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Cornet IV

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  1. At the publisher's request, I have been revising my biography. I reached the following passage and remembering Martin Cooke's plea, I wondered if it might conjure similar memories for others. This was during my first year in secondary education, so I must have been thirteen at the time. I sometimes was allowed to make my own choice of hymns. I would switch off the blower when the good Canon began his sermon but, concentrate as I might, I usually lost the plot fairly early on, so my mind wandered off to things of more immediate and temporal interest; things like the AJS Porcupine and how much I should like to see Reg Armstrong on a camshaft Norton in the Senior TT. I had a pair of shoes which I had worn out, but with built-up heels they were fine for organ work. However, they were a bit on the tight side, so I would slip them off and return to my Boys' Own reverie and thoughts of the latest offerings from Gamages, the new Raleigh with drop handlebars and the latest balsa kit from Keilcraft. Perhaps I could build the three-valve "Skymaster" if I could persuade Gran to let me have the kit for my birthday. "And now . . . ." thunders out as the doughty cleric turns to the altar; it's my signal to return to the world spiritual. "To God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost . . . . ." Time to switch on Bob to the accompaniment of creaks and wheezes as things come to life - let's hope there won't be a cypher. ". . . .be ascribed as is most justly due . . ." Where's my left shoe? Panic! Can't have lost a shoe ". . . all might, majesty, dominion and power . . ." More panic - it's become jammed in the pedal board.. Leap off the bench to retrieve itinerant footwear and accidentally hit the bottom end of the 16 foot open wood. BOOOOM! Instant red face but the shoe remains fully wedged. ". . . henceforth and for ever more. Amen". "We shall now sing hymn number two hundred and ninety four." That's not what we agreed. What's 294? Quick shuffle through A&M. "Jerusalem"! Well, they're not getting Dr G T Ball with only one shoe. "Please Canon Williams, Sir, the hymn should be two hundred and three." "Ahem, correction; we shall sing hymn number two hundred and three." At last, the key lever gives up its prize and I can manage the pedal line without a limp.. Crisis averted. Happy days!
  2. Like others here, I did not know David Drinkell but I did enjoy his contributions to the forum. These characteristically were interesting, demonstrating a wealth of knowledge which he was happy to share with us. A sad loss.
  3. My immediate reaction to this was "Here, here!" No doubt an interesting undertaking in several disciplines but is music to be numbered within them? I suspected not. But then I thought of Walter Carlos. Were his contributions less valid because they were not realised on a Blanchet or Taskin? And Carlo Curley; surely his output was no less musical because it was not produced on a Schnitger or Trost? Does this Klais, despite having the appearance of some device for the manipulation of keyhole surgery and looking equally clinical, not have any less a capacity to conform to classical Orgelbewegung? Could such a soul-less machine not be capable of replicating what we would recognise as "proper music", even if it required the assistance of a first and second officer and probably cabin staff as well? Of course, one's reaction to this instrument is very much according to personal taste - I dislike it, but I'm an unashamed Luddite. In any event, it is the sound which defines the principal character of the instrument, and I have no knowledge of this. The bells and whistles are but a means to an end but I think there are better ways of getting there. However, seeing the picture reminded me of a recital given years ago by Diane Bish which I attended with the express purpose of studying her pedal technique in the F Major (540). Saw almost nothing as she was wearing a voluminous skirt which obscured almost everything! But it does occur to me that this console - if that is what it is - allows excellent views of the performer's actions.
  4. Well suspected - not my cuppa at all, although in fairness to RH-J, I associate him with double contra ophicleids or whatever, and I'm sure that he was much more than this. Nevertheless, it was a good thing Mark Twain didn't give up his day job! However, It was this sort of thinking against which the American "Arts and Crafts" gang are dedicated. Richards, Fowkes have been part of the Organ Reform Movement to which I referred earlier. To have been appointed to provide the instrument in "Handel's church" was a singular distinction. I do not know the organ but if it is as good as their interesting three-manual opus in Stamford, CT, it must be a cracker! I played this instrument rather by accident - I was put onto it when I was visiting Zuckermann Harpsichords in nearby Stonington. And sadly, I don't know the Dobson organ either - perhaps I should get out more, but anno domini is catching up.
  5. Lots of interesting things . . . . Rowland, I have not visited the forum for a week or three, hence my tardy response to your comprehensive contribution. My apologies. Hook and Hastings are held in high regard in the States and at least one of their instruments will be featured in the annual conventions of the excellent Organ Historical Society. My last attendance of one of these was their fiftieth anniversary in 2006 at Saratoga Springs, upstate NY. There are myriad 19th century organ builders dotted throughout America but few are well known, mostly because of a small and local business and.because (in my judgement) so much of their output is less than memorable. I suspect that they follow a pattern similar to that here but numerically larger due to the extended geography. I do know of Charles Callahan's book but confess I have yet to read it. I have to ask for many similar cases to be taken into account; I had expected retirement to be a something in which I could indulge in all those interesting things for which I previously had insufficient time. Oh dear - I got that very wrong! Curious that you should mention Edward Power Biggs. Years ago, it was almost impossible not to associate him with his concert contemporary, Virgil Fox. In recent times I have come to appreciate the considerable scholarship employed by EPB , just as I have come to view Fox as a circus performer. I didn't know of EPB's association with the Isle of Wight; I have always thought of him as an Essex-born American and remember when he died in Boston, Mass, quite some time ago. Now, I don't know if there is an English parallel here but perhaps thirty years ago, there was an interruption of the American organ evolution and into this interval stepped a bunch of chaps who eschewed the developments of the 18th and 19th centuries and went directly back to first (Werk) prinzipals. Should I ever be able to visit the States again, it won't be to the Aeolians, E&GG Hooks and Odells that I shall head. No, it will be to the likes (of my favourite) the 3-decker Friitts- Richards in Seattle, a couple of Taylor and Boodys, the CB FIsk in St Paul, Min., John Brombaugh and a cornucopia of others who have wonderfully combined the sound and character of Schnitger, Silbermann, Trost et al with modern mechanical actions. I asked Paul Fritts about Hope Jones and Wurlitzer - I wished I hadn't! The problem with the States is that you have to board an aeroplane to go anywhere! As an exercise in extreme sillyness, I once drove from New Orleans to Jackson, Mis. to play the 18" gunned battle cruiser by Keates-Geissler moored in the Presbyterian church there. 234 ranks, 9 divisions, inumerical pipes and goodness knows how many other complications. For someone who thinks it all ended in 1750, this was a remarkably dumb thing to do. I knew there was a connection between Sullivan and Henry Davan Wetton but for whatever reason, have been convinced that the common factor was St Peters, Cranley Gardens. Could be another of those damned senior occurrences but I don't think so. And re the Cornhill St Peters, I can assure you that it was reputed to have (perhaps 3?) ranks of Father Smith which survived The Fire. And, most assuredly, if you walked into the vestry and immediately turned left, there was Mendelssohn's console backed onto the wall. In the mid 'sixties, I lived in SE19 and followed John Portis as organist at St Mary's, Woolwich. I regularly had consulting commissions (nothing to do with music) north of The River and I was sometimes able to arrange an Evensong on my return home and thus managed a brief acquaintance with some of the City instruments. And talking of old Bernie Smith, I have a modest claim to have "discovered" the Byfield in St Mary's, Rotherhithe. Happy days . . . .
  6. I lived there for a little longer than that but long before anyone had thought of the Rieger, so I missed that treat. I was stuck with the post-Victorian (from memory) Hill in the Cathedral (before the en chamade rank) on which I spent a few of my musically formative years - I was educated locally. By this time I had begun an appreciation of the Barok for which this instrument was far from ideal. As a "thank you" to my mentors who had so patiently nurtured me - perhaps Churchmouse remembers Robert Field-Dodgson - my last appearance there was in 1957 with the Buxtehude F major Toccata.. But I should have so liked to have done this on the Rieger. I'm delighted that ChCh is "Phoenixing" from the rubble. As an aside of little consequence, about five years ago I rang Plain Bob Triples in a band which included a girl who had been in Christchurch when the 'quake hit. She became almost hysterical when the tower began to wobble and dashed for the outside world. I suspect the nightmare of the earthquake will be with her forever.
  7. This is good to know; I had half supposed that having become the property of a body not known for its interest in pipe organs or related music, it might have been sold or, worse, allowed to fall into disrepair. I am surprised however, that it has been enlarged - I felt that its resources were more than adequate for St Peter's and not in need of augmentation. My most recent experiences of London churches go back more than 50 years, so I'm hardly current with the contemporary scene. Indeed, this applies to English instruments generally. I have spent a fair proportion of my life living abroad and as a consequence am more familiar with, for example, Taylor and Boody or Aeolian-Skinner than Harrison or Willis - not that the characters of these builders necessarily are comparable; I'm something of a fan of G Donald Harrison who didn't care much for the symphonic instrument. But I digress . . . . Still wondering however about St Peter's upon Cornhill and Henry Davan Wetton in Fulham. Perhaps my curiosity is not to be satisfied but my recollection of such things usually is reliable.
  8. It never occurred to me to take any offence. However, I am new here and know that some sites are touchy about such things; their sensibilities disturbed by my occasionally ill-disciplined participations. But if I might trespass further,. your reference to different topics has emboldened me to ask a further question. Perhaps it involves the elusive character of the "English" organ! When I lived in West London, I sometimes played Arthur Sullivan's old organ at St Peter's, Cranley Gardens. Who knows - the archetypal English composer well might have played an archetypal English instrument?. All of which is rather beside the point but for reasons long forgotten, I recall this instrument/church/Sullivan having a connection with the Victorian composer, Davan Wetton. I appreciate the matter is a bit esoteric but does anyone know of this connection - I'm very sure I have not imagined it. I doubt if there is much ;point in approaching the church since I gather it is now the home of some Eastern religion. Not much point in offering a Herbert Howells Rhapsody then.
  9. With respect, I made no formal introduction of campanology; I mentioned it en passant by way of explaining how I was able to obtain access to a variety of instruments. I enjoy more intelligent thread drifts - they often can lead in directions of unexpected interest but I do understand that off-topic diversions usually are to be discouraged.
  10. Organists are reputed to incline towards the recondite, but tintinabulists are positively anorak! Of course they knew there were twelve bells; they probably could have quoted the weight of the tenor and recalled how many touches of Bristol Surprise Maximus they had rung. We certainly are a strange bunch. Fabian Stedman on the keyboard sounds a challenge - I have this vision of ghostly cries from the loft of "Bob" or "Single". But I remain confused about the definition of an "English" instrument. I mentioned the vox humana as it remains a stop fairly common in older instruments predating the fall from fashion and often still with straight pedals. It is this modest, small scale and usually rural instrument which I associate with "Englishness". The large public hall and cathedral instruments I do not view in this way. Of course I have very little direct experience of these recital organs. I have a sort of familiarity with the Truro Willis and I had a couple of sessions on extemporisation with Herbert Sumsion at Gloucester but this was before the HN&B makeover with Ralph Downes which, I gather did not meet universal approval. So the understanding of the phrase continues to elude me. However, talking of recital instruments, donkeys' years ago, I did a lunchtime gig at St Peter's, Cornhill which had a rank or two from Father Smith - a very English organ! In the vestry were the remains of an earlier instrument with mother-of-pearl stop knobs and on which Mendelssohn had given one of his London concerts. I have been told that the organ is no more. Does anyone know what happened to it and the fate of the old console?
  11. I find several interesting things here. Perhaps I am alone in thinking that there are certain incompatibilities between nationalities of music and instruments. Apart from the afore-mentioned Franck pieces, I'm reminded of the wonderful recordings of the complete JSB works made by Lionel Rogg in the mid '60s. These were recorded on the excellent Metzler of the Großmunster*, Zurich which suited the works admirably. I still regard these performances as "definitive". However, much later Rogg did the same thing on the Silbermann at Arlesheim and I regard this collection as inferior on a number of counts but principally because the instrument is "too French" for the Northern European writing. Andreas had become "corrupted! Regarding the "English organ", I am curious. My knowledge of the organ hardly approaches that had by you chaps but to me, the "English" instrument immediately conjures vox humana, stopped diapason and the inescapable bourdon. A jaundiced view perhaps borne of too many years in parish churches. Having said that, I remember coming across a visiting American doing Liszt's "Ad Nos" on a small two manual in a country church. It certainly was different. I am a bell ringer and have opportunities to sample many organs; not so long ago I thought I had discovered an authentic English organ - it still had the G compass - and the 16' bourdon. Might I have a definition, please? * Am I clever, or what?
  12. Rowland, thank you. I have been quite unaware of the "programmic" nature of this piece. Seen in the light of your comprehensive explanation, the work might be seen to gain dimensions of which I was unaware. Les Trois Chorals well may be the apogee of the French Romantic genre but I have to confess to a general lack of interest and practical experience in this repertoire, so I'm obliged to you for the insight. However, in my view, these and similar works - and I'm sure it's not my imagination - are best realised on Cavaillee-Colls. There seems to be an affinity here.. And; In all honesty, the RAH organ didn't sound very well that evening, but it was an historic occasion. My only regret was the choice of subject for the improvisation. I would have added the inclusion of 565. To me that ranks with the Four Seasons! David, I did not know that Reginald Foort was a "straight" performer - I heard him a couple of times at Blackpool and thought him well deserving of his excellent reputation. John, There must be more than a whiff of incense - in fact, at times you can almost see it here wafting up from the pipes - and utter belief in one's redemption. Best played on Henry's finest at Truro then!
  13. Ah - the a minor! I once made an embarrassingly ham-fisted rendition of this on Diane Bish's Ruffatti in Fort Lauderdale. It was painful. In fact, it was excruciating! Frankly, I have never really understood the piece; the toccata-like passages are interesting but for much of the time the work does not seem to have a direction or destination. Of course, this isn't my type of organ nor my musical preference, (although I do like the E major. Nr.1?) so perhaps my views are a bit unbalanced. Anyway, five decks is overkill for me. H&H have always made nice instruments in my experience of them. I have always found them satisfyingly comfortable to play. Marcel Dupre I never saw. Never rubbed shoulders with the greats. Only claim to fame was as a page-turner for Fernando Germani's practice before a recital at St Alban's. He never understood the British convention of not applauding in church. Of course, that's changed now. Along with so much else! Sic transit and all that.
  14. Not at all sure I believe you but I shall give it all a try. Thank you all for your contributions. I may have to venture into the street, accost a passing twelve year old (which might get me onto more trouble!) and enlist his support.in tackling the problem. I can manage the baser functions of computerised activities but the more sophisticated stuff usually is quite beyond me. I suspect it might be a function of my age - after all, I have heard the Goss-Custard brothers! I hope the benefits of your tuition will become evident in future posts. If you see "Orgelbuechlein", you'll know I'm still struggling! 😎
  15. Martin, I know none of these pieces other than the Buxtehude, but I am interested in knowing how you generated the Umlaut. I'm really too old for these technical things but feel I should try.
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