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Damian Beasley-Suffolk

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About Damian Beasley-Suffolk

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    Voorburg, The Netherlands

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  1. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Christmas music 2018

    I hope everyone is enjoying their musical tasks at the moment. Accompanying and supporting Christmas services is something all of us approach with care, pride, and not a little trepidation. But a little word of advice … have the order of service with you and follow it. At last week's 9 lessons and carols, after O Come all ye Faithful had finished, I took a dramatic pause and then launched into an (admittedly poor) extemporisation while the congregation departed for coffee. Even from my lofty perch, it smelled lovely. Except they stayed put. Looking around, I noticed the vicar waving at me to stop, albeit with a broad grin on his face. Not being familiar with Anglican ways, and not following the order of service, I had forgotten that he finished the service with a round of thanks and a blessing. THEN I can play. Oops. Apparently a query to the choir mistress (my wife) about how I could be stopped was met with a wry smile and a "Too late now, mate!" I got a round of applause from it, and people have been kind with their good-natured teasing during the week, but still … Happy Christmas, all.
  2. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    "THE" Toccata

    Regarding Germani's comment on the context of a piece, I have only once heard one of Widor's symphonies played live as a whole, no 6 here in Voorburg (http://www.oudekerkvoorburg.nl/historie/het-marianne-orgel.html) as un-Widor an organ as you could hope to find given its age, but a with a well thought out performance adapted to the organ, necessary when you need two page-turners/registrants. This showed me two things, at least: listening to how the performer has adapted a piece to an instrument of a very different style makes you listen quite attentively, and hearing the whole work reveals the ebb and flow of ideas through the movements, setting them in their context. It's very enjoyable, although quite demanding, especially for a general audience. Recently I've been travelling a lot, so with my new noise-cancelling headphones I've been profiting from the enforced idleness by listening, inter alia, to some complete de Grigny masses and Clérambault suites, without any distractions. I have few analytical abilities musically, but my appreciation of this music, which I'm a great fan of anyway, is increasing for understanding the context better.
  3. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    "THE" Toccata

    Given enough notice, most people want their own funerals to commemorate things they loved in life, and to send the attendees off with a bit of a smile if possible. All the more reason to respect their wishes. The music for the Durham funeral will be a joy for all who hear it. My wife's aunt died recently, and the church funeral was followed by a short service at, as it happens, Durham Crematorium which, as an aside, has a striking and to my taste very attractive chapel. She went out to Sinatra, "New York, New York". As my thoughtful wife said, "Well, she wants to wake up in a city that doesn't sleep." Amen to that.
  4. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Christmas music 2018

    AsI mentioned in a previous post, when my wife's church holds their 9 Lessons and Carols in the village church in Voorschoten, near The Hague, I play just British music. The Oxford book of Christmas Organ Music has a lot of nice music which I've used and which is suitable for a 300 year old Dutch actual baroque organ, for example This Endris Night, and Sumsion's The Holly and the Ivy seem to come across nicely, and don't really miss the dynamic changes when played gently. I recently bought Francis Jackson's Partita on a Somerset Carol, but that's going to need a lot of work on my part to do it justice. William Lloyd-Webber's Songs Without Words are lovely, the Nouvel Nouvelet being a cheerful arrangement, and his Coventry Carol managing to make that most beautiful carol even lovelier. In the nicest way, I use it as the "2 minute warning" before we start. Amazing how a beautiful tune on an 8' flute can calm a whole congregation. And for the final flourish, last year (I think) I played O Come all ye faithful, around Noel Rawsthorne's fun arrangement, as it also presents a nice playover of the style that Dutch churchgoers like, and the continuation after the last verse seemed to finish the whole service in the nice atmosphere I had hoped. Nice when things go according to plan. This year, I'm planning to play WLW's God rest ye merry gentlemen, if I can nail it down in time - and I've just remembered it's next weekend. Better get practising!
  5. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Can we all try a bit harder?

    OK, try this one .... "Things I wish hadn't been removed from my/an organ." On the morning of my dear late mother-in-law's funeral, several years ago, there was a power cut in the whole village, Witton Park in County Durham (a former Category D village for all you amateur historians). Naturally, the organ had no wind. Perhaps it was a cunning plan from a higher power to keep me away from playing it, we shall never know. After an increasingly cold hour (it was January) of phoning around to see if anyone had any kind of keyboard with batteries, a flash of inspiration made me look around the back of the organ to see, given its age, if there might be a hand-blowing mechanism - and there was! Hooray, I could revive old traditions, and pay a child sixpence and a stale bun to pump the bellows - or at least get the various grandchildren to pump and keep them warm (it got colder). But alas! The mechanism, although present and complete, had been disconnected from the wind supply and I thought it unwise to have a go at some running repairs. Eventually, someone turned up with a small generator, which had just enough power for all the lights - thank heavens for low-energy light bulbs - start the heating pump, and start the electric blower for the organ, and everything eventually turned out all right. If only someone hadn't disconnected the hand-blowing mechanism. I see that many recent restorations restore and reinstate them, even in parallel with electric blowers. You'll miss them when they've gone. http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N15085 The organ blower was recently replaced with the full and generous assistance of the Banks Group: https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/local/southdurham/bishopauckland/14922678.grant-saves-witton-park-church-organ/
  6. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    British Organ Going To Germany

    I suppose this can be looked at in several ways. The optimist in me says that these instruments bring with them the musical traditions and culture for which they were conceived, which has attracted a certain amount of interest here in the Netherlands. In particular, a number of churches hold evensong every now and again, particularly in Leiden (Hooglandse Kerk, Willis), and The Hague (Ss John & Philip, though that's actually an Anglican church with an original Goetze and Gwynn), something unknown to any Dutch denominations. Another example is the 1883 Harrison organ from St Peter's, Bishop Auckland, which is being restored and installed in the Grote Kerk in Wijk bij Duurstede close to Utrecht as a choir organ. My wife has played this organ, it's her home turf, and says it was a bit of a belter. It'll sound quite different in the church it's going to. Looking forward to asking nicely if we can play again, I don't think it will disappoint. http://www.orgelnieuws.nl/grote-kerk-wijk-duurstede-krijgt-engels-koororgel/
  7. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Westminster Abbey

    In fact if you just go to www.orgelsite.nl you get to the home page of this fantastic website. The premise is very simple, it contains the disposition and a few pictures of thousands of Dutch organs, as well as some from other countries, and is searchable by location and builder. Using Google's automatic translation it's probably pretty easy to search, and see just how many English organs are lurking here! Sadly, the person who set it up, Wim Verburg, died in 2010 aged 44, so I don't know whether it is updated. But it is a wonderful, colourful, and informative legacy.
  8. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Westminster Abbey

    A couple of times a year the Anglican parish which my wife attends, which usually meets in a school, borrows the Dorpskerk (lit. village church) in Voorschoten, especially for a 9 Lessons and Carols service, to which all are welcome. As this is so different from any Dutch service, there's a pleasing amount of local interest and attendance, so when playing I do prepare some nice last verses, and perhaps a few arrangements in between. But the nature of the organ has led me to play arrangements without big registrations - it seems to work better to have a nice plenum and just leave it alone, and let the progression and harmonies speak for themselves. To an extent, of course, the instrument dictates this, having no swell, no celestes, no 32', no registration aids, and an awkward pedal arrangement, but it nevertheless enables the same effect of emphasising whatever the intention of the last verse is without showing off - I hope! And the instrument which has all of these "shortcomings" but which is still such a joy to play English music, last verses and all, on is https://www.orgelsite.nl/kerken22/voorschoten.html
  9. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Finest Organ-builders of England

    Our "local" during my youth, St Teresa in Filton, just on the northern border of Bristol, contains a Percy Daniel 2 manual, rebuilt from an earlier 3 manual and installed in the new church. http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N13149 I didn't pay much attention to it then, not really being interested in organs at the time. But much later I played on it just a couple of times, and found it cohesive and quite entertaining. Being a Catholic church the demands on it are different, but sitting on a high gallery at the back of a decent-sized Roman basilica style church, with a clean great, and a really quite effective swell furnished with sub- and super-octave couplers it sounds good and can be quite powerful, and certainly looked well maintained and sounded in good tune.
  10. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Rugby School Chapel Organ

    I know of one organ builder here who guarantees his work for 15 years, making me think that is likely to be longer than normal. For anything costing as much as a house, I'd expect a guarantee similar to that of a house. It's unthinkable that this isn't in the sale and/or maintenance contract. Perhaps some do have a 10 year/10000 hours car-like guarantee - Nicholsons have owned up to hiding timers in at least one of their organs (all on their website, no secrets divulged!).
  11. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Tuning at the Albert Hall

    An interesting point Rowland. I see that Keble College now refer to their organ as the Tickell-Rufatti Organ. Although the revoicing was widely known, this change must be quite recent. I have neither the knowledge nor the competence to appreciate what the chain of events was, but this amended name is at least clearly descriptive.
  12. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Colston Hall

    Us Bristolians (even naturalised ones like me) know a thing or two about the slave trade, as it's always been taught in schools regardless of any other curriculum requirements. Edward Colston, after whom the hall was originally named, made a lot of money in trade including slaves, and was a great philanthropist to the city of Bristol - something which by the standards of the day was held to be admirable. However, those standards have changed. There have long been voices advocating the removal of various memorials to Colston. However, for me the Colston Hall name change is much less problematic as it was not founded or endowed by him but merely named after him, something that can easily be changed to reflect and strengthen the hall's quite remarkable history and role at the centre of so many public activities in Bristol. I have been to pop concerts, classical concerts, noisy school activities, lectures on science and engineering, particularly the wonderful Faraday Lectures for schools given by my engineering institution, the IEE, now IET - but I have never heard the organ! Fascinating to learn that the hall makes the organ available in an apparently very accommodating and reasonable manner to those who wish to have a go in a responsible manner. Sorry if this is a bit tangential to organs, but organophiles are inevitably part-time historians!
  13. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    St Nicholas' Cathedral Newcastle

    At today's organ recital at Newcastle Cathedral they announced that a certain amount of repair and maintenance on the pipe organ is underway to bring it back into use, but that this is not a restoration or rebuild. At the very least, they hope that this will keep it going until the restoration of the cathedral itself is complete. So it was my good luck to hear the pipe organ being played for the first time in 5 years or so, and to sit in a position where I could hear both the main transept organ and the choir organ, and the interplay between them. A French/Belgian programme today, perhaps determined, but certainly not restricted, by the presently available stops - lots of noisy reeds ? And smiles all round afterwards. It was mentioned that some of the work will be to install safety rails around the instrument. I seem to hear more of this recently. It goes without saying that working at any height more than a couple of metres is hazardous, deaths and injuries have occurred, and safety should be foremost in everyone's mind. But I now wonder about the perils for organ builders which I'd never thought about. There is an old film of Guildford Cathedral's organ being installed in the 1960s which, frankly, terrifies me, and I'm not in the least afraid of heights. As for how you can tell the difference between an electronic and a pipe organ, if you're sitting on a nice hard church pew you can tell without even using your ears.
  14. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Blind Listening Experiment

    Re-reading my last post, I realise I may well have strayed into moderation territory. If so, so be it, and apologies!
  15. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Blind Listening Experiment

    @ Martin Cooke, re high end electronic organs. You are, of course, correct. There is an element of "You pays your money and you takes your choice" with many things, and certainly once you get to 4 manual electronic instruments a high degree of customisation, high quality and adaptability are expected. It is also true that many electronic instruments do have great flexibility in voicing, even the small ones, and that installers really do need to know what they are doing in order to get each installation right. There are a couple of such installers in the UK who, I think quite rightly, take great care and professional pride in doing just that. The overlap, and increasing difficulty to distinguish with pipe organs is probably considerable here. But like you I have also heard good electronics (a big acoustic helps) and poor pipe organs - and I recently heard a large electronic, not long installed, which sounds remarkably flat, in the sense of being 2-dimensional and, as more stops are added, indistinct. But that's just me - and that church's pipe organ doesn't work, so can't be switched on for the inevitably revealing comparison. Going back to the purpose of the post, which is whether average, interested and normally musical people can distinguish pipe and electronic, the real problem is the opportunity for objective comparison. Often, such tests are quite short, in my limited experience. This is why I made the point about finding a stop on an organ that you can play for hours. I am fortunate in having a small Dutch neo-baroque-ish pipe organ at home, and can compare it with a very new, also Dutch, electronic organ (no names, not fair) for as long as I wish. With the electronic, I can select more or less the same stops as the pipe organ and compare them directly. Initially, it's actually very good. But for some reason this does wane over a relatively short time. I really don't know why - I can guess that, as brains are adapted to seek out patterns, the lack of random variation, or the presence of predictable, periodic variation, in synthesised or long-loop electronic organs might betray them, perhaps the poor spatial definition of the individual notes at close quarters. But my living room is not the ideal listening space. At the press of a button, I can now go from a Dutch organ to a French romantic one, with a specification sampled from a Cavaillé-Coll organ in France somewhere, but which is sufficiently close to the genuine Cavaillé-Coll in the Waalse Kerk (French Protestant Church) here in The Hague. Spec here https://www.haagsorgelkontakt.nl/waalse-kerk/, a superb organ. Whilst my electronic sounds great with headphones on and the reverberation knob turned all the way up to 11, there's no mistaking it for the real thing here, and certainly not if the interested listener could hear them together, and could spend time with them. Of course, features like the number of audio channels matter - a "simple" spatial effect of stereo is not enough, I feel. But some manufacturers have gone as far as to produce loudspeaker arrangements with many speakers speaking into resonant tubes, which then goes quite a way to simulating the three-dimensional vibrations of pipes, rather than just a big echo chamber. Then, of course, things get expensive even for electronic organs, and you may well approach the cost of the real thing. This principle might have some application for hybrid organs. A friend of mine is a flautist, and always finds playing his flute while standing next to my house organ funny, because he can feel and hear sympathetic resonances from different pipes in the organ and he says he finds himself adapting his tuning to the response from the otherwise silent pipes. I wonder whether hybrid organs might sound better than they really are because of this effect, even if this is just a compromise to get loud and/or big stops into a specification. It could even save some temporarily out of action organs, if electronic installations retained them rather than chucking out the pipes for more speakers to be dumped onto the soundboards. Given this, my very limited personal experience, I think that the average interested person, given a fair opportunity and time, would be able to tell the difference and fairly appreciate that difference. What they then do with that deeper insight, and awareness that the choice need not be just pipe v electronic, is of course subject to other considerations.