Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Extra Help For The Partially-sighted


headcase
 Share

Recommended Posts

I was interested to read in C&O magazine of our host's new organ for Cripplegate and to see Ian Bell's favourable comments on orgue-l.

 

A lot of thought has been given to making the organ user-friendly for the partially-sighted/blind. However, I couldn't convince myself that stops which talk back to the player were necessary, particularly on an organ of this size. Surely one would draw a stop, listen to the sound and make a mental note of pitch and timbre ? In a small organ this would be perhaps five minutes work. I'll concede that distinguishing coupler functions might be more tricky.

 

So - on a small instrument, is Sat-nav-voice necessary, or have I overlooked something obvious ?

 

Would it be more useful on a larger instrument (say 25+ stops) ?

 

Any views ?

 

I might just add that I imply no criticism that this facility has been adopted - just interested to know if this is a direction worth pursuing.

 

H

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Cynic

Headcase raises a fair point and I'm sure he/she is not criticising, merely soliciting opinions. The raison d'etre of the second Mander organ in St.Giles' Cripplegate is that everything should be as approachable, adaptable and easy to use as possible. The 'speak your registration' gadget is certainly a very new idea, and almost certainly the only time this has been attempted in the UK. I congratulate the designers on the thoroughness with which they have pursued their intentions and hope that this will indeed encourage and assist beginners with a visual handicap.

 

A certain amount of rubbish has already been talked about this and other innovations on another forum by people who (one would have thought) ought to know better. I agree with Headcase that an accomplished, or even partly-advanced visually-handicapped player might well not need such devices, but what about beginners of any age taking that first step? At this particular organ, they will be able to practice on their own and learn as they do so.

 

Amongst special features adopted here, I would welcome the provision of an adjustable music desk on any organ of any size. Some famous organs are very difficult to play on account of a score being placed unecessarily far away, and I refer not just to some old consoles! If this is what my short-sight does to me, I do not find it hard to be sympathetic to players who experience difficulties of a more profound kind.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not having experienced the instrument in question, or even seen the article, I am in no position to do any more than offer a few armchair comments. However, catering for the physically handicapped is something that we are told all companies and organisations should be treating very seriously in the interests of equality and it is heartening to hear of it being taken on board here.

 

Having said that, France, or at least Paris, has quite a tradition of distinguished blind organists and they seem to have managed very well, even on unfamiliar instruments, without aural prompts. Even so, I am inclined to agree with Cynic that it is good to have the features. I assume their use is not obligatory.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not having experienced the instrument in question, or even seen the article, I am in no position to do any more than offer a few armchair comments. However, catering for the physically handicapped is something that we are told all companies and organisations should be treating very seriously in the interests of equality and it is heartening to hear of it being taken on board here.

 

Having said that, France, or at least Paris, has quite a tradition of distinguished blind organists and they seem to have managed very well, even on unfamiliar instruments, without aural prompts. Even so, I am inclined to agree with Cynic that it is good to have the features. I assume their use is not obligatory.

 

 

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

 

 

Many years ago, I was just stunned with the way Jean Langlais not only got to grips with the very large specification and console at Leeds PC, but also played a superb recital.

 

Andre Marchal was another who made blindness seem like a minor problem in life.

 

You really do have to admire them.

 

With no disrespect to the blind (or the organ playing deaf for that matter), have there ever been organists with wooden-legs?

 

I just feel that, in the "unlikely but true" stakes, someone is going to say that this is so.

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Cynic
========================

Many years ago, I was just stunned with the way Jean Langlais not only got to grips with the very large specification and console at Leeds PC, but also played a superb recital.

 

Andre Marchal was another who made blindness seem like a minor problem in life.

 

You really do have to admire them.

 

With no disrespect to the blind (or the organ playing deaf for that matter), have there ever been organists with wooden-legs?

 

I just feel that, in the "unlikely but true" stakes, someone is going to say that this is so.

 

MM

 

 

Maybe not a wooden leg, but anyone who heard the late Douglas Fox play (with only one hand) was witness to amazing skill and indomitable spirit.

He didn't just pick easy pieces either - Bach's Prelude and Fugue in D was a favourite, likewise Parry's Fantasia in G!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Headcase raises a fair point and I'm sure he/she is not criticising, merely soliciting opinions. The raison d'etre of the second Mander organ in St.Giles' Cripplegate is that everything should be as approachable, adaptable and easy to use as possible. The 'speak your registration' gadget is certainly a very new idea, and almost certainly the only time this has been attempted in the UK. I congratulate the designers on the thoroughness with which they have pursued their intentions and hope that this will indeed encourage and assist beginners with a visual handicap.

 

A certain amount of rubbish has already been talked about this and other innovations on another forum by people who (one would have thought) ought to know better. I agree with Headcase that an accomplished, or even partly-advanced visually-handicapped player might well not need such devices, but what about beginners of any age taking that first step? At this particular organ, they will be able to practice on their own and learn as they do so.

 

Amongst special features adopted here, I would welcome the provision of an adjustable music desk on any organ of any size. Some famous organs are very difficult to play on account of a score being placed unecessarily far away, and I refer not just to some old consoles! If this is what my short-sight does to me, I do not find it hard to be sympathetic to players who experience difficulties of a more profound kind.

 

 

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

 

 

I think (hope) I can quote the words of Geraint Jones from a broadcast he made over 40 years ago, when he referred to the music-desk of the Schnitger at Steinkerken. (I'm fairly certain that was the place).

 

"Unfortunately, the music-desk is very close, which necessitated the wearing of two pairs of superimposed spectacles in order to read the notes."

 

Thanks to that gem of wisdom, I find that I am able to thread cotton through the eye of a needle, whereas I could once do the same at arm's length without wearing anything.

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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

 

Thanks to that gem of wisdom, I find that I am able to thread cotton through the eye of a needle, whereas I could once do the same at arm's length without wearing anything.

MM

That reminds me of Terry Jones. Is this board ready for naked organists?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I wonder how Vierne coped with the ampitheatre console at Notre Dame! Or Helmut Walcha as a travelling concert organist? Or John Stanley?

 

I think the aims at St. Giles are very worthy indeed and it looks like it's been done very nicely - including the St. Anne fugue suject in braille in one of the carvings. I like the sepentine flats on the case too! However, what happens when a blind or partially sighted student goes home to practice on their local parish church organ?

 

I work with a colleague who is blind. He sits at a computer and taps away merrily all day with the monitor turned off - it really spooks some visitors! However, except when the computer crashes, he can use a computer just as well as I can - including writing spreadsheets so complex I mess them up every time I use them! It's fascinating to watch him use a computer and see how he interacts with it. He's also learning piano and uses MIDI files to learn the notes - by rote. It takes him some time but he's effectively memorising the piece as he learns it. He's just learn the Bach G major minuet from the Anna Magdelena Buchlein - it took about 2-3 weeks. He's started from scratch over the past 6-12 months. Maybe I should take him to St. Giles so he can try out the new organ there and see what he thinks!

 

Although my organ is quite small - barely much bigger than the new St. Giles organ, I can pretty much work my way around it by touch without looking at the stops - I guess most people fall into a similar category with familar organs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alfred Hollins, by all accounts, was a very clever blind organist.

 

I recall reading that he travelled something amazing like 600,000 miles mostly on his own with transatlantic tours and tours around Europe.

 

In this country he used to travel on his own on the train and said he could recognize what railway station he was at by the smell, each station having it's own distinct odour!

 

There are several funny anecdotes about him. My favourite is about his party trick. Having perfect pitch, he used to have dinner guests tap glasses and plates after dinner, and he'd announce the pitch of whatever was being tapped, and have somebody sitting at the piano to confirm the pitch he gave.

 

One evening one of his guests thought "Right, I'll fool him" and lifted up a bread roll and banged it on the table. Hollins thought about it for a moment, and then said "Doh"!

 

:rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Barry Williams

I recall an account, it may be in one of Elvin's books, of Hollins feeling whether stops were on or off on a Compton luminous console by the heat of the bulbs.

 

Blind people have an extraordinary sense of smell. One of my previous secretaries (who was totally blind - only about 5% of the registered blind have absolutely no sight at all,) could tell, immediately someone walked into her room, who it was. I suggested that it was the sound of the footsteps. Eventually she disclosed that she could smell everyone! (It was a matter of real delight to her when we all agreed to line up so that she could feel our faces.) Her work was perfect - in a field where mistakes are not tolerated. She played the piano, sang and regularly read lessons in church.

 

Hollins was an astonishing man, as much a pianist as an organist. David Liddle has recorded his music with great power and sensitivity, most especially the Song of Sunshine - a piece that is remarkably tricky to play.

 

Barry Williams

 

PS I find it irritating when these folk with perfect pitch can detect such small differences, even between a C sharp and a D flat.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For an experienced organist the speaking stops gizzmo is almost certainly unnecessary, but for beginners I can imagine it being very helpful. Given this organ will be the primary teaching instrument for the organ school, this sounds like a sensible innovation.

 

As for who's voice would be appropriate for speaking the stop names, suggestions on a postcard please...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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

Many years ago, I was just stunned with the way Jean Langlais not only got to grips with the very large specification and console at Leeds PC, but also played a superb recitical.

 

MM

 

I saw and heard M. Langlais at Worcester Cathedral in about 1980. I was deeply moved to see a tiny frail-looking figure with long white hair being led to the console and then produce such incredible sounds. I forget the subject of his improvisation but I do remember it left the audience stunned - there was a very long pause before the standing ovation started.

 

P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe not a wooden leg, but anyone who heard the late Douglas Fox play (with only one hand) was witness to amazing skill and indomitable spirit.

He didn't just pick easy pieces either - Bach's Prelude and Fugue in D was a favourite, likewise Parry's Fantasia in G!

 

He was indeed amazing. I heard Douglas Fox play at an IAO Congress in the Colston Hall Bristol in the 60's. He picked and cleverly rearranged pieces so he could play them with left hand and two feet. I also remember he broadcast from there in the days when the BBC broadcast organ recitals.

 

I subsequently turned pages for him at a recital in the Lord Mayor's Chapel Bristol which I seem to remember was quite daunting because at frequent points one had to cancel all pedal stops so he could play manual parts with his left hand and right foot. I think there was an embarrassing moment (probably for me rather then him) during rehearsal when I heard myself say said something like "Oh, you plan to play with both hands at this point"!

 

The story I was told was that when he was in hospital having lost his arm in action during WW1 the organist of Westminster abbey wrote to him to say he had just played evensong without using his right arm and it could be done.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Barry Williams
I saw and heard M. Langlais at Worcester Cathedral in about 1980. I was deeply moved to see a tiny frail-looking figure with long white hair being led to the console and then produce such incredible sounds. I forget the subject of his improvisation but I do remember it left the audience stunned - there was a very long pause before the standing ovation started.

 

P

 

I remember Langlais' superb recital at the Albert Hall when he improvised a Prelude and Fugue on a note-row theme provided by Alexander Schreiner. It was one of the musical highlights of my life. His playing of Franck was divine.

 

Barry Williams

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My theatre organ teacher, the late Reginal Porter-Brown had almost no sight towards the end of his long and distinguished career.

 

.....didn't seem to worry him one bit. He could whizz his way around the 137 stop classical console at the Guildhall Southampton with no trouble at all. He also had little trouble with the Theatre console there too - it has 240 odd tabs!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He was indeed amazing. I heard Douglas Fox play at an IAO Congress in the Colston Hall Bristol in the 60's. He picked and cleverly rearranged pieces so he could play them with left hand and two feet. I also remember he broadcast from there in the days when the BBC broadcast organ recitals.

 

I subsequently turned pages for him at a recital in the Lord Mayor's Chapel Bristol which I seem to remember was quite daunting because at frequent points one had to cancel all pedal stops so he could play manual parts with his left hand and right foot. I think there was an embarrassing moment (probably for me rather then him) during rehearsal when I heard myself say said something like "Oh, you plan to play with both hands at this point"!

 

The story I was told was that when he was in hospital having lost his arm in action during WW1 the organist of Westminster abbey wrote to him to say he had just played evensong without using his right arm and it could be done.

 

 

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

 

 

That is amazing. Thank you for telling us about that.

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw and heard M. Langlais at Worcester Cathedral in about 1980. I was deeply moved to see a tiny frail-looking figure with long white hair being led to the console and then produce such incredible sounds. I forget the subject of his improvisation but I do remember it left the audience stunned - there was a very long pause before the standing ovation started.

 

P

 

 

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

 

 

I'm sure I must have told this story before, but when Tony Norcliffe was organist at St.Bart's, Armley, he arranged to go over to Paris.

 

I forget where Langlais played (Madelaine?), but anyway, Tony had arranged to sit with him during mass.

 

Langlais arrived (with a head like "The Mekon".....Tony's description) and felt his way onto the console, greeted Tony, and drew stops. Then followed the most astonishing improvisation, with fugues and things, which impressed Tony no end.

 

As the clergy procession started, Langlais wound the improvisation down until it was all shimmering Celestes, Harmonic Flute and gallic atmosphere. Unfortunately, before Langlais finished, the voice of the celebrant exhorted the flock to prayer.

 

In an instantaneous flash of anger and outrage, Langlais kicked the ventils, ended on the chamades and almost destroyed the church.

 

With the organ still reverberating around the building, Langlais turned to Tony and said, "Ziss priest...he is a monster!"

 

:lol:

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

PS I find it irritating when these folk with perfect pitch can detect such small differences, even between a C sharp and a D flat.

 

I wish folks with or without perfect pitch didn't have the ability to detect the difference between a G-sharp and an A-flat. Then I'd avoid the occasional retuning during harpsichord recitals when using 1/4 comma meantone!

 

Still, try doing that during an organ recital!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...