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martinstanley

Elgar The Apostles - Royal Albert Hall - Bbc Proms

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Was anyone else on the Board at this performance on Saturday? It was superbly done by City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus but for me spoilt by an ill balanced use of the organ, particularly at the climaxes. I am therefore interested if anyone else had the same experience, and if they were seated lower down the hall whether the balance was better. I have since tried to listen on the BBC Listen Again facility but it is very congested and the quality is just not good enough to form an opinion.

 

We were sat in the Circle half way round at 45 degrees to the platform in block R where you are at the same level as much of the pipe work but some distance away. At the big climaxes, particularly the big one early on at figure 35, the sound of the orchestra and chorus completely disappeared under full pedal, and heavy reeds etc. This happened again on several other occasions (including one point the other forces were being accompanied by what I think was a rough pedal reed still out) and rather spoilt the performance, although the balance was better in the second half. I did wonder if registration adjustments had been made in the interval.

 

I also wondered if the balance was better in the lower regions of the hall where some of the volume from the organ may be masked by the orchestra canopy.

 

This is not the first time I have experienced this effect with organ and orchestra at the RAH. I wonder what guidance is given to visiting organists (in the same way it is at St. Paul’s) who will have little rehearsal time with the other forces involved. On this occasion the organist ought to have had a minder in the Circle at the rehearsal to warn him of the effect he was creatin, but can only assume in the floor of the hall the balance was ok.

 

To me it was a case of having all this power but using more than was required by the music. The first performance was in Birmingham Town Hall and I am sure the organ there at the time (wasn’t it reckoned to be underpowered for use with chorus and orchestra so a Bombarde division was added at the last rebuild?) would not have caused such a devastating and unmusical effect.

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Guest Lee Blick
Was anyone else on the Board at this performance on Saturday? It was superbly done by City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus but for me spoilt by an ill balanced use of the organ, particularly at the climaxes. I am therefore interested if anyone else had the same experience, and if they were seated lower down the hall whether the balance was better. I have since tried to listen on the BBC Listen Again facility but it is very congested and the quality is just not good enough to form an opinion.

 

We were sat in the Circle half way round at 45 degrees to the platform in block R where you are at the same level as much of the pipe work but some distance away. At the big climaxes, particularly the big one early on at figure 35, the sound of the orchestra and chorus completely disappeared under full pedal, and heavy reeds etc. This happened again on several other occasions (including one point the other forces were being accompanied by what I think was a rough pedal reed still out) and rather spoilt the performance, although the balance was better in the second half. I did wonder if registration adjustments had been made in the interval.

 

I also wondered if the balance was better in the lower regions of the hall where some of the volume from the organ may be masked by the orchestra canopy.

 

This is not the first time I have experienced this effect with organ and orchestra at the RAH. I wonder what guidance is given to visiting organists (in the same way it is at St. Paul’s) who will have little rehearsal time with the other forces involved. On this occasion the organist ought to have had a minder in the Circle at the rehearsal to warn him of the effect he was creatin, but can only assume in the floor of the hall the balance was ok.

 

To me it was a case of having all this power but using more than was required by the music. The first performance was in Birmingham Town Hall and I am sure the organ there at the time (wasn’t it reckoned to be underpowered for use with chorus and orchestra so a Bombarde division was added at the last rebuild?) would not have caused such a devastating and unmusical effect.

 

 

I don't think it would have mattered whether the organ was too loud at Birmingham, because the first performance was a bit of a disaster anyway, according to some accounts.

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the sound of the orchestra and chorus completely disappeared under full pedal, and heavy reeds etc.

 

Isn't this as it should be? :rolleyes:

 

Seriously, though, I have only been to the RAH a handful of times, but on all occasions I have been disappointed by how distant the orchestra sounded, even only half way back. It strikes me that Father Willis got it right, whilst even modern orchestras that are underpowered for the space.

 

Anybody know how large the Ranelagh Rotunda was, compared to the RAH?

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Isn't this as it should be? :rolleyes:

 

Seriously, though, I have only been to the RAH a handful of times, but on all occasions I have been disappointed by how distant the orchestra sounded, even only half way back. It strikes me that Father Willis got it right, whilst even modern orchestras that are underpowered for the space.

 

Anybody know how large the Ranelagh Rotunda was, compared to the RAH?

 

 

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

 

 

Oh come on!

 

The RAH was an absolute acoustic nightmare before the installation of the flying-saucers. I recall the building before they were installed, and the place was just full of double-echoes and standing-waves.

 

It was the musical equivalent to St.Pancras Station!

 

The flying-saucers have only helped to project sound down, away from the casserole-dish lid which forms the roof, and whilst it works to some degree, there is absolutely no-way that this dreadful hall could ever match up to a building like Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

 

Lest we forget, the architect shot himself when he heard the acoustics.

 

For some peculiar reason, England seems to specialise in grotesque acoustic conditions, and both the RFH and the RAH are two very good reasons not to visit London for a concert..

 

MM

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

Oh come on!

 

The RAH was an absolute acoustic nightmare before the installation of the flying-saucers. I recall the building before they were installed, and the place was just full of double-echoes and standing-waves.

 

I remember a Ravel's Bolero where there most clearly appeared to be two snare drummers - one on the platform and a phantom drummer somewhere in the roof!! It was dreadful really.... :rolleyes:

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Was anyone else on the Board at this performance on Saturday? It was superbly done by City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus but for me spoilt by an ill balanced use of the organ, particularly at the climaxes. I am therefore interested if anyone else had the same experience, and if they were seated lower down the hall whether the balance was better. I have since tried to listen on the BBC Listen Again facility but it is very congested and the quality is just not good enough to form an opinion.

 

We were sat in the Circle half way round at 45 degrees to the platform in block R where you are at the same level as much of the pipe work but some distance away. At the big climaxes, particularly the big one early on at figure 35, the sound of the orchestra and chorus completely disappeared under full pedal, and heavy reeds etc. This happened again on several other occasions (including one point the other forces were being accompanied by what I think was a rough pedal reed still out) and rather spoilt the performance, although the balance was better in the second half. I did wonder if registration adjustments had been made in the interval.

 

I also wondered if the balance was better in the lower regions of the hall where some of the volume from the organ may be masked by the orchestra canopy.

 

This is not the first time I have experienced this effect with organ and orchestra at the RAH. I wonder what guidance is given to visiting organists (in the same way it is at St. Paul’s) who will have little rehearsal time with the other forces involved. On this occasion the organist ought to have had a minder in the Circle at the rehearsal to warn him of the effect he was creatin, but can only assume in the floor of the hall the balance was ok.

 

To me it was a case of having all this power but using more than was required by the music. The first performance was in Birmingham Town Hall and I am sure the organ there at the time (wasn’t it reckoned to be underpowered for use with chorus and orchestra so a Bombarde division was added at the last rebuild?) would not have caused such a devastating and unmusical effect.

 

From where I sat in the Grand Tier, the balance was perfect; stunning perfomances all round. I think I've come to realize that contrary to what's often said, the organ is really NOT best heard from the Circle: the big reeds and mixtures are almost unbearable and the sound is top-heavy. From where I sat, the organ provided perfect support (and again in Bluebeard's Castle last night).

 

After all, the RAH isn't the only building where a great instrument is at the mercy of the acoustic in a big space. The Westminster Cathedral organ, for example, sounds similarly unbearable in the rear quarter of the nave, but completely puny from the Apse.

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I don't think it would have mattered whether the organ was too loud at Birmingham, because the first performance was a bit of a disaster anyway, according to some accounts.

 

I think you are confusing this with the first performance of Gerontius. Both Michael Kennedy and Gerald Northrop Moore indicate the first performance of The Aposles was a success.

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From where I sat in the Grand Tier, the balance was perfect; stunning perfomances all round. I think I've come to realize that contrary to what's often said, the organ is really NOT best heard from the Circle: the big reeds and mixtures are almost unbearable and the sound is top-heavy. From where I sat, the organ provided perfect support (and again in Bluebeard's Castle last night).

 

It is good to get another opinion. In some ways I am relieved at knowing that you found the balance perfect elsewhere in the hall and agree it was a stunning performance despite my concerns. The Ascension at the end was particularly moving and one time the organ did not dominate. I will watch where I book in future (all lower seats were sold when we booked).

 

I disagree with an earlier post and think the RAH is an excellent venue for big choral works despite being blasted by reeds and mixtures if you sit in the Circle!

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It is good to get another opinion. In some ways I am relieved at knowing that you found the balance perfect elsewhere in the hall and agree it was a stunning performance despite my concerns. The Ascension at the end was particularly moving and one time the organ did not dominate. I will watch where I book in future (all lower seats were sold when we booked).

 

I disagree with an earlier post and think the RAH is an excellent venue for big choral works despite being blasted by reeds and mixtures if you sit in the Circle!

 

 

The worst place to hear the RAH organ during the Proms, in my experience, is from the floor of the arena where it always seems to disappoint at climactic moments in big oratorios and other works where the organ really needs to make its presence felt. At such moments the orchestral canopy is as much an acoustic as a visual hindrance. The sound of the Great reeds presumably goes over the top, but for some strange reason the 32 basses also are never quite as tummy-rumblng as one would like them to be.

 

For solo organ recitals - and there isn't one at the Proms this year (apart from John Scott playing some late-night Buxtehude on 3 September) - they usually manage to hoist the canopy and lighting gantries up 15-20 feet and the balance is much better.

 

JS

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Isn't this as it should be? :)

 

Seriously, though, I have only been to the RAH a handful of times, but on all occasions I have been disappointed by how distant the orchestra sounded, even only half way back. It strikes me that Father Willis got it right, whilst even modern orchestras that are underpowered for the space.

 

 

Is this right? I thought that Father Willis didn't get it right at the RAH, and part of the rationale of the first Harrison & Harrison rebuild was to make it louder.

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Is this right? I thought that Father Willis didn't get it right at the RAH, and part of the rationale of the first Harrison & Harrison rebuild was to make it louder.

 

For those people who subscribe to "Pipedreams", this month's contribution includes a recording of what is described as the Willis/Mander organ of the RAH.

Unfortunately I am unable to listen to it on my computer, but hopefully others will have more success.

Colin Richell.

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I wonder if I can ask about the RAH Organ layout? Is all the organ behind the case, or is some located at gallery level behind the half dozen or so black panels?

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I wonder if I can ask about the RAH Organ layout? Is all the organ behind the case, or is some located at gallery level behind the half dozen or so black panels?

 

As I recall from a remarkable BIOS visit before the restoration - when Manders generously made it possible for a couple of hundred people to file through the organ - Great, Orchestral, Choir and Pedal are in the case, i.e. within the perimeter of the Hall and with the big reeds on the top level. The Swell and Solo divisions have their shutters flush with the inner wall, with the pipework behind in separate chambers (Solo left & Swell right) extending back almost to the outer wall of the Hall, i.e. above the Shop at Door 12. There is a 6ft wide corridor between the back of the organ and the window. I remember seeing the enclosed Willis (wooden) 32 reed right at the back of the Swell box.

 

JS

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As I recall from a remarkable BIOS visit before the restoration - when Manders generously made it possible for a couple of hundred people to file through the organ - Great, Orchestral, Choir and Pedal are in the case, i.e. within the perimeter of the Hall and with the big reeds on the top level. The Swell and Solo divisions have their shutters flush with the inner wall, with the pipework behind in separate chambers (Solo left & Swell right) extending back almost to the outer wall of the Hall, i.e. above the Shop at Door 12. There is a 6ft wide corridor between the back of the organ and the window. I remember seeing the enclosed Willis (wooden) 32 reed right at the back of the Swell box.

 

JS

 

The unenclosed Choir used to be at a lower level behind the console, speaking through the grilles at the front. Is this still the case?

 

John

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... Lest we forget, the architect shot himself when he heard the acoustics. ...

MM

 

Good grief!

 

At least Hope Bagenal (1888 - 1979) did not resort to this rather extreme method of self-castigation after 3 May, 1951.

 

Whilst I can sympathise with martinstanley, personally I quite like the idea of the organ overwhelming the orchestra - if only occasionally. Whenever I play with an orchestra in this area, all I can hear are the brass players, who seem to be incapable of playing at any dynamic level other than double fortissimo.

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The unenclosed Choir used to be at a lower level behind the console, speaking through the grilles at the front. Is this still the case?

 

John

 

That's right, but with the soundboard raised about four feet to aid sound projection.

 

JS

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Whilst I can sympathise with martinstanley, personally I quite like the idea of the organ overwhelming the orchestra - if only occasionally. Whenever I play with an orchestra in this area, all I can hear are the brass players, who seem to be incapable of playing at any dynamic level other than double fortissimo.

The curse of amateur orchestras. I don't know why, but brass players do seem to need a fair degree of professional expertise in order to play quietly. Organists should be wary of falling into the same trap. I doubt that the organ should ever overwhelm the orchestra to the extent that it is entirely obliterated. Ideally a self-respecting joculator will be able to judge how much of his beast to pull out in order to deliver a satisfactory experience, but we all know how difficult that judgement can be and ultimately it is up to the conductor to say exactly how he wants it.

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The curse of amateur orchestras. I don't know why, but brass players do seem to need a fair degree of professional expertise in order to play quietly.

 

Ummm.... these were professionals, Vox! I would rather not say which orchestra - but you know the general area of my domicile!

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The curse of amateur orchestras. I don't know why, but brass players do seem to need a fair degree of professional expertise in order to play quietly. Organists should be wary of falling into the same trap. I doubt that the organ should ever overwhelm the orchestra to the extent that it is entirely obliterated. Ideally a self-respecting joculator will be able to judge how much of his beast to pull out in order to deliver a satisfactory experience, but we all know how difficult that judgement can be and ultimately it is up to the conductor to say exactly how he wants it.

 

I suspect from the position of the conductor, below and infront of the orchestra canopy, the balance was ok. With the winding problem being rectified in the last rebuild this is a very powerful beast (not sure I would call it a musical instrument at full tilt) and needs using with care.

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