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Yes Tony, there are several in this area, and the two which I've played have the crescendo on the left and the swell on the right, which was very confusing.

 

Isn't the Swell on the far right the normal layout? Winchester Cathedral is I think the only time I have seen anything differ - Solo on right, Swell on left, which I do find confusing.

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By accepted convention, the Swell is the right-most of the expression pedals, but the crescendo should always go to the right of all the expression pedals.... if that makes sense!

 

S

 

 

Isn't the Swell on the far right the normal layout? Winchester Cathedral is I think the only time I have seen anything differ - Solo on right, Swell on left, which I do find confusing.
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The general rule of convention is that Swell pedal should be above middle E and F on the pedalboard. The convention normally follows that the choir pedal is to the left of the swell pedal, the solo to the right. General Crescendo to the far right, as Stephen says (usually slightly separated from the other swell pedals by being at a slightly higher level or a metal plate). This will explain most the situations described above and if you remember these rules you should never have a problem finding a swell pedal again (unless it's some 500 stop American monster with 9 swell pedals).

 

The golden rule is that the swell pedal should remain in the same place relative to the pedalboard. One advantage of this position is that the organist's heel is less likely to catch a black note on the pedalboard when closing the swell box - if the swell pedal were situated centrally in the console, it would actually be somewhere above middle D and E - and it makes catching D# with a heel more possible. Another advantage is that the organist can find the swell pedal easily because of its relative position to the pedalboard - you can just feel where it is from the pedalboard. How many of us have spent time thrashing around madly on a unfamiliar organ trying to find the oddly positioned swell pedal somewhere above middle A & B? I find the worst offenders in this case tend to be organs built by continental builders between around 1960 and 1990.

 

I once lived with an organ built by a rather uniformed (British) builder who had placed the swell pedal centrally. Not only did it make closing the box more perilous, it was also surprisingly awkward to use. It didn't fall under the right foot comfortably - one had to swivel a bit to the left to find it and I was constantly bashing my foot against the toeboard to the right of the swell pedal and having to look down to find the swell pedal. That was not the only problem with this organ's swell pedal: due to a rather bodged design, the swell shutters couldn't close properly and only had about 20 degrees of movement. It was easily the worst swell box I've ever come across.

 

However, I love the swell box at New College, especially the way the glass shutters catch the light from the stained glass and throws it around the chapel. I wonder if Frobenius tried to copy this at Robinson College Cambridge but I don't remember the swell shutters being particularly effective there.

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... I once lived with an organ built by a rather uniformed (British) builder ...

 

OK - so what are we talking about, here? Was the gentleman in question of military bearing (and therefore wearing the uniform of, perhaps the Coldstream Guards or the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers) - or were you thinking more along the lines of a nurse's uniform....?

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HNB also used an extension mixture on some small instruments. I never analysed one, but if I recall correctly it consisted of two sets of pipes, two ranks, 19,22 on one set and 15,19 on the other

 

This may well have been what you are describing, a 1964 HNB extension organ on which I spent many happy hour during my early teens at Heptonstall Church.

If I remember correctly, although this was an extension organ, the Great 8/4/2 Diapasons were not an 84 pipe rank but were partially independent around the middle octaves.

During the 60s I found this little HNB and the 3 Walker Positives I occasionally played to be like a breath of fresh air compared to most local organs to which I had access. In terms of promptness of speech, response to touch, brightness and clarity of voicing, the ablity to register (with care) 2 contrasting choruses, and comfortable consoles - especially for someone who played a lot of Bach.

 

DT

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Maybe Jonathan L. can fill us in a bit more.

 

A

 

I'll try to put some photos up like Adrian Lucas did for the little organ down the road from here! Give me a few weeks and I'll set something up. I'll let people know when they're up.

 

Jonathan :)

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I've just remembered where else I've come across a stop crescendo on the left - and indeed it is one of those 'American monsters' - although not a classical instrument, but an orchestral residence organ. It now resides in an Exeter house, and you can read all about it here:

 

http://www.paulmorrismusic.co.uk/AeolianOrganHistory.asp

 

It has four divisional swells (it originally included an Echo division) although the whole is now in one chamber, so it is only the left-most pedal which operates anything, but the crescendo is then to the left of this, and I gather this was standard practise for Aeolian.

 

S

 

 

The general rule of convention is that Swell pedal should be above middle E and F on the pedalboard. The convention normally follows that the choir pedal is to the left of the swell pedal, the solo to the right. General Crescendo to the far right, as Stephen says (usually slightly separated from the other swell pedals by being at a slightly higher level or a metal plate). This will explain most the situations described above and if you remember these rules you should never have a problem finding a swell pedal again (unless it's some 500 stop American monster with 9 swell pedals).
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The foghorn has switchable swell pedals so you can suit yourself. It is done via nine switches on the right-hand stop jamb (i.e. three possible divisions for each of the three swell pedals). I daresay it is possible to set two or even all three sets of shutters onto one pedal if you want, though I have never tried this.

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Redland Park, Bristol has solo, swell, choir,- left to right.

 

So does Peterborough Cathedral. Very confusing.

 

Much worse, my 3 manual Harrison (St John's Peterborough) has the swell pedal on the left and the choir on the right. I still keep using the wrong one.

 

Stephen Barber

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I spoke with Lawrence this morning. As far as he knows there are no plans for any recitals on the GD&B at New College. Stephen Grahl (the Assistant Organist) is, indeed, playing recitals next term, but not at New College.

 

Best wishes

 

J

 

 

Thanks for the suggestion. I have since been in touch with New College and the very helpful Chapel Administrator tells me that the Assistant Organist is planning a couple of "big recitals" very soon, so I will keep an eye open and let you know. It should also be advertised on one of the NC websites.

 

Mark

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I spoke with Lawrence this morning. As far as he knows there are no plans for any recitals on the GD&B at New College. Stephen Grahl (the Assistant Organist) is, indeed, playing recitals next term, but not at New College.

That's a shame. Maybe Lawrence should volunteer to fill the void. I remember hearing some world-class recitals at New College in the mid-1970s; there seemed to be series of 6 or so recitals one term every year, Saturday afternoon before Evensong.

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Oh - what a shame. This is the reply I received from the Chapel Administrator:

 

The assistant organist tells me that a couple of big recitals are planned: I'll make sure they are posted on the website and by poster!

 

I'm sure there would be interest in recitals on this instrument.

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snip

I remember hearing some world-class recitals at New College in the mid-1970s; there seemed to be series of 6 or so recitals one term every year, Saturday afternoon before Evensong.

 

 

Indeed there were! There were recitals at the same time during the previous decade too, until the Dallam/Green/Willis/R&Dreaper organ was removed to make way for the GD&B. I attended many of them as the youngest person there (the only organ pupil then at New College School). I particularly remember a series where each performer had to include some Franck and some Messiaen. I even played my small part (upon occasion) in helping both Arthur Wills and Christopher Dearnley with their registration schemes by playing for them while they walked around downstairs. Arthur played the Bach Passacaglia and his own 'Five Pieces' which at the age of twelve I thought were extremely ugly, actually, even if he himself had been pleasant!

 

There was even a series one year which included a good wodge of the French Classical School despite the fact that the organ had no Tierce (save in the Mixtures, of course, since they were by Father Willis). David Lumsden was a great organiser as well as having impeccable taste. I shouldn't be snide, but each time he played the programme seemed to consist of the same items!

 

Returning occasionally with no official connection with the place, I managed to attend a fair number on the new organ before it had been tastefully softened. It was the most exciting organ sound I had ever heard. If the worst ever comes to the worst and this organ is ousted, I would like to be given the opportunity to arrive (at short notice if necessary) with a team of volunteers and a couple of large vans.

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I take it this isn't a serious possibility at the moment?

 

Want my full and honest opinion?

I would start by according full credit to Dr.Edward Higginbottom for not ousting this organ already, since Sir David Lumsden's GD&B isn't the instrument that he really needs for his (arguably world-beating) choir, but yes, I do consider that this is a possibility.

 

1. The organ is now out of fashion - this fact is not universally agreed, but read the pages above and you'll see this is not a surprisingly claim to make.

2. It is overdue for an overhaul, any organ would be after forty years of hard near-daily use.

3. The college could probably find the money to swap it for something else without too much difficulty.

 

Put these factors together and IMHO this organ is potentially at risk. All it would take is a new appointee to succeed Dr.H with dramatic and exciting ideas ready to sweep everything before him or her. Add in the fact that the GD&B does look quite extraordinary - exciting but disturbing in an Early English building. I don't see the college going for a Klais, a Kuhn or a Marcussen, but wait a few more years and I can see a very strong argument being made by someone for a traditional-sounding organ in an elegant and non-challenging case to complement this chapel and that choir.

 

In this world, very sadly, there is rarely sufficient notice given to those whose discretion and wisdom lead them to leave things alone. It is those who shake up the status quo that get noticed! I've probably not helped. As I've said it before in these pages, what Oxford badly lacks is any organ that really accompanies a choir well. Well go on.... name one that's subtle, complete and unobtrusive!

 

Lest anyone feel I am exaggerating the dangers of fashion, may I remind you that for a brief while not very long ago, it was strongly suggested by no less a person than the Director of Music that what Kings Chapel, Cambridge really needed was a smaller instrument on tracker action. This may be what that historic case would suggest, but the repertoire of the choir and the unique character of what they have now ought to make that H&H safe for many, many years to come. I repeat, 'ought'.....

 

 

 

P.S. It doesn't take long to oust an unpopular organ if you have the money to do it. Heard what is going on at The Royal Academy of Music? The much-vaunted Van den Heuvel (new in 1993) is to be taken out very soon!

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Lest anyone feel I am exaggerating the dangers of fashion, may I remind you that for a brief while not very long ago, it was strongly suggested by no less a person than the Director of Music that what Kings Chapel, Cambridge really needed was a smaller instrument on tracker action.

 

I may be mistaken, but I thought that the context in which I originally heard this was a discussion of Stephen Cleobury's sense of humour and that he had made these remarks as a joke to see if anyone would actually take it seriously (which, apparently, some people did ...)

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I may be mistaken, but I thought that the context in which I originally heard this was a discussion of Stephen Cleobury's sense of humour and that he had made these remarks as a joke to see if anyone would actually take it seriously (which, apparently, some people did ...)

 

 

I would love to accept this as an accurate account....

who actually knows?

 

Our dear HMG tend to do this sort of thing - leak some outrageous plan or other, just to see how it goes down. They they deny it or bring out an amended form, disclaiming any intentions of ever implementing the original.

 

A related tale occurs to me:

Who here has heard the explanation for why Henry Willis 4 ceased to be responsible for maintaining the leviathan at Liverpool Cathedral? So far as I know, this account is correct in all essentials. I understand that about thirty years ago at the behest of the then Cathedral Organist he was invited to carry out a far-reaching scheme in which the wind-pressures of that great organ were to be reduced substantially all round, with much consequent revoicing. Never one to shy away from giving his true opinion, he roundly declined to do it, saying that he would not ever be responsible for desecrating what he considered to be his father's greatest work. As we know, the instrument changed hands more-or-less forthwith and some revoicing was done - not on such a large scale, admittedly. H&H did the work.

 

I'm afraid, Fashion + gifted musician + money available = change!!

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... P.S. It doesn't take long to oust an unpopular organ if you have the money to do it. Heard what is going on at The Royal Academy of Music? The much-vaunted Van den Heuvel (new in 1993) is to be taken out very soon!

This seems a great shame. I have made a brief search of the Internet, but can find no reference to its departure. Are you able to tell us why this is, please Cynic?

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This seems a great shame. I have made a brief search of the Internet, but can find no reference to its departure. Are you able to tell us why this is, please Cynic?

 

 

The reason I was given was that its key action tends to misbehave when a choir is standing upon the platform around it! Allegedly, Van den H are so embarrassed that they will be taking it back, and (one would hope) giving back some of the money!

 

Having said all that, if it had been considered a great success in other ways I am quite sure that a mechanical problem of this kind could have been addressed - maybe by strengthening the platform?

 

When it went in, I applauded the bravery of the RAM staff going so obviously for one style of music, (and I realise they have practically unlimited access to the large Rieger across the road for other repertoire) but I still couldn't understand why two manuals could possibly have been considered sufficient for the job of work this instrument was intended to do. When one thinks even casually of the French music that everyone wants to play, virtually all of it requires three manuals. Even if the third had only been a coupler manual like one Cavaille-Coll The Organ Club recently saw in Paris, that would have been better than nothing. I'm confident a third manual could have been accommodated given a little more funding, or less grandiose plans for the present two decks. I've seen considerably less bulky versions of the real thing (as Orgues de Choeur) that seem to manage thoroughly good specs within the RAM's ration of 24 stops. Admittedly, they practically always stop at two decks, but then they are intended for a different job of work.

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"The reason I was given was that its key action tends to misbehave when a choir is standing upon the platform around it!"

(Quote)

 

In french we say: "He, who wants to kill his dog, says it has the rage".

A bit like to change of car because the astray is full.

 

Pierre

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