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Bangor Cathedral Organ


Guest Andrew Butler

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I believe a Phoenix toaster is in use at the moment. Anyone know what plans are afoot for the p/o?

 

Hi

 

Look on NPOR - the following is quoted from the survey of the current instrument:- "Long-term fund raising under way for a conservative rebuild

by David Wells, Great, Swell and Pedal to remain substantially unaltered,

some ranks to be swapped between Choir & Solo, and Choir Dulciana rank to

be reduced to 8ft only and resited; "

 

I played the current organ before it was deemed unsafe - we were given a key after Evensong & left to get on, & lock up when I'd finished.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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The organ at Bangor SHOULD be in by Easter. David Wells originally hoped that it would be finished by Christmas but the amount of work he had on resulted in the delay. The Organ Club is doing a 4-day tour of North Wales at the end of May and Bangor is confidently included on the itinerary.

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Guest Andrew Butler
Hi

 

Look on NPOR - the following is quoted from the survey of the current instrument:- "Long-term fund raising under way for a conservative rebuild

by David Wells, Great, Swell and Pedal to remain substantially unaltered,

some ranks to be swapped between Choir & Solo, and Choir Dulciana rank to

be reduced to 8ft only and resited; "

 

I played the current organ before it was deemed unsafe - we were given a key after Evensong & left to get on, & lock up when I'd finished.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

I MUST learn to word my questions more carefully!

 

I had of course seen the NPOR info. What I really meant was - one reads a lot about "Front Ranking" instruments; here's a lesser-known one with work pending, so what are people's views/recollections of it?

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I MUST learn to word my questions more carefully!

 

I had of course seen the NPOR info. What I really meant was - one reads a lot about "Front Ranking" instruments; here's a lesser-known one with work pending, so what are people's views/recollections of it?

 

 

I gave a recital there some years ago and (to be honest) found it slightly disappointing. There was obviously a large amount of Hill pipework there, and less extension than one would expect in a Compton rebuild, but somehow it sounded like more of the organ was extended than was really the case. I would put this effect down to the great similarity of many ranks to each other. I have noticed this before in Hill organs - one can go to the trouble of changing manuals and this effort/effect can escape the listener completely.

 

Having said that, with so much 'good-period' Hill work there, and with a most experienced builder appointed to do the work I have no doubt at all that the cathedral will have a splendid instrument when the restoration is eventually complete. Put it this way, this is a less messed-about instrument than most with a very complete and suitable stoplist.... one to keep! I marvel at how patient the (long-serving) cathedral organist has been, this forthcoming rebuild has been promised for at least twenty years to my certain knowledge.

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I gave a recital there some years ago and (to be honest) found it slightly disappointing. There was obviously a large amount of Hill pipework there, and less extension than one would expect in a Compton rebuild, but somehow it sounded like more of the organ was extended than was really the case. I would put this effect down to the great similarity of many ranks to each other. I have noticed this before in Hill organs - one can go to the trouble of changing manuals and this effort/effect can escape the listener completely.

 

 

==============================

 

Is this so surprising? William Hill was a very conservative builder, and the style sits between pre-romantic and romantic. The diapasons are usually quite big fluffy things of no great interest, the flutes are often a collection of multiple Stopped Diapasons, the chorus-reeds are full-toned (and very musical) but not in the least bit snappy, and generally speaking (and this is a generalisation), the interest is more to do with the musical integrity and the way the choruses build-up. Hill was never afraid of large treble scales, even for the Mixtures, and that can be quite magnificent in effect.

 

So I suppose, if you have a Swell organ with Diapasons, Stopped Diapasons and a chorus up to a Mixture (sometimes with and sometimes without the Tierce), a Great organ which has almost identical stops, and possibly a Choir organ which duplicates the same, there ain't going to be much variety. You don't find wonderfully imitative Clarinets or keen strings: not even lush Harmonic Flutes or blazing Willis Trumpets.

 

What you do get is musical integrity, solid tone and good build-up: the great Hill strengths.

 

It's a very long time since I heard the organ at Bangor, but I do at least have a recording of it from the 1960's when everything worked splendidly and the delightful Dr Leslie Paul was the O&MC there. I have fond memories of family holidays in North Wales, and this usually involved me disappearing under strange circumstances of a Sunday, when I would nick off down to the local A-road and hitch a lift through to Bangor. For at least three years, Dr Paul would remember me from the previous year, and always, he would allow me to play the organ for quite some time. Indeed, one of my treasured posessions is a signed EP recording of Dr.Paul, on which is a charming personal message of encouragement.

 

I don't know whether the un-extensionising (what a horrible word) of the Dulciana rank is a good thing or not, because the endless possibilities of the derived mutations from that rank were one of the delights at Bangor, and I recall Dr Paul demonstrating all sorts of "hidden" registers using them.

 

Anyway, it is good to know that this basically fine organ will be heard once more in the near future, but a small part of me will probably regret the passing of the Hill/Compton era.

 

MM

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==============================

 

... William Hill was a very conservative builder, and the style sits between pre-romantic and romantic. The diapasons are usually quite big fluffy things of no great interest, the flutes are often a collection of multiple Stopped Diapasons, the chorus-reeds are full-toned (and very musical) but not in the least bit snappy, and generally speaking (and this is a generalisation), the interest is more to do with the musical integrity and the way the choruses build-up. Hill was never afraid of large treble scales, even for the Mixtures, and that can be quite magnificent in effect.

 

MM

 

I note that you are indulging in a spot of generalising here, MM.

 

I can think of a number of Hill diapasons which are very musical - and not particularly big or fluffy.

 

Hill's flutes often a collection of Stopped Diapasons? Surely not. It could successfully be argued that Hill's palette of flute tone-colours embraced a greater multiformity than did that of FHW. I can think immediately of some beautiful 'Hill' Hohl Flutes, Harmonic Flutes, Flauti Traversi, Gedeckts, Suabe Flutes, Flautinas, etc - and not simply tonal duplicates with interesting names, either.

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  • 1 year later...
I note that you are indulging in a spot of generalising here, MM.

 

I can think of a number of Hill diapasons which are very musical - and not particularly big or fluffy.

 

Hill's flutes often a collection of Stopped Diapasons? Surely not. It could successfully be argued that Hill's palette of flute tone-colours embraced a greater multiformity than did that of FHW. I can think immediately of some beautiful 'Hill' Hohl Flutes, Harmonic Flutes, Flauti Traversi, Gedeckts, Suabe Flutes, Flautinas, etc - and not simply tonal duplicates with interesting names, either.

 

 

===========================

 

I admit that I indulged in a spot of genralisation, but specification after specification reveals that the usual style of English organs prior to Schulze arriving in England, was very much Stopped Diapasons and solid, rather than spectacularly interesting diapason tone. Hill diapasons are voiced fairly quick, and as a result, the tone is not as interesting as, say, those of Edmund Schulze, who voiced things to speak slowly and deliberately, with fascinating (if rather over-bearing) musical results.

 

Compare Hill diapasons to those of Lewis, and they are very, very different, even though they both speak on similar wind pressures.

 

I didn't say that "big and fluffy" was unmusical. The way a Hill chorus builds up is actually very exciting, but the individual notes of the 8ft are not entirely breathtaking. I suspect that Hill developed a style of chorus-building which was incredibly similar to what many of the baroque builders did. There's nothing terribly spectacular about a Schnitger 8ft Principal, but my God, start adding the upperwork, and there is just nothing to compare with the richness and resonance.

It's just a different way of achieving an end result.

 

Listen closely to Sydney TH (I know it's Thomas Hill), and you will hear exactly what I mean. The sounds of those choruses really are at the top of the musical pile, and have few equals anywhere in the world, yet the individual registers are not terribly rivetting.

 

I suppose that we have German and French organ-builders to thank for the introduction of more varied flute-tone, and so, towards the end, Hill was certainly producing English versions of his own.

 

I suppose this verified my comment that Hill stood between the old world and the new world, and moved cautiously....very cautiously....from one to the next, and never fully embraced all the latest fashions.

 

By way of comparison, Willis was positively avante garde.

 

MM

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I don't know whether the un-extensionising (what a horrible word) of the Dulciana rank is a good thing or not, because the endless possibilities of the derived mutations from that rank were one of the delights at Bangor, and I recall Dr Paul demonstrating all sorts of "hidden" registers using them.

Hi!

 

Wasn't Pierre talking about Dulciana choruses some time back? Does anyone know of any that can be heard or played? The un-extensioning of the rank here seems like a product of increasing unappreciation for the stop adn its versatility . . .

 

"Hidden registers" using the Dulcianas? Can you remember the details? Personal recollections such as this (and in particular on interpretation given on the Widor Toccata thread) are potentially so important for continued understanding and appreciation.

 

some ranks to be swapped between Choir & Solo

Incidentally, might the relationship between Choir & Solo be usefully explored rather topically in view of the thread elsewhere about manual positions? To what extent is the separate manual a pure trophy status symbol? There are so many examples of where 4 have been reduced to 3 - Canterbury comes to mind. Is this a cause or a consequence of a shift of repertoire, playing style or mere plain economy?

 

Sorry to lead to potential sliding off-topic but this rebuild raises what appear might be intriguing issues.

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

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===========================

 

...

 

I didn't say that "big and fluffy" was unmusical. The way a Hill chorus builds up is actually very exciting, but the individual notes of the 8ft are not entirely breathtaking. I suspect that Hill developed a style of chorus-building which was incredibly similar to what many of the baroque builders did. There's nothing terribly spectacular about a Schnitger 8ft Principal, but my God, start adding the upperwork, and there is just nothing to compare with the richness and resonance.

It's just a different way of achieving an end result.

 

Listen closely to Sydney TH (I know it's Thomas Hill), and you will hear exactly what I mean. The sounds of those choruses really are at the top of the musical pile, and have few equals anywhere in the world, yet the individual registers are not terribly rivetting.

 

...

 

MM

To my ears, the STH has some quite ravishing registers - the Stopped Diapason and Doppel Flote of the Solo, for example - but, in general terms, I know what you mean. But the reason is, I think, because it is of a different class again to any other Hill leading up to, or of, that period. And this is not because it's a Thomas Hill - I'm not aware of anything that he did which was substantially different from what William did before him - but because of its sheer size. It's designed as an instrument of huge choruses, and registering it, even with assistants, often results in a "broad brush" approach. I expect it was built with sure knowledge that this is largely how it must be used. Even the Solo Tubas, by the way, are not good solo voices. They are loud enough, certainly, but they are gruff and course-toned - hardly the rounded, majestic thing that I think is required for Cocker's Tuba Tune, for example. But add them to the full Great chorus, and you have a climax almost without peer. That's the way they were intended to be used - chorus on top of chorus.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Guest Cynic
snip

 

Incidentally, might the relationship between Choir & Solo be usefully explored rather topically in view of the thread elsewhere about manual positions? To what extent is the separate manual a pure trophy status symbol? There are so many examples of where 4 have been reduced to 3 - Canterbury comes to mind. Is this a cause or a consequence of a shift of repertoire, playing style or mere plain economy?

 

snip

 

Spot

 

Economy. I appreciate that the Canterbury scheme was dominated by the need to 'get the sound out' but from a musician's stand-point the loss of those registers (and that manual) was serious. A three-manual console is virtually essential for the greater part of the literature, and a fourth manual is definitely an asset. One can manage without it (though often the loss of those extra colours is a serious matter) but one can manage without personal transport, it's just nice not to have to!

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Economy. I appreciate that the Canterbury scheme was dominated by the need to 'get the sound out' but from a musician's stand-point the loss of those registers (and that manual) was serious. A three-manual console is virtually essential for the greater part of the literature, and a fourth manual is definitely an asset. One can manage without it (though often the loss of those extra colours is a serious matter) but one can manage without personal transport, it's just nice not to have to!

 

I agree Paul, and think about something like the first movement of the Elgar Sonata, where the fourth manual significantly enables the variety of tone required in some of the quieter sections.

 

Jonathan

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To my ears, the STH has some quite ravishing registers - the Stopped Diapason and Doppel Flote of the Solo, for example - but, in general terms, I know what you mean. But the reason is, I think, because it is of a different class again to any other Hill leading up to, or of, that period. And this is not because it's a Thomas Hill - I'm not aware of anything that he did which was substantially different from what William did before him - but because of its sheer size. It's designed as an instrument of huge choruses, and registering it, even with assistants, often results in a "broad brush" approach. I expect it was built with sure knowledge that this is largely how it must be used. Even the Solo Tubas, by the way, are not good solo voices. They are loud enough, certainly, but they are gruff and course-toned - hardly the rounded, majestic thing that I think is required for Cocker's Tuba Tune, for example. But add them to the full Great chorus, and you have a climax almost without peer. That's the way they were intended to be used - chorus on top of chorus.

 

Rgds,

MJF

 

 

=========================

 

 

I'll get back to this when I've had a chance to check the facts, but actually, I think the approach at Sydney was quite different to that of William Hill.

 

I hope I don't need to catch a plane.

 

MM

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=========================

I'll get back to this when I've had a chance to check the facts, but actually, I think the approach at Sydney was quite different to that of William Hill.

 

I hope I don't need to catch a plane.

 

MM

Unfortunately, there are to my knowledge all too few unaltered, or substantially unaltered, William Hill instruments about. But I would have thought in particular that the diapasons fit within the earlier Hill style, and the mixture scheme (apart from the big 5-rankers on the Great and Swell, which are "special purpose" jobs) again accords with that style. The individual ranks in the mixtures tend to be broad and on the fluty side, which again I understand to be William Hill characteristics. The chorus reeds on the Great and Swell are on a slightly raised pressure - 5 inches or so, I think - but I see that as being explained by the size of the venue and breadth of the choruses. And lastly, with the one enormous (in every way) exception of the 64' reed (and I am quite unaware why the firm took this step - whether they were persuaded to, or whether they suggested it in view of the size of the scheme), I have always understood Thomas Hill to be very conservative. Whatever the result, I'll be very interested to see what you find out, MM, and if my understanding has to be revised entirely, then so be it.

 

Kind regards,

MJF.

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I agree Paul, and think about something like the first movement of the Elgar Sonata, where the fourth manual significantly enables the variety of tone required in some of the quieter sections.

 

Jonathan

Not sure that I agree with this, if you can play the Sonata at all then 3 manuals should be sufficient.

 

What strikes me is that need for more than three manuals has been largely removed by the advances in stop control & piston systems. A good three manual specification with perhaps some enclosed solo voices, and a decent solo reed, on the choir should be up to most demands.

 

You could go as far as to say that a great deal of service playing could now be managed with a single manual, a second manual only needed for the odd occasion when soloing out one "voice" against a backing registration. Personally I still like to physically change manual onto the swell for passages with no great stops, but there's really no reason to do this any more in many cases, just play on the great and keep hitting the stepper.

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You could go as far as to say that a great deal of service playing could now be managed with a single manual, a second manual only needed for the odd occasion when soloing out one "voice" against a backing registration. Personally I still like to physically change manual onto the swell for passages with no great stops, but there's really no reason to do this any more in many cases, just play on the great and keep hitting the stepper.

 

As a regular finder of variety and bodger of accompaniments on a one manual I can testify to much of this - a reasonably fully fledged Lessons and Carols was an interesting experience. Somewhere on here I even drew up a stoplist for a one manual to play as suggested above with the aid of generals etc. It is buried so deep now that it would be impossible to dig up though.

 

AJJ

 

PS Back on topic Bangor is on the NPOR in its new form - the re arranged Choir and Solo divisions seem quite dainty on paper at least.

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PS Back on topic Bangor is on the NPOR in its new form - the re arranged Choir and Solo divisions seem quite dainty on paper at least.

 

When I played the Bangor organ about 20 years ago, I remember seeing pipework in the cathedral which was pretty badly corroded. I am sure that those pipes in the third NPOR picture are the same ones - and they still appear to be corroded. So are we to assume that this has not been addressed - or would that be considered cosmetic and un-necessary?

 

Since no-body answered in the affirmative, I guess that no-one attended CC's recital?

 

:mellow:

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I have to say, however, that upon the last two occasions when I went to hear him he gave utterly remarkable performances. Remarkable in two specific areas:

 

1. He made the instruments sound easily as good as I had ever heard them before

2. Although I know he must have played every piece on the programme over a hundred times, it never felt like this.

I regularly make an effort to hear others play and some are consistent, others disappoint or thrill depending on the day/instrument. I would urge you to give CC at least one more chance. Put it this way, his recitals are not sterile affairs and (sad to say) there are other famous names where I find this to be the case.

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Yes, also mixed feelings. I remember those old Decca LPs when he played proper stuff, and displayed quite a prodigious technique. Like us all, I expect he has off days (though at the extremely high numbers he charges, he ought not to, £3000 for a small church in the Borders with no chance of breaking even).

 

That brings up another point I suppose, what is the going rate for a current player of international standing?

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Unfortunately, there are to my knowledge all too few unaltered, or substantially unaltered, William Hill instruments about. But I would have thought in particular that the diapasons fit within the earlier Hill style, and the mixture scheme (apart from the big 5-rankers on the Great and Swell, which are "special purpose" jobs) again accords with that style. The individual ranks in the mixtures tend to be broad and on the fluty side, which again I understand to be William Hill characteristics. The chorus reeds on the Great and Swell are on a slightly raised pressure - 5 inches or so, I think - but I see that as being explained by the size of the venue and breadth of the choruses. And lastly, with the one enormous (in every way) exception of the 64' reed (and I am quite unaware why the firm took this step - whether they were persuaded to, or whether they suggested it in view of the size of the scheme), I have always understood Thomas Hill to be very conservative. Whatever the result, I'll be very interested to see what you find out, MM, and if my understanding has to be revised entirely, then so be it.

 

Kind regards,

MJF.

 

 

===========================

 

Nope! It's something to do with the scaling.

 

I'm tantalising myself as much as others here, but I WILL find it.....somewhere......in the bowels of my computer.

 

Bear with me while I rummage.

 

MM

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I know that he has his detractors, but at the end of the day he puts bums on seats, and his programmes are always lively and vibrant.

His concerts at Ally Pally in the 1980's attracted thousands, even though he was playing an Allen organ, and he was the subject of a BBC TV programme. Recent concerts on the Willis organ attract very few people.

I have just booked Carlo for a concert in the Ally Pally Victorian theatre, and I can assure you that his fee is nothing like the £3,000 quoted. I suggest you contact his agent PVA Management to ascertain the current fee being quoted.

Colin Richell.

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===========================

 

Nope! It's something to do with the scaling.

 

I'm tantalising myself as much as others here, but I WILL find it.....somewhere......in the bowels of my computer.

 

Bear with me while I rummage.

 

MM

You rummage, and I'll bear.

 

Rgds,

Cnut ... er, MJF

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I have to say, however, that upon the last two occasions when I went to hear him he gave utterly remarkable performances. Remarkable in two specific areas:

1. He made the instruments sound easily as good as I had ever heard them before

2. Although I know he must have played every piece on the programme over a hundred times, it never felt like this.

I regularly make an effort to hear others play and some are consistent, others disappoint or thrill depending on the day/instrument. I would urge you to give CC at least one more chance. Put it this way, his recitals are not sterile affairs and (sad to say) there are other famous names where I find this to be the case.

 

 

=================================

 

 

I couldn't agree more Paul. Carlo Curley arrived in the UK as a phenomenon, and at a time when many people remembered Virgil Fox. Of his technique, there is nothing to be said, which is just astonishing. (The same could be said of Simon Preston, Cameron Carpenter and many others).

 

It's not many years ago that he and I chomped our way through meals and enjoyed good company, and in that respect, he is a thoroughly agreeable and often very amusing person. Carlo likes people around him, which is more than can be said for many organists.

 

I suspect that Carlo is obliged to occupy a musical niche due, in part, to his musical lineage, his nationality and his knowledge of what attracts people to his style of "organ extravaganza."

 

Of his concerts, I tend to hold the view that "once you've heard one, you've heard them all," which is, I know, a bit unfair. What I mean by that, is not so much a musical criticism, as an observation of what he does, and how this is replicated from venue to venue, with considerable success. (A bit like following Steam Rallies, and listening to the Gavioli organs).

 

Quite why people should get upset when "an organist entertains" is quite beyond my comprehension. People would never seek to criticise a travelling circus, a re-run of a good TV programme or a tour by Dolly Parton, but do the same thing as an organist, and you're immediately branded a heretic by some.

 

In the early days (when I had an American partner), I recall squealing with delight, when having put the Allen organ he was playing on autopilot, the "thing" started playing the Clarke "Trumpet Voluntary" as Carlo wandered around the audience. When he reached us, he leaned across and whispered, "I can just imagine you two walking down the aisle to this."

 

Amusing certainly, but also a serious musician who's tapped into a degree of high-camp and showbiz.

 

I don't know if anyone ever heard Carlo's recordings of Bach played on a Marcussen organ in Denmark, when he was living in the land of bacon and blonds, but he produced a thoroughly "scholarly" Bach, which makes for good listening.

 

If I had to make a criticism of Carlo, it would have to be on the grounds that whilst he has often thrilled me and entertained me, with some astounding virtuosity, I can never recall being moved. On the other hand, I have been deeply moved by much less able organists; especially by a 14 year old boy who played a Bach CP with such depth and understanding, that it left someone like Piet Kee floundering in his wake. In his own way, he achieved something as equally remarkable as that which Carlo achieves by virtuosity and showmanship.

 

So I would suggest that Carlo is not a lesser breed of musician; more a different STYLE of musician.

 

As for the jibe about him being "American" made by one contributor, I would urge that person to actually go there. Not only will you find some of the finest scholars in the world, you will also come across some of the very finest organists. People go on about Cochreau and David Briggs as improvisers, yet Gerre Hancock (prior to John Scott at St.Thomas, NY) recorded some of the most brilliant Reger performances and improvisations I have ever heard. On the subject of Reger, how many ENGLISH organists could play the Reger three-part versions of the Bach two-part inventions on the organ? There is one American organist who can and does, and it something to behold.

 

The interesting thing I find, is that in digging around for Eastern European music and performances, two countries stand out.

One of them is the Netherlands, and the other is America. Our friend "giwro" is the ONLY person I know, IN THE WORLD, who is currently bringing less well known music to the attention of organists, and making it available. Unless you haven't noticed, he's not English.

 

In England we have the tendency to pretend that organ music started with Bach, included Vierne and ended with Herbert Howells, and I am personally aghast at the response I get, when I ask people what they know about the world beyond.

 

Ignorance (and bad manners) is a kind of bliss to some, I expect.

 

MM

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