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John Sayer

European Cities Of Historic Organs (echo)

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Over the years I have had the pleasure and privilege of playing the wonderful organ of 1741 by Gottfried Silbermann in the Cathedral in Freiberg on a number of occasions.

 

On my most recent visit last week I learned that the City of Freiberg - which boasts no less than 4 Silbermann organs - is the German representative in ECHO (European Cities of Historic Organs), an organisation which exists to foster the appreciation and preservation of historic instruments, and to promote cultural exchange between the cities represented. The ECHO website has full details (and excellent photographs) at www.echo-organs.org

 

The other member cities are:-

 

Holland - Alkmaar

Sweden - Göteborg

Austria - Innsbruck

Portugal - Lisbon

Denmark - Roskilde

France - Toulouse

Italy - Treviso

Spain - Zaragossa

 

Some cities are represented by a single instrument (e.g. Roskilde), others, such as Toulouse, by as many as half a dozen notable instruments.

 

Great Britain, you will note, is conspicuous by its absence. One may speculate why this should be. Lack of interest or typical British insularity perhaps? Or maybe it's simply that we feel there is no British city that qualifies?

 

Whatever the reason, our apparent reluctance to become more involved with the European organ scene seems to me a pity. Why are so many British organists so dreadfully inward-looking and parochial - vide the endless (and, some would say, tedious) debate on Worcester Cathedral and the Ally Pally. There is so much to be learned from broadening our artistic and musical horizons.

 

Surely we should be taking note of the ECHO initiative. How about possible nominations? Why not Oxford or Cambridge, say, for a start?

 

 

John Sayer

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....................the wonderful organ of 1741 by Gottfried Silbermann in the Cathedral in Freiberg ..........................

 

Whoops - that should read 1714 - before anyone spots the mistake! 1741 is the date of the similar-sized instrument in the Hofkirche, Dresden (Silbermann's last).

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Why are so many British organists so dreadfully inward-looking and parochial - vide the endless (and, some would say, tedious) debate on Worcester Cathedral and the Ally Pally.  There is so much to be learned from broadening our artistic and musical horizons.

 

Surely we should be taking note of the ECHO initiative.  How about possible nominations?  Why not Oxford or Cambridge, say, for a start?

John Sayer

 

Quite right! And we also need to keep the MUSIC in mind for if it were not for the need to play it on something the whole 'organ thing' would be irrelevant.

AJJ

 

'UK wise' - Edinburgh also is worth considering perhaps.

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Thanks for this interesting link.

 

By the way, the "Worcester debate", as boring as it may be (apologies), is by no way an "insular" one. We are some on the continent to worry about a big mistake I believe we would not make any more -at least in Belgium, but I know several scholars in France that would avoid it too-.

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Pierre Lauwers makes a very interesting point. We in the UK tend to be (and think) we are insular. Some of us have expressed a feeling that the thread Pierre refers to has been done to death. And yet, here is somebody NOT in the UK who is expressing an interest in what is happening in the UK. There really are people in the UK who are very much interested in what goes on outside the confines of the deep water which surrounds our green and pleasant land. But perhaps more surprisingly for some, there are people on the not-so-distant shores the far side of the not-so-deep waters who are interested in what is going on here.

 

I find that both interesting and awakening. Don't others?

 

John Pike Mander

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But perhaps more surprisingly for some, there are people on the not-so-distant shores the far side of the not-so-deep waters who are interested in what is going on here.

 

I find that both interesting and awakening. Don't others?

 

John Pike Mander

 

 

Absolutely. My point about ECHO was prompted by a question from a distinguished German organist as to why GB wasn't represented in that organisation. He himself had paid a number of visits to this country and given recitals on English organs. To him it was important that we should be involved in the 'organ heritage' of Europe.

 

Many German organists, in my experience, are keen to know more about the Inselvolk and their organs, and, not least, the music we play on them. Only last week, I found myself in Waltershausen in Thuringia, where the organist had asked me to bring copies with me of Edward Bairstow's (!) music for him to try out on the amazing organ of 1730 by Heinrich Trost. Likewise, from time to time, I've heard German organists include English music from Stanley to Stanford in their recital programmes.

 

I'm afraid we don't always do as much as we should to recognise and indeed encourage overseas interest in the British organ scene. For a start it's often difficult for foreign organists to get hold of English music in their own country. Then there is the question of recitals. On many occasions I've been asked by German organists, keen to visit this country, about possible recital openings. In reply I've found myself embarrassed to explain that organ recitals in Britain are few and far between, often poorly attended and usually offer very little financial reward.

 

One way, perhaps, of changing this sate of affairs, would be for a far-sighted English or Scottish town or city to decide to promote its organ heritage and get involved with an organisation such as ECHO - or is that too naive a hope?

 

John Sayer

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Interestingly also builders/designers of organs from the USA are increasingly visiting the UK to look at our organ heritage. By coincidence only last week I was in contact with the distinguished and respected proprietor of an old established organbuilding concern over there who was extolling some of our late 19th century and early 20th century instruments. More especially the ingenuity of design and construction and the standard of pipework and voicing. His admiration and enthusiasm for them and at least some of the music that would naturally 'go' with them knew no bounds. As an aside he was also bemoaning the need often in the US for everything to be LARGE whereas often the British economy of design combined with superb voicing on occasions lessened the need for all things vast.

AJJ

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would be for a far-sighted English or Scottish town or city to decide to promote its organ heritage and get involved with an organisation such as ECHO - or is that too naive a hope?

 

John Sayer

 

Maybe I could suggest some ideas here.

 

I sometimes tend to think the english might have a slight tendancy to shoot

in their own feet; how could a strong interest grow for the british organ and its

repertoire if the english themselves want to throw their own traditions

away to make room for others?

And, despite that, there is interest on the continent for this british tradition

(I mean the organs, the repertoire), but it could be far more developped.

 

I'd be very interested with a little experience: we'd take 10 british organists,

and then continental ones (no matter the country, but with an interest with

the english tradition), and ask them to cite three organs in UK that might

qualify for ECHO.

I believe we would have completely different results; for instance, it's well

possible Worcester would be cited by continentals only, while the english

would prefer "à la manière de" (whatever french or german ancient buider)

modern interpretations.

When I visited british organs about 25 years ago, the subjects of pride were always

"these french-like reeds", or german-like that. This may have evolved a bit

but not *that* far, it seems.

Of course we all need diversity in our "Orgellandschaft", that is, I'd like to have

british, italian, spanish organs in Belgium. But the first step is, I believe, to secure

the place of the flemish organ (Van Peteghem etc), the Liège organ (an unique

french-german synthesis baroque organ), and our typical romantic organs.

"Provincial" they are, of course, it's not Schnitger nor Silbermann nor Cavaillé-Coll,

but they are not less interesting for that. Why would S.Green, England, Harris,

Willis and A.Harrison be less interesting?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Quote.......

 

Why would S.Green, England, Harris,

Willis and A.Harrison be less interesting?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

 

 

Or even the Kenneth Tickell at Dulwich (see NPOR) which is modern yet sounds as Brtitish as they come and was designed in collaboration with a resident organist who also knows his stuff as far as 'sensible' organ design concerning reperoire and actual service usage is concerned. An organ with its own real identity. Maybe at Worcester.......?

AJJ

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Pierre Lauwers makes a very interesting point. We in the UK tend to be (and think) we are insular....  But perhaps more surprisingly for some, there are people on the not-so-distant shores the far side of the not-so-deep waters who are interested in what is going on here.

 

I find that both interesting and awakening. Don't others?

 

John Pike Mander

I think the British are less insular now than we used to be, particularly since the end of the Second World War in 1945. People like Ralph Downes had to drag organ builders like J W Walker & Son and Harrison & Harrison kicking and screaming into the neo-classical age, persuading them to open their eyes, ears and minds to foreign influences. The repercussions of the resulting instruments at places like the Brompton Oratory and Royal Festival Hall are still being felt today in the continuing inward flood of instruments from all corners of mainland Europe - Goll at the RCO and Aubertin at Aberdeen University to name just two recent examples. These commissions are not the acts of an insular nation, far from it. A little bit misguided, perhaps, in the case of the RCO, but not insular.

 

The absence of Great Britain from the ECHO list does not surprise me, as if anything, insularity is the malaise of mainland Europe today, not the UK. Name the last significant commission for a new organ in mainland Europe to go to a British firm of organ builders. I can't think of one. Can you? The only commission I can think of is from an American organ builder, C B Fisk, for Lausanne Cathedral. But no British one.

 

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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Mr Jones,

 

The reasons for this:

 

Name the last significant commission for a new organ in mainland Europe to go to a British firm of organ builders. I can't think of one

(Citation)

 

I gave in my post above.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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How about possible nominations?  Why not Oxford or Cambridge, say, for a start?

John Sayer

How about Thomas Thamar's 1674 organ in Framlingham, Suffolk?

 

--------------------------------------------

 

History:

 

1674: Pembroke College, Oxford.

Built by Thomas Thamar (Peterborough). 1 manual, 8 stops, approx. 510 pipes.

 

1708: St. Michael's, Framlingham, Suffolk.

Organ aquired from Pembroke College, Oxford. Installed in Framlingham by Charles Quarles (organist of Trinity College), Oxford. Specification unaltered.

 

1896: Alfred Hunter

Organ rebuilt. New Swell & Pedal divisions. Used most of Thamar's pipework on the Great except for the Cornet and Trumpet which he replaced with a Harmonic Flute and Gamba; the Cornet went missing and the Trumpet was lost; the Swell incorporated at least 3 18th century stops.

 

1970: Bishop & Son

Organ restored. the Cornet was rediscovered in the Rectory attic and repaired, restored and reconstructed; a very old rank of Trumpet pipes was found to replace the lost set; the Swell was matched up to complement the Great and based on its 18th century content; the Pedal was likewise treated; the Cromorne was introduced by John Budgen of Bishop's; a Pedal reed was also added.

 

Casework date: pre-1630, located in West gallery.

 

--------------------------------------------

 

Could this organ represent us? The Great division is all Thamar pipework except for the Trumpet 8'.

 

Dave

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Having looked at the ECHO website in some detail, it clear that, while I stand by my earlier opinion that the British are not insular, insofar as organ building is concerned, the fact remains that we are not good at setting up the type of organ festivals which would enable ECHO membership.

 

As far as organ festivals are concerned, all we have is Oundle and St Albans, neither of which could possibly feature in ECHO as places with organs of historical interest. Oundle focuses on the 1980s built Frobenius organ in the school chapel but also takes in the wider area of Cambridge, Peterborough etc and St Albans is focused round the 1960s built Cathedral organ. We have lots of odds and sods all over the country, a Liverpool Organ Day here, a London Organ Day there, but nothing of the prestige or duration to which the ECHO countries offer.

 

Part of the problem maybe that as far as the organ is concerned, we have always been late starters. Whether it be the introduction of Pedal boards, or an awakening to the merits of mutations, and later on the neo-classical organ, the conservative British have always arrived late at the party.

 

And we still have a big problem about the organ's image in the UK, no more evident than by the way the Royal Festival Hall and Royal Albert Hall have treated the organs in their care. To date there remain no guarantees about when, or if, the RFH organ will be re-installed. And at the Royal Albert Hall, Manders have done a splendid job in restoring the old war-horse, only for it to be put back into hibernation, save for the occasional Organ Spectacular when the same old Widor Toccata and Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor are rolled out. We've seen for ourselves on this discussion board the open in-fighting over what's left of the Ally Pally Organ. It's surely no wonder the UK hasn't been invited to be part of the ECHO, if we can't take ourselves seriously, why should they?

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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we have always been late starters. Whether it be the introduction of Pedal boards, or an awakening to the merits of mutations, and later on the neo-classical organ, the conservative British have always arrived late at the party.

(Citation)

 

Well, this is understatment -to say the least-

 

It seems as far as swellboxes and above all voicing are concerned, Samuel Green was about 100 years ahead of the continent.

On another thread (which remained without comments), I wondered how

William Hill could be as early as Walcker in the developpment of the

romantic organ: 1829!

 

Now about the neo-classic organs, a delayed entry of this one on your shores

may have been more of a chance than anything else.

(Well I say that but in the meantime I advocate for the preservation

of Victor Gonzalez work. But was he really a "neo-classic" builder?).

 

The value of any organ has nothing to do with its size. The "classic revival"

did teach us that. In exchange for its limited size and absence of pedal, the

english organ offered these splendid Diapasons. Later, when the pedal stops

arrived, the Diapasons had to be re-inforced "the german way". And so

we have "Schulze Diapasons" etc...Backwards is sometimes ahead.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Surely Mr. Sayer has answered his own point.

 

It is precisely such actions which are about to be perpetrated at Worcester (where we are about to throw out a perfectly good example of our organ-building heritage) which mitigate against the UK being included.

 

Here in Britain, we seem to be quite good at doing ourselves down - often in (but not limited to) the field of organ-building. In some quarters, there is a tendency to think that unless an instrument is foreign, has tracker action and less than three 8p foundation stops per manual, then it is not worthy of retention.

 

I would have thought that there were many instruments in the UK which were deserving of a place in the survey - abd not just those from the 18th C., either!

 

Incidentally, Mr. Sayer, if you take the trouble to scan my posts (as well as those of others, here), you will see that not all of us are quite so inward-looking! For the record, I have played the organs of S. Etienne, Caen; S. Malo, Valognes; N-D, Paris (O-de-C), S. Eustache, Paris; La Madeleine (O-de-C), Paris; Bamberg Cathedral; Bonn Cathedral; a church in Naumberg; Stavanger Cathedral (Norway), Antwerp Cathedral, Belgium and several other instruments in smaller churches. This, in addition to half the cathedral organs in the UK. I try to keep in touch with new developments in the organ world, be they the US, the UK or Europe. Consequently, I believe that I am reasonably well-informed. Yet, the wonder of it is - I still think that Worcester is worth saving. It may be that the thread here has run its course, but if nothing else, it has shown that there are many who do like the instrument and who can tolerate other sounds beside a plethora of mixture-work and weirdly-pitched mutations.... :)

 

(I did not include the O-de-C at Chartres Cathedral - this instrument is possibly the worst which I have ever played - its current state is execrable.)

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<Incidentally, Mr. Sayer, if you take the trouble to scan my posts (as well as those of others, here), you will see that not all of us are quite so inward-looking!>

 

Far from it - my comment about insularity was not aimed at contributors to the MDB and I'm sorry if it gave that impression. One of the stimulating features of the site is a generally informed awareness of European developments, past and present, in the organ world.

 

JS

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Far from it - my comment about insularity was not aimed at contributors to the MDB and I'm sorry if it gave that impression. One of the stimulating features of the site is a generally informed awareness of European developments, past and present, in the organ world.

 

JS

 

....Among which the british isles!

Maybe there obtains something like a "reversed insularity"; anyway,

I'd accept to be called an insular if it might help.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Surely Mr. Sayer has answered his own point.

 

 

I would have thought that there were many instruments in the UK which were deserving of a place in the survey - abd not just those from the 18th C., either!

 

A few minutes on the NPOR web site (www.bios.org.uk/npor), looking for organs with a Historic Organs Certificate (HOC) will find a number of contenders.

 

Most of the major instruments in Cathedrals, etc. have been changed so much over the years that they can't really be called "historic".

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I would encourage Edinburgh to be the most viable for an ECHO United Kingdom City for a start. It has such a diverse and interesting organ culture that really does cover many periods.

 

Also, the Scottish seem passionate about organ conservation and its history although I believe the Scottish Historic Organ Trust is now defunct.

 

There are several very fine players there too such as John Kitchen who reguarly record instruments in that region.

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A few minutes on the NPOR web site (www.bios.org.uk/npor), looking for organs with a Historic Organs Certificate (HOC) will find a number of contenders.

 

Most of the major instruments in Cathedrals, etc. have been changed so much over the years that they can't really be called "historic".

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Hang on, there! Most 'historic' instruments in other (european) countries have also been altered, or at least, restored. For example, St. Bavokirke, Haarlem. As another contributor has mentioned, there were a number of things done in the course of the restoration of this historic instrument (1950s) which. even now, would be questionable. Whilst I realise that Rev. Newnham was probably inferring major tonal and transmission alterations, there is scarecly an organ alive (!) which is in its original state. If it was, it would in all probability be virtually un-playable.

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The ECHO website has full details (and excellent photographs) at www.echo-organs.org

 

Some cities are represented by a single instrument (e.g. Roskilde), others, such as Toulouse, by as many as half a dozen notable instruments.

 

Great Britain, you will note, is conspicuous by its absence.  One may speculate why this should be.  Lack of interest or typical British insularity perhaps?  Or maybe it's simply that we feel there is no British city that qualifies?

 

Whatever the reason, our apparent reluctance to become more involved with the European organ scene seems to me a pity.

 

How about possible nominations?  Why not Oxford or Cambridge, say, for a start?

John Sayer

 

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

 

 

It's interesting, that in researching Eastern Europe, and discovering many exciting things there, almost no-one has made comment about it, shown the slightest interest in sharing information about it or even expressed the view that there might be something "out there" which is better/different/more historic or just plain fascinating.

 

It seems to me that most Brit organists are quite happy to paddle along in still waters, trotting out the romantic repertoire so beloved of old men in grey suits, and performing Bach, because someone says they ought to do.

 

As for a UK city, London is not over-exciting for a city of the size of it, Cambridge has its' moments and Oxford is fairly cosmopolitan.

 

For me, there is but one great "organ city," which has to be Liverpool; not only for the very famous instruments there, but for quite a variety of other instruments in more or less original condition, including instruments by Fr.Willis etc.

 

The other candidate would have to be Leeds, with the splendid Harrison at the PC, the Town Hall, St.Bart's Armley (of world significance) and a fair sprinkling of notable instruments in the surrounding area.

 

Birmingham is another possibility, but as the place is a bit of a dump, I guess it wouldn't attract people beyond the organs there.

 

Then, of course, there is Bristol, with the big three instruments, plus All Saint's and the Cathedral at Clifton. It's also quite a nice city.

 

MM

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

It's interesting, that in researching Eastern Europe, and discovering many exciting things there, almost no-one has made comment about it, shown the slightest interest in sharing information about it or even expressed the view that there might be something "out there" which is better/different/more historic or just plain fascinating.

 

It seems to me that most Brit organists are quite happy to paddle along in still waters, trotting out the romantic repertoire so beloved of old men in grey suits, and performing Bach, because someone says they ought to do.

 

Dear MM/gentle readers

 

I would like to ask a genuine question, ie one to which I neither know the answer nor have a preconceived position on what the answer should be. Why must a city be involved in the ECHO process ? Is there any better reason than that was the name that someone came up with ?If geographical areas could be included, whether or not they encompassed a city, would not the chances of getting the necessary range and variety of instruments be increased ?

 

As to MM's concern with matters relating to Eastern Europe, some of the first LPs I ever purchassed were the Suprahon series "The Historic Organs of Czechoslovakia" played by Jiri Reinberger which introduced me to some of the instruments, although the repertoire played featured little music written by composers from that area, and some of the instruments sounded to be on their last legs. There was also briefly available a set of recordings of church organs of Prague which included works by Brixi, Seger and Vanhal, as well works by more familiar names. Although I would be interested in knowing more, visiting is made difficult (even in this era of Easyjet and RyanAir) by the fact that I do not drive. Whilst one can get to Prague or Budapest now much more easily than at any other time in my life, onward travel if you do not drive (and so cannot transport yourself) and do not speak the language (making it more difficult to get others to do it for you) can present enough problems to make irresistible the appeal of sticking to countries whose language one can speak. To induce a greater spirit of adventure requires some sort of push, like knowing that there is definitely hidden treasure to be found and not simply that there is a possibility that there might be. This means I will need to hear some recordings of the organs and the players before I decide to commit part of my not inexhaustible funds to exploring further. Yet recordings of Eastern European organs are about as common as hens' teeth. I have a fairly extensive record collection and I am reasonably open to adding new dimesions to it but until I first encountered MMs advocacy I was unaware that there was anything to look for in that direction. I could name you half a dozen Concert Pianists of world class stature hailing from countries once behind the Iron Curtain; the same for violinists and conductors, but I would be hard pressed to name one organist. Yet I could easily (well perhaps not easily) produce a list of names for the USA or France or Germany . I wonder whether it is my sole responsibility to seek out the Eastern Europeans or whether they do not have some obligation to inform me of their presence. So far they have not succeeded in doing so. This may be entirely my fault but I do not think so.

 

The reference to old men in grey suits reminded me( by a process of association of ideas) that GTB said that the reason he played a lot of modern American organ music was that people sent it to him! Perhaps Eastern European composers wanting to acquire a higher profile in the West need to take the first step and send copies of what they have written to some of the more celebrated Western performers. I would have thought that Christopher Herrick would have been grateful for novel material suitable for either the Organ Fireworks or Organ Dreams series and Kevin Bowyer is an indefatigable champion of new organ music, not all of which is easy to like at first acquaintance, and some of which does not, in my opinion, improve however well acquainted with it you become.

 

MM complains of a general lack of interest in sharing information. Since I have none of my own to impart such a sharing could only involve a one way street, in which all the information being shared originates with him, at least in the short term.If he is happy with that situation then I for one am prepared to learn.

 

Brian Childs

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