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  1. Simon Walker

    Christ Church Oxford

    I was listening to the recent BBC Radio 3 Choral evensong online, from Christ Church Oxford. I've heard this choir a couple of times during their tours to Toronto, Canada - they've made no less than 3 trips over here in the last 5 years. The choir is always excellent, and many stellar organ scholars have emerged from there (Particularly Ben Sheen who really is a tremendous player). Old news to many, but I was disappointed in this broadcast once again by the organ which just doesn't have what is required to accompany settings like the Darke in F canticles, and it only proved marginally more suitable for Walton's Coronation Te Deum, where some of reeds could at least make an appearance from time to time without sounding jarring. The playing was top-notch of course - but how can they put up with an instrument without swell chorus reeds under expression for the purposes of accompanying? I would go as far as saying the organ is simply not fit for this purpose. And all of the reeds make an intrusive, thin, nasal sound and the mixtures come across as shrill on numerous recordings. That essentially leaves flues and principals only for accompanying, and the results, needless to say are very lacking in subtlety and interest, even in the hands of the best players. Of all the instruments supporting daily choral foundations in the country - is the tonal design of this one the least fit for purpose? Not a comment on the quality of execution of the design, but rather one of suitability... (I know the organ at Magdalene, Oxford has come under some criticism for the kind of design that was opted for, but to my ears both it and Trinity Cambridge are more tonally suited to accompanying that CCO) All of these organs come from a time 30+ years ago when there was great interest in building classical instruments of superior quality, much more true to existing historical instrument than earlier 'neo-classical' attempts, but as a result sometimes seem very out of place and just to uncompromising. That said I'm not convinced the CCO Reiger organ really achieves highly on any level.... Dare I say it - In an ideal world should the CCO organ be replaced with something more suitable? It is very interesting that the tables have well and truly turned in favour of more romantic leaning instruments in choral establishments - judging by recent cathedral organ designs at Llandaff, and St Edmundsbury, Keble College Chapel Oxford etc.
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