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Colin Pykett

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About Colin Pykett

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  1. A detailed post regarding the organ has appeared on another forum: https://www.organmatters.com/index.php/topic,2231.msg10035.html#msg10035
  2. That's a very good point. There's also a deeper implication in that a properly-chosen 'expert consultant' who is committed to the project, works hard and has enough experience and the right networks can personally facilitate the granting of HLF money. Like David and others on the forum, I know of other cases where Dr McVicker has done exactly the same thing. As to local councils and they way they husband their resources, both cash and assets, I'm not convinced they necessarily come up with optimum solutions despite loud and constant bleats to the affirmative. On the one hand they are hamstrung by their Victorian bureaucratic roots - who else these days still calls pavements/sidewalks 'footways' and roads 'carriageways', or sends an entire planning sub-committee out in a bus to look at an ordinary tree in someone's garden (this actually happened to me!). I doubt their operating mandate handed down from central government would allow them to do much about this. On the other hand, and like all public sector organisations, they probably do not lose as much sleep as their opposite numbers in the private sector who can face sudden wipeout if the bottom line turns red. So their financial imperatives are different when it comes to husbandry of assets such as a civic hall organ. I wonder if a simple fiscal comparison was done to at least see whether it would have been more economic to have advertised the organ for sale and removal prior to the work on the hall, compared with what actually happened? If so, it would be interesting to see the figures. If not, why not? It could have been done on a couple of sheets of paper in a day or two by someone in the finance and accounts department. Maybe I ought to submit a FOI request asking why my tree was apparently so much more important and worthy of preservation than the Wolverhampton Compton ... CEP
  3. On the face of it the contrast with the Colston Hall at Bristol could not be greater. As we all know, they have an imaginative scheme to maintain the building as a major musical venue, with the organ included as part of the plans. Are there any obvious reasons in principle why this could not have been done at Wolverhampton? CEP
  4. This is indeed surprising news, though I did wonder whether something was going amiss last year when Organists' Review announced that subscriptions for 2019 were to be handled by IAO Trading Ltd rather than Allegro. I'm sorry to hear of the reduced scope of the new Allegro and the difficulties they must have faced, as I found them unusually helpful on several occasions, almost going beyond the call of duty in a way which probably did not earn them much income. A great pity. CEP
  5. Pipe organs which use electronics in any form, as distinct from those which only have an electric action of the old-fashioned (electromechanical) variety, are most at risk of damage due to lightning. Even one whose key action is entirely mechanical will commonly use electric stop control which includes an electronic combination system. The problem with electronics is that it is susceptible to relatively small transient voltage and current spikes which can be induced in the wiring (including the mains wiring) by a nearby lightning event, one which might not have caused noticeable damage to the building otherwise, or not even struck the building at all - maybe a neighbouring one or a strike which just hit the ground or a tree nearby. It is irrelevant whether the organ is switched on or not for the damage to occur. After all, a sudden current rush of 50,000 amps or more can induce sufficient energy to cause damage to anything containing semiconductors (integrated circuits, transistors and diodes) within a radius of at least several tens of metres. The extensive wiring associated with such systems in organs acts an aerial or antenna which picks up the radiated energy from the strike and feeds it into the susceptible circuitry. Old fashioned electromechanical actions (those containing relays but no electronics) are more resistant to lightning in that they will only fail when the currents are sufficient to cause physical damage such as burnt wiring. This generally requires a direct hit on the building of sufficient ferocity to cause obvious damage to other fittings and even the fabric itself. As to what can be done to prevent such damage, it's problematical. Lightning conductors will often prevent or reduce damage to the building itself, yet paradoxically increase the chance of damaging the organ because the massive currents flowing through the conductor augment still further the induced currents in the organ wiring nearby. One obvious approach is not to build organs which incorporate electronics. (No vituperative correspondence please - I've amassed enough of this over the years to paper my walls with it). Nevertheless, facts are facts. You pays your money and you takes your choice, which means knowingly accepting the risks when incorporating electronics in pipe organs. CEP
  6. Yes, a vinyl LP album was issued. I used to have it but it seems to have got lost along life's travels. If I'm honest I found the audio quality of much of it rather poor. For example, the narrators were badly mic'd and you had to turn the wick up to hear what they were saying, and then of course turn it down again when the music re-started. The audience was noisy and probably well-lubricated. Depends whether you like that sort of thing or not I guess, although I suppose it does count as a period piece now. I wasn't there but several of my student friends were, and they said the LP wasn't able to reflect much of the occasion itself, which isn't surprising. Some of them kept for posterity the (485?) penny whistle-type things which were handed out at the door (presumably used in McCabe's 'Miniconcerto)! However, whether I liked it or not is beside the point. It seems to me an excellent example of the sort of thing needed to raise the profile of the organ, partly by encouraging audience participation as some have mentioned above. CEP
  7. He was also possessed of a wide and deep intellectual remit, and of particular interest to me was his support of an unusual class of temperaments in which the octaves are not tuned pure. Probably the best known of these is that due to Serge Cordier, having slightly widened (sharpened) octaves which then enables all the fifths to be tuned pure. This is impossible in all other useable temperaments. Jean Guillou wrote the Foreword to one of Cordier's books, and he also encouraged the firm of Kleuker Orgelbau in tuning some of their organs to the Cordier temperament. He was not alone, as some other notable names at the time (we are speaking of the 1980s) such as Yehudi and Hephzibar Menuhin and Paul Badura-Skoda were also interested in impure-octave temperaments, though in their case it was more for the piano rather than the organ. Menuhin had his own Steinway tuned to Cordier. The fact that such temperaments were impractical before this is because they are difficult to tune without the aid of electronic tuning devices, and these did not become generally available until the 1980s. This alone shows how Guillou eagerly embraced new developments and was prepared to give them a go, rather than being suspicious and resistant like so many of his peers. CEP
  8. Instead of just sitting them down to listen passively to a 'recital', would there be a possibility of inviting participation from some of them? This might range from a scenario where you had done some preparatory work with the schools to identify those who could play simple keyboard pieces as part of the recital, to merely asking for volunteers regardless of skill level to come to the console on the day and explore the range of sounds for themselves, and thus for the remainder of the audience. The organ has the advantage of having many quiet stops which can soften the otherwise excruciating effect of a child with no previous experience exploring the keyboard. I've done this (and still do) with my youngest grandchildren almost from the day they were born. I try to structure their explorations by suggesting they press the lowest and then the highest keys, using different stops both soft and loud. I do not encourage or allow them to just bash away however - it has to be an exercise with a modicum of structure. One of the things I do is to ask them if they can hear the topmost note of a 15th or 17th - I cannot because of age-related hearing loss. So I ask them to tell me what these very high notes sound like to them, and sometimes they try to imitate them by singing. The lowest notes also seem to interest them. Then I move to the sounds of the various stops, which they select themselves but under my guidance. Older children of junior school age or beyond might also be interested in things like synthetic tone formation using mutations. One such demo is first to successively add mutations, particularly the 12th and 17th, to a unison tone while they continue to hold a key down, and ask them to remember the sound in their head. Then ask them to release the note and then re-key it. The resulting composite tone usually sounds completely different subjectively because the brain has not had the opportunity to hear in advance the constituents making up the total sound. In my experience even some adults are surprised and fascinated by this demonstration. You could also demonstrate the similarities and differences between such a synthetic tone (8 + 12th + 17th) and a real clarinet stop, asking them to articulate what they hear. Still older students, probably into their teens, might also be interested in a simple explanation of how the synthetic stop is picking out the same harmonics already 'built in' to the real clarinet sound. You could also add a 4 foot tone to the mix, and compare that to a real Cor Anglais or Oboe stop if there is one on your organ. Even if there isn't, the difference in sound can still be instructive. At this point the discussion is clearly leading onto how electronic synthesisers work, which might help these older children to maintain their concentration. You could tell them that today's synthesisers use ideas first discovered by pipe organ builders hundreds of years ago. There are lots of other possibilities. CEP
  9. 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
  10. 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 ...
  11. 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
  12. Glad to find that I'm not the only one! CEP
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
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