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Sheffield Cathedral And The Cavaille-coll Orgue


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As an aside, has anyone heard Yves Castagnet accompanying the choir at ND de Paris on the orgue de choeur there? I am always impressed.

 

And others too - despite what an initial glance at the stoplist might lead one to expect!

 

A

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The thing that strikes me about Doncaster was that the reconstruction plan represented, in the broadest context, an already very dated restoration philosophy which recognised only the original material as being of historic importance. In the Netherlands, such an approach has long been abandoned and a better compromise could surely have been found at Doncaster which served both the organ's evolved state and its Thuringian roots. The result was indeed a victory for Consolitis.

 

Bazuin

 

A few years ago I turned for Philip Tordoff when he gave a recital on the Doncaster Schulze. On our arrival, an eager young man offered to show Philip how to use the console gadgetry, only to be brushed aside like a man who had offered the use of a supercomputer to calculate the change from a fiver when buying a bus ticket. The recital was given using the departmental pistons and lots of hand registration - and no more than 20 minutes' familiarisation with the instrument.

 

The art of registering a large instrument without gadgets is becoming lost. A recent young recitalist at Halifax was heard to gulp and say "I've never played an instrument as big as this without generals". Perhaps our Dutch friends would feel more at home on such an instrument than some of our own organists do!

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A few years ago I turned for Philip Tordoff when he gave a recital on the Doncaster Schulze. On our arrival, an eager young man offered to show Philip how to use the console gadgetry, only to be brushed aside like a man who had offered the use of a supercomputer to calculate the change from a fiver when buying a bus ticket. The recital was given using the departmental pistons and lots of hand registration - and no more than 20 minutes' familiarisation with the instrument.

 

The art of registering a large instrument without gadgets is becoming lost. A recent young recitalist at Halifax was heard to gulp and say "I've never played an instrument as big as this without generals". Perhaps our Dutch friends would feel more at home on such an instrument than some of our own organists do!

It is interesting that all of this seems to have happened in a very short period of time.

 

Whatever happened to the fine old art of pulling out stops by hand? :)

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Whatever happened to the fine old art of pulling out stops by hand? :)

 

I know this has nothing to do with either C-C or Sheffield,

but I rember a few yrs ago, I was riding "shotgun" with a friend of mine Prof Roman Perucki, and my father had organised quite a few recitals in the north and north west (liverpool met, leeds th etc) and Roman was from the Oliva Cathedral, Gdank, and he used to have a page turner, piston pusher,lol, registrant at most of his recitals?????? saw simon , at leeds TH a week later, and it was diy on a large scale

peter

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. . .The art of registering a large instrument without gadgets is becoming lost. A recent young recitalist at Halifax was heard to gulp and say "I've never played an instrument as big as this without generals". Perhaps our Dutch friends would feel more at home on such an instrument than some of our own organists do!

 

 

I quite agree, Nick.

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It is interesting that all of this seems to have happened in a very short period of time.

 

Whatever happened to the fine old art of pulling out stops by hand? :)

 

I wonder if cathedral organists used to treat the notes much more freely when they accompanied. I don't see how else they could have managed the stop changes. Nowadays we're so hung up on dotting every i and crossing every t all the registration aids are essential.

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I wonder if cathedral organists used to treat the notes much more freely when they accompanied. I don't see how else they could have managed the stop changes. Nowadays we're so hung up on dotting every i and crossing every t all the registration aids are essential.

 

I hope so! I've been using it as an excuse for years; but in reality, registering on 16 8 4 and only using the right hand and pedals basically puts all the notes there, does it not? So long as you keep an eye out for any missing 3rds.

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Could David Wyld perhaps confirm whether they made the Willis lever on the organ in Italy 'in-house' or whether it was made elsewhere? And, if the former, what the specific challenges are in making a successful assisted mechanical action?

Bazuin

 

Making a Barker machine, a Willis/Barker(there are several variants) or the Floating lever is not of itself a difficult thing to do (though much is made of it by some of those who have!) for example, some exhaust pneumatic machines are far more difficult to do.

 

In the case of the Floating Lever for Florence: We have a single note of an original machine which we've preserved as if it were a Science Museum exhibit - i.e. placed on a board with a key to operate it: it is a fully-working example. We completely dismantled this and drew up every piece and then used CAD essentially to rescale it and to make it somewhat more sleek as we would be using different materials - we thought!

 

In the event, we discovered that it was actually better to stick to the original materials (mainly timber) instead of making the valve blocks and rails from modern materials and so we drew another version still.

 

The CAD drawings for the fully fitted up machine are required to decide on the scale and this is necessary also to decide on the motor sizes and the 'pitch' i.e. the spacing between motors which determine the number of heights required in the stack to keep to the key scale etc..

 

One of the biggest difficulties (from contemporary reports) with the operation and the setting up of these machines was working tolerance and alignment of valves and therefore we decided that we must have all of the machining of the various parts done by computer-controlled machines - this was done by P&S at Brandon, from our designs.

 

We made all of the large, ribbed motors here, cutting all of the ribs on a specially-made guillotine which is designed to ensure that all of the angles are exactly the same, and all of the leatherwork was carried out in-house before the machine was built up. The difficult part of this action isn't the manufacturing of it, it took several hundred hours to set it all up to work correctly - after all, it is over 100 years since the last one was done!

 

We've given P&S permission to make the parts for anyone who wants to try it!

 

DW

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A truly fascinating account of an extraordinary Victorian-era attempt to make tracker action easier on the touch for large instruments in the pre-electric action organ. Having attempted to understand some of the diagrams in Audley's classic The Art of Organ Building I commend the ingeniuity of those who first designed these devices and it's fantastic that a contemporary firm is still prepared to recreate them.

 

I wonder if anyone would beprepared to take on the challenge of building new a user-adjustable, mechanical or pneumatic, as opposed to electric, combination action? Audley's book shows examples, but I can understand why they were quickly eschewed for electriic, and subsequently electronic action.

 

I'm also reminded of my first ever visit to the organ loft at Liverpool Anglican cathedral, and my astonishment at the enormous cavern behind the console full of electric relays resembling an old telephone exchange. On a more recent visit, with the electrics stripped away and replaced with a bit of solid state action, I hope noone would ever consider "going back" to the original electric action...

 

On a slightly different tack, regarding the comments about registering large organs without combination actions (including on the "organ crawl" where one can't just change pistons), is it so unmusical to use pistons where they are available? Are they not an extension of the notes and stops? If they make for more interesting, colourful music than would otherwise be possible, who is to criticise the organist who uses them to their full effectiveness? Don't flame me, I'm playing devil's advocate...

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Flentrop made (or ordered?) a new Barker lever for the C-C at the Concertgebouw, Haarlem, recently

 

and Nicholsons will have to restore one soon (thanks to HLF funding) in the Hill at St Mary's Tottenham. Any sort of old technology can be replicated, given time, will, and money.

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I wonder if anyone would beprepared to take on the challenge of building new a user-adjustable, mechanical or pneumatic, as opposed to electric, combination action?

 

 

Stephen Bicknell and Bill Drake proposed a fully adjustable mechanical combination action for the now-abandoned project at St Mary, Abergavenny a few years ago

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3. If the organ were to be restored properly in an English cathedral I can't imagine any current cathedral organist would put up with such a primitive device. No pistons, no sequencer, no surround-sound nave section.

 

 

Can't see it, somehow.

The team seemed very keen on it when I played there last. It would certainly be far better than the awful electrone in place at present.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Stephen Bicknell and Bill Drake proposed a fully adjustable mechanical combination action for the now-abandoned project at St Mary, Abergavenny a few years ago

 

Two things:

1. The project at Abergavenny is not abandoned (though it's still not clear when or how it will will be realised)

2. While it's instructive (and fascinating) to read the debate on various types of action, I am still interested to hear if DW can give us a clue from the Willis archive on the actual rationale for changing the action on the Warrington organ.

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I am still interested to hear if DW can give us a clue from the Willis archive on the actual rationale for changing the action on the Warrington organ.

 

Sorry Gents - I'd missed that one.

 

Files out on my desk - most enlightening. As you probably all already know, HW&S put the organ into the Parr Hall in 1926.

 

Letter from the Council (sent as a tender invitation to several builders) but which included a specification to which all were invited to tender - there is no indication given as to who drew up this specification.

 

I'll type this up and put it in my next post- shortly, together with any other stuff I can rake out.

 

DW

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I wonder if anyone would beprepared to take on the challenge of building new a user-adjustable, mechanical or pneumatic, as opposed to electric, combination action? Audley's book shows examples, but I can understand why they were quickly eschewed for electriic, and subsequently electronic action.

 

The huge Aubertin-Gaillaird organ at Thann (which Nigel A knows well) has a very clever, entirely contemporary Barker action. It also has mechanical/pneumatic pistons adjustable at the console; you hear lots of little metal pins drop into place when you press Set.

 

The interesting thing about that instrument is that the stop and key action all work on high-pressure compressed air, rather than a supply from the blower. This made so much sense when I first saw it that I wondered - why hasn't this been happening for years? Leak-free joints, switches, valves and tubing have been made for the compressed air industry at low cost for donkey's years.

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Two things:

1. The project at Abergavenny is not abandoned (though it's still not clear when or how it will will be realised)

2. While it's instructive (and fascinating) to read the debate on various types of action, I am still interested to hear if DW can give us a clue from the Willis archive on the actual rationale for changing the action on the Warrington organ.

Walkers did quite a few mechanical adjustable composition pedal actions in the 80s and 90s. They're adjusted by a set of switches a bit like butterfly wing nuts. It is clever stuff but I understand there was always a slight question mark over their performance and reliability - the parts are quite delicate and if a butterfly lever is not perfectly aligned, it wouldn't work properly.

 

I think the planned mechanical action scheme for Abergavenny was to be on the same principle - I think there was to be 2 pedals per department. While I think it's probably right to say this project is not abandoned (but it is on ice), I understand it's highly unlikely the project will be realised as originally proposed by Bill Drake and Stephen Bicknell.

 

The other thing about mechanical/pneumatic cominbation actions is expense: an electric stop and combination action is much cheaper and easier to install.

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Walkers did quite a few mechanical adjustable composition pedal actions in the 80s and 90s.

 

I was interested to read this, Colin. Can you give me a few examples, please? It would be good to investigate this further, since I have never seen an adjustable mechanical combination action - as far as I know.

 

Thank you.

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Well, how would you like to accompany Anglican chant psalms on it?
This organ to my mind would not suit an Anglican church... One cannot really play anything English on it.
…magnificent as it is, it isn't appropriate for an Anglican cathedral.
I have accompanied Howells Hymn to St Cecilia on the Orgue de Choeur in la Trinité, Paris. It seemed to work OK.

I can't speak from personal experience of the Parr Hall organ, never having heard it, but if it sounds anything like the 1903 Mutin-Cavaillé-Coll at Notre-Dame de Metz (which has a very similar specification to the Parr Hall C-C), I certainly would like to hear Anglican Chant, Stanford, Howells, etc, played on it. Metz has all the necessary ingredients including a large Open Wood (though obviously called something different) and a fine "full swell" with 16-8-4 reeds and mixture.

It suited Howells "Master Tallis" remarkably well.

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I can’t speak from personal experience of the Parr Hall organ, never having heard it, but if it sounds anything like the 1903 Mutin-Cavaillé-Coll at Notre-Dame de Metz (which has a very similar specification to the Parr Hall C-C), I certainly would like to hear Anglican Chant, Stanford, Howells, etc, played on it. Metz has all the necessary ingredients including a large Open Wood (though obviously called something different) and a fine “full swell” with 16-8-4 reeds and mixture. It suited Howells’ “Master Tallis” remarkably well.

 

Interesting !

 

Pierre

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I can't speak from personal experience of the Parr Hall organ, never having heard it, but if it sounds anything like the 1903 Mutin-Cavaillé-Coll at Notre-Dame de Metz (which has a very similar specification to the Parr Hall C-C), I certainly would like to hear Anglican Chant, Stanford, Howells, etc, played on it. Metz has all the necessary ingredients including a large Open Wood (though obviously called something different) and a fine "full swell" with 16-8-4 reeds and mixture.

It suited Howells "Master Tallis" remarkably well.

I don't see why the tone colours of this organ should be at all incompatible with Anglican church music, but could it be that your experience of Metz is through the Hauptwerk sample rather than through the actual organ itself? The question that occurs to me is: would this west end organ, presumably voiced to filll the building, actually balance a choir as well as an English cathedral organ built with that purpose in mind? Methinks there might be a good reason why French cathedrals tend to have an orgue de choeur!

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Sorry Gents - I'd missed that one.

 

Files out on my desk - most enlightening. As you probably all already know, HW&S put the organ into the Parr Hall in 1926.

 

Letter from the Council (sent as a tender invitation to several builders) but which included a specification to which all were invited to tender - there is no indication given as to who drew up this specification.

 

I'll type this up and put it in my next post- shortly, together with any other stuff I can rake out.

 

DW

 

Thanks - am looking forward to hearing! B)

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I don't see why the tone colours of this organ should be at all incompatible with Anglican church music, but could it be that your experience of Metz is through the Hauptwerk sample rather than through the actual organ itself? The question that occurs to me is: would this west end organ, presumably voiced to filll the building, actually balance a choir as well as an English cathedral organ built with that purpose in mind? Methinks there might be a good reason why French cathedrals tend to have an orgue de choeur!

Guilty as charged. But my comment was more about the tone-colours and the overall effect than about sheer volume. I'm sure we could both name cathedrals where, on the one hand, the organ was ideal for accompanying the daily liturgy in the Quire (e.g. full organ with Great reeds at the end of Howells' "Coll Reg" wouldn't drown the choir), but underpowered in the Nave, and on the other hand, where it is fine for large Nave congregations, but overpowering in the Quire before you get anywhere near the last pistons.

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... before you get anywhere near the last pistons.

 

Surely you mean last stops?

 

I am totally convinced that, just as children's voices sound different to adults and boys different to girls, it doesn't matter what you accompany Howells or Anglican chant on, since every instrument is different anyway. If you accompany singing in a musical way on a musical instrument, the results will be musical.

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Surely you mean last stops?

 

I am totally convinced that, just as children's voices sound different to adults and boys different to girls, it doesn't matter what you accompany Howells or Anglican chant on, since every instrument is different anyway. If you accompany singing in a musical way on a musical instrument, the results will be musical.

 

'Pistons' also makes sense - in a linear way.

 

I agree with you (although I might exclude the orgue de choeur at Chartres Cathedral*). In any case, whilst it can be frustrating playing an instrument which is under-powered (for the Nave), on the other hand I am not sure that it is necessarily detrimental not to be able to use the full Pedal and Great organs of a larger organ when accompanying a choir.

 

Did that make any sense to anyone....?

B)

 

* Quite probably the worst instrument I have ever played -

 

 

 

 

 

anywhere.

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