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Unusual Registrations


Guest Psalm 78 v.67
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Guest Psalm 78 v.67

From time to time one hears people using registrations that one might not hve thought of oneself. Has anyone got any to share? I cite two random examples: 1) some years ago I turned pages / registered for David Poulter in a recital on a small 2-manual, and at one point (can't remember the piece) he asked for the Great Twelfth to be added to the 8 & 4 uncoupled, before the Fifteenth - it "worked" and I do so occasionally myself now. 2) Played a big-ish 3 manual for a funeral last week (Titulaire was on holiday) and on his piston settings the Great Fifteenth went off when the Mixture 19.22.26.29 came on. Admitedly such things may be due to peculiarities of the instrument/acoustics, but I am interested to know of other such quirks.

 

I could also mention the local lady "organist" who hasn't touched the pedals in the 50-odd years she's been in post, but always draws the Pedal Bourdon before the start of every service!

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Guest Geoff McMahon

When Dietrich Wagler played at St. Ignatius Loyola a few years ago, he drew the Montre 16 and the Fourniture V on their own to the surprise of the resident organists, but it worked and they now use this occasionally themselves. It takes some degree of blend to get two such stops to work together.

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I think it was Peter Hurford who once said/wrote that one should use ones ears first and 'stock' registration second when playing the organ.

 

AJJ

 

Absolutely.

 

One "solo" colour which does frequently work on many instruments is 4' Flute and Tierce only, with Tremulant if it's a good one. The treble register of this will really sort the sheep from the goats voicing-wise.

 

The Romsey organ is full of hidden surprises and scarcely a week goes by without one of us finding some arresting new combination. Current favourites are Sw Clarion, Hautboy, Mixture, Principal and Stopped Diapason down an octave, and Gt doubles and mixtures as JPM referred to above, with or without reeds. All flutes 16 8 and 4 as variously available on all divisions, played up an octave, is another very pleasant sound; the treble of the Choir Flute 4 is extremely sweet and slightly reminiscent of New College, Oxford.

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Good topic.

 

The more organs I play, the more I realise there is, indeed, only one rule ; what sounds best on this organ ?

I almost regard the organ as just one collection of colours, without subdividing them into departments, feeling free to mix and match whatever works across the manuals.

 

I loved registering at All Saints, Tooting ; the organ was so beautifully voiced that everything blended.

 

The choir, as I recall, had -

 

Flutes 16 + 8 + 4

 

Viola da Gamba (very keen)

 

Harmonic Piccolo 2 (very piquant)

 

Orchestral Oboe

 

Clarinet

 

The piccolo added to, for example, the Swell Oboe gave it a magical effect, and it was invaluable in Baroque solos.

 

One of my favourite registrations was Swell strings with octave coupler, coupled to the Viola da Gamba and Harmonic Piccolo with the tremulant. This gave a fabulous 'Sainte Clotilde Vox Humana' effect which I used a lot in, for example, Franck and Tournemire.

 

 

Roger Fisher played the first Trio Sonata on the organ (and could not stop raving about it). I was standing at the back of the church and could not work out what combination he was using for the left hand ; it turned out simply to be all the stops on the choir together.

 

Another trick that worked for this organ, and which I have found useful on others was to add the Great 4' reed only to the Tutti - it gave fire without thickness.

 

Another top tip from years ago ; on a very English organ, coupling the choir clarinet to the pedals can give them definition in Bach without compromising the colour.

 

Any more tricks of the trade ?

 

M

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Another trick that worked for this organ, and which I have found useful on others was to add the Great 4' reed only to the Tutti - it gave fire without thickness.

 

The Clarion trick is an extremely good one - this is invaluable at St Peter's Bournemouth where, to my ears, the 8' Posaune (or whatever it's called) makes the whole thing quieter and sludgier.

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From time to time one hears people using registrations that one might not hve thought of oneself. Has anyone got any to share? I cite two random examples: 1) some years ago I turned pages / registered for David Poulter in a recital on a small 2-manual, and at one point (can't remember the piece) he asked for the Great Twelfth to be added to the 8 & 4 uncoupled, before the Fifteenth - it "worked" and I do so occasionally myself now. 2) Played a big-ish 3 manual for a funeral last week (Titulaire was on holiday) and on his piston settings the Great Fifteenth went off when the Mixture 19.22.26.29 came on. Admitedly such things may be due to peculiarities of the instrument/acoustics, but I am interested to know of other such quirks.

 

I could also mention the local lady "organist" who hasn't touched the pedals in the 50-odd years she's been in post, but always draws the Pedal Bourdon before the start of every service!

 

 

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

 

 

 

Two of my favouriute registration "tricks" involve the following:--

 

 

Take a typical Binns 3-manual, which usually have quite "grave" Great Mixtures installed. My particular trick is to use the octave and sub-octave intermanuals to good effect in the following way, for something like the "Fugue on the Magnificat" by Bach.

 

I draw 16ft and 8ft reeds on the Swell (no great weight of tone), with the Fifteenth and Mixture; then couple it to Great at the octave 4ft. This produces a degree of brilliance and 8/4ft reed tone for a good, bright, reedy pleno effect.

 

The same registartion is coupled to the Pedals at normal pitch, thus providing both the clarity and reed-tone underpin for the "Cantus."

 

The fact that the Swell Mixture is working at 4ft coupled pitch, means that the breaks just blend in, with the 2ft Fifteenth keeping it on track as a 1ft, and keeping it bright.

 

Another "Bach" trick I discovered at Halifax PC on the Harrison.

 

Here, a new and not entirely blending Mixture was added to the Great by Walkers. It doesn't blend too well with the Swell organ.

 

So rather than have the mix and mismatch of Great to Mixture and Swell to Mixture, both underpinned by Pedal Woods (the fairly typical Harrison sound), I changed this totally.

 

Full Great 16ft Geigen to Mixture (without Open 1) and the 16ft and 8ft Trombas transferred to Choir, with Choir to Pedal drawn and Great to Pedal drawn AND NO PEDAL STOPS WHATSOEVER. The effect is absolutely superb for Bach, and it's one I've never heard anyone yet discover.

 

Finally, THE most convincing synthetic Orchestral Oboe I ever heard, was on a Binns organ, where the Viole d'Orchestre and (non original) Nazard were just "the business."

 

MM

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I've found lots of slightly bizzare but effective registrations on my organ. The most recent is Swell oboe + Gt harmonic flute = cor anglais (which, yes, I have been able to use in a real piece of music). Also Gt Dulciana + harmonic flute is good, reminiscent of those cranky little stringy sounds on baroque South German and Austrian organs. It sometimes gets wheeled out for a quiet choral prelude or particularly limpid solo

 

And yes, Gt Open Diapason + (very blending) Mixture works beautifully

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This fits all nicely into other topics on this board, talking about "integrity" of an instrument.

Bad instruments might force you to search hidden pathes of registration, but the good ones do allow you anyway. I know that Andrea Marcon (gifted organist and leader of those Venice Baroque Players) played a Frescobaldi toccata on the beautiful Huss/Schnitger organ of Stade - being happy with the trumpet 16' and another 8' flue stop!

I have been taught by "my" current instrument, the Neuenfelde Schnitger. A non-organbuilder has mounted new stop labels some decades ago (he was the organist's husband and worked at the army as a tank officer...!), and (as it might be the use in tanks) he mounted them UNDER the stop knobs. When entering service here, I often pulled wrong stops by error because of that - but this coincidental registrations always worked, too!

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This fits all nicely into other topics on this board, talking about "integrity" of an instrument.

Bad instruments might force you to search hidden pathes of registration, but the good ones do allow you anyway.

 

 

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

 

 

There is no chance that any Arthur Harrison organ is a "bad" instrument. They were all very good, but the concept of blending a very powerful (Schulze inspired) Great chorus, of very hard sound, with other stops which are much softer in tone (such as the Swell or Choir), and then attempting to weld these to very fiery Swell reeds AND very smooth Great Trombas, was one which was not possible without the use of those terrible Harmonics Mixtures which included the 1.1/7ft and 1.3/5 pitches, all voiced quite gently.

 

Underpin this with very large scale Wooden pedal stops, and the result may be useful for accompaniment, but falls down badly in repertoire.

 

My trick of using a whole chorus, between 16ft and Mixture, and then coupling this to the Pedal to very good effect, tells me straight away that it is the lack of tonal integrity which makes other combinations of sound less attractive, because I am using only the one department, with the reeds split off and placed on the pedals.

 

In fact, apart from America, I don't think that the Harrison/Dixon musical concept which ever had proper imitators; though Willis 3 organs come close in some respects, but without the outright power of the very dominant Great chorus.

 

There is, without doubt, far more tonal integrity on a German Wacker instrument, and although I have never heard one live, I suspect the same could be said of Steinmeyer instruments from what I have heard on recordings.

 

In fact, the Arthur Harrison/Dixon concept hovers uncomfrotably between the orchestral ambitions of Hope-Jones, and the heroic boldness of Schulze, but from the very start, it was an ill-formed concept which spanned only a single generation or so, and which was effectively discarded in the 1950's.

 

Unfortunately, in England, one dubious concept was replaced by another: the idea that all new organs needed to use pure tin pipes, roughly voiced and devoid of nicking. Fortunately, the latter is easier to modify than the former, but quite how the orgelbewegung was turned into something so inauthentic, is beyond my understanding, because even small 18th century organs in small churches sound BEAUTIFUL.

 

Why did they abandon beauty of tone as a musical concept?

 

 

MM

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Swell strings + 16' Dulzian + 8' Hautboy + Sub + Octave (box half shut) accompanied by Pedal Contra Tuba 32 (box shut), 32' acoustic bass and selection of 16'.

 

Whatever you do, don't open the choir box on this registration ('cos the Contra Tuba turns into a road drill and obliterates the first 5 rows of the congregation)

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Swell strings + 16' Dulzian + 8' Hautboy + Sub + Octave (box half shut) accompanied by Pedal Contra Tuba 32 (box shut), 32' acoustic bass and selection of 16'.

 

Whatever you do, don't open the choir box on this registration ('cos the Contra Tuba turns into a road drill and obliterates the first 5 rows of the congregation)

 

This takes me back to many a happy hour as an undergraduate experimenting with the weird and wonderous noises on this machine. Quite a lot of my music still has the registration marked in. A predecessor of yours played all six trio sonatas in one concert and by all accounts it sounded really quite acceptable!

 

AJJ

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Unfortunately, in England, one dubious concept was replaced by another: the idea that all new organs needed to use pure tin pipes, roughly voiced and devoid of nicking.

 

Why did they abandon beauty of tone as a musical concept?

MM

 

Probably time for me to get shouted at again. I'm not sure that limiting those techniques to England is quite fair.

 

We could all, I'm sure, name a few builders (one or two still going to this day) guilty of rough voicing, and rough much else besides. We all know that plenty of crap goes on out there in order to make a sale. Quite what people see as the appeal of some of these instruments is beyond me; roughly made, very poorly voiced. One recent example I saw had the most extraordinary display pipes - the cutups were all over the place - in some cases, visibly different heights on the left of the mouth as on the right (by as much as 5mm, at a guess). Sadly I couldn't hear what these sounded like; several of them were off as the Kopex had popped out of its hole, and in almost all cases the languids had collapsed rendering the remaining ones off speech anyway. Let me repeat - this was a nearly new (5 years old maximum) instrument by someone who has made lots of new organs.

 

In the BEST cases, beauty of tone was NOT abandoned in the slightest. Anyone who comes on the proposed Oxford trip will see a 1975 neo-classical Drake organ with an extraordinary warmth of musical tone. There are many other instruments, and other builders who routinely do such work. Please don't take this as a condescending or patronising remark, but I think it's a great shame that there are so many people around (and I'm NOT referring to anyone here) whose ears are not able to discern the tangible and quantifiable difference between, say, the Turner Sims Concert Hall and its contemporary at Clifton RC Cathedral, to take two completely random examples of one very good organ and one less good (and I'll let you work out which way round they are...).

 

There must be at least an element of truth in this remark or the makers of instruments lacking in beauty of tone to which 'MM' refers (and with which we can all identify) would not continue to find willing customers.

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This takes me back to many a happy hour as an undergraduate experimenting with the weird and wonderous noises on this machine. Quite a lot of my music still has the registration marked in. A predecessor of yours played all six trio sonatas in one concert and by all accounts it sounded really quite acceptable!

 

AJJ

 

Jeremy Blandford? The accounts I've heard were, err, that it was a mushy blur!

 

Not mine for much longer - I finish on Easter Day.

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Jeremy Blandford? The accounts I've heard were, err, that it was a mushy blur!

 

Not mine for much longer - I finish on Easter Day.

 

My account was from JB so probably he had the best seat! (a good player though - 'best of luck in the new place - what are they doing at StMs?

 

AJJ

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MM has named some builders, amongst them the German Walcker firm - but you can never generalize for a firm, it is always the question who did the voicing. And several thousand instruments bear(ed) the Walcker sign, but there are many hundreds who are definetly not a work of art.

MM names the occasional absence of tonal beauty today and in recent decades:

Regarding new instruments of the last 20 years (generally spoken), I am convinced, that the main difference in voicing between then and now is TIME. It is incredible, how short it takes today for some builders to "finish" a large instrument... and there are many organs around, who where unfinished for inauguration and still are... Take Schulze, at his work in Lübeck, St. Mary's: He brought test pipes, developed or changed some scalings on location, took finished stops out again until he was pleased with the result... Today, just very few customers, I suppose, would be willing to pay such efforts...

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My account was from JB so probably he had the best seat! (a good player though - 'best of luck in the new place - what are they doing at StMs?

 

AJJ

 

Unknown what the future is at St. Mary's. Current deal is 2 trad and 2 worship songs per week, vicar would like a more contemporary Anglo-Catholic worship style, so I've recommended that they produce a very tight job spec to get the right candidate. The problem is, of course, that this stlye of worship/music is in conflict with the very traditional choir (of about 4) who will probably all remember you, given that many of them remember the previous church...

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Unknown what the future is at St. Mary's. Current deal is 2 trad and 2 worship songs per week, vicar would like a more contemporary Anglo-Catholic worship style, so I've recommended that they produce a very tight job spec to get the right candidate. The problem is, of course, that this stlye of worship/music is in conflict with the very traditional choir (of about 4) who will probably all remember you, given that many of them remember the previous church...

 

Hmm - it all sounds a bit familiar. I never actually did services there though - more often than not sang/played at South Stoneham along with their now present incumbent. Then (late 70s) they had large choir with a good and varied repertoire. The DOM then was another undergrad. who later ended up at Buckfast Abbey and I think is still around there.

 

AJJ

 

Sorry - we're off topic again!

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Probably time for me to get shouted at again. I'm not sure that limiting those techniques to England is quite fair.

 

I think it's a great shame that there are so many people around (and I'm NOT referring to anyone here) whose ears are not able to discern the tangible and quantifiable difference between, say, the Turner Sims Concert Hall and its contemporary at Clifton RC Cathedral, to take two completely random examples of one very good organ and one less good (and I'll let you work out which way round they are...).

 

Well, i am well and truly confused now (and both are in different acoustics). I had understood that when the Clifton job was cleaned a while ago the voicing was all tidied up as it was originally installed in a hurry.

PJW

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MM has named some builders, amongst them the German Walcker firm - but you can never generalize for a firm, it is always the question who did the voicing. And several thousand instruments bear(ed) the Walcker sign, but there are many hundreds who are definetly not a work of art.

MM names the occasional absence of tonal beauty today and in recent decades:

Regarding new instruments of the last 20 years (generally spoken), I am convinced, that the main difference in voicing between then and now is TIME. It is incredible, how short it takes today for some builders to "finish" a large instrument... and there are many organs around, who where unfinished for inauguration and still are... Take Schulze, at his work in Lübeck, St. Mary's: He brought test pipes, developed or changed some scalings on location, took finished stops out again until he was pleased with the result... Today, just very few customers, I suppose, would be willing to pay such efforts...

 

 

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

 

 

Herr Kropf, I'm sure, knows very much more about Walcker than I.

 

However, if there is one thing which I always think about when I hear the best organs in Holland, it is just how long it took to get such marvellous results.

 

It's when you hear organs like the Martinikerk Groningen and St.Lauren's, Alkmaar, that you become very aware of the care and dedication which went into the task of fine voicing the end results.

 

What was it Schulze said?

 

"I can give them my scales, but I cannot give them this," Schulze said, as he pointed to his ear.

 

MM

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If the 8' is loud enough not to be totally dominated, the Swell Salicional and Principal make an unusual solo. I used to play a 2 row Daniels where this worked well, but on the present instrument the Salicional is too quiet for it to work properly. Also, on the first instrument, the Great Dulciana sounded well with the 4' flute as a solo.

 

When I first worked in 'the trade', the tuner I was working with used to say that a Viola and Clarinet worked as an Orchestral Oboe (he had been trained by Rutt, whose Viola stops were quite keen, and fairly loud), and that an Orchestral Oboe worked as a Clarinet if used with a Gedacht. I never found an instrument suitably equipped to prove it one way or the other, but it's an interesting thought.

 

The golden rule is, I agree, experiment - find out what works, and use it; you're in good company, for I believe I'm right in saying Bach used to do the same. But don't expect the same ideas to work everywhere. Above all, enjoy it!

 

Regards to all.

 

John

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At st Andrew's, Plymouth, Ian Tracey managed to cobble up a quite effective Vox Humana with the following: Solo Orchestral Oboe, Viol Celeste + Flute Bouchée-Harmonique 4' coupled to Swell Oboe + Concert Flute 4'.

 

On a few organs the Swell Bourdon and Oboe played an octave higher produces a novel yet usable sound. Your Oboe needs to be of the smooth kind and well balanced with the 16' - it usually fails on the last score.

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DHM has just reminded me of the last time we were in the USA and I had to accompany Howells's Gloucester Service on a large, but unusually refined four-decker. So restrained were the Choir and Solo manuals that it was not easy to find a combination for the opening right-hand solo that wouldn't be drowned by the singers. I ended up with a four-stop combination on the Choir: Viola Pomposa 8′, English Horn 8′, French Horn 8′, Open Flute 4′. Looking at it on paper even I'm shaking my head, but actually it did sound perfectly acceptable. I wouldn't guarantee it would work anywhere else though!

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  • 4 weeks later...
I could also mention the local lady "organist" who hasn't touched the pedals in the 50-odd years she's been in post, but always draws the Pedal Bourdon before the start of every service!

 

Some organs will have a special "Auto Pedal Coupler" which some people find useful. At my church, there are 4 organists, and out of them all I'm the only one that uses the pedals.

 

Another way I have been told about to make an Orchestral Oboe is to have the Swell Oboe/Hautboy 8 and the Vox Humana 8 (if on a different manual couple the Sw to it) and have the Tremulant on. I haven't been able to try this as my organ doesn't have the Vox Humana, but has anyone tried this before?

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Some organs will have a special "Auto Pedal Coupler" which some people find useful. At my church, there are 4 organists, and out of them all I'm the only one that uses the pedals.

 

Another way I have been told about to make an Orchestral Oboe is to have the Swell Oboe/Hautboy 8 and the Vox Humana 8 (if on a different manual couple the Sw to it) and have the Tremulant on. I haven't been able to try this as my organ doesn't have the Vox Humana, but has anyone tried this before?

On our FW Hautboy & Vox = Cromorne. To get Orch Oboe I use Sw Hautboy & Ch Viol De Gamba

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