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This is exactly what Ralph Downes was saying.

 

In addition, as I mentioned in a post a few days ago, there are a number of valid musical things which the Truro organ (for example) cannot do, but which Gloucester can. Remember that accompanying the choral music of Stanford and Wood is not the only thing which either instrument has to do.

 

I think I can guess which of the two instruments most of us prefer though! B)

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So, after all these arguments, it now transpires that both its designer and builder admit its not fit for its main liturgical purpose. Exactly what some of us (whatever its other merits) have been saying for years.

 

There are a few obviously well-informed who seem to wish to adhere to the notion that 'Dippy, Dopey, Downes' was, variously, a Genius or Messiah come to rescue us simpletons from ourselves. Personally I thought he was a Berk, easily fooled.

 

To get this topic back onto its track - the two loudest organs which I have encountered in the UK (quite different both in locations and type) are

 

1/ St. Giles (Cathedral) Edinburgh - ear-splitting and headache-giving at the console

2/ The Royal Hospital School, Holbrook - just LOUD

 

DW

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There are a few obviously well-informed who seem to wish to adhere to the notion that 'Dippy, Dopey, Downes' was, variously, a Genius or Messiah come to rescue us simpletons from ourselves. Personally I thought he was a Berk, easily fooled.

 

To get this topic back onto its track - the two loudest organs which I have encountered in the UK (quite different both in locations and type) are

 

1/ St. Giles (Cathedral) Edinburgh - ear-splitting and headache-giving at the console

2/ The Royal Hospital School, Holbrook - just LOUD

 

DW

 

 

I know what you mean about Downes.

 

To balance this (somewhat fierce but not inaccurate) judgement on his organs, I think he knew the reuslt he wanted but not how to get there. A painful process, since he did not take kindly to advice from outsiders like organ builders!

 

However, as a musician, IMHO Downes was the real thing. I think that it the point: he was always after a particular result because he thought it served properly the music that mattered (to him).

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This is exactly what Ralph Downes was saying.

 

In addition, as I mentioned in a post a few days ago, there are a number of valid musical things which the Truro organ (for example) cannot do, but which Gloucester can. Remember that accompanying the choral music of Stanford and Wood is not the only thing which either instrument has to do.

 

 

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

 

 

I find this so amusing, because I've heard the perfect Anglican sound issue forth from the organ of St.Bavo, Haarlem.

 

I'm quite sure one could accompany Anglican Chant and service settings on that organ.....with a little help, of course.

 

MM

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There are a few obviously well-informed who seem to wish to adhere to the notion that 'Dippy, Dopey, Downes' was, variously, a Genius or Messiah come to rescue us simpletons from ourselves. Personally I thought he was a Berk, easily fooled.

 

To get this topic back onto its track - the two loudest organs which I have encountered in the UK (quite different both in locations and type) are

 

1/ St. Giles (Cathedral) Edinburgh - ear-splitting and headache-giving at the console

2/ The Royal Hospital School, Holbrook - just LOUD

 

DW

 

 

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

 

 

What a splendid choice of words, I shall open a new thread entitled, "Was Ralph Downes just a dopey berk?"

 

As for the loudness of things, this is rather like discussing candle-power and lighthouses, or the electronic-organ equivalent, "Kw of music-power."

 

Are we not missing the point?

 

Anyone who has ever played a penny-whistle in a outside brick privvy, will tell you that the experience can be a little sonically overwhelming; discussion of the subject therefore incomplete without due reference to the building.

 

I'm sure the organ of St.Giles' Cathedral can, like the Winchester organ, startle horses, cause miscarriages, crack window-panes and be heard in the Outer Hebrides, but I suspect that organs don't come a lot better at a safe distance.

 

Mention of Holbrook reminds me of the time I spent at the HN&B organ of St.Margaret's, Ilkley, (of ba't 'at fame) from the same era, where the slightly detached-console is raised up to the level of the pipework, rather than buried within the beautiful oak case. If one were to draw a cartoon, it would have to show an organist with long-flowing hair, a la Franz Liszt, projected horizontally backwards with the maestro having cotton-wool balls pushed firmly into his ears. It is horrendously loud!

 

However, at a safe distance (Holland?), it sounds quite magnificent, and I tend to have this theory that those who built it had possibly been military men who once served with the Royal Artillery. Robust is not the word; though I feel sure that pcnd's "Cor blimey" chamades are even louder; bringing a whole new meaning to the words "The Horn of Africa").

 

If you were to ask an orchestral-player to describe loudness, they would probably reply, "Eh?"

 

Unfortunately, in some building, organs need to be very loud; especially in theatres, modern concert-halls, English churches and American praise-temples.

 

How refreshing to perambulate quietly around the Martinikerk, Groningen, during an informal orgal-konzert, and to marvel at the clarity and sonority of that magnificent instrument even as far away as the apsoidal east-wall....what the Americans would describe as "a whole city block away."

 

The organ sings wonderfully, but I suspect that the real reason is that the building is wonderfuller still.

 

MM

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If you were to ask an orchestral-player to describe loudness, they would probably reply, "Eh?"

If it's a viola player you're asking they're likely to be cocking an ear trumpet towards you while asking. They know all about loud, viola players do.

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

I find this so amusing, because I've heard the perfect Anglican sound issue forth from the organ of St.Bavo, Haarlem.

 

I'm quite sure one could accompany Anglican Chant and service settings on that organ.....with a little help, of course.

 

MM

 

Personally, I would not wish to have two registrants getting in my way every time I played for an Evensong....

 

:lol:

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I think I can guess which of the two instruments most of us prefer though! :lol:

 

Again, it is a question of what each player regards as suitable. I would much prefer to play repertoire from the Baroque and French Classical periods on the organ of Gloucester Cathedral, whereas the organ of Truro Cathedral is, in some ways, a better instrument for accompanying the Anglican liturgy. This is not to say that it cannot be done at Gloucester. It was in this cathedral that I heard the only performance of the evening canticles in B minor, by Noble, that did not make me think what an overdone, pedestrian setting it was. The accompaniment (by David Briggs) was sensitive and full of colour and beauty. Obviously there were no solo strings, or lush clarinet solos - but these are not the only means of producing beautiful sounds on an organ.

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Indeed, M'sieur. I've never accompanied a service in either place, but I imagine I would find neither instrument ideal for accompanying a choir - for very different reasons. They would both be harder work than Exeter, that's for sure. As for playing music, I agree entirely that it depends what you are playing. I am quite sure I would not enjoy playing Baroque music at Truro any more than I would playing Howells at Gloucester.

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Indeed, M'sieur. I've never accompanied a service in either place, but I imagine I would find neither instrument ideal for accompanying a choir - for very different reasons. They would both be harder work than Exeter, that's for sure. As for playing music, I agree entirely that it depends what you are playing. I am quite sure I would not enjoy playing Baroque music at Truro any more than I would playing Howells at Gloucester.

 

But how much would you enjoy playing Baroque AND Howells at Exeter? :lol:

 

I think the motivation behind the original builder's idea at Truro was to make the most beautiful organ possible. I'm not entirely sure about the motivation behind the Downes remodelling of Gloucester; I don't think beauty was necessarily at the leading edge of the motivation behind that instrument's restyling.

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Exeter is hopeless for Baroque music. Howells sounds wonderful though!

 

I wouldn't go as far as to say hopeless, Vox, but would agree that it's not totally ideal especially in its lack of a sufficiently robust secondary chorus and the lack of wide-scale mutations, despite the appearance of the specification on paper. It just depends on how far you want to take the idea of "authenticity" and what concessions you're willing to make. And, of course, some Baroque music would come off better on it than other Baroque music.

 

Totally agree about Howells, though! :lol:

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I wouldn't go as far as to say hopeless, Vox, but would agree that it's not totally ideal especially in its lack of a sufficiently robust secondary chorus and the lack of wide-scale mutations, despite the appearance of the specification on paper. It just depends on how far you want to take the idea of "authenticity" and what concessions you're willing to make. And, of course, some Baroque music would come off better on it than other Baroque music.

 

Totally agree about Howells, though! :lol:

 

The other problem with the organ of Exeter Cathedral (much as I like it), is that it speaks in three directions; this results in a somewhat diffuse sound - much of the instrument having to travel around corners, depending on where one is standing. In addition, I think that it was a mistake to have lost the Twenty Second and Cimbel (26-29-33) from the Choir Organ at the most recent rebuild. Whilst this division was certainly not robust enough to act as a foil to the G.O. in the Nave, when heard from the Quire it achieved this to perfection.

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There are a few obviously well-informed who seem to wish to adhere to the notion that 'Dippy, Dopey, Downes' was, variously, a Genius or Messiah come to rescue us simpletons from ourselves. Personally I thought he was a Berk, easily fooled.

DW

 

I cannot agree with this, David.

 

Whilst I would not see Ralph Downes as a 'messiah' or necessarily a genius, neither would I label him a berk, or easily fooled. I was never taught by him, but I had occasion to meet him when I was engaged in researching material for my degree thesis. I found him to be gracious, generous with his time and most willing to help.

 

It must be remembered that, at the time he first began to influence organ design in this country, there were some abysmal instruments in a number of cathedrals and greater churches, a number of which were, when played loudly, oppressive and unmusical. Downes was, in addition, Assistant Organist at Southwark Cathedral for a short period; the superb 'Lewis' organ had a profound effect on him - which is just as well, since at the time, the organ world in general was either too complacent or to aurally naïve to realise what a treasure lay in their midst. One only has to look at the way it was treated tonally in the 1950s to realise that the organ building 'establishment' was almost obsessed with the need for cathedral organs to conform to one or two basic models. This was no more or less short-slighted (or erroneous) than anything Downes himself did.

 

Furthermore, it is probably no exaggeration to state that, without the organ of the Royal Festival Hall acting unintentionally as a progenitor, we would almost certainly not have the organs of Coventry Cathedral or the Queen's Free Chapel of Saint George, Windsor Castle, in their present forms. It is one thing for Cuthbert Harrison to say that for some time, he had been thinking of 'letting the daylight into the choruses' of Harrison & Harrison organs - but it is an entirely different matter for Sydney Campbell and others to have been influenced by the organ of the RFH to the extent that they discarded entirely the orginal design for the organ of Coventry Cathedral, and, with the expertise of the Harrison firm, created the stunning, superlative and very exciting instrument which we have today. It is almost incredible to think that, up until this time, the original specification was thought to be entirely suitable to fill Basil Spence's ground-breaking new cathedral with sound.

 

For this organ alone, thank God for Ralph Downes.

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Personally, I would not wish to have two registrants getting in my way every time I played for an Evensong....

 

B)

 

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

 

 

Well, you have to be on good terms, that's for sure.

 

Actually, the Northern-most stops at Haarlem are almost in Freisland, and the stops on the other side stretch almost to Zandvoort, so there would be nothing "up close and personal" about a couple of registrants beavering their way through "Coll Reg."

 

Actually, I once had a page-turner with arms like an orangutang, and he would regularly reach around me to turn the music; rather than go from the normal side like a normal page-turner.

 

We used to get those knowing nods and smiles, like those two buddhist flower-people in the film "Aeroplane."

 

Registrants can be fun; especially when they destroy your reputation!

 

:lol:

 

MM

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"the organ building 'establishment' was almost obsessed with the need for cathedral organs to conform to one or two basic models. "

(Quote)

 

Well said, but is it not exactly the same today?

The models may change, but maybe not the idea

we need the same "best" menu everywhere...

Pierre

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I cannot agree with this, David.

 

Whilst I would not see Ralph Downes as a 'messiah' or necessarily a genius, neither would I label him a berk, or easily fooled. I was never taught by him, but I had occasion to meet him when I was engaged in researching material for my degree thesis. I found him to be gracious, generous with his time and most willing to help.

 

It must be remembered that, at the time he first began to influence organ design in this country, there were some abysmal instruments in a number of cathedrals and greater churches, a number of which were, when played loudly, oppressive and unmusical. Downes was, in addition, Assistant Organist at Southwark Cathedral for a short period; the superb 'Lewis' organ had a profound effect on him - which is just as well, since at the time, the organ world in general was either too complacent or to aurally naïve to realise what a treasure lay in their midst. One only has to look at the way it was treated tonally in the 1950s to realise that the organ building 'establishment' was almost obsessed with the need for cathedral organs to conform to one or two basic models. This was no more or less short-slighted (or erroneous) than anything Downes himself did.

 

Furthermore, it is probably no exaggeration to state that, without the organ of the Royal Festival Hall acting unintentionally as a progenitor, we would almost certainly not have the organs of Coventry Cathedral or the Queen's Free Chapel of Saint George, Windsor Castle, in their present forms. It is one thing for Cuthbert Harrison to say that for some time, he had been thinking of 'letting the daylight into the choruses' of Harrison & Harrison organs - but it is an entirely different matter for Sydney Campbell and others to have been influenced by the organ of the RFH to the extent that they discarded entirely the orginal design for the organ of Coventry Cathedral, and, with the expertise of the Harrison firm, created the stunning, superlative and very exciting instrument which we have today. It is almost incredible to think that, up until this time, the original specification was thought to be entirely suitable to fill Basil Spence's ground-breaking new cathedral with sound.

 

For this organ alone, thank God for Ralph Downes.

 

 

I agree with the above so far as it covers the musical integrity for which Ralph Downes strived.

I would repeat, he could have got these results a great deal easier if he had listened to people who acutally knew more about organ-building than he did, viz. organ-builders. Even the ones who wanted to do their very best for him got worn down by his painful trial and error process. The no-nicking fetish in particular turned out to be (while capable of pleasing results in the hands of someone totally painstaking) inauthentic for the period which he claimed to be imitating.

 

Mind you, look at the (politically-correct) revoicing that was carried out on the Muller organ at The Bavo, Haarlem and it is clear that others were of similar opinions at the time.

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Returningto the official topic here! Seriously Loud Instruments

 

I have a nomination.

 

Some years ago, the then organist of Howden Minster (near Selby in East Yorkshire) asked Rushworth and Dreaper to make the whole of his three-manual louder. Apparently, this was done because he was partially deaf. To add to this problem, the console is located beneath one side of the organ, so any player gets to hear less of it than Everyone Else (a situation not unlike Southwark Cathedral). Don't ask me how he got away with this request and consequent major expenditure - maybe he paid for it himself. Anyway, the result of this careful loudening of the organ is that the instrument can now effortlessly drown the choir (which are pretty respectable singers) with anything above piston 2 Great.

 

In fact, you would be well advised to resist the temptation to use the Great at all. About 18 months ago I accompanied a joint choir Faure Requiem (over fifty singers) and didn't get as far as the Great Fifteenth in the whole evening. [On the jamb it runs on beyond this, up to Mixture and Tromba].

 

Much more to the point, until that very day, the present organist had not heard the instrument from the building himself. Nobody had told him that he had been solidly blasting them all out for well over a year. They are so glad to have an organist and choirmaster that nobody wanted to risk upset by telling him!

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Returningto the official topic here! Seriously Loud Instruments

 

I have a nomination.

 

Some years ago, the then organist of Howden Minster (near Selby in East Yorkshire) asked Rushworth and Dreaper to make the whole of his three-manual louder. Apparently, this was done because he was partially deaf. To add to this problem, the console is located beneath one side of the organ, so any player gets to hear less of it than Everyone Else (a situation not unlike Southwark Cathedral). Don't ask me how he got away with this request and consequent major expenditure - maybe he paid for it himself. Anyway, the result of this careful loudening of the organ is that the instrument can now effortlessly drown the choir (which are pretty respectable singers) with anything above piston 2 Great.

 

 

I can't help wondering if it was completely responsible of R & D to carry out such work .....

 

Peter

 

 

PS you're right about Southwark - I had lessons there with Harry Bramma about 25 years ago and it was the first thing he warned me about!

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Not exactly; RD might have been saying no organ could perfectly fulfil its main liturgical purposes. Accompanying anglican chant is one thing, leading congregational hymn singing is another, and playing inspiring voluntaries appreciated by all is a third; I would say all three were significant when RD was working at Gloucester. The subsequent years might have extended the liturgical purposes of an English cathedral organ.

 

---------

 

I think that this is very true. Very few organs can perform the above three roles well if at all. Does anyone have an opinion as to how Lichfield Cathedral Organ can perform all three roles. I have not heard the organ since the Nave division was added. Views please. :lol:

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... Robust is not the word; though I feel sure that pcnd's "Cor blimey" chamades are even louder ...

MM

 

Quite possibly. However, at the moment, this is not the problem.

 

After a good number of years of being irritated with the way many of the stops were arranged on the jambs of the Minster organ, I instructed our organ builders to alter the Pedal stops to a more logical order. Previously, this had been the worst department, with stops neither in families, or the pitches running serially from bottom to top. This has now been achieved, with a minor panic yesterday, when we discovered that it was not just one or two wires for each draw-stop solenoid - and therefore, the stops had become 'locked' with the pistons remembering whatever was formerly stuck in any particular hole.

 

Now, at seventeen stops, the Pedal Organ is the biggest department. I am now trying to remember the new order; at present, I keep reaching out for a Trombone - and getting a 4p Flute, instead....

 

I still prefer the new order, though.

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I can't help wondering if it was completely responsible of R & D to carry out such work .....

 

Peter

PS you're right about Southwark - I had lessons there with Harry Bramma about 25 years ago and it was the first thing he warned me about!

 

 

Probably not, and there are surely better ways of making an organ louder than revoicing it if it's already adequate for the job.

 

Like the way you make the organ in Hull City Hall louder. Yes, it's already made it into the Earthquake Zone in an earlier post, and I have played it. I also made it even louder than it already is.

 

Because, with the console not being in the best location to hear it in all its glory, someone thought to mic the hall and provide feedback headphones to the organist. Can't imaging you'd want to use them during a recital, but it makes for an interesting experience playing in an empty hall. Just don't pull out the tubas, and if you do, remember to turn the volume right down...

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Returningto the official topic here! Seriously Loud Instruments

 

My nominations are really only from one or two aspects as any organ will be too loud if heard in an unfavorable position.

Bristol Cathedral - pedal bourdon it obliterates everything unless the door to the loft stairs is shut, then you can hear the rest of the organ...but this isn't really earthquake stuff

 

Folkestone Holy trinity - large 3 manual Walker (1st big revival rebuild in the county- 1966) Harmonic trumpet when heard from the opposite side of the chancel is mind-blowing...whole organ is pretty huge from there too.

 

My school Chapel instrument - in the Chancel you see the choir singing rather than hear them if the organ is very loud. Flat out needs a health warning sign since the rebuild! You need lots of organ for 500 singing in the mornings especially as the silly little chancel arch "blocks" about 60% of the sound from entering the main part of the building..but thats the same for most English churches isn't it?

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One here in New Zealand, I think is the Lawton & Osbourne at Waitaki Boys' High School.

The G.O. Large Open Diapason 8' is quite defening at the console but it is on 6" w.p.

The Full Swell with octave couplers, standing next to it is really defening.

 

JA

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