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Mander Organs

Damian Beasley-Suffolk

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Everything posted by Damian Beasley-Suffolk

  1. (Not) blowing into organ pipes

    Willis' web site has pictures of metal pipes which have been eaten away by mice (at Whitney-on-Wye). Perhaps they start on the pipes when they've eaten the leather. Of course it's the contamination resulting from the use of lead that is the problem. I've heard a couple of stories of potty organ pipe makers, but that was from a Dutch organ builder talking about the "good" old days before fume extraction was considered desirable, so nobody you or I would know. In the west of England where I come from, lead was used as a lubricant in, inter alia, cider presses. This added a certain sweetness to the end product, only a little consolation to go with the Devonshire Colic. And one of my forbears was a hatter - I often wonder whether mercury poisoning is hereditary.
  2. St James' Didsbury: Walker Organ (ex-RNCM)

    If they reinstate the swell shutters, it would be nice to make them from glass so that people can see clearly what's inside. The brustwerk at Clifton Cathedral has this and I always thought it attractive. I recall going to Hereford cathedral years ago and seeing that the 32' reeds there were accessible, but that the important bits were completely enclosed in glass, thereby being visible to those who were interested, but out of reach for those too interested for their own good.
  3. Bristol Catheral - Organ Appeal

    Putting on my Chartered Engineer's hat for a moment, knowing that I'm certainly not the only one here, my view is that the various statements on obsolesence made in the forum in general and elsewhere are not only entirely justified, but wholly unremarkable. Indeed, I would be more concerned for those making astonishing claims for longevity and reliability, as their apparent lack of experience may actually make them liable to the whole world if, or rather when, a grand statement turns out to be flawed, especially as it is likely to be for reasons outside their control. If I were to make such flawed statements, let alone write threatening letters to those who question them, I would in short order become an ex-Chartered Engineer. In this case there is something to be learned from electronic instrument makers. Many years ago I went to a demonstration of an electronic organ - the location and brand are unimportant and I won't reveal either. Among other matters, the representative was candid and honest in saying that their organs did go wrong from time to time because they used modern technology. However, they dealt with such problems with an emergency call-out service, a good stock of spare parts for more common faults, and a spare temporary organ if needed. No need to pretend or make promises you can't keep, let alone descend into sending threatening letters. I have no bone in any of these organ technology fights, but like others it's annoying when patently wrong arguments fly around and they need to be countered in a reasonable manner, as ultimately a lot of someone else's money, and perhaps reputation, is at stake. However, I grew up in Bristol, so it's interesting to see how this restoration will pan out, and how the challenges, both technical and historical, will be addressed. I wonder if they'll put it all back together on a screen and re-attach the former chaire organ?
  4. Newcastle

  5. Norman & Beard Question

    Doubling of ranks in the higher octaves is very common here in the Netherlands, and has been for centuries. I think most interested people know the theory, that it barely increases perceived power, let alone double it, but that doesn't seem to be the point. In the new organ at Sidney Sussex College, Flentrop doubled the principal chorus ranks in the treble, and explain why here - http://www.flentrop.nl/downloads/Artikel_sidneysussex.pdf , an article from Choir and Organ. It's more about perceived tone quality, and perhaps taking the sharpness off higher pitches. My organ has two 8' ranks which are essentially identical, although one is noticeably softer than the other but not greatly so. Provided they're in tune, playing them together does provide the warmth or breadth that one might describe a choir singing in unison as having. I get the same if I play the 4' and 2' principles, on different manuals, against each other at the same pitch. Subjectively, perhaps the physical separation of unison pipes provided two independent sources which can be directed away from each other to "broaden" the sound, reducing their perceived shrillness, if any.
  6. Newcastle

    Ben oui man, ça c'est canny. http://bernardaubertin.org/orgel.asp?orgelid=166
  7. Swell Boxes

    Windchests often have bleed holes for each channel, which should prevent this, as well as grooving to prevent ciphers and bleed unwanted air away. Mine just leaks, I think, but you don't notice the quiet hissing unless you're right next to it. As for quick regulation, another story. As I mentioned in my original post, my house organ, which was conceived at the height of neo-baroquery, has a floating-base wind regulator built into the bottom of the windchest, with springs to maintain the desired pressure, fed by a separate blower. It's very compact, and very responsive. I have tried repeating notes as fast as I can to see if there are any transients, but practically speaking they are not noticeable. The instrument also has a tremulant in the channel between the blower and the windchest, but it's completely useless. The regulator in the windchest acts so quickly that the only way I know that the tremulant is operational is that I can hear it chugging away and see the bottom of the windchest bouncing up and down in sympathy, because there is absolutely no effect at all on the pipe speech. In one sense, that's quite impressive. One can of course make a mechanical arrangement to inhibit the regulator's movement when the tremulant is active, but it really wasn't worth the effort and I don't really like tremulants which act on the whole instrument. Instead it was disconnected and the stop knob used to turn on a pedal bourdon which I added. As for dilettantes - well, I know my place, and although there are many knowledgeable voices on this forum I'm sure our host chuckles from time to time as people like me s l o w l y turn enthusiasm into proper knowledge :-)
  8. Swell Boxes

    Thanks. That puts much into context. Experto credo.
  9. No new posts??

    Challenge accepted. Here's a question on something I've been wondering about for years, but lack access to the appropriate facilities to explore it. In several places, in particular Peter Hurford's book on Playing the Organ, it is noted that there is a subjective flattening when playing notes on a swell division, and closing the shutters. My experience, with playing the recorder many years ago and with my own house organ, is that flue pipes are very sensitive to various changes around them. Even small changes around the mouth, the length, the pipe foot, or anything coming close to them causes them to change pitch noticeably. In particular, only as it's my instrument and I'm allowed to play with it, messing around with the wind pressure in the windchest, made possible by it having a built-in regulator rather than bellows which I can change the spring tension, equally shows that even minor changes in wind pressure can throw a rank of pipes out quite a long way. I also have a feeling for just how much wind even a relatively small division can consume, backed up by a somewhat over-sized blower which turned a CCC bourdon into a harmonic flute until it was tamed. With a swell division, there is therefore quite a volume of wind passing through. As it is often said that a nice tight swell is desirable, my simple question is - when it's shut, where does all the wind go? Is there some mechanism for maintaining the pressure differential across the pipes for various positions of the shutters? I remember John Norman writing in Organists' Review about a organ shipped to South Africa which sounded terrible on delivery, but needed only an adjustment of the wind pressure and tuning to resolve the problem, caused by it being installed at a greater altitude than its place of manufacture, and indeed had a similar experience when my organ travelled with me from sea level in the Netherlands to 600m above sea level in Bavaria. If the box really is airtight when shut, I'd expect much more than a subjective flattening of pitch, it would approach a drunken cacophony. But this doesn't happen. Why? I often see small doors opened at the back of swell divisions (e.g. in Newcastle Cathedral) and wonder if this is the trick. Answers with facts, anecdotes, pictures and outrageous theories to stimulate debate all welcome.
  10. Music desks

    Thanks for the guidance, folks. 20 degrees it is. There is not much room to play with here. The organ is a neo-baroque positive type, so there is no room to remake the whole front panel with a slightly steeper angle as the windchest is directly behind it, or to come out too far, which would leave me playing under the music on the upper manual. Depth is another problem, as mentioned. As a template for the largest piece which must fit, I left a copy of the floppiest, tallest piece of European organ music I have - Britten's P&F on a theme of Vittoria Not accidentally, this should also leave enough space for the possible use of an A4-sized e-ink reader, a couple of which are now or soon to be available, specifically for music use. They're pricey, but potentially much less fiddly than trying to play while squinting at a tablet screen. As an aside, it was interesting to discover both a British Standard and a BDO Norm for organ console dimensions - both from 1967, and both silent on ideal music desk angles. Oh well.
  11. Music desks

    Does anyone know of a standard, or have any views on, the ideal angle for the music desk on an organ? The desk on my de Koff house organ is so steep, barely 10 degrees if the inclinometer app on my phone is correct, that nothing heavier than a few pieces of paper will stay on it. In fact, even an A3 sheet with a decent fold in it will push itself off. I'm just about to have a clip-on music desk made by a local company who will make anything out of perspex, and it's always better to ask advice than make even an educated guess. Height is another problem, but that is determined by fixed dimensions of the case, and I can work to those limits.
  12. Clairons/Clarions breaking back

    The Cavaille-Coll organ in the Philharmonie in Haarlem has 2 4' Clairons. The organ was originally Cavaille-Coll's atelier organ, and was sold to the Paleis van Volksvlijt in Amsterdam in 1875. Then, the clairons were both reeds right to the top (C - g3). After a period of storage the organ was installed in Haarlem in 1924 - avoiding the fate of some other CC organs, as the Paleis van Volksvlijt burned down in 1929. In 1965 the organ was restored by Vermeulen, during which the action was electrified and the top octves of the clairons replaced with labial pipes. However, during a further restoration in 2004-6 these changes were reversed, the mechanical action reinstated and the clairons restored again to reeds throughout the range. Perhaps someone can explain why 4' reeds might be treated differently in different situations. http://www.orgelnieuws.nl/cavaille-coll-haarlem-gerestaureerd in Dutch but will be OK via Google translate
  13. John Compton

    "Experto crede" - believe in the one who is experienced. And has the scars to prove it. Not such a bad term, when properly understood
  14. Newcastle

    Several French media report this as a fact, that Bernard Aubertin is busy building the instrument, but don't give any details. Nice that this is happening, as when the previous Nigel Church organ was removed there was concern that there appeared to be no plans for its replacement. As it's for a hall rather than a chapel, and they have a decent recital programme there, it will certainly be interesting. https://rcf.fr/culture/la-manufacture-dorgue-aubertin-courtefontaine-un-bilan-detape http://www.jura-nord.com/actualite/manufacture-dorgues-aubertin-un-nouvel-orgue-en-construction-pour-langleterre
  15. A Mechanical Trolley Organ with Clutch and Windshield

    Google translate can be unintentionally funny, but this seems to be an unfortunately poor effort. However, artificial intelligence based on neural networks still has to be taught to the system, especially for specialist language, and mostly by users making many contributions to refine the context. I imagine that the language of pipe organs doesn't generate that much traffic. Anyway, the natural, wet "intelligence" allegedly residing in the jelly located between my ears comes up with the following: "A mechanical slider-chest organ by J W Walker from 1858. In 1961 the instrument was restored and enlarged with an independent pedal by George Kirby. The installed pedal board runs from C to g', (32 notes), but the coupler and the wind chest only go to e' (29 notes). The Swell Organ runs from Tenor C."
  16. Most bizarre specifications?

    I have played (briefly) and listened to (with much more pleasure when someone else was playing) the Gray and Davison at Huntley that Gwas Bach mentions. The "Choir" seems almost to be incorrectly labelled. I recall it being a nice, fairly strong "rosbif" division which suits the not large but rather lovely church nicely - perhaps the addition of a Fifteenth might be too much. I don't recall there being any indication that a Great was prepared for or even considered. But the whole instrument sounded just right. And it did indeed acquit itself with the required raucousness with Lefébure-Wély at my cousin's wedding there a good few years ago :-) As for other oddities, the organ which my wife first played at as a 12-year old at Witton Park in County Durham, http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N15085, has a Swell of 8,8,2,8 to go with an 8,8,8,4 Great. The 2' is just about noticeable above the Great 8+4, but seems to work nicely along with the other Swell stops in the building. Looks odd, sounds nice. Trust your ears, they always say. More about that instrument when I get around to addressing the drought of letters in Organists' Review. In a good number of small instruments seen here in the Netherlands and in Germany, one often sees really odd specs such as 4,2 (1 1/3, or 1/2), 8 (regal), and mostly on neo-baroque instruments. Sometimes this is found on the "second" manual of smaller instruments. Bourgarel made a few, such as this http://www.france-orgue.fr/orgue/index.php?zpg=org.doc.fch&ido=792, and there are some Iberian examples such as this http://www.france-orgue.fr/orgue/index.php?zpg=org.doc.fch&ido=792. Odd to my eyes, but common enough to appreciate that there is a repertoire for these instruments of which I'm wholly ignorant, apart from having fun playing Batallas badly, beyond just making a compact study organ.
  17. Monteverdi's use of organs in Orfeo

    Henk Klop of Garderen here in the Netherlands produces a version of his continuo organ with an 8' prestant, and a second manual with an 8' regal. He told me years ago that this was developed expressly for performing Monteverdi's music, but I didn't think to ask him what the source for the development was. Klop adopted the "organo de legno" tradition for all of their instruments almost from the beginning of the firm, so the developmemt is logical. I have been to many concerts of renaissance music using very small continuo organs. I am always astonished at how well a carefully-voiced 8' flute, no matter who made it, can carry along even quite large churches, and how captivating their voices are.
  18. Strange notices, signs, or tuning book comments?

    On the console of Wokingham Parish Church, about 20 years ago, a paraphrase of Ps94:18 "Alas my foot hath slipped, but the Lord held it up"
  19. Half-draw stops

    The G&G at St John and St Philip in The Hague (http://www.goetzegwynn.co.uk/organ/st-john-st-philip-den-haag-netherlands/) also has a half-draw on its Sesquialtera IV (dropping the tierce). If it also had a half/alternative 16'/8' drawstop for the pedal reed it would also be great for French classical music. The Flentrop choir organ in the Sint Paschalis Baylon church in The Hague ( http://home.planet.nl/~kort0158/DHpaschaliskoor.html) which I played in its former home at the now demolished Liduina Kerk in The Hague, has a I-II/II-I manual coupler, manual II being the swell. The drawknob fully in is I-II, half draw is uncoupled, fully out is II-I. This also adds flexibility to a relatively small mechanical instrument, although I have no idea how complex, costly, and reliable the mechanical actions for such couplers would be.
  20. A new application of physics

    King's College organ theft. Diabolical.
  21. Alexander Technique for organists

    Friedrich makes an important point - you really need someone else to tell you about your posture, unless you're in the habit of videoing yourself. But although seeing your self as others do is instructive, it's not always comfortable. I well remember watching part of a wedding video, laughing at the pirouetting head-tossing prima donna playing the organ. Then I realised that it was my brother's wedding ... My piano teacher often tells me off for various postural problems which I am simply unaware of. The main problem is playing with my shoulders hunched so much that they're approaching my ears, an obvious cause of that horrible stretching pain across the back of the neck. Solving this often soothes other back problems. Another is, of course, the fingers. Years of playing on stubby organ keyboards, sometimes with rather heavy actions, or actions which require a firm thump just to make everything sound at the same time, encourage poor habits if not pointed out and corrected by someone much more competent than the self-taught person's tutor. And, for me at least, proper advice about posture has helped reduce a lot of the shoulder and back pains I used to have while playing too long. And improved technique, posture, and fitness really do create a synergy, especially when, especially here in the Netherlands, you're faced with an instrument that doesn't seem to conform to any known standards of the placement of manuals, pedals and benches relative to each other - especially for this rather compact Englishman. It's worth it for the sheer joy and privilege of playing these instruments though :-) But you really can't hide some things from people who know. Recently, at the end of another ABRSM piano exam, the examiner politely enquired whether I played another keyboard instrument. Somewhat surprised, I told her that I played the organ. "I thought so", she said, "your sight reading gave you away!" I'm still dumfounded, but the lesson is, always ask advice!
  22. Flavour conductor

    "There must be very few extension organs ... in which all the stops are the same on all divisions." http://www.france-orgue.fr/orgues/index.php?zpg=prg.doc.fch&ido=352 Excuse me, I couldn't resist it! Although extreme, it isn't unique. As for expressing stops in percentages, I haven't seen that but I do know of an Oberlinger organ that has a mixture stop Riesling II. http://bibliolore.org/2010/08/12/wine-for-the-organist I don't know whether this is representative of regional variations for communion wine - when I was young, the preferred fruit of the vine was Harvey's Bristol Cream ....
  23. Hooglandse Kerk, Leiden

    You may be referring to the Hill organ in the Pieterskerk in Leiden, which was recovered from North London before the building it was in collapsed, restored, and installed there in 1994 by Sicco Steendam. It complements the very old Van Hagerbeer organ at the "West" end, which at the end of the 90's was restored to its original state, complete with mean-tone tuning, and therefore not much use for modern music such as Bach. The Hill was installed on a new platform next to the "Quire". There are a good number of English organs in the Netherlands, mostly revered for their "romantic" or "symphonic" characteristics and their battleship build quality. I'm not really sure what the specific attraction is, as the sound of, say, late 19th century English and Dutch organs is completely different, but I suspect that things like composition pedals and swell boxes might be attractive, as otherwise you really do need three people to perform music with any dynamics, one to drive and two to yank stops in and out and perhaps turn the pages at the right time. And it's a given that there is nothing like an English Open Diapason in the Dutch or German organ vernacular. But they are certainly valued. Recently, Goetze and Gwynn have just finished restoring a Pilcher organ in the Koogerkerk in Zuid-Scharwoude, a surprisingly small church I know quite well which has three organs, and up the road in Noord-Scharwoude a Forster and Andrews nestles next to the sanctuary of the catholic church. The organ builder F R Feenstra does a good trade in restoring and installing English organs in the Netherlands and Germany, which are sadly unappreciated in their home land. http://www.orgelmakerijsteendam.nl/ned/home.htm (Web page of the organ builder for the Pieterskerk organ) http://www.hengstman.net/organ/ (English organs in the Netherlands)
  24. Electronic substitute in a Cathedral ?

    I visited Newcastle earlier in the year and there was a true stop-gap electronic, with a functional tab-stop console right at the east end by the high altar, and an obviously temporary pile of loudspeakers in the loft where the pipe organ console is. On May Day I happened to be there in time for evensong and this instrument had disappeared. But, unknowingly, I had taken a seat in the choir right next to a new electronic choir organ, the speakers being contained behind a rather pleasant and discrete screen, to the east of the current choir organ. Mooching around later revealed a similar but much larger arrangement on the west side of the main organ. The 4 manual electronic console controlling it all is in the loft right next to the old one, and it looks very impressive. This is stopping a very large gap. The organist said that while the long-term plan is to replace the pipe organ, the cathedral is at the start of a major restoration and it could be a good few years before a new instrument arrives, which must of course be pretty much the last phase of the restoration. Incidentally, I commented that it sounded surprisingly rough compared with the couple of electronics I have owned, He said that it had only just been installed and needed voicing, which is fair enough. A large acoustic helps hide the evidence as well. However, the difference at point blank range is clear. In mitigation m'lud, my home toaster was replaced by a real pipe organ, but much though I love it, my ego and I do occasionally yearn for something with headphones, 50 stops, 32' reeds and an electronic reverberation with a "big cathedral" setting - although I think the family would settle for the headphones.
  25. Wireless Consoles

    Being a Bristolian who knows the Lord Mayor's Chapel, and an engineer who has spent his professional life involved in radio and wireless systems, my main question about a wireless console in this building is - Why? It's not a big building at all, and there's very little space to move the console around from what I recall is a raised position opposite the organ, surrounded by stalls. Further, my own knowledge, confirmed by sometimes bitter and occasionally sharply biting experience, is that low power radio systems are very fickle and prone to unreliability not only by their inherent nature, but also because the radio bands reserved for their use are rather crowded with other control and data systems doing similar things. Various techniques mitigate this, of course, which is why time-insensitive systems are very reliable, but there's a limit beyond which things just go slow. While the claimed 35ms delay may well be imperceptible, it could very well be longer depending on the wholly unpredictable number of other users in the area, a situation that simply cannot be acceptable for playing an organ in real time where delays are immediately perceptible to the ear, as there is no aural equivalent of persistence of vision. I would heartily recommend, even demand, that every such wireless system comes with a socket and a length of cable which connects console and organ. Many movable consoles I have read about feature this, and the buildings they are in often have specific connection points at the two or three positions in the building where the console is likely to be used. There is an advantage that completely standard connectors and cables can be used and they are reliable, even if, as John Norman noted in an OR article some time ago, such consoles tend to find their own comfortable niches and stay there. Please don't think I'm dismissing such techniques out of hand. Multiplex and/or digital transmission in organs certainly have their place - many instruments big and small would probably be impossible without them, a fanatical devotion to tracker action might not be a wholly Good Thing for the art of organ building, and a remote diagnostics facility is essential for these systems. And it's well know that many organists are engineers who are as absorbed by the technical aspects of the instrument as its music and history, as are organ builders. But I'm both a horses for courses and a belt and braces person who likes the technology to serve the cause rather than vice versa. Still, wireless interference could be worse. Years ago I was sitting in church one Saturday evening waiting for proceedings to begin when a crackle came over the speakers, followed by the opening calls from the Bingo hall a few hundred meters away. I like to think I wasn't the only one who turned the hymn book to "I'm in heaven, 57!"