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Pierre Lauwers

Save The British Organ Heritage

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We, I mean myself and some others, are very worry about the situation of the organ Heritage in the United Kingdom.

France, Belgium, and Germany, particularly, have seen their Heritage severely damaged since more than 150 years now ; first, a majority of ancient organs have been « updated » in the nineteenth century.

And then the two world wars have taken their toll on what remained.

The massacre did not even end there, for after WW II the « Reform » movement was exactly as disastrous as the 19th century ; not only were romantic organs destroyed, because they were « mistakes », but even important baroque organs have been condemned because they did not fit in the idea the scholars had of « the baroque » then.

That situation lasted up to the 1980’s.

I remember that epoch very well, having fight against it to the point to have to do with some professional restrictions…..You see what I mean.

 

Now in continental Europe we have entered in a more interesting period indeed ; I call it « Post-néo-baroque ».

All organ styles are now viewed as entities in themselves, that are not to be filed in a « Top-ten » manner like the teenagers rate the pop stars.

 

This does not mean there is no more interest with the baroque organ, I’d say quite to the contrary ; the study of the huge baroque heritage goes even deeper, paying attention to minute detail, and above all ranking all regional styles on a par : the typical neo-baroque preconception : « Schnitger-Silbermann-Clicquot are the summits » is over, even, say, a limited, regional school we’d find in the middle of the Abruzzo area, or Süd-Tyrol, or wherever else « in the middle of nowhere » would receive attention and respect, be them « provincial » or not, no matter.

 

But we are back from very far away indeed.

Today in 2007, a good organ-builder can make a credible french Cornet. But we needed

75 years for that !

75 years of trials and errors to be able to build a baroque Cornet again, a common stop that was to be find in every ancient french organ, the smallest included.

This does not mean we had « bad » Cornets during 75 years ; some deserve protection, like many organs they are in, but as 20th century’s creation, not as baroque ones.

 

This points out the importance of the Heritage we still have. If we continue to let it go, we shall never be able to reconstitute it, if a dedicate stage is passed. At a certain moment, we are in a danger zone, a point in which what remains becomes insufficient to ensure we can learn from it to reconstitute credible instruments.

And this is inacceptable in any civilisation with any pretension to be a « develloped » one.

 

We have the strong impression Britain experiences today, in 2007, the same situation that we had here up to the mid 80’s.

And we want to say : « WARNING, do not make the mistakes we did ».

 

I would like to present some points :

 

 

1)- There is no hierarchy among the styles.

 

To decide –on which grounds ?- style A is « better » than style B equates to « playing God ». Who am I to judge a style, which is a complex creation that summarizes a whole culture ?

Can I decide that, for example, the 18th century organ-builders in the London area were erring in the deepest darkness ? Or the italians in Venetia ?

Why would I do that, save because I do not like what they did ?

But must my taste decide to transmit or not to the next generations something I inherited, as if it were mine ?

 

 

2)- The « Repertoire » notion is a disastrous God-playing game, intended to

make us act as if we were immortal.

 

 

Sorry, but here we deal with nothing else than a fad. Who are we to decide the music we play today is, pedantly said, « Repertoire », while what was played in the 19th century was « fashion » ?

Are we cleverer than our ancestors ? Why ? Because we have more technology ?

But would we have these technologies if we would go back in the 19th century to « delete » it ?

This « Repertoire » fad leads to infinitely dangerous misconceptions.

Seen as a Holy Law, it allows us to decreet any organ should conform to :

 

-What we play today

-The way we play it (supposedly « correct », which is seldom the case !)

 

And so we judge, and act as if the following generations would think the same –something we should know never happens-.

But we prefer to oversee that, of course ; our children are ever wrong ! ah, these youths, during my time, they would (etc etc etc), a tune as old as the mankind.

 

Any organ style fits in a dedicate cultural environment, like the music that was played in that place and time. In order to be able to continue to devellop itself, our civilisation needs to keep

all these stages as a backup ; should we delete one, then a following generation will be lost, having to reconstitute it, like the 75 Reform years in the 20th century.

 

So, rather than judging any style as « inferior » because it does not suit our today’s fads, we should protect what we do not like in the very first place , as endangered species.

The implementation of our wishes we should restrict to the organs build new today.

The others do simply not belong to us, and we have not the right to « better » them.

 

 

 

3)- There are no « Truths », but only liars.

 

Save the Bible I know of no « Truth », because there is nothing more subject to change than those « Truths » the historic material is crammed with ! and why would it go differently with what we think today ?

Again, are we wiser than our ancestors ?

Let us take two strongly opinioned authors : G-A Audsley, and Norbert Dufourcq.

Both tell us strong « Truths », but they are nearly 100% the reverse from each other.

Would you dare decide which one is the « good » one ?

So whenever we think we know the Truth, we lie.

 

4)- There is nothing more letal for any historic organ than a top virtuoso titular.

 

 

These should absolutely restrict themselves to modern organs –I do not mean anytime, they

can of course give Recitals on them, but as « organiste titulaire » !-

I know this sounds strange, but it is a fact we realize more everyday : top players, highly educated and trained, are deeply involved in the « social games » of their day. They play what is fashionable today, the way it « must » be played today.

They are in sheer competition with their peers, a serious affair !

Now let’s imagine we give them a Trost, a Joachim Wagner, a Wender organ, as Bach played them : be absolutely sure they will say these organs are not suited for Bach, only the Silbermanns –a builder Bach disagreed with !- or the Hildebrandts will do, while the actual

palette of organs Bach played was wider by far.

Take whatever historic organ you want, from a Renaissance type up to a Arthur Harrison, none will permit present-day « virtuosity ». Virtuosity today is not the same as Bach’s or

W.T. Best’s !

Console design, weight of touch, key travel, attack, articulation, dynamic wind behavior, response of action, speed…..All differ from one kind to another, and none conforms to

Today’s standard, which may be summarized as « a chamber-organ-like touch in any organ, the biggest included ».

Now give this old thing –this invaluable treasure- to a Mr « I’m in the top three and I want to overtake Jones »……And see what disaster will soon happen. I won’t cite examples since they are so numerous I’d fill many pages more.

Historic organs need to be in the care of introverted, poet players who do not care about

social games, like for example Charles Tournemire , when asked why he played a meditation on a Voix céleste at the end of the Mass :

 

-« Monsieur, why do you play so softly for the exit ?

 

-« It is the exit ? Then, go out ! »

 

(This said, I reckon even Tournemire tinkered with the organ he had in charge, so even that is not enough !)

 

5. The british Orgellandschaft is a particularly rich and interesting one.

 

Yes, those tiny « music boxes » with no Pedals and strange, « wrong » Mixtures, as they were described by a leading british virtuoso in the 1980’s, are actually infinitely precious things, and here I shall attempt to explain shortly why :

 

We can take for granted all organ types we know to descent from two Renaissance foyers :

 

1)- The Brabanter organ (Netherlands, then Liège in Belgium, other belgian areas) of the Niehoff type ;

 

2)- The Northern italian Renaissance organ.

 

The first evolved from the medieval Blockwerk, and is the ancestor of the german, flemish, Liège, french and spanish organs ;

The second, also evolving from the Blockwerk, gave birth to the classic italian (actually nearly the same as the Renaissance, with only regional idiosyncrasies) organ, the provencal organ AND…….Yes, the pre-Cromwell british organ.

It is a RIPIENO organ, also a Diapason chorus, always based on an open 8’, with each rank on a seperate slide, and which ranks are named by numbers (douzième, quinzième, Vigesimanona, Twelfth, Fifteenth..)

 

When the Restoration came the organs were rebuild –often replaced !- by builders coming from France and Germany/ Holland : the Dallams and the Harrises back from France, Bernhard Schmidt from Germany (where he learned with the same master than….Trost !), also we have here the first synthesis between the two branches of the tree, the next one

happening in central Europe, with italian influencies having commenced to enter in central Europe (southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, up to Poland) early, but with the real breaktrough in 1703 with the Casparini organ at Görlitz, a major synthesis between italian and german styles, designed by Casparini after having spent many years working in the venetian area.

Even this new style (which, by the way, is the very Bach organ style in the second part of his career…) entered the UK with Johannes Schnetzler…..Later, many others foreign inluencies will happen (Schulze, etc) ; all in all, the british organ is an exceptionnaly diverse, interesting and precious one.

This diversity must be maintained and protected. We need backups from all of these forms.

 

 

6)- In order to have enough backups, we need to keep all what we can.

 

 

There are enough treads upon organs anyway to ensure we shall never have, say, ten baroque organs in a little town. The fires, the floodings, the closing churches and others reasons to move organs are enough by far to limit any style representation to an acceptable level.

And this, of course, provided we avoid future wars, revolutions and other games of the same kind the mankind is so fond of…

Of course we shall ever have more organs belonging to the previous fashion –which is always the “worse”- at hand, because the time has not made the household yet; please avoid to help!

 

 

7)- A 100% original historic organ barely exists.

 

….And so we often have several layers of historic “Substanz”.

During the Neo-baroque period it was customary to empty the case, keep only the supposed oldest material, and build what was supposedly a baroque organ round it.

That way, a typical neo-baroque “Restoration” may be summarized like this: 12 4’ Flute pipes

kept, 2500 “romantic” pipes on the trash, 250 original, baroque pipes trashed because they were Hautbois and Viola di Gamba, which “could not be original since these stops did not exist then” , and 2750 new pipes by XYZ Gmbh after Töpfer scales.

(I do not even exagerrate; it WAS so).

In order to avoid further losses, we should or keep the organ in its last coherent form, or, if we decide to go a step or two earlier, make sure we can use the discarded material in another organ, and this, immediately, never with a storage in between…. We all know how the story of stored organ parts often ends!

 

Well, enough said for this time. I could go on with a book –if interested, you can present me with a deal-…With the closing of churches etc there are already too much valuable british organs to be find on E-Bay.

Is that acceptable?

What would you say if the Louvre museum offered its collections on E-Bay?

And then not enough, changing tastes, expressed as “needs”, are taking another,

heavy toll.

Please pay attention to the british organ Heritage. You are the keepers, not the owners; it belongs to us all, worldwide, plus our children, grand-children, etc.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers

Organ historian

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I shall give this some thought, but I tend to think that evolution is as important a part of organ-history as preservation, and what many would regard as preservation, is probably evolutionary anyway.

 

The business of music-making does not stand still, and for art to be a living entity rather than a purely historic one, then in the most important musical situations, the organ must move with the times; even where this may amount to a degree of "fad" and fashion.

 

If Pierre were to choose a style of British organ-building, I am sure that we could provide extant examples for his listening pleasure.

 

We have a few relatively unaltered instrument from the 17th and 18th century, and there are still hundreds of 19th century organs which remain as they were built.

 

Should anyone require a Fr Willis, a T C Lewis; a William Hill, a Binns, a Wadsworth, a Taylor, a J W Walker and most of the rest, we still have plenty of them.

 

From the 1920's to 1950, we still have a large number of Arthur Harrison's; Willis 3's; Hill, Norman & Beard's; Rushworth & Dreaper's.....even a few Hope-Jones' instruments to delight and bemuse.

 

The problem is, many people see things as historical artefacts, and others see things as vehicles for progressive art, and the two concepts are almost incompatible.

 

That said, we are all aware of tragedies and losses, but sometimes, we are up against a church which seeks renewal, but then arrogates to itself the position of the iconoclast; paying not the slightest heed to the fact that the majority of organs in churches were GIVEN by individuals. It says something about churches and the English psyche, that anyone found stoning a medieval stained-glass window to death, would probably be jailed, but if someone takes a bulldozer to a Father Willis, only a few organists bother to protest.

 

It's an odd thing really, but in Europe, only one country has consciously attempted to preserve its historic organ heritage, and gone down the path of exact restoration. I doubt that I need to actually name Holland as that country.

 

Other countries, such as the Eastern European ones, have simply not spent money, and many of the old organs remain untouched, often in a bad state, or simply unplayable. That's a kind of negative preservation, I suppose.

 

Of course, knowing how things worked in the 17th and 18th centuries, we must question the dubious activities of organ-builders like Arp Schnitger, who was quite happy to include considerable portions of old instruments, make considerable changes and then call the end result his own.

 

If I personally have regrets, then it would be towards Germany that I would point a finger of accusation, because there seem to be very, very few Steinmeyer organs, only a few good Walckers, and not that many Sauer instruments. Worse still, there was an almost systematic eradiction of Polish organs in the previously German sector of that country, with many important historic instruments changed drastically.

 

However, I still believe that the "classical" character of the instrument was largely lost in Britain, and that made the country insular and nationalistic in the extreme. In many instances, organs were built which were, (and still are,)patently wrong.

 

If we were in the position that organs became a protected species, it wouldn't do very much for living art, would it?

 

 

MM

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Guest Cynic

I'm with Pierre. I think attempts to 'improve' an organ or 'bring in into line with modern requirements' are acutely in error. We are virtually incapable of making new stops in the style of these older instruments but we still happily sling these out only for others to pay heavily to restore the instrument only a few years later.

 

The three-manual H&H at Abingdon Parish Church is a fine example of this. Quite recently (and with a great flourish) H&H have restored this (at enormous cost) to the exact specification that it had before; in between, some whizz kid (and I don't mind whom, because so many other organists would have done the same at the time) pulled it about and tried to turn this silk purse into a multi-purpose sow's ear.

 

I'm for commissioning totally new organs, or renovating but not pulling-about old ones. I'm for revelling in the differences between instruments, not assuming that because certain repertoire is unsuited to a particular instrument that this is a reason to vandalise it.

 

The worrying thing, and what Pierre point out to us, is that we in the UK are well behind the times. In the rest of Europe organ-lovers value their unspoiled romantic organs, while we are still ruthlessly revoicing and re-casting ours. Far from continental organists looking down their noses at such organs as Kings College Cambridge or St.Mary Redcliffe, they actually envy us.

 

Near here a major parish church (not Holy Trinity Hull, in case anyone jumps to a conclusion) is in acute trouble because the vicar (long in post) publicly objects to the style of music which was well-established and carefully set down in statute before he arrived. Why ever did he go there? He could have been quite happy in 90% of other churches, and someone sympathetic to good music could have held this particular post instead of one of Goliath's descendents. The same question should be asked of organists who are totally out of sympathy with their instruments - if you hate a particular organ - play somewhere else! This policy would save so much money and these regular acts of vandalism. We need more pcnds - more organists who are so fond of their instruments that they will never allow them to be 'improved'.

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A funny thing, but a classic in life of art, too, that people from abroad make themselves to advocates of something in a foreign country - but so did I, when I moved 400 miles to Germany to reignite the people's fascination for Schnitger's village organs south west of Hamburg, many years ago.

So I am with Pierre, too, but I think, the replies of MM and Cynic have many important points. I am listening VERY carefully to the warning words of many here, saying, that building copies of historic instruments is the death of developement of this instrument.

Well, depending on the situation, I love to reply, that the concert grand or even more the violin are not beeing developed anymore, but still music is written for them (and improvised on them! You know my hobby...). But if we found out, that by occasion, there is a poor instrument, not worth of being considered as a messenger of its time, a new instrument may follow.

I think, there is an essence in the previews postings:

 

Try to keep an instrument free of an exclusive relation to one single person!

 

In Germany in the Wirtschaftswunder decades after the war, it was general use, that the new organist of a larger organ modified its specification (at least...) shortly after taking up the post... It is not the case anymore in that intensity. Most of the organists of this forum knows, that he would be able to persuade a parish to remove an important historic instrument just by presenting it in an most inadequate way, and if there is no other voice, they are going to here, a Schnitger, F W or C-C could be sent to scrap!

 

Regarding restorations, we have parties with differing opinions, too - a small symposium with three or more leading advisers helps making sure, that future generations will not roll their eyes about what has been decided to do.

 

Everything I wrote just now is also adressed to myself. I'm leaving an important historic instrument, where I managed to start a restoration project (dunno when it will reach its end...) and made clear to the congregation, that the should take advantage of a group of advisors, not only a single one, so it should be prevented that advisor A gives the job to his buddy organ builder B, who already built A's last ten projects....

 

I am moving on to a very impressive, large organ, that Pierre and his friend Gerhard Walcker-Mayer might be quite enthusiastic about, but for me it would be easy to mention five well-known musicians, who would just discuss the melting point of its interior...

I hope I am going to get a IMHO typical solution for our time, the "eclectic" one:

Everything (of pipework) and some other characteristics shall be kept, but, as there is still much space and there are considerable problems, additions should be allowed. They shall be reversible, so future generations should not be able to charge us a heavy crime.

But not every instrument offers this way.

 

When Schnitger incorporated older pipework e g in St Jacobi Hamburg, or Cavaillé-Coll did e g in St Sulpice, we see the named masters as the authors of the instrument, who have recasted its appearence and brought the instruments to their peak.

We should try as hard as possible today, if we consider work of similar impact, to find masters, one can trust in their capabilities to reform, redesign the instruments, to get them to a new peak and not into deep crisis...

I think, we are just able to try bravely, whe will never have security. Time will tell.

 

So if one thing might be accused of ruining the organ heritage already now, it might be: Carelessness!

 

This forum alone already provides a noticeable factor of influencing opinions and developing sensibility. Keep the discussion going.

Sorry to have talked so much about myself!

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"Try to keep an instrument free of an exclusive relation to one single person! "

 

(Quote)

 

This summarizes extremely well the spirit in which we should handle ancient organs.

We owe you a debt, Mr Kropf, for the fantastic work done at Neuenfelde, protecting

the treasure there -up to against planes, something rare indeed!- and implementing

all means to ensure it will stay there in the future.

Also your arrival on this discussion board is an asset.

I am a friend of Gerhard Walcker, yes. But also, an independant worker; I sometimes

help others builders as well, not necessarily "romantic" ones.

 

Sankt Marien Rostock is of course something very different than Neuenfelde. But as I said,

we must see all styles as entities -and quite recently, an instrument maybe as interesting as

a Schnitger has gone, by the way(1)-; I do not know this organ in Situ.

To have all changes reversible is of course an excellent point.

But then you talk about "the pipework".

Does it mean, for example, that Taschenladen will be replaced with Schleifladen (slider-chests)?

 

And just a question in order to think further:

 

How many "Orgelbewegt" Sauer organs 1938 do we still have?

 

Here is an interesting page about this organ:

 

http://www.st-marien-kantorei-rostock.de/content/orgel.html

 

(1)- I evoke here the fake of the Bamiti Banini Bamboo-organ of Vanuatu, Polynesia, as everyone will understand.

 

Peter

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"Try to keep an instrument free of an exclusive relation to one single person! "

 

(Quote)

Sankt Marien Rostock is of course something very different than Neuenfelde. But as I said,

we must see all styles as entities -and quite recently, an instrument maybe as interesting as

a Schnitger has gone, by the way(1)-; I do not know this organ in Situ.

To have all changes reversible is of course an excellent point.

But then you talk about "the pipework".

Does it mean, for example, that Taschenladen will be replaced with Schleifladen (slider-chests)?

 

And just a question in order to think further:

 

How many "Orgelbewegt" Sauer organs 1938 do we still have?

 

Here is an interesting page about this organ:

 

http://www.st-marien-kantorei-rostock.de/content/orgel.html

 

Don't panic - the organ has been on slider chests throughout its life! :D

The soundboards date - at least in components - back to Paul Schmidt 1769 and Joseph Marx 1792.

The C#s of the manual bottom octaves and Pedal notes e, f, f# are on Taschenladen, though.

 

The 1938 question is a serious one and will be considered - of course!

 

But this is all off topic here - the thread is about the British heritage. As promised, the Rostock issue will get a dedicated web presentation in summer...

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There are so many factors (not all of them musical) which come into play when we begin to see the organ as an historic artifact as well as a musical instrument, and I am entirely sympathetic to both views.

 

Herr Kropf mentions the Schnitger tradition, and Pierre Lauwers mentions the Sauer tradition, but of course, there are a few organs in England which demonstrate the point perfectly: the surviving examples of organs by Edmund Schulze, and those of the man who absorbed that style, Thomas C Lewis. Whilst, at one time, there may have been dozens of Schulze organs in Germany, and two more in the UK than those which are left, it is only in recent decades that organists have started to appreciate the extraordinary significance of these instruments. Indeed, they are priceless, and to come across an organ like St.Bartholomew's Armley, or one like the Lewis organ at Ashton-under-Lyne, is to meet face to face with real heritage.

 

However, that is the very nature of heritage rather than mere stagnation, because if nothing ever changed, nothing could ever progress.

 

Hence, we see people collect old steam-engines and lovingly restore them, or people establish textile museums which preserve the genius of those engineers who produced the machinery. In so many walks of life, heritage is an important act of preservation and education. It vividly recall standing before a cut-away Auto-Union/DKW racing-engine from the 1920's, and suddenly realising the engineering genius of pre-war Germany, which just had no equivalent anywhere else in the world at the time.

 

In organ terms, it is the Schnitger dynasty in the Netherlands which opened my eyes and ears, and made such an important difference to the way I now play the music of the period. Heritage can indeed be that important, if not absolutely vital in arriving at a proper musical understanding of the music written for these instruments, and those derived from them.

 

I'm sure that there are very similar and equally vital connections between German romantic-composers and the organs of Walcker, Sauer and Steinmeyer. When all these have been lost, there is also a loss of musical understanding; especially with music as complex as Max Reger.

 

However, organ-builders have about as much respect for their predecessors as scrap-metal merchants have for ship-building, unless they are restorers or actively seek to retain the original character of an instrument.

Thus, in the Mander rebuild at St.Paul's Cathedral, we see a combination of faithful restoration and additional pipework side by side, and musically, it works extremely well. Perhaps this is a convincing argument for "reversible" changes.

 

What I can never subscribe to is the view that something is good merely because it is old, because I can still think of dozens of absolutely terrible instruments which should never have seen the light of day, and in which the improver's art could best be utilised with a box of matches and a sharp axe.

 

But more critically, Pierre often refers to "English heritage," and yet, (with the exception of Germany), no other country has done so much to destroy it; almost for the moment that it began. If we go back almost exactly 100 years, this was the period in which almost EVERY significant Father Willis organ was hacked about and altered for all time. The Royal Albert Hall organ is a classic example, and whilst the current instrument is rather splendid, it certainly isn't the same as when Fr Willis completed it. Fortunately, there is the "more or less" authentic Father Willis at St.George's Hall, Liverpool, (most of the Swell, Great, Choir and Pedal organs) which have not undergone drastic alteration, and from which it is possible to trace the methods of Fr Willis.

 

Surely, this is what we mean by heritage? That which is rare and beautiful and significant, when all others have been changed or destroyed.

 

That is life, I'm afraid, and it for this reason that we have antique collectors and restorers.

 

However, if art is about life, then progress will sweep away the old as a matter of course, until the few enthusiasts jealously guard and preserve that which is left. This is then called "heritage," but until that time, it is merely "old and irrelevant."

 

So I say hat's off to the people who collect things, love things and guard things for posterity, but equally, I would not wish to restrict the right of the younger generation to make bold statements and create art which reflects their own contemporary sensibilities.

 

I shall start to worry when the scrap-metal men surround the Eiffel Tower!

 

MM

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"the view that something is good merely because it is old, because I can still think of dozens of absolutely terrible instruments which should never have seen the light of day"

 

(Quote)

 

Interesting comments, no doubt, but I extracted this sentence because it illustrates where

all the problems begin.

 

"Good" and "terrible" are no definitions, but the expression of emotions; it is not something

like "that stop is made that way, voiced open-toe", etc, but "I like" or "I do not like, judgments

also.

 

Cavaillé-Coll organs have indeed been described as "terrible". Norbert Dufourcq went ever further,

writing on them in 1948 that they were nearly "Fabrikorgeln", exactly like Emil Rupp described

Walcker and Weigle organs (strange thing: when Oscar Walcker started to work with Rupp as a consultant, introducing the "neudeutsch-Elsässisch" style in 1909 with the Reinoldikirche Dortmund organ, those critics ceased, even if the technology -windchests, actions, Zinc pipes etc- remained the same!).

Be sure the splendid Schulze organs have been called obscenities (I may exagerrate, but not so much) in England as well as in Germany, before being "good" again -when it is nearly too late, as usual-.

 

Fact is, the whole History demonstrates one thing: we are simply not capable to assess the instruments of the previous generation, or even the two previous generations, because the "feelings", the emotions we link to these "daddy's" or "Grand-pa's" old "bins" are too strong.

 

So whenever I find an organ "terrible", something that happens with me as often as with anyone else, and if the organ is not cheaply made, I avoid to express my views and simply say "I'd clean it and leave it alone".

 

Be sure of this: out of 10 "terrible things" of 30 years ago, there are maybe two gems. But we are not qualified to tell which ones are.

So we must let the time, the fires, the floodings etc and above all our grand-grand children do that job.

Pierre

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I'm for commissioning totally new organs, or renovating but not pulling-about old ones. I'm for revelling in the differences between instruments, not assuming that because certain repertoire is unsuited to a particular instrument that this is a reason to vandalise it.

 

I agree with Paul here - especially where fine balanced instruments have been 'endowed' with unnecessary mutations to give a 'continental' sound I've never heard anywhere on the continent. So many added mutations shout through the basic chorus and add nothing but an agonised scream to the sound (especially to those of us with sensitive hearing - good recipe for triggering a migraine!)

 

You could add to this horrid extension organs where the mutations are taken from the principal chorus rather than a quieter rank - and the temperament is never quite right anyway!

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Be sure of this: out of 10 "terrible things" of 30 years ago, there are maybe two gems. But we are not qualified to tell which ones are.

So we must let the time, the fires, the floodings etc and above all our grand-grand children do that job.

Pierre

Like others here I have a lot of sympathy with this view. We all should surely lament that we have no unaltered Hope Jones instrument to allow us to understand his work as he conceived it (though I believe a couple of his more modest organs have found their way to the USA). We can similarly lament many other builders (my deepest regret is reserved for Thomas Dallam).

 

Nevertheless, at the same time we all know that organ builders of the highest artistic integrity work in the same market as utter cowboys and surely this must always have been the case. I cannot see why one should treat organs as so sacrosanct that one should not distinguish between the two. Yes, it is a value judgement and there is a danger that these judgements may be driven by fashion, but if it were possible to take steps to preserve what might be agreed to be the best examples of given builders' work, I do not see why the lesser examples should not be dispensible. Would this organ be such a loss, given that there are countless others like it all around the country? Without some selective weeding the organ building world would surely stagnate.

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...there are still hundreds of 19th century organs which remain as they were built.

 

Should anyone require a Fr Willis, a T C Lewis; a William Hill, a Binns, a Wadsworth, a Taylor, a J W Walker and most of the rest, we still have plenty of them.

 

(snip)

 

If we were in the position that organs became a protected species, it wouldn't do very much for living art, would it?

MM

 

First part - do we? In all honesty, I am hard pushed to name a single organ of that period which has not been significantly altered. Like it or not, something as simple as the fitting of tuning slides is a fairly significant alteration because nine times out of ten it brought with it a change in pitch and consequently a slight change in tone quality. At virtually any clean and overhaul it's more or less certain that the pipework would have found its way past a voicing machine to be regulated and had other "house styles" gently applied to it to make it sound a bit brighter or whatever the trend was.

 

Second part - how so? It would do a hell of a lot for conservation, and give those who in the future would create new examples of living art some sense of heritage and a useful springboard to base their thinking and understanding on. Growth needs roots to be sustainable; if it doesn't have its own then it's probably a tumour. Many famous rebuilds (and a few builders/consultants) of the 50's and 60's spring to mind.

 

But with that must be tempered the fact that organs do not exist in a vacuum and must be of some merit to the music and to the buildings they are in to justify their existence. Because it is old does not necessarily mean that it is any good as a musical instrument, and on occasions that can be a matter of simple fact as well as opinion. Austin Allegros sold by the millions, but only a few die-hard nutcases with elbow patches sewn onto their cardigans and lushly festive facial hair will tell you that the car industry has anything to learn from their careful preservation. The example that Vox cites is one of thousands upon thousands which would make you think twice about travelling five miles to play for a funeral and which do the public perception of organs and organ music no favours at all.

 

The acid test in that case is whether or not, when a building's needs, owners or purposes change and the organ gets thrown out, someone turns up with a large van to take it away for preservation and use elsewhere, in this country or abroad. That is far more sensible than an unwanted organ holding its owner hostage and probably being neglected in the process. The world is now small enough that quality and distinction will survive, guided by an army of individuals, clubs and firms that dedicate themselves to ensuring this happens.

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"Good" and "terrible" are no definitions, but the expression of emotions; it is not something

like "that stop is made that way, voiced open-toe", etc, but "I like" or "I do not like, judgments

also.

 

Cavaillé-Coll organs have indeed been described as "terrible".

 

Be sure the splendid Schulze organs have been called obscenities (I may exagerrate, but not so much) in England as well as in Germany, before being "good" again -when it is nearly too late, as usual-.

 

Fact is, the whole History demonstrates one thing: we are simply not capable to assess the instruments of the previous generation,

 

 

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

 

 

I make no apology in stating that I find this to be nonsense.

 

As a musician, I am perfectly capable of appreciating organs from most eras, and whilst I may like one style of instrument better than another, I can enjoy things which wouldn't be my first choice.

 

I go to Holland and appreciate real antiquity (albeit restored antiquity most often), I have loved Snetzler and Samuel Green organs, I have admired Hill organs from circa 1850, I regularly played and enjoyed a large Arthur Harrison, I have been attached to a barn-storming Hill, Norman & Beard (the one at Ilkley, St Margaret's), I have been delighted by many Compton organs (the better ones of course), Wurlitzer theatre-organs, the delightful neo-classical organ I now play. in addition to those on which I have performed recitals. I have even enjoyed a few top-end electronic instruments.

 

Concerning the Schulze organs in the UK, I have known them since I was 14, and I can honestly say that I have never heard a single bad comment about them; though I have heard a discussion in which the valid point was made that no-one would build an organ like that anymore.

 

As a church organist, I have explored and enjoyed the romantic organs of the past, and I have felt bitter disappointment at the loss of two large Annessens instruments.

 

I'm sorry of people are so hooked on the Arthur Harrison phenomenon, because of ALL organ-styles, this was the one which combined elements of Hope-Jones with elements of Willis and Schulze. It also took the British organ up a blind alley, and whatever the merits of such instruments as accompaniment, the fact remains that they are quite divorced from the mainstream of organ-music, in a way that other organ-builders were not.

 

The whole concept was wrong in the first instance, and quite why anyone should want to follow in those particular foot-steps remain a mystery to me

 

MM

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"of ALL organ-styles, this was the one which combined elements of Hope-Jones with elements of Willis and Schulze."

 

(Quote)

 

Genau, précisément, exactly! this was Arthur Harrison's achievment......But how could a so vast synthesis end to nowhere? It is here that we depart on two seperate ways.

Ok, I shall prepare a new thread for the coming days, with a proposal to replace the "Repertoire" notion

with another, more "organic and sustainable" one.

 

Pierre

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"of ALL organ-styles, this was the one which combined elements of Hope-Jones with elements of Willis and Schulze."

 

(Quote)

 

Genau, précisément, exactly! this was Arthur Harrison's achievment......But how could a so vast synthesis end to nowhere? It is here that we depart on two seperate ways.

Ok, I shall prepare a new thread for the coming days, with a proposal to replace the "Repertoire" notion

with another, more "organic and sustainable" one.

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

I don't think anyone could be unmoved by the quality of a Harrison Clarinet or Orchestral Oboe, those shimmering Celestes underpinned with the 32ft Open Wood or the absolute fire of the Full Swell effect. There are many gorgeous sounds on an Arthur Harrison instrument.

 

He was not alone you know. You play almost any jobbing Norman & Beard (top quality construction), and you will hear superb orchestral reeds. By the time the firm absorbed the interests of Hope-Jones, and became Wm.Hill & Son, Norman & Beard Ltd, they were capable of quite magnificent romantic instruments. In fact, I would suggest that they made the BEST of the great Edwardian British organs, and you can still hear it to-day at places like Chester Cathedral, Peterborough Cathedral, Selby Abbey and elsewhere.

 

Unfortunately, the organs of T C Lewis usually lacked really good reeds, and this respect, he followed the example of Schulze, but make no mistake, he was possibly the most gifted of them all when it came to building organs with tonal integrity.

 

Quite why anyone should want to replicate the mistakes of the past I do not know, but the Arthur Harrison phenomenon was really the brain-child of a man who knew very little, but professed a lot. This was the age of the meddling amateur on both sides of the pond, WHO WERE INCAPABLE OF APPRECIATING THE ORGANS BUILT BY A PREVIOUS GENERATION.

 

This is exactly why T C Lewis was the best of the crop, because he absorbed and then built upon a long and much older tradition of European organ-building, but were his efforts ever fully appreciated, when people wanted the orchestral sound and talked only of "full swells and tubas?"

 

I cannot help thinking that the best organs come about when organ-builders are left to get on with it, without some dilettante looking over their shoulders.

 

MM

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We all should surely lament that we have no unaltered Hope Jones instrument to allow us to understand his work as he conceived it (though I believe a couple of his more modest organs have found their way to the USA).

 

 

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

 

 

The instrument at Ambleside PC is almost unaltered Hope-Jones; save for a minor job or two by Norman & Beard.

 

This organ is almost unique, because the subsequent work would have been carried out by probably the same people who made the original organ. It's actually got some lovely sounds, but nothing blends much with anything else.

 

Another example, which I have played, is the organ at Battersea TH, which although carrying the Norman & Beard name, was actually the completion of a Hope-Jones contract. I'm not quite sure what state the organ is in these days, but I am not optimistic.

 

Again, there are a number of beautifully voiced ranks, but no sense of tonal integrity in the whole.

 

In fact, there is a whole museum in Manchester devoted to Robert Hope-Jones, operated by the Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust, and of course, if you play a Wurlitzer organ without tremulants or traps & effects, you are really playing a Hope-Jones organ, and it will sound much the same as one.

 

The voicing is to a very high quality, but how much of a Hope-Jones organ is actually Hope-Jones, I am not sure, because he worked with Norman & Beard very closely, and it was in their workshop that the ubiquitous "Tibia" was invented.

 

MM

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Try the following link:-

 

http://www.voxlancastria.org.uk/heritage/heritage.htm

 

For anyone who appreciates genetics at work, the photograph of the current Mr Robert Hope-Jones bears an uncanny resemblance to the original gentleman.

 

There is a book-cover image of the original Robert Hope-Jones at the following link:-

 

http://www.voxlancastria.org.uk/hope-j.htm

 

MM

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

Another example, which I have played, is the organ at Battersea TH, which although carrying the Norman & Beard name, was actually the completion of a Hope-Jones contract. I'm not quite sure what state the organ is in these days, but I am not optimistic.

 

Again, there are a number of beautifully voiced ranks, but no sense of tonal integrity in the whole.

 

MM

 

Hi

 

There was a thread about Battersea on the UK Cinema Organ list a few months ago. It's currently unplayable, but there is some possibility of a restoration.

 

All Souls, Clive Vale, hastings has another N&B organ that is in effect Hope-Jones, and virtually untouched. It's been unplayable for a long time (unless anything has changed in the past 15 years since I moved out of the area).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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"Quite why anyone should want to replicate the mistakes of the past I do not know, but the Arthur Harrison phenomenon was really the brain-child of a man who knew very little, but professed a lot."

 

(Quote)

 

See here what Marcel Dupré played on such a "mistake":

 

http://www.stthomasleigh.fslife.co.uk/organ.htm

 

Pierre

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
See here what Marcel Dupré played on such a "mistake":

 

http://www.stthomasleigh.fslife.co.uk/organ.htm

 

Pierre

 

What an interesting link and surrounding pages from the Home Site of this church and information when Dupré was either coming to the end (or nearing the end) of his substitution for Vierne at Notre Dame. (The great man man was having eye treatment etc from 1916 when Dupré 'held the fort). But why is the 21st stopped off on the Gt mixture when it was part of the original concept? Was it a mistake in the first place?

:lol:

 

All the best,

N

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But why is the 21st stopped off on the Gt mixture when it was part of the original concept? Was it a mistake in the first place?

 

A "mistake", certainly not, but a romantic corroborating Mixture, intended to be used like a Grand Cornet, that is, with the reed chorus.

"Harmonics" stand in the same relation with the Tromba as the Cornet with the Trompette.

 

Later, after the belief such things were "mistakes of the past", such stops were thinkered with in an attempt to make neo-classical Mixtures of them.

 

It is interesting to note how the Harmonics stop evolved from the Sesquialtera (british late baroque model) to the Willis 17-19-22 Mixture, and then, Harmonics with the flat twenty-first added.

 

And so, we have no "Plein-jeu" then?

No we do not, but it is interesting to know Harris, back from France, built organs with "Grand jeu", but without "Plein-jeu"! 18th century...Example:

 

In 1710, Renatus Harris built this extraordinary organ for Salisbury Cathedral:

 

GREAT (50 notes)

 

Open Diapason I 8'

Open Diapason II 8'

Stopped Diapason 8'

Principal 4'

Flute 4'

Twelfth 2 2/3'

Fifteenth 2'

Tierce 1 3/5'

Larigot 1 1/3'

Sesquialtera 4r

Cornet 5r (dessus)

Trumpet 8'

Cromhorn 8'

Vox humana 8'

Clarion 4'

Une chape libre

 

BORROWED GREAT (all stop borrowed from Great)

 

Open Diapason 8'

Stopped Diapason 8'

Principal 4'

Flute 4'

Twelfth 2 2/3'

Fifteenth 2'

Tierce 1 3/5'

Larigot 1 1/3'

Sesquialtera 4r

Trumpet 8'

Cromhorn 8'

Vox humana 8'

Clarion 4'

 

CHAIR ( 50 notes)

 

Open Diapason 8' (42 notes)

Stopped Diapason 8'

Principal 4'

Flute 4'

Twelfth 2 2/3'

Fifteenth 2'

Bassoon 8'

One spale slide

Drum

 

ECHO (25 notes)

 

Open Diapason 8'

Stopped Diapason 8'

Principal 4'

Flute 4'

Twelfth 2 2/3'

Fifteenth 2'

Tierce 1 3/5'

Larigot 1 1/3'

Trumpet 8'

Vox humana 8'

Cromhorn 8'

 

No pedal.

 

So maybe we could talk about a tradition...

 

Pierre

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What an interesting link and surrounding pages from the Home Site of this church and information when Dupré was either coming to the end (or nearing the end) of his substitution for Vierne at Notre Dame. (The great man man was having eye treatment etc from 1916 when Dupré 'held the fort). But why is the 21st stopped off on the Gt mixture when it was part of the original concept? Was it a mistake in the first place?

:lol:

 

All the best,

N

 

And J P Buzard is building them again in so called English tonal schemes in the USA - the circle is coming round again! (Harrisons also replaced one recently at Margaret Street.)

 

AJJ

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
And J P Buzard is building them again in so called English tonal schemes in the USA - the circle is coming round again! (Harrisons also replaced one recently at Margaret Street.)

 

AJJ

 

I was brought up with a gigantic 4 manual A H with Harmonics and vast Trombas and a Tuba to wake the dead in the next Diocese. So I do know what is being talked about. Vast leathered No 1 Diapason too. But the literature is so very limited on such an instrument. The pedal is often Big Boom (with a 32ft and 8 ft extensions) and Smaller Boom. Fine to accompany with if this is your cup of tea, - but .... It was a nightmare trying to learn as a student how to play the stock repertoire of the organ and to explore the different Organ Schools. A teacher may only tell you about such mysteries. In retrospect, it taught me very little other than it was a Dodo and it was a bit of idiosyncratic British building. By contrast, I know (intimately) a middle of the 19th Century Holdich that will be opened after a full and complete restoration in early June by Dame Gillian Weir in my home town. Now there is a fabulous UK organ and one that utterly shows that things went mostly terribly awry (some might say) within in another generation or two. But we need to have got such organs out of our system - sorry Pierre. Placed in musical history I now think that they are mostly musical monsters (frequently without the redeeming grace of a beautiful case and often in a third rate position), and furthermore a crippling legacy for the people of today to upkeep and restore. In no way can a paper specification of an organ in Salisbury suggest a legacy or a direct link. Scale and voicing is what it often is all about. In Edwardian times we went to great depths (no pun!) to build great fundamental basses. But trebles are weak and bare little resemblance to how things start off at the bottom of the rank. Reeds took on sever power but brilliance was erased with weights and leather. The Large Open on my first organ at the cathedral was leathered as well. Just the opposite of what I am sure you would have encountered at Salisbury where there would have been an abundance of colour and Cornets and Sesquialteras to add brilliance to chorus reeds. The UK has a Reformed Church tradition and the Plein jeu was not a necessity for using - mostly as the accompaniment of a Gregorian Cantus firmus. Anyway, to support such a claim, we also were a pedal-less country too (as shown in the Salisbury spec.). Therefore, I suggest, such a stock registration is not of necessity, or even use. If one looks at the registrations of that time in the UK, we are not requiring Gt to Mixture (or the like). A Grand jeu - certainly, just like our neighbours across the channel where fast fugalesque writing was popular. Mixture choruses require slower and more sonorous writing. In this country we tended to have our slower movements for Diapasons alone with an abundance of heartfelt harmonies.

 

We are evolving (always). I think the zenith (or nadir - depending how you are viewing all this) came with instruments like A H's and perhaps the Royal Hospital School Chapel near Ipswich from Norman and Beard. That is where Pierre should have a holiday home, I am sure! But he might already hear it across the water.

We all beg to differ. There is no fight. There is no contest. I much prefer English chocolate to Belgium's whilst I have friends who make a special drive beneath the channel just to collect a boot full from there. It is all a matter of taste. Long Live Difference(s).

 

Happy Sunday.

Nigel

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In no way can a paper specification of an organ in Salisbury suggest a legacy or a direct link. Scale and voicing is what it often is all about.

 

It is all a matter of taste. Long Live Difference(s).

 

Happy Sunday.

Nigel

 

Bravo to all! Especially these bits though.

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