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Colin Pykett

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About Colin Pykett

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  1. Colin Pykett

    Can we all try a bit harder?

    I've certainly been the target of the sort of thing you mention. The private messages in question received from certain forum members haven't quite reached death threat levels I'm glad to say, but on occasion I've felt it necessary to report it to our hosts since the originator was using the forum's messaging system. Other examples have reached me via my personal email address, and some articles either on my website or those I've authored in journals such as Organists' Review have been discussed in similar terms on other musical fora whose 'tone' descends far lower than this one. There's no doubt that there are some extremely unpleasant individuals out there, who usually masquerade under pseudonyms of course, though it's often not difficult to figure out who they are from their IP address if nothing else. But I can't understand why this is. After all, at the end of the day we're only discussing organs, not wishing to start world war 3! But no matter - and as others have said, I wish everyone a happy Christmas and New Year. CEP
  2. Colin Pykett

    Organ Scholarhips and Conservatoires

    Some interesting aspects here. In terms of formal qualifications I'm a career physicist rather than a musician (even though I did manage to scrape some lesser exams under my belt in the latter such as G7 distinction), and it would be easy to point to a similar situation in physics and mathematics to that described here - i.e. a cumulative reduction in standards which seems dramatic when measured over my lifetime. But objectively, I'm not so sure. As just one example, my daughter was struggling many years ago with her GCSE maths homework which she eventually involved me in (groan). The book she was using happened to have answers in the back, and neither of us could match our attempt to one question (in statistics) with what it was 'supposed' to be. I have to admit I gave up, but she did not, and went back to her room. The following day it turned out that she had proved the book answer to be wrong, and was properly credited by the teacher for being the only one to have discovered this. She was not a brilliant mathematician, in fact she hated the subject, but by golly, she has always been imbued with determination in everything she has tackled. What does this tell us? For a start, the various syllabuses I followed in maths and physics never went near probability and statistics until the first year at university, yet a generation later she was doing it for GCSE. Of course, other things which I had studied at school had been removed to make room for it and similar subjects, but that's beside the point. So perhaps one moral of the story is that changes of emphasis and syllabus in education can be misinterpreted as a lowering of standards if we aren't careful. Another example is the sheer slog and drudgery extending over several years involved in making sure we knew how to do complicated sums using tables of logarithms. I cannot express my delight that this has long since slid off the bottom of the syllabus, having been shoved out by pocket calculators over 30 years ago - and a good thing too. But it does not mean that today's kids are less good at maths simply because they will not even understand what I'm talking about. (To illustrate the profound change that has taken place here, see ** below). Another aspect is that perhaps we need to ensure that this forum does not reflect the views of a bunch of old fogies who have an over-fondness for the good old days, whatever and whenever they were. I'm not pointing the finger here, but merely acknowledging that I'm certainly old myself, and probably a fogey as well. "Weren't school/teachers/universities wonderful in OUR day, and weren't we clever at doing such difficult stuff" etc, etc. Should this be happening, then we only have ourselves to blame for the fact that new blood is repelled and that the forum might well be dying, as Martin Cooke pointed out recently in another thread. In fact, this topic seems to have arisen precisely because of his plea for us all to get off our backsides - which is a Good Thing. But in return for our newly rediscovered collective energy, I'd now like Martin to do something for us please. As the former senior educationist and musician that I believe him to be (forgive me if I'm wrong), perhaps he could give us the benefit of his professional experience to illuminate the issue of whether educational standards are in fact declining, and particularly those in music. Many thanks in anticipation! CEP ** Some forum members of my vintage might recall the following which will doubtless mean absolutely nothing to youngsters today: "Have you heard about the constipated mathematician who worked it out with logs?" It tells a story of how things change though because my son once told me that "logs" is now replaced by "a pencil", but I now fully expect to be thrown off the forum ...
  3. Colin Pykett

    Can we all try a bit harder?

    Yes, that's a good scheme John, and when I have the time I do it myself to overcome the pickiness of the forum itself. However I prefer to use a very simple text editor such as Windows NotePad, as Word inserts such a lot of invisible garbage (formatting characters etc) inline with the text that sometimes it seems to cause more problems than it's worth (although you can get round this by saving the Word document as a TXT file first). But I still maintain that we shouldn't have to do this in an ideal world, and it may well be one reason why people are put off posting. CEP
  4. Colin Pykett

    Can we all try a bit harder?

    Glad to find that I'm not the only one! CEP
  5. I'm aware that the organ at King's London has been in Mander's workshops this year, but little seems to have been said about it so far. Although there is some information on the Mander website there is little detail as to what has been done. The NPOR entry is not up to date, and as an aside it's also difficult to find - why does one have to search for an address in Middlesex for an organ which is actually bang in the middle of the Strand? (!) Anyway, for this reason as much as anything else, here's the link: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N06609 I have a personal interest in this instrument, having had its Willis III incarnation placed at my disposal in the mid-20th century thanks to the kindness of the late E H Warrell (and it was kind of him, considering that I was reading physics not music and there was always a queue of far better qualified musicians and theologs waiting for a practice slot). I'm also aware that one or two other forum members here have similar connections to the old thing. So is there a write-up about this recent work somewhere that I've missed, or does anyone know of plans to publish one? While on the subject, I came across what must rank as one of the weirdest problems ever when trying to make a recording of the instrument back then. It had what is now an old fashioned electromechanical action between console and pipes, as did every other electric action instrument in those days (i.e. all relays, no electronics). Although the recording engineers were using state of the art gear such as gorgeous Revox tape decks, every time you pressed a piston an audible click or crackle appeared on the tape. This was due to the sparks generated at the piston relay contacts of course, and despite all attempts it proved impossible to eradicate (we decided that the signals were probably entering the mains supply - the organ used a transformer/rectifier rather than a dynamo - and thence getting into the microphone preamps). So the attempt was a costly waste of time and had to be abandoned. CEP
  6. Colin Pykett

    Can we all try a bit harder?

    I have some fellow feeling for Martin's plea. I believe there are, or were, well over 1000 members of the forum, many of whom joined up at the outset and are leading lights in the organ world. I gleaned this info some while back before its format changed recently, but now information on the membership seems to have been suppressed though maybe I'm no longer looking in the right place. But even when you browse back over many years it seems to have been a case of the same few who have striven to keep things going, leavened by the odd one dropping out now and again and the odd new one replacing them. Unfortunately, seldom do the afore-mentioned luminaries appear though, which strikes me as not only a pity but rather odd - why bother to sign up to an open forum if the only intention was to lurk? I'm not sure I quite go along with Martin having singled out a particular contributor though, as if to put the burden squarely on her/his shoulders! Like Martin and probably others, I've sometimes posted just to give people something to read, which is admittedly not the best motivation for bursting into print. There are doubtless several reasons why people aren't attracted to the forum, and I suggest one might be that it's an excessively clunky piece of software by today's standards I'm afraid. As just one example, having typed the first few sentences of this post I then looked briefly at some other pages, only to find when I got back here that everything had vanished without trace and I had to start again from scratch. That sort of thing is highly irritating to put it mildly, and I just can't be doing with it in this day and age. Other issues relate to the 'quote' facility, which often just seems to please itself as to what it actually does, and the silliness that you can't delete a message when you make a mess of it. It all rather reminds me of MS-DOS days. I also wonder whether the day of the traditional forum is drawing to a close anyway in today's social media era. I could suggest a topic or two - here's one for starters: not long ago I was reading the highly entertaining posts about the RCO which appeared between 2006-2008 or so. They were kicked off by a complaint about the annual subs and whether it represented value for money. Now that it has almost doubled, have things changed for the better, folks? I'll keep my powder dry for now on this one ... CEP
  7. Colin Pykett

    Etymology of "Chrysoglott"

    No, they are too soft. If you hit them with a hammer they deform permanently rather than springing back and throwing the hammer off, as does steel, bellmetal (bronze), etc. Therefore they don't 'ring' when struck either, at least to the same extent and in the same way. It's to do with the Q-factor of a mechanical oscillator, but let's not go there unless you really wanted to ... CEP
  8. Colin Pykett

    Etymology of "Chrysoglott"

    So Quentin's post confirms that "silver tongue" might not be too wide of the mark, and Tony's introduces an interesting idea about trademarks which hadn't occurred to me. His suggestion of a possible confusion between Celeste and Celesta is also quite plausible. It seems that Robert Hope-Jones rather than Wurlitzer themselves probably came up with it. He was using it in some of his instruments in the few years before he died after he had joined Wurlitzer and was running its pipe organ division under his own name. This being so, I would put money on it that the name was actually invented by his brother, the Revd Kenyon Hope-Jones. He had had the benefit of a classical education and was the source (or maybe one should say the importer) of many other then-novel stop names such as Tibia, Phoneuma, Kinura, Diapason Phonon, etc. But what an ugly word Chrysoglott is to my mind, suggesting little of the intended ethereal beauty of something meant to be celestial! Surely whoever it was could have come up with something more appropriate? Many thanks to all for helping to dispel my ignorance. CEP
  9. Colin Pykett

    Etymology of "Chrysoglott"

    That's definitely the best lead I've had to date. So, maybe it means "silver-tongued" or similar? Makes sense in a vague sort of way. Thanks David. CEP
  10. Colin Pykett

    Etymology of "Chrysoglott"

    Does anyone know why Wurlitzer used the word Chrysoglott for their percussion stop which was in fact a Celesta? They used an actual Celesta mechanism or something close to it. What on earth does it mean? I've asked this of my theatre organ friends and nobody seems to know (or care). I also once asked a linguist, who couldn't think of any roots in the old languages she knew. It's probably just me, but these things niggle me until I find the answer ... CEP
  11. Colin Pykett

    Manchester Town Hall

    I feel that both sides of this interesting discussion are correct in one way or another. On the one hand I find there is almost no awareness of the organ on the part of the majority of the British public, who go about their daily business quite unaware of it. Like many members of this forum I imagine, if I happen to mention that my interests include the organ at (say) a social function, most people express genuine interest amounting to astonishment because it's something they have seldom if ever come across before. They gather round and are quite eager to hear all about it. So after such an exchange, were I to hypothetically rattle a collecting tin under their noses in aid of the local church instrument I bet most of them would be pleased to contribute. This suggests that perhaps part of the problem is in educating the public in the best and broadest sense, without wishing to be snooty and patronising about it. One of the problems bedevilling the British organ scene is that some of it is without doubt snooty, elitist and patronising. Although that (thankfully) small circle may well be able to get on fine as far as they themselves are concerned, I'm afraid they do the instrument no favours against the wider and more important backdrop of its longer term survival. Yet S_L's more positive view from afar is also a true and valuable reflection in that he is simply quoting facts which are unassailable. It's all to easy to get disheartened if we don't look at the issues from a wide enough perspective. It's certainly true that there is a lot of activity in the British organ world which people such as us are so familiar with that maybe we tend to disregard it for what it actually is. For instance, whenever I receive my (print) copy of Organists' Review the first thing that happens is that lots of well-produced advertising material drops out of it onto the table concerning upcoming events in the major cities, or even CDs containing tempting tasters about recently published music, organ and choral recordings or even the latest digital organ on offer. Whether we read or listen to such material or not is rather beside the point. The fact is that lots is going on all the time and we only have to look slightly below the surface to find it. CEP
  12. Colin Pykett

    Manchester Town Hall

    Forgive me, but I assume this statement was made with tongue in cheek precisely to encourage the debate here (which of course would be a Good Thing), otherwise I can't see how the suggestion is any more practical than expecting local government to provide the funding! From what I know of organ builders' profit margins it would seem unlikely that they could reduce a tender from £1M to £10k ... It's only stating what everyone knows to say that good quality organ building is hugely expensive. I know of a tiny 2M/P instrument in a church with not many worshippers which was overhauled recently by a well-reputed firm costing some £120k. This was only possible because of lottery funding, without which I doubt it could have gone ahead. Just one story of many. CEP
  13. Colin Pykett

    Visiting Organs

    It's a rather variable situation in my experience. I've never been backward in coming forward when it comes to knocking on doors to ask if I can try organs, but with a few exceptions the rule here (the UK) seems to be that the bigger and more important the instrument, the less likely you are to be granted access. There are some exceptions, with one cathedral in the southern counties being particularly welcoming especially to organists' associations. Some of the public schools are also on the sniffy side, and haven't even bothered to reply when I've contacted them. This is a bit rich considering they bask in charitable tax status, a condition of which is that they engage in outreach to the community or so I believe. Much the same applies to organs in stately homes. Even more rich is that these outfits seldom seem to bother about rattling tins under people's noses when it suits them to bolster their organ funds. They can't have it both ways. But is it really much different in other countries? I once asked (in my best French) if I could at least view the console at St Sulpice, but was told by a shocked verger that "non, non, c'est defendu". (Sorry, I can't seem to put the accents on today). I've had similar experiences in the Netherlands where I even got told off because my shoes were too noisy in St Laurence, Alkmaar! It wasn't as if the blinking organ was playing either. I endorse the sentiments of those who have written above, but was a bit shocked to read of S_L's impolite rebuff. CEP
  14. Colin Pykett

    Finding Sacred Texts

    Do be wary of the copyright problem when selecting your text won't you. Should your entry win the competition and be used publicly in any way, or be published, you or your school had best make sure that no rules will have been transgressed! John Betjeman as mentioned above is a case in point, though to be fair I've found his publishers (John Murray) to be helpful when I wanted to quote from his work on my website. Though even here, where no commercial considerations were involved and I only quoted a few lines, I had to seek their permission and also add an acknowledgement in the form prescribed by them, tell them when it had appeared, etc. The Bible is obviously safer in this regard, but it might be wise not to lift anything from a recent version and stick to one of the very old ones to be on the safe side. It's an utter minefield into which the unwary can wander quite innocently, and the penalties (which can take retrospective effect to cover the period of infringement) can be dire. I really am not overstating the case. I have also assumed you are referring to Christian sacred texts. However, if looking further afield to those of other religions, you might be well advised to take advice about how they regard people who do this. A huge amount of very beautiful prose exists of course which it might be tempting to use. Your school religious studies department might be able to help here. Nevertheless, very best wishes for your endeavours. CEP
  15. Colin Pykett

    Blind Listening Experiment

    Some discussion above mentions the 'aim' of the video. I think the problem here is that there wasn't one - by its own admission in the opening credit it consists merely of someone famous playing two instruments, and then it concludes with a lecture on 'economics' by someone rich. Er - so what? Where is the 'aim' in that? Therefore I think we may be crediting it with more meaning and importance than it deserves and therefore wasting our time. I shouldn't be surprised if at least some parties involved in making the thing are having a good laugh at our expense and wondering why we haven't got anything better to do. So maybe the whole thread ought to be deleted now that we've got it out of our systems? That's not my decision, though this is after all a pipes-only forum and one reason why at least some of us are members. Those with the inclination can sound off about electronics some place else. However, since the thread hasn't been deleted, it does lead onto another matter. The whole issue of pipes versus electronics is not really whether one is better than the other because in many respects it's a question scarcely worth the asking - the answer is obvious and the differences can be demonstrated to doubters objectively. What matters more is whether the cheaper digital option is good enough, and therefore by implication, more cost-effective. It is obvious that many purchasers think that digitals are good enough. As with John's wine analogy, it is why those who can't afford the Premier Grand Cru nevertheless get quite a lot of satisfaction from Waitrose own brand. If I were a pipe organ builder, I think it is this aspect which would cause me the most concern. CEP
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