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A 1930 Skinner For Germany


Pierre Lauwers
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This would not have been imaginable 10 years ago:

 

http://www.organclearinghouse.com/newsletter/index.php

 

This will be the first Skinner in Germany, and the first in Europe

with a "comfortable" size.

 

Excellent news.

 

Pierre

 

 

Good for them - this is the way to learn, an intelligent way for them to obtain unusual and interesting musical experiences.

Contrast that with the way that some of our advisers have kept trying to get imitation French organs from non-French builders or Multi-purpose-Pan-European-noise-machines. Do any of these do anything well other than looking smart while sounding loud and brash? Birdgewater Hall? St.John's Smith Square, Symphony Hall, Tonbridge, Christ Church? How convincing is the Cavaille-Coll copy by Van den Heuvel at The Royal Academy?

 

Meanwhile, the few genuine imported romantic organs that we have often struggle to be maintained and appreciated - I would evidence St.Peter's Hindley (a moth-balled Schulze) here along with the Cavaille-Coll at Warrington.

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Good for them - this is the way to learn, an intelligent way for them to obtain unusual and interesting musical experiences.

Contrast that with the way that some of our advisers have kept trying to get imitation French organs from non-French builders or Multi-purpose-Pan-European-noise-machines. Do any of these do anything well other than looking smart while sounding loud and brash? Birdgewater Hall? St.John's Smith Square, Symphony Hall, Tonbridge, Christ Church? How convincing is the Cavaille-Coll copy by Van den Heuvel at The Royal Academy?

 

Meanwhile, the few genuine imported romantic organs that we have often struggle to be maintained and appreciated - I would evidence St.Peter's Hindley (a moth-balled Schulze) here along with the Cavaille-Coll at Warrington.

 

I couldn't agree more, I only hope that certain organ advisers (many self-appointed) read and understand these comments. The noise machine trend causes problems in other countries too. The Van den Heuvel in Victoria Hall Geneva is hopeless at accompanying the many choral works that are becoming more popular, particularly as the locals are slowly moving on in their appreciation of other music written after J.S. Bach. Still more than 80% of all classical music concerts in Switzerland, including organ concerts, have to be baroque music.

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I couldn't agree more, I only hope that certain organ advisers (many self-appointed) read and understand these comments. The noise machine trend causes problems in other countries too. The Van den Heuvel in Victoria Hall Geneva is hopeless at accompanying the many choral works that are becoming more popular, particularly as the locals are slowly moving on in their appreciation of other music written after J.S. Bach. Still more than 80% of all classical music concerts in Switzerland, including organ concerts, have to be baroque music.

 

 

I have theories about our advisers.

I should start by saying that I have no doubt that they all genuinely mean for the best!

 

1. As young organists are growing up, they steep themselves in the organs that are readily available at home. Naturally, when they find different sounds elsewhere, they miss these. A novice brought up on well-blended romantic tones may well ache for brittle mixtures and coughing wide-scales flutes. Those brought up on neo-classical organs pine for a few well-blended tones!

 

2. The pernicious bit comes now: who designs these organs? Players and would-be players. Cecil Clutton was a would-be player, all he could actually play was simple movements from the French Classical school, so of course every organ he ever designed had to be suitable for performance of these items - regardless of the fact that a UK organist is very rarely called-upon to serve up such material.

 

3. The really good players are the dangerous ones - Simon Preston is one of my all-time heroes. To my ears his playing is not only faultless in the literal sense, due to hard concentrated work and complete focus, but it is always musical and always fresh. However, look at the organs for which he has been responsible. What did he want at Christ Church Oxford? Well, we know, because Josef von Glatter-Gotz has told us - he wanted a Bombarde manual in a Father Smith case in a small cathedral with very little acoustic. He wanted to play big French things, and at a guess, particularly Messiaen at which (I hasten to add) he's always been particularly good. The trail of new organs follows him - The Klais at St.John's Smith Square is another - a tidy traditional English case with a Pan-European-noise-machine crammed into it. The ultimate Preston organ is the electronic at Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, where there were few space considerations! For those who haven't read about it, a player has a choice of four specifications, each sounding more unrealistic than the last [iMHO of course.]

 

Thomas Trotter, who has the benefit of a mangled historic Walker in Westminster and an enlarged Hill in Birmingham, obviously wants modern, exciting instruments to play his showpieces on...more imports, more imitations of French reeds..

 

Shall I go on? - Gillian Weir at St.Martin in the Fields (the second organ in London to have a disclaimer from the builders inside it!)

Arthur Wills at Ely?

 

Mind you, organs designed by committee are hardly likely to be better, that's if they get built. Remember the tours around Europe selecting a builder for the fabulous new RCO in Birmingham.

 

4. What about the non-player advisers? I'll restrict myself to one recent case in point: The Gray and Davison three manual which was built for Llandaff Cathedral now resides in Usk parish church. There is a link to photos of this in Octave's recent posting elsewhere. In the last few years, this has been completely restored by Nicholsons and they have made an excellent job of it. It sounds as well as it looks - completely uninhibited, colourful and exciting. So far so good. I don't know who the adviser was, but they insisted upon removing the balanced swell pedal and replacing this with a state-of-the-art, hi-tec, kick-stick.

 

What is an organ for? It is to produce music. This music should be the only thing that is heard, especially with an instrument rebuilt at vast expense. Anyway, said new kick-stick is literally impossible to use without extraneous noise. It gives a maximum of three positions - box closed, box half open or so and box fully open. Achieving any of these highly desirable states always produces noise. No serious company can now record this organ with the swell-pedal in use. Any quiet piece played before a service or during communion will have metallic (yes metallic!) clatter accompaniment.

 

Of course, there had to be a kick-stick - it's authentic!

I suppose I should be grateful that they've provided an electric blower - inauthentic though that definitely is.

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Shall I go on? - Gillian Weir at St.Martin in the Fields (the second organ in London to have a disclaimer from the builders inside it!)

 

Are you able to provide more details please, Cynic?

 

Of course, there had to be a kick-stick - it's authentic!

I suppose I should be grateful that they've provided an electric blower - inauthentic though that definitely is.

 

And what is this - no candles in brass candlesticks....?

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..but they insisted upon removing the balanced swell pedal and replacing this with a state-of-the-art, hi-tec, kick-stick.

 

What is an organ for? It is to produce music. This music should be the only thing that is heard, especially with an instrument rebuilt at vast expense. Anyway, said new kick-stick is literally impossible to use without extraneous noise. It gives a maximum of three positions - box closed, bow half open or so and box fully open. Achieving any of these highly desirable states always produces noise. No serious company can now record this organ with the swell-pedal in use. Any quiet piece played before a service or during communion will have metallic (yes metallic!) clatter accompaniment.

 

Of course, there had to be a kick-stick - it's authentic!

I suppose I should be grateful that they've provided an electric blower - inauthentic though that definitely is.

It's a shame to see this otherwise excellent posting spoilt by the resurrection of this tired old hobby horse which has been discussed ad nauseam on these pages.

 

Where do we stop with changes for modern taste? What else is there besides the trigger swell? Why not add extra bushing to the action to make it quieter? Why not add an R/C pedalboard? Why not make the stop jambs angled? Why not add an electric combination action? Why not add an electric detached and moveable console?

 

How do we draw the line? How do we balance all the factors to make our decisions?

 

Otherwise, I think Cynic makes some very apposite and well-informed points about player-consultants. I could add a few more to the list, like one Priory organ on the south coast with an almost unused mechanical action console...

 

It's a shame that the world of consultants is not more dominated by consultants with backgrounds as a professional organ builders: in my experience those consultants are much better, bringing more relevant knowledge and experience to the table. What else can a big-name player/consultant bring to the table that the resident organists can't already bring themselves?

 

Big-name organists make better patrons than consultants of organ projects.

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It's a shame to see this otherwise excellent posting spoilt by the resurrection of this tired old hobby horse which has been discussed ad nauseam on these pages.

 

 

Why?

 

Because this still keeps happening and IMHO it is a positive problem. Tell me, Colin, does your refurbished/enlarged 19th century Walker have a kick-stick (by present 'rules', it should for the period!!) and if so, are you perfectly happy with it still?

 

When an instrument is restored, it is a matter of judgement which improvements can be kept, even if the restoration is to be scrupulous. After all, they are a legitimate part of the organ's history. At Eton College Chapel, for instance the 32' reed was kept in an otherwise almost complete return to the 1902 state of the organ when this was restored by Manders. Why? Because the stop was extremely successful and it would be missed.

 

Balanced swells do more than get in the way of composition pedals - and they don't do that if the design is careful. They ensure that gradation of tone is possible and convenient. Well made, they can be left at whatever position is necessary for balance between divisions. As a player in recital or service, I know for absolute certain that a kick-stick swell is not in any way as good as a balanced swell. I can think of maybe two composers (Franck and Widor) where an occasional sforzando with a kick-stick is a welcome effect, but set that against the whole of the rest of the romantic repertoire where the need to play expressively/shade the balance often leaves you having to pedal with one leg as a result. In the case of Usk it is worse than that. One cannot swell-pedal at all if one doesn't want to spoil the (wonderful) tone of the instrument. That sound is as annoying as a determined insect in the bedroom when one's trying to get to sleep.

 

 

In this connection, I must recount the tale of the late Stephen Bicknell and the organ at Ruthin Parish Church for which he was the adviser. The bulk of a much earlier organ by Wadsworth was to be re-furbished and re-used by Henry Willis and Sons; the case and console were to be new - and very handsome they are thanks to both designer and builder. Because of the date of the pipework, SB kept insisting that both swell boxes should be controlled by kick-stick swells. The organist, church council and organ builders put up a determined defence. At length, someone turned up a line drawing of the organ as it had been built for Dr.Kendrick Pyne and there, clearly visible in the picture were...two balanced swells. SB was still not satisfied!!!

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Gosh, this nice thread became quickly rather nasty. Anyway, very interesting that such an organ should go to Germany, I think in the States the majority of Skinner organs, even from the period when GDH was starting to make his mark (the period in question) have been altered. I suspect the antiphonal organ in the present instrument isn't original - does anyone know, or whether it will go to Germany too?

 

Am I right in thinking that there is already a good-sized Hook organ in Berlin? I can't remember the details.

 

I agree wholeheartedly with cynic's comments about recitalist-advisers, committee designed organs etc, and echo his criticism of the organs mentioned. I would also like to applaud him for pointing out the disgraceful situation of the organs at Hindley and Warrington.

 

However I can't agree with this:

 

"As a player in recital or service, I know for absolute certain that a kick-stick swell is not in any way as good as a balanced swell."

 

Is chalk better than cheese? Its a question of aesthetic unity, not of what's better or worse. The Usk organ mentioned was never intended to be played in such a way that gradual and fairly consistent dynamic change was possible, that's just the way YOU want to play it. Good organs of whatever style (including the style which began this thread) impose their character on the player, its up to the player to make it sound good. Of course a 'kick stick' as you put it would be entirely crazy on a 1930 Skinner.

 

"but set that against the whole of the rest of the romantic repertoire where the need to play expressively/shade the balance often leaves you having to pedal with one leg as a result. "

 

But in France until Widor, it was very normal to play the organ one-legged. There is even a piece in L'Organiste of Lefebure-Wely (Joris Verdin describes him as the last of the left foot virtuosi) marked "“il vaut mieux abandonner la pédale expressive, et jouer la pédale des deux pieds” You can see the dominance of this style still in the organ works of Franck, look once at the short 3rd section of the fantaisie in C.

 

There is no such thing as a romantic organ, any more than there is a romantic way of playing the organ. In Holland we have romantic organs from after 1900 with NO swell boxes at all. Cavaillé-Coll built Saint Sulpice in 1862 with 'cuivres', preserved to this day. Later he used balanced boxes. Henry Willis III developed the infinite speed and gradation swell box, the idea behind it matches the aesthetic of the famous Liverpool organ perfectly. Why did the Walze never catch on in France or the UK? Does it matter? The beauty of the organ is its non-standardisation, the challenge to us is to respond to its possibilities (assuming its a fine organ), not to complain about what we perceive to be its limitations.

 

The blower argument is a red-herring incidentally, because adding an electric blower affects the aesthetic of the organ (how it sounds, how one should play it) not one iota, at least in organs with modern winding systems (ie reservoirs instead of wedge bellows).

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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"Are you able to provide more details please, Cynic?"

 

http://listserv.albany.edu:8080/cgi-bin/wa...=R2843&I=-3

 

(you have to scroll down, but its all worth reading!)

 

Bazuin

 

 

 

Many thanks for posting this, Bazuin, the inside story so rarely gets heard.

In passing: What a wonderful writer Stephen was, even if his opinions could be so rigid at times. [i know the feeling.]

We could do with much more of this.

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"Are you able to provide more details please, Cynic?"

 

http://listserv.albany.edu:8080/cgi-bin/wa...=R2843&I=-3

 

(you have to scroll down, but its all worth reading!)

Bazuin

 

Reading this makes me sad.

 

Of all the people writing about the organ, I know only of one other who does it as witty, knowledgeable, pungent and still benevolent as Stephen did, and that is Peter "Plany" Planyawsky. In all ongoing discussions, in all the critical matters concerning organbuilding these days, I really miss Stephen's voice. There was always much, much to learn everytime it sounded.

 

Friedrich

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Am I right in thinking that there is already a good-sized Hook organ in Berlin? I can't remember the details.

 

You are! See it here!

 

 

In the German "Orgelforum" there were several threads about English organs in Germany, check this one

 

 

Germany already hosts several old italian organs - many of the every ambitious Music Academies with Organ/Church music department do so.

Some french instruments are there, too, the Lübeck Academy purchased a Cavaillé-Coll/Mutin "salon" organ.

From Poland spare parts for restored Walcker and other romantic organs return to the land of their origin, and now we see the first US organ arriving...

 

I like this variety of our days! Without killing each other, there are enthusiasts for recreating/restoring electric consoles and orchestral organs (even the very few remaining theatre organs receive honour (and restoration and playing!) again), and two miles away others are casting pipe metal on sand, planing boards by hand and applying natural materials to the surfaces. Gothic pipes (Ostönnen organ) are beeing discovered and restored, new instruments are beeing created in retrospective styles, and (sadly) few instruments really bring innovation or, at least, claim to search for the organ of the 21st century.

 

And we have "organ clearing houses" and some museums, so the number of those horrific "organ pipe bazaars" at the start of building a new instrument and destroying the old one, is decreasing. (In a global view, maybe the latter is compensated by the rising number of churches to be dismantled without finding a purchaser for the old organ in time...)

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Tell me, Colin, does your refurbished/enlarged 19th century Walker have a kick-stick (by present 'rules', it should for the period!!) and if so, are you perfectly happy with it still?

The organ at Twyford on which I play is not a refurbished 19th century Walker organ: It is a new organ which draws inspiration and a degree of discipline from 19th century Walker practice. A similar approach can be seen elsewhere, like the Paul Fritts organ at Tacoma, which draws its inspiration from the Muller organs of the 18th Century. The main difference is that the Twyford organ contains a proportion of genuine period Walker pipework (alongside a couple of compatible stops by other period builders and a considerable quantity of new pipes). The degree to which it follows historic practice reflects the organ's environment and constraints on the project at the time, as well as the interests and considerations of those that made it, advised on it and commissioned it. So it deserves to be viewed as a modern creation and not as an historic reconstruction.

 

And I'm still delighted with it. Whether it has a balanced swell pedal or stick swell is pretty immaterial: I would still be able to make music on it whatever type of swell pedal it had. True, the type of pedal would affect how I used the swell box but that doesn't mean that one type of pedal should be ruled out altogether, as people have already explained in the topic.

 

In the end, we left the decision of the type of swell pedal to the builder and in fact barely discussed it at all - there were more important things to talk about! We fully supported the builder's decision: the thought was that other organists would find it easier to accept and adjust to the more prevalent balanced swell pedal. :rolleyes:

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You are! See it here!

 

 

In the German "Orgelforum" there were several threads about English organs in Germany, check this one

 

 

Germany already hosts several old italian organs - many of the every ambitious Music Academies with Organ/Church music department do so.

Some french instruments are there, too, the Lübeck Academy purchased a Cavaillé-Coll/Mutin "salon" organ.

From Poland spare parts for restored Walcker and other romantic organs return to the land of their origin, and now we see the first US organ arriving...

So actually it will be at least the second US organ (Hook and now Skinner). Each of these organs along with the Binns you gave a link to have had the German treatment of their casework, but perhaps just so they look better within the various buildings where they seem to have been given pride of place. In Britain there has been a tradition of hiding the organ in a broom cupboard, for fear it might disturb those of a delicate disposition.

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"I like this variety of our days! Without killing each other, there are enthusiasts for recreating/restoring electric consoles and orchestral organs (even the very few remaining theatre organs receive honour (and restoration and playing!) again), and two miles away others are casting pipe metal on sand, planing boards by hand and applying natural materials to the surfaces."

(Quote)

 

Yes ! and we struggled for decades to make just that happen. This is the equivalent

to the "biodiversity"; there is no hierarchy in arts, and we must stop to "play God",

as if we were the judges busy attributing the "good" and the "bad" notes to the other's

work.

If we had money in Belgium today, we would do exactly what Mr Kropf describes. In the meantime

we try to protect and maintain the organs, of all, whatever styles, on a par.

 

Pierre

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Yes ! and we struggled for decades to make just that happen. This is the equivalent

to the "biodiversity"; there is no hierarchy in arts, and we must stop to "play God",

as if we were the judges busy attributing the "good" and the "bad" notes to the other's

work.

 

Pierre

 

Except that, if one takes this to its logical conclusion, and an organ is to be treated only as a historic document, then there could be many churches left with instruments which are hardly ever used.

 

Of course it is a subjective matter - there are those who would argue that it should be possible to play virtually anything on any instrument, that it is the job of the organist to use his or her skill as a player in order to provide music suitable for every occasion.

 

However, the reality may be rather different. It may be that organists would shun many of these instruments because they are [considered to be] unsuitable - or they happen to dislike the sounds which many of these instruments produce. I wonder many people today would willingly give up their cars and instead drive vehicles from the early twentieth century?

 

I have yet to read a satisfactory answer to the question of where one draws the line - even in England. If the instruments from the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries had not been altered, enlarged and revoiced, then unquestionably English cathedral music would be very different; arguably, we would have missed out on a vast quantity of beautiful music, simply because the organs were not capable of producing the sounds which many composers envisioned. Compare this with the development of the French 'symphonic' organ and the organ music of Widor or Vierne, for example.

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Let us consider this: how long lives an human being ?

Let us take 75 years, from which we may remove the 20 firsts,

this leaves us 55.

From the day he/ she is 20, it will take some more years before

to be taken seriously; let us say, 10 years, so about 45 "useful"years,

during which he/she has a say within the big human comedy....If he/she

does not live across two "holy Truths" to find him/herself thrown in a corner

towards the end of his/her life.

Compared with the potential longetivity of an organ, we are just futile ashes,

something that comes and go "en passant".

 

Pierre

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Let us consider this: how long lives an human being ?

Let us take 75 years, from which we may remove the 20 firsts,

this leaves us 55.

From the day he/ she is 20, it will take some more years before

to be taken seriously; let us say, 10 years, so about 45 "useful"years,

during which he/she has a say within the big human comedy....If he/she

does not live across two "holy Truths" to find him/herself thrown in a corner

towards the end of his/her life.

Compared with the potential longetivity of an organ, we are just futile ashes,

something that comes and go "en passant".

 

Pierre

 

Granted - to an extent. But this is a very passive point of view. Applied to the whole of the human existence (in a form of a grand generalisation, I admit) this results in there being no point in doing anything with anything to anything.

 

 

 

 

 

"Ladies and Gentlemen - is there a Hope-Jones in the house....?"

 

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"...there being no point in doing anything with anything to anything."

(Quote)

Again, up to a certain point! there are many things on Earth we should leave

alone. The Mankind often fails because of the belief we must "do something"

 

 

"Ladies and Gentlemen - is there a Hope-Jones in the house....?"

 

Hopefully! :blink:

 

Pierre

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"...there being no point in doing anything with anything to anything."

(Quote)

Again, up to a certain point! there are many things on Earth we should leave

alone. The Mankind often fails because of the belief we must "do something"

 

 

"Ladies and Gentlemen - is there a Hope-Jones in the house....?"

 

Hopefully! :blink:

 

Pierre

 

Ha!

 

Pass me another Diaphone please, Hugh, there's a good chap - this one seems to have a split in it.

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Except that, if one takes this to its logical conclusion, and an organ is to be treated only as a historic document, then there could be many churches left with instruments which are hardly ever used.

 

Of course it is a subjective matter - there are those who would argue that it should be possible to play virtually anything on any instrument, that it is the job of the organist to use his or her skill as a player in order to provide music suitable for every occasion.

 

I have yet to read a satisfactory answer to the question of where one draws the line - even in England. If the instruments from the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries had not been altered, enlarged and revoiced, then unquestionably English cathedral music would be very different; arguably, we would have missed out on a vast quantity of beautiful music, simply because the organs were not capable of producing the sounds which many composers envisioned. Compare this with the development of the French 'symphonic' organ and the organ music of Widor or Vierne, for example.

 

Much truth. Of course we could not keep everything from the past, but one could take care for "equal chances" to survive in history. I mean something like that:

Let's have two historic organ builders of comparable mastership and same period, say "Baker" and "Miller". Baker built/rebuilt 250 organs, Miller justs 30. Of Baker's, 20 instruments remain untouched until today, 40 with smaller or bigger alterations. Of Miller's, there are 3 altered and one untouched, and this untouched one shall be scrapped, or one of the altered ones, which is but one of the biggest instruments he made... So, in such cases, it needs people like Pierre ;) to save the last heritage of Miller.

And as you put it, pcnd, it is difficult to draw the line. So, we have just to keep each others aware of beeing careful with all our decisions as advisors and organists. The German "orgelforum" currently has a larger dispute about a large instrument in Dortmund S. Reinoldi - the parish or the people responsible there want to remove it, others declare this a total sin and call the instrument a monument of post-war organ building art. Most of the discussing people never heard or played the instrument themselves, but I think there is still value in the discussion, at least, that we check our attitudes...

 

Coastal greetings from the Baltic

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