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Colin Pykett

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Everything posted by Colin Pykett

  1. I sometimes think the "strict systems" of which David spoke, no matter how well-intentioned, can prove to be a mixed blessing. The more complex a set of rules becomes, the easier it is to find more and more ways around them. This is true of life generally. In Britain there seem to be an increasing number of (Anglican) churches who have realised this, so instead of 'fighting' a corner to dispose of their organ through the traditional system of faculties, consistory courts, etc, they now simply leave the organ where it is and allow it to rot. In the meantime they then import ("temporarily" of course!) an electronic, or worship band or anything else that they prefer. They are also able to ignore the howls of protest from outside their ranks, no matter how loud they might become, because those doing the howling can do virtually nothing about it. Having said all this, I do agree with Contrabombarde who said that "the work of the church is far bigger than keeping its organ going" - Church with a capital "C" of course in this context. I am as fond of the organ as the next person, but if a conflict should arise between money going to the organ fund or supporting a local soup kitchen, I know where my preference would lie. CEP
  2. No, I don't think you are harsh simply by being honest. I was trying to be be kind on account of the good work the IAO does more generally. In the end I'm sure their site will get fixed. CEP
  3. Wearing my web designer's hat again, I fully empathise with anyone who is trying to get a new site working properly - assuming that is what the IAO is doing. You can test it offline or under various hidden URLs until the cows come home, but eventually you have to take a deep breath, go live on the actual server you will be hosting the final thing on, and debug it from there. In situations like this I simply put a short message on the home page telling visitors what's happening and seek their forbearance! CEP
  4. Apologies for starting a new topic, but after several searches I could not find an existing one which dealt with the IAO. I've had to spell its name in full in the Topic Title otherwise this forum's search facility would not find it (it seems to require at least 4 characters in each word in the search string, thus the abbreviation 'IAO' is ignored). Anyway, I wonder if anyone has had a look at the new IAO website? (iao.org.uk). Its navigation list (i.e. the links to the other pages which occur as the buttons displayed at the top of each one) does not seem to be complete. For example, the old 'links' page is no longer there, though one can access its updated version by Googling for it independently - for the record, it currently exists at iao.org.uk/links/ as of today. But there then seem to be additional problems. One is that there are links to apparently unrelated pages dealing with things like 'Computer Security', 'Keylogger Software', etc. As a web designer myself my first thought was that the site might have been hacked, and I strongly advise anyone NOT to go to those places by clicking on these links! Of course, maybe the whole site is still under construction. Maybe, also, somebody on this forum knows more? CEP
  5. Although I promised above to keep quiet from now on, I was moved to reply to Colin Harvey's remarks about the going rate for organ blowers nearly a century ago. In his youth, my late father (b. 1921) used to blow the organ of a Sunday and got paid either 6d (2.5 pence today) a service or 6d a Sunday - I'm not sure which. On the face of it this is considerably more than the 2/6d per quarter which Colin quoted. However I think I recall my father saying that he was only one of several local lads who queued up for this no doubt welcome addition to their disposable income. He also said that the organist would kick the panelling on the side of the console if he became worried about the supply of wind, presumably as revealed by the tell-tale visible only to him. It was also, apparently, a mortal sin not to start blowing in good time when the sermon was drawing to a close. Perhaps another kick occurred if the individual concerned was in default at that critical time. Ultimately he and his colleagues would have been made permanently redundant in 1937 when a completely new organ with electric blowing (and electric action powered by a dynamo) was installed, though I doubt he would have continued with the job when he would have been well into his teens by that date. There is a somewhat more serious side to all this. I think it is true that the subject of organ blowing by muscle power has been inadequately researched, which is a pity in view of the part it played in the social and cultural contributions of the organ to local life. The more one thinks about it, the more fascinating it becomes. Therefore perhaps this thread ought to move elsewhere on the forum so that it can continue to be discussed and given the attention it seems to call for. CEP
  6. Contrabombarde's quote has wider ramifications than winter power outages. I have always felt (vaguely) that an instrument which needs kilowatts of power drawn from a sophisticated supply system is somehow an embarrassment in musical terms. Does this partly explain why the organ is sidelined to some degree, and why it is sometimes an object of amusement or even ridicule to other musicians, especially when electric actions go wrong let alone the blower. (Electric actions also need the National Grid remember - they won't run on batteries). Hence jibes such as "whoever heard of a violin/oboe/trumpet played by an electric action?" Following this trail can be hilarious at times, such as when reading about the motley collection of human blowers who used to lounge for centuries outside churches of all sizes, waiting for an organist to turn up. As late as the 1920s they were to be seen outside Notre Dame in Paris, until a desperate subscription in this country raised enough money to make them redundant. Was that a good thing? At least that enormous instrument would not have been at the mercy of power outages in those days. These thoughts also return when I play a humble foot pumped reed organ - a self-contained musical instrument which needs no electricity as Contrabombarde rightly said. Although I am not their greatest fan, I still remember the occasion when I entered a beautiful church in Lincolnshire many years ago. I think it was in a tiny village called Addlethorpe. Musically, it contained nothing but a Mustel harmonium, but it sounded stupendous in that acoustic - almost like a miniature Cavaille-Coll organ. I sometimes think we organ enthusiasts have indeed lost something along the way. Unfortunately I've gone way off-topic. Maybe this should have been posted somewhere else. I'll shut up now. CEP
  7. I have never been to Newfoundland but would like to, if only because of its vibrant connections with my alter ego as a physicist who did a PhD in radiophysics. Speaking of the hills at St John's, I believe it was on top of the appropriately-named Signal Hill that Marconi first demonstrated transatlantic radio reception in December 1901. And what has this to do with organs? Of itself, nothing, other than we now listen to them routinely through the medium of wireless broadcasting, but a few days later he apparently "attended Divine service" on the 15th according to one biography. As a devout Roman Catholic (he later installed a special radio link between the Vatican and the Pope's residence at Castel Gondolfo), presumably he would have attended an RC church in the town. I wonder if David knows which one that would have been? Marconi was also an accomplished amateur musician who (among other things) played the piano as part of various small chamber ensembles. Therefore Is it possible he was also an occasional organist? Contemporary accounts show what a terrible time of year it was when that epoch-making experiment was performed. David's post emphasises this most graphically! CEP
  8. Dave, having had a quick listen to your clips I'm not much the wiser regarding your questions. However I suffer from the disease which makes me want to know the answer as well when a query arises. So if I get anywhere I'll let you know! CEP
  9. What does the emoticon signify - that the Geigen is indeed considered "rank" perhaps? CEP
  10. Having found David Drinkell's posts interesting and useful recently, I found myself wondering what the weather is like in Newfoundland? Hopefully he might be escaping the worst of the 'polar vortex' affecting Canada and the USA. CEP
  11. Colin Pykett

    Set Free

    IMHO you're not a luddite at all, AJJ. I agree with you entirely. As a schoolboy I once attended a recital by the late Ivor Keys on a three manual mechanical action instrument in Nottingham - he and the console were in full view, and the fact I still remember the occasion so clearly is because I was astonished by his lightning-fast hand registration throughout. No registrant(s) either I might add. That's the standard I feel ought to be aimed at. But if there are to be electronic combination systems, I feel they need to be reined in a bit in terms of their complexity and user-unfriendliness. That's where I am coming from in all this. CEP
  12. Colin Pykett

    Set Free

    Many thanks to those above who have replied to my questions about combination capture systems, and in particular how best to incorporate a 'neutral' option so that certain stops are not affected by the pistons. It seems that people would prefer a system which allows an arbitrary selection of neutral stops to be settable on each piston on a given memory level, rather than a fixed set of neutrals affecting all pistons. The issue then becomes not so much the technical difficulty of implementing it, but how to do so in a simple user-friendly manner. With this in mind, a sketch is shown below of two (rather than the usual one) setter buttons/pistons. Note: if for some reason the picture does not appear on your PC, you can access it independently from my website using the following link: http://www.pykett.org.uk/SetNeutrals-SetActives-Labels.gif I envisage both buttons occupying the traditional place at the left hand end of the lowest key slip which is currently occupied by the usual (single) setter button. The sketch suggests labels might be attached explaining what each button does, simply because it might be difficult to cram the suggested names onto the small head of each button. But it might be useful as well for the buttons to be identified by the engraved numbers 1 and 2, as suggested in the sketch. The system would work as follows: Button 1 captures a combination for a given piston and memory level in exactly the same way as an ordinary setter button does now (thus no neutrals are possible using button 1). Button 2 - optionally - will then capture a (different) selection of stops which are to be neutral for the same piston and memory level. This neutral selection is in effect overlaid onto the combination captured by button 1. The stop selections captured by either button can be adjusted independently. For instance, if you just wanted to add another neutral stop to a given piston, you would use button 2 only. The combination captured previously using button 1 would not be affected in any other respect. The system will apply to both divisional and general pistons. Hope this is clear. It's the simplest scheme I've come up with so far. I could patent this I guess, but having put the idea into the public domain at least nobody else can now patent it! Will it work? Now I have to write the software to find out if there are any hidden gremlins .... CEP
  13. Colin Pykett

    Set Free

    I'm enjoying, and am very grateful for, the responses received to my enquiry - and so quickly too. Obviously I must wait until others have had a chance to reply before launching into further detail on this. However I just HAD to respond to mgp's remarks about whether G/P pistons should ever be cancel-able. I was playing at Salisbury Cathedral some years ago (not something I get to do often, unfortunately!) when exactly that happened. I was in the middle of Stanford's prelude on a theme of Orlando Gibbons (op 105) when a friend who was acting as page turner noticed the fact. Had he not, I would have had virtually nothing 14 bars from the end when there is that wonderful fortissimo stalking pedal motif heralding the coda! Momentarily, I did wonder why he was rushing around the console pulling out just about pedal stop and coupler in sight. Thank goodness he did. Anyway, many thanks everyone for taking my question so seriously. As a result, I already have a relatively simple (I think) scheme in mind which I'll keep revising until the replies stop coming in. CEP PS Yes, thanks Tony (Newnham) - long time, no see. I'm OK, hope you are also. C.
  14. Colin Pykett

    Set Free

    Might I be forgiven for re-opening this rather elderly thread? One of my occupations is designing electronic combination (piston) control systems, and therefore I was interested in the 'customer' opinions expressed here, which I found valuable as a 'supplier' (but I hope an informed one, being a player myself). Even when they work, some of these systems seem to be examples of technology gone mad and at the limit of user-unfriendliness. So I hold firmly to the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) expressed above. A recurring theme seems to be that of incorporating a 'neutral' option somehow for at least some of the controlled stops, so that they are not controlled by the pistons. So I have the following questions: 1. Which stops benefit most from being neutral? Couplers, tremulants, piston couplers (gt-ped pistons)? If couplers, should inter-divisional couplers such as swell to great be treated differently to intra-divisional ones such as swell octave? Are there any other stops which should be included? 2. Would it be satisfactory for these neutral choices to be made once and for all by the system designer - hard wired in other words? Or do players want to be able to change them? 3. If players do want to select which stops are to remain neutral, would it be acceptable for there to be, say, an additional button or piston (perhaps placed near to the Setter button) which changed them? One would then, for example, draw all the stops which are to remain neutral and then press this additional button. 4. Of course, such a system would put the same selection of neutral stops onto all pistons. Would this be acceptable, or would a different set of neutrals for each piston be more useful? 5. In my experience, a system which seems to meet the needs of most organists of my acquaintance has a fixed selection of neutral stops on all divisional pistons, so they will not affect inter-divisional couplers (e.g. swell to great) for example. But there are no neutrals on any of the general pistons, thus couplers and everything else will be controlled by the generals. This is a relatively simple scheme (thereby adhering to KISS), but how widely acceptable would it be to members of this forum? I think this list of questions is long enough for now, though it does illustrate yet again how complex a seemingly-simple issue can be. Any replies gratefully received. CEP
  15. I have probably missed the point here because what I am about to suggest is so simple, but to those who are having difficulty pasting into this forum from Word, can you not save the finished Word document as a text-only (txt) file and then copy-and-paste from that? OK, this will be no good if you want to include anything other than basic text, such as images, hyperlinks, etc, but otherwise it ought to work. (In fact it does, because I've done it myself). You can then modify the pasted text using this forum's editing facilities to change fonts, underscore, etc, etc. Word itself inserts a dreadful overhead of invisible control characters which are probably responsible for the difficulties (though they can be rendered visible from within Word if you really want to view them and thereby make yourself feel unwell - they have been aptly termed digital diarrhoea, not the best thing to suffer from at Christmas). Saving the document as a txt file removes all these, leaving only pure ASCII text codes. CEP
  16. "... what is the point of cathedrals ... ?" It's a good question, one on which I have had various discussions with various clergy over the years. Personally I find it useful to ask it in the context of a second, which is "what is the Scriptural authority for their existence?". One gets a wide range of clerical answers to this one! I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said: "I am as fond of fine music and handsome building as Milton was, or Cromwell, or Bunyan; but if I found that they were becoming the instruments of a systematic idolatry of sensuousness, I would hold it good statesmanship to blow every cathedral in the world to pieces with dynamite, organ and all". Nevertheless, speaking personally again, I'm glad they are there, even if it is only to keep the rain off the organs. Compliments of the season to you all, and best wishes for the New Year CEP
  17. Pistons with circular heads mounted on narrow shanks behind are indeed somewhat fragile, especially the cheaper ones made of plastic. The shanks themselves can be mechanically weak if the tapped hole within goes too far up. Thus prodding the piston quickly at an angle can cause the head, and sometimes part of the shank, to shear off. However superglue seems to be effective as a repair even in the long term if done carefully - I've done several over the last few decades. It's worth trying in the first instance, because a proper repair usually involves dismantling the key stack to a greater or lesser extent, and of course an exact replacement head needs to be available. They (circular ones with engraved numbers) also seem to be a magnet for small children who try to twist them - usually with great force. The same thing happens - they shear off. For these reasons I sometimes wish that the more robust sugar-cube type had found wider acceptance and usage in organ building practice. CEP
  18. Noel Rawsthorne wrote an alternative harmonisation to Melita which might be marginally useful (number 97 in his '200 Last Verses'). Also it might be worth mentioning that I spent many years during my career working closely with the Royal Navy and I used to play regularly (and still do occasionally) at a church with strong military and naval connections. At more than one funeral there, one for an Army officer and another for a Naval one, the family requested I play Nessun Dorma. I am not sure whether this has specific military connections but its translation, None Shall Sleep, is appropriate. (The actual libretto to the opera is decided twaddle and perhaps not suited to a church setting at all, but if we let libretti put us off most of us probably wouldn't listen to much opera at all). CEP
  19. Thank you, MM, for the welcome and those kind words. I'm not sure I can describe myself as a fully fledged Compton expert though. My interests in that direction start rather narrowly with Robert Hope-Jones's work at an engineering level, and moving on from that, I have been interested for some years in how some of his technical ideas were transferred to Compton (because they surely were), and what Compton did with them subsequently. It's an intriguing thread to follow, though I still cannot see it in its entirety yet. Some of HJ's tonal ideas also got transferred in a diluted form, though in my view that is a rather different matter - it was the fashion then to make organs sound like they did in Britain around 1900, a trend that was taken up for a while by several others including Harrison. CEP
  20. My limited intellect has encountered difficulty in trying to understand why Denis O'Connor's enquiry about getting hold of 19th century copies of Musical Opinion is mixed up with the attractions of Buxtehude's daughter. However it might be of interest that the Westminster Music Library near Victoria Coach Station had them some years back. I agree with him that the correspondence columns were very lively then on subjects including Hope-Jones which was the subject I was researching at the time. Maybe try this link: http://www.westminster.gov.uk/services/libraries/special/music/ Careful though - the paper from 1895 or so was yellowed and extremely fragile and I had to own up to having torn some pages slightly as I was turning them. The staff were very kind though and let me out without a fine. CEP
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