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Open Wood Vs Open Metal


Guest Echo Gamba

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Guest Echo Gamba

If a pedal department has both an Open Metal and an Open Wood, do people tend to use one or the other according to preference, or both together? I have often found both programmed together on pistons.

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If a pedal department has both an Open Metal and an Open Wood, do people tend to use one or the other according to preference, or both together? I have often found both programmed together on pistons.

 

 

Assuming that you have a decent sized organ, you will have sensible musical uses for both stops, if not always together - they are good at different things.

Open Woods have that very full fundamental tone - this seems less tubby if you have firm Diapasons coupled at higher pitches, therefore an H&H or a Father Willis Open Wood may well serve to give that 'Full Pedal' feeling, even if there isn't a reed available. Several of us have encountered that wonderful thing, an early Open Wood - a tone of velvet, not too loud for a single 8' but still very effective and 'warm' with full combinations. In some ways, your bog-standard regulation Bourdon is no substitute for an early Open.

 

Your average Open Metals give a less fundamental tone, but they have a bite and clarity that a Wood misses. A decent Bourdon coupled to an Open Metal will give enough 16' without a 'boom' - the sort of tone that will play Buxtehude and Franck equally well. For hymns and romantic repertoire, however, give me an Open Wood every time. Played mezzo staccato, there is nothing better for emphasising rhythm and forward movement. You can kick a congregation along without this being at all obvious. These notes can sound like Timps and a well made Open Wood can be very, very prompt speaking.

 

A while back in another topic someone here was heard to question why we needed Open Woods when Cavaille-Coll did not have a use for them. This is to misunderstood his stop nomenclature. A Contrebasse would be the equivalent of his Open Metal (possibly narrow-scale wooden pipes, but giving a similar tone to Metal) the Open Wood is disguised as Flute (with circonflex) 16'. Open basses are one area where no digital substitute will give anything like the same effect. It is also my opinion that is it at this pitch that many famous or infamous imported pedal organs fail. There will be plenty of 16', courtesy of a raw Bassoon or Bombarde, but no underpinning warmth that comes from large scale open pipes.

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Guest Echo Gamba
Several of us have encountered that wonderful thing, an early Open Wood - a tone of velvet, not too loud for a single 8' but still very effective and 'warm' with full combinations. In some ways, your bog-standard regulation Bourdon is no substitute for an early Open.

 

I have come across (I can't remember where) a stop called "Pedal Pipes 16" as the only pedal stop, which I recall being bigger and prompter in speech than a Bourdon.

 

I have a new (whisper it) digital at church, with an excellent speaker system and an Open Wood and Open Metal. (See spec-mine :blink: - in "Crescendo Pedals" topic) My gut feeling is exactly as Cynic suggests - ie the Wood for hymns, and the Metal for certain repertoire. I can recall Harry Bramma when he was at the RSCM, extolling the virtues of a good Wood in acompaniment.

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I'm surprised noone has mentioned the 16' flute at Gloucester - is it an open stop, I believe so but could be wrong. Anyway its an absolute gem. Probably the best stop on the instrument.

 

I agree with Neil that the Gloucester stop is worth having (re-named by Ralph Downes, I think it is an old Bishop rank), better not get started on the rest! I do recollect a typically tactless moment when I told David Briggs in all honesty that I had burned better Pedal Bourdons than Gloucester currently has; in the bottom octave no two notes seem to sound the same!

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During my frequent visits to Kings College, Cambridge in the 1970s, I always relished the sound of the Double Open Wood especially when used to accompany a penitential psalm. The sheer presence of the stop was truly moving. It can be well heard on one the LPs of psalms recorded in the chapel; I'll dig it out later for a touch of nostalgia.

 

The other 32' stop on the organ also brings back happy memories. The gentleman of the choir from St Mary's, Warwick were always treated to lunch on Christmas Eve in his home by Andrew Fletcher, with the eating, but not necessarily the drinking, timed to finish just before the start of the 3pm broadcast from Kings. One of the basses was the then Coroner for South Warwickshire and a former eminent surgeon, Dr. Stephen Tibbits, universally known as "The Doctor", and one the of the kindest and most charming men ever to have sung in a choir. A Fellow of Emmanuel College Cambridge, he had a great love of the H & H ("dear old Harrisons of Durham", as he referred to them) in Kings and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the instrument from the time he was up at Cambridge. The Doctor always carried a silver-topped walking cane (the history of which was a mystery to most, except the few to whom he related the story in the greatest confidence; it was extraordinary...) and I can picture him even now in the most comfortable chair with a large glass of Bells in one hand and his cane in the other, waiting for the magical moment when the Double Ophicleide was first used. "There it is!" he would announce, waving the cane around in the air above his head with a look of deep joy on his face.

 

At the Christmas lunch following his death there was a brief solemn moment when the DO was first used, followed by a unison "There it is!" and, it must be said, many wet eyes. I do it to this day...

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snip

 

A Fellow of Emmanuel College Cambridge, he had a great love of the H & H ("dear old Harrisons of Durham", as he referred to them) in Kings and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the instrument from the time he was up at Cambridge.

 

snip

 

 

Sorry to use an internet-ism, but :D

Gone are the days [i'm afraid] when anyone would use this exact expression.

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Having attended virtually all the large Christmas services at Christ Church, Oxford (due to my son being a probationer-chorister) I was immensely underwhelmed with the organ. Whilst I normally sit in the area next to the choir for evensong, the organ works well here. For the large services (1100 attendees, according to the usher) we were sitting in the side transepts, where the organ was severely attenuated. The only thing which was heard clearly was the pedal basson 16, which is rather unpleasant, for any length of time.

 

Although the full Great was clear, The 16' pedal flue tone was pathetically small, (Bourdon 16 and a so-called Montre 16) and I can't help but thinking that a good Willis 'Violon 16' or a modern medium scaled Open Wood would (!) have helped things along hugely. The reeds are far too fierce to use for normal accompanimental use, which is such a shame. The boys (and men) sang beautifully though, and were a real credit to Stephen Darlington and all the music staff at Oxford.

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Open basses are one area where no digital substitute will give anything like the same effect.

 

We have 2 Cathedral organ into which digital substitutes have been included to provide both 16ft and 32ft 'open wood' type tone: Southwell and Blackburn.

 

At Southwell; Copeman-Hart provided the devices for Nicholson's new organ in 1995, and at Blackburn; the Walker Technical Co. from Pennsylvania for David Wood's rebuild in 2002.

I haven't heard Southwell in the building so cannot comment, but am fairly familiar with Blackburn in both it's past and present formats.

I heard John Scott's opening recital and David Briggs' recital following the rebuild, and also have a CD of French music played by DB. My impression of the digital basses was that they were overpowering and boomy, having far too much roll in the very reverberant acoustic, Also, they masked the 32ft reed. DB was consultant on this rebuild and included pedal mutations which form the harmonics of 32ft tone (something else which I remain unconvinced about!).

 

However, I have heard the organ twice in the last few weeks, including a fair amount of full organ, and the overprominent basses were not evident. Everything seemed much better balanced, I suspect the digital devices may well have been toned-down recently. Next time I am up there I will try to speak with one of the resident team and get a proper demo of these stops. I have to say that I was very impressed with the way it all sounded.

 

Digital basses are very common in the USA; the huge instrument in St Patrick's Cathedral 5th Avenue NYC has them, and they are increasingly appearing across Europe. But, of course, you can't beat the real thing.

 

DT

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I'll stand to be corrected, but hasn't the digital 32' rank at Blackburn a "volume control" which may account for differences from day to day, or performer to performer?

 

Edit - I see that I was pipped at the post by AJJ!

 

The bottom octave of the open 32' at St Mary's Warwick is also digital...

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Is it correct also that the 'digitals' at Blackburn have some sort of digital crescendo built in that adjusts volume depending on what else is drawn on the Pedal?

 

Alastair

 

Yes, according to the literature I have, there are 5 different levels which alter both the volume and tonal character, these are activated when other stops on the department are added: Principal 16, Mixture, Posaune, and each of Pedal Forte 32 or 16.

 

DT

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Assuming that you have a decent sized organ, you will have sensible musical uses for both stops, if not always together - they are good at different things.

Open Woods have that very full fundamental tone - this seems less tubby if you have firm Diapasons coupled at higher pitches, therefore an H&H or a Father Willis Open Wood may well serve to give that 'Full Pedal' feeling, even if there isn't a reed available. Several of us have encountered that wonderful thing, an early Open Wood - a tone of velvet, not too loud for a single 8' but still very effective and 'warm' with full combinations. In some ways, your bog-standard regulation Bourdon is no substitute for an early Open.

 

Your average Open Metals give a less fundamental tone, but they have a bite and clarity that a Wood misses. A decent Bourdon coupled to an Open Metal will give enough 16' without a 'boom' - the sort of tone that will play Buxtehude and Franck equally well. For hymns and romantic repertoire, however, give me an Open Wood every time. Played mezzo staccato, there is nothing better for emphasising rhythm and forward movement. You can kick a congregation along without this being at all obvious. These notes can sound like Timps and a well made Open Wood can be very, very prompt speaking.

 

A while back in another topic someone here was heard to question why we needed Open Woods when Cavaille-Coll did not have a use for them. This is to misunderstood his stop nomenclature. A Contrebasse would be the equivalent of his Open Metal (possibly narrow-scale wooden pipes, but giving a similar tone to Metal) the Open Wood is disguised as Flute (with circonflex) 16'. Open basses are one area where no digital substitute will give anything like the same effect. It is also my opinion that is it at this pitch that many famous or infamous imported pedal organs fail. There will be plenty of 16', courtesy of a raw Bassoon or Bombarde, but no underpinning warmth that comes from large scale open pipes.

CC often only provided a "Flute" (ie Open Wood) at 8' - This gives the warmth but also very prompt speech. Bdn 16, Violone 16 (metal) & Open Wood 8 is a very effective (and nimble) pedal registration on our late Father Willis. The 16' octave is huge in scale and therefore is rather slow to reach full speech and so is less effective than earlier (smaller scale) stops.

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CC often only provided a "Flute" (ie Open Wood) at 8' - This gives the warmth but also very prompt speech. Bdn 16, Violone 16 (metal) & Open Wood 8 is a very effective (and nimble) pedal registration on our late Father Willis. The 16' octave is huge in scale and therefore is rather slow to reach full speech and so is less effective than earlier (smaller scale) stops.

 

I remember reading somewhere that Tickell had incorporated an 8' open wooden stop into some of his smaller pedal schemes to combine with a 16' Sub Bass to give effect of a 16 of more substance.

 

Alastair

 

PS Wasn't also the foundation of the Classical French Pedal division a large-ish scale open 8' flue?

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If a pedal department has both an Open Metal and an Open Wood, do people tend to use one or the other according to preference, or both together? I have often found both programmed together on pistons.

 

An unusual pedal rank which was an attempt to combine definition and weight of tone was the 32/16/8 Spitzflute rank in the 1967 Walker organ in the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. These distinctive pipes are on display down to bottom D (I think!).

As far as I am aware, this is the only conical pedal rank at this pitch in the UK, does anyone know of another?

 

DT

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I remember reading somewhere that Tickell had incorporated an 8' open wooden stop into some of his smaller pedal schemes to combine with a 16' Sub Bass to give effect of a 16 of more substance.

 

Alastair

 

PS Wasn't also the foundation of the Classical French Pedal division a large-ish scale open 8' flue?

Yes, on both counts. Tickell's 8' Open wood stop works on the same principles as a helper bass: a set of pipes, quite gently voiced to give the overtones missing in a stopped pipe's sound (which misses out the even numbered harmonics in the harmonic series). It's an ingenious solution where space and head-height are a problem. They seem to have become quite a common feature on Ken's smaller organs so I imagine they've been successful. I like the idea and the logic.

 

The Bass Flute 8 found on French classical organs is an open rank, completely unlike the perennial Bass Flute 8 usually found on many English organs, which is more often than not extended from the Bourdon 16. The French Bass Flute is stronger and more defined, quite capable of holding its own with combinations like a Cornet or Cromorne in each hand in a trio. On an English Organ, one will more often than not need to use an open 8 foot rank on the pedal - often an Open Diapason will work better than a stopped flute. Maybe Ken Tickell's 8' Open Wood stops would work pretty well here - he often likes to provide the right stops for the French Classical schools.

 

The other solution where space is a problem for open 16' ranks (a frequent issue in tight spaces where the organist wants a large organ) is a haskelled bass but I've never found one that did it for me. The wooden examples I've come across produced rather ugly, boomy and ill-defined notes while the metal ones tend to sound rather hungry.

 

Another issue to take into account with open metal and wooden pipes in the 16 foot region is manufacture. A 16 foot metal pipe will need good design and construction if it is not to collapse- especially if it is to go on its side, as it would if it were to go in a triforium. If the pipe is to go on display, the builder will want to use 16 foot lengths of metal so there are no visible seams, which will need a large casting bench to manufacture, etc. A wooden pipe might be a little more robust to knocks and dents and will not sag if laid on its side but the builder will need to use wood that will not warp or split and the pipe will need careful skilled work and an inordinate number of clamps to ensure 4x 16 foot long airtight joints to ensure good, firm notes. The other issue with 16 foot pipes is the cost of materials - a 16 foot metal pipe may weight around 100-170Kg, which is rather a lot of lead & tin (let's not start talking about zinc here - I'm just waiting for some members to come crashing in here - it's really easy to argue zinc is the ideal material for bass pipes but why do the upmarket builders continue to use other metals if they can?) - and a wooden pipe will require lots of long lengths of good quality wood.

 

On other points, I read Bombarde's comments on the organ at Christ Church, Oxford with interest. The last time I visited I sat in disadvantagous situation in a remote corner of an aisle for a service where there was standing room only. My overall impression of this organ was that it is voiced too loudly for the building. Fine organ though it is, I am not convinced it is the right organ for its situation - it would be very possible to build an organ which is just as musical for the player, which is better suited for wider areas of the repertoire (in addition to playing the rather undemanding areas of repertoire the current organ can tackle) and works better in the building, not least in the process creating a more flexible, effective and useful instrument to accompany the choir. (Being voiced too loudly means the poor organist is restricted to using about 4 stops on the Swell organ, 4 stops on the Choir organ and 3 on the Great organ when accompanying the choir while still sounding dangerously exposed, which is ridiculous if one remembers this is a 40 stop 4 manual organ). While the mixtures are needlessly loud, I thoroughly agree with Bombarde that its foundation stops and pedal are relatively thin and hungry and endorse his comments on the reeds. While the reeds are loud and powerful, they completely escape any effect of grandeur or majesty at all: Their chronic lack of tone makes them sound merely characterless, harsh, hard and coarse.

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Guest Echo Gamba
PS Wasn't also the foundation of the Classical French Pedal division a large-ish scale open 8' flue?

 

But to serve a different purpose, was it not - playing a "Cantus Firmus" as for example, some movememnts from the Couperin Masses?

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Guest Echo Gamba
No. That was the job of the pedal Trompette 8.

 

I haven't got my copy to hand, but I'm sure somewhere there is a melody in the tenor register marked "Pédale de Flute".......

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I was interested to read various comments about Open Wood v Open Metal. My guess is it depends on what sort of organ it and how big the building it is in. Personally I’m not convinced Open Metals are the only ingredient to gain the best clarity. I think the clarity comes when upper work is mixed with the 16ft bass e.g. 8, 4 and Mixture. I have found some bad examples of Open Metals (sometimes Violone) to have a rather grating, or rather ‘barking’ tone, certainly on the beginning of speech and they do anything but give clarity. Open Woods are good - Cavaillé-Coll used the equivalent all the time, but I fundamentally (pun) believe clarity comes from higher registers and when combined together. Happy peddling!......

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I think the clarity comes when upper work is mixed with the 16ft bass e.g. 8, 4 and Mixture. ... Open Woods are good - Cavaillé-Coll used the equivalent all the time, but I fundamentally (pun) believe clarity comes from higher registers and when combined together.

Respectfully, I have to disagree with what I take to be the underlying implication here.

 

As a preliminary, let me cite once again my local, 1879 T. C. Lewis instrument, the Great and Pedal of which mercifully emerged unscathed from the attention of Hele in 1891. It has just three pedal stops: an Open Wood (called Open Diapason), a Bourdon, and a Bass Flute extended from the Bourdon. Both ranks speak with exemplary clarity of pitch, right down to bottom C. They have plenty of body, but absolutely no woolliness. If you wish, it is perfectly possible to use just a 16' + 8' uncoupled and still have a clear, firm foundation that leaves no doubt about which note is being played. They are just wonderful stops.

 

Of course, such clear Bourdons and Open Woods are anything but the norm in Britain. Indeed, I would suggest that they are now quite exceptional (though I have certainly come across one or two similar examples in my time). On the vast majority of organs, the Bourdon is an indistinct boom of frankly reprehensible indeterminacy and the Open Wood merely a louder, more offensive manifestation of the same effect. Not for nothing are their traditional nicknames "Big Boom" and "Little Boom". It is perfectly true that the only way to give definition to such muddiness is to add upperwork, but in no way does this excuse what amounts to a lack of artistry (even, let it be admitted, from some of the great builders). The upperwork may enable you to identify the pitch, but a woolly 16' will remain just as woolly and I would humbly suggest that on musical grounds this is not really acceptable. I have to accept that we are stuck with these inartistic, ambiguous stops, but I cannot condone them and nor, I suggest, should anyone else who claims to be a musician.

 

This is not to say that open metal stops (of whatever type) are necessarily preferable for, as has been said, poor examples of these exist too. Not so uncommon are Romantic organs whose diapasons are deliberately voiced to speak slowly in the interests of "richness". In the Pedal department this can be a liability. However, I think it probably fair to say that no open metal ever rivals the archetypal "boomer" for glutinuous inexactitude.

 

I spent three years playing almost daily a large four-decker that had a completely independent pedal, but no Open Wood (and where the pianissimo 16' and 8' stops are open metals - Dulcianas). Those addicted to "cathedral roll" were scandalised at its omission, but I never missed it and nor did its designer.

 

I suppose that in some ways the two booms are the organistic equivalent to the gelatinous wobble beloved of our lesser opera singers. "Who cares about the pitch? Just hear the tone!"

 

Well, no thanks - I want the music too.

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  • 1 month later...
An unusual pedal rank which was an attempt to combine definition and weight of tone was the 32/16/8 Spitzflute rank in the 1967 Walker organ in the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. These distinctive pipes are on display down to bottom D (I think!).

As far as I am aware, this is the only conical pedal rank at this pitch in the UK, does anyone know of another?

 

DT

 

Well, it may not be in the UK, but the 3 manual H&H in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland has a 32/16/8 Salicional unit which I think may be conical, but am not completely sure of this.

 

Josh A

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An unusual pedal rank which was an attempt to combine definition and weight of tone was the 32/16/8 Spitzflute rank in the 1967 Walker organ in the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. These distinctive pipes are on display down to bottom D (I think!).

As far as I am aware, this is the only conical pedal rank at this pitch in the UK, does anyone know of another?

 

DT

 

Yes - the Pedal 32ft. Contra Salicional with its 16ft and 8ft.. extension at Llandaff Cathedral (although it has probably been dismantled and removed by now). I believe that this rank was conical, although it stopped short at G with the lowest seven notes continued either in stopped pipes or Haskelled pipes - I cannot now recall.

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Yes - the Pedal 32ft. Contra Salicional with its 16ft and 8ft.. extension at Llandaff Cathedral (although it has probably been dismantled and removed by now). I believe that this rank was conical, although it stopped short at G with the lowest seven notes continued either in stopped pipes or Haskelled pipes - I cannot now recall.

 

NPOR says it is acoustic from CCCC to FFFF. The one at Holy Trinity goes right down to 32ft C and is used in the facade.

 

JA

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