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SinaL

Badly Positioned Organs

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Chaps, is it really right to give Vowles such credit for the choruses at Bristol Cathedral? Didn't the Vowles rebuild of 1861 reuse the majority of the Harris pipework? The 1685 pipework by Renatus Harris included 2 Open Diapasons, 2 Principals, a Twelfth, Fifteenth and Sesq. on the Great Organ - almost exactly the same as the organ in 1861 by Vowles! Are we really sure a provincial builder firmly of the second rank would have had the temerity to replace the majority of this pipework by such a celebrated builder when re-organising the organ in a new position? After all, the organ in 1861 was still sporting a GG compass to the Great organ and a tenor g swell organ! (If NPOR is to be believed). The pedal organ was decidedly unadventorous too. It all looks very conservative to me and reading between the lines, I think money was tight for the Vowles work. I find it very unlikely Vowles replaced much of the existing pipework.

 

As far as I can ascertain, the only pre-Vowles pipework from the 1861 organ was the case pipes (the basses of what is now the Small and Medium Opens), the bass of the Great Stopped Diapason, some of the 2 Principals, part of the Swell Stopped Diapason, and part of the Choir Stopped Diapason and 4' flute. The metal Vowles pipework has a particularly characteristic appearance - if you look inside the organ, it's very clear what's Vowles and what isn't.

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Thank you for this, Nigel.

Bristol Cathedral, for instance, I find to be a superlative insrument in every sense, from the elegant 1905 console (every bit as opulent and comfortable as a 'Harrison' console from the same era), to the wonderful melodic quality of the diapasons and chorus-work - right up to the richness and excitement of the truly musical reeds. In fact, even including the restored tubular pneumatic action which, the last ime I had the privilege of playing this instrument, was prompt, responsive and entirely adequate for all the demands which I made upon it.

 

Good Lord, when was this?? The date needs to be recorded for history!!

<_<

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Good Lord, when was this?? The date needs to be recorded for history!!

<_<

 

I played it directly after the Mander work in 1992, and several times since, and never encountered a problem until the change of contractor.

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I too thought the pneumatic action at Bristol was very elegant to play and just right when I played it last.

 

I remember the Open Diap 3, small principal, twelfth, fifteenth and small mixture (Sesquialtera?) was a lovely chorus, which had a ring of something much earlier than Victorian... beautiful. I didn't care for the bix mixture (Fourniture?) at all - to be used as a last resort after the Great reeds...

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Solution to (try to) keep the historians happy and (definitely) make it work. Space and pallets/bottom boards permitting, rip out as much as necessary and replace the underactions with a design that works well, properly relayed. To my knowledge, this has never been done before. Now who would fund that, and who would take it on I wonder ?

 

AJS

Interesting idea! Musically, I can see the argument. However, to play devil's advocate, once you've ripped out as much as necessary (and believe me, it's a lot!), would it make any difference to the historian what goes in its place?

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I too thought the pneumatic action at Bristol was very elegant to play and just right when I played it last.

 

I remember the Open Diap 3, small principal, twelfth, fifteenth and small mixture (Sesquialtera?) was a lovely chorus, which had a ring of something much earlier than Victorian... beautiful. I didn't care for the bix mixture (Fourniture?) at all - to be used as a last resort after the Great reeds...

The small mixture is Mixture 3rks (was Sesquialtera 4rks before 1907) and the big one Fourniture 3-5rks. The latter is perhaps not pretty at the console but distance lends enchantment! It was put there essentially to help lead big congregations and is certainly valuable for that, plus added brilliance for things like Cochereau. However, the organ is still quite complete without it (as a recent recitalist proved in the Reubke), and in the likes of Stanford, Howells, some Franck, (etc . . . !) I certainly wouldn't use it.

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Interesting idea! Musically, I can see the argument. However, to play devil's advocate, once you've ripped out as much as necessary (and believe me, it's a lot!), would it make any difference to the historian what goes in its place?

:-) I wanted to say that too!

 

Technically, it's a risky option, which could affect pipe speech as well. I would argue for caution...

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2) Within the context of contemporary builders' work, then yes, I think we can very properly use 'beautifully crafted' to describe some of the output of Walker in the 1960s, in particular instruments like Blackburn and St John-the-Evangelist Islington which, if they were to be built at all, had to be competitively priced to get the job; if all your competitors are using cork stoppers and chipboard soundboards, and you price for English oak, you won't stay in business very long.

 

Just Blackburn and Islington? Not one perhaps a little closer to your present location....?

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Notwithstanding the overall contribution from our hosts, the main basis of the Great diapasons is definitely Vowles with some old basses, the flutes are a mixture of old and JWW, but the Swell flues are almost entirely Vowles. The reeds are all JWW, as are the heavy pressure flue stops. The choir is a mixture of old, Vowles and JWW, the pedals are mainly JWW and the solo is all JWW. However, the chorus sound that you really hear is mainly Vowles with JWW reeds (and the acoustic).

 

 

AJS

 

Interesting - and I thought that Andrew Freeman and The Organ were more reliable than that....

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Whoever wrote 'do not revoice' on a piece of paper may not have fully appreciated that the change in position, for a start, would necessitate some change in the voicing in order to leave a properly balanced and cohesive chorus. Not all changes are permanent and made with a knife; the most drastic change in the sound is made with subtle, almost invisible, movements of languid and lips and the way wind is admitted. Which is to say that, so long as the character of the instrument in the organists' inner ear were identifiable, there is little that examination of the pipework would give away to an untrained eye.

 

If I were Walker, building my first cathedral organ 50 or so years into my career, my overriding concern would be to leave an instrument with all the musical integrity I could muster rather than preserving the reputation of Vowles. I think you're undoubtedly hearing Walker, whoever the originator of the pipework he's speaking through.

I have to say that I would agree with this. Whilst I am not familiar with the work of Vowles, I have a fair idea of the sound of Walker pipework from this era.

 

David's point in his second paragraph is also something at which I hinted. I doubt the Vowles pipework escaped the hand of Walker's head voicers - if not the voicing machine.

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Please can contributors note that the plural of "Tromba" is "Trombas". It is not "Trombe". There is no need to use italics when writing them either.

 

To [mis]quote Robert de Niro/Travis Bickle; "Are you talking to me?" I ask, since I think that I am the only contributor who spells it thus. (Actually, I do not use italics for these terms.)

 

Three points occur to me:

 

1) I would not normally question another contributor's grammar - unless they had previously commented on mine.

 

2) Personally I do not suscribe to the notion that the use of loanwords when writing (or speaking) English gives me the right to subject them to the rules of English grammar. ('Tromba' is feminine singular - the correct plural is 'e' - or 'ae' if using an older form.)

 

3) So you eat 'spaghettos' - or perhaps you know someone who plays the 'tympanos', then?

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As far as I can ascertain, the only pre-Vowles pipework from the 1861 organ was the case pipes (the basses of what is now the Small and Medium Opens), the bass of the Great Stopped Diapason, some of the 2 Principals, part of the Swell Stopped Diapason, and part of the Choir Stopped Diapason and 4' flute. The metal Vowles pipework has a particularly characteristic appearance - if you look inside the organ, it's very clear what's Vowles and what isn't.

With regard to what's pre Vowles, you're pretty much right. You're also right re the metal Vowles pipework owing to the development of spotted metal during the mid Victorian period. We should remember that this was a Rolls Royce Vowles. I wouldn't be too quick to judge what was revoiced, and how much, by JWW, nor necessarily too quick to decide it must have all been loudened because the cathedral nearly doubled in size between 1861 and 1907. If you pay very close attention to the relationship of what was added to what was left, the wind pressures, tip sizes and treatments, flue and top lip positions, nicking and cut ups, you'd be very careful before suggesting JWW did very much to the Vowles fluework. You must also remember that you are listening to fairly early Vowles fluework, when the influence of his father in law, whose name temporarily escapes me, but it could have been John Smith, could still have had a bearing. It is definitely different in quality to the plain metal mass produced 1880 to 1900 Vowles sound which is much more common. The earlier work is a pure English developed English derived mid Victorian tone, no direct French or German influences here. You must also remember that you are listening to the acoustic, and you musn't be fooled into thinking you're only listening to the organ.

 

Re the action, it's just the 6 main underactions I'm thinking about - counting the Solo and Choir as two each, reckon you could leave the touchboxes and coupling machines. Even putting relays into what's there would achieve something positive, and that's totally historically authentic. Wouldn't worry too much about changing pipe speech. A tpn action is still an on/off action, and the Great is pretty snappy as it is.

 

At this point I should declare a love of Tubular Pneumatic actions, but not a misty eyed misconception that there aren't some horrors out there.

 

AJS

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To [mis]quote Robert de Niro/Travis Bickle; "Are you talking to me?" I ask, since I think that I am the only contributor who spells it thus. (Actually, I do not use italics for these terms.)

 

Three points occur to me:

 

1) I would not normally question another contributor's grammar - unless they had previously commented on mine.

 

2) Personally I do not suscribe to the notion that the use of loanwords when writing (or speaking) English gives me the right to subject them to the rules of English grammar. ('Tromba' is feminine singular - the correct plural is 'e' - or 'ae' if using an older form.)

 

3) So you eat 'spaghettos' - or perhaps you know someone who plays the 'tympanos', then?

Having been away from the forum over the summer, it is a delight to come back and find pcnd5584 at his most incisive, MM back with us and already arguing with Vox and Pierre about Howells. It's a nice feeling to be back home!

JC

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Having been away from the forum over the summer, it is a delight to come back and find pcnd5584 at his most incisive, MM back with us and already arguing with Vox and Pierre about Howells. It's a nice feeling to be back home!

JC

 

Well, quite.

 

Good to see you back, John.

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To [mis]quote Robert de Niro/Travis Bickle; "Are you talking to me?" I ask, since I think that I am the only contributor who spells it thus. (Actually, I do not use italics for these terms.)

 

Three points occur to me:

 

1) I would not normally question another contributor's grammar - unless they had previously commented on mine.

 

2) Personally I do not suscribe to the notion that the use of loanwords when writing (or speaking) English gives me the right to subject them to the rules of English grammar. ('Tromba' is feminine singular - the correct plural is 'e' - or 'ae' if using an older form.)

 

3) So you eat 'spaghettos' - or perhaps you know someone who plays the 'tympanos', then?

 

And this makes me want to leave again. Win some. Lose some. All the best John. Take my place.

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And this makes me want to leave again. Win some. Lose some. All the best John. Take my place.

 

So if you saw this:

 

QUOTE (Colin Harvey @ Nov 23 2009, 11:48 AM) *

Please can contributors note that the plural of "Tromba" is "Trombas". It is not "Trombe". There is no need to use italics when writing them either.

 

you would not wish to respond in any way....?

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So if you saw this:

 

QUOTE (Colin Harvey @ Nov 23 2009, 11:48 AM) *

Please can contributors note that the plural of "Tromba" is "Trombas". It is not "Trombe". There is no need to use italics when writing them either.

 

you would not wish to respond in any way....?

 

For me, it is easier to decide whether to ignore the statement or the person making it.

 

(That is not, incidentally, why I ignored your reference to Walkers of the 60s above!)

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Nigel - please don't leave again. Many of us enjoy what you have to say and actually learn a lot from what you say. Stay!!!

 

Malcolm

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And this makes me want to leave again. Win some. Lose some. All the best John. Take my place.

 

Nigel,please do not leave just because certain members consider it important how certain stops are spelt! I am sure most of us have more important things to worry about! One of the things that drew me to the organ many years ago was the fact that no two instruments are alike, and that includes the names given to describe stops. If I play an organ with a stop named Tromba, trombe trombi etc. the only assumption I make is that it is probably not a quiet reed! I don't give a tinker's cuss how it is spelt, my ears will tell me all I need to know.

Now, how do I spell Gedackt ;- am I bovvered!!

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Nigel,please do not leave just because certain members consider it important how certain stops are spelt! I am sure most of us have more important things to worry about! One of the things that drew me to the organ many years ago was the fact that no two instruments are alike, and that includes the names given to describe stops. If I play an organ with a stop named Tromba, trombe trombi etc. the only assumption I make is that it is probably not a quiet reed! I don't give a tinker's cuss how it is spelt, my ears will tell me all I need to know.

Now, how do I spell Gedackt ;- am I bovvered!!

 

Hi

 

A few minutes surfing on NPOR will reveal at least 3 or 4 spellings of Gedackt (Gedacht, etc.) - and a fair few other stop names have been mis-spelled on stop knobs over the years.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

A few minutes surfing on NPOR will reveal at least 3 or 4 spellings of Gedackt (Gedacht, etc.) - and a fair few other stop names have been mis-spelled on stop knobs over the years.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Isn't Gedackt the old German spelling? I have seen it on Baroque stop jambs, e.g. http://www.milandigitalaudio.com/st-marienphotos.htm.

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Isn't Gedackt the old German spelling? I have seen it on Baroque stop jambs, e.g. http://www.milandigitalaudio.com/st-marienphotos.htm.

I have seen it spelt (or spelled) Gedeckt, Gedackt, Gedact and Gedacht. The first of those four is the correct (modern) German word for "covered" (i.e. stopped in organ-stop-speak). There would have been many regional variations in spelling - just as there were in weights and measures in different parts of Germany, and as there were regional variations of English spelling before it was standardised (standardized?).

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I have seen it spelt (or spelled) Gedeckt, Gedackt, Gedact and Gedacht. The first of those four is the correct (modern) German word for "covered" (i.e. stopped in organ-stop-speak). There would have been many regional variations in spelling - just as there were in weights and measures in different parts of Germany, and as there were regional variations of English spelling before it was standardised (standardized?).

 

------------------------------------

 

 

Isn't it wonderful..nay....miraculous, where these threads go; and talking of going, what about the way stop-names are pronunciated (George Bush-ism).

 

There's Salicional and Salseeonal, CornOpean and Corno-Pean, Pos-horn and Posorn....all manner of things.

 

I remember being in America (NE seaboard area....Boston.NY etc), and people referring to Geedackts.

 

What I want to know from our American cousins, is whether they pronounce Gedackt, Jeedeckt in the southern states, or is it just, "Gee dad, it's a Wurlitzer!"

 

MM

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To try and authentically restore this topic, I think there is a valuable question to consider, hinted at a few posts above - concerning whether the identification and rectification of a poorly positioned instrument has, in the experience of other members, led to an instrument being improved without tonal changes being necessary.

 

My good friend Stephen Cooke has moved several instruments from buried positions. In some instances there have been alternative quotes given by others for the addition of upperwork 'to brighten the job up a bit'. I could name as examples several in a very small radius -

 

Westbury - 3m Bevington, several previous tonal alterations undone, instrument moved 1 bay west and pneumatic pedal made tracker

 

Erlestoke - very small (6 stop 2 manual) Beales moved out of a 'north transept cupboard' to just forward of the north transept arch, and pneumatic pedal made tracker - a previously undistinguished and inaudible little village instrument now fills the building with ease

 

Little Cheverell - apparently home-made chamber organ removed from top of chancel to west end, with marked improvement in congregational hymn singing; the opportunity was taken to reverse a previous hike in wind pressure to get more sound out

 

Marston Bigot - pleasant little chamber organ moved from buried position to west end - one of our correspondents knows more about this than I do (although I saw much of it in the workshop, I haven't seen it on site)

 

and several more.

 

I mentioned in a previous reply South Petherton, where the opportunity to move the organ was not taken and a number of drastic tonal alterations ensued, totally out of character with the (very fine and more or less original, except for a 1960s balanced Swell pedal) instrument.

 

And entirely conversely, in an un-named parish near Winchester a fine small 2-manual organ was moved from a west end position up into a chancel 'cupboard', and upperwork added to leave a curious specification whereby there is nothing smaller than an Open Diapason on the Great with which to accompany quite a soft Swell Oboe.

 

I am interested to know how many people have thought about changing the position of instruments for the better when considering rebuilding work, and whether many builders around the UK routinely perform such operations in preference to adding more stops.

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