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Rowland Wateridge

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  1. Well, as an alternative to Widor V (and breaking the rule about playing individual movements from organ symphonies) how about the Finale from Vierne’s Symphonie 3, already mentioned? The big pedal entry there is, I suggest, as exciting as Widor’s - possibly more so as it comes so dramatically following a gradual build-up on manual reeds. But, of course, this requires a large cathedral or concert hall organ with the necessary resources. People who dislike transcriptions might like to reconsider in the case of W T Best’s arrangement of Mendelssohn’s Overture to “St Paul”. Again, it needs a suitably wide-ranging organ - and a virtuoso player! I have heard it three times played by Thomas Trotter. The same thing happened every time - there was an immediate audience reaction to the opening section. Twice was at Birmingham Town Hall, where much of the audience would be aficionados (and, incidentally, always runs into several hundreds - a full house is one thousand, and I experienced that once with people standing!), but perhaps the more telling experience was at the opening of the new Tickell organ at Manchester Cathedral, attended by all the great and the good of the north-west, Lord-Lieutenant and every mayor from Lancashire it seemed. It was a ticket event and I sat in the ‘additional seating’. I’m pretty certain that organists were very much in the minority in the audience of several hundreds. My impression was that many people were out of their depth, possibly slightly bored, until the opening bars of “St Paul”. The audience visibly stirred, and sat up! And listened! The drama comes towards the end of the Vierne, but at the very beginning of the Mendelssohn. Either recipe might catch people’s imagination.
  2. I’m not sure what you mean by Widor’s ‘socialite’ achievements. He was thought of highly enough as a musician to become Minister of Beaux Arts. I can’t think of an organist having held an equivalent office in this country. (Before anyone mentions Edward Heath, I discount him in this context.) But as we are being brave today, I fully share your view of the Reubke Sonata, but would never have dared to say that here. But then, the big Reger works are anathema to some members here, as inexplicable to me as ‘our’ view of Reubke would be to them.
  3. May I gently suggest that the justified indignation about pejorative remarks aimed at amateurs and reluctants (of which I am, or was, one) doesn’t warrant a counter-attack on professional organists as a breed. We are lucky to have some of the finest in our small country. I won’t name favourites, save to say that before the present lockdown it was possible to attend concerts and recitals around the country performed to the very highest standards to respectably-sized audiences. My experiences do not echo some of the pessimistic comments above. As an added bonus, in the last 12 months I had the good fortune to hear, and briefly meet, Thomas Ospital and Philippe Lefebrve from Paris (including a sensational improvisation by PL), and Richard Elliott from Salt Lake City. Three outstanding performances by gifted and charming people. I have encountered several ‘hiccups’ in professional recitals - but no more than three or four times in 50 or more years! - and they were not all the organist’s fault. A couple of ciphers, and one memorable occasion at the RFH with Ralph Downes, no less. He started the Franck second Choral, and after a few bars there was a marked pause; he continued briefly and there was a second more pregnant pause. He then turned to the audience and said “I’m terribly sorry, ladies and gentlemen, I will start again”, which he did, and gave a faultless performance. Yet again, I strongly commend www.organrecitals.com both for advertising events and for planning to attend recitals. It’s an amazing and valuable resource. Before present circumstances there can never have been such a wealth of live-performed organ music available. Let’s hope that normal conditions will return soon.
  4. In defence of Widor Well, we discussed this on an earlier thread, principally about Widor’s much slower tempo in his recording of the Toccata at St Sulpice when he was well into his 80s. Some of us here (maybe a minority) felt that Widor’s interpretation (of his own music!) imparted a dignified grandeur which other performances simply don’t achieve or come near. Although he didn’t observe the rule at Selby, Fernando Germani was on record as saying that individual movements from the organ symphonies should not be played alone; they were part of the whole and to be heard in the context of the other movements. BWV 565 and the Toccata from Symphonie 5 (on its own) have undoubtedly become the most hackneyed. Where organists, and the likes of Classic FM, aren’t succeeding is shown by the fact that the public at large knows little, if any, of the rest of the organ repertoire. I’m afraid I couldn’t pull the lever on Widor! A fascinating man and life; lived through the Franco-Prussian War with dreadful privations, was effectively Minister of Beaux Arts with responsibility for evacuating the Louvre in WW I, Knight of the Legion of Honour, organist of St Sulpice for almost 64 years, etc., etc. Now if you had nominated Léfebure-Wély ... ... I can’t bring myself to nominate a replacement for Widor V, but highly recommended would be Vierne’s Symphonie III, with its haunting Adagio and simply stunning Finale.
  5. My goodness, such heresy on an organists’ website! I will concede that the former organist of the famous public school near my home made an error of judgement some years ago when we had an ‘open day’, not just for the arts but for all local activities of every kind. People were encouraged to circulate round the city and sample everything on offer. For some of them this particular performance may well have been their first (maybe only) encounter with the organ. The programme was ‘The Art of Fugue’ complete (or as complete as it gets). My heart sank as this was an obvious opportunity to evangelise on behalf of the organ. I heard the late Anthony Caesar, former Precentor of Winchester Cathedral, assert that J S Bach was “God’s Messenger”. It was not a matter of any doubt for him. But, of course, the interpretation and playing had to be totally committed. (Incidentally, he proudly claimed that as a boy in the 1930s he had crawled through the bottom C pipe of the Winchester Father Willis 32’ open wood!) As for “dreadful dull, slow, soul-less playing of hymn tunes”, this is down to the organist. Some of us here have to grapple with small, ancient and basic, sometimes intractable, instruments. It’s the organist’s job to overcome the negatives, and to provide at the very least reliable rhythmic playing, enhanced as best he or she can by the resources of the instrument - and with commitment to this very important element of parish liturgy. At parish level, this is arguably the organist’s number one job. Apologies for the apparent sermon. Piet Kee’s CD performances of Bach and Buxtehude at Haarlem and Alkmaar are to be treasured. I haven’t heard the Roskilde recording.
  6. Firstly, NPOR N04090 gives as the reason for the appearance of the organ's east (?) front "Plain rear to hide tuner's passage boards". But these pictures are puzzling. The 1991 IAO Congress was held in Durham, and included a coach visit to Hexham for a recital by Nicolas Kynaston (as I recall). One front of the organ, and I assumed it to be the back, was almost entirely vertical swell shades, and it was very noticeable at the time how much the swell pedal was being used, and, unless I am mistaken, the shades opened slightly sequentially and their action was very 'fluid'. We understood that it was wholly mechanical. I can't reconcile that memory with the 'Google' photographs. Moreover there is mention on NPOR of 'East swell shutters with indicator'. Létourneau worked on the organ subsequently in 1998. Did they make changes to the original Phelps east front, and does it incorporate the vertical swell shades? Someone with local knowledge can surely tell us. Curtains around the console were standard at practically every English cathedral and some major churches, and still are in quite a few. On my last visits to York and Lincoln, they were still there.
  7. I don’t want to hijack the thread, but here are John Scott and others talking about the Merton organ when it was new.
  8. The Merton organ is magnificent both aurally and visually, but it’s a large instrument and the Chapel east of the screen doesn’t have anywhere to accommodate it. It’s not unique, nor particularly uncommon, to find a west end organ in a college chapel. Without knowing, I suspect that there could be a CCTV monitor (possibly behind a concealed panel - this is only a vague recollection, and could be wrong) in addition to mirrors above both jambs. There’s also a chamber organ just to the east of the choir stalls. The Dobson organ case is brilliantly-designed so that when viewed from the east the towers and flats are perfectly framed by the arches of the screen.
  9. I could write at considerable length about the acoustic complexity at Winchester Cathedral, but won't save to say that when the Father Willis organ was installed in 1854 it was expected to accompany services in the quire which was then very much more enclosed than it is now. The introduction of nave services in all cathedrals created a new situation - and a harder job for the organ - particularly one badly-positioned like Winchester's in an enormous building. There the vaulting of the tower, quire and presbytery, and the flat-roofed transepts are of wood. Everything else, nave, retrochoir, eastern chapels and all aisles are stone vaulted - limestone from the Isle of Wight and Caen. Incidentally, the non-reverberant acoustic at Lichfield Cathedral (also discussed on an earlier thread) is due to much of the vaulting there being of plaster - not stone - used in the cathedral's extensive 18th/19th centuries restorations. Stanley specifically asked where the sound comes from when flue pipes and reeds are played. I expected a reply from one of our organbuilder or tuner members but Colin Pykett confirms my largely amateur thoughts that sound is created internally in the pipe at the mouth of a flue (whether open or stopped) by waves and vibration, and by the vibrating tongue of a reed and in its resonator. We all know the effect of putting a stopper in the top of a pipe or drilling a small hole at the centre point of the back of a pipe or resonator. Sound cannot emerge from the top of a stopped pipe. Can someone more expert expand on this (or provide corrections!)? A close friend, Professor James Wilkes of the University of Michigan (an Englishman by birth and an organist) gave an illustrated lecture on "Sound-production in Organ Pipes" to my local organists' association back in 1998, and I vividly remember his holding a lighted candle at the mouth of an open flue pipe. When the note was played, the candle extinguished. He then repeated this with the candle directly above the top of the pipe. The candle stayed alight. Over to others more expert to clarify, correct or expand on the above.
  10. I realise this was intended to lighten the situation - and presumably internal consumption was the idea for the vodka? - but emphatically do not apply any liquid to keys which could filter down between them to the key beds, or on tab stops with electric contacts. I think hygiene of the organist’s hands is the way to tackle this. This homily was written before seeing handsoff’s reply above. We must both have hit the ‘save’ button at more or less the same time. But the ‘do not use liquid’ message was for general circulation. From handsoff’s description it seems unlikely that there are any electric contacts on his organ, except the blower switch, perhaps?
  11. The risk assessment is to be made by the 'employer' which I suspect could be either the incumbent or a churchwarden. Note the mention of "5 or more employees". The same risk assessment would apply to any other person also authorised to visit the church. The answers to those questions (they emanate from Ecclesiastical Insurance Group) aren't too difficult, some simply being "not applicable". I guess most organists carry a mobile 'phone. It's up to the church - not the organist - to co-ordinate visits and to permit who may be in the church and at what times, again all simply done by telephone. The safeguarding questions are easily overcome if the organist is to be alone in the building. It's already established that he/ she cannot have a page-turner or assistant - there is no safeguarding issue! So don't be deterred. If you have a key, and someone coordinates and keeps a record of your visits I don't see any problem. The guidance quoted above from my church is sensible and sufficient.
  12. I received this email from the organists’ coordinator at one of my churches last week. “I concluded that if we wanted to go in to play the organ, we should wear gloves to open any door/ locks, and be aware of hand-sanitiser available in the church and of advice about limited moving about the church; we can play the organ, but at 72 hour intervals in case of keyboard contamination. So perhaps if you would like to get back to the console, let me know so we don't all go at once!“ Obviously someone needs to co-ordinate players’ visiting times. I strongly doubt that liquid cleansers should be used on any part of the console or that this should be necessary, but our organ builder/ tuner members are doubtless best placed to advise on that. Probably simplest, and should be adequate, if using hand sanitiser both before and after playing.
  13. We are very much straying from York. Hereford is a model of how we would like things to be in all of our cathedrals, but they aren’t on equal footings financially and the sheer scale of the buildings and upkeep of the larger ones is simply daunting. Lincoln and Salisbury both have original copies of Magna Carta. Canterbury’s stained glass is of international importance. Durham is, itself, a World Heritage Site - and the list could go on and on. How lucky we are to have these treasures, and how tragic would be their loss. What is the answer to the problem of admission charges? - I don’t know. The French model has been mentioned, but it isn’t all that clear how well it works in practice.
  14. I am sure I have accessed the music list from choralevensong.org, and, having just checked, the link there is directly to the Abbey website. In present circumstances the result is a notice that the Abbey is closed due to Coronavirus. I don’t remember the format of the list I have seen, although you specifically mention a weekly one. They vary considerably among the cathedrals: some only the current week, commonly the current month, but in the case of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral a whole term. For Westminster, choralevensong.org helpfully provides daily details of services. Doubtless all will be revealed at Westminster when services resume. I read to today that churches are to reopen, but initially only for private worship.
  15. In case I didn’t make it clear, the recital I sponsored was not at Coventry. I have no idea what cathedrals or concert halls (like the Bridgwater Hall) might charge for the use of their organ for a commercial recording - presumably a one-off payment in lieu of royalties? We must not stray too far from York, which was the subject here leading to discussion of admission charges, but it does highlight a problem for other cathedrals as well.
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