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Mander Organs


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About Zimbelstern

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  1. Zimbelstern

    Blind Listening Experiment

    We always have to remember that the pipe organ is very much a niche market within a niche market (classical music). Even many church goers who regularly hear the organ played have never seen it close up, have no idea how it works or know that organists play with their feet. Members of the clergy are not necessarily interested in organs and organ music - why should they be? Pipe organs have suffered over the centuries from being smashed up by religious fanatics, atheists (French Revolution), anarchists (Spanish Civil War), or their activity has been restricted when the theology of church music changed (Tra Le Sollicitudini) and alternatim masses were banned. The Orthodox Church does not allow musical instruments at all. Perhaps the best way to view pipe organ building (if you want to remain positive) is like the bespoke, handmade shoe or suit industries. You can always get them but they’ll cost you many hundreds or thousands of pounds. They’ll always be a demand, but only a limited one. I am constantly surprised at just how many new organs are still commissioned and installed in churches and elsewhere, here and abroad. Somehow, in spite of the sheer incompetence of many churches in managing and investing their funds, huge sums are stll found for new organs or to rebuild existing ones. Probably the greatest threat to pipe organs is fashion. The argument about pipe organs lasting 100 years is almost beside the point, since many new today will probably fail to impress in 30 years time and be subject to all kinds of alteration. It is impossible to predict where churches and organs will be in 100 years time - if the world hasn’t been blown to smithereens! The latest sampling techniques make it possible to have a range of highly realistic recordings of organs installed in your computer and play them back in your home. This is great for practising, (or even making your own digital recordings), but we should never forget that these are samples of real pipe organs and would not be possible without them. The human brain needs constant stimulation and change, and these factors, together with fashion, will ensure that digital organs will never replace good, well maintained pipe organs. On the contrary, the availability of relatively cheap digital organs for practice has at last made it possible for new students to learn and practise the organ in their own homes. Nothing, but nothing in the world of music however, can compare with the experience of playing, say Widor or Vierne, on great Cavaillé Coll organs in Paris as I did on an organ course earlier this summer. Can anyone really imagine that a digital organ could be built that could ever come anywhere near the glorious sound of the organ in Saint Sulpice?
  2. Zimbelstern

    NPOR Down?

    “As part of our wider support for scholarship and academic work, The Royal College of Organists is responsible for the day-to-day management of the National Pipe Organ Register.” https://www.rco.org.uk/npor.php
  3. Zimbelstern

    Flamboyant showpieces

    The problem is that, whilst copyright law was introduced to protect artists and give them greater incentives to create works of art, the opposite is now happening. So-called copyright trolls are apparently buying up the copyrights to obscure and forgotten works written long ago and then threatening anyone they can find whose work could be remotely construed as bearing some resemblance. Given the very high penalties for infringement (unlimited fines and up to ten years in jail), the level of intimidation experienced upon receiving a threatening letter is likely to be such as to result in a settlement out of court. There is surely a difference between plagiarism and art. The plagiarist simply steals someone else’s work for financial gain. But artists in the past have shown their creativity in quoting, developing or transforming something created by someone else. How many composers today are prepared to risk their livelihoods or freedom to write a set of variations on a theme still in copyright? The fear of doing so unintentionally must also be a factor in limiting creativity. The fact that the melody to the song “Yes, We Have No Bananas” can be construed as resembling the opening of the Hallelujah Chorus, or that of Noel Coward’s “London Pride” as resembling Haydn’s tune now used for the German National Anthem, shows how easy it is to claim plagiarism. It looks as if copyright law has gone too far and, far from protecting those who depend on royalties for their living, is acting as a disincentive to creativity and art.
  4. Zimbelstern

    Flamboyant showpieces

    Wasn’t Handel the greatest musical plagiarist of all time?
  5. Zimbelstern

    Flamboyant showpieces

    I was at the Royal Festival Hall when he played for the inauguration of the restored organ in 2014. He explained that he could not, after all, play the organ transcription (as I recall it was a duet to be played with his wife) because the publishers had refused permission. If my memory serves me correctly he played Widor’s Toccata instead. He finished with an improvisation on a theme of Sir George Dyson (the same which had been given to Ralph Downes at the original inauguration - the joke being that Sir George Dyson intensely disliked the RFH instrument).
  6. Zimbelstern

    Flamboyant showpieces

    Whilst no-one begrudges an artist fair recompense for their efforts, copyright has lately become something of a racket. J.S.Bach, for one, would undoubtedly be bankrupt and languishing in jail for plagiarism were he alive today. One wonders whether improvisation itself may have become a dangerous activity, given the possibility of legal action being taken for making reference to a melody in copyright. And God forbid if someone should record it or transcribe it! The only positive side is that churches and concert halls may soon fill up - with lawyers listening out for organists in the process of infringing copyright. How did Olivier Latry get away with improvising on the Simpsons’ theme?
  7. Zimbelstern


    For such an important instrument, £3 million for purchase, renovation and relocation seems reasonable.
  8. Zimbelstern

    Flamboyant showpieces

    Jean Guillou’s Saga No. 6 is certainly a show piece! There’s another YouTube video featuring Jean Guillou playing it himself while a dancer scales the walls of St. Eustache! https://youtu.be/VloFCpS7lNM
  9. Zimbelstern


    Last week, during an organ academy in Paris, I had a brief conversation with Kurt Lueders, Vice-President of the Cavaillé-Coll Association regarding this instrument, which was awarded a Grade 1 Certificate by the British Institute of Organ Studies in 2015. The Association (www.cavaille-coll.fr) devoted its journal “La Flúte Harmonique” No. 99, 2017 (€15) in its entirety to a monograph by Gerald Sumner on the subject of the Parr Hall instrument, whose importance cannot be overestimated. £1 million for a Cavaillé organ described as “of truly international importance” and “one of the very rare French Romantic organs preserved from such modifications as would be in the main irreversible” seems cheap at the price.
  10. Zimbelstern

    Flamboyant showpieces

  11. Zimbelstern

    List of beautiful English Organs

    David, you may be interested to know that the Walker organ presented to St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham by Queen Victoria in 1880 (NPOR RO1398), which was removed in 1909 when King Edward VII presented the church with a newer and larger Walker organ, was installed in All Saints Parish Church, Goodmayes, Essex in 1919 (NPOR N18541), having been stored for ten years in Walker’s Tottenham Court Road premises. It is still in good condition and used regularly for worship.
  12. Zimbelstern

    Music That We'd Rather Not Play

    If I have caused offence, I heartily apologise. I certainly did not intend to do so.
  13. Zimbelstern

    Music That We'd Rather Not Play

    I sympathise with your predicament. I am familiar with country churches, having grown up in various villages in Sussex, where I was a boy chorister. The area of London where I am active now could not be more different. Our traditional Anglo-Catholic church with a reasonable sized congregation is next to a busy mosque and a stone’s throw from a thriving Pentecostal church with a brand new building, and a very active Baptist church. They are full of young people. The main Roman Catholic church, also not far away, is always full on Sundays. A number of members of our congregation attend several churches, because they enjoy different styles of worship. What I see is a community hungry for spiritual food and guidance. Music seems to have the ability to cause conflict in churches, something I find very sad, but I think it can be avoided if all involved are determined not to let that happen, and remember why we have music in church. I always have the words of Psalm 150 in the back of my mind.
  14. Zimbelstern

    Music That We'd Rather Not Play

    “which in turn discourage and completely preclude worship songs“ What a shame that you dismiss a whole genre of music! There are great hymns and awful hymns. There are great worship songs and awful worship songs. Surely the duty of a church Director of Music is to be discerning.
  15. Zimbelstern

    Music That We'd Rather Not Play

    I am very fortunate in being delegated the responsibility for choosing the hymns in my church. I am, however, forbidden by the incumbent to include “Shine, Jesus, Shine” in the mass. This doesn’t bother me. I like a lot of Graham Kendrick’s songs, but not that one. One of my favourites is “Rejoice, Rejoice” which I find goes very well on the organ, and lends itself to post service improvisation if chosen as the final hymn. I am very fond of “Abide with Me”, which is set for next Sunday, but for the second year running I have been approached by one of the Church Wardens who says several members of the congregation have asked me to change it, because the emotions it summons up in relation to loved ones who have passed away become almost unbearable. I have resisted doing this, although I have offered to meet with them to explain why I feel we should include it. It is interesting that traditional hymns can be as controversial as “worship songs”.