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Guest Cynic
"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

 

 

I love this. Fortunately I cannot even try to list all those occasions (in places too numerous to mention) where those in the know suspect that fuses were deliberately changed for ones of lesser gauge, stops were deliberately mis-tuned or pipes disconnected for the simple and basic need to convince those in charge of purse-strings than an organ is 'past it'. There was even one case where I heard it strongly suggested that a complete interior was sacrificed to flames in order to ensure the acquisition of a replacement instrument of striking and contemporary design......

 

A further frivolous thought strikes me:

If a few choral events are the problem, why don't the RAM simply copy the management of The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. As is now common knowledge, when the massed Male Voice Choirs meet there for their annual bash, because the (once again, much-vaunted) Marcussen has proved inadequate to supply sufficient backing for their performances, even at full organ, they now hire a large electronic organ substitute (toaster to you) for the purpose.

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If a few choral events are the problem, why don't the RAM simply copy the management of The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. As is now common knowledge, when the massed Male Voice Choirs meet there for their annual bash, because the (once again, much-vaunted) Marcussen has proved inadequate to supply sufficient backing for their performances, even at full organ, they now hire a large electronic organ substitute (toaster to you) for the purpose.

 

I'm glad this thought had resurfaced because I heard the same from another source. Why, oh why, (and how) was this ever allowed to happen? I think the nrewly refurb at BirmTH would be more than a match for the same voices.

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I'm glad this thought had resurfaced because I heard the same from another source. Why, oh why, (and how) was this ever allowed to happen? I think the nrewly refurb at BirmTH would be more than a match for the same voices.

 

Ah, but then the instrument at Birmingham Town Hall was built and rebuilt by people who understand concert organ design, wind pressures etc. and know not to expect these to work in tandem with a light mechanical action.

 

Wooah!! What am I sayingggg?

As a would-be musician, I should know that music can only be made upon a mechanical action instrument. Oh dear......

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The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.

As is now common knowledge, when the massed Male Voice Choirs meet there for their annual bash, because the (once again, much-vaunted) Marcussen has proved inadequate to supply sufficient backing for their performances, even at full organ, they now hire a large electronic organ substitute (toaster to you) for the purpose.

The great irony here is that Manchester possess an organ (derelict but even now probably restorable) that was built to hold its own against 2,000 lusty Methodists.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N02080

 

I'd be astonished if Wayne Marshall (no enemy of the Romantic instrument, it should be remembered) was unaware of its existence. Presumably, there was never any question of a brand-new concert hall being supplied with a second-hand symphonic organ.

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The great irony here is that Manchester possess an organ (derelict but even now probably restorable) that was built to hold its own against 20000 lusty Methodists.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N02080

 

I'd be astonished if Wayne Marshall (no enemy of the Romantic instrument, it should be remembered) was unaware of its existence. Presumably, there was never any question of a brand-new concert hall being supped with a second-hand symphonic organ.

 

 

An impressive beast! According to the NPOR it's still there, too.

It would be well worth re-housing if this one is anything to go by:

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=H00088

 

 

This gave us all a thrill when The Organ Club was in town about two years ago; it was possibly the greatest single surprise of the Chester and North Wales tour.

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The great irony here is that Manchester possess an organ (derelict but even now probably restorable) that was built to hold its own against 20000 lusty Methodists.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N02080

 

I'd be astonished if Wayne Marshall (no enemy of the Romantic instrument, it should be remembered) was unaware of its existence. Presumably, there was never any question of a brand-new concert hall being supped with a second-hand symphonic organ.

 

 

As to whether anyone in Wayne's position would ever consider re-housing a redundant organ for a superdoop new hall, well don't hold your breath! I suggested this idea to the gent who informed me of the current problem at The RAM - politically, (he said) anything that goes in has to be state-of-the-art and brand new. Unspoken, but one hopes at least UK builders would be considered this time around.

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As opposed to the now, thankfully scuppered RCO organ!

 

 

Indeed, and (as I understand it) serving officers of the RCO at the time jaunted all over Europe to find their ideal organ-builder for that project...

.

[pause]

.

... at members' expense.

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An impressive beast!

It was indeed. I played it a few times in the early 80s. The hall closed for worship in 1970 and was being used as a clearing-house for furniture and domestic equipment for distribution to those in need. One could gain entry by ringing the bell on the door to the back stars. One of the caretakers enjoyed hearing the organ played. At the time it was in surprisingly good mechanical order, although spectacularly out of tune. I believe that a consortium of enthusiasts were trying to find a new home for it and were carrying out some maintenance. I also remember that it was so loud (but most definitely magnificently rather than oppressively so) that I'm quite sure that if the 2000 Methodists that I mentioned in my last post had set themselves up on the opposite side of the street in the Free Trade Hall, then this organ could still have led their singing.

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It was indeed. I played it a few times in the early 80s. The hall closed for worship in 1970 and was being used as a clearing-house for furniture and domestic equipment for distribution to those in need. One could gain entry by ringing the bell on the door to the back stars. One of the caretakers enjoyed hearing the organ played. At the time it was in surprisingly good mechanical order, although spectacularly out of tune. I believe that a consortium of enthusiasts were trying to find a new home for it and were carrying out some maintenance. I also remember that it was so loud (but most definitely magnificently rather than oppressively so) that I'm quite sure that if the 2000 Methodists that I mentioned in my last post had set themselves up on the opposite side of the street in the Free Trade Hall, then this organ could still have led their singing.

 

 

I hope Harfo is reading this correspondence. I believe he was after the redundant four-manual Walker that has recently been rescued from (what will by now be a building site in) Central London by a posse from Abertillery, South Wales (with the help of friends).

 

Think what a large church or a public school chapel could do with such an organ!

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Think what a large church or a public school chapel could do with such an organ!

Absolutely! Once you’ve replaced the tuba with a larigot, the No1 open with a terz-zimbel and the open wood with a rhorschalmei, you'd have a most versatile instrument.

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Absolutely! Once you’ve replaced the tuba with a larigot, the No1 open with a terz-zimbel and the open wood with a rhorschalmei, you'd have a most versatile instrument.

 

Ah, but you'd have to be a famous name to get away with it.

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As a would-be musician, I should know that music can only be made upon a mechanical action instrument. Oh dear......

 

I can't resist relaying a conversation I was told about between a resident and a visiting organ tutor at the RNCM (who had better remain nameless - let's call them A and B!). B was presenting an argument similar to that which PD is gently mocking above. A threw down a challenge - he would take B on a tour of Manchester's organs, not let B see the console, but sit in the church and listen to A playing, and from that would have to judge whether the organ had mechanical action or not. B's response - 'Ah, but you'll vary your touch so I can't tell'.

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I can't resist relaying a conversation I was told about between a resident and a visiting organ tutor at the RNCM (who had better remain nameless - let's call them A and B!). B was presenting an argument similar to that which PD is gently mocking above. A threw down a challenge - he would take B on a tour of Manchester's organs, not let B see the console, but sit in the church and listen to A playing, and from that would have to judge whether the organ had mechanical action or not. B's response - 'Ah, but you'll vary your touch so I can't tell'.

 

 

Gently mocking or not, it is my firm opinion that mechanical action is (in the final analysis) for either the players' or the builders' benefit. Assuming that excessive wind-pressures are avoided, I am confident that no listener would ever be able to tell the difference in an instrument of any size. If I wished to pronounce on an organ merely from the sound and predict the action, I would be guided by the tone of the reed stops. The more rasping, brittle or rattling they are, the more I would expect the action to be mechanical. I am not mocking here, merely stating my experience.

 

The bit that annoys me is that 'experts' will pontificate on the matter. A sort of snobbery enters into the matter in no small way. IMHO Such designers are born-again purists, as dangerous as any fundamentalist! As for mechanical action being longer lived than a well-made electro-pneumatic, this may be true for instruments laid out after the manner of Germany or Holland two hundred and more years ago, but modern trackers do not seem longer lived than their contemporary assisted actions, far from it! This is a sales pitch that sits on very questionable foundations now.

 

The better UK firms seem able nowadays to produce well-made tracker actions and well-voiced reeds with a body and attack that rarely come from the competition. Some of the imported organs of the last twenty years do not compare at all well in this regard. I'm thinking of such sounds as come from the Klais at Smith Square or St.Lawrence Jewry or the Reiger in Oxford. The point is, our builders are used to having to cope with the testing acoustic of smaller, drier buildings. Part of the remarkable success of USA firms in this regard must be put down to the revealingly harsh acoustic into which many of their instruments are installed.

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Hello boarders

 

"Gently mocking or not, it is my firm opinion that mechanical action is (in the final analysis) for either the players' or the builders' benefit. Assuming that excessive wind-pressures are avoided, I am confident that no listener would ever be able to tell the difference in an instrument of any size."

 

I disagree, if only because a good organist will play differently on a good mechanical action.

 

"this may be true for instruments laid out after the manner of Germany or Holland two hundred and more years ago, but modern trackers do not seem longer lived than their contemporary assisted actions, far from it!"

 

which says everything about the quality of the modern instruments in question, but nothing about the argument in general.

 

"I'm thinking of such sounds as come from the Klais at Smith Square or St.Lawrence Jewry"

 

Yuk.

 

"Part of the remarkable success of USA firms in this regard must be put down to the revealingly harsh acoustic into which many of their instruments are installed."

 

A nice idea. But assuming we're talking about the same US firms (Fritts, Pasi, Richards/Fowkes, Brombaugh etc, the greats in other words) then it also has to do with a generation of research into historical practices in Germany and Holland. Remember also that the vast majority of smaller historic organs (and some larger ones) in Holland, Northern Germany, Thurinigia, Saxony etc are in very dry churches. The big famous organs in the big churches are the exception. But who today can make a trumpet as beautiful as Arp Schnitger could in those dry village churches in Northern Germany?

 

"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! "

 

There was a report on a website in NL about 2 years ago I guess that Flentrop had had to repair that organ because the façade pipes had started to collapse under their own weight... The idea to build an organ in a style specific to the literature was a very good one. The idea to order it from Van den Heuvel wasn't.

 

"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."

 

It is perfectly possible to understand the C-C aesthetic from a 2 manual instrument. Such is the genius of the C-C aesthetic and its relationship to the literature.

 

"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."

 

While we are very very glad that the Liverpool organ was spared, it seems a pity that his conservationist streak didn't stop him desecrating other people's organs.

 

http://www.albany.edu/piporg-l/JCH.html

 

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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Hello boarders

 

"Gently mocking or not, it is my firm opinion that mechanical action is (in the final analysis) for either the players' or the builders' benefit. Assuming that excessive wind-pressures are avoided, I am confident that no listener would ever be able to tell the difference in an instrument of any size."

 

I disagree, if only because a good organist will play differently on a good mechanical action.

 

"this may be true for instruments laid out after the manner of Germany or Holland two hundred and more years ago, but modern trackers do not seem longer lived than their contemporary assisted actions, far from it!"

 

which says everything about the quality of the modern instruments in question, but nothing about the argument in general.

 

"I'm thinking of such sounds as come from the Klais at Smith Square or St.Lawrence Jewry"

 

Yuk.

 

"Part of the remarkable success of USA firms in this regard must be put down to the revealingly harsh acoustic into which many of their instruments are installed."

 

A nice idea. But assuming we're talking about the same US firms (Fritts, Pasi, Richards/Fowkes, Brombaugh etc, the greats in other words) then it also has to do with a generation of research into historical practices in Germany and Holland. Remember also that the vast majority of smaller historic organs (and some larger ones) in Holland, Northern Germany, Thurinigia, Saxony etc are in very dry churches. The big famous organs in the big churches are the exception. But who today can make a trumpet as beautiful as Arp Schnitger could in those dry village churches in Northern Germany?

 

"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! "

 

There was a report on a website in NL about 2 years ago I guess that Flentrop had had to repair that organ because the façade pipes had started to collapse under their own weight... The idea to build an organ in a style specific to the literature was a very good one. The idea to order it from Van den Heuvel wasn't.

 

"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."

 

It is perfectly possible to understand the C-C aesthetic from a 2 manual instrument. Such is the genius of the C-C aesthetic and its relationship to the literature.

 

"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."

 

While we are very very glad that the Liverpool organ was spared, it seems a pity that his conservationist streak didn't stop him desecrating other people's organs.

 

http://www.albany.edu/piporg-l/JCH.html

 

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

 

Right Mr.B!!!

I sit 'Crushed', but not yet defeated. Of course, I am only giving my opinions, you are perfectly entitled to yours!

 

Points seriatim:

1. Provided a player learns from the historic instruments he or she meets, the instrument used for a particular performance subsequently need not have a pure mechanical action, need it?

 

2. It was modern/recent tracker organs I was discussing.

 

3. Not surprised that you agree about the instruments I've named, good taste is not that rare!

 

4. Yes, thorough research is good. I notice you don't include Fisk in your list, this is wise. For all the research Fisk and his successors have done, their instruments still sound far too loud to my ears. Mind you, so do those by our own G&G!

 

5. Please suggest any French organ symphony by any composer that can be correctly registered and played on two manuals. You will find odd movements that are satisfactory, 'anything is possible'. I recently heard Messiean's Transports de Joie played remarkably well on a small two-decker in Paris. However, just because something is possible, this does not make it in any way ideal. Proper planning should forsee such needs!

 

6. I have some ranks of pipes here that were voiced by Henry Willis 4. He recycled old/romantic pipes like mad, this is true. He also got very acceptable results from them. Would that all owners/managers of famous firms knew how to voice for themselves and get musical results! The point is, he did nothing that other contemporary firms did not do to historic organs. I challenge you to name me any major firm that turned down this sort of work and stayed in business! My favourite target for criticism is our present Chairman of BIOS - there's a pair of hands that planned destruction/disruption on a major scale wherever that firm went.

 

Not trying to battle this one out, merely to stand my ground, you understand.

 

Sincere greetings,

Cynic [aka PD]

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:P :P :P ...

 

I would just like to add one -strange, as always- comment: good pneumatic organs

have an attack of their own, which is quite interesting and must be preserved.

It is particularly suited to the Legato playing and massed chords with that unforgettable

"wave" effect.

As for reliability, as already said, we have in Belgium some Kerkhoff organs which

can do for 50 years without any maintenance at all. Not even cleaning -the thing will

be off-tune, but working-.

 

Pierre

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:P :P :P ...

 

I would just like to add one -strange, as always- comment: good pneumatic organs

have an attack of their own, which is quite interesting and must be preserved.

It is particularly suited to the Legato playing and massed chords with that unforgettable

"wave" effect.

As for reliability, as already said, we have in Belgium some Kerkhoff organs which

can do for 50 years without any maintenance at all. Not even cleaning -the thing will

be off-tune, but working-.

 

Pierre

 

 

I have met some Rover* pneumatic action organs in Germany that are still playing pretty well (and sounding fabulous) at a hundred years old!

* mit umlaut - not to be confused with any branch of British Leyland.

 

I used to be organist of a huge Binns organ in Shrewsbury. That was new in 1912 and still plays with its original action, without rebuild and very largely still with all its original leatherwork.

 

One of my favourite HN&B organs, St.Eanswythe's in Folkestone (c.1930) was condemned as unplayable many years ago and replaced with a Copeman Hart. That was still playing well enough for us to record upon it in the late 1990s.

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"I used to be organist of a huge Binns organ in Shrewsbury. That was new in 1912 and still plays with its original action, without rebuild and very largely still with all its original leatherwork."

 

I've played it. It still has (or had) its original console furniture as well. I had the impression that it was crammed into a chamber far too small for it, but it had an undeniable something!

 

"As for reliability, as already said, we have in Belgium some Kerkhoff organs which

can do for 50 years without any maintenance at all. Not even cleaning -the thing will

be off-tune, but working-."

 

I've played one of those too (Lennik if you're wondering PL), also VERY charming.

 

"I sit 'Crushed'"

 

Oh please, I didn't intend to crush you! :P

 

"Provided a player learns from the historic instruments he or she meets, the instrument used for a particular performance subsequently need not have a pure mechanical action, need it?"

 

But why re-invent the wheel if the historic organ builder did it so well? The problem is that most modern mechanical builders still try to make actions which feel as close as possible to electric actions (too light, no pluck) to satisfy customers who want the mechanical action to satisfy their conscience but don't want to play any differently than if they were playing on a non-mechanical action. Mechanical actions, if done well, justify themselves in terms of longetivity alone. As a musician I don't like to play my instrument by remote control, (most other instrumentalists would also find it strange). Nobody would claim that Alkmaar, Freiberg (fill in your favourite large historic pre-1800 with its original action) have anything other than fantastic actions, but they're seriously heavy and you have to adjust your playing to accommodate. This doesn't mean that the concept is irrelevant in modern organ building.

 

"Please suggest any French organ symphony by any composer that can be correctly registered and played on two manuals."

 

The point is that this is a teaching instrument. If the Rieger (not Reiger PD, this is the Dutch word for heron!) across the road can be considered a relevant teaching tool then why do we have to be so picky as to insist that a C-C copy has to have 3 manuals instead of two? The biggest problem is perhaps the addition of the Anches Positif. So add the Trompette and the 2' and leave the Fourniture and Clairon for the Anches GO. Problem solved.

 

"The point is, he did nothing that other contemporary firms did not do to historic organs. I challenge you to name me any major firm that turned down this sort of work and stayed in business!"

 

But HW IV seemingly did. In Liverpool. See the previous post.

 

"Not trying to battle this one out, merely to stand my ground, you understand."

 

Me too! :P And trying to put off the inevitable translating chores.

 

Bazuin

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Guest Cynic
snip

 

But why re-invent the wheel if the historic organ builder did it so well? The problem is that most modern mechanical builders still try to make actions which feel as close as possible to electric actions (too light, no pluck) to satisfy customers who want the mechanical action to satisfy their conscience but don't want to play any differently than if they were playing on a non-mechanical action. Mechanical actions, if done well, justify themselves in terms of longetivity alone. As a musician I don't like to play my instrument by remote control, (most other instrumentalists would also find it strange). Nobody would claim that Alkmaar, Freiberg (fill in your favourite large historic pre-1800 with its original action) have anything other than fantastic actions, but they're seriously heavy and you have to adjust your playing to accommodate. This doesn't mean that the concept is irrelevant in modern organ building.

 

snip

 

But HW IV seemingly did. In Liverpool. See the previous post.

#

 

Odd comments:

The point about Henry 4 at Liverpool was mine, actually!

Whether Willises 'stayed in business' is a moot point. He made no easy friends, and if he stood up to some 'experts' well, good for him.

 

Equally important to how an instrument feels under one's fingers is knowing how it sounds. With large organs there will be compromises at many points. You can play a vast, impressive old organ in Holland and be the only person in the church who doesn't know what effect your playing is having. I'm not for electrifying these, God preserve us!! But I am for anything which makes music-making more effective. For some players that is a light action, for others, an authentic-feeling action for the period of the composition. For me, it is how the instrument sounds to me and to my audience. Music is to be listened to, not least by the executant. I quite like to hear how it all behaves in the acoustic too, if I can.

 

If you said to an orchestral player, 'you can play manually, but for this or that concert you won't be able to hear any nuances of your playing at all clearly'... this would be as much anathema as asking them to play by remote control. So...compromise sometimes....particularly when we can?

 

[Whoops...Sorry about 'Reiger' - I'm the same with Neil and Niel!]

 

 

C

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At the risk of monopolising the board this afternoon, (I'll go away after this I promise)

 

"Equally important to how an instrument feels under one's fingers is knowing how it sounds."

 

But making the link between the two is the special bit. Which is why a 1920-something Sauer with all its 8's works beautifully with pneumatic action, why St Sulpice works beautifully with its Barker lever and Liverpool works beautifully with its EP action. The point is that the action in each case reflects the sound-aesthetic of the organ, and, hence, the way you play it perfectly. When everything is in harmony you are inspired and so is your audience.

 

If you said to an orchestral player, 'you can play manually, but for this or that concert you won't be able to hear any nuances of your playing at all clearly'...

 

The quite-soon-to-be-Mrs Bazuin is a professional (orchestral) violinist. She plays in many different concert halls and frequently can't hear much of what she plays at all. As organists, even in big Dutch churches, we are spoiled by comparison.

 

Bazuin

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Indeed, and (as I understand it) serving officers of the RCO at the time jaunted all over Europe to find their ideal organ-builder for that project...

.

[pause]

.

... at members' expense.

 

 

Indeed. In fact, if I remember correctly, this was not the only thing on which they wasted copious quantities of members' money....

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I hope Harfo is reading this correspondence. I believe he was after the redundant four-manual Walker that has recently been rescued from (what will by now be a building site in) Central London by a posse from Abertillery, South Wales (with the help of friends).

 

Think what a large church or a public school chapel could do with such an organ!

 

Which instrument is this, please, Cynic?

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