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SinaL

Badly Positioned Organs

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The Gloucester organ as left by Downes had a roof to try and focus the sound down into Nave (and Choir). Unfortunately during the last work on the organ it was removed resulting in a very swimmy sound (although some would say louder). I would like to see it put back.

 

PJW

Ah. Red rag, and all that :blink:

 

I would challenge the use or intended meaning of the word 'focus'. To my (and many other) ears, it did not. It made the sound congested, squashed, tight, under-developed, and I'm not just referring to the tutti. There really isn't that big a gap twixt case and nave roof, but that gap allows the sound to develop in character and intensity - simply to 'sing' - in a way it never did with the lid on.

 

As for the Quire-facing Choir case, one seldom heard its contents with its "tone cabinet" (what a ghastly, utilitarian, Bauhaus/IKEA word) intact. Certainly when I arrived in 1998, the way it had been played for years was with the rear Choir case door open, so the organist (sitting to the side of the instrument) could actually hear what he was playing.

 

Does the organ lack any "focus" or clarity? Not to my ears. After all, the Nave roof is more than capable of bouncing sound westwards. And the West Positive, East Choir and Swell (facing both directions) each have a roof.

 

It seems, with the Gloucester organ, one can't do right for doing wrong: either it's 'at odds' with Anglican choral and symphonic repertoires (something the 1999 rebuild tried to mitigate), or a 1970s 'masterpiece' has been 'ruined' by a NDP-addict (as if pedal mutations don't exist on any other organ!!?). It does rather send me into rant mode. As incumbent musician, one is faced with a whole range of options, and one's decisions have to take account of a whole range of factors - artistic, commercial, pragmatic etc.

 

The roof is there to be put back; the new stops are there to be ignored, should one so wish.

 

Perhaps someone could invent a kind of cabriolet roof? And a chamade reed on an electrically operated turntable [ian Fox's quite serious suggestion] so it could be fired East or West at will?

 

For some reason, the roof has stayed off and the new stops are utilised most effectively, two 'generations' later and ten years on.

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I'm with Ian on this one. The proximity of the Nave roof gives the organ a sounding board. The case roof was a lid. Some organs need them, others do not, you have to experiment and go with the solution that sounds right, not the one based on dogma, particularly if it is misplaced. I actually think, on the whole, it speaks both ways successfully, although we might choose a different disposition now, the principle basically works. As Ian has said, if you don't like certain stops, you don't have to use them. For me, I would probably have gone for a Solo reed before the full gamut of mutations, and a full length 32 borrowed from the 16 reed. This doesn't stop me from respecting the reasons why we have what we do. Ignore whether you like the sound or not, and consider whether RD and JN produced an organ that will lead a nave and accompany choral singing in the choir. In principle, I think they did.

 

AJS

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I'm with Ian on this one. The proximity of the Nave roof gives the organ a sounding board. The case roof was a lid. Some organs need them, others do not, you have to experiment and go with the solution that sounds right, not the one based on dogma, particularly if it is misplaced. I actually think, on the whole, it speaks both ways successfully, although we might choose a different disposition now, the principle basically works. As Ian has said, if you don't like certain stops, you don't have to use them. For me, I would probably have gone for a Solo reed before the full gamut of mutations, and a full length 32 borrowed from the 16 reed. This doesn't stop me from respecting the reasons why we have what we do. Ignore whether you like the sound or not, and consider whether RD and JN produced an organ that will lead a nave and accompany choral singing in the choir. In principle, I think they did.

 

AJS

 

I quite agree.

 

I wonder whether the 'roof' added to the Gloucester organ was an attempt to emulate the North German werkprinzip cases. But these are quite different to Gloucester: much shallower cases and facing one way in front of a reflecting wall. Gloucester, of course, is a much deeper case and needs to speak East and West.

 

The York Minster organ, on the other hand, has had a roof/reflectors fitted fairly recently and, I believe, these have improved its effectiveness.

 

As you have said, some work and some do not. The only answer is to experiment. As Ian suggested, a 'cabriolet' roof would be useful although, presumably, once the optimum position (or lack of) has been achieved there would be no need for further change.

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Ah. Red rag, and all that :blink:

 

I would challenge the use or intended meaning of the word 'focus'. To my (and many other) ears, it did not. It made the sound congested, squashed, tight, under-developed, and I'm not just referring to the tutti. There really isn't that big a gap twixt case and nave roof, but that gap allows the sound to develop in character and intensity - simply to 'sing' - in a way it never did with the lid on.

 

As for the Quire-facing Choir case, one seldom heard its contents with its "tone cabinet" (what a ghastly, utilitarian, Bauhaus/IKEA word) intact. Certainly when I arrived in 1998, the way it had been played for years was with the rear Choir case door open, so the organist (sitting to the side of the instrument) could actually hear what he was playing.

 

Does the organ lack any "focus" or clarity? Not to my ears. After all, the Nave roof is more than capable of bouncing sound westwards. And the West Positive, East Choir and Swell (facing both directions) each have a roof.

 

It seems, with the Gloucester organ, one can't do right for doing wrong: either it's 'at odds' with Anglican choral and symphonic repertoires (something the 1999 rebuild tried to mitigate), or a 1970s 'masterpiece' has been 'ruined' by a NDP-addict (as if pedal mutations don't exist on any other organ!!?). It does rather send me into rant mode. As incumbent musician, one is faced with a whole range of options, and one's decisions have to take account of a whole range of factors - artistic, commercial, pragmatic etc.

 

The roof is there to be put back; the new stops are there to be ignored, should one so wish.

 

Perhaps someone could invent a kind of cabriolet roof? And a chamade reed on an electrically operated turntable [ian Fox's quite serious suggestion] so it could be fired East or West at will?

 

For some reason, the roof has stayed off and the new stops are utilised most effectively, two 'generations' later and ten years on.

 

 

I agree wholeheartedly. The instrument sounds far better without the roof. Any talk of less focus is, quite frankly, nonsense.

 

I further agree regarding the thought of not being able to do right for doing wrong. Perhaps we should take the next English cathedral organ to need restoration, call a symposium of people who do not have to play it every week (and possibly have never played it) and see if we should not return it to its eighteenth century state - with candles to illuminate the music and a couple of sturdy friends to take turns in providing the wind.

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As Ian has said, if you don't like certain stops, you don't have to use them. For me, I would probably have gone for a Solo reed before the full gamut of mutations, and a full length 32 borrowed from the 16 reed.

 

AJS

 

For the record, the 32ft. Bombarde at Gloucester is of independent pipes throughout.

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Perhaps we should take the next English cathedral organ to need restoration, call a symposium of people who do not have to play it every week (and possibly have never played it) and see if we should not return it to its eighteenth century state - with candles to illuminate the music and a couple of sturdy friends to take turns in providing the wind.

 

Now you are talking!

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Now you are talking!

Yeah, but we'd also have to provide weak ale for choristers' breakfasts and retrieve the organist from the tavern in time for the final voluntarie. Alas, I doubt such worthy experiments in authenticity would be permitted under namby-pamby EU law these days...

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............... and retrieve the organist from the tavern in time for the final voluntarie.

 

How Wesleyan! This could be the incentive I've been waiting for to get me back onto a console.

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How Wesleyan! This could be the incentive I've been waiting for to get me back onto a console.

But 15 minutes is not long enough to get to and from the pub, and have a decent pint.

 

AJS

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But 15 minutes is not long enough to get to and from the pub, and have a decent pint.

 

AJS

 

All depends if the queue's short enough. And don't forget there's creed and intercessions straight after the sermon, so you can make it 20 minutes quite safely.

 

Note to self: A well positioned organ is one where the organist can emerge straight to the outside world rather than having to walk down a transept.

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All depends if the queue's short enough. And don't forget there's creed and intercessions straight after the sermon, so you can make it 20 minutes quite safely.

 

Note to self: A well positioned organ is one where the organist can emerge straight to the outside world rather than having to walk down a transept.

 

When I used to help out at my village church at Mass, I often could walk down the path to home and turn a joint (meat of course).

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Other things to do during the sermon:

In 1592, whilst at an evensong in February, John Farrant Snr. the Organist and Choirmaster of Salisbury Cathedral, took it into his head to attempt to murder Dean John Bridges. Leaving the choir he made his way out of the cathedral and across to the Deanery where he found the Dean at his desk. Drawing a knife he made to stab the Dean but the latter perceiving the threat jumped up, dashed upstairs, and locked himself in a bedroom. Frustrated in his design, Farrant returned to the choir and took it through the remainder of the service. It was several days before the Chapter summoned Farrant before them to answer for his actions, but being a man of intemperate character he declined to appear or apologise. The case was held over and in the meantime John Farrant disappeared, turning up to apply for the post of Organist and Choirmaster at Hereford Cathedral some weeks later.

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A well positioned organ is one where the organist can emerge straight to the outside world rather than having to walk down a transept.

Is this not the case at ND de P?

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Other things to do during the sermon:

 

Murdering the Dean: and then didn't they have trouble with another O & M of the C's - Michael Wyse who, when refused entry to the Close by a nightwatchman, struck him over the head and killed him!

 

Those were the days :blink:

 

DW

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Murdering the Dean: and then didn't they have trouble with another O & M of the C's - Michael Wyse who, when refused entry to the Close by a nightwatchman, struck him over the head and killed him!

 

Those were the days :blink:

 

DW

Other way round. According to Anthony Wood, Wise "was knock'd on the head and kill'd downright by the Night watch at Salisbury for giving stubborne and refractory language to them". At a cathedral visitation in 1683 he had been accused of negligence, profanity, drunkeness "and other excesses in his life and conversation", so one suspects he probably got what was coming to him.

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Other way round. According to Anthony Wood, Wise "was knock'd on the head and kill'd downright by the Night watch at Salisbury for giving stubborne and refractory language to them". At a cathedral visitation in 1683 he had been accused of negligence, profanity, drunkeness "and other excesses in his life and conversation", so one suspects he probably got what was coming to him.

 

 

Ha! Well that's a better story anyway!

 

Badly behaved Oerganists? Surely Not! Oh, then there was Thomas Mudd sacked from Lincoln for drunkenness and turning up at Peterborough within a week.

:blink:

 

DW

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As an idle thought, I wonder if Bairstow disliked the trombas at York as much as his pupil? If not, was Bairstow wrong? Equally, it is silly to condemn Francis Jackson - his era was a highly reactional one of which his work at York was simply symptomatic. It doesn't stop us finding it regrettable with hindsight.

 

 

Bazuin

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

 

 

I take exception to this, because I know it to be nonsense.

 

You may make a case for any partiular style you may wish, but in a million years, no instrument will ever fill York Minster, unless it is a collection of instruments gathered together under the control of one console.

 

As I once stated previously, the central chancel crossing, (witout the tower roof space), is almost exactly the same size as Sint Laurens, Alkmaar, which gives some indication of the vastness of the space.

 

So let's start from a different proposition; that a screen organ (or anywhere else for that matter), will not fill the building, and will sound remote at most points in the Minster.

 

Now think in terms of accompaniment and recitals heard IN THE CHOIR, and then criticise if you will. What Francis Jackson and Walker's achieved was remarkable, because the effect from that particular point was marvellous. The organ had (still has), great clarity in the choir, in addition to a remarkable pallet of beautiful sounds. To hear Francis Jackson accompany was pure magic, whilst his recitals were peerless in their day. To quote a much used and maligned phrase, "He made the organ talk."

 

Eer since then, various attempts have been made to beef up the sound for congregational gatherings in the nave, but has it brought any benefits, other than to spoil what was there before, I wonder?

 

That isn't a criticism of more recent work, but a criticism of the very concept of being able to fill the building with sound.

 

Say what you will, but the Eliott & Hill organ was a disaster; the Harrison not much better. It was only the Walker re-build which put the organ on the musical map, and it certainly succeeded in making York a focal-point for all things good in organ-music, organ-recitals and choral-accompaniment.

 

Those who knew sat in the Choir, and those who didn't were disappointed.

 

Listen to the old recordings of Francis Jackson, and ask the question, "Was there ever a better Healey Willan or a finer Bairstow Sonata?"

 

This, on a so-called musical disaster of neo-baroque thinking and emaciated chorus-work?

 

I think not!!!!!!!

 

MM

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Good to see you back MM!

 

"You may make a case for any partiular style you may wish, but in a million years, no instrument will ever fill York Minster, unless it is a collection of instruments gathered together under the control of one console."

 

I agree. Strange that the Hill nave organ of 1863 didn't last longer than it did.

 

"As I once stated previously, the central chancel crossing, (witout the tower roof space), is almost exactly the same size as Sint Laurens, Alkmaar, which gives some indication of the vastness of the space."

 

Not just that, but it isolates the quire acoustically.

 

 

"Now think in terms of accompaniment and recitals heard IN THE CHOIR, and then criticise if you will. What Francis Jackson and Walker's achieved was remarkable, because the effect from that particular point was marvellous. The organ had (still has), great clarity in the choir, in addition to a remarkable pallet of beautiful sounds. To hear Francis Jackson accompany was pure magic, whilst his recitals were peerless in their day. To quote a much used and maligned phrase, "He made the organ talk."

 

I agree entirely with the comments about Francis Jackson, although my experiences have only been via the famous recordings. A great artist. This doesn't change the fact that the organ was changed in a neo-baroque vain because it was the fashion of the day. I have no reason to question the commentary provided by the current DOM at York in a previous posting. Perhaps you should take Robert Sharpe to task rather than me.

 

"Say what you will, but the Eliott & Hill organ was a disaster; the Harrison not much better."

 

I'm interested on what basis you condemn the Harrison rebuild? Again, is Robert Sharpe barking up the wrong tree when he describes it as having been a "magnificent super-Romantic organ"?

 

"It was only the Walker re-build which put the organ on the musical map, and it certainly succeeded in making York a focal-point for all things good in organ-music, organ-recitals and choral-accompaniment."

 

I don't believe this, sorry. Francis Jackson may have done this, his recordings certainly did. Walker rebuilding the organ didn't.

 

Bazuin

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... I'm interested on what basis you condemn the Harrison rebuild? Again, is Robert Sharpe barking up the wrong tree when he describes it as having been a "magnificent super-Romantic organ"?

 

Are you sure that you have not mis-interpreted what Robert Sharpe may have said, Bazuin? He was born in 1971, so he would not have heard the organ of York Minster in its previous incarnation.

 

"It was only the Walker re-build which put the organ on the musical map, and it certainly succeeded in making York a focal-point for all things good in organ-music, organ-recitals and choral-accompaniment."

 

I don't believe this, sorry. Francis Jackson may have done this, his recordings certainly did. Walker rebuilding the organ didn't.

 

Bazuin

 

Again, are you sure that Jackson did not (or that his recordings did not) achieve this precisely because of the osmosis betweeen himself and his instrument - in addition, naturally, to Dr. Jackson's innate musicality and virtuosity?

 

I still find it surprising that you appear to think that the views of one who played this instrument virtually on a daily basis since 1946 apparently count for nothing. He was not the only cathedral organist for whom the harmonically-dead, opaque tone of Harrison Trombe and Tuba ranks lost its appeal.

 

Amongst those examples which survive today, a number have been revoiced; as Paul Walton has pointed-out, even the instrument at Saint Mary, Redcliffe no longer retains its Trombe with their original voicing.

 

As for your earlier claim that I am in a minority - if you choose to believe this, that is, of course, your prerogative. As for me - I do not believe this for one minute.

 

Next you will be telling me that Bach was a closet transvestite, and liked to dress in stockings, wigs and fluffy shirts....

 

Oh....

 

Bugger.

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as Paul Walton has pointed-out, even the instrument at Saint Mary, Redcliffe no longer retains its Trombe with their original voicing.

 

Ah, should have clarified this - the second revoicing was meant to undo the first and return them to how they originally sounded. There is some difference of opinion (from people who knew it through all 3 stages) as to whether it succeeded!

 

Paul

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All depends if the queue's short enough. And don't forget there's creed and intercessions straight after the sermon, so you can make it 20 minutes quite safely.

 

Note to self: A well positioned organ is one where the organist can emerge straight to the outside world rather than having to walk down a transept.

 

A certain DoM in the Midlands area has been spotted at Sainsbury's during the Sermon-creed-intercessions part of the morning service. Not still in robes though, which is a shame as that would make the anecdote perfect! :blink:

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Ah, should have clarified this - the second revoicing was meant to undo the first and return them to how they originally sounded. There is some difference of opinion (from people who knew it through all 3 stages) as to whether it succeeded!

 

Paul

 

OK, thank you for the clarification, Paul.

 

Although I am at a loss to understand why, in that case, anyone should have wished to instigate the second revoicing, it does perhaps suggest that hindsight, or the 'remembrance' of sounds is somewhat subjective - and possibly unreliable. I admit to some doubt as to how closely the restored Southwark Pedal reeds, for example, actually resemble their original aural effect. On that score, I suppose, if Harrison & Harrison have restored the (well-documented) wind pressures to their original levels and made good any alterations to the pipework, they should sound as left by Lewis. Incidentally, I suppose that it is known that Willis' did not change the tongues or alter the shallots of these stops in the 1952 rebuild? I cannot currently locate the articles in Organists' Review by Harry Bramma and Mark Venning - and I am not even sure if this much detail was given, in any case.

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I think that I am right in saying that the 3 H & H Trombas on 10" or 12" at Leicester Cathedral have been substituted by H & H for Trumpets and the originals boxed and stored in the building. They were greatly loved by Dr Gray who had been (with Francis Jackson) students of Bairstow and who told me many tales of the original instrument from the first quarter or so, of the 20th Century in York. The H & H Tuba (on 15") at Leicester is still unchanged and provides the rest of the county and parts of the neighbouring ones, with an example of that stop.

Best wishes,

Nigel

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I think that I am right in saying that the 3 H & H Trombas on 10" or 12" at Leicester Cathedral have been substituted by H & H for Trumpets and the originals boxed and stored in the building. They were greatly loved by Dr Gray who had been (with Francis Jackson) students of Bairstow and who told me many tales of the original instrument from the first quarter or so, of the 20th Century in York. The H & H Tuba (on 15") at Leicester is still unchanged and provides the rest of the county and parts of the neighbouring ones, with an example of that stop.

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

I had thought that the opposite was true. According to the NPOR survey, the G.O. reeds are [now] named as Trombe ranks - and speak on a pressure of 300mm. This would be extremely high for chorus trumpets in a building of this size.

 

In addition, only yesterday, I was reading again through some back-issues of Choir & Organ, and noticed an advertisement for the restoration of this organ by H&H. As far as I can remember, it seened to indicate that the G.O. Trombe were being 'restored' (albeit with new pipework).

 

Having said this, I further note that the former G.O. Harmonicis IV has been replaced by a quint Mixture. It is several years since I played this organ, but I think that this dated from the HN&B work. However, if the G.O. reeds have been replaced in 1930s style (apparently like the action), I wonder how well this chorus hangs together?

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