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Mander Organs

Marc Gregory

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About Marc Gregory

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    Truro, Cornwall
  1. With apologies for going off-topic, I think no one could pretend that any organ could achieve 'perfection'. I admit that I used the word loosely, which isn't sensible given its proper meaning. As a brief aside, the week before last, during a group visit to Duruflé's flat, having warned Frédéric Blanc (the well-known improviser and inheritor-custodian of the flat and 3-manual Gonzalez house organ) that our rendition of Ubi Caritas wouldn't be perfect as we were a tenor or two short, he replied 'Perfection is not beautiful' and went on at length to explain why. Certainly, Duruflé's original manuscript that he then showed us was pretty close to perfect neatness! When Olivier Latry was asked what he thought of the Truro FW, having just broadcast live on Radio 3, he replied 'It's ok', leaving behind a slightly bemused questioner. Each to his/her own, of course. IMHO it sounds better than it plays, if you see what I mean. Hearing it, after traveling in Europe and listening to some of the finest organs of that period, gives me a real thrill that I really cannot fully explain. Perhaps it's the impact of the tutti in a relatively small building, but it is noticeable that when an exceptional musician who knows the instrument well, like David Briggs or Luke Bond, is playing (the latter the current assistant - you can tune in the Choral Evensong on Radio 3 today at 3.30 and hear him playing it!), that the relatively modest size of the instrument, problems of balance with the choir for a nave congregation, lack of a 32' reed, small pedal department, etc, do not seem to limit the myriad colours that can be achieved, remarkable for an organ that FHW voiced for a cathedral then without a nave (though I suppose you could say that luck took some part in providing near-identical twins to Coventry and Truro, being somewhat different bulidings). As for the Tuba, which is of much more practical use than in its former backward position, it can, as you are probably aware, be moved back to its original position, should future generations so desire.
  2. Changing a non-mechanical action console does not automatically result in tonal or pipework changes. I certainly agree that such an organ should not have to suffer at the whim of any individual (I did say titulaires and others [plural]), although this particular instrument has undergone more than its fair share of historical change. I would be far more worried if the practically unaltered CC & FW organs in Ste-Sernin, Toulouse or Truro Cathedral suffered any tonal tamperings. At Truro, the provision of a new console in 1963 in a new position in a gallery above the choir from where the organist can hear far better and communicate more easily with the choir/conductor, did not change the overall sound of the organ one iota. When the commitee met, fifty years ago, to discuss possible changes to the FW, they heard perfection, and therefore they maintained it that way for future generations. One contributory factor is lack of funds in poverty-stricken Cornwall with which to do any tampering, but clearly the French government likes to be seen spending large sums on high-profile projects such as at NDdeP. The weird/ugly temporary (at least I hope it is) aerial walkway and grandstand that has been erected in front of that building for its 850th anniversary is a current example. I have been enjoying Pierre Pincemaille's playing and talking about S.Denis in the Fugue State boxed set (a remarkable acheivement). The physical limitations of his console seem almost to inspire him to greater heights of improvisation. However, there's no reason to believe that such an accomplished artist could not work equal (though different) wonders seated at the new 'Ikea' console at ND.
  3. What matters is that the titulaires and others who play the instrument regularly have (presumably) got what they asked for to enable them to pursue their unique art.
  4. I didn't say it wasn't incongruous; it is indeed very incongruous... rather like, as I implied, the Citroën DS when it first appeared on French roads in 1955. But that car went on to be named the most beautiful car of all time by Classic and Sports Car magazine. Someone commented above on the unique character of French design, which may not appear beautiful to our more reserved sensibilities, but they seem to have a style of visual expression entirely apt for their own way of life. The fact that we may not like it... c'est sans importance.
  5. I was up in the tribune last Sunday for Vespers followed by evening Mass, and although at first the new console did seem to have more than a touch of Ikea about it, the design does IMO have some of that (original) Citroen DS-ness about it that makes it entirely appropriate for its place. It probably wouldn't look out of place on the bridge of the starship Enterprise. I think it's the light colour of the chosen wood that gives it a slight tackiness rather than the actual design, which incorporates some pleasing Art Deco accents. My daughter could certainly not have achieved that standard of woodwork, although one or two little corners and alignments did seem slightly inaccurate. Vierne's console is down one flight of stairs, while his bench and PC's remain at either side of the gallery. Incidentally, Johann Vexo (asst.ch.organist) improvised brilliantly, with YC at the east end, J-PL being unwell and the others en vacances.
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