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Colin Pykett

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About Colin Pykett

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  1. Isn't history wonderful! I was present when the 1953 coronation was broadcast live on television, which itself was a rare and expensive novelty what with sets retailing at around £80 at a time when the average working man brought home perhaps £7 per week gross. The new Sutton Coldfield transmitter had only brought single-channel BBC TV for the first time to the heaving unwashed north of Watford a few years earlier, and we were thus able to enjoy (?) it on a 405-line monochrome 9 inch screen in the largest room my extended family could find in one of their dwellings, so that as many friends and neighbours could squeeze in as possible. (Nerd alert - even though it was only a few years old, that TV tube was then showing signs of the central bluish ion burn which eventually rendered it useless. A common problem then before the days of ion trap technology. However an aunt remarked that it proved that "they were obviously experimenting with colour", bless her). It was actually great fun from my point of view because of the party atmosphere, though I must admit to having been bored stiff by the broadcast itself, except for some of the music and the sound of the organ emerging from that tiny loudspeaker which even then impressed itself on my juvenile mind. At junior school we had had the benefit of a special edition of the New Testament handed out to every pupil, as well as a 'Coronation Mug' of the sort which even today still spills off the shelves of the lesser antique shops. But I'm afraid I can't shed any light on whether Latin was used. What a philistine I must seem ...
  2. When I kicked off this topic I was only too aware that I was having a self-indulgent rant. So it's interesting that some others seem to incline in a similar direction all the same. In particular, VH's thoughtful and professional remarks summarise exactly what I meant. Although I find the music of Bach and his contemporaries is at its most attractive when played on the instruments which were around at the time, this is only a personal opinion and I certainly wouldn't want to impose it on anyone else. In any case, some harpsichords sound better than others, which were amusingly described some while back on this forum as sounding like a 'drawer full of cutlery'. I can't recall who said that but I love it as it can be so true! On the other hand I've heard the most sublime, golden and warm sounds from some of them both on recordings and live. I think there can be more mileage than might sometimes be thought concerning the pitch (as distinct from the temperament) they are tuned to. The so-called 'Baroque pitch standard' (if there can be such a thing) of A415 is a semitone flat from today's almost universal A440, and it results in a gentler timbre to my ears on at least some instruments, if not the majority. It's a totally different matter to merely switching a digital instrument down a semitone, because in that case there's no timbral change at all since exactly the same samples are used at both pitches. But it's not straightforward to retune any acoustic keyboard instrument, as the thing needs time to settle down to the new set of string tensions. It can easily involve several retunings over a period of some weeks or even longer before you can assess the result properly, and it definitely needs to be done by an expert. Therefore it's not surprising that people are unwilling to retune on a whim, since it takes just as long (and it's just as expensive) to put it back again if you don't like it. It obviously couldn't be done for a piano which might be needed the following week for a concerto performance in which the orchestra would be expecting an A440 instrument.
  3. Thinking a little more about converting one of the 8 foot flutes into a 4 foot one, I assume the Claribel uses full length (not stopped) pipes down to tenor C. It would, in theory, be possible to convert it directly into an open flute of 4 foot pitch by boring nodal holes approximately half way up each pipe - in other words, convert it into a 4 foot Harmonic Flute. Some careful regulation (adjustment of power across the rank) would almost certainly be necessary to get the desired tone as well as, more importantly, proper blend with the Stopped Diapason. An advantage of doing things this way is that no transposition of pipes would be required, so the amount of messing about with the sound board and rack boards would be minimal or zero. But as mentioned in my previous post, you would be well advised to put the job into the hands of an expert. And if it didn't turn out well, the holes could be plugged and glued again if the pipes are of wood, returning the organ tonally to where it was previously and without having done much mutilation to the pipework. If of metal, the holes could be re-covered by a simple soldering job. Some 8 foot claribels are of harmonic construction themselves over at least part of the compass, implying that they use double-length pipes, though I'd be a little surprised if such extravagance applied here with this baby organ. But if it is the case, then delete everything I've just said. But I emphasise again that all this is entirely theoretical. I haven't seen, heard or played the instrument so it's all just armchair musing on my part.
  4. You have two 8 foot flutes, so would you be willing to forego one of them in favour of a 4 foot flute as an alternative to an octave coupler? The majority of the new rank could perhaps be made up from the sacrificed 8 foot one in the hands of a sufficiently skilled voicer, so that it matches the remaining 8 foot flute. Or perhaps forego the Dulciana, although two 8 foot flutes strike me as a bit extravagant in such a small instrument and I imagine the contemplative quietness of the Dulciana is something you would not want to lose in circumstances such as during Holy Communion. I don't know of course, not having heard or played the instrument, so these suggestions might well be ill-founded.
  5. Not exactly an organ topic, but do others find Bach and contemporary composers' works played on the piano as much as a turn-off as I do? I've just this minute switched off BBC R3 when they started playing (aka advertising) a recent CD of (D) Scarlatti thus rendered. It's not so much the blatant anachronism of using an instrument that barely existed at the time, but the fact that the romantic excesses of a powerful modern concert grand plus the exaggerated antics of some executants verge on the revolting to me. (I'm not all that keen on it for some of the 19th century repertoire either ... ) Plus, of course, the major issues of temperament and even pitch. One cannot really know what temperaments would have been preferred in view of the whole subject boiling around in a melting pot at the time, though the probability of equal tuning would have been low I suggest - but don't start me on that. And as for A440? It would have resulted in a lot of snapped violin strings, and wouldn't have done the wooden frames of harpsichords and early Silbermann-type pianos much good either. I wouldn't have minded quite so much if they had had the grace to use an actual or ersatz fortepiano tuned to some reasonably 'authentic' temperament and pitch, but no - not on this CD at least. I'm not expecting any replies. But thanks to the forum for letting me get it off my chest. And, on a barely related topic which concerns attendance at concerts, I discovered a dreadful thing about my mobile phone yesterday. If you have set an alarm call, you still get the alarm even if you have switched off the actual phone - at least, on mine. I think the only way to be absolutely safe is to physically take out the battery prior to the commencement of the concert. Thank goodness I discovered this the easy way (in the kitchen as it happens) rather than the hard way at the RFH or wherever ... Anyway, I now realise why this seems to happen so often at live events. Doubtless this is well known to those who've made the transition into the 21st century better than I.
  6. I too was very saddened by this news. David was one of those whom I never managed to meet but wish I had, and he was one of the members who made it so worthwhile belonging to this forum. It's certainly true that his knowledge of the instrument was encyclopaedic as others have said above, and I thought it might be worthwhile posting this link describing his researches into the organs of East Anglia where he obviously had a special interest: http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/norfolkorgans1.htm His family and friends are in my thoughts.
  7. " ... I'm not suggesting the traditional console's days are numbered ... " I'm sure much of what you suggest could be done fairly readily in principle. But in practice I have yet to see what I would class as a 'cheap' organ console which would appeal to a wide enough range of customers (i.e. players). Even at the bottom end of the market, the stripped-down skeleton designs offered by turnkey suppliers of virtual pipe organs are still pretty expensive. You can easily exceed the £10k-plus mark without hardly thinking about it. And that certainly wouldn't cover motorised (or perhaps even non-motorised) stop controls, only touch screens. This is no criticism because they are usually made to order since the market is so small, they must needs use keyboards of reasonable quality, plus they require standard pedal boards and all the other things an organist expects to find. And they need to look the part in the sense of being moderately attractive as a piece of furniture. So I do wonder whether the traditional organ console will ever really disappear as long as the organ (pipe or digital) exists at all. Costs can only be brought down to rock bottom if you are content with a couple of cheap plastic MIDI controller keyboards balanced on a pile of books sitting on the dining table, with a manky umpteenth-hand pedal board shoved underneath. Don't laugh, I've seen them, as no doubt have others who might read this. It's one way to go, especially if you are at the early experimental stage of things. But I doubt it would be a solution which would offer satisfaction to most players. But, as you said, we digress ...
  8. I'm unsure of the 'expert' bit of what you said! All I can offer are some perspectives derived from having made various measurements on organ pipe sounds over many years. Regarding the point you made about the inner parts, this relates to what I (in common with many others I think) call transparency. I haven't been able to investigate Schnitger's registers yet in the detail I undertook for those of Silbermann, but I suspect the two builders would have produced much the same type of transparency using much the same techniques. In Silbermann's case I found that he seemed to somewhat throttle back the loudness of his Principals (at least the unison and possibly the 4 foot ones) over the middle two octaves or so of the compass compared with the bass and treble regions above and below that. This is an aspect mainly of regulation of course, though it might have also involved niceties of timbre to do with the relative strengths of the first (the fundamental) and second harmonics - in which case scaling would also be relevant as well as aspects of voicing practices beyond regulation. Whether he did it unconsciously or by design, I have no idea. This isn't really the place to elaborate the matter further but there's an article which might be of interest which describes the work in more detail: http://www.pykett.org.uk/silfluewk.htm If I am right, these master organ builders of the past must have had the most exquisitely acute hearing coupled with an intuitive understanding of what we would call the physics of music to achieve these results. Well, that's nothing new of course because we know that they did. What interests me is to ferret out how they did it, now that we are in possession of greater knowledge and sophisticated analysis techniques to be able to find out more about it. It's interesting that you referred to Schweitzer's opinion that Cavaillé-Coll's Montres were also transparent, unlike the majority of romantic Principals. The article above also analyses these two types of stop in the same way as a Silbermann Principal, and the differences emerged starkly - to the extent that it became obvious (at least to my possibly biased judgement) how the differences you alluded to relate to how quite simple parameters of the three types of register vary across the compass. One of the most important parameters is the acoustic power of the stop, which is an outcome of how the voicer regulates it, thereby shading its loudness across the keyboard. This might suggest that even unsatisfactory romantic diapasons could become more transparent and thus better-suited to Bach's music merely by re-regulating them to emulate Silbermann? Note that these are matters of regulation, or varying the tonal balances only by adjusting the acoustic powers of the pipes. I have long been of the view that this relatively simple matter is at least as important as adjusting tone quality or worrying about more complicated things like pipe scales, and moreover it can be applied to an unsatisfactory-sounding organ even after it has been built. Maybe Ralph Downes was one of those who showed the way here in relatively recent times, after he was 'converted' to this view by the well-known voicer Anton Gottfried early in his (Downes's) career. After watching Gottfried in action Downes wrote that he 'began to learn truths that were so simple that one could wonder why one had not thought of them before'. Although not really a matter for this particular forum, poor regulation is without doubt one of the reasons why some digital organs are so unsatisfactory. It is well known that one of their more mysterious defects is why they often sound so awful when many stops are drawn, when the individual registers do not sound too bad in isolation. Poor regulation is sometimes the cause (though not the only one). But although regulation sounds a simple matter, it nevertheless requires skill and experience and a highly educated 'ear' to get it right. It is quite possible that the better builders of yesteryear such as Schnitger and Silbermann knew all this and therefore regulated their organs to optimise their transparency.
  9. The issues raised here are important in a more general sense, and to my mind they can be summarised as the need to relate the subject of interest to the politics and socio-economics of its era, together with other major events at the time. Otherwise we get that distorted perspective of history which is so often presented in terms of nothing but monarchs, dates and battlefields. I find it unfortunate that historians themselves frequently encourage this - we all know of eminent academics lecturing us endlessly on television while striding pompously about on some undistinguished patch of grass which once had to do with some skirmish or other. Sitting through an hour of this sort of thing frequently tells us little of the real story behind events. It's not much different to a historian telling us that Marconi invented radio. Well, he didn't, in fact the very phrase is meaningless. No single person 'invented' it, and that is true for much else as well. Closer to home as far as this forum is concerned is the history of tuning and temperament. Some of what one comes across in recent literature is quite wrong (aside from arithmetical errors, which is another and altogether regrettable aspect). Andreas Werckmeister, for example, had a career shaped by the consequences of the Thirty Years' War when he was young. Were it not for this he would quite possibly have done something completely different. As it was, he was largely self-taught in some aspects of what he wrote about because he missed out on the chance to study more formally, and as a result was unaware of the parallel work of important contemporaries elsewhere in Europe (and they of he). This is not to underrate what he achieved, but his work does need to be read against this backdrop. It is particularly important not to presume that he and others at that time had our understanding of things like frequency, beats and harmonics for example, topics which are second nature to us but which were only hazily understood by Werckmeister and others - which is no criticism of course. And the appalling difficulties of doing arithmetic in those days is often ignored by today's authors with a calculator handily stuffed in a back pocket. Yet another issue is the dichotomy between the philosophical and empirical approaches to acquiring knowledge which exercised a controlling influence until the 19th century. Ignoring such matters renders some modern work on temperament anachronistic and of limited value. The relation of all this to Zimbelstern's posts is to emphasise how important it is to understand events in a broad context, and that can be facilitated by codifying the knowledge at the earliest opportunity. In other words, write down what might seem today to be humdrum and trivial matters. The longer we leave it, the harder it becomes for historians to derive an unambiguous picture of what happened. This is certainly true of tuning and temperament. Another example is the joy we experience when coming across some scrap of paper which illuminates what some long-departed organ builder was doing 150 years ago and how he was doing it. So for Zimbelstern to propose doing this for the fairly recent Orgelbewegung is laudable, while the information is still relatively fresh and available. I regret I can offer no assistance on this specific topic, but I applaud his approach and wish him well with it.
  10. That has to be true of course. It probably applies to the Netherlands as well. I guess I'm pretty much as well travelled as most though, if only because of my former job shoving me all over the place, and the phenomenon (of apparently greater awareness of and interest in the organ beyond the UK) seems quite widespread in my nevertheless finite experience. France - well, presumably it has to do with its organs and their music in the later 19th century as much as anything else, but surely there was a similar situation over here at that time, though probably for different reasons? Then, the organ was tremendously popular - Alfred Hollins in his autobiography refers to congregations of hundreds or even thousands at churches (mainly non-Conformist ones and the Kirk it would seem) who would listen raptly to his playing at quite ordinary services, let alone his recitals. Plus of course other players like Best performing on organs just as famous (like their builders) as the contemporary French ones. So why isn't there more residual evidence of this today in Britain when there apparently is in France, judging by the attendances they get at their recitals, at least the major ones? Then dear old Italy, where everything is so much more laid back and informal! I've observed people, many of whom are young, attracted in their droves off the street by the sound of an organ being played. They stand there for a while (because there aren't any vacant seats) before casually leaving again. Nobody notices or seems to mind, including the player. The place is continually heaving and in motion. (It's the same at their church services, even at cathedrals). I just love this relaxed attitude, so different to stuffy old UK! North America, especially the USA - I suppose the greater involvement of the population with the church still exerts a strong influence there which is beneficial to the organ, even though the effect is said to be somewhat on the wane now. And so on. So maybe there just isn't a simple answer to the question, but instead several different answers which apply to the various countries one considers.
  11. Like others here, I'm just as stumped as to why the organ doesn't press the buttons of the concert-going public in Britain. If the various very cogent reasons proposed are to explain it, why do they not seem to apply as strongly in other countries where the organ attracts a greater following (a phenomenon also remarked on above)? I realise this question has been posed several times before on this forum, but the dichotomy has existed for most of my remembered lifetime and I have no explanation for it.
  12. I too do not understand why this recital is scheduled for a Sunday morning. When I was working in London a long time ago now in the early 1990s, I attended many concerts including the Proms (I was fortunate in being able to live in Notting Hill just across the park from the gasworks, to which one could walk after an early dinner and get there in time for the event to begin). During those years there was always an organ recital, it was scheduled early in the evening (typically 6 pm as I recall) which meant that the main concert could begin afterwards - and I usually stayed for that as well. The audiences were not huge for the organ events but nevertheless respectable. The main problem in those days was the somewhat parlous state of the organ. It is therefore a great pity, now the organ has been so splendidly restored, that it seems to be so relegated in importance relative to other musical events at the Proms.
  13. There is an extract about 10 minutes long from the BBC radio 'Desert Island Discs' programme featuring Noel Rawsthorne at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p009n9xh It was broadcast on New Year's Day 1973. None of his music choices are included though they are listed on the web page.
  14. It's not the first time the organ has had problems with its electronics, though the background was different then: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg14619731-800-notre-dames-organ-falls-silent/ Then things got even worse: https://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/03/world/paris-journal-notre-dame-s-organ-and-computer-are-no-duet.html Though M Boisseau's reported jest at the end of this piece now sounds particularly unfortunate.
  15. For various reasons of no interest here I get involved in copyright issues quite often. The most recent arranger of a work will frequently be the copyright holder, or her/his estate if deceased. I assume the arranger you are referring to here is Clifford Harker, in which case the remaining copyright will probably have many years to run. One can encounter difficulties if one does not remember this. Another example is the 'Largo, Allegro, etc' variations by Festing arranged by Thalben-Ball. While Festing died in the 1750s, GTB's copyright will not expire for nearly 40 years yet. Therefore those who blithely upload their performances to youtube or other popular websites seemingly have no idea of the problems they will encounter if the copyright police (who continually and aggressively comb the internet for infringers) decide to take action. It is particularly vicious because, even if you take down an item should they contact you, you will quite likely still be taken to court if you refuse to pay them an arbitrary penalty for the period during which you were the infringer. The same can apply to those including it in recitals or on CDs etc without prior agreement. I'm not a copyright lawyer but one doesn't have to be. The rules are pretty simple and aggressively enforced as case law shows. If a plaintiff provides evidence that you infringed, the court will simply find against you with no further argument, and of course add costs on top of a fine or other penalty.
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