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Jonathan Thorne

August Gern

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I am helping out with a restoration on a small Gern organ and I am trying to find out any information about him. The organ I’m working on has so many similarities to the work of A Cavaillé-Coll, whom Gern, I believe, was an employee. Not to mention the organ is virtually original e.g. the majority of pipe-work, the nameplate, stop-heads and the aluminium squares used for the mechanism one can certainly say that this is the work of him, but there is no date. Why?

 

I would be interested to know from anyone if they have any information about him e.g. Where did he live? When did he leave A C-C? Are there any drawings or pictures of him?

 

Many thanks

 

JT

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I would be interested to know from anyone if they have any information about him e.g. Where did he live?  When did he leave A C-C?  Are there any drawings or pictures of him? 

 

Paul Joslin (also the Historical Organs Certificate Coordinator for BIOS) is the man you want - he has done much research work on Gern - try contacting him via the BIOS website:

 

http://www.duresme.org.uk/BIOS/hocs.htm

 

At the bottom of the page are his details and an email link. Also - the NPOR will give you an interesting page-worth of Gern organs in the UK if you use the builder search facility.

AJJ

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August Gern left Cavaillé-Coll in 1868 to build the organ of Notre Dame de France, London. This was relatively early in ACC's firm history, so we may assume Gern's organ should be rather traditionaly built, I mean more "romantic" that "symphonic". As far as I know, Notre Dame de France has been rebuild at least two times since 1868. He built 1884 a three-manuals organ for St-Matthew's, London. He seems to have lived in Notting Hill (London). So we have just another continental builder having settled in Britain, like Father Smith, Snetzler or (but part-time!) Schulze.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwer .

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He built 1884 a three-manuals organ for St-Matthew's, London.

He seems to have lived in Notting Hill (London).

So we have just another continental builder having settled in

Britain, like Father Smith, Snetzler or (but part-time!) Schulze.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

 

The three manual instrument you mention at St Matthew's in London was in Ealing in west London for what was then a new church, built on Ealing Common. I am a native of Ealing, grew up there, but have since been transplanted to New York. But I know the church well and the organ, having played it many times.

 

Unfortunately, it is not in its original condition. I believe it was originally a two manual instrument with pneumatic action, with the console detached from the instrument and placed opposite in the choir stalls.

 

The organ was enlarged in 1912 by Brindley & Foster to three manuals. At the same time, the action was made electro-pneumatic and the old console ripped out and a new, attached console put in. The new stalls put in the place of the console don't match the original, and you can see the site of the old console clearly if you look in the church.

 

The new action involved new soundboards, which were a sliderless invention of Brindley & Foster, with an individual leather purse/motor controlling a pallet on every note for every single pipe. Unfortunately, when one of those motors failed, which became quite a common occurrence in the 1980s, it meant removing a whole rank of pipes to fix it. Thankfully, they were deromatically and the organ does not hold a tuning well at all.

 

After 1912, no work was done to the organ, until it was cleaned and overhauled, and possibly rewired, in around 1960 by Arthur Noterman. It then remained unaltered until around 1996 when it was restored by Heritage Organ Builders. At that time, the Swell Vox Humana was replaced with a 4ft Clarion.

 

The work of 1912 led to the most bizarre internal layout of the organ. The Great is above the console, the new Choir was behind the console and under the Great, the swell was to the left of the Great, as you look at the instrument, with the shutters pointing towards the Gt. That meant the Swell sounded quite good from the opposite choir stalls, but it completely fails to speak into the main body of the church. The internal layout has not changed

 

The organ is in a chamber to the side of the choir stalls in what would be the 'north' side, had the church been built on an east/west axis. The church has a dry accoustic, despite virtually no carpet. It is a red-brick Victorial church, but the open, exposed brickwork in the church is not coated and absorbs a lot of sound.

 

Placing the console within the organ means that it is impossible to balance with a choir. However, the church uses some microphones and some small speakers in the console to act as monitors only for the benefit of assisting the organist in balancing with a choir. The organ can be very loud from the console, but sounds weak in the main body of the church.

 

It has the most bizarre piston system I have ever seen - very Heath-Robinson, which I can't begin to describe. You can't set pistons and you don't see stops go in and out when you press a piston. The Pedals have composition pedals, as does the Swell (the Sw composition pedals are in addition to the four pistons). There are no general pistons. There is a general crescendo pedal, which cannot be adjusted from the console.

 

Despite all this, there are some elements in the instrument that lend themselves very well to the performance of French romantic liiterature. And the Great Principal Chorus seems to be based and voiced to what is now the Small Open Diapason 8ft, which may have been the original Montre 8ft. On the other hand, the original Montre 8ft may now be the Large Open Diapason and the rest of the principal chorus may have been re-scaled and voiced to the Small Open Diapason. I just don't know!

 

The original poster to this thread will find information on the National Pipe Organ Register website, although I am unable to access it at the moment. I keep getting a message telling me I will be directed to a new home page, but that is as far as it gets.

 

From memory, I will attempt to reproduce the current stop list, even if I can't remember all the names:

 

Pedal

Sub-Bass 32ft (Accoustic and drawn solely from the 16ft Open Wood rank)

Open Wood 16ft

Violone 16 ft (extention of Violonecello)

Violoncello 8ft

Bourdon 16ft (extension of Flute 8ft)

Flute 8ft

Trombone 16ft

Contra Fagotto 16ft (From Swell)

 

Choir (unenclosed)

Open Diapason 8 ft

Lieblich Gedakt 8 ft

Salicional 8ft

Voix Angelica 8ft

Flute of some sort 4ft

Nazard 2 2/3 (but incorrectly labelled as another 4ft flute)

Flute of some sort 2ft

Clarinet 8ft (Tenor C upwards)

Posaune 8ft

 

Great

Bourdon 16 ft

Large Open Diapason 8ft

Small Open Diapason 8ft

Lieblich Gedakt 8ft

Flute Harmonique 8ft (arguably the nicest stop on the organ)

Dulciana 8ft (not like an English Dulciana at all and may originally have been called something else)

Principal 4ft

Suabe Flue 4ft

Fifteenth 2ft

Mixture III

Posaune 8ft (same as Choir Posaune and sited on its own chest next to the Gt soundboard. The style is more French than anything else, despite its name)

 

Swell

Bourdon 16 ft

Open Diapason 8ft

Lieblich Gedakt 8ft

Viole da Gamba 8ft

Voix Celeste 8ft

Principal 4ft

Flute of some sort 4ft

Flute of some sort 2ft

Mixture III

Contra Fagotto 16ft

Horn 8ft (I think this is actually a harmonic trumpet in the French style)

Oboe 8ft

Tremulant (doesn't work)

Clarion 4ft

Swell Octave

Swell Sub Octave

Swell Unison Off

 

The two manual mixtures are quint and break once at Tenor B.

 

The clarinet has preparation for the bottom octave, but it has never been fitted. Some remedial work was done in the early 1990s, which included the clarinet being taken away to be cleaned after some water damage. The pipes that came back looked nothing like the ones that went away. In order to avoid any suspicion of libel, I will not name the builder concerned who carried out that work.

 

When the work of Heritage Builders was carried out, I don't think the church knew too much about the original instrument. The main purpose of the work was to make the organ reliable and to replace the original blower, which was housed outside the building, was very noisy and unreliable and drew in cold, damp air that helped perish the leather work. That it lasted so long was a testimony to the quality of the original engineering.

 

The mid 1990s work involved a thorough cleaning of all the pipework, replacing all the leatherwork in bellows, trunking and pneumatic motors. A swell engine replaced the mechanical link on the Swell shutters in preparation for a new, detached console - a dream that has yet to be realised.

 

Pictures of the interior of the church in history books on Ealing show a different appearance to the side of the organ, dating back to before the 1912 work. This was before the Swell organ had been placed there, and it almost certainly would have allowed for better egress of sound into the church.

 

With the benefit of hindsight, a restoration to the two manual scheme would have been better, even if it did not mean the restoration of the original console and pneumatic action, as it would have allowed for a better internal layout and greater egress of sound into the church.

 

I am guessing now, but I think the original Gern scheme of 1884 would have had a stop list along the lines of the following:

 

Pédale

Soubasse 16ft

Flute 8ft

Bombarde 16ft

 

(I don't think the Pedal 16ft Violone 16ft and 8ft in today's instruments were original, but that's only a hunch)

 

Grande Orgue

Bourdon 16ft (still there)

Montre 8ft (now Small Open Diapason, I'm guessing)

Bourdon 8ft (now Lieblich Gedakt)

Gambe 8ft (now Dulciana)

Flute Harmonique 8ft (still there)

Prestant 4ft

Flute of some sort 4ft

Doublette 2 ft

Fourniture ? ranks

Trompette 8ft

 

Récit

Bourdon 16 ft (still there)

Diapason 8ft (now Open Diapason)

Lieblich Gedakt 8ft

Viole da Gamba 8 ft

Voix Céleste 8ft

Prestant 4ft

Flute Triangulaire 4ft (still there, but now renamed. I remember being amazed at seeing the pipes during the mid 1990s work. I'd never seen a Flute Triangulaire before)

Flute of some sort 2ft

Plein Jeu III-IV

Contra Fagotto 16ft

Trompette Harmonique 8ft

Basson/Hautbois 8ft

Voix Humana 8ft

Temblant

 

Gern did live and work in Notting Hill in west London. He built a similar-sized organ in St Stephens in Ealing, which is now redundant. I'm not sure what happened to this organ, but it was rebuilt by Noterman in the 1960s. The organ at Notre Dame de France in Leicester Square has indeed been altered an enlarged several times and is now beyond recognition.

 

I think little of Gern's work survives in tact, so the opportunity to restore an original is rare and should be cherished. Indeed, most of his work seems to have been latered beyond recognition, which is a shame.

 

If Gern had enjoyed some of the same opportunities in London that Cavaillé-Coll enjoyed in Paris and France, the shape of British organ building might have taken a different course at the end of the 19th Century.

 

I've no idea if there are any pictures of him anywhere. I'd be interested to see if anyone else knows more about him or his work.

 

Sorry for such a long post.

 

Regafds

Anthony Poole

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The original poster to this thread will find information on the National Pipe Organ Register website, although I am unable to access it at the moment. I keep getting a message telling me I will be directed to a new home page, but that is as far as it gets.

 

This should get you to the new NPOR set up:

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk

 

AJJ

 

ps See also the NPOR entry for St Thomas the Apostle, Lymington, Hants. for another example of the Brindley patent console arragements - there is a photo too.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N11407

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This should get you to the new NPOR set up:

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk

 

AJJ

 

ps See also the NPOR entry for St Thomas the Apostle, Lymington, Hants. for another example of the Brindley patent console arragements - there is a photo too.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N11407

 

 

This console looks very similar to the console at St Matthew's. I've not seen another one like it.

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This console looks very similar to the console at St Matthew's. I've not seen another one like it.

 

Hi

 

The "recommended" URL to access NPOR is www.bios.org.uk/npor - although the links to lehurray & emma should work, the whole set-up is moving to Birmingham in the next few weeks, at which point the URL will change, but the link on the BIOS web page should be updated to point to the correct place. Hence I suggest that you do not bookmark any other link at present!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

(one of the NPOR Editors)

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This was also helpful to me - thank you.

 

However, I am apparently unable to obtain search results for an entire county. When I typed in a county (and included the wildcard) the software rather testily replied 'This would bring back a search of 429 buildings' (tsk! tsk!) 'And?' I thought to myself.

 

Is there any way of achieving this, please? I could on the old layout. :blink:

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This was also helpful to me - thank you.

 

However, I am apparently unable to obtain search results for an entire county. When I typed in a county (and included the wildcard) the software rather testily replied 'This would bring back a search of 429 buildings' (tsk! tsk!)  'And?' I thought to myself.

 

Is there any way of achieving this, please? I could on the old layout. :angry:

 

Hi

 

Probably not - I suggest you e-mail and point out the problem (although I doubt if anything will be done at present.

 

The old layout is currently still available on http://lehuray2.csi.cam.ac.uk/npor.html - but don't tell anyone I told you.

 

PLEASE NOTE:-

a) This database does not include recent updates.

:blink: It will be removed - the last date I had was end of August.

 

The whole situation is in a state of flux - I spoke to the outgoing manager this morning, and even he doesn't really know what will happen. In the meantime, I - and the other editors - wait to see what transpires.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

Probably not - I suggest you e-mail and point out the problem (although I doubt if anything will be done at present.

 

The old layout is currently still available on http://lehuray2.csi.cam.ac.uk/npor.html - but don't tell anyone I told you.

 

PLEASE NOTE:-

a) This database does not include recent updates.

:angry: It will be removed - the last date I had was end of August.

 

The whole situation is in a state of flux - I spoke to the outgoing manager this morning, and even he doesn't really know what will happen.  In the meantime, I - and the other editors - wait to see what transpires.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

This all sounds a bit dire - I put 'Devon' in as an experiment just now and it all came up (on the new system) - perhaps it depends on what county one wants!! Seriously though - let's hope the powers that be at BIOS get the change over to Birmingham as smooth as possible. :blink:

AJJ

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Hi

 

The whole situation is in a state of flux - I spoke to the outgoing manager this morning, and even he doesn't really know what will happen.  In the meantime, I - and the other editors - wait to see what transpires.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Thank you for your help and, naturally, I will not breathe a word of it to anyone....

 

However, some definite information with regard to the outcome, when possible, will be gratefully received. I find it an extremely useful resource, particularly when considering invitations to play recitals, etc. There are, of course, all those lonely hours in the loft during sermons to think of, too...

 

Just joking - honest :blink:

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However, some definite information with regard to the outcome, when possible, will be gratefully received. I find it an extremely useful resource, particularly when considering invitations to play recitals, etc. There are, of course, all those lonely hours in the loft during sermons to think of, too...

 

Just joking - honest :blink:

 

Hi

 

I'll let you (and the list) know anything I find out.

 

Every Blesswing

 

Tony

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The three manual instrument you mention at St Matthew's in London was in Ealing in west London for what was then a new church, built on Ealing Common. I am a native of Ealing, grew up there, but have since been transplanted to New York. But I know the church well and the organ, having played it many times.

 

Unfortunately, it is not in its original condition. I believe it was originally a two manual instrument with pneumatic action, with the console detached from the instrument and placed opposite in the choir stalls.

 

The organ was enlarged in 1912 by Brindley & Foster to three manuals. At the same time, the action was made electro-pneumatic and the old console ripped out and a new, attached console put in. The new stalls put in the place of the console don't match the original, and you can see the site of the old console clearly if you look in the church.

 

The new action involved new soundboards, which were a sliderless invention of Brindley & Foster, with an individual leather purse/motor controlling a pallet on every note for every single pipe. Unfortunately, when one of those motors failed, which became quite a common occurrence in the 1980s, it meant removing a whole rank of pipes to fix it. Thankfully, they were deromatically and the organ does not hold a tuning well at all.

 

After 1912, no work was done to the organ, until it was cleaned and overhauled, and possibly rewired, in around 1960 by Arthur Noterman. It then remained unaltered until around 1996 when it was restored by Heritage Organ Builders. At that time, the Swell Vox Humana was replaced with a 4ft Clarion.

 

The work of 1912 led to the most bizarre internal layout of the organ. The Great is above the console, the new Choir was behind the console and under the Great, the swell was to the left of the Great, as you look at the instrument, with the shutters pointing towards the Gt. That meant the Swell sounded quite good from the opposite choir stalls, but it completely fails to speak into the main body of the church. The internal layout has not changed

 

The organ is in a chamber to the side of the choir stalls in what would be the 'north' side, had the church been built on an east/west axis. The church has a dry accoustic, despite virtually no carpet. It is a red-brick Victorial church, but the open, exposed brickwork in the church is not coated and absorbs a lot of sound.

 

Placing the console within the organ means that it is impossible to balance with a choir. However, the church uses some microphones and some small speakers in the console to act as monitors only for the benefit of assisting the organist in balancing with a choir. The organ can be very loud from the console, but sounds weak in the main body of the church.

 

It has the most bizarre piston system I have ever seen - very Heath-Robinson, which I can't begin to describe. You can't set pistons and you don't see stops go in and out when you press a piston. The Pedals have composition pedals, as does the Swell (the Sw composition pedals are in addition to the four pistons). There are no general pistons. There is a general crescendo pedal, which cannot be adjusted from the console.

 

Despite all this, there are some elements in the instrument that lend themselves very well to the performance of French romantic liiterature. And the Great Principal Chorus seems to be based and voiced to what is now the Small Open Diapason 8ft, which may have been the original Montre 8ft. On the other hand, the original Montre 8ft may now be the Large Open Diapason and the rest of the principal chorus may have been re-scaled and voiced to the Small Open Diapason. I just don't know!

 

The original poster to this thread will find information on the National Pipe Organ Register website, although I am unable to access it at the moment. I keep getting a message telling me I will be directed to a new home page, but that is as far as it gets.

 

From memory, I will attempt to reproduce the current stop list, even if I can't remember all the names:

 

Pedal

Sub-Bass 32ft (Accoustic and drawn solely from the 16ft Open Wood rank)

Open Wood 16ft

Violone 16 ft (extention of Violonecello)

Violoncello 8ft

Bourdon 16ft (extension of Flute 8ft)

Flute 8ft

Trombone 16ft

Contra Fagotto 16ft (From Swell)

 

Choir (unenclosed)

Open Diapason 8 ft

Lieblich Gedakt 8 ft

Salicional 8ft

Voix Angelica 8ft

Flute of some sort 4ft

Nazard 2 2/3 (but incorrectly labelled as another 4ft flute)

Flute of some sort 2ft

Clarinet 8ft (Tenor C upwards)

Posaune 8ft

 

Great

Bourdon 16 ft

Large Open Diapason 8ft

Small Open Diapason 8ft

Lieblich Gedakt 8ft

Flute Harmonique 8ft (arguably the nicest stop on the organ)

Dulciana 8ft (not like an English Dulciana at all and may originally have been called something else)

Principal 4ft

Suabe Flue 4ft

Fifteenth 2ft

Mixture III

Posaune 8ft (same as Choir Posaune and sited on its own chest next to the Gt soundboard. The style is more French than anything else, despite its name)

 

Swell

Bourdon 16 ft

Open Diapason 8ft

Lieblich Gedakt 8ft

Viole da Gamba 8ft

Voix Celeste 8ft

Principal 4ft

Flute of some sort 4ft

Flute of some sort 2ft

Mixture III

Contra Fagotto 16ft

Horn 8ft (I think this is actually a harmonic trumpet in the French style)

Oboe 8ft

Tremulant (doesn't work)

Clarion 4ft

Swell Octave

Swell Sub Octave

Swell Unison Off

 

The two manual mixtures are quint and break once at Tenor B.

 

The clarinet has preparation for the bottom octave, but it has never been fitted. Some remedial work was done in the early 1990s, which included the clarinet being taken away to be cleaned after some water damage. The pipes that came back looked nothing like the ones that went away. In order to avoid any suspicion of libel, I will not name the builder concerned who carried out that work.

 

When the work of Heritage Builders was carried out, I don't think the church knew too much about the original instrument. The main purpose of the work was to make the organ reliable and to replace the original blower, which was housed outside the building, was very noisy and unreliable and drew in cold, damp air that helped perish the leather work. That it lasted so long was a testimony to the quality of the original engineering.

 

The mid 1990s work involved a thorough cleaning of all the pipework, replacing all the leatherwork in bellows, trunking and pneumatic motors. A swell engine replaced the mechanical link on the Swell shutters in preparation for a new, detached console - a dream that has yet to be realised.

 

Pictures of the interior of the church in history books on Ealing show a different appearance to the side of the organ, dating back to before the 1912 work. This was before the Swell organ had been placed there, and it almost certainly would have allowed for better egress of sound into the church.

 

With the benefit of hindsight, a restoration to the two manual scheme would have been better, even if it did not mean the restoration of the original console and pneumatic action, as it would have allowed for a better internal layout and greater egress of sound into the church.

 

I am guessing now, but I think the original Gern scheme of 1884 would have had a stop list along the lines of the following:

 

Pédale

Soubasse 16ft

Flute 8ft

Bombarde 16ft

 

(I don't think the Pedal 16ft Violone 16ft and 8ft in today's instruments were original, but that's only a hunch)

 

Grande Orgue

Bourdon 16ft (still there)

Montre 8ft (now Small Open Diapason, I'm guessing)

Bourdon 8ft (now Lieblich Gedakt)

Gambe 8ft (now Dulciana)

Flute Harmonique 8ft (still there)

Prestant 4ft

Flute of some sort 4ft

Doublette 2 ft

Fourniture ? ranks

Trompette 8ft

 

Récit

Bourdon 16 ft (still there)

Diapason 8ft (now Open Diapason)

Lieblich Gedakt 8ft

Viole da Gamba 8 ft

Voix Céleste 8ft

Prestant 4ft

Flute Triangulaire 4ft (still there, but now renamed. I remember being amazed at seeing the pipes during the mid 1990s work. I'd never seen a Flute Triangulaire before)

Flute of some sort 2ft

Plein Jeu III-IV

Contra Fagotto 16ft

Trompette Harmonique 8ft

Basson/Hautbois 8ft

Voix Humana 8ft

Temblant

 

Gern did live and work in Notting Hill in west London. He built a similar-sized organ in St Stephens in Ealing, which is now redundant. I'm not sure what happened to this organ, but it was rebuilt by Noterman in the 1960s. The organ at Notre Dame de France in Leicester Square has indeed been altered an enlarged several times and is now beyond recognition.

 

I think little of Gern's work survives in tact, so the opportunity to restore an original is rare and should be cherished. Indeed, most of his work seems to have been latered beyond recognition, which is a shame.

 

If Gern had enjoyed some of the same opportunities in London that Cavaillé-Coll enjoyed in Paris and France, the shape of British organ building might have taken a different course at the end of the 19th Century.

 

I've no idea if there are any pictures of him anywhere. I'd be interested to see if anyone else knows more about him or his work.

 

Sorry for such a long post.

 

Regafds

Anthony Poole

 

Most interesting!....I lived in Ealing until the late 1960's and well remember playing this organ in the 50's ...unfortunately I was then rather a "rev up the large motorbike/organ " youngster and well remember the elderly verger there telling me "there is no need to make a meal of it" ..meaning the probably foul racket I made !

 

Pity to have played it then and not now as I would now be exceedingly interested to see how French- influenced it was.

 

I do,though clearly remember the extraordinary piston arrangements!

 

A propos of Gern/C-C I do remember that,in the early 50's, when Mander inspected the(somewhat derelict) instrument in St Barnabas Ealing, in his report he mentioned that some of the pipework looked to be by Gern. There was a rather beautiful floating quality of the C-C sort to the Open Diapason on the swell,and this might have been the pipes he mentioned? Perhaps G's French pipework escaped into the general environment?

 

Cheers Richard Whitaker

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St John's Holland Road,London W14 has an organ built by Gern.However, Willis 3 rebuilt the organ. The rebuild included a Willis console.

 

A fine organ well worth playing/hearing.

 

Alan

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