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Choris "based On" A Diapason


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Well, I'm playing the first movement of the Elgar sonata in a concert next month and I'm going to use the Large Open for that! It does sound right.

 

I haven't yet played any Bach with it yet - even the end of a Fugue.

 

I think Venning makes an interesting point; My 1922 Willis has three Great OD's. A few years ago, a concert organist - and yes, playing Bach - was frustrated with the balance of the Great diapason chorus, which he had based on the Open II alone. Eventually he said "well perhaps I should play this organ the way it is meant to be played". On went the big OD I and the chorus was suddenly full and ringing. It seems to support the mixture better - which has a third/sesquialtera rank in it (or a bee fart mixture as a rude baroque enthusiast describes them) better than the thinner II and III.

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"It seems to support the mixture better - which has a third/sesquialtera rank in it"

(Quote)

 

Willis Mixtures are Sesquialtera-derived (1 3/5'- 1 1/3'- 1', with variants

when the number of ranks excess 3). We have Sesquialteras in Belgium

that resemble those Mixtures.

 

Pierre

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I think Bristol Cathedral would be a notable exception to that (I was about to say Salisbury, but it's 2 of each), and it would be interesting to know how Walker's practice at Bristol differed from their treatment at Romsey, where the chorus of 1858 is based on the large Open Diapason, not the small.

 

Walker's kept the old Vowles chorus intact (save the removal of the tierce from the mixture) and added the Double Open, Large Open and Large Principal. The chorus (up to 3rk mixture) works with or without the 3 additions but they're needed once the 1990 3-5 rk mixture comes on - sometimes the Large 8 could be omitted if the 16' is on.

For building up the 8's and 4's, you can do it in virtually any order - the Small Principal can come on before or after the Medium Open, and the Large Principal before or after the Large Open - and it will work. It's perfectly possible to play Bach with all 3 Opens - however, our Large Open is quite different to a Harrison one!

 

Paul

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Oh dear Colin, I wonder where THAT experience lies - not with any situation I'VE ever come across I'm afraid. A voicing 'System' is useful: i.e. what you know to work. The accumulated knowledge acquired by several generations doing what you do, before you, is a great help - sadly lacking in most situations these days.

 

"Voicing" specified by a consultant - who doesn't know how to do it, has little knowledge of the historical basis on which such decisions might reasonably be made, may happen in the way you describe and, when it's a failure, who walks away from it TEFLON coated.

 

We deal in ever decreasing circles: the (basically) ignorant appointing those whom they think will gain them the greatest plaudits to build organs in place of the local firm - suddenly the local firm has gone - no work - and then what?

 

"ooo, that's nice"? You are speaking of a situation in the UK which is really pretty unsatisfactory and little to do with organbuilders - rather, Consultants.

 

David Wyld

 

 

Oh dear David, I'm not sure what your experience of consultants is! I'm also not sure how you managed to link my last post to consultants as I didn't mention them or imply them at all!

 

The situation you describe of a consultant (or a "self-appointed expert") "specifying" the voicing and the voicing process is very unhappy and is basically micromanagement. Unfortunately, micromangement usually results in disengagement and mistrust by the other parties and does not encourage good results.

 

While I am sure good organ builders welcome informed discussion with their clients and consultants to establish the parameters of the projects, I know they wouldn't accept a consultant dictating tonal finshing since the ultimate responsibility is and must be theirs. I can't think of a professional consultant who would disagree with that, either.

 

Of course, key to any successful collaboration is effective working relationships. Mutual respect and trust are vital as well as understanding each other's responsibilities and authorities. Although it takes two to make a relationship work, in my experience, the best organ builders have great skills to establish harmonious and effective relationships with all they deal with. It is a very particular skill, which few really understand (either in organ building or wider in business) and even fewer really master: I would hold up Mark Venning and John Pike Mander as people I particularly admire with this skill. I believe at the basis of these skills is a underlying respect for the people they deal with and their opinions, the ability to listen and understand those people, and the nous to keep relationships positive in tone and productive.

 

I was sorry to read about your experience and opinions - it really cannot be doing you or your company any good at all.

 

In my post above, I was merely describing my (happy) experience as an interested observer in the voicing process. In this project we were dealing with a good deal of old material, which did not seem to need much doing to it. It was more of a discovery exercise, finding out how the old voices reunited together worked. I think the results speak for themselves.

 

I have also observed less happy experiences of tonal finishing elsewhere, with a consultant. I was just the dogsbody so I kept my head down, made the tea as benefited my lowly position, and tried to be nice to everyone when they deigned to notice me. I have to say I had far more empathy with the organ builder, who did know what he was doing, than with the consultant.

 

I'm sure we would be very interested to hear Willis's current "system" of voicing choruses. Certainly, I've heard good things mentioned about recent Willis voicing and I'm sure we'd all be interested to hear about your company and voicer's approach and thoughts on it. Let's try and keep this interesting topic on its original subject.

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The fact is Colin - and you allude to this in the latter part of your post above - some 'consultants' do interfere: Usually those least equipped.

 

"I was sorry to read about your experience and opinions - it really cannot be doing you or your company any good at all."

 

On the contrary!

 

I am fascinated to read all of this stuff about how choruses SHOULD be built, voiced, used etc..

 

You will be most welcome to come to see us whenever you like.

 

DW

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I recall Sydney Watson at Christ Church ending a Bach fugue by pulling out the No 1 OD and simultaneously pushing in everything over 4ft. Whether this was just him, or a part of an older tradition, I cannot say.

 

Paul

 

 

No way could that ever happen now in that building! :blink:

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Sadly, when I asked him (in 1968) if he had any plans to rebuild the organ, which was getting a little cranky by then, he said that he wouldn't consider it as his successors would hate for what he'd have done. I guess he didn't see the wheel turning as it has done recently!

 

Paul

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Slightly returning to the topic perhaps, how do others see the situation where there are three 8' Great diapasons but only one 4' principal? I have no assistant organist, but our newish asst priest plays the organ and does occasional hymns and postludes. Recently I came across him practising a Bach Prelude and Fugue, using a diapason chorus (8, 4, 2, Mix) but based only on the open no 3. Breaking into a cold sweat I hurried out of the building for a strong drink and a breath of fresh air after this damage to my ears. Later, when no-one was around (!) I experimented with this apparent flimsy impersonation of a 1922 Willis. Seriously, however, it did not sound too bad close up (it's an attached console) but was a bit thinnish in the building, despite Sw to mixture being coupled. The 4' seems too big for the OD 3 - but I do not like the combination of the claribel 8 to pad it out, nor using the 4' Flute Ouverte as a perky 4' above the OD 3. So is the OD 3 never intended to support Principal 4' Fifteenth 2 etc? Did Willis intend it more as a quasi viola solo stop, or is it simply a matter of 'use your ears ' (fair enough advice) or would a builder like Willis have specifically set the principal 4' only to be part of a chorus using either (both) of OD 1 or OD 2?

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I do really like that 'Willis' sound with the 17.19.22 mixture - although not so happy (as in some instances) when the WHOLE thing breaks back an entire octave at mid C - 10.12.15 which injects a rather 'challenging' 16' quotient into the chorus. When accurately tuned and with a good solid 8' open supporting it, I find it a most satisfying sound (Truro, St Mary's Southampton etc.)

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I do really like that 'Willis' sound with the 17.19.22 mixture - although not so happy (as in some instances) when the WHOLE thing breaks back an entire octave at mid C - 10.12.15 which injects a rather 'challenging' 16' quotient into the chorus. When accurately tuned and with a good solid 8' open supporting it, I find it a most satisfying sound (Truro, St Mary's Southampton etc.)

 

 

There's a really 'clangy' one on the Great of a late 1800s Vowles near here - 'works nicely as a Sesquialtera solo in the RH but needs to be used with care on top of the Great. The much altered Hill that I grew up with now has a nice four rank quint mixture as an alternative to the 17.19.22. added very tastefully by our hosts - it's nice to have the choice there.

 

A

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I do really like that 'Willis' sound with the 17.19.22 mixture - although not so happy (as in some instances) when the WHOLE thing breaks back an entire octave at mid C - 10.12.15 which injects a rather 'challenging' 16' quotient into the chorus. When accurately tuned and with a good solid 8' open supporting it, I find it a most satisfying sound (Truro, St Mary's Southampton etc.)

 

I find that this type of sound quickly becomes wearisome. I must admit that I prefer the relative 'purity' of a quint mixture. When I have played the Truro organ, I have not drawn the mixtures until I have added the reeds.

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Willis ones I can live with and appreciate as well as some mid 20th century attempts. It's the horrid clanky things that are basically a moderately scaled cornet I don't cope with. Yes, I know all about authentic sounds and historic integration, doesn't mean to say I have to like them. This goes for organs across Central Europe and the USA as well as here. Not normally this sweeping, but very little irritates my aural aesthetic as much as these things.

 

AJS

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My sincere apologies if I go over old ground, for the simple reason that I haven't read the entire thread thoroughly due to matters urgent and pressing.

 

However, the history of the No.1 Diapason is really wrapped up in three possible sources, so far as I can discern.

 

The first is the growth of powerful congregational singing, which required a great deal of "push" to keep the crowd in order. The BIG Arthur Harrison leathered Diapasons were surely the response to that.

 

The Harrison dynasty was a northern dynasty of course, and the legendary work of Schulze had a decisive effect "North of Watford Gap" so to speak. (Massive scaling, low cut-ups and very strong in tone).

 

Interestingly, I once played an early Harrison on a regular basis, from before the time that either Whitfield or Arthur Harrison had amy influence. On that particular instrument, the chorus was very definitely based on a strong but unleathered No.1, which produced a real Diapason sound of great character. It was not the typical Edwardian sound, but a finer sound altogether; perhaps more in the tradition of other organ-builders such as Forster & Andrews, Wadsworth, Binns and many others.

 

Interestingly, I also played an 1876 (?) Brindley & Foster instrument, which had been re-built, but which was still almost the same as the original.

 

Now of all builders, Brindley were the ones closest to Schulze, and in point of fact, it is very, very likely that this particular organ would have been from the "Golden Decade" of Brindley's work, when the head-voicer was Karl Schulze (no relative of the Schulze family). Karl Schulze had worked for Edmund Schulze, and when they built Doncaster with Charles Brindley's help and workforce, he jumped ship and went to work as head-voicer for Brindley.

 

It is interesting that the strong but not over-powerful No.1 Open, was absolutely the basis for the chorus; the No.2 much less robust and a bit thin of tone. In fact, No.1 & No.2 combined were always the ideal foundation for the rest of the chorus, and they were set up this way by every organist who ever played the instrument. That fits in with the Schulze way of doing things.

 

Clearly, the fashion changed in the 1920's and 30's, with ever "grander" and more opaque sounds, with enormous gravitas. It say much that the best organists of the day often used Octopodian registration as fitst preference.

 

I think that it is therefore important to distinguish between various builders, and the fact that the term Open Diapason No.1 can mean very different things.

 

MM

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