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Hammond Organs V. Digital


Vox Humana
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The phone rang. On the other end was some woman who had been given my details. She explained that her father had recently died leaving a "wonderful Hammond organ" and she was hoping I could suggest a deserving organist or church who might buy it from her. It was, she assured me, quite new, state-of-the-art and produced a glorious sound.

 

I'm afraid the conversation was quite short. I put it to her - really quite politely, I thought - that such an instrument would be of little interest to the classical pipe organists in our local association and that digital organ technology was capable of producing far more realistic organ sounds than anything a Hammond organ could. She put the phone down, muttering huffily, "Well, I can see you're not interested". A fair summary, I thought.

 

However, it occurred to me afterwards that since I have not heard a Hammond recently, my assumptions might be wholly incorrect. I imagine that Hammond have continued to capitalise on the distinctive tone-wheel sound for which they are famous and are not particularly interested in competing in the substitute pipe organ market, but I'm only guessing.

 

So (leaving aside the unquestionable superiority of pipe organs): was I being unfair about Hammonds?

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Guest Lee Blick
The phone rang. On the other end was some woman who had been given my details. She explained that her father had recently died leaving a "wonderful Hammond organ" and she was hoping I could suggest a deserving organist or church who might buy it from her. It was, she assured me, quite new, state-of-the-art and produced a glorious sound.

 

I have been offered far worse over the years from horrid little Bontempis to ancient Conn organs. I hate all home organs, especially the split keyboards. Why can't they afford to make them full compass. And the little bar pedals makes me want to stamp on them until they break. Unfortunately I once arrived at a beautiful little 15th century counrty church to play for a wedding only to find it had a Yamaha organ. I had to play Widor's Toccata on it. :P

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The phone rang. On the other end was some woman who had been given my details. She explained that her father had recently died leaving a "wonderful Hammond organ" and she was hoping I could suggest a deserving organist or church who might buy it from her. It was, she assured me, quite new, state-of-the-art and produced a glorious sound.

 

I'm afraid the conversation was quite short. I put it to her - really quite politely, I thought - that such an instrument would be of little interest to the classical pipe organists in our local association and that digital organ technology was capable of producing far more realistic organ sounds than anything a Hammond organ could. She put the phone down, muttering huffily, "Well, I can see you're not interested". A fair summary, I thought.

 

However, it occurred to me afterwards that since I have not heard a Hammond recently, my assumptions might be wholly incorrect. I imagine that Hammond have continued to capitalise on the distinctive tone-wheel sound for which they are famous and are not particularly interested in competing in the substitute pipe organ market, but I'm only guessing.

 

So (leaving aside the unquestionable superiority of pipe organs): was I being unfair about Hammonds?

 

 

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

 

 

Actually, the old Hammond concert "A" series (tonewheel) had full pedal-boards, more or less (30 note?) and were quite good for classical practise, with an AGO layout.

 

The new Hammonds are, of course, digital, but are quite capable of replicating the old tone-wheel sound, complete with "key plop" transients, which were such a distinctive feature of the sound.

 

Of course, the Hammond Organ really excels as a jazz-combo instrument, and quite a few legendary names have been associated with them. Harry Stoneham is the supreme British master of jazz-organ.

 

I quite agree with Lee, that actually finding a suitable pre-digital electronic at a reasonable price can be quite difficult, but the various older Johannus products are worthy enough in the home, and are now something of a bargain.

 

Most other makes would fall apart long before a Johannus pre-digital, I suspect.

 

MM

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Guest Barry Williams

I agree with Mr MM that the older Johannus instruments are very good for home rehearsal. The touch is postive; the sound is clean and well regulated. These instruments are in tune, unlike many more recent electronic insturments and there is a reasonable variety of tone. An excellent Opus 235 served us well until my domestic organ adviser (wife) decided it had to go in favour of a pipe organ.

 

Barry Williams

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There was a large Hammond organ in Canterbury Cathedral - I think on the South end of the screen- around 1977. This sounded OK - if played realtively quietly.

 

A friend of mine has had a Johannus organ at home that he has pounded daily for the last 25 years - still going strong!

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There was a large Hammond organ in Canterbury Cathedral - I think on the South end of the screen- around 1977. This sounded OK - if played realtively quietly.

The one they had in the mid-60s (possibly an earlier model) made a horribly oppressive sort of noise - I hated having to be at services when it was used.

 

Paul

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My first thought was is it actually a Hammond, or was that just a generic term for "electronic organ", as I have heard it used.

 

Paul

 

Hammond eventually brought out a whole range of instruments, mostly of the home variety. Even the early `big' full two manual and pedal + on occasions a pedal solo department going down to 32', never sounded like an authentic pipe organ unless you were the sort of person who in those days couldn't tell margarine from butter. (With `digital' substitutes it is more difficult these days).

 

They were mechanical excellence, complicated (and heavy) and even the digital type, designed to do away with the mechanical moving parts effectively replicated the famous and very distinctive `Hammond' sound.

 

Have a look on e-Bay, there are always some available there.

 

FF

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My first thought was is it actually a Hammond, or was that just a generic term for "electronic organ", as I have heard it used.

 

Paul

That did occur to me afterwards too, but there was never any suggestion that the deceased had been a serious musician - or any sort of musician at all, come to that.

 

It may not be irrelevant that enquirer has some connection with a local church which, having spent £20,000 rebuilding its organ six years ago, has recently dispensed with the services of its organist, not because of anything the organist has done, but because the church no longer has any need for him.

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That did occur to me afterwards too, but there was never any suggestion that the deceased had been a serious musician - or any sort of musician at all, come to that.

 

It may not be irrelevant that enquirer has some connection with a local church which, having spent £20,000 rebuilding its organ six years ago, has recently dispensed with the services of its organist, not because of anything the organist has done, but because the church no longer has any need for him.

Forgive my ignorance, but what do they (and similarly minded places) do for funerals and weddings?

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I confess I don't know, but I believe the organist is still available to be called up for occasions when one is needed. Knowing this church, however, those might be quite few. I remember turning up for a concert rehearsal after evensong a few years ago to find that the outgoing voluntary was a piece of very loud, canned rock music (or garbage, or bum and dross, or whatever - I don't pretend to know these styles!) At a funeral the coffin would probably be more likely to toddle out to "I did it my way" than an organ.

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Forgive my ignorance but what do they (and similarly minded places) do for funerals and weddings?

I have just provided a friend with a CD of organ music, custom played and recorded by me, the CD to be played at her (imminent) funeral. It's the way she wants it; and she's found it a consolation to have been able to hear it in advance...

 

Paul

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I have just provided a friend with a CD of organ music, custom played and recorded by me, the CD to be played at her (imminent) funeral. It's the way she wants it; and she's found it a consolation to have been able to hear it in advance...

 

Paul

 

While Paul's kind and thoughtful gesture has provided for this particular lady, I rather doubt she is the only person confronting this problem, whether the funeral being planned is for oneself or another. Yet to the best of my knowledge CDs of music suitable for a funeral or memorial service are almost as rare as hen's teeth: the only ones of which I am aware are the Priory Compilation CD and one by the theatre organist John Mann entitled "Music for a Solemn Occasion". By contrast bridal couples are quite generously provided for, including CDs performed on significant organs by players of the calibre of Kevin Bowyer. Yet fewer people are opting to get married while everyone (apart from those lost at sea , obliterated by high explosive or incinerated) will require some kind of funeral service. One would have thought there was a gap in the market here since almost all crematoria and a significant number of churches have sound sytems installed either as an alternative to, or as a substitute for, an actual musician in attendance. I appreciate some members of this board earn fees from playing on such occasions and I have no wish to mount an attack on anyone's livelihood but I am quite sure there must be other individuals out there who would like to be reassured that their final journey will not be made to the strains of "My Way" (unless of course that was their express wish). Perhaps Paul should enquire into the possibility of a commercial release ??

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While Paul's kind and thoughtful gesture has provided for this particular lady, I rather doubt she is the only person confronting this problem, whether the funeral being planned is for oneself or another. Yet to the best of my knowledge CDs of music suitable for a funeral or memorial service are almost as rare as hen's teeth: the only ones of which I am aware are the Priory Compilation CD and one by the theatre organist John Mann entitled "Music for a Solemn Occasion". By contrast bridal couples are quite generously provided for, including CDs performed on significant organs by players of the calibre of Kevin Bowyer. Yet fewer people are opting to get married while everyone (apart from those lost at sea , obliterated by high explosive or incinerated) will require some kind of funeral service. One would have thought there was a gap in the market here since almost all crematoria and a significant number of churches have sound sytems installed either as an alternative to, or as a substitute for, an actual musician in attendance. I appreciate some members of this board earn fees from playing on such occasions and I have no wish to mount an attack on anyone's livelihood but I am quite sure there must be other individuals out there who would like to be reassured that their final journey will not be made to the strains of "My Way" (unless of course that was their express wish). Perhaps Paul should enquire into the possibility of a commercial release ??

I agree there's a need - for specially chosen stuff produced as Paul described - but it needs approaching with care (and thoughtful discussion). I'd hate the idea of a commercial CD of "20 Greatest Exit Tunes Ever" which slowly but surely drives everything else out.

 

I played for the funeral of a much loved member of our church earlier today. The nave was full (circa 350) and almost the whole choir (kids and adults) managed to get there. The deceased had specified exactly what he wanted (including something we hadn't sung for over ten years). I don't think we've ever done the Nunc of Stanford in C quite so slowly or with such passion (as the coffin was taken out) and we all felt we'd been able to say 'goodbye' properly. Playing a CD wouldn't have been the same (even though it would have been rather more accurate here and there and much less stress all round). It would have been an intrusion by strangers into 'our' service. Knowing it was a live 'one off' was important.

 

It would be easy to dismiss this as a (very) unusual occurrence, but I've has the same sensation when playing for very simple occasions - the fact that it is being done live makes it something dedicated to that person. The funeral of my uncle with piped music (including 'heavenly choir') and a (standard)address by someone who'd never met him was the most soulless funeral I've ever attended - everyone couldn't wait to get out because it had nothing to do with the person we knew.

 

If this all seems a long way from the original topic I should say that some of our funerals are accompanied on a Gulbransem whilst the mighty FW slumbers opposite!

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The phone rang. On the other end was some woman who had been given my details. She explained that her father had recently died leaving a "wonderful Hammond organ" and she was hoping I could suggest a deserving organist or church who might buy it from her.

I remember once visiting a church just south of Bristol (I think it was St. Thomas, Publow? I will check it out next week) and I remember being suprised to find a Hammond in there. That was in 1995/96 though, IIRC, and the organist at the time was one Mr. John Merchant who presented - at around that time - the "Organ Stop" programme on the BBC Local Radio. That programme was compulsory listening for me and I very sorely miss it. I realise that Nigel Ogden has a programme on BBC Radio 2 but I never remember to listen to that one.

 

So (leaving aside the unquestionable superiority of pipe organs): was I being unfair about Hammonds?

Some people might say yes you are, others might say no you aren't. Depends on musical taste I think.

 

Dave

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Just to remind you that "The Organist Entertains" is now broadcast at 10pm on Tuesdays.

I normally record the programme, but if it is going to feature Hammond organs, then I do not bother, because I am not a Hammond organ lover at all.

I can just about cope with Allen organs.

Colin Richell.

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Thank you, one and all, for your replies. These seem to indicate that at heart the Hammond organ remains a good old Hammond and thus effectively an entirely different instrument to the pipe organ and imitations thereof. It is a unique sound and in the type of light music for which it is appropriate there is probably no substitute, but I feel comfortable with my decision not to encourage its use in a church.

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I agree there's a need - for specially chosen stuff produced as Paul described - but it needs approaching with care (and thoughtful discussion). I'd hate the idea of a commercial CD of "20 Greatest Exit Tunes Ever" which slowly but surely drives everything else out.

 

I played for the funeral of a much loved member of our church earlier today. The nave was full (circa 350) and almost the whole choir (kids and adults) managed to get there. The deceased had specified exactly what he wanted (including something we hadn't sung for over ten years). I don't think we've ever done the Nunc of Stanford in C quite so slowly or with such passion (as the coffin was taken out) and we all felt we'd been able to say 'goodbye' properly. Playing a CD wouldn't have been the same (even though it would have been rather more accurate here and there and much less stress all round). It would have been an intrusion by strangers into 'our' service. Knowing it was a live 'one off' was important.

 

It would be easy to dismiss this as a (very) unusual occurrence, but I've has the same sensation when playing for very simple occasions - the fact that it is being done live makes it something dedicated to that person. The funeral of my uncle with piped music (including 'heavenly choir') and a (standard)address by someone who'd never met him was the most soulless funeral I've ever attended - everyone couldn't wait to get out because it had nothing to do with the person we knew.

 

If this all seems a long way from the original topic I should say that some of our funerals are accompanied on a Gulbransem whilst the mighty FW slumbers opposite!

 

I completely agree that a committed live performance is invariably preferable to a CD though a quality CD performance would certainly have been preferable to one deplorable instance of incompetence and bad manners it was my misfortune to witness which commenced with the player turning up late - since he had the keys nobody else could stand in - and proceeded downhill as it became obvious that if he had ever seen the chosen music before it was a long time ago...Such behaviour is discourteous to the memory of the deceased and unlikely to bring the solace of music to the bereaved!!!

 

That said when I buried (consigned to the flames ?? but could that not be misinterpreted ?) my mother there were 12 people in the crematorium chapel, eight of whom were comprised by my brother and myself, our wives and our 4 children. The officiating minister had never met her, and though he did the best he could, errors of recollection or notetaking were inevitable and the address was by definition impersonal. As more people live alone , this situation is likely to be repeated with increasing frequency. Moreover, crematoria operate to an increasingly tight timetable as becomes obvious when you leave to see the next party already assembled , and possibly even the one after that already starting to form up in the distance. In such situations it may bring peace of mind to some people to be able to pre-plan not only the cost but also the format of their memorial service and to have confidence that they can have the music of their choice competently performed. A CD of appropriate music might be helpful to such people. And whilst I fully accept that made- to- measure is best, ready- to- wear or off- the- peg is what most people have to make do with most of the time.

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I think this is a very strong argument in favour of a church funeral service followed by a brief and purely (or at any rate largely) functional visit to the crematorium.

 

Where I live the church music situation is so dire that when I pop my clogs I would much rather have canned music, or even none at all. In fact the best solution would probably be a no-nonsense funeral followed later by a memorial service with decent music properly organised. Duruflé Requiem, please. :)

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Guest Lee Blick
I think this is a very strong argument in favour of a church funeral service followed by a brief and purely (or at any rate largely) functional visit to the crematorium.

 

Where I live the church music situation is so dire that when I pop my clogs I would much rather have canned music, or even none at all. In fact the best solution would probably be a no-nonsense funeral followed later by a memorial service with decent music properly organised. Duruflé Requiem, please. :)

 

When I shuffle off this mortal coil I will not be having a church funeral but a crematorium service and relying on a CD. I would rather hear a decent four manual organ from my coffin rather than than a crappy electronic one.

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When I shuffle off this mortal coil I will not be having a church funeral but a crematorium service and relying on a CD. I would rather hear a decent four manual organ from my coffin rather than than a crappy electronic one.

 

 

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

 

 

I think I will have a "virtual funeral."

 

MM

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Guest Hector5
When I shuffle off this mortal coil I will not be having a church funeral but a crematorium service and relying on a CD. I would rather hear a decent four manual organ from my coffin rather than than a crappy electronic one.

 

When my wife and I got married, the music for the service was provided by a cathedral organist playing a simulation. What mattered for us was the atmosphere of the day, not what tone-production system the instrument used.

 

I fancy that, for my funeral, there will be NO MUSIC, just a simple affair. I've encountered too many organists funerals recently where the music has been simply bloody, with choirs and organists in turn, trying to impress. After all, who amongst us would rather be present at the organ for their own funeral than listen to a well-meaning substitute murdering pieces they thought the deceased would have liked.

 

I think that it was Woody Allen who said ' I'm not frightened of dying - it's just that I don't want to be there when it happens.................................'

 

Hector (in a rather maudlin mood for a Wednesday)

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I've encountered too many organists funerals recently where the music has been simply bloody, with choirs and organists in turn, trying to impress. After all, who amongst us would rather be present at the organ for their own funeral than listen to a well-meaning substitute murdering pieces they thought the deceased would have liked.
Well, quite! It never ceases to amaze me how, on organist association outings, person after person gets on the bench and blunders their way through something they blatantly can't play - usually on full organ. I've no objection to them letting their hair down as much as they like in private, but why do they imagine that their cacophony is enjoyable for others?

 

VH (in a typically grumpy mood for a Wednesday)

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Guest Lee Blick
It never ceases to amaze me how, on organist association outings, person after person gets on the bench and blunders their way through something they blatantly can't play - usually on full organ.

 

That is why I never want to be a member of one...the thought of a gaggle of elderly men bashing away on their organs, turns me right off. :)

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