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D Quentin Bellamy

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I emailed Harrisons a while back:

'Thank you for your enquiry. One third of the RFH organ is back in place but there is no money at present for completion of the project. We are hoping that we can complete reinstallation in 2011-12, but there will need to be further discussions with the South Bank Centre before this is confirmed.

In August 2005 the organ was dismantled and stored in a separate warehouse in Durham. The Hall has been completely reconstructed with improved acoustics; it reopened in June 2007. The organ is being reconfigured to suit the new architectural and acoustic requirements: its depth has been reduced by 1.1m but the basic principles of the layout have been respected. The Great and Swell Organs and the Pedal Principal 32ft (forming the left-hand portion of the organ) have been reinstated, together with the console, and will be followed by the central and right-hand sections at a later date.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Katherine Venning

 

Harrison & Harrison'

 

Hope this helps.....

 

Oliver.

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I emailed Harrisons a while back:

'Thank you for your enquiry. One third of the RFH organ is back in place but there is no money at present for completion of the project. We are hoping that we can complete reinstallation in 2011-12, but there will need to be further discussions with the South Bank Centre before this is confirmed.

In August 2005 the organ was dismantled and stored in a separate warehouse in Durham. The Hall has been completely reconstructed with improved acoustics; it reopened in June 2007. The organ is being reconfigured to suit the new architectural and acoustic requirements: its depth has been reduced by 1.1m but the basic principles of the layout have been respected. The Great and Swell Organs and the Pedal Principal 32ft (forming the left-hand portion of the organ) have been reinstated, together with the console, and will be followed by the central and right-hand sections at a later date.

Yours sincerely

 

Katherine Venning

 

Harrison & Harrison'

 

Hope this helps.....

 

Oliver.

 

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

 

 

So let's be clear about this......London now has the smallest organ of any dedicated concert hall, in any capital city in the whole of Europe?

 

Mmmmmm!

 

How much are the Olympics costing?

 

MM

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

So let's be clear about this......London now has the smallest organ of any dedicated concert hall, in any capital city in the whole of Europe?

 

Mmmmmm!

 

How much are the Olympics costing?

 

MM

Although I've never heard the RFH organ "in the flesh", the recordings I've heard lead me to think that the less of it reinstalled, the better! :(

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.....the organ was better than it sounded.

Surely the whole point of an organ (or any musical instrument) is the quality of the sound it produces! Or am I missing something?

 

I'm sure that it was better than it sounded in the fact that it was well-constructed and built of quality materials but, as a musical instrument, I find it capable of producing very unmusical sounds. I've heard some tolerable sounds from it, but nothing that I could say I find really pleasing. I've also heard some tone colours from it which I find quite unpleasant. But I recognize that we all have different tastes and what might sound good to one person, might sound less good to another and vice versa.

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Surely the whole point of an organ (or any musical instrument) is the quality of the sound it produces! Or am I missing something?

 

I'm sure that it was better than it sounded in the fact that it was well-constructed and built of quality materials but, as a musical instrument, I find it capable of producing very unmusical sounds. I've heard some tolerable sounds from it, but nothing that I could say I find really pleasing. I've also heard some tone colours from it which I find quite unpleasant. But I recognize that we all have different tastes and what might sound good to one person, might sound less good to another and vice versa.

 

 

A complicated question.

 

The RFH organ was most definitely capable of producing highly attractive sounds, but the 1950's hall wasn't either an easy or helpful location for an organ. The H&H organ that was built for Downes was extremely provocative: full organ was strident and the reeds (especially early on) were very coarse indeed, compared to what anyone over here was used to at the time. All that said, because of the voicing style (fluework consisting mostly of un-nicked pipes with open feet, combined with reeds with non-weighted tongues and 'French' shallots), the sound had the musical effect of a cold shower. Many people were invigorated: actual notes could be heard with a clarity that was alarming for some players but delighted audiences.

 

Downes himself had some of the wilder tonal elements toned down in the course of a cleaning that was carried out by H&H in the 1970's. The recent improvements made to the hall's acoustics will also have benefitted the organ, though I would have expected that, with more resonance in the hall, voicers would have had to regulate some of the pipes softer. At all events, I am sure this work is being done 'in the best possible taste'. The suggestion that there isn't enough money to put it all back...why am I not surprised? We are becoming a dumbed down society and councils seldom seem to worry about fig-leaves of 'artistic' kinds.

 

For myself, I found the RFH organ slightly curious to play, better when one combined widely-spaced divisions (this idea is mentioned in Downes' splendid and unintentionally amusing book). As a listener, it was quite different; a curious but (in the right hands) very exciting instrument indeed. Just before it came down I attended a major concert where the organ performed well against orchestra (not exactly blending with it), however, some of the best sounds and cleverest registrations were heard that day in a pre-concert demonstration given by Colm Carey. Given a helpful room, this would have been a beautiful organ as in 'highly attractive tones' without that little bit of help it was just 'good' - until you got to the worst of the reeds of course. Some of those still don't count (in my opinion) as musical sounds at all. If they were supposed to sound like Cavaille-Coll Bombardes and Trompettes....well, they don't!

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A complicated question.

 

The RFH organ was most definitely capable of producing highly attractive sounds, but the 1950's hall wasn't either an easy or helpful location for an organ. The H&H organ that was built for Downes was extremely provocative: full organ was strident and the reeds (especially early on) were very coarse indeed, compared to what anyone over here was used to at the time. All that said, because of the voicing style (fluework consisting mostly of un-nicked pipes with open feet, combined with reeds with non-weighted tongues and 'French' shallots), the sound had the musical effect of a cold shower. Many people were invigorated: actual notes could be heard with a clarity that was alarming for some players but delighted audiences.

 

Downes himself had some of the wilder tonal elements toned down in the course of a cleaning that was carried out by H&H in the 1970's. The recent improvements made to the hall's acoustics will also have benefitted the organ, though I would have expected that, with more resonance in the hall, voicers would have had to regulate some of the pipes softer. At all events, I am sure this work is being done 'in the best possible taste'. The suggestion that there isn't enough money to put it all back...why am I not surprised? We are becoming a dumbed down society and councils seldom seem to worry about fig-leaves of 'artistic' kinds.

 

For myself, I found the RFH organ slightly curious to play, better when one combined widely-spaced divisions (this idea is mentioned in Downes' splendid and unintentionally amusing book). As a listener, it was quite different; a curious but (in the right hands) very exciting instrument indeed. Just before it came down I attended a major concert where the organ performed well against orchestra (not exactly blending with it), however, some of the best sounds and cleverest registrations were heard that day in a pre-concert demonstration given by Colm Carey. Given a helpful room, this would have been a beautiful organ as in 'highly attractive tones' without that little bit of help it was just 'good' - until you got to the worst of the reeds of course. Some of those still don't count (in my opinion) as musical sounds at all. If they were supposed to sound like Cavaille-Coll Bombardes and Trompettes....well, they don't!

 

 

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

 

 

A magnificent organ in the wrong building, and not an isolated phenomenon by any means.

 

Actually, it always did compare quite favourably with the instrument at De Doelen, Rotterdam, save for those dreadful pedal reeds originally executed by Rochessen, but later tamed slightly by Harrisons.

 

As for the chorus reeds, I suspect they are similar to Harrison reeds elsewhere, but in the acoustic of the hall, just sounded quite dreadful; even with the added electronic ambience.

 

The fact is, the hall was always the real cuplrit, and the story of non-specification building-materials has been well documented in the past. With improvements to the hall, one must assume that it will only sound better, but I still have serious doubts about this. At best, it will probably never be any better than a building like the old State Cinema at Kilburn, in which the Wurlitzer organ sounds terrific. I'm not convinced that the RFH organ would be ideal even in that sort of acoustic.

 

We'll all have to wait and see, but in the meantime, if anyone can think of a new hall with a decent acoustic, who want a good organ, I'm sure our hosts could oblige!

 

MM

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I guess this issue is that, whether good, bad, or ugly, it would be all too easy to lose the organ to the RFH, and I guess that we don't really want that to happen.... :mellow: So it seemeth to me that there should be constant reminders of it in the press and elsewhere.

 

As someone else said - plenty of money being spent on the Olympics (which is supposed to be money for GOOD CAUSES - which IMNSHO is not!) B)

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Guest Hector5

I have recently got hold of 'Grand Chorus' -a recording of various distiguished instruments south fo the river. I have to admit to being completely foxed by the recording of the Stanford 'Fantasia and Toccata' which was recorded on the RFH instrument. I suspect that the clue as to how good the organ sounded was with one of the producers - Nicholas Kynaston. While this is hearsay - I understand that one of the secrets of the RFH instrument is what you DON'T use, and what really works. For instance, part of the 'hearsay' comments was that Kynaston either used Cornets (or similar) to reinforce the reeds, or even deliberately omitted the mixtures. Listening to the stunning recording (by Christopher Town), it seems that some VERY careful registrational planning has taken place. The organ simply sounds unrecognisable from the spit a scrape that I have heard before. Perhaps someone else can illuminate me on this as this recording has certainly made me ask some questions.

 

For those of you with this disc - listen carefully and see what you think!

 

Best wishes for the new year,

 

Hector (in freezing damp, cold Burgundy)

 

P.S. More about the Meursault Mutin-Cavaille Coll later when I get back to the treadmill (a 1M + P to die for!!!!!!!!!!!)

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snip

 

While this is hearsay - I understand that one of the secrets of the RFH instrument is what you DON'T use,

 

snip

 

 

I'm absolutely sure you're right, mind you this registering tactic goes for a lot of organs!

BTW I entirely agree with you about that track - it's quite a surprise and easily one of the best items on Grand Chorus.

 

However, having been responsible for several projects of a similar kind I can say with some authority that it is relatively easy to make a given instrument sound respectable when it only has to be heard in a single chunk that lasts less than ten minutes. It is when you have to keep charm/colour/interest going for the duration of a whole disc that the challenge arises with less than wonderful instruments. Having said that, I have some of Ralph Downes' Bach recordings here, and when he keeps off the reeds, the RFH really passes muster compared to anything else on offer on LP at the time.

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I listened again to the Priory recording of Dame G W at the RFH - 'no problem with the playing or recording but some of the sounds are distinctly odd - especially smaller combinations, solo combinations etc. It seems to me that as PD writes above - it works well in large chunks but less well 'under the microscope' so to speak.

 

AJJ

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As schoolboy I used to attend the 5:55 recitals at the RFH - not all, couldn't afford it. My memory is of a disappointing sound - too little echo in the hall, far too bright for the acoustic, reeds that sounded like a stone rattling around in a dustbin, and far too little variety in tonal side of things. A later aquaintance (a voicer) commented to me that Downes' flutes 'all sound the same to me', which from memory is fair comment for the RFH. This is a long time ago, I may be mistaken, but one thing boasted about on this instrument was the number and variety of mutation ranks. Well, they may have been there, but as I recall they sounded so similar that RD needn't have bothered. I never liked the sound much, except when Simon Preston played it - I was enjoying the music too much to notice what the organ sounded like! And Anton Heiler, perhaps with a greater understanding of German style choruses, made it sound quite pleasant as well.

 

I have somewhere an old recording of Germani playing this Organ, and in his hands it sounded well, even quite mellow at times, so perhaps he and Herr Heiler knew something others don't. No disguising the Full Organ sound though!

 

Regards to all

 

John

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

So let's be clear about this......London now has the smallest organ of any dedicated concert hall, in any capital city in the whole of Europe?

 

Mmmmmm!

 

How much are the Olympics costing?

 

MM

 

A truly pathetic state of affairs. One is bound to ask what the cost of another 4 years' storage in Durham is likely to be - I bet £100k is not too wide of the mark.

 

The South Bank authorities should be ashamed of themselves. They were quite happy to let their insurers pay for an expensive refurbishment of the console after recent water damage, but seem to have set their minds against reinstatement of the remainder of the organ.

 

However, rumour has it that a forthcoming change of management at the RFH may bring about a more enlightened change of attitude.

 

Nevertheless, one factor that does not help the case is the way visiting foreign orchestras routinely bring an electronium with them when programming works requiring an organ, in order to play at their customary higher pitch, typically around A443. Recent Prom appearances by the Vienna Philharmonic and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestras are a case in point - with the mighty RAH Willis/Harrison giving way to a puny toaster in big works by Bartok, Richard Strauss and others.

 

Maybe British orchestras should start tuning up another 3 Hz.

 

JS

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Nevertheless, one factor that does not help the case is the way visiting foreign orchestras routinely bring an electronium with them when programming works requiring an organ, in order to play at their customary higher pitch, typically around A443. Recent Prom appearances by the Vienna Philharmonic and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestras are a case in point - with the mighty RAH Willis/Harrison giving way to a puny toaster in big works by Bartok, Richard Strauss and others.

 

Maybe British orchestras should start tuning up another 3 Hz.

I suspect it would take more than tuning the RAH/RFH organs to 443Hz to stop european orchestras touring with toasters. For a start I don't think there is any consensus between Berlin, Munich, Leipzig, Paris, Amsterdam, The Hague as to pitch. And when orchestras tour they frequently go to more than one foreign city so they would probably have the toaster with them and force of habit/reluctance to rehearse more than necessary would probably mean using the toaster anyway. Also organ experts would argue that we should leave the pitch of the RFH organ as Downes intended it. Perhaps it's the touring that's the problem. The days of unlimited international touring are surely numbered.

 

Happy New Year!

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I listened again to the Priory recording of Dame G W at the RFH - 'no problem with the playing or recording but some of the sounds are distinctly odd - especially smaller combinations, solo combinations etc. It seems to me that as PD writes above - it works well in large chunks but less well 'under the microscope' so to speak.

 

AJJ

 

I agree. Neither does it sound the way I remember anyone playing it in the former 'Wednesdays at 5.55' series. In this recording, the sound of the instrument is quite unpleasant a lot of the time - this, with no refelction on the playing of the artist.

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I agree. Neither does it sound the way I remember anyone playing it in the former 'Wednesdays at 5.55' series.

Interesting observation. I have not heard any recordings, but my comment about the organ not being all that bad were drawn from aural memories of the Wednesday recitals. It is possible that, even in that unhelpful acoustic, distance helped (I was always sat some way back in the hall). Maybe recordings put the instrument under the microscope too much?

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Interesting observation. I have not heard any recordings, but my comment about the organ not being all that bad were drawn from aural memories of the Wednesday recitals. It is possible that, even in that unhelpful acoustic, distance helped (I was always sat some way back in the hall). Maybe recordings put the instrument under the microscope too much?

 

 

 

I do think that the wide spread of the RFH divisions helped create some warmth/resonance when similar ranks were combined from different places. Downes called this 'acoustic coupling' which I suppose is as good a term as any. Because of their editing policy, I believe Priory regularly record some instruments rather closer than I would like. Essentially, it is proportionally easier to edit if you have less acoustic present on your recording!

 

For me, I like the extra depth and interest that comes from hearing behind, in between and after the notes I play. I am not just being loyal to Amphion to say that they (and my 'in house' tame engineers) regularly (and deliberately) find 'warm' rather than 'dry' spots. One recording as an instance: for our all-Karg-Elert CD, the Norwich Cathedral organ sounded exactly as we wanted it from just one place (fractionally SW of the Nave altar), and Martin Monkman was prepared to experiment for quite a while until we were all happy with the results that he was getting on tape.

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It is possible that, even in that unhelpful acoustic, distance helped (I was always sat some way back in the hall).

 

On several occasions I noticed that Ralph Downes sat just above the middle gangway, on the right (facing the organ) - so I imagine that was the optimal place to sit. :P

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Further to my jibe that the premier concert-hall in London, the RFH, now has the smallest (and possibly least used) concert organ in Europe, I had to smile when I came across some of the places in the following list, all from the Rieger-Kloss factory.

 

Bratislava, Concert Hall 84 stops Slovakia

Moscow, Tchaikovski Hall 80 stops Russia

Bucharest, Radio Building 87 stops Romania

Tallin, Concert Auditorium Estonia 67 stops Estonia

Cairo, Conservatory 60 stops Egypt

Kazan, Conservatory Hall 49 stops Kazakhstan

St. Peterburg, Orchestra hall 64 stops Russia

Bydgoszcz, Concert Hall 49 stops - WHERE IS THIS?

Bratislava, Radio Building, Slovakia 89 stops

Volgograd, Concert Auditorium 65 stops

Alma Ata, Concert Auditorium 74 stops

Pekin, Concert Auditorium, China 63 stops

Guangzhou, Concert Hall 84 stops

 

Furthermore, some of the Japanese concert-halls have a wide variety of superb concert-organs in different styles. In one of the concert halls in Japan, there are THREE substantial organs; each designed to do justice to music from different periods....Baroque, German Romantic and French Romantic.

 

Meanwhile....back in London......

 

:huh:

 

MM

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