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Which Are The Best Consoles?

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It's the Nickolaikirche, Leipzig (one of JSB's churches). It is a truly stunning yet simple console see here and here

 

For the perfect combination of luxury and elegance, I love Fisk's horseshoe consoles, such as at St James's, Richmond, VA. Can't find any close-ups on the web but Rice University is similar (tho bigger).

 

I agree with all above about HN&B consoles - I spent my formative years at Bolton Parish Church, where the Hill/HNB has a beautifully comfortable console of similar vintage to Selby Abbey.

 

IFB

 

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Thanks for the link to the Porsche design console. I couldn't find it in my files.

 

Stuttgart is, of course, the place where Porsche-design are situated.....I knew there was a connection somewhere!

 

MM

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More Hammond's league, I think. Clarkson's not a Porsche fan :rolleyes:

 

 

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

 

 

If they're going to let Hammond loose on it, I hope it has a stop labelled "Crash Cymbal."

 

Not one of them can drive (or play the organ), but they are fun.

 

MM

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Perhaps the time is now ripe for a sympathetic builder to restore this instrument to a state rather closer to the old Whiteley/Gray & Davison/Hill organ of 1910. Clearly it does not work tonally at the moment - there have been a large number of changes since the (arguably) disastrous rebuild in 1969 - 70.

 

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We've mentioned this before, but at least I can recall the organ as it was, when it still operated on what remained of the old low-voltage EP action.

 

I shall have to do my homework and check out the history of the Hill company, but whatever the precise details, this was an organ which gained some enormously powerful reeds (Norman & Beard?) of considerable quality; thus completely overshadowing the re-vamped fluework of the previous instrument.

 

This is one of theose organs where it is easy to be sentimental, but actually, (as I mentioned before in a previous post) I have a recording of the instrument prior to the Rushworth re-build, on a 'Ryemuse' EP played by John Sanders. I also have recordings of the organ immediately following the Rushworth re-build.

 

It makes an interesting comparison, because my feeling is that the organ was thoroughly conventional beforehand, and rather more interesting after the re-build: both actually being a rather fine, if somewhat unsubtle sound. (It's one of those organs which, due the position of it, is extremely difficult to accompany on, and it reminds me very much of the problems associated with St.Margaret's, Ilkley of similar vintage and with not dissimilar re-build treatment).

 

With these great turn of the century (plus a bit) Hill organs, it was often difficult to find anything QUIET enough on which to accompany, and I recall well musing over the fact that a restrained setting of Evensong at Ilkley, restricted me to little more than a Gt. Stopped Diapason coupled to three Swell stops and an Oboe: this from a stop-list of around 60 speaking stops. Anything more would have blown the choir away!

 

I recall Roger Fisher warning me, saying, "Be careful, the reeds are very powerful. The Swell reeds are BIG reeds, the Great reeds are even BIGGER reeds, the Pedal reeds are ENORMOUS reeds, and the Solo reeds are best left alone!"

 

So I'm afraid that even taking it back to 1910 is not going to improve that problem very much; whatever people feel it may bring musically.

 

Anyone who heard Roger Fisher doing his thing on that organ, could not remain unmoved. A real "balls out" player of tremendous energy, he knew how to slay an audience, and I've mentioned before his performance of the Reubke, when he gave vent to such organ-fury as to stun everyone into cowed silence. We all slunk out like pilgrims walking on their knees: penitential to the point of white-faced terror.

 

I suspect that subsequent fiddling with the organ has been a consequence of trying to make the organ more subtle and more accompaniment friendly, but I fear that it 'probably' isn't possible to do that, just as it isn't at Ilkley. It's a huge sound in a not over-huge cathedral, and I have a lot of sympathy with those who have to accompany choral services there.

 

On the other hand, with a full congregation, you never feel unsupported!!!!

 

I suspect that if one wants the perfect solution to the problem of accompaniment, then the only way would be to scrap the organ and start again, or resort to electronics for that sole purpose. There isn't space for yet another organ, and certainly not one near the choir.

 

MM

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It's strange as this "most confortable" console topic turned to be the worst consoles ever topic...

So Here I add my small experience in english organ consoles :

The worst console I ever experienced there is the Manchester Town Hall one, with the pedal keyboard being so far underneath that it becomes problematic to play the positif.

Even Dennis Martin told me that when the old Thalben-Ball came to play it, they had to change the bench, and as his belly was nearly tuching the keys, he really couldn't play on the positif.

(Not to mention the action which is terrible. But the stops arrangement is nice.)

I played another organ from Jardine, from the same period (the 70's) and there was the same problem.

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

I suspect that subsequent fiddling with the organ has been a consequence of trying to make the organ more subtle and more accompaniment friendly, but I fear that it 'probably' isn't possible to do that, just as it isn't at Ilkley. It's a huge sound in a not over-huge cathedral, and I have a lot of sympathy with those who have to accompany choral services there.

 

On the other hand, with a full congregation, you never feel unsupported!!!!

 

MM

I'm not so sure, MM. On the occasions that I've accompanied evensong at Chester, I've been able to use reasonably forthright registrations where appropriate. Of course, the distance between the organ gallery and the quire stalls is a factor. The last time I heard the organ was at an ordination service that I attended last spring. The cathedral was about 3/4 full, and the default registration for most verses of hymns was melody on Tuba accompanied by full organ. It was a fine sound, but by no means overwhelming.

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As regards nicest, I think that early 20C consoles of Hill take some beating. Threre's just a classiness about them that, for me at any rate, even Willis and Harison didn't quite manage. Here are a few NPOR links for fellow anoraks:

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch...N01512&no=2

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch...N01938&no=1

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch...N11754&no=2

 

Sadly, of the three organs pictured above, only the third is in use. The first was destroyed in an arson attack on the (redundant) building. The second is out of commission 'pending restoration'. A plug-in device accompanies the services and has done, as far as I am aware, for many years.

 

BTW, would anyone like to try and work what my younger, thinner and less grey self (picture taken Christmas 1986) is playing in the first link? Winner gets a pint at the first Board get-together that I'm able to attend

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Guest Cynic
I'm not so sure, MM. On the occasions that I've accompanied evensong at Chester, I've been able to use reasonably forthright registrations where appropriate. Of course, the distance between the organ gallery and the quire stalls is a factor. The last time I heard the organ was at an ordination service that I attended last spring. The cathedral was about 3/4 full, and the default registration for most verses of hymns was melody on Tuba accompanied by full organ. It was a fine sound, but by no means overwhelming.

 

 

The Chester Cathedral console might be fractionally annoying, but there's nothing wrong with the organ IMHO. As for the 'missing ranks' in the mixtures, I believe they are still there, merely stopped off with cotton wool. A sensible thing too - they were a mite overdone. This organ will convincingly play virtually anything and for romantic works it is one of the very best.

 

Careless talk costs lives - please, don't let anyone else talk this splendid beast down!

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
The Chester Cathedral This organ will convincingly play virtually anything and for romantic works it is one of the very best.

Careless talk costs lives - please, don't let anyone else talk this splendid beast down!

 

Quite. So right. Do you know that when I was a tot, there used to be on the wireless (not yet even the radio!), a programme done by the dear Divine, John Betjeman? He would visit our cathedrals and we would hear music and organ and words and the extreme beauty of it all coming over the airwaves. Such was the impact that Chester's broadcast had on me that my father had to take my family on a huge detour to see it. To this day I can remember that noble and brilliant sound of the organ. John Sanders was the player.

This was heritage. This was broadcasting to the world at its most supreme level when language, art and architecture were fused by genius. Who needed television?

 

All the best from a Sentimental.

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Just a few random comments to add to this...

 

... I like the thumb pistons H&H use at present. They are much larger than average and are convex (i.e. bulge outwards) rather than concave. This makes them very comfortable to use and easy to hit - even a poorly aimed jab (such as many of mine are) - results in success. It's not easy to hit them by accident, either. I can't understand the fashion for smaller and smaller thumb pistons (now often buttons) - especially hard when they're set too close together and I find the corners on HNB pistons uncomfortable.

 

H&H consoles get the thumbs up from me, old or new - even the "victorian style" console at Twyford, with a very scary looking straight pedalboard on an historic pattern, is comfortable. I believe they still have the dimensions and drawings of their old Edwardian consoles but use dimensions closer to modern standards now, even for St. David's. If I want to frighten a visiting organist at Twyford, I show them the pedalboard before they jump on the bench and watch the colour drain from their face; if I want them to feel at home, I get them on the bench and playing as quickly as possible - none have noticed or commented on the weird pedalboard.

 

The filling sections at the treble ends of the keyboards of the Gloucester Cathedral organ - isn't that the sort of "from stock" organ building people have been getting away from? It is jobsworthy and looks horrible. One wonders if the builder can't be bothered to get details so much on show right, what must lie beneath...

 

The Haarlem Bavo Kerk is the most comfortable of the big dutch organs I've played. This is because Marcussen changed the console dimensions - the keyboards overhang the pedalboard almost like a modern organ and there is even an adjustable bench. The pedalboard is new and runs C-f1 (which catches people out...) but is still straight and flat. The key touch and stops are much lighter than most other old organs, due to the modern action and modern soundboards with slider seals...

 

I wonder how that sleek modern Porsche console will look in 30 years time?

 

A bit kitsch and rather tired?

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Interesting topic. Having just started working at Rieger Orgelbau I was amazed at how nice and comfortable their consoles are and also complete with Rieger,s own solid state system. Becuase of Riegers huge output every year (3-4 new organs) they do follow their in house style but good nevertheless.

 

I.ve too found Harrison consoles nice. Have had lesson at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol I remember how easy it was to play.

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Careless talk costs lives - please, don't let anyone else talk this splendid beast down!

Rest assured Paul, that I for one would never do any such thing. It is a glorious instrument and I consider it both great good fortune and a wonderful privilege to have had several opportunities to play it over the last few years.

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As regards nicest, I think that early 20C consoles of Hill take some beating. Threre's just a classiness about them that, for me at any rate, even Willis and Harison didn't quite manage. Here are a few NPOR links for fellow anoraks:

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch...N01512&no=2

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch...N01938&no=1

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch...N11754&no=2

 

Sadly, of the three organs pictured above, only the third is in use. The first was destroyed in an arson attack on the (redundant) building. The second is out of commission 'pending restoration'. A plug-in device accompanies the services and has done, as far as I am aware, for many years.

 

BTW, would anyone like to try and work what my younger, thinner and less grey self (picture taken Christmas 1986) is playing in the first link? Winner gets a pint at the first Board get-together that I'm able to attend

Wonderful to see these. Identical (although a tad bigger) than my sorely missed little gem at St Mark's Kingsholm, Gloucester (tho the Pentecostal congregation now using the place occasionally blow some air through it).

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Agreed on the Hill consoles, even the small one 'chez nous' is wonderful - everything is there were you need it

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BTW, would anyone like to try and work what my younger, thinner and less grey self (picture taken Christmas 1986) is playing in the first link? Winner gets a pint at the first Board get-together that I'm able to attend

I'll hazard the fugue of BWV565 - thin texture, arepeggios and it's what you want to play at that age!

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
NOT one of the most ergonomic consoles ever built - try changing stops on the Rugpositief here without an assistant!

Check the 4th picture on this page: http://www.organartmedia.com/Vollenhove-Pics.html

 

Granted, some help is needed when you have Lumbago or Sciatica. But these consoles like Edam (as also in France, like Marmoutier) make you prepare and think beforehand. I find them no problem at all, as do students when they appreciate the construction.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
I'll hazard the fugue of BWV565 - thin texture, arpeggios and it's what you want to play at that age!

 

I don't think so. The Swell Expression pedal seems in a closed position and the right foot plays a B natural. Franck's Prelude Fugue and Variation perhaps? Hard to tell. But I think it is Baroque because of the wide score. On the other hand it could be the Hungarian score of Liszt BACH.

Will keep awake all night thinking .....

 

N

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I wonder how that sleek modern Porsche console will look in 30 years time?

 

A bit kitsch and rather tired?

 

 

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Judging by the Porsche cars I've admired over the years, and the 911RS lightweight I once drove, I would suggest that if Porsche had a hand in the engineering, the console will last forever and merely become a classic design.

 

I think the Porche design studio web-site has a fair bit of blurb about the design of the console, which utilised ergonomics as never before: hence the interesting sweep of the stop-layout, the carefully machined groooves just behind the stop-heads for security of purchase and those lovely dials to indicate swell-box positions etc.

 

I not only like that console, I think it is a magnificent piece of real design.

 

MM

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I don't think so. The Swell Expression pedal seems in a closed position and the right foot plays a B natural. Franck's Prelude Fugue and Variation perhaps? Hard to tell. But I think it is Baroque because of the wide score. On the other hand it could be the Hungarian score of Liszt BACH.

Will keep awake all night thinking .....

 

N

 

 

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I think Nigel has got it right, judging by what appear to be arpeggios on the sheet-music and the pedal B.

 

It could, of course, be an arrangement of Tchaikovskys "Walt of the Flowers" played in the wrong key.

 

MM

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
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I think Nigel has got it right, judging by what appear to be arpeggios on the sheet-music and the pedal B.

 

It could, of course, be an arrangement of Tchaikovskys "Walt of the Flowers" played in the wrong key.

 

MM

 

I don't know this, even in the right key. Should it read "Wilt"? Very B minor then, especially the day after St Valentine's. :rolleyes:

 

N

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I wonder how that sleek modern Porsche console will look in 30 years time?

 

A bit kitsch and rather tired?

 

I'm told that lady recitalists at the Nikolaikirche are requested not to use hand cream so as not to sully the beautiful brushed aluminium stop jambs!

 

Seriously though, the Porsche/Eule 'no-expense-spared' collaboration has produced a truly magnificent instrument. I can't imagine many British firms funding an organ of 5 manuals and 100+ stops complete with new 32-foot tin front etc etc.

 

Porsche established a factory near Leipzig shortly after reunification. I understand that one of its directors, a former West German Foreign Minister, was influential in bringing this project to fruition. However, political considerations shouldn't detract from the enlightened munificence of the Porsche firm.

 

JS

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I.ve too found Harrison consoles nice. Have had lesson at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol I remember how easy it was to play.

As one of the many regular contributers to have commented in the past on the comfort of classic H&H consoles, with a particular fondness for the one recently consigned to the scrap heap and also Exeter, I would have to say that, for me, St Mary Redcliffe is the exception that proves the rule. I dislike the layout of the swell stops, but the main problem is with the swell pedals and the toe pistons. I also find the pedal board to be rather cramped.

 

I notice Bath Abbey does not feature amongst anyones favourites, with its foul pedal board positioning this does not surprise me, it was much more comfortable in its HNB days. The unusually large stop knob heads in their carved panels still have a certain unique charm though.

 

I find the console at Hereford to be really comfortable and always feel immediately at home here. I would however agree with Paul that the huge array of stop-tab couplers under the music desk is not very user friendly and wonder how often the mirriad octave and suboctave couplers actually get used. Having played there again last Saturday I was thinking about a new thread for "Most dodgy organ loft staircases", but perhaps we'll keep that for another day!

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Guest Barry Williams

I have always found Willis III consoles very comfortable to play, with the excellent key touch, beautiful appearance and positioning of the pedal board. Some find the slightly short manual keys a problem but that had never bothered me. Similarly, whilst I understand the dislike of the array of couplers it is logical - at least for the unison ones!

 

My personal pet hate is the black plate jambs that H & H used to have. I do not know why but I just do not like them. The 1930s H & H consoles are, nonetheless, a joy to play and most comfortable.

 

Crowding toe pistons around Swell Pedals is dangerous - the electronic people do it all the time and some pipe organs are not immune from the fault.

 

No-one has commented about music desks. I prefer these to be high so that one looks straight at the music and not down.

 

Console lights are best as spotlights so as to avoid glare. (There are no pedal lights on our House Organ - June says that if you need to look you should have organ lessons rather than fit a pedal light!)

 

Do folk find plastic music desks useful for church work where the console faces down the church? Certainly church organs benefit from a larger music desk to accomodate all the clutter needed for services, but plastic desks tend to attract dust.

 

Barry Wiliams

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