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Damian Beasley-Suffolk

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Everything posted by Damian Beasley-Suffolk

  1. More of a cross-over musician here, I heard this last week on BBC 6 Music's Freak Zone with Stuart Maconie. Quite intriguing: Ståle Storløkken – Ghost Caravan CD/LP | Hubro Music As I write (Sunday evening) I'm listening to the same programme, currently playing a piece for harpsichord, electronic guitar, and some percussion I didn't get the name of. The harpsichord playing is a bit Poulenc-ish, which should be accessible to anyone who can play harpsichord/organ and fancies exploring a bit.
  2. It's a "Ship of Theseus" question, with the addition of the item still being in use. Apparently in the US there is a specific "ship of theseus" tax fraud, where people restore old cars beyond all recognition and sell them as vintage cars with the accompanying tax concessions, but incorporating so little of the original that they are essentially new and in fact subject to higher tax. But who wants the Inland Revenue to decide on this question for organs? I would have no doubt that the Willis now in Leiden is a Father WIllis. Despite its travels it wasn't essentially altered while elsewhere in the Netherlands. Willis gave it a thorough rebuild with a couple of additions, but really only replaced the worn out components you'd expect to. Nothing needed to be undone or re-created. It sounds marvellous here, but of course in a completely different acoustic from its original home. Equally, I'm sure that Farnborough's Cavaille-Coll/Mutin will come out of Willis's current restoration sounding just like it did when it was installed, and will only be thought of as a genuine CC, just with the normal repairs expected over time. Manchester's CC is different. Reading the Flentrop publicity, I understand that the electric action is to be replaced with a copy of the original. I guess this will make it more of a CC, because I think that the sound formation is pipes + action. Although the pipes themselves are much more significant, there has been plenty of discussion here and elsewhere of the difference in attack from electric chests, and of course the difference to the player's touch. I think changing the type of action, rather than simply restoring or renewing it is much more significant. Going back to the original style of action will certainly make it more authentic if not actually original, and probably result in better pipe behaviour, so it would be reasonable to keep calling it a CC. In other situations where, for example, pneumatic action had been replaced with EP action because the original was unrepairable/inaccessible/never worked properly anyway, I'm not so sure people would be terribly worried about authenticity if the "authentic" or original version was of limited value. At least the change of location for the Brighton Willis might not result in significant need to adjust voicing, for example. The Leiden Willis came from a more or less coastal location in Liverpool to a similar location here, and Brighton and Cambridge are both at sea level and with similar climates - apart from the bitter northerly winds in the Fens. This minimises the potentially irreversible messing around needed. swalmsley is right in saying that present builders are very accomplished at dealing sensitively with historical material when asked to do so. It's both admirable and delightful that such restorations are documented thoroughly and made available on their websites so that everyone, including enthusiastic dilettantes like me, can enjoy and appreciate the work.
  3. I have a copy of Stanford's Toccata and Fantasia with a note from him which says precisely this. It's also in the IMSLP version. His performance instructions, such as they are, "... must therefore be regarded merely in the light of suggestions." In leaving so much to the discretion of the performer, and from what little I know of his personality, I get the impression that he rather looked forward to hearing what other people made of his music.
  4. Not actually 3D printing, but milling them out of a block of wood. Here aktuelle Projekte (o-h-r.com) is a link to the Orgel- und Harmonium Werkstatt Thomas Reilich in southern Germany, not far from where I used to live. He does a lot of work with harmoniums, documenting almost everything on his picture-rich website, and one particular project is enlarging a John Holt harmonium with some real pipes. The pictures here show stages in making pipe feet, and some small flute pipes, from a composite block of wood using a milling machine. I read many years ago that small wooden pipes can be expensive to make. Perhaps this can cut some costs. I've seen milling machines in organ workshops before, of course, as well as pipes made from all sorts of materials, but hadn't seen this. As an aside, during one visit to the Early Music Festival in Utrecht many years ago, we met an English lute maker who was displaying the heaviest lute I've ever held. He said it was an experiment with an old block of wood. He noticed that it was about the right size for a lute, so sculpted one from this solid block rather than go to the bother of sticking all those thin strips of wood together. Sounded nice as well, subtly but noticeably different from a normal lute, and presumably handy in a lutenists' duel when their notorious arguments about historically informed performance get out of hand 😉
  5. The copy I have is in Anne Marsden Thomas' Graded Anthology for Organ, vol 5. There are some interesting notes. On the score, it says "Pedal part originally written in tenor clef, an octave higher, to sound on 4 trumpet", and the study notes indicate that the 8' only registration for the manuals seems inadequate if the pedal is bright. I'm no musicologist, but these points are interesting and suggest different interpretations and the opportunity for exploration. As it happens, on my electronic the pedal 4 reed is a quite gentle cornet which goes well with a single 8' principle, which I realise may also not be what was intended, but it sounds nice. An interesting link, by the way, thanks.
  6. The Ethel Smyth "Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag" is a nice piece of music, the relatively gentle 4' pedal reed on my instrument seems to bring the melody out nicely. To my dismay, it is the only piece of organ music by a woman composer that I can find in my collection. One thing strikes me - did Ethel Smyth have particularly big hands or long fingers? There are a couple of stretches which I can barely make, which doesn't happen often.
  7. Something tells me to make it clear that what irks me is music done badly or without preparation, not styles of music or people, which vary greatly, and good intentions are never doubted, as mentioned above. I don't think anyone wants discussions like this to become a shooting gallery. My wife, when working as a paid church musician, puts it well when she says that she has often been asked to play music which she doesn't like or wouldn't choose herself, but liking it isn't the point - the important thing is to prepare everything carefully and then play it as well as you can, for the purpose and intentions of those who chose it. I like this.
  8. The Beatles are the generation before mine, but it's not an idle thought. Anyone who's tried to perform Beatles songs knows that they are not easy! I used to be part of a Barbershop group, formed by gents from a church choir and friends, and we did a few Beatles numbers, arranged into 4 part harmony. Despite appearances, they are actually quite demanding to learn, and because of that equally rewarding to perform. I'm sure that's part of their continuing attraction. If only ... The story of Paul McCartney waking up with the tune of "Yesterday" fully formed in his mind is well known. I read today that Herbert Howells came up with the hymn tune "Michael" while eating his breakfast, having been invited to compose a new tune for an existing hymn. Oh for melodic gifts like that.
  9. S_L: I'm only vaguely aware of what I may have avoided in this respect. Being born in the mid 60s I suppose I lived through a period of change in Catholic church music, and experienced many types of church music from Latin Masses through to "modern". Also, due to geography, we went to a C of E primary school where I did get some exposure to the Anglican music tradition because of its links to its parish church, and I then went on to a boys' grammar school in Bristol run by the Christian Brothers which was also in a state of flux at the time and no longer had a musical tradition, so musical nuns had no particular influence on me. My quip about Welsh hymns was serious - even then I wondered if it was a hankering after something substantial, and an implied rejection of dross. The words "folk mass" still have grown men climbing trees and pulling them up after them.
  10. This would solve my looming problem of finding a house with appropriate space for my pipe organ, but it won't pass muster with the boss because, although by her own admission she's not a great map reader, I won't be able to persuade her that Clifton is in the general area of the historical Kingdom of Northumbria. I'll send it on to her anyway ... ;-)
  11. I don't recall any guitar-swinging nuns, and those I did know where lovely, if tough and quietly assertive - although my sisters may beg to differ. They certainly weren't responsible for the strumming and humming which began to take off in the early 80s, at least in the WIld West. In one parish which I occasionally attended, the organ was an electronic "spinet organ" ( with offset keyboards and 1 short 13-note set of pedal sticks - is this a German/Dutch term?), complete with auto-chording, auto bass, and a funky rhythm section. The parish nun had thoroughly mastered this, and although it may offend the purist the result was always a selection of appropriate modern hymns and songs, well-played and nicely registered, and of course rigidly in time! As someone said above, a bit of a culture shock, but very quickly you realise that it's rather nice, gets people singing, adds some life to some of the particularly dreary "worship songs" of that era, and creates a nice atmosphere particular to that church, which after all is the point. The thought of "Hail Queen of Heav'n" sung to a rhumba beat still puts a smile on my face, not least because of the calypso music which was part of the backing track of my childhood. "In order to fulfil a demand for communal hymn singing post Vatican II, but to avoid using established Anglican hymns, many Catholic Churches successfully adopted popular, rip-roaring, non-conformist hymns and, especially in the West Country, Welsh hymns". Discuss.
  12. I enjoyed the recital from Leeds today, in particular the Saint-Saens. As it happens that tune had been rattling round my mind a few weeks ago and I just couldn't place it. Regarding thunder, some time ago I was at a concert by Ben van Oosten on the Metzler of the Grote Kerk in The Hague. During Guilmant 1, a few lightning flashes came during the first movement, then rising wind and rumbling thunder accompanied the second movement - it's surprisingly difficult to distinguish thunder and 32 footers during a quiet movement in a huge church - and then, as if on cue, Mother Nature and Mr van Oosten let rip for the final movement. It was fabulous, with smiles all round. Organ recitals should be fun.
  13. Whilst I don't doubt for a moment that this lady lived without electricity, having no electricity in that part of Bristol must have been a choice. I knew St Andrews very well as an adolescent, 10 years or so later, as I had school friends living close by. The area always appeared very well-to-do, full of rows of houses built in the same style around the turn of the century, all connected to mains water, electricity and sewers, no mean feat when you realise how hilly it is. Then again, a little further up the road in Horfield my grandfather had the gas connection removed from the building completely as he didn't trust it, and ran everything with electricity. He was an engineer so it wasn't an arbitrary choice. Around that time, as decimalisation was exactly 50 years ago this week, it was still common to hear shopkeepers giving the prices of thing in "old money" as well as new to some of the older folk who may have taken some time to adapt to changes, or were happy with how things were. At the risk of straying into 4 Yorkshiremen territory, it's nevertheless interesting to learn more about what was really going on while you were a child.
  14. I feel for him. It must require a particularly good aim to manage that with a stick and limited mobility, and your whole body aches from being lop-sided, if only temporarily. Last year I broke my right thumb which, being right handed, was more disruptive of life in general than I could have imagined. Although the daily urge to play was thwarted, I'd recently bought Anne Marsden Thomas' book on pedal technique, so could at least profit from that, even though it's surprisingly tiring on the ankles!
  15. Peter Hurford mentioned this is his book "Making Music on the Organ". It took me some time to find the relevant passage (bottom of page 71), as the book is an enjoyable read. It's probably well known to many, but here it is: " Praetorius wrote in 1619 that 'There are many matters of this kind where the impression can be given that there is only one right way of doing something. So, for instance, some keyboard players are held in contempt for not using some particular fingering or other. This is ridiculous, in my opinion. If a player can fly up or down the keyboard, using the tips, mid-joints, or the backs of his fingers - yes, using his very nose if that helps - and either keeps or breaks every rule in existence, so what? If he plays well, and plays musically, it matters little by what means he does so.' " (De organographia, Wolfenbuettel, 1619).
  16. I presume you wrote this with a grin, but I knew someone who may well have agreed with this! A former history teacher of mine despised church organs and everything that went with them, as they had displaced the village band that often played in west country churches and destroyed an ages-old tradition, as described for example in Under the Greenwood Tree, Hardy being compulsory reading for those of us from the west country. As an aside, in the recent rather splendid film of Far from the Madding Crowd, I noticed that the church in Casterbridge was rather bigger than I remembered, looking rather similar to Sherston, and appeared to have a nice electric action organ over the west entrance. Impressive, as it was set in the late 1840s - early adopters, clearly ...
  17. It was established and accepted in these pages that the provision of digital subbass voices at Buckfast was due to lack of space in the abbey church. There is nothing reprehensible in this.
  18. Interesting photos from that case study. I know HVAC engineers are accustomed to working in cramped spaces at dangerous heights, but I can't imagine that being installed without at least the pipes from these divisions being removed. The sequence of events and delays can easily be imagined - although such speculation is probably unhealthy, it's interesting for amateurs like me to ponder the effort which even apparently straightforward work must involve.
  19. All of a sudden those severe 1960s neo-baroque cases with grills filling the space between and above the pipes in the facade don't seem such a bad idea. An article in the Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad gives more detail, saying that in effect the whole facade is going to be restored, but also says that woodworm has been found in the instrument and needs to be treated. Also, as the facade pipes need to be cleaned they're going to take the opportunity to address a couple of the 32' pedal pipes which speak poorly or not at all. It's going to be quite a job. As an aside, I don't know whether organ cases and the musical parts are or can be listed separately as historical monuments in the Netherlands, as in France. You can read the article here Vleermuis vervuilt Müllerorgel Bavo Haarlem; grote schoonmaak nodig (rd.nl) - but not on a Sunday. The RD is the daily newspaper of the Dutch Reformed Church, and they apply the day of rest to their website as well as to other daily activities.
  20. I went to a recital at Worcester in about 1990 which included Franck's Piece Heroique. Having been played as would be expected on the organ in the choir, the "fanfare" bit close to the end rang out from the solo stops in the transept organ, followed by an entertaining and impressive alternatim between the two to the end. Very nice. Hope it can be done again some day.
  21. This may be of interest. Orgues Thomas has been acquired and re-started, with just 5 of the previous 14 employees. Doorstart voor orgelmakerij Thomas | Orgelnieuws.nl
  22. A video of the fire in this article from the Belgian newspaper Le Soir shows just how difficult it is to tackle a roof fire, and gives an idea of just how much water is needed to do so. Soberingly instructive. Bozar dans l’incertitude après l’incendie de lundi - Le Soir
  23. Sounds like a good opportunity for the local organists to have a bit of fun and play something light-hearted. That should help lighten the mood and put a few smiles on faces. Perhaps they can take requests. After all, where I live here in Holland there are a couple of carillons (Voorburg and The Hague) from which weekly recitals are given. You're as likely to hear tunes from the Beatles or some prog rock as you are Sweelinck or other such worthies, and it's nice to see the smiles on the faces of people, me included, who finally recognise a familiar ditty on an unfamiliar instrument. And where cathedrals are concerned, there are few paces with better all-round musicians.
  24. It depends on what your lowest manual is. The BDO standard is 850mm, +/- 10mm If you look here, you can check the British Standard for organ consoles: https://www.midiboutique.com/index.php?route=download/download/get&did=196 and if you look here (Page 27 / Seite 27) you can see the German BDO standard for organ consoles: https://www.midiboutique.com/index.php?route=download/download/get&did=158 Many home organ builders simply look in the Laukhuff catalogue :-) It's very informative. My pipe organ, being built in Holland, has dimensions which are close to the BDO standard. My portable-ish digital organ, which came with a not particularly suitable, off the shelf, Z-stand, has been set up by me to be close to the BDO standard. Both have straight, flat 30-note pedal boards.
  25. I read this to my wife this morning, who played the same piece for grade 8 violin many years ago. She told me that the examiner watched the piano accompanist all the way through with evident appreciation! He must have been listening to her as well, as she got a distinction :-) At the end of one of my own piano exams the examiner asked me if I was an organist. She said my sight-reading gave me away. I still don't know exactly what she had spotted - perhaps me reaching for the non-existent swell pedal during some dynamic parts.
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