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Colin Pykett

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  1. I feel moved to say something in response to this. Although there are indeed acerbic members on this forum, I had not got you down as one of them, SL. Having said that, it's no particular sin and it doesn't matter to me as it's a trait which adds colour to the discourse in my view. And with Ph.D., M.A., B.Mus., F.R.S.A., A.R.C.M., yes, you are indeed 'slightly well qualified', which is one of the reasons I've enjoyed reading your posts, often learning something from them as well. I'm sorry we won't be 'seeing' you again. That's yet another of the losses of this sad situation. All good wishes to you for the future.
  2. It's a good question which I've been pondering on as well, doubtless like many other members. This is the only forum I belong to, so if I want to continue to air my views I'll have to find another I suppose, though this is an obvious opportunity to consider whether to join one at all. However, I like the ABRSM affiliation of their 'Viva Organ' forum, and have often wondered why it has been so little used for quite a long time. Some members here post on it occasionally. As far as I can see it also exists without having to rely on advertising, other than the ABRSM banners. The Magle forum is also a possibility, but IMHO it suffers from the opposite problem - it could be said to be over-subscribed. Both forums cover a wider field than this one if only because they permit discussion of digital organs for those so inclined, without being dominated by them as at least some of the alternative options seem to be.
  3. What a shocking thing it is whenever a source of any ancient craft disappears. Apart from anything else, its practitioners thereafter can rapidly cease to exist. Voicers and their incomparably skilled colleagues cannot just be brought off the street when required by placing ads in a local job centre. It's not unlike the almost complete disappearance of mechanical (clockwork) timepieces. Politely disregarding the output of the Beijing watch factory, a few of these are still made commercially at enormous cost for the more discerning super-wealthy, but mostly the art is kept alive within the wider horological community which still pursues things like ever more accurate pendulum clocks as a subject with its own fascination. The late mathematician Philip Woodward with his W5 clock was a leading light in this activity, whom I was privileged to know in the early stages of my scientific career (and he was an organist too, playing at places like Malvern Priory from time to time). But a big difference between mechanical horology and organs is that the latter are still broadly useful to the wider community and they serve a purpose as well as bringing a lot of pleasure to a lot of people (not that I'm for a moment decrying the pursuit of clockwork as a beautiful intellectual activity with roots in pre-Galileo days). Like others who have posted above, I hope that a positive solution might emerge to rescue the firm.
  4. I don't know which source(s) Cantoris had in mind, but one answer to Rowland's question is: https://religionmediacentre.org.uk/news-comment/religion-news-7-july-3-2/ I came across this a couple of weeks ago or so. It does seem that there is some basis for the story, though it doesn't mention the music specifically.
  5. The original and quite popular Compton Miniatura was later sold in two versions: an 'A' model and a 'B'. According to one advertisement the synoptic stop list of the 'A' was Ped 16.8; Great; Swell That of the 'B' was Ped 16.8.4; Great 2/3.2; Solo 2/3.2. According to the makers, 'A' was intended for leading the worship of '150 voices', and 'B' for the 'practice and performance of polyphonic organ music'. The ads also said that it was 'more quietly voiced than Miniatura A and is therefore more suitable for practice rooms and private residences'. 'A' had 2 ranks: stopped flute and principal. 'B' also had 2 ranks but stopped flute and mild string. However it is likely the latter became more principal-like towards the top of its range in some instances, or an additional principal rank might have been added in others. This is because clients were invited to customise the stop list to their requirements within certain limits. (The Compton Electrone model 348 of 1948 was more or less an electronic version of the 'A' model. Its fully-preformed complex waveforms were engraved directly on the rotating electrostatic generators rather than as the sine waves used in other Electrones (from which the desired tone colours were derived by additive synthesis - mixing the various sine waves as desired). I once owned a 348 and in my opinion this feature gave its sounds a considerable freshness which I never thought the additive synthesis models achieved, which sounded rather cloying in comparison to my ears). There was also the 'Augmentum' available as a 'first stage' with one manual and pedals and again 2 tone colours - stopped flute and principal, though it seems this was a straight (not extended) instrument of 4 manual stops, but with all 3 pedal stops derived from the great 8 foot flute. It could be converted into a 'second stage' which had a second manual and 6 stops. Again, this did not seem to use extension since the 3-rank mixture had its own 183 pipes, and there was even a celeste. The 'Cecilian' on the other hand was smaller than the Miniatura, having only one 49-note manual with a 16 foot automatic pedal bass operating over the lowest 1 1/2 octaves. Its stop list was almost identical with the swell organ of the Miniatura 'B'. When you consider this against the similar ranges of small pipe organs available from other contemporaneous builders as mentioned by Tony, the prospective customer was pretty much spoilt for choice in the mid-20th century when it came to house organs.
  6. I don't think I can add much to what I said previously, but would like to emphasise should there be any doubt that in no way was I intending to slight or criticise Professor Wilkes. In fact his lecture sounds very interesting and I wish I had been there to enjoy it.
  7. It's a book of two halves by two authors with two rather different perspectives. They make no secret of this, saying in the Preface that " ... we naturally do not see eye to eye on every detail. For instance, we differ somewhat on the merits of organs built before about 1850". They also say that "it may seem the height of presumption for the authors, neither of whom could, by any stretch of the imagination, be regarded as a competent organ player, to attempt to deal with Registration". Quite. But also honest. It does what it says on the tin. I enjoyed reading it the first time I came across it, which is more than I can say about some other stuff authored by this pair, and pick it up from time to time to find the enjoyment undiminished. It's a useful reference work if read against the spirit of its time in my estimation.
  8. "One could ask 50 organists for their thoughts on any piece and probably get 51 opinions. It's a very interesting discussion though." Yes, it is interesting, and the same seems to apply to any other discipline. Physicists and mathematicians are regularly asked to vote for their most beautiful equation. (FWIW, Euler's identity often comes out top or very near to the top of the list ... ). 'Beauty' pervades all human experience. It's fascinating that even in something so apparently black-and-white as physics or maths, exactly the same emotions are aroused as they are in music and all other endeavours.
  9. Yes Stanley, I'm sorry, but I have to agree with SL here! But never having been one to let go once having got a rat between my teeth (a bit like Stanley in this respect I think, and I know he won't mind me having said so), how abouts a bit of the truth about at least some professional organists? I'm of an age when I was lucky enough to be have been able to attend the weekly organ recitals at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesdays at 5:55 (because I spent 7 years at King's just across the river in the 1960s/70s). So twixt then and now I've attended an awful lot of them, and not only in this country either. Here's just a sprinkling of the less impressive memories. I'm naming only those who can't sue me. It's far from a complete list. Jacques van Oortmerssen: shuddered to a dead stop in the middle of 'the' toccata at the Royal Albert Hall. Slow hand clap at the end. So embarrassing but, as the unknown guy sitting on my right said, "I'll be asking for my money back". Robert Joyce: casually let his foot produce an extended pedal drone, which is not in any edition I've seen, during the Pastorale of Guilmant's 1st sonata at Llandaff cathedral. Knowing glances between knowledgeable members of the audience. A cathedral organist, not performing on his home instrument, who accidentally brought on full organ (or something approaching it) in a quiet movement of a Mendelssohn sonata. To be fair, it might have been his registrant who was performing near-lunatic acrobatics at the console. (And as an aside, how many other instruments need more than one player? Might this have anything to do with the low esteem in which the organ is held by many other musicians?). I could go on - at length. However to counter all this, we need to remember that the perfect renditions we hear on recordings are largely synthetic and unrepresentative of reality. The average CD contains over 1000 edits. Some recordings are produced by snipping the best bits out of, and then replaying via the instrument itself, several MIDI recordings which many modern pipe organs facilitate. None of this is ever made clear to Joe Public who has to shell out hard earned cash to buy the result. Prior to the days when such things could be done, Walter Alcock at Salisbury Cathedral was said to cough discreetly when his blemishes appeared on his 78 rpm recordings when friends persuaded him to play them. We simply cannot demand this level of flawlessness in live performances and it is unreasonable to expect otherwise. But by the same token, I would respectfully ask that some of these self-styled paragons of virtue might therefore temper their criticisms of the amateur, without whom Christianity as we have come to know it in countless thousands of churches and chapels across this country would be the poorer. There is a parallel forum to this one where there is currently and regrettably not much activity, but quite often amateur organists (who typically style themselves 'reluctant pianists') ask for, and receive, a lot of assistance from kindly professionals without a hint of the cant which I am afraid sometimes surfaces here. Wouldn't it be nice if the reluctant pianists felt able to join our ranks?
  10. I find it odd to hear the pejorative remarks aimed directly or indirectly at amateur organists. We've had quite a few of them on parallel threads recently, and there are hints on this one as well. It often seems that this breed of musician is thought to be uniquely associated with the instrument, and as though amateurs do not exist in connection with any other. It's nonsense of course. Of those who attempt to learn any instrument, how many become professional in the sense that they succeed in making a living by playing it? Surely the answer has to be only a minority in all cases? Therefore, why single out and pillory the poor amateur organist when the majority of those who play all other instruments are also amateurs? The answer, of course, is that it is only the courageous amateur organist who has the temerity (please read this as guts) to regularly play in public for the benefit of their community. To do something useful, in other words, and often for nothing - quite unlike the professional I might add. But by doing so, they necessarily reveal their shortcomings for all to hear, and to be reviled for it. A professionally qualified organist wrote yesterday on this forum of the cliqueiness of the organ world. How right he is.
  11. It's odd isn't it, the empty church syndrome, considering the number of people who nevertheless seem to have an interest in organ music as per my original post. There were 7530 downloads of my so-called Top 20 titles alone, which was just a small fraction of the total in the stats I analysed. And that's just for my humble minority-interest site buried within the detritus of the billions out there. But of course it's much more of a commitment to actually go to a venue and pay to hear the music. So why does live pop music attract such crowds? One reason might be that it costs money however you do it (if you stream it legally), so the lazy internet option isn't so financially attractive as it is for the out-of-copyright material which comprises the bulk of most organ recitals. And bedroom downloaders get none of the herd attractions of actually being at Glasto etc. There are instruments for which the situation is even more dire than it is for the organ. The bassoon is one example. What sort of career, if any, is on offer for a young aspirant bassoonist? Or a violist? So maybe the situation isn't quite as negative as we might think. A degree of latent interest seems to be there if my stats have any meaning, which is some small comfort perhaps. But it's nonetheless going to be an uphill struggle to get people to go to recitals when they can hear the same stuff for free on the internet or Alexa, etc. Come to think of it, maybe it's people like me who put stuff for free on the web who are actually making things worse for live music events.
  12. Some recent posts have discussed things like youtube performances and various pieces of organ music. This has reminded me of a related topic I ponder about from time to time, which is how to construct a recital programme. There seem to be several aspects|: 1. Who are we playing to? Sometimes it might be an audience 'of the cloth' so to speak, in other words made up largely of organists. Such occasions will include recitals given to organists' associations. Compiling a recital programme for this sort of audience is probably not seen as particularly difficult by most players. But at the other pole, if we want to attract an audience from a wider and more catholic musical background, or those who are merely curious, which pieces should be selected? Perhaps another way to pose the question is to ask what organ tracks would you choose if you were hosting a Classic FM radio programme, where the advertisers have a keen interest in maximising the listening figures? Should we attempt to educate audiences by instilling into them our own (possibly arcane) preferences, or include a selection of lollipops perhaps? Should the programme be all lollipops? These questions seem important, because they are related to the very survival of the instrument at one extreme. And getting people through the door is also advantageous to the church, town hall, or whatever because it enhances the weight of the collection plate which helps to pay for the upkeep of the instrument and the purchase of the next one. 2. How do we know what people's preferences are in the first place? Has the audience research for organ music ever been done? If so, are the results available in the public domain? As it happens, I do have answers to such questions. Whether they are the right ones might be debated, but on the other hand, who could say whether they were 'right' or not? And if they were thought to be wrong, where are the alternative answers to be found? For what it's worth, I analysed the download statistics relating to the organ music tracks on my website over a six month period during which many thousands of people across the globe listened to (or at least downloaded) them. I could even give you the IP address of each individual download in theory, from which possibly interesting geographical and even demographic information could be extracted if desired. Several hours' worth of music is available on the site, played on various types of organ ranging from Arp Schnitger to WurliTzer and representing music from the 15th to the 20th centuries. From these stats, I compiled a Top Twenty list which had some interesting properties, including: 1. J S Bach did not appear, even though the number of items by him on the site is five times larger than the next most common composer. (This does not mean that nobody listened to Bach; merely that the number of those who did were not able to propel him into the Top Twenty). 2. People strongly preferred romantic music played on organs from the romantic era (19th & 20th centuries) rather than earlier music played on baroque instruments, no matter how interesting people such as us on this forum might regard it. Somehow I feel that this information has to be at least slightly useful. Firms and broadcasting organisations spend huge sums on similar market research, and precisely for this reason they are not about to throw their hard-earned data into the public domain for their competitors to see. But I think the bottom line is that recitalists might consider paying attention to results such as these, even if they do not reflect them in their programmes in every particular. Nobody likes playing to an empty church - do they?
  13. David, your question is interesting though as I said in my post above, everyone's preferences for audio equipment are heavily subjective, so I would not wish to impose mine on you or anyone else who reads this. But as you are seeking opinions ... Having listened to the multi-mic clip in your initial post, it did sort of confirm what I would have expected from dynamic and capacitor mics, and it was an interesting listening opportunity - thank you. Dynamic mics seem to me to have noticeably lower bass compared with their mid-range, but this makes them good for vocals which they are often used for. But for organs and pianos I personally would go for the flatter and more predictable response of a capacitor mic, especially in the critical area of specialist piano tuning you mentioned. Nevertheless I share your irritation about the problems of powering them, and indeed have come across the noise and hum problems you mentioned. In one case this turned out to be generated by the mains power supply used by the phantom power unit. It was a switched-mode PSU which I would not have bought had I known this beforehand, as I always use linear PSUs for audio work especially in the low-signal-level front ends where mics are involved. When I replaced the SMPSU by a linear one everything was as quiet as batteries were. At the end of your post above you also said: "Likewise in that vein I heard a nice explanation about the rationale of the Shure SM57 with rising frequency response. Apparently people used to like them on account of their raised treble so that then they could turn down the treble on playback and reduce tape hiss . . . We don't understand that context any more today." Well, I would say that we do still understand that process - (adaptive) pre-emphasis prior to recording followed by (synchronous) de-emphasis on playback - because that's how Dolby noise reduction works!! But I do take your wider point about some of the 'white haired knowledge' having been lost. Another example is the universal habit of today's design engineers of doing everything possible in analogue signal conditioning by using integrated circuits, which often contain far too many transistors for the job you want them to do. One of the 'white haired brigade' who has indeed, and sadly, passed away was John Linsley Hood who designed a discrete op amp circuit in the 1970s using just three transistors. He called it the Liniac and I've used it widely in my own designs. But if I go on like this I fear my posts will, probably rightly, get deleted so I'd better stop now. However the topic itself is of considerable relevance to making decent recordings of the organ and other musical instruments, so it was reasonable of you to raise it I would suggest.
  14. Mention of curtained organists brought to mind John Betjeman's description of St Enodoc's church in Cornwall: ... "A rattle as red baize is drawn aside, Miss Rhoda Poulden pulls the tremolo, The oboe, flute and vox humana stops; A Village Voluntary fills the air And ceases suddenly as it began, Save for one oboe faintly humming on" ... I think she was playing a reed organ, as the poem ends with: ... "The Lord's name by harmonium be praised" ... To me this is particularly and sadly evocative at a time when it's next to impossible to envisage visiting that beautiful place.
  15. Like any other component in the recording and reproduction chains, one's choice of mics is as much subjective as anything else. I'm wary of posting on this topic because one can so easily sound preachy on audio matters, which isn't my intention at all. And David has probably at least as much if not more experience as anyone else. However, here goes. Steve makes some valid points with which I agree. One is that the inbuilt mics which come with the little Zoom, Tascam, etc recorder products are really quite good both for the modest financial outlay and for many recording situations. But positioning is indeed vital as he says, and to optimise this you desirably need separate mics. If, for example, you want to record the sounds of an organ at short-ish range, they become almost essential in some situations. Doing this is sometimes necessary to cut down on the excessively wet ambience of some auditoria, and if the organ case is elevated then proper mic stands are also necessary so the heights of the mics can be adjusted to taste. I've been recording for decades, and started my 'career' with some Calrec studio capacitor mics back in the 1970s which I thought were rather splendid at the time, though a bit expensive. Unfortunately my son cast envious eyes on them and eventually I gave in and thus they went in his direction. He was running a recording studio at the time and made some professional recordings with them for well known artists, including of the Gosport Compton theatre organ. His client was so impressed that he wanted some additional recordings of surfy sea sounds from the nearby seashore which were duly faded in and out on various tracks. However these mics became obsolete long ago, and they were also inconvenient to use in that they used non-standard (non-phantom) power arrangements and unbalanced audio outputs, together with unusual (Tuchel not XLR) connectors. Nevertheless they can still be obtained on the retro/pre-owned market should David's interest have been aroused. Cutting this exceedingly boring story short and coming back to the present, the latest semi-decent mics I've tried are Behringer C-2s. I think they might have been superseded since, but for the money I have to say that I find them pretty amazing value, and I've tried a few in my time. They are still available. Amazon's current price is £65 for an allegedly matched pair, and they come in a robust foam-filled carrying case with various accessories including a stereo bar. Without wanting to indulge in hyperbole, I would say that they complement the quality of the Zoom/Tascam type recorders quite nicely, though I usually record into a wave editor (WaveLab) running on a laptop when using separate mics. I also record in parallel onto a completely separate backup medium in case of computer disasters so that all would not be lost, such as a Zoom/Tascam or even a Minidisc recorder. I've been very happy with the quality of the organ pipe sound samples made using these mics. The downside of separate mics like this is, of course, having to drag around all the collateral bits and pieces including mic stands, cables and something to provide the phantom power such as a small mixing desk or at least a preamp. However if you are doing a job for somebody else they will certainly be impressed when you arrive with all this gear! Happy recording.
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