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Damian Beasley-Suffolk

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Everything posted by Damian Beasley-Suffolk

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    List of beautiful English Organs

    If you don't mind, I have replied to this on the Blind Listening Thread.
  4. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    List of beautiful English Organs

    Considering the current threads on beautiful organs, and pipe v electronic blind hearing tests together, I noted that many effective organs don't need to be large. One often hears of players with relatively small pipe organs which have a particular stop, usually a quiet diapason, principle, or flute, which they say are so lovely that they can happily play for hours with that one stop. I am pretty sure that this is not the case with typical electronic instruments, having tried it. The point is that simple but well-made instruments are often more than adequate, they provide the sense of quality, craft, and life in an instrument that others often can't, and in that musical sense can be considered beautiful. One example I know well demonstrates this. The Saxon Church, Escomb, County Durham: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N04218 A Nigel Church organ, for this very tiny, very very old church reputed to be about the oldest in England, and built, using re-cycled stones from the Binchester Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall, on the site of an even older church/worship/mass site. A simple but elegant case, interesting pipe display, with a beautiful tone it sounds just right in this ancient but active building. My father in law has played here for longer than anyone can remember, my wife played here frequently, and occasionally, if I get the opportunity, so do I.
  5. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    List of beautiful English Organs

    Playing on NPOR today, I came across this organ in the church of St Cosmas and St Damian in Sherrington, Wiltshire: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=K00639 There are some better pictures of this instrument on the church's website at https://upperwylyevalleyteam.com/our-churches/st-cosmas-st-damian-sherrington/ Although the front pipes are actually wooden dummies, the whole case is lovely, even more so in its location at the back of the church. I imagine somehow that the sound of the organ is exactly what one would hope and expect to hear. Ss. Cosmas and Damian is a rare dedication in Britain, despite the noble and instantly attractive name. I can find 5 Anglican churches (one redundant) and one Greek Orthodox. I've met a good few Da/emia/e/ons in my time, all of them fine fellows as one would expect, but only one Cosmos - actually Cosmo. Although I noticed some Bach CDs in his study a couple of times, I never got around to finding out his musical involvement or forming a combo.
  6. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Blind Listening Experiment

    Interesting that the comparison sems to be a like v like test as far as style and size go. Many comparisons seem to be a modest 2M + P v a 3M, 50 stop, multiple specification/temperament/style which appeals to the closet megalomaniac in all of us, but is if course unfair. I once went to a pipe v electronic demo, during which the company involved had recorded a few stops from the small Willis IV in the church, and played them back along with the Willis, which had nothing wrong with it apart from never having been completed. I have to say that it served more to demonstrate just how many more stops could be had electronically, rather than help any objective quality assessment, so wasn't really much help. That was 20+ years ago, so I have no idea of the present state of affairs there. But I'm on my third toaster since then! But the point about cost and congregations is well made, and unavoidable. A CofE booklet on selecting organs rightly points out that few churches need monster specifications, they just need something supportive and musical. Whether that can be achieved by modest new organs, resurrecting Compton-style designs, proposing good quality second hand pipe instruments, or going electronic is the gamut of considerations which we'd probably all like to be considered more evenly.
  7. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    List of beautiful English Organs

    Re: Newcastle Cathedral, you can read more about it, from some years ago, here: www.duresme.org.uk/NEorgans/newcastle.htm As previously stated, it's not in use at the moment as it needs restoration, and the cathedral itself is undergoing restoration.
  8. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Flamboyant showpieces

    Mark Twain has a pithy thing or two to say about the "myth of originality"! Worth looking up. I don't know the details of the Latry incident, although I remember it being reported, but although he has the rights to his own transcription of the ROS, created through his own skill and sweat, the original work is still someone else's property for the time being. I have a (legitimately bought!) CD of David Briggs giving a private concert at Gloucester Cathedral not so long ago. IIRC, it's not to hand at the mo, it states in the cover notes that his improvisations on current themes were limited to quoting no more than 5 seconds or so of each theme due to a specific rule somewhere. I/we could go on at length about this - it is in fact a fascinating topic - but I won't. However, most of us will have facsimiles of 16th/17th music in our collections, and it's always worth looking at the fronticepiece to read the "Letters Patent", "Privilège du Roi" etc granted to the composers. This was their exclusive right to publish, sell and control their works, and make a living without being a burden on the royal patronage. It's often said that Haendel could have been as good as Bach if he'd applied himself a bit more. But Bach was a court musician, living under the patronage of some prince or church council, and so had a steady income. Haendel was esentially an impresario, who wrote music and staged performances to earn his living. A fascinating article in Early Music from about 20 years ago goes into great detail about this. Haendel staged most of his oratorios in theatres, not churches, and relied on subscriptions, sales, and concerts to earn his crust. The article estimates that in Londin at the time (or perhaps England, I forget) there were about 50,000 people who could have afforded these subscriptions. The need for protection of original work as your way of living in a precarious time is obvious, even if the details have become distorted in the intervening aeons. It is said that the earliest known form of creative protection comes from Ancient Greece, c.4BC. If a cook came up with a new dish or recipe that the punters liked, he could prohibit any other cook from copying it for a year, thereby allowing him a reasonable, but not umlimited, opportunity to benefit from his inspiration and creative labour. This illustrates two basic principles of copyright; firstly, it is a right to prohibit anyone else pinching your idea, and secondly you still have to put the effort in and hope that someone wants to buy your creation! There are few licences to print money, unfortunately, so probably best not to give up the day job.
  9. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Flamboyant showpieces

    Being in the IP Biz, so to speak, I must point out that copyright on various works is not consistent. Firstly, it runs from the death of the author of the original work. Secondly, 50 years is merely the minimum under the Berne Convention - many important jurisdictions run longer; 70 years in the EU, in the US it can run to 95 years. Copyright on a recorded performance of a piece, i.e. the performance itself, runs for 50 years from the publication of the performance, as some well known 60s performers have been complaining about recently. Now my biz is specifically patents, so I can give no advice on copyright apart from seek advice. However, no official body polices these things, as in all IP matters the rights holder is expected to be reasonably vigilant about the use of their protected creation, and a performer is equally expected to be reasonably conscientious in identifying and informing rights holders. IMSLP appear to do a good job of indicating what is or may be in copyright, I recall that they went offline a few years ago to adapt their system to give copyright advice and warnings for each piece on it. A huge task. You can find, as an indication, a list of copyright terms in Wikipedia, at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries'_copyright_lengths I know copyright has been discussed on this forum before, so this may well repeat what has already been said. But things like this do change!
  10. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    List of beautiful English Organs

    Trawling through my camera, I found pictures of an interesting new case at Durham Cathedral: I recall that H&H actually built and installed it 🙂 OK, not quite what was asked for! This was part of a Lego model of Durham Cathedral built in 2015, for fundraising. I think you paid a pound for a brick. Great fun, and the finished model was impressive.
  11. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    List of beautiful English Organs

    Regarding the Cullercoats Lewis and its lack of case, there is a very similar Lewis fairly close by in Jesmond URC, in a similar physical situation but with a case which is probably typical of the time. The pipe arrangement is different, of course, but perhaps Cullercoats could have looked like this: As for brand new English organ cases, there's an interesting example merely a paddle up the canal from me, at the Hooglandse Kerk in Leiden where this initial installation of an 1892 Willis, which had spent years in private ownership elsewhere in Holland: was transformed by the addition of an entirely new case (not to mention a thorough internal rebuild) into this: which is almost twice the original height when measured up to the top of those intriguing pinnacles. Imagine looking up to that! Although you can't directly from the console, unfortunately. The side case is a bit less showy, though just as well crafted, but I'm not sure what the minarets are for - I'll ask. The back is formed from an impressive row of 32' Open Wood pipes, all in a polished light-coloured wood quite different from the blackboard-paint chimney stacks often seen in such organs. I rather like the proportions of the front case, especially the degree of embellishment compared with pipes, which I think are just right. It's a beautiful English organ. As an aside, the Hooglandse Kerk in Leiden is not, and never has been, a cathedral. Although it was proposed to make it a cathedral during the 16th century, before the reformation in the Netherlands and so while it was still a catholic church dedicated to Saint Pancras, it was decided instead to make the church in Haarlem the new cathedral. This is why building stopped on the Hooglandse, and why it is so small - at least compared with the enormous Pieterskerk, not a stone's throw away, which houses the famous Van Hagerbeer organ at the back, and the equally English Hill organ to one side of the choir. The name of the whole project should be read in English as Leiden "Cathedral Organ", referring to the style and intended use of the instrument.
  12. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    List of beautiful English Organs

    This impromptu graphical tour of Suffolk's organs is simply wonderful. Thank you David for downloading your considerable memory like this. I've also found a website about Suffolk's many hundreds of churches, it's really far too much of a good thing. Despite my surname, I have no links at all with Suffolk and, even though I was higher-educated over the border in Colchester, I have barely set foot in the county. In fact, I'm ashamed to say that I have never even been to Flatford Mill, even though you can practically see it from Essex University library. More recent academic activities had me regularly tearing along the A12 and A14 between Harwich and Leicester (within the speed limit, of course...), but I only managed to fit in St Edmundsbury one Sunday before the H&H rebuild, when I think the hiss from all the leaks was louder than some of the strings. So next time I roll off the ferry, I shall take a download of this thread, a good map, my good wife, and plenty more time than before. You never know, it might sow the seeds of somewhere nice to retire to, if one can ever tempt a northerner away from their home turf. She'll have finished her reader training by then, and apparently has already mentioned her USP as "Have organist, will travel" 🙂 I think she means me ...
  13. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    List of beautiful English Organs

    All this talk of Smith and Bodley compels me to mention these two instruments, both of which I have a passing acquaintance with. Chapel of the (former) Bishop's Palace, Bishop Auckland, Co Durham. Initially a 1-manual by Smith in 1688, a second manual added by H&H in 1903. Sits high at the back of the chapel. My wife is a local, and was one of the organists here while studying at Durham University, during David Jenkins' time as Bishop of Durham. She remembers him fondly, and there were no recorded lightning strikes - not in Durham, at least 😉 http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N13277 Immaculate Conception, Stroud, Gloucestershire A rather splendid case, actually a copy of another Bodley case (see NPOR for details). Unusual, from my limited knowledge, in originally being built for, and now still in, a Catholic church. I vaguely remember playing this once, many years ago, and when I was even less competent than I am now to comment on its merits, but I certainly enjoyed it. http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=D06533 I think this just fits within the "rules" of this thread: my favourite modern case is that of Clifton Cathedral in Bristol, probably a biased view because I in effect grew up with it and heard it a lot at an impressionable age, although I've never actually played it. If one of Picasso's principles of painting was to allow the viewer to see a subject from several different perspectives simultaneously, then this is a Picasso of an instrument. One could easily imaging it rendered as a straightforward neo-baroque 3-manual hanging off a rear gallery, but who could start from that traditional arrangement and end up with this? It suits the building, which I also like, very well - perhaps it's just because I am a child of my time and these were both brand new when I became aware of these things. In fact, I think it is a more attractive instrument and sits better in its place than it's larger contemporary sibling in Freiburg Minster, and several other hexagonal Rieger cases from the period (yes, even Ratzeburg), although the latter two are superb towns/churches/organs to visit and well worth the trip. http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N01276 I also have to say that Clifton also represents a type of asymmetric but balanced organ case which I find attractive. In particular, our hosts Mander have produced a number of such cases, for some reason often in Japan. I think are successful as they are balanced and complete by themselves, but do not appear to be missing a complementary "twin" on the other side of a chancel.
  14. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    List of beautiful English Organs

    Holy Innocents, Highnam, Gloucestershire. Not so much a case as a highly decorated balcony, but impressive nonetheless. I used to live close by but, as is often the case, never got round to actually hearing it. It was rebuilt in 2004 by Wood. http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=K00417
  15. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    York Minster

    "German eingineering ... skils ... quality.." and cost a fortune when they do go wrong. I followed the story of a German organ in a Germn church which the church wanted to get rid of because it was so unreliable it was costing them several thousand euros a year just to maintain. They sold it to a church in another country speaking another language which is not English, the new owners apparently being delighted at their high quality German instrument. Having only read of this in newspaper articles and church notices it might not be the whole story so I won't give any names, but I'm astonished that nobody involved can speak the other side's language and discover these things. As an engineer I admire German technology as much as anyone, but caveat emptor. Having said that, yesterday I listened to evensong at (a large church) with a fairly new toaster, which sounded surprisingly poor, so full marks to any congregation who makes the commitment to transplanting a decent instrument and sorting out its problems in the process. They'll be better off in the not-so-long run.
  16. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Organs on Google Street-view

    Re: sitting (almost) inside an organ, the Wood organ in the chapel of St Edmund's Hall, Oxford is odd. The facade is placed on the wall just to the left of the chapel entrance, with no visible console. I read very recently, but of course cannot now retrieve, that the console is at the back of this organ, in an adjoining room,. The organist apparently peers through the organ to see what's going on. Odd, but not unknown here in the Netherlands where some organs have consoles at the back of the instrument, the organist either looking through the instrument, or relying on a couple of very large mirrors. Newcastle Cathedral has its console (both the old one and the temorary electronic) in a kind of wooden cubicle next to the choir division, I think the organist peers through a gap in the panelling because I didn't see a video screen when I looked. It must feel very remote. My booklet on the history of Durham Cathedral's Willis organ says that it wasn't finished for the dedication, so the cathedral organist sat at the console playing the manuals, while HW himself actually sat inside the organ at a makeshift bench and pedals playing them when needed. If only people really knew what organists get up to when we think nobody's watching ...
  17. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    What is an “International Concert Organist”?

    In some countries, Germany for example, any titles are part of your name and have to be used formally. Those who have honourary doctorates have as their title Dr. h.c, for "honoris causa". That's clear, and allows people to draw their own conclusions.
  18. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    (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.
  19. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    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.
  20. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    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?
  21. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Newcastle

    http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/special-new-organ-been-installed-13888683
  22. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    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.
  23. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Newcastle

    Ben oui man, ça c'est canny. http://bernardaubertin.org/orgel.asp?orgelid=166
  24. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    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 :-)
  25. Damian Beasley-Suffolk

    Swell Boxes

    Thanks. That puts much into context. Experto credo.
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