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Choral Evensong From Trinity College, Cambridge


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Yesterday I heard bits of Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3 from Trinity College, Cambridge but as I only turned on during the second lesson I didn't know which choir and organ were involved until the end.

 

I found the accompaniment to the Howells Gloucester Service Nunc Dimittis just right. I thought "Yes, this is what proper organs should sound like; plenty of upperwork!" whilst imagining it to be, perhaps, Gloucester Cathedral. The choir was impressive too; it never crossed my mind that the top line might be adult women.

 

What did sound strange was the concluding voluntary Kyrie Gott Heiliger Geist from CÜIII. There seemed to be an unsteadiness to the winding (caused perhaps by the use of manual doubles) which I didn't like at all, although in principle I am in favour of natural winding. It's possible that the effect I was hearing was actually caused by something in the recording or broadcasting process or in my car radio :lol: so I'd be interested in what others thought.

 

I just tried the "listen again" facility on the Radio 3 website but the quality was not good and I gave up.

 

I once spent a couple of hours on this organ and thought it fabulous although I barely scratched the surface of its potential.

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Guest Cynic
Yesterday I heard bits of Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3 from Trinity College, Cambridge but as I only turned on during the second lesson I didn't know which choir and organ were involved until the end.

 

I found the accompaniment to the Howells Gloucester Service Nunc Dimittis just right. I thought "Yes, this is what proper organs should sound like; plenty of upperwork!" whilst imagining it to be, perhaps, Gloucester Cathedral. The choir was impressive too; it never crossed my mind that the top line might be adult women.

 

What did sound strange was the concluding voluntary Kyrie Gott Heiliger Geist from CÜIII. There seemed to be an unsteadiness to the winding (caused perhaps by the use of manual doubles) which I didn't like at all, although in principle I am in favour of natural winding. It's possible that the effect I was hearing was actually caused by something in the recording or broadcasting process or in my car radio <_< so I'd be interested in what others thought.

 

I just tried the "listen again" facility on the Radio 3 website but the quality was not good and I gave up.

 

I once spent a couple of hours on this organ and thought it fabulous although I barely scratched the surface of its potential.

 

 

I believe I am right in saying that there is an option to have either 'flexible' or 'steady' winding (one can cut out what amounts to concussion bellows on each division) and Richard Marlow selected 'flexible' and so it has remained ever since. It is a very fine organ indeed, ideal for the acoustics of that chapel.

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Guest Barry Williams
I believe I am right in saying that there is an option to have either 'flexible' or 'steady' winding (one can cut out what amounts to concussion bellows on each division) and Richard Marlow selected 'flexible' and so it has remained ever since. It is a very fine organ indeed, ideal for the acoustics of that chapel.

 

 

Why would anyone wish to have a winding system that de-tuned the pipes? Surely, everyone works towards rock steadiness of wind.

 

Barry Williams

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Why would anyone wish to have a winding system that de-tuned the pipes? Surely, everyone works towards rock steadiness of wind.

 

Barry Williams

 

It depends, surely, on the instrument in question. Rock steadiness may be a virtue on a large cathedral organ, but on a smaller instrument a lively or living wind-supply can often make the sound so much more interesting.

 

As for the extreme case of de-tuning, has anyone come across the 'Winddrossel' or wind throttle found on a number of modern German organs? It usually consists of a lever at the console which gradually shuts off the wind supply to the pipes. I can think of one piece where the player is instructed to turn off the blower and continue playing (this obviously only works with mechanical action) but I can't think of any musical use for the device just described.

 

Perhaps one of our German 'Orgelforer' can enlighten us.

 

JS

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Yesterday I heard bits of Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3 from Trinity College, Cambridge but as I only turned on during the second lesson I didn't know which choir and organ were involved until the end.

 

I found the accompaniment to the Howells Gloucester Service Nunc Dimittis just right. I thought "Yes, this is what proper organs should sound like; plenty of upperwork!" whilst imagining it to be, perhaps, Gloucester Cathedral. The choir was impressive too; it never crossed my mind that the top line might be adult women.

I didn't hear the broadcast in question and I don't know the Trinity College organ, nevertheless I'm surprised by the assertion that the Gloucester Cathedral organ, in its post HNB form, might be considered ideal for Howells. I'm very aware that some correspondents will be frustrated that I should raise this issue, but would imagine that Howells would have sided with Sumsion on the subject of the HNB/Downes rebuild, and it is surely beyond any question the post-HNB sound was not in any way close to what Howells had in mind for the Gloucester service.

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I didn't hear the broadcast in question and I don't know the Trinity College organ, nevertheless I'm surprised by the assertion that the Gloucester Cathedral organ, in its post HNB form, might be considered ideal for Howells. I'm very aware that some correspondents will be frustrated that I should raise this issue, but would imagine that Howells would have sided with Sumsion on the subject of the HNB/Downes rebuild, and it is surely beyond any question the post-HNB sound was not in any way close to what Howells had in mind for the Gloucester service.

Perhaps I didn't express myself clearly. I don't think I meant that the sound was right for Howells, I meant that the sound was right for an organ :rolleyes:. It was supportive for the choir, and exciting, and musical. I don't think it's an accident that the earliest organs were Blockwork; the basic sound of a good organ is a full chorus. In my opinion.

 

I realise that I am going against my own principles of authenticity here. For the last 30 years I have been a firm believer in using historically accurate instruments, using the music and the organs of the baroque as a prime example. Now I risk the wrath of Pierre and many others here by suggesting that an authentic early-mid C20 instrument may not be the best for early-mid C20 music. Flame protectors <ON>.

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Guest Cynic
I realise that I am going against my own principles of authenticity here. For the last 30 years I have been a firm believer in using historically accurate instruments, using the music and the organs of the baroque as a prime example. Now I risk the wrath of Pierre and many others here by suggesting that an authentic early-mid C20 instrument may not be the best for early-mid C20 music. Flame protectors <ON>.

 

 

If what you mean is that an instrument of the 1950's is frequently poorly suited to music from the 20s/30s then I very much agree.

It's horses for courses, and the requirements of (quasi-authentic) baroque on the one hand and (quasi-orchestral) romantic are so far apart that one ought not to expect to be able to satisfy them in one and the same instrument.

 

As to Howells, his feelings about the current Gloucester organ are not in doubt.

His exact words two days after The Opening, at which he was guest of honour were

'They have smashed up my organ'.

He said it to me. In the three years I studied with him, that was the only time I saw him really angry.

 

Sumsion declined not only a general invitation but a specific request that he play the new organ.

He never went into that gallery again.

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