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Colin Harvey

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Everything posted by Colin Harvey

  1. I've been heartened and excited by some of the posts I've read on this thread. I am in the enviable position of being organist of a parish church in the UK where we are having a new organ built. And this organ is definately in the camp of the discussions on this post! The church was designed by Alred Waterhouse in the 1870s and includes an organ case to his design in the chancel. The old organ - an 1860s Walker - was installed in this case, the original pipes being used as speaking pipes in the case. Walker advised the organ could be expanded for the larger new church but money didn't allow. Over the following century the organ suffered various machinations at the hands of the local organ man and has ended up in an instrument of no great quality, which has lost its artistic direction and is unreliable. Our project has evolved into constructing an organ, using the case and existing Walker pipes from the 1860s (thankfully, largely unmolested) to determine the style of the rest of the instrument, which will be recognisably linked with its Victorian surroundings and core. Our vision is to recreate what Walkers may have done when the church was originally built. New pipework and mechanisms will be constructed along Walker lines, informed by our research of existing period Walker models. Things like console details will be copied closely as well to ensure the organ has the right "feel". The work is being done by a leading British builder with a reputation for quality and sensitivity. I don't think it would be fair to call it conjecture because we're not trying to reconstruct the organ to a previous state but informing the style and character of what is effectively a new organ built in the Walker spirit, which we feel will be most appropriate for the church and most effective musically. During the project I have been very concious that the only person who really knows anything organs in the church has been me - the organist. I feel that if my tastes had been different, it would have been just as possible - if not, easier - to have used the opportunity to have introduced an expanded tonal scheme (possibly with electronic additions) and "improved" console by a lesser builder. I've wondered what other organists around here would have done in my situation and my thoughts on this subject have been depressing. It has worried me that I could have easily steered the church down a path that I - and I think the people who have contributed to this thread - would privately deplore. I would welcome any initiative to ensure that churches and public places which house organs received well considered advice that speaks in theirs - and the organ's - best interests. The IBO, BIOS and AIOA certainly help but I will welcome the day when it becomes policy rather than guidance and best practice. I also think that it would be great if organists, frustrated with the limitations of the organs in their churches, could be given better opportunities to play their dream organs. I certainly felt much happier with the organs at my disposal after I had played a few of my "dream organs" (e.g. Alkmaar) - the experience allowed me to savour the resources and capabilities of the organs in the places I play, without trying to register them along dehydrated Schnitger lines, and feeling more contented with what they offer. Indeed, I think my musicianship and my approach to all organs I play has improved because of my self-created opportunities to play my dream organs. This means that I avoid playing organs that I don't like - but it's interesting to note that my "black list" is composed solely of organs which have been heavily rebuilt and added to (or are just a compedium of cobbled-together 2nd hand parts) and are divorced from their orginal style. Anyway, it's been great writing this post while I do my other job - moderate another forum - and look likve I've been working hard!
  2. Well, I wouldn't want to stich this chap up... This is probably a dark subject but dare I mention the words "Collins", "Allen", "Parnership" "Trono, Norway", "IBO" and "Reaction" in the same sentence?? The Southwell project has undoubtedly provided a successful and practical long-term arrangement for the organs. Reading Paul Hale's book, it appears that it has been difficult to get an "organ solution" that works well in that delightful building so credit is due to all concerned in the project.
  3. Perhaps you could add a digital horizontal trumpet? I heard the Southwell Organ last summer when I sang there. Personally, I felt the eletronic reed stood away from the rest of the instrument when heard in the crossing after evensong but I guess it fulfils a purpose (like making us giggle when we looked at each other hearing the thing). I don't think tuning variations at those low pitches are much to worry about. Good luck with your venture. I hope that it is in the interests of what is best for the church, liturgically, musically and economically. It rather sounds like your church is rather struggling with the aftermath of a fairly meglomanic rebuilding project which hasn't quite worked. It would be a shame to perpetuate that approach. I hope you get good advice from your DOA and any organbuilders who visit.
  4. I have played Reger and Karg-Elert at Alkmaar (locked up in the empty Laurenskirk for half a day... heaven on earth...). Alkmaar and Reger created the most incredible musical experience. The organ has such presence, clarity, grandeur, gravitas and brilliance (all done with such artistry) that it could render the dense counterpoint of the music like nothing else. Every line could be heard clearly and with such presence. It was overwhelming to listen to and it was an intense musical experience to play and hear. We very much went away feeling that this was the way the music was supposed to sound, especially after hearing the same music sound very ugly on a renowned English Cathedral organ. I understand Jos van der Kooy is fond of playing Reger at Harlem too. So, I would agree with Reger...
  5. I'm not an organbuilder and don't tend to think of specifications much, letting other people guide me what would work in the space available, the function, budget, the room, etc. However, my thoughts for a "standard" organ for use in an average Parish Church in this country, seating about 250, no acoustic, for the usual hymnody, Choral accomp and repertoire use, based upon a spec for an organ project I'm currently involved with: Great Organ Bourdon 16 Open Diapason 8 Stopped Diapason 8 Principal 4 Flute 4 Twelfth 2 2/3 Fifteenth 2 Tierce 1 3/5 (principal) Mixture (n ranks - Quints and octaves only, none too high) Trumpet 8 Swell Organ Open Diapason (grooved to stopped in bass, with helpers) 8 Stopped Diapason 8 Gambe 8 (grooved to stopped in bass, maybe) Principal 4 Mixture (2' with perhaps a tierce rank as well (depends on the building, tastes of people involved, etc)) Cornopean 8 Oboe 8 Pedal Organ Bourdon 16 Principal 8 Trombone 16 Usual couplers (no octave couplers), tremulants to Great and Swell organ. The style (scaling, voicing, construction, etc) would be very much Hill/Walker of circa 1870, with some modern design tweaks. I've put the sesquialtera on the Great to get the mutations into the open for ruck-positive solos, rather than pushing them into the swell box - a modern feature I've noticed but can't quite understand (can some illuminate me, please). The swell is very much designed for accompaniment, although the reeds could be used for romantic solos against the quieter great combinations. I've opted for an Open Diapason rather than a celeste on the Swell but I would be interested to pursue the undulant option John Mander mentions to get some celeste sound into the organ. While it's got mutations, I don't know how good it would be for French Classical repertoire because the scales would probably have to be all wrong and there's no Cromhorne. But there's probably enough to get by on most things. There's lot of details to sort out - I've been very unadventourous with flutes for example and I'm sure there are holes to pick elsewhere. There are a number of substitutions that I could think of but it's another starter for 10 for discussion...
  6. I also understand that the size of a swell box is quite important. The little 4' swell boxes of small Victorian Hills and Walkers of about 12-20 stops (with a stopped bottom octave - if there was one) can have quite a remarkable dynamic range. They tend to be quite tightly packed as well, which perhaps contribute to the effect as well. I haven't played a small modern Mander (except about 5 minutes at Holborn) so I'm not really qualified to speak about them but I am glad the Sydney Grammer School Organ's swell has been well received. I guess space must always be at a premium so it is a question of deciding what is right for that particular project and organ - sometimes there will be strings and others it will be Open Diapasons. It'll be interesting to see a new 20 stop organ that takes the Open Diapason option, though!
  7. Hear, Hear to the demise of the Swell Open Diapason! Although this is a gross generalisation of modern swell organs, I find many modern small swell organs, (usually a gambe and gedact, a 4' principal, a 2' flute (all to different scales), a mixture, a 16' reed of some description (which is never quite satisfactory as an oboe) and an 8' trumpet) lack the blend to allow a smooth build up through the swell organ, which is necessary for choral accompaniment. I find the quieter traditional swell cominbations and sounds (e.g. Diaps 8+4 and oboe) can often be found lacking. Personally, I would favour an oboe over a 16' reed on the swell and I don't accept the view that you can use a trumpet as an oboe in a romantic situation with the box shut because what happens when you want to open the box? Can we apply pressure through this forum for more effective swell organs in modern organs?
  8. What's the situation with personal liability and insurance for an organist tuning the reeds in an organ? I wouldn't want to trip and fall head first onto the great pipework while tuning the reeds without some form of insurance...
  9. I remember a discussion about varying the dimensions of the console subtly depending upon the type of instrument - e.g. a larger organ may have slightly larger dimensions to give the impression that you're playing a larger instrument and a classicaly inspired organ's console could encourage a more upright posture than a romatic inspired instrument. I wouldn't sanction massive variations - judgement is called for! I would think these touches, if done well, could help the musician play an organ in a style that matches its character. I find the best organs tell me how they should be played by their sound and feel and this is part of way to achieve that. Historic organs, in particular, tell me a lot about how they should be played and the feedback decreases if the "historic" organ sports a modern console. I can understand that sometimes people will want to play an historic instrument and sometimes will want an organ that can be managed very easily. While no way an expert on console design, I understand that the RCO dimensions were never really adopted properly by many organ builders, HN&B being the biggest exception - well I guess they built the RCO organ at Kensington Gore! I understand the RCO is planning a new organ at their new headquaters in Birmingham - it will be interesting to see whether its console will be to RCO dimensions or whether they go for some new standards. Personally, I agree with the comments that adjustable pedalboards would be a good thing (ignoring technical considerations) and I also prefer straight concave pedalboards to r/c pedalboards. While not having an exhastive knowledge of this, I am told that straight concave pedalboards are more prevalent on the continent, while r/c boards are prevalent in English speaking countries.
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