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What cathedral organist would be willing to be constrained by the limitations of such an instrument? No 32 foot reed, no tuba, no setter, 56 note manuals, no detached nave section.

 

How about the unemployed cathedral organist !

 

If the parishoners of Sheffield are gracious enough to accept the financial constraints associated with the purchase, refurbishment and re-erection of this historic instrument I can hardly fault them if they are really not that interested in what constraints it may put on a cathedral organist, especially as his/her signature will not be found anywhere on the bank loan.

 

 

 

Chauncey

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  • 3 weeks later...
There was rumour of it going to a cathedral.

 

 

It would appear that for so long as mechanical organs walk upon the face of the earth there will always be rumours as to their continued existance.

 

The once-upon-a-time magnificent instrument in Parr Hall is no exception. As contributors to this topic have correctly pointed out well meaning but totally impractical plans for its existence continue to circulate. Allan Taylor I think has set out the most sensible and balanced posting on these points.

 

The cost of mechanical organs is astronomic and,in todays economic climate, totally morally reprehensible. I am not a complete iconoclast, I appreciate craftsmanship,ingenuity, an appreciation of what was once great in the past etc.....etc but that does not detract from hard nosed economics one iota, unfortunately.

 

On a recent visit to the HW works in Liverpool I was amazed by the instrument presently being constructed there for shipment to New Zealand. Then I asked myself ,how long before that requires x amount spending on maintenance,rebuilding, even allowing for the adoption of more modern techniques of construction and materials?

 

I then listened to the 4 decker digital instrument which was ignonimously situated in a dusty corner at the back of the aforesaid works keeping company with an equally dusty old Roller.

 

This, whether we like it or not, is the way forward for the instriuments survival. Digital sampling has come along quite some way since the days of Livingstone - Burge .

 

I can feel the brickbats and hear the howls and screams even as I write this but it has to be written.

 

I finally condemn myself to the flames of eternity and suggest that in order to survive into the next millenium instruments of the likes of Liverpool Anglican, Parr Hall, Kings College, Redcliffe....................et. al should GO DIGITAL. This is the only way in which their magnificent,unique sounds will stand any chance of survival in the years to come. Hanging onto history is comparable to hanging onto fresh air.

 

Anyway, all is not doom and gloom; Just imagine, one would be able to " pick `n mix " with ones specification and tonal penchants - the clarinet from Redcliffe, the viols from Kings College, 64` from Sydney............................ and all in ones front parlour for a mere snip in comparison to " The Real Thing "!!

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I won't quote the whole of the above post, but I read it with steadily rising eye-brows. Adnosad is entitled to his/her opinion, but my view differs from his (or hers).

 

Organs do not necessarily need stacks of money spending on them. Two weeks ago I played a small two-decker by Bishop in a little church in the Cotswolds. It has had nothing spent on it except the odd tuning visit in the last 100 years.

 

I would go so far as to state categorically that without a complete revolution in speaker technology, no maker of any electronic organ will ever be able to match let alone beat the subtlety of several stops on that little instrument. Music simply poured forth from it at the slightest touch. No magic trick, it has a sound specification of well voiced pipework on a modest pressure speaking without hindrance in a resonant church.

 

If you love music - real live music - and you like the sound of an organ, I would be very surprised if anyone would ever (given the choice) choose circuits over actual pipes. The equivalent is to say - films are in every way better than live Drama, close all theatres and opera houses.

Having done that, proposition 2: man can live on Pot Noodles alone, ban all restaurants.

3: Genuine art is too expensive for the common man to own, burn it all and give away free posters.

 

No, pipe organs are not dying out. Some folks are keeping in very good business rebuilding the famous ones, but the rest of our organ stock is actually quite safe - indeed, I consider the organs where money is tight to be sometimes the lucky ones. I accept one should not be complacent about it, so if there's a good organ near you, one hopes that from time to time the owners will be reminded that it is worth keeping/preserving. As for organ-substitutes, they have their place - as practice instruments. Thinking on....near here, I know a guy with a comprehensively equipped three-decker electronic downstairs and a two-rank extension organ upstairs. Guess which one is never switched on!

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It would appear that for so long as mechanical organs walk upon the face of the earth there will always be rumours as to their continued existance.

 

The once-upon-a-time magnificent instrument in Parr Hall is no exception. As contributors to this topic have correctly pointed out well meaning but totally impractical plans for its existence continue to circulate. Allan Taylor I think has set out the most sensible and balanced posting on these points.

 

The cost of mechanical organs is astronomic and,in todays economic climate, totally morally reprehensible. I am not a complete iconoclast, I appreciate craftsmanship,ingenuity, an appreciation of what was once great in the past etc.....etc but that does not detract from hard nosed economics one iota, unfortunately.

 

On a recent visit to the HW works in Liverpool I was amazed by the instrument presently being constructed there for shipment to New Zealand. Then I asked myself ,how long before that requires x amount spending on maintenance,rebuilding, even allowing for the adoption of more modern techniques of construction and materials?

 

I then listened to the 4 decker digital instrument which was ignonimously situated in a dusty corner at the back of the aforesaid works keeping company with an equally dusty old Roller.

 

This, whether we like it or not, is the way forward for the instriuments survival. Digital sampling has come along quite some way since the days of Livingstone - Burge .

 

I can feel the brickbats and hear the howls and screams even as I write this but it has to be written.

 

I finally condemn myself to the flames of eternity and suggest that in order to survive into the next millenium instruments of the likes of Liverpool Anglican, Parr Hall, Kings College, Redcliffe....................et. al should GO DIGITAL. This is the only way in which their magnificent,unique sounds will stand any chance of survival in the years to come. Hanging onto history is comparable to hanging onto fresh air.

 

Anyway, all is not doom and gloom; Just imagine, one would be able to " pick `n mix " with ones specification and tonal penchants - the clarinet from Redcliffe, the viols from Kings College, 64` from Sydney............................ and all in ones front parlour for a mere snip in comparison to " The Real Thing "!!

 

 

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

 

 

Well, I've heard some absurd arguments in my time, but this post takes some beating on almost all counts; financial, moral, artistic and historical.

 

Let's just put the money involved in perspective shall we?

 

A painting previously owned by Bury Council was sold to a friend of mine for about 0.75 million if I recall correctly. It is a painting by L S Lowrey (I forget the title). I've not seen it, but I don't think it's a very large painting, and in terms of absolute artistic quality, let's say that Lowrey has his critics. (Brian Sewell regards Lowrey as a bit of a daub artist).

 

My friend, in an act of public-spirited generosity, has lent the painting to the Lowrey Centre in Manchester, so that people may enjoy it. (He has about 12 others at home, so he will not feel deprived).

 

Top footballers are paid around £50,000 PER WEEK, and Formula 1 drivers probably much the same. I recall a comment from a marketing-man, to the effect that the racing-driver Lewis Hamilton could end up enjoying the first ever £1,000,000,000 career.

 

Top sports cars can now cost £500,000, and yet they will require an enormous amount of maintenance and depreciate very heavily.

 

A very rare Bugatti Royale would probably fetch over £1,000,000 at auction.

A top race-horse which costs a King's ransom, also costs a fortune to stable and train, and may break a leg the next time around the racecourse.

 

How much does it cost to maintain and repair the stained-glass at somewhere like York Minster, or maintain the stone fabric each and every day?

 

I think it was Elizabeth Taylor who said, "Big money is toxic."

 

Now you can take your pick as to which of these is worth the money, but I suspect that most people would not like to see York Minster fall down, and in terms of art, history, world heritage, aesthetic satifaction, marketing image, prestige and the public enjoyment of the same, it must be near the top of the list.

 

But what price a tiny Norman church in a tiny village, well off the tourist trail?

 

If all major restoration or upkeep decisions have to be a part of a wider financial strategy, what price art and heritage itself?

 

Surely, precious things cannot be quantified purely on a balance sheet or in some audit of public interest; otherwise "art" would be restricted to reality TV programmes and soap-operas?

 

What on earth is morally reprehensible about maintaining or restoring significant works of art?

 

It keeps good, honest craftsmen and tradesmen in employment, who are not profiteering unreasonably, or rippinmg people off. The cost is that associated with anything which requires detailed work, careful planning and the procurement of expensive materials.

 

It is the very richness of culture which atracts people to our shores, and unless that culture is diverse and plentiful, people will go elsewhere. There is therefore a good case for carefully preserving what we have got.

 

It may be a small crumb of comfort, but I have yet to come across anyone who went to Holland or France, merely to attend a "Pop Idol" concert, or came to England to watch "Eastenders," though I'm sure someone has.

 

As for the digital question, we could flog the National Gallery art-works and hang digital photographs of them in the public loos; sell off the originals and reduce the public debt.

 

Is it possible, I wonder, to accurately assess the worth of art and culture, or the benefits it brings?

 

I think not!

 

MM

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Do not feed the troll!

 

The troll is happily fed and watered and has no problems whatsoever!

 

As expected I can feel the Flames of Hellfire and Perdition licking at my nether regions, but, no problem there!!

 

Briefly, i knew this would not be a particularly easy issue to get round.

 

My posting may have given the honoured readers on this site palpitations but I speak as an appreciator of the arts and most of the appendages which hang off it, not as a Goth, Vandal, or other bare -buttocked savage BUT.............

 

.......... the general trend of the thread seems to be going the wrong way round the roundabout. The emotive words " cost ", " value ", and " worth " are totally subjective, as well as arbitary.

 

We live in a highly developed Capitalist Age in which " real values " have become distorted to a horrendous degree by the media in their obsession with worth,wealth, and most importantly, cost. Our esteemed reader of my post himself mentions directly these Capitalist Trappings - Race horses, sports cars, artefacts etc. All very true, couldn`t agree more, but, their " worth " , " value "? that is another matter which is as subjective as it is voluntary.

 

I think that is sufficient for the moment. I await more comments on this topic ( hopeful aren`t I ?? )

 

Just to stoke the flames up a bit I am now going to listen to Ian Tracey playing on a very good Makin organ in Warton Parish church, Lancashire contrasted to Geoffrey Fisher playing an equally good instrument ( crafted by hand ) In St.Peters church, budleigh Salterton.

Good Day To You All. :)

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I really think that the argument on either side falls down as soon as broad brush strokes are applied. There are simply too many exceptions to ever be able to address this matter in anything near to definitive terms. It is something that can only ever be adequately addressed on an individual basis with the parties concerned, with absolute honesty from both sides. Prior agendas are probably the most damaging aspect of this discussion and are met far more than is healthy or right, but they are there nonetheless. Maybe you would be amazed, and maybe you wouldn't at the nature of such agendas. Often parties had no idea they were there, and it can be a tall order to overcome them.

 

Very often the problem is not the instrument at all, but the people involved in the decision making process.

 

AJS

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Do not feed the troll!

The troll's views are sadly entirely in line with many you will hear throughout the various levels of Church hierarchy, and on the street. They are usually exacerbated when countered by elitist or ethereal argument on behalf of the pipe organ lobby (which to board members' credit has not yet happened).

 

While I think the troll needs to pipe down and express a more measured view, these posts are frightening evidence of the current state of most of our pipe organ heritage and the general attitude toward it.

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I would just mention the comparatively short availability of many electronic components which suggests that the repairable life of a purpose-built electronic organ could be quite short. Even though systems based on a general purpose computer might be repairable or upgradable by replacing the computer by a new current model at some time in the future, there is still no guarantee that the software will remain available for ever, or that existing versions will remain compatible with whatever operating system a distantly future computer might run.

 

Paul

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I would just mention the comparatively short availability of many electronic components which suggests that the repairable life of a purpose-built electronic organ could be quite short. Even though systems based on a general purpose computer might be repairable or upgradable by replacing the computer by a new current model at some time in the future, there is still no guarantee that the software will remain available for ever, or that existing versions will remain compatible with whatever operating system a distantly future computer might run.

 

Paul

 

My posting is not in any way championing digital organs; anyone who knows the authentic voices of pipes soon rumbles that they are listening to electronically produced sounds from a loudspeaker. As Cynic has said, they have their place as practise devices. But there is much nonsense spoken about the longevity of circuit boards and replacement parts. I know of a two-manual digital organ that gets used virtually every day and was purchased around 25 years ago. It has never needed replacement components or circuit boards nor has its original sound quality deteriorated. On the few rare occasions it has needed the attention of a technician all that has been needed is a squirt of WD40 on rotary switches where there has been ingress of dust particles. Even after 25 and should the need arise, replacement circuit boards and semi-conductors remain available.

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My posting is not in any way championing digital organs; anyone who knows the authentic voices of pipes soon rumbles that they are listening to electronically produced sounds from a loudspeaker. As Cynic has said, they have their place as practise devices. But there is much nonsense spoken about the longevity of circuit boards and replacement parts. I know of a two-manual digital organ that gets used virtually every day and was purchased around 25 years ago. It has never needed replacement components or circuit boards nor has its original sound quality deteriorated. On the few rare occasions it has needed the attention of a technician all that has been needed is a squirt of WD40 on rotary switches where there has been ingress of dust particles. Even after 25 and should the need arise, replacement circuit boards and semi-conductors remain available.

 

Hi

 

There are always exceptions - I have a portable "combo" organ here that dates from the 1970's and is still working. But that doesn't negate the fact that the average life of most electronic organs is 15-20 years. On that basis, pipes are always going to win on the longevity stakes.

 

Some later analogue electronics are unrepairable without modification because the specialized chips that they used are no longer available - older ones used standard components that are, in the main, still around. I can't comment on digital/computer organs as I've not had much dealings with the technicalities - but I'm having to buy new computer software as some of the programmes I use refuse to run on MS Vista.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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... anyone who knows the authentic voices of pipes soon rumbles that they are listening to electronically produced sounds from a loudspeaker.

I think you would find several members of this board with experience of recent developments who would argue that, as the old song says, "It ain't necessarily so".

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... Just to stoke the flames up a bit I am now going to listen to Ian Tracey playing on a very good Makin organ in Warton Parish church, Lancashire contrasted to Geoffrey Fisher playing an equally good instrument ( crafted by hand ) In St.Peters church, budleigh Salterton.
...

 

In the first instance, I think you actually mean Roger Fisher. In the second, with no disrespect intended to the re-builder of the instrument in Saint Peter's, Budleigh Salterton, I can think of any number of pipe organs of a similar size, which I would consider tonally superior (including that at my own church).

 

I wonder if there is a physiological difference in aural perception - perhaps in much the same way that I am told my taste buds are different to many others. To explain: I HATE parsnips - and I mean really hate them. On the other hand, I really like sprouts (providing they are not cooked for onlger than about 7 - 9 minutes). Apparently this is because Ihave less taste buds than those who like parsnips. (Personally, I just thin that they are crazy....)

 

Amidst this vegetable digression, I think that what I am trying to say is that, like Cynic and MM, whilst I am somewhat stunned at the apparenty serious post of adnosad, perhaps there is a physical reason for his/her preference.

 

I have to say that I have played many different makes (and ages) of toaster and without exception, not one would have induced me for one minute to accept one in substitution of the real thing - possibly not even if I was 'stuck' with a vintage Harrison. *

 

I play each year for a colleague's school carol service. Every year, the chapel (with a two clavier pipe organ, under the care of FH Browne) is considered to be too small to accommodate the expected large congregation, so the service is held in the Great Hall. Every year, an electronic substitute is hired. For the last few years, these have been (supposedly) brand-new top-of-the-rang 'Allen' organs. Every year, I sit playing, amazed that people would actually pay money to own one. To my ears, they do not even sound like other electonic organs - much less beautiful pipe organs.

 

I suspect that you, adnosad, could list many pipe organs which are either tonally undistinguished or which contain unpleasant ranks; however, I have yet to play an electronic which I find satisfying in every sense (including ergonomically). Even the instrument on loan to Gloucester Cathedral whilst the pipe organ was being restored became tiring and 'plastic' after a short period.

 

Aside from the fact that there is a basic difference so far not mentioned (that of 'moving the air'), the question of maintenance is not as straightforward as you suggest. I was, several years ago, the Assistant Organist at a 'greater church' in the South of England. This church had a well-known large electronic substitute organ, which was, at the time of its maufacture, considered to be 'state of the art'. During its lifetime, it required at least one complete refit and regular maintenance - including one occasion where a dropped screw apparently fused the entire piston system. Had the church been liable for the maintenance bill, I can assure you that it would have been costly.

 

 

 

* I am aware that they are usually excellent accompanimental instruments - but I have genuine problems accepting many aspects of their tonal design - but that is a subject on which my views are well-known.

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I would just mention the comparatively short availability of many electronic components which suggests that the repairable life of a purpose-built electronic organ could be quite short. Even though systems based on a general purpose computer might be repairable or upgradable by replacing the computer by a new current model at some time in the future, there is still no guarantee that the software will remain available for ever, or that existing versions will remain compatible with whatever operating system a distantly future computer might run.

 

Paul

 

Although Allen claim to be able to replace any component in every electronic organ they have ever manufactured.

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Guest Patrick Coleman

This discussion (and the parallel ones we have had in the past) mirrors some of the discussions we have on the DAC when considering parishes' organ plans.

 

While I acknowledge the great strides forward that have been made in synthesising accurately the sound of organ pipes, why is it that I continue to see any threat of installing an electronic organ in any principal church where I serve as being a resignation issue?

 

I surely don't suffer from blind (or deaf) prejudice... :)

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Although Allen claim to be able to replace any component in every electronic organ they have ever manufactured.

 

Hi

 

This is possibly true of instruments with the "Allen" badge, but I hear that certain of the companies synthesizers (sold under a different badge (RMI I think, but I could be wrong) are problematic to repair. And how long can Allen continue to support obsolete electronic systems?

 

I find that most allen's have a distinctive tone - possibly they speak with an "American" voice, as I've heard Rogers electronics and recordings of US pipe organs with some of the same tonal traits. I'm not a fan of the Allen sound!

 

At least real pipe organs can, barring major physical damage, be restored many times.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Although Allen claim to be able to replace any component in every electronic organ they have ever manufactured.

When I wanted a replacement for the damaged tweeter in one of my ex-BBC LS5/9 monitor speakers, the part being long unobtainable, I was able to buy a replacement voice-coil and dome assembly for it from Allen. I guess they hold good stocks of such things!

 

Paul

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When I wanted a replacement for the damaged tweeter in one of my ex-BBC LS5/9 monitor speakers, the part being long unobtainable, I was able to buy a replacement voice-coil and dome assembly for it from Allen. I guess they hold good stocks of such things!

 

Paul

 

(Arguably) unfortunately so....

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... I have yet to play an electronic which I find satisfying in every sense (including ergonomically). Even the instrument on loan to Gloucester Cathedral whilst the pipe organ was being restored became tiring and 'plastic' after a short period.

 

I played for several services on the Rodgers electronic in Worcester Cathedral while the Tickell was being built (and afterwards, when it was moved to the nave to replace the awful Bradford device). I saw a number of positive quotes about the thing, and I think it was supposed to be the best Rodgers made, but I thought it was cheap-feeling and very hard work to play - nothing was ever where I expected to find it or how I expected it to sound - but most of all I found it very dull, unfocussed and artificial sounding. I played for four services on the Allen substitute at St. Edmundsbury during the Harrison rebuild last year, and found that even worse, but with fewer bells and whistles to get in the way (although the stop control did freeze entirely at one stage, necessitating a reboot). I recognise the need for an organ substitute during rebuild work in cathedrals and other churches who do a lot of choral accompaniment, but in most churches a decent second-hand grand piano would surely be a far wiser and more musical investment than a chipboard and plastic console and a pile of speakers if a genuine organ is unavailable.

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I played for several services on the Rodgers electronic in Worcester Cathedral while the Tickell was being built (and afterwards, when it was moved to the nave to replace the awful Bradford device). I saw a number of positive quotes about the thing, and I think it was supposed to be the best Rodgers made, but I thought it was cheap-feeling and very hard work to play - nothing was ever where I expected to find it or how I expected it to sound - but most of all I found it very dull, unfocussed and artificial sounding.

I heard it last autumn and was not impressed.

I played for four services on the Allen substitute at St. Edmundsbury during the Harrison rebuild last year, and found that even worse, but with fewer bells and whistles to get in the way.

And I have been similarly unimpressed with that company's products.

I consider these two brands to be considerably over-priced compared with their European competitors.

I recognise the need for an organ substitute during rebuild work in cathedrals and other churches who do a lot of choral accompaniment, but in most churches a decent second-hand grand piano would surely be a far wiser and more musical investment than a chipboard and plastic console and a pile of speakers if a genuine organ is unavailable.

The solution adopted at Salisbury last February was unique and - from the reports I heard - very successful.

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I heard it last autumn and was not impressed.

 

And I have been similarly unimpressed with that company's products.

I consider these two brands to be considerably over-priced compared with their European competitors.

 

The solution adopted at Salisbury last February was unique and - from the reports I heard - very successful.

 

 

The Bradford computing organ which was used in the Nave at Worcester after the little Harrison had gone elsewhere could sound impressive, and the Allen at Chichester, when it first went in, was quite an eye-opener. We had a standard Allen for a few months in Belfast Cathedral while the Harrison was being worked on, and certain aspects of it were surprisingly good, as was a big one imported for a Carlo Curley spectacular. I think it's definitely true that Allens in particular have a North American character - especially as regards smoothness of tone - prompted by the heavily draped and carpetted acoustics which are common here.

 

In all cases, the more speakers, the better the sound. But no matter how good they seem at first hearing, they pall very quickly, whereas my present mongrel (Hope-Jones/N&B/Casavant) has its own special character. You can turn it inside out and it says, 'This is fun!', and there are individual voices (like the Hope-Jones Violin Diapason) that you could listen to for hours without getting tired.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have asked the Parr Hall Management to consider promoting a Recital to mark the Bi-Centenery of the Birth of Aristide Cavaille-Coll.

Roger Fisher, Ian Tracey and Didier Matry, Organiste Titulaire of Saint Augustine, Paris, have said they are willing to play.

While the Great Organ is still in Warrington, it is an opportunity not to be missed.

It is too early to say whether or not the Hall Management are willing, but I sincerely hope that they will be.

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