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Pierre Lauwers

Save The British Organ Heritage

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Sean, I meant it would be pointless if I wrote that.

 

"Tout ce qui est excessif est dérisoire".

 

Pierre

 

This is true.

 

This is the result of reading (and then attempting to reply to) posts in the last two or three minutes of morning break, before the bell sounds for the next lesson.

 

God - the pressure....

 

:P

 

But you did go on to describe the qualities of the Principals and the choruses of the organ, to be a bit pedantic...

 

Pedant.

 

Have you finished with my Warlock yet?

 

(I wish to cast a spell on a colleague....)

 

In any case (and in order to be even more pedantic) Pierre's original post gave each point separately - ther is no statement that [imagined] ranks had both open feet and a weak intonation.

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It would be interesting (and, I'm sure, possible) to come up with a 'family tree' of instruments from the 18thC to today which demonstrate a common gene pool of aims and ideals, and from where the rogue siblings who left home early, lived fast, remained unmarried and died prematurely could be seen in context.

 

So I wonder where US/Canada are on the family tree with new organs like this appearing? OK - one can't judge an instrument by stoplist alone but are we climbing up the tree or back down? And - yes - what about repertoire?

 

AJJ

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Guest Cynic
So I wonder where US/Canada are on the family tree with new organs like this appearing?

 

AJJ

 

 

I think the answer is: they're ahead of us, like Germany is. [see the schemes that are currently being built there!]

 

My analysis: they've tried romantic, they've tried neo-baroque (not the same thing as the genuine article at all!) and on balance church congregations and a goodly number of their organists have decided that they miss the warmth and variety of the better romantic organs. The new target (rather than authentic interpretation of only one style of music) is that an instrument should combine the more musical features of both Silbermann and Cavaille-Coll - most particularly, the lush spread of multiple 8' stops* with some decent choruses. I think most people with no particular bias would admit that recent reed-vocing standards in many cases cannot compare with the finish and thrill of what came before!

 

*However, Trost, Silbermann and others were giving organists far more choice in 8' tone than most neo-baroque organ-builders.

 

I would consider the Casavant scheme you've given us to be a helpful one to performers too......the same designers who keep giving us expensive and fussy tracker jobs over here also keep playing repertoire that was never written for tracker. It's the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome in the UK, few people seem able to say that some of these fetishes are (largely) just that.

 

There are new instruments of a similar kind over here, some indeed on tracker action, but sometimes these are not as purist as they appear, I refer to the preponderance of balanciers (well over half-way to pneumatic assistance!) and electric coupling.

 

I think a beautifully made small organ ought to be tracker and should best be voiced on low wind-pressure and ought then to possess a singing tone (some don't!). For a larger instrument with a good tonal spread and decent power when required, tracker and low pressures are not likely to be the best answer.

 

This quest for warm tones and good finishing standard, particularly in reed stops is one of the reasons that some UK firms are getting so many overseas contracts. Good for them! On the other hand, I seriously worry about some of our advisers.........

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So I wonder where US/Canada are on the family tree with new organs like this appearing?

This looks a fairly typical N American spec to me, though the Solo Hecklephone and the quinted reed on the Pedals (which may or may not work) strike me as unusual.

 

I am not sure that the US/Canadian organ really is on the British family tree any more. From what I have seen (which is admittedly only a minute sample of what this vast area has to offer, though it has been spread over quite a wide geographical area), I would say that these instruments have been evolving in a subtely different direction from the British organ for some time. Though they may look broadly similar on paper there are some distinct differences. There is a greater emphasis on Erzählers, Gemshorns and célestes of various types (esp Flûtes célestes) and the English Horn seems preferred to the Orchestral Oboe. Most significantly the voicing seems to be angled more towards congregational singing than choral accompaniment - or maybe it's a response to the generally drier acoustics of American churches. At any rate the tone tends to be more "in yer face", brash even. The chorus work doesn't so much lull you with a serene grandeur and nobility as grab you by the lapels, stare into your face and snarl, "Listen, damn you!"

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"There is a greater emphasis on Erzählers, Gemshorns and célestes of various types "

(Quote)

 

This was Skinner's.....Typical.

Just a question: which language was spoken in Skinner's workshop?

 

.....And then go back in Europe in a Trost organ to admire its soft flutes,

Gemshorns and celestes.

 

The tree illuminates then like a Christmas one...

 

Pierre

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I think the answer is: they're ahead of us, like Germany is. [see the schemes that are currently being built there!]

 

My analysis: they've tried romantic, they've tried neo-baroque (not the same thing as the genuine article at all!) and on balance church congregations and a goodly number of their organists have decided that they miss the warmth and variety of the better romantic organs. The new target (rather than authentic interpretation of only one style of music) is that an instrument should combine the more musical features of both Silbermann and Cavaille-Coll - most particularly, the lush spread of multiple 8' stops* with some decent choruses. I think most people with no particular bias would admit that recent reed-vocing standards in many cases cannot compare with the finish and thrill of what came before!

 

Absolutely, Paul; although I would like to know more about the voicing of the GO reeds in the Casavant scheme. I look for a good variety of stops at 8p - particularly on the GO. Fortunately, as you observe, builders have begun to realise that a GO with foundations consisting of one or two diapasons, with a slender Stopped Diapason (or similar) are somewhat limiting for accompaniment.

*However, Trost, Silbermann and others were giving organists far more choice in 8' tone than most neo-baroque organ-builders.

 

I would consider the Casavant scheme you've given us to be a helpful one to performers too......the same designers who keep giving us expensive and fussy tracker jobs over here also keep playing repertoire that was never written for tracker. It's the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome in the UK, few people seem able to say that some of these fetishes are (largely) just that.

 

There are new instruments of a similar kind over here, some indeed on tracker action, but sometimes these are not as purist as they appear, I refer to the preponderance of balanciers (well over half-way to pneumatic assistance!) and electric coupling.

 

Again, I agree. In fact I wonder whether your use of the word 'fetishes' should actually be taken literally. Some builders (and advisors) take their preoccupation with tracker action almost to the point of obsession. No doubt many of us can call to mind fairly new instruments in this country which have either been provided with dual actions (and consoles) or which have electrically-assisted coupling. Often, with these same organs, the mechanical action console is not used. In some cases it is too far away from the conductor and other performers. Occasionally, performers wish to use the electric action console because they do not wish to finish playing a substantial programme (which will often include large-scale Romantic works) with stiff fingers and sore muscles.

 

I think a beautifully made small organ ought to be tracker and should best be voiced on low wind-pressure and ought then to possess a singing tone (some don't!). For a larger instrument with a good tonal spread and decent power when required, tracker and low pressures are not likely to be the best answer.

 

This quest for warm tones and good finishing standard, particularly in reed stops is one of the reasons that some UK firms are getting so many overseas contracts. Good for them! On the other hand, I seriously worry about some of our advisers.........

 

I agree with regard to your point concerning small organs. For a few years, I played a small two-clavier instrument in North Cornwall, which had tracker action to everything except the pedals - which were on tubular pneumatic action. Whilst the paper scheme was unlikely to excite the attention of most players, the variety of musical sounds which it could produce was quite surprising. The action was a joy to play. I learnt a number of fairly large Romantic works whilst I was there and even recorded such pieces as the Prelude and Fugue, in B major, by Dupré and the Final to Vierne's First Symphony.

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This may have been mentioned before, here or in another thread, but this project happening in Leiden in Holland is absolutely fascinating!

 

www.cathedralorgan.nl/en/organ.html

 

Eat your hearts out English organ builders! :P

 

Gary Cole

Regent Records UK

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
This may have been mentioned before, here or in another thread, but this project happening in Leiden in Holland is absolutely fascinating!

 

www.cathedralorgan.nl/en/organ.html

 

Eat your hearts out English organ builders! :P

 

Gary Cole

Regent Records UK

 

This is indeed quite a project and with sombody spending much time and effort in doing some exuberant mock-ups. However, we have no mention of builder. For me the builder needs to say what he thinks he can build best in such a place and also design a case worthy of the surroundings. What I see there is a perfect travesty and an example of the first order of 'pie in the sky' thoughts. Denmark has the Order of the Elephant for its honour system (notice them holding up the great organ case of 1699 in Copenhagen's Vor Frelsers Kirke), but I certainly hope that the Netherlands does not become the home to white ones. And the cost! How much is a new 32ft Open Wood these days? €40,000? €50,000? Can anyone say when the last one was built this side of the English Channel? (New thread?!)

 

It also makes me come firmly to a conclusion about this particular thread, that the age in which many have discussed at length the pros and cons, came about because it was choral repertoire that had the upper hand in dictating instrument and style and thus position in a church. There could be exceptions, always, of course, but generally I think that the main musical instrument in the church was/is the Choir and the organ was subservient to it. Most organists when they become 'top dog', train the choir. This project that Gary links us to, is an organ to complement the choir who surely, have become hooked in Holland to English choral tradition and the Anglican liturgies. Notice where they want to position the organ.

 

If it does get built, I bet that it will be force-fed French Symphonies more than English Voluntaries.

 

When talking to David Crick (curator/organist of the Holdich in Hinckley) last night, I suggested that one reason that this large instrument from the 1860's did not get re-developed in later times was because it was in a Congregational Chapel (now United Reformed Church) and its main use was not accompanying Anglican liturgy. The instrument very near to the time when this one was built went to Lichfield Cathedral. From my recollection a large amount of Holdich pipework is still in it. How many times has it been remodeled? The Hinckley Holdich would have been ideally suited for Anglican services, of course, but being where it is/was, kept it out of main-stream fashions which everyone might agree emanated from the Anglican church and the Oxford Movement, in particular. The use of thumb pistons can make the presence of stops superfluous. The times I have asked students to begin playing and witnessed all registers popping out from a piston before starting. Perhaps a coupler gets grabbed, though, I must admit.

 

I am playing a very large cathedral Harrison on Bank Holiday Monday and have chosen a cross-section of repertoire as well as a large-scale improvisation (requested). I am eagerly looking forward to the challenge of Pachelbel and Buxtehude as well as a transcription of an English early 18th Century Overture, Franck and Jean-Jacques Beauvarlet Charpentier (for 10 years Titulaire at Notre Dame in Paris). A challenge - possibly. But it will be enormous fun to play and will be a very happy occasion for me to play one these instruments you have all been writing about. Await a post on Tuesday .......!

 

Have a wonderful Pentecost.

 

Nigel

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By and large the British are not very good at showing their emotions. To be obviously emotional is bad form; one must maintain the "stiff upper lip". This is complete nonsense and does little for the appreciation of music, but that's how it is. I wonder how far this tradition goes back. Certainly into the Victorian era when appearances were everything, but maybe earlier? Is this why nineteenth-century taste deteriorated into heart-on-sleeve sentiment? - because we felt threatened by anything more profound that might stir the depths of our innermost beings?

 

Generally people want music that makes them feel happy, which is only natural. I think it probably takes a particular experience or a particular set of circumstances to make one receptive to wallowing in pathos.

Purcell's setting of the Funeral Sentences is quite heart-rending. I heartily recommend the CD by Winchester Cathedral under David Hill, which also includes all the usual favourites by Purcell.

 

 

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

 

 

Maybe it's something to do with the Latin/french blood, and the Scottish connection, but I do not find anger, passion, pathos or laughter in the least bit difficult, which probably makes me the classical-music equivalent to Sir Elton John.

 

This is not to suggest that my feelings are ever out of control, but they lurk very close to the surface most of the time. Maybe this is why I dislike so much English music.

 

I found the comment about "a particular set of circumstances" and "wallowing in pathos" very interesting, but I wonder if it doesn't go much deeper than this.

 

Agony and ectasy are not unrelated, but a good musician must have experienced both; perhaps with the additions of frustration, aggressive drive, achievement, disappointment, personal tragedy, joy etc etc.

 

In music, we hear so much which reflects the innermost being of not only the composer, but additionally, a mirror-image of the world as they experienced it.

 

Thus, in Reger I hear turmoil and conflict; not just of the man himself, but of the age in which he lived also.

 

Howells certainly reflects personal tragedy, but also the bitter-sweet agony of the war years and the tragedy of loss. The fact that I detest it is neither here nor there, because many would hold him in high regard.

 

Of course, what makes a truly powerful performance, is when the composer best expresses emotion through music, rather than by means of colour, words or by the allusion and illusion of acting a part.

 

I would suggest that the wider and deeper the emotional baggage, the more powerfully a musician is able to communicate.

 

Is it not just a little bit true, that the greatest performers have just a hint of lunacy and excessive passion, which takes music to another level: that of transporting the listener to a different world, where things are not quite normal, and when emotion is heightened?

 

Isn't great art all about the "extrarordinary" rather than the mundane and pedestrian?

 

Isn't the highest art an attempt to reach that pinnacle?

 

Isn't great music that which powerfully combines the technical and the emotional; yet controlled by reason rather than sentiment?

 

Isn't it also true that great musicians are quite obsessive, whereas others just press the keys and get the notes right?

 

Isn't it also resoundingly true that art can only be art when people respond to it, and find themselves experiencing something they didn't quite expect, or ever come across in daily life?

 

Interestingly, as I am currently re-learning the Reubke, it was this work which I can single out as the greatest I have ever heard played in a live performance, when Roger Fisher absolutely cowed an entire audience at the IAO Congress at Chester, back in the early 1970's.

 

Awesome is too simple a word, but that's what it was, and I doubt that anyone who heard it could possibly ever forget it.

 

MM

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And the cost! How much is a new 32ft Open Wood these days? €40,000? €50,000?

Just a thought: I don't think the site says anywhere that the organ is going to be built new from scratch, does it? If you hunted around enough I'm sure you could build this using entirely secondhand pipework, except maybe for the 32-foots. And maybe we shouldn't assume that the job will necessarily go to a British builder (though I'm not sure who on the continent could build a Willis/H&H...) I hope I'm wrong.

 

As for the organ being at the east end, where else would you put it? This isn't about putting an organ where it will sound best, but about where it will most authentically serve Anglican church music. From that point of view it will have to be in the choir.

 

And if the voluntaries are mainly French symphonies... well, it'll be just like an English church, won't it? :P

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I found the comment about "a particular set of circumstances" and "wallowing in pathos" very interesting, but I wonder if it doesn't go much deeper than this.

 

Agony and ectasy are not unrelated, but a good musician must have experienced both; perhaps with the additions of frustration, aggressive drive, achievement, disappointment, personal tragedy, joy etc etc

...

I would suggest that the wider and deeper the emotional baggage, the more powerfully a musician is able to communicate.

As I think I have mentioned, in my youth almost all nineteenth-century Romantic music left me stone cold. In fact I had little time for anything written after the death of Bach and before Debussy. At the RCM my theory teacher, the redoubtable Ruth Gipps (wonderful woman), remarked to me, "You wait till you fall in love. Then you'll be wanting music to wallow in". Well, she was wrong as it happened; I didn't come round until much later still :P (and it would be fair to say that I'm still doubtful about a lot of it), but I know exactly what she meant. What she said stemmed from long experience of students and I really don't think she was that wrong. As you say, the ability to interpret music well requires the widest possible range of emotional experiences.

 

Howells certainly reflects personal tragedy, but also the bitter-sweet agony of the war years and the tragedy of loss.

Much of it does, but he can also depict white-hot ecstacy. The final psalm prelude is perhaps the best example of this. The last movement of Hymnus and the Paean are others.

 

Is it not just a little bit true, that the greatest performers have just a hint of lunacy and excessive passion

I have always held that all true musicians are a bit mad. Interestingly, no one I have suggested this to has ever disagreed. (Don't think it's just a case of emperor's new clothes, either.)

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As I think I have mentioned, in my youth almost all nineteenth-century Romantic music left me stone cold. In fact I had little time for anything written after the death of Bach and before Debussy.

 

Me too - especially where organ music was concerned!

 

AJJ

 

In fact it was much later and through an organist whom I seem to remember Vox and I are (coincidentally) both aquainted with that I started to listen to Vierne and Widor and as a consequence discovered the French School from them up to the present.

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"I'm not sure who on the continent could build a Willis/H&H..."

(Quote)

 

Beware of the spies who toured Britain on a moped, taking notes... :P:P:D

 

Pierre

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I would suggest that the wider and deeper the emotional baggage, the more powerfully a musician is able to communicate.

Not necessarily. The baggage might have a repressive effect.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
"I'm not sure who on the continent could build a Willis/H&H..."

(Quote)

 

Beware of the spies who toured Britain on a moped, taking notes... :P:P:D

 

Pierre

 

The answer of course is Willis and Harrison & Harrison. Each builder will build his own regardless of what information they glean on mopeds!

But in the case of this Dutch doodle - if they are wanting to accompany the choir (for they are not likely to be having to play for Diocesan services and Ordinations that sing heartily in the Nave - but I might be wrong), they need a nice accompanimental instrument that will match and balance the choir. Then that is realistic in my mind and they can enjoy a little piece of England and its quintessential ways. A lovely case can be provided that does not detract from the elegance and light of such architecture. Those mock-ups are utterly out of keeping.

One can provide wondrous accompaniments on a French choir organ. Look what you can make of Farnborough Abbey in such acoustics.

 

All the best,

N

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"The answer of course is Willis and Harrison & Harrison. Each builder will build his own regardless of what information they glean on mopeds!"

 

(Quote)

 

Of course!

 

I played like you with the "Harmonics" stop. :D

Mind you, there has been a slight *précédent": Oscar Walcker.

In the 1920, he showed a strong interest with the british organ

of his time, so Willis III and a certain Arthur.

Some Skinner stops interested him as well.

In 1930, he built an organ I cannot describe more for the moment

in Belgium, in which the Principal 8' on the Manual I he wrote "ENGLISCHE"

on the first draft. (It could not mean "englische Zinn", because it is made of zinc...)

The Manual II -incorrectly named "Récit", which it is not- owns: Bombarde, Trompette

and Clairon.

The Clairon is an extension of the 8', which is actually a modified French Horn, while

the 16' he wrote "Tuba" on that draft.

(What's in a name? An Octavin 2' is actually a "Bachflöte", etc)

 

So the interest with the british organ isn't something new on the continent.

Oscar Walcker could not go very far on that path, for *slightly obvious* political

reasons.....A short-lived story that would be worth revisiting, isn't it?

But now we may be sure of one thing -and here I agree with Mr Allcoat- : should

we build in continental Europe things with O. Diap I, II, III, Tromba and Tuba, etc,

it would be in the context of a synthese organ, which would " differ from the sum of its parts",

exactly like a Joachim Wagner is not a substitute for a french organ, but something

of its own.

By the way, the luxembourgish too take their part in this revival it seems:

 

http://www.hehlorgelbau.de/lenningen.html

 

As for Leiden now, I think I understand their wishes there, as a continental amateur

of that "genre"!

Main priority is a sound, not practical aspects. They want that british sound at home, something

we never had here, your very neighbourgs, closer to London than Liverpool is.

And of course its builder should be british;

And of course the builder should propone modifications towards his own ways, in order

to end up with a sound, solid structure.

But as I said elsewhere, he'd better not read us here too often! :P

 

Pierre

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This may have been mentioned before, here or in another thread, but this project happening in Leiden in Holland is absolutely fascinating!

 

www.cathedralorgan.nl/en/organ.html

 

Eat your hearts out English organ builders! :D

 

Gary Cole

Regent Records UK

 

Why should we eat our haerts out Gary - you might like to know that we've just signed contracts for a 54-stop, 4-manual organ for St. Matthew-in-the-City, Auckland (closely following on the heels of our new organ for St. James's church in Florence) - details will be published shortly but it is certainly a Willis!

 

We also have another, larger, project in the offing but no contract yet: be certain that it'll be well publicised as soon as there is!!

 

I agree with Nigel - the rather narrowly-telescoped view of what represents an 'English' case is really very sad. Perhaps the design will be decided BEFORE the organbuilder is chosen, and there goes any attempt at artistry. C'est la vie.

 

David Wyld

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Just a thought: I don't think the site says anywhere that the organ is going to be built new from scratch, does it? If you hunted around enough I'm sure you could build this using entirely secondhand pipework, except maybe for the 32-foots. And maybe we shouldn't assume that the job will necessarily go to a British builder (though I'm not sure who on the continent could build a Willis/H&H...) I hope I'm wrong.

 

As for the organ being at the east end, where else would you put it? This isn't about putting an organ where it will sound best, but about where it will most authentically serve Anglican church music. From that point of view it will have to be in the choir.

 

And if the voluntaries are mainly French symphonies... well, it'll be just like an English church, won't it? :D

 

The literature in the church itself definitely indicates a new organ from an English builder, even if the web site isn't so specific.

 

The new organ will not serve Anglican church music in the sense VH means, because it will be the only stick of furniture east of the crossing! Don't forget, this is not an Anglican or RC church but a (very) protestant one. To all intents and purposes, it is a particularly austere Baptist chapel occupying part of what used to be a catholic basilica, from which all traces of Popery - candles, altars, pews, choir stalls, stained glass, paintings, statues, carvings, etc - have long since been expunged.

 

The church is a vast, cruciform building dating from 1280. The walls, pillars and vaulting of the entire church interior are painted white and all the windows are glazed with clear glass. There is no furniture at all east of the crossing, and very little in the transepts - just a few tables, cupboards, chests of drawers etc. All the seating is west of the crossing; it is arranged facing the pulpit, which is situated in the middle of the south side of the former nave. This is a church where you go to be preached at - unless, of course, you are only there to play the organ, as I was in April.

 

The acoustics are absolutely magnificent. There is a reverberation time of around seven seconds, and the sound does not become confused at all. An organ would sound good wherever it was sited. As the west wall is already occupied by a superb historic instrument, the proposed position looks as good as any.

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Away from Leiden but in the general context of the thread this looks quite interesting.

 

AJJ

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But in the case of this Dutch doodle ........A lovely case can be provided that does not detract from the elegance and light of such architecture. Those mock-ups are utterly out of keeping.

 

Just out of interest two of the mock-ups superimpose the cases of Durham Cath. and Hereford Cath. on pictures of the interior of the building. However, I don't recognise the source of the main superimposed organ case. Can anyone help me recognise my organ heritage!

PJW

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Guest Cynic
Away from Leiden but in the general context of the thread this looks quite interesting.

 

AJJ

 

 

I am most interested to see this scheme having heard such plans being mooted by David Ponsford and Neil Shepherd several times over the last fifteen years or so. I am amused in particular to see the planned consignment into the dustbin of histoy of (that great artist) John Coulson's En Chamade reed. To those not familiar with this stop, it looks a bit like a hi-tec weapon and can sound like one too! Apparently at the inagural recital following Coulson's enlargement of the instrument to the designs of the Revd.John Beck, Simon Preston played. A number of elderly congregation sat (as usual) round the corner from the main organ expecting distance to lend its usual enchantment. They practically shot from their seats when the Chamade was used.

 

To be fair, I don't think it's a particularly bad stop, just that it's out of proportion with the rest. I wonder what H&H will do with it. They could make a present of it to Wayne Marshall for use at The Bridgewater Hall!

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Ah, those Chamades......The Graal of the modern organist, it seems

everybody wants some in whatever organ!

 

Here is an interesting demo (with Hauptwerk) which illustrate

*genuine* chamades in their correct context:

 

http://www.sonusparadisi.cz/organs/santany...tallaFamosa.mp3

 

Note they aren't there for noise, rather for detail!

 

Pierre

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I am most interested to see this scheme having heard such plans being mooted by David Posford and Neil Shepherd several times over the last fifteen years or so. I am amused in particular to see the planned consignment into the dustbin of histoy of (that great artist) John Coulson's En Chamade reed. To those not familiar with this stop, it looks a bit like a hi-tec weapon and can sound like one too! Apparently at the inagural recital following Coulson's enlargement of the instrument to the designs of the Revd.John Beck, Simon Preston played. A number of elderly congregation sat (as usual) round the corner from the main organ expecting distance to lend its usual enchantment. They practically shot from their seats when the Chamade was used.

 

To be fair, I don't think it's a particularly bad stop, just that it's out of proportion with the rest. I wonder what H&H will do with it. They could make a present of it to Wayne Marshall for use at The Bridgewater Hall!

 

I am amazed.

 

The scheme is huge compared to that which is presently there. In addition, I wonder if Harrisons are intending to stretch the organ chamber - I find it difficult to imagine an instrument of this size in the space occupied by the present organ.

 

Since the chancel is little more than a tiny dog kennel grafted on to the huge nave, I wonder how effective it will be - I can envisage problems of tone-lock, for example.

 

However, H&H must be confident in their ability to bring off this cathedral-sized scheme in this church.

 

Actually, I quite like the present chamade rank - but then, I would....

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