiration from... but there are some interesting differences in this kind of 1920's scheme from most British organs. (If extension/duplication was allowed, the swell 16 would be borrowed to the pedal, and the Open Wood would be extended to 8'.)
  19. Correction to the above- Hollins was never, to my knowledge, organist of the reid memorial church Edinburgh. He was organist for a very long time at St. Georges West Church Edinburgh. The organ is a TC Lewis which was rebuilt by Rushworths under Hollins direction. Spec and history here, http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N07957 The organ has sadly been much modified, but it's general feel survives. The church is now closed for worship, but the organ is still there. I haven't played or heard it - one of the few I never got to hear in my 4 years in Edinburgh! Hollins also redesigned this Willis instrument http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=D08494 it has also been rebuilt twice since.The NPOR isn't up to date - it's now been more or less returned to it's 1920's rushworth spec by Harrisons, the 1970's changes being apparently really unsuccessful. This is a fine instrument today and has been recorded on the recent 'Organs of Edinburgh' publication. The interesting thing is that 3 organs of similar size were designed along very similar lines in Edinburgh by Hollins, though only the Reid memorial was brand new, and it is the only one which survives completely as he designed it today. All three originally had an orchestral style lower manual. I personally think the idea of Gt/Sw/Orchestral is very useful, excellent for accompanying or English repertoire. Really there is very little disadvantage to this scheme over the traditional English Gt/ Sw/Ch format. Were all Rushworths that good? Some others here suggest not, but I put money on it that their standard of reed voicing was consistantly excellent through this period. The Rushworth Trombas are instantly recognisable, I love their power and sonority. The Orchestral reeds are extreemly refined too. My criticism is often the mixture work - the swell mixture at the Reid memorial only breaks once at middle C. It gets rather squealy up top, and is wrongly named sesquialtera when the composition starts 19,22 and there is never a tierce present. CD
  20. Who's Ronald Binge? That's another surname I'm glad I don't have.
  21. I agree also - hearing the last chord as a major chord always comes as a surprise to me, and not in a good way. It's such a serious piece, and so solemn in mood, I just don't see how it could end major so abruptly. I often wonder whether a splatter of ink on an autograph score is the cause of some of the odd accidentals occasionally found in Barenreiter. If you have your score at hand... I'd like to suggest a correction at bar 77 of the fugue. Beat two, in the pedal line has the notes C,D,C,D. I find this clunky to play, and it doesn't match the same musical idea as the right hand two bars earlier. I suggest changing those notes to C,E flat, D , C. The result sounds much superior in my view - I wonder what the Novello edition says? In the Fantasia - I've heard a few organists treat bars 31 to 35 as a crescendo, adding stops throughout this passage at suitable times, achieving the plenum by bar 36. The result can be quite effective, but I'm sot so sure I like it... What do you folks do? On the subject of Barenreiter vs Novello... during my student days it was a sin to turn up at class with a Novello score. At least the other students regarded it that way... But actually I admire the practicalities of the Novello edition and I think it has much going for it as the performers score. I admire the scholarlyness of Barenreiter, but I occasionally find it horribly impratical for page turns and layout of notes between the hands. The Barenreiter is what I have (having been told not to buy anything else...) so that is what I use. I have a few cast off Novello's too. When I was a student, I found the whole Bach repertoire quite overwhelming, too much information to take in - I didn't know where to start... It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to play Bach seriously - and then I started with a piece far too hard for me. I persevered and got there in the end! I recently picked up a copy of a CH Trevor book - I can't remember the exact title and probably long out of print, but it was obviously a Book of Bach for students, starting with easier pieces, and ending with a prelude and fugue. All the pieces in the book were better known works, all well worth playing and useful service music. Presumably people here will agree with me that this kind of edition makes the prospects of learning this wonderful repertoire a bit less daunting for organ students? Is there any chance someone may publish a similar book in the future? I feel a bit more guidance is needed when it comes to learning Bach for most students (and it would help the teacher too...) Barenreiter offers almost nothing to the student player except for the notes, and I think it is only really good for the advanced player. Sermon over... ;-) CD
  22. Every time I had an organ lesson with Roger Fisher - on his lovely 3 manual house organ - I was served a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit, which sat on a coaster next to the key slips. Luckily I never spilled it. He certainly must have trusted in me - at home, given my record of clumsiness, I'm not even allowed to have a drink next to our old Johnannus.
  23. I call that technique 'clutch control' It's very useful indeed, and you can bring on that swell mixture or reed or whatever with absolute smoothness by nudging the swell pedal a bit before reopening. What I wonder is how you did that in the days of combination pedals only! - How else do you play the start of Balfour Gardiner's Evening Hymn smoothly? CD
  24. I often approach organ literature from the 50's and on with care. Modern writing can put a lot of things right - so is there anything more up to date on this subject? There were a lot of strange ideas about organ accompaniment appearing in the 50's and 60's, which can be proved by recordings, compositions and organ building from the period. Especially organ building in North America (Britain didn't exactly have much money for organ building in the 50's though some do of course exist. With neo-classical ideas starting to take hold, but mostly very Edwardian performance styles prevailing - it must have been a strange mixture. Look at organs like - McEwan hall edinburgh. Willis 3 with essentially a positive instead of choir. Except it isn't really - just a collection of soft mutations. Couple this to compositions like JH Dixons 'baroque suite' which has mutations indicated in the registration instructions, but to be used in a very un-baroque way!! Also recordings like Guildfords Stainer Cruxifiction and Maunder Olivet to Calvary from the 60's which demonstrates a bit of mutation use in victorian music. This proves that things were changing, whilst most of the older practices remained. Therefore - when the advice about not using to many 8 foots and not always using sw-gt, not using too much full swell etc is presented - I for one take it with a pinch of salt. I'd be much more interested in knowing how they accompanied in the pre war years. So is there any pre war literature on this subject ? In my humble opinion, a lot of the badly registered accompaniments I've heard around come from people trying to register edwardian / victorian music in a way that they were taught to do so 30 - 40 years ago when classical ideas were in full swing. Too much upper work, thin choruses (ie 8,4,2 rather than 8,8,8,4) and poor use of the expression pedal all seem to be common failings... What to do about it? Make sure we observe the great cathedral organists of today! The art of beautifully registered accompaniments lives strong. One can learn so much through listening. In fact - learning to register accompaniments is probably one of the best exercises for the organ pupil in my opinion. The registration changes are much more complex than in most repertoire, must always be subtle and smooth, and require great care of panning and execution. Learning to piston push your way though Stanford can teach you a huge amount about registering repertoire effectively. best wishes - I need some sleep now. CD
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