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David Sutherland

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  1. Well thanks to Anthony Poole for providing a very interesting explanation to my original question. The Bourdon 8' as you say is the chief issue here perhaps (certainly on the G.O./Positif divisions) and your information answers a lot of questions for me. I think there is a special attraction for me for the blend of tone produced when these various stops on the French organ are drawn. The string stop isa particular case in point, and never really occurred to me that such a stop would blend so well and contribute to the overall effect.
  2. ok that's very interesting, thanks for the info. But I think one of the points I was trying to make (or discover) is that the English Bourdon is different in respect to the French Bourdon. You would not find a preponderance in English specifications of Bourdon 16' and 8'. I take the point that the French Bourdon is a stopped flute, just in the same way that the English Bourdon is a stopped flute, but the characters of the two (whether they be scale, voicing etc) must be different.
  3. I was taking a look at the specification of several french organs the other day, and was reminded that the usual combinations in the French 'flue' build up (on the Grand Orgue at least) is something like: Montre 16 Bourdon 16 Montre 8 Bourdon 8 Gambe 8 etc etc (sometimes in a Cavaille Coll instrument, particularly the later ones, a 'Diapason 8' gets a look in as well). Can anybody confirm to me that the french 'Bourdon' is really not like the English Bourdon at all, but rather a somewhat softer version than the clearer singing Montre? What I'm really trying to say is that the combination of Montre8/Bourdon 8 equates roughly to the Diapason I/Diapason II combinations found in England etc. Am I roughly right, or is there something more subtle going on in the French build-up to the flue chorus? Thanks.
  4. I think Pierre makes a very good point regarding organ 'preservation'. I think this is very important as well, given as I said that the overall balance and integrity of the instrument is worth preserving in the first place! if you look at many of the Mander Organs restorations (see Portfolio) it can be seen that many recent additions (and earlier mistakes!) in various instrument have been stripped away, to reveal the instrument as perhaps 'first intended.' In the case of the RAH organ, this would be impossible anyway, given the extensive Harrison revisions in the 1920's and 30's. The point I was merely trying to make here is certainly preserve the Organ as it stands, but do not hesitate to correct any major deficiencies. Hence one alteration that was made (the IV rank fourniture to extend the Great 'Secondary'), so strengthening the chorus upperwork. If Father Willis were alive today, I am sure he would be impressed with the restoration of the RAH organ. But I agree with Mark that he would not be impressed with the failure to clean the facade pipes. And I think Jeremy in a nutshell really sums up the whole attitude to the organ here. It really doesn't rank to any great importance at all. And the number of times I've attended the Hall to listen to other events, and the Organ is either obliterated by the Sound Canopy or covered up by boardings altogether! The organ has a very small following here in such a large and diverse population, and really doesn't get the support it deserves. It is really seen as a relic of a bygone era. And those who 'run the show' in the organ world are just as Mark describes, living in their own world to satisfy their own ends. This is probably excusable in a church context, but I'm not sure if it holds true in the commercial world? We do, after all, go along and actually pay money to listen to an event at such secular places as the RAH. Following the simple theories of supply/demand and consumer choice, should we not all, as paying customers, have a say in the cleaning of the display pipes? This, I believe, is the real crux of the problem, and where I think the decision-makers on the cleaning of the pipes have got it terribly wrong.
  5. I think the view here Mark is that we should all be grateful that money was found to 'restore' the instrument. There isn't much interest really in the Organ here, or Organ music in general for that matter, so really the 'tone set' so far is that we should all 'be grateful' for what's been done. I think when societies or cultures fall short of doing something, (and this can be anything), it really is a very interesting insight into the fabric of that culture. I'm not a psychologist, or sociologist for that matter, but this particular attitude to the display pipes (i.e. if cleaned or polished would 'detract' the audience when listening to other events etc), is a very interesting insight into the workings of the British musical/cultural 'intelligentsia'. Where you find energy and vision, say, in the majority of other countries (not only the 'New World' like Australia or the States, but Continental Europe as well), there would be no problem in restoring the case and pipes in full, I am sure. But in Britain there is a 'stifling conservatism' that runs through many aspects of our cultural activities, particularly the 'Organ World.' It really does seem to collect a very strange collection of people, many with the outllook of a Britain before 1939, a world long since gone. Hence I believe the strange attitude to the display pipes. It represents a great example of the attitude of mind of 'falling short of doing the job properly', of refusing to 'go the extra mile', a sort of introverted process where you are deliberately 'shooting yourself in the foot' for the sake of it. This runs through, with varying degrees, the entire fabric of the so-called cultural 'intelligentsia' of British society. If we keep the Royal Albert Hall organ within this discussion, we could go further and argue further points regarding the 'restoration', over and above the display pipes. I think Mander Organs have done a great job in this refurbishment, and given the scale of the project have done a tremendous job in delivering the completed project within the Terms and Conditions set. But I would argue that the original Terms and Conditions are, again, an interesting insight into the inate 'conservatism' of the British 'intelligentsia'. I think a great opportunity was lost when it was decided to restore the instrument 'as is', without any reference to the underlying tonal imbalances of the instrument, due in main not only to problems with the acoustics of the Hall, but also due to previous rebuilds of the instrument, conducted with the aim to overcome this 'imbalance.' The main premise of course of the original Terms and Conditions was 'preservation' of the existing instrument, not a bad idea as such, but only if an instrument is worth preserving, given that it should have a unique balance of ensemble actually worth preserving in the first place! Interestingly enough, buried within this framework of 'preservation', room was found to add a IV Fourniture to the Great. Further still, some of the octave couplers were deleted! But if you listen to the organ today, it certainly sounds superb, but only up to a certain level of fortissimo. Once you enter into the realms of the grand tutti do you realise that the shortcomings of the instrument reveal themselves. The Pedal is now in a state of 'imbalance' with the manual plein jeu and reeds, and going further from this is now virtually obliterated in the ff statements. Such is the wisdom of restoring an instrument 'extant' when additions /alterations have been made over time, particularly with reference to poor acoustics and a constantly inadequate wind! Strange indeed that the obvious inadequate scaling of the 32' Reed was not addressed? The result is a very good organ, but one which falls short of greatness. Given the scale of the work undertaken, the project cost of 1.75Million seems like a bargain to me. But I wonder what would have happened if cost was not the main consideration? And if the 'inate conservatism' of the 'British Organ Intelligentsia' was not prevalent? We will never know.
  6. Well, not a bad idea, but let's hope those responsible will see sense at the end of the day.
  7. I would just like to add my voice to the concerns raised about the display pipes at the Royal Albert Hall. I think they should be cleaned and restored, just in the same way that the rest of the Organ (and the auditorium) has been restored as well. I am sure there is no conspiracy afoot, just an unwillingness to go the full way in restoring (and presenting) this superb instrument. At best it does indicate I think a lack of imagination and flair not to restore the pipes. Should we all write in and express this view more formally, perhaps?
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