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Mander Organs


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Everything posted by MusoMusing

  1. Only if you were alive 1979-82. MM
  2. Indeed, but such use requires careful registration. It is an organ which can whisper or roar.....and boy, can it roar!
  3. Getting to grips with the City Hall organ was always an ordeal when it came to degree congregations and such, but what an organ! Totally revoiced by Compton's, I regard it as their greatest masterpiece, and Jimmy Taylor's in particular. It makes a fascinating foil to the other really great Compton at Southampton Guildhall, which has all the 1930's weight and infinite means of expression. "Rock crushing" is not a malign description, for that was the style back in the day. However, the City Hall organ at Hull, with considerable brightness and chorus integrity, really anticipated the reform movement in Britain, and the organ at the Festival Hall in particular. With an infinitely finer acoustic than the RFH, the City Hall was always going to sound better in the stalls. What a difference a decade and a half can make! Southampton was 1937.....Hull around 1952 if I recall without checking. MM
  4. I'm beginning to think that John may be quite a common name.
  5. That's the one! Isn't the Minster St.John? MM
  6. Wonderful news! There's a wonderful basis on which to work, including the "battleship" Forster & Andrews parts, as well as Compton's renowned quality. I hope they don't specify major tonal-changes, because this is one of the last untouched Compton re-builds, and contains, for instance, reeds voiced by the legendary Billy Jones. I can't think of many areas, other than Liverpool and Bristol, where so many stupendous organs can be heard in a 12 mile radius....City Hall, the Minster, St John's Beverley, Beverley Minster. Also, Bridlington isn't far away. Not only that, they are all so different in character. No matter who gets the job, I somehow doubt that it will be another 80 years before the next rebuild is due! MM
  7. I recall a discussion with a noted music historian, when we considered the music of Bach and the organs of the day. Without the slightest doubt, the organ was the loudest and most spectacular sound ever heard at that time, and the sounds of daily life would be restricted to bird-song, horses, carts, the blacksmith's hammer and the scuffle of people going about their business. Night time would be almost totally silent and unlit. In our very noisy world, it is not surprising that one of our finest pipe-voicers voiced one notable cathedral instrument during the wee small hours, and even had a sleeping bag on hand inside the organ. I often wonder if hearing loss and heavy industry didn't play a part in the development of the romantic organ, which seemed to lose clarity decade after decade; culminating in the "rock crushing" sounds often associated with the 1930's, where clarity almost totally disappeared. I vividly recall a very special moment, after arriving slightly late for an organ-concert at the Martinikerk, Groningen, just as the Bach Gigue Fugue (played at a modest pace) began. I stood at the back of the large church, and in spite of the considerable distance from the instrument, I could hear every inner part as clear as a bell.....a magical moment indeed. Similarly, I have heard early-music performances of baroque music, with equally splendid clarity and definition. When it comes to the organ, I can't help but think that an awful lot of so-called "neo-baroque" instruments are crude and clumsy; especially in the typical English parish church, with side aisles and low roof levels; not to mention poor organ positioning and a lack of resonance. There was also the belief that organists wanted "rough" open-foot voicing, which is a description which cannot be levied at the genuine articles on the continent. The baroque masters spent a long time getting things right. The Bavokerk organ took seven years to complete, if I recall correctly. A major component in the musical success of many genuine period instruments, is not just the pipe-voicing, but the acoustic characteristics of the great European hall-churches. This was the problem with the oddly named "iconic" instrument at the Festival Hall. At the console, even the original manifestation of the instrument was impressive, but walking into the body of the hall as the organ was played, convinced me that a more musical option would have been to install a Wurlitzer theatre-organ. We now know that the building did not comply with the architect's original materials specifications, and the original acoustic was quite horrific as a consequence. I always smile at John Compton's comment about Downside Abbey, when someone complimented him on the new organ installed by him. He replied, "In this acoustic, even a penny whistle would sound wonderful". Oddly enough, one of my organ-building heroes is Thomas C Lewis, who admired Schulze above all others (and therefore Silbermann by default). I often wonder why his example wasn't followed and developed into a thoroughly British style, which might have saved us from the rough screech of so many unfortunate "neo-classical" (sic) instruments. MM
  8. I recall playing an old Smith organ in the Netherlands, which was harder work than my grandmother's mangle. Most are nothing like as bad, but the depth of key touch seems to be one of the limiting factors with many old instruments. MM
  9. It is clearly a quite large search looking for organ improvisations broadcast by BBC Radio 3. The following link would probably yield rather more than I have time for. https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/search/40/20?q=ORGAN+IMPROVISATION#search MM
  10. Nowadays, when musicians die or otherwise disappear, there are usually a few cassete tapes, CD's and such left around, but I well recall my first "state of the art" recording equipment which was a gift on my 15th birthday. It consisted of a mono Ferrograph tape-recorder and a rather nice Reslo ribbon microphone......total weight to drag around, about half a hundredweight. (That's about 24 kilos for EU enthusiasts). Nowadays, one can get almost broadcast quality from a small, portable, digital recording device for around £100. Somewhere, if it is still playable, I have a 25 minute, mono-thematic improvisation on cassete, which I just felt inspired to play. The ideas kept flowing, and hey-ho.....a fairly mighty work. (I just typed "Tate of the art" above......I like that!) I've crawled around various archives of the BBC, but apart from the James I Taylor insertion, I've not come across any Radio Times entries for organ-improvisation from the 1950's and 1960's. It's fairly time-consuming going through the Radio Times entries, and it may well be that I haven't yet covered all the various stations.....I'll go back to it when the cats have gone out and refuse to come in because it is summer. What did strike me, was the sheer number of organ-related programmes during the 1930's and 1940's, accompanied by some quite technical descriptions of organs, organ mechanisms and the music played. There was something for everyone, from Sandy Machperson and his postbag, (playing the BBC theatre organ), to George Thalben-Ball playing the Compton at the Radio Theatre concert-hall and right through to some intellectual stuff from France and Germany. It was quite a golden age for organists! Another pun just sprang to mind. Is the National Gallery the "Art of the state"? I must go and do something useful! MM
  11. Further information:- Sunday 10 September 1933 21.05 THE ORGAN In the Concert Hall, Broadcasting House Improvisations by J. 1. TAYLOR With Commentary by FILSON YOUNG Listeners will have read the article by Filson Young in last week's issue of THE RADIO Times, introducing this broadcast and calling attention to its unusual interest. Mr. Taylor will come to the B.B.C. organ, not merely as an organ recitalist, but as one who has been associated with its design and construction from the beginning. He is an experienced organ builder as well as an organist of great ability, and he has, in addition, the rare gift of true and creative improvisation. This evening's improvisation will therefore be favourably cast in a form suitable to demonstrate the capacities of the B.B.C. organ, while Mr. Filson Young will be at hand to comment from time to time on the stops and combinations used.
  12. I don't know what the programme was, but the BBC did broadcast live performances which included improvisations. Among these, was included the name of James I Taylor of Compton Organs, who later became assistant at St Bride's, Fleet Street. His powers of improvisation were legendary. MM
  13. It's good to learn of this. With the immense history of the organ, any student who cares to research it (or simply investigate what others have written) must know that the means of operation dictate certain things. The failure to understand the history can lead to all sorts of bizarre readings and interpretations, including those ludicrously fast performances of Bach in America, which are only possible due to fast actions and often very dead acoustics. When people play historic organs of the period, they soon learn. The organs Liszt played and composed for, were still tracker action, with a limited range of immediate expression. However, of far greater significance was Liszt's desire to leave an impression, for it seems that he was such a heart-throb, he used to receive countless requests for locks of his golden hair. Fortunately, he had a wolfhound with the same colour of fur...........🤣 MM
  14. I was privileged to have known Carlo Curley, and I suspect that 95% of the time, he played entirely from memory. The shocking thing was, you could throw a piece of music in front of him, and he would play as if he already knew it from memory. To hear him rattle his way through Gabriel Pierne, all from memory, at the age of what....maybe 18 or 19? Stunning! Some people are just destined to kick footballs like Georg Best, or drive a racing car like Lewis Hamilton. Carlo was like that, and admitted that he was useless at everything else. They are the sort of people who can probably never understand from where their talent comes.
  15. I don't think it such a strange claim, because early music doesn't usually have dynamic markings, and tempi followed convention without being specified. Dynamics were usually restricted to "echo" sections, and apart from things like "Cornet Voluntaries", even the registration wasn't specified as a universal requirement. Bach's "Gigue Fugue" can be played slowly or quickly, and it would sound just as good played on flutes as it does using diapason choruses etc. Therefore, there was a great deal of "interpretation" open to the performer, just so long as it didn't stray beyond certain boundaries of convention and good taste. A century later, and specific dynamics, speed indications and registration were becoming ever more apparent, and by the time we reach the late 19th century, French music was very, very specific as to what the composer intended. Of course, there is a further (technical) point, and that has to do with the changes and developments to the instrument. Listening to the great German repertoire of the 19th century back in the day, was probably more akin to hearing it played on a T C Lewis organ rather than a war-horse Arthur Harrison, and so whatever console we sit at, it is not going to be "authentic". I find it strange that no-one ever seems to discuss "historically informed" 19th century performance practice, and most of the Liszt performances I've ever heard, are way off the mark as a consequence.
  16. I can never understand why anyone would want to learn "Ad Nos" when there is Reger. My hobby horse is the Reubke....a far finer piece of writing, and written by someone so young! What strikes me about the German romantic school is the general domination of the pianistic style, and although there are some who claim that Liszt marks the point where the composer's intentions take precedence over "interpretation", I'm not so sure. For years, I would play the Reubke as it was written, until one day, I threw the copy to one side and played it all from memory. (I had done a lot of practise on it). It was a point of total release, and for the first time, I was being a proper musician. More importantly, it had an effect on people. You know you've got it right when you hear people talk about "Scary" and "Creepy" rather than "loud" or "fast". I can't help but think that being a very good sight reader is actually a handicap with monumental tone-poems and the like. If I were to learn (God forbid) the "Ad Nos", I think I'd be listening to a lot of recordings, and choosing what I considered the best ways of doing things. Think piano rather than organ, and don't get too hung up on the "edition" used, and with any luck, it should end up sounding horribly like the Liszt "Ad nos". MM
  17. The next time I play a Compton organ with luminous stops, and which has been computerised, I swear I will improvise on "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do"
  18. You wouldn't like this I presume, but at least the Viola da Gamba is at the bottom!
  19. Is this the one when he re-counted the story of the recital and the silent Russian organ, when he had to go grovelling around the basement, only to find the caretaker drunk on the floor with the organ blower keys in his pocket? MM
  20. I would love to be at David Briggs' recital, but sadly............ MM
  21. To make a serious point, the availability of instant registration changes at the touch of a button, has some quite serious musical implications. I was just humming my way through bits of the Reubke Sonata (as you do) where it demands fairly rapid changes of registration. When I play it, I always have in mind`the sort of organs Reubke played, and the thought occurred, that there need to be breathing-spaces in the form of largely unspecified changes to tempo, which can add an amazing sense of drama if one uses one's ears rather than just one's eyes and fingers. Hammering through the notes and pressing a button or two, can so easily lead to mechanical and wooden performances; not to mention over-rapid ones. Sadly, I never heard Norman Strafford perform, but he had quite a legendary reputation, and people who had, talked about him in hushed tones. On the other hand, thumb-pistons and sequencers would be fairly indispensable in the attached link, behind which is a fascinating story. To be serious for a moment, Quentin Maclean had studied composition with Max Reger and organ with Karl Straube, and he was assistant at Westminster RC Cathedral under C S Terry. Obviously keen to earn a bob or two (like his father Alec Maclean "The God of Scarborough') he took up playing theatre-organ, and was probably the best of his generation. What could any of us do, when the BBC Producer yells, "Keep going.....we're under-running." Well, there are improvisations and there are improvisations. Fortunately, someone recorded it for posterity, and young David Gray learned it from the recording. I don't think he touches a single stop-tab! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZl_odkVXnY MM
  22. There are things which beggar belief, as the (almost) complete Compton tome reaches the end. To-day, I learned that the six-bedroom house occupied by Albert H Midgley (the Technical Director at Compton's) is now the Uxbridge Conservative Club. Their web-site has the following history, but it is the last bit which really floored me:- Fairfield is a beautiful Victorian House, built in 1862 by a well to do Draper, Mr. Thomas Henry Johnson. In 1953 the house, which boasted a magnificent Chamber Organ, was then sold to Osterley Lodge Limited, a property developer. In addition to building several houses in the extensive grounds, Osterley Lodge Limited sold “Fairfield” to the Uxbridge Conservative Club in February 1954 for £ 5,000.The new Club was officially opened on the 2nd April 1954 by Lord Vansittart of Denham Place. Presumably, due to moving, Club records are disappointingly few. The President of the club is Mr Boris Johnson MP I am flabbergast! MM
  23. It all went wrong when organists discovered how to change their combinations without moving their feet. Whatever happened to showmanship? Sequencers? Electronically adjustable pistons? Multi channel pre-sets? No! No! No! There were no finer combination presets than carefully spaced fingers. This man knew how to do it! Then there was Virgil Fox! MM
  24. Mmmmmm! Well now, we enter into an area of some murkiness, because a number of things happened in the space of a year or two. The chronology seems to be as follows:- 1937....Midgley leaves the Compton company 1937 - J W Walker buy out a company styled as Midgley Leighton Ltd. The intention being to make the Midgley-Walker organ. The organ did exist, but under what exact name in 1937, I cannot be certain. The Midgley-Walker organ is cited in the "Grove Dictionary", and there were adverts as well as a revue of the organ in one of the musical journals. The organ was quite highly regarded.....I may have a file about it somewhere. This instrument appeared a full year before the first Compton Electrone in 1938. It's what happened after then which is interesting. I suspect, but cannot know, that Compton was furious with Midgley when he beat Compton to the draw with a half-decent electronic organ in 1937, because these organs cost as much as a house at the time! The cinema-organ market was drying up rapidly, and the electronics were a potential source of hard cash. The impression I get of Midgley, is one of a very greedy and impatient man, who knew how to move at lightning speed whenever he saw an opportunity. Like JC, I suspect that he saw huge potential profits in electronic organs. INterestingly, when Walker's pulled the plug on Midgley, he continued under another name; which I believe was the Electrophonic Organ Co. At almost the same time, Walker's also pulled out of Compton, and sold their shares to J J Broad, the Financial Director at Compton's. I suspect that Walker's realised that the cinema-organ market was dead in the water, and with it went the huge profits Compton made. The same is true for Midgley, who would have seen the downward trend in cinema organ sales from about 1937/8. The outbreak of war killed everything stone dead, and cinemas were prohibited from remaining open. Midgley, meantime, went right back to his early days at C A Vanderwell, and started up making percussion pistols and fuses for bombs; the company becoming Midgley-Harmer Ltd., which survived until 1963 or so. For their part (Mr Compton was a POW in Italy) the Compton firm started making Link Trainer Aircraft for the RAF, and rather later, bits of Mosquito multi-capability fighter-aircraft. (The plane which REALLY won the war, rather than the Spitfire). Topically, the go between Compton's and the Air Ministry was Group Capt. Foss., the father of the late Mander Disccusion Forum member, John Foss, who was also later involved with Grant, Degens & Rippin.....their accountant I believe. Combination organs? Compton did it at Church House, Westminster (destroyed quite early on by a bombing raid). The other example was the the Methodist Mission, Great Yarmouth, when a Melotone was added to the pipes of the normal pipe-organ. MM
  25. I recall going to the Liverpool IAO Congress back in 1964 (?) and visiting the organ works of Willis and Rushworth's. It was around the time Rushworth's had acquired the Compton pipe-organ business. Both workshops had a fair number of "model" extension organs on display, and they all sounded quite decent I accompanied the Duruflle Requiem (in the days when I could be bothered practising) on a Walker extension job, and that just about provided the ways and means. I also lived with modest Nicholson extension organ, which was fine for most things, but not quite a recital instrument. These small extension jobs certainly had their uses......like Bedford Beagles, Commer vans and old Jowetts. MM
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