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I agree totally with the above postings. One of the big problems is that most Anglican churches don't have incumbents either called Patrick Coleman or thinking like him.

 

One of the big attractions of the Pope's very kind and tempting offer to Anglicans is that, at least in the Brighton area, the RCs are beginning to accept, and bitterly regret, that they threw baby out with bathwater and they are trying to redress the situation. In one RC church in Brighton you can get the EF (Tridentine) Low Mass in Latin regularly and, occasionally. a full High Mass - subdeacon in humeral veil, Last Gospel, Vittoria Mass settings in Latin with plainchant Propers, the lot, and I was privileged to play for the first one. As an Ango Catholic I probably knew more about it than most of them did!

 

I think it was the Bishop of Salisbury - himself a former Oxford organ scholar who still plays the organ and conducts choirs - who said a few years ago that most Anglican services are boring and poorly attended because they are so badly done - music, liturgy, preaching et al. He was right. There is nothing to inspire people any more. These days, even if you are able to gain access to a church, you will find it cold, dirty, bits of paper and books strewn all over the back of the church and the furniture at the front "re-ordered" so that it looks as if they have forgotten to cleare up after a jumble sale.

 

Of course church music used to be the best means of recruitment that the Anglican church had. So many clergy, organists and others heavily involved in the church started off life as choirboys - and some of them were my choirboys. Organists are much maligned creatures - and sometimes we deserve it - but over the years we have got many people through the church door for the all important first time and, unbeknown to them and us, we have helped to nurture the seeds of their faith.

 

Malcolm

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" I would merely observe that musicology being worthwhile and insightful doesn't necessarily prevent it being a depressingly lifeless experience."

 

But, in the instance I cited, this is musicology with an intensely practical application. There are now recordings, concerts, seminars etc dedicated to the Bach/Straube aesthetic, and how it further relates to the performance practices surrounding Reger for example. These are not the Bach performance practices of OUR time, but this doesn't make them irrelevant, any more than it makes the organs associated with them irrelevant.

 

 

"Let's put the horse before the cart and phrase this question properly. Since organs of the Bach period have multiple 16' mixtures, tierce mixtures, 8' stops, etc., why then did the neo-Baroque conclude that clarity and transparancy was required for a Bach plenum?"

 

Firstly, the post-war period was a period of RE-action, not of a developing tradition. Secondly because functionalism was all the rage; the organ's internal layout had to be visible (Werkprinzip!), organ cases became 'tone cabinets'. Equally, one had to hear every line of Bach's counterpoint. Thirdly because the second half of the 20th century in particular was a time of theories and not of applied knowledge. This is as true of organ building (which at its best was iconically modernist, although we were told that this was how organs from the Bach-time sounded) as playing (where in the sources do you find the gap registrations considered so essential 30-40 years ago for the trio sonatas?)

 

This doesn't mean, incidentally, that the best organ building and playing from the post-war era was any less relevant than the Straube aesthetic. It just means that we have to be able to appreciate all of these things in the fullest context.

 

"The fact is that, for many British organists, the neo-Baroque brought Bach's music to life in a way that they had never experienced before."

 

Of course. This was true almost everywhere. Even in Holland, the Bach organ of choice was, for a while, the Marcussen organs of the 1950s.

 

"As far as I am concerned, that alone justifies the neo-Baroque. The fact that it was founded on misconceptions does not belittle the musical value people have found in it."

 

I agree entirely. All I'm trying to say is that

 

i) the neo-baroque is in the past. Its dogmas can no longer be treated as gospel.

ii) that the lessons we took from the neo-baroque MUST not undermine the importance of the good organs built prior to this period (during what Peter Williams calls the 'nadir' of organ building), nor the significance of the performance practices associated with them.

iii) The British organbuilding and performance practices in the Edwardian era cannot be taken out of context of the European practices of the same eras.

 

Bazuin

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...the neo-baroque is in the past...

 

If only that were really true - Lyme Regis, Beaminster...... They're still coming along, I'm afraid, and there are still advisors (diocesan and independent) for whom those ideals hold true, even if only in some vague notion of 'modern'.

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Strictly, organ advisers are exactly that and no more; they are there to advise and you can go against them. I once stuck out in my argument that I didn't want the builder an organ adviser was strongly suggesting anywhere near the organ in question. And I won.

 

The problem is that diocesan organ advisers are often also on the DAC and they can make life difficult if you are need a faculty. Even then you can appeal to higher authority although that might prove costly.

 

Malcolm

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... So, please tell us your assessment of the Straube Bach aesthetic and the related organs. Is the rediscovery of this aesthetic worthwhile, insightful musicology? Or a misunderstanding of the true nature of Bach? Presumably you come to the same conclusion as about the Bowyer recording? The idea of the Bach plenum having to be geared for clarity and transparence of texture is almost as much a 1960s cliche as the balanced choruses. If it were true then why do so many organs from the Bach period have 16' mixtures, tierce mixtures, multiple 8' stops etc? ...

 

Bazuin

 

Since I can only speak for myself, you have already answered your own question. On a purely musicological level, possibly. But, clearly, this is only part of the story.

 

Cliché or not, I harbour no desire to have to strain my Bach through an opaque mush of sound, just because some musicologist has discovered evidence that Bach liked this sound or that sound. Incidentally, with regard to so-called 'gap' registration, Peter Williams provides some evidence that this was used by some Baroque performers in his book The European Organ 1450 - 1850. Since it is now 11.45pm, I have no intention of looking for it at the moment. I might have time to look tomorrow.

 

With regard to your last sentence, we have been here before. Specifically, how many extant instruments are there, from the time of Bach, for which there is documentary evidence that they have not suffered revoicing or other alteration since this period? For that matter, what of the instrument at the church of Saint Blasien, Mülhausen? Bach was engaged as consultant for its restoration and rebuilding, as I am sure you know. Out of a total of twenty seven stops spread over three claviers, there were but five 8ft. ranks (one marked 'quiet'). However, there were sixteen ranks of mixture work (with another four on the Pedal), and three separate mutations.

 

I realise that during Bach's lifetime, there were changes in registration habits, with a thickening of the sound - the 8ft. stops being expoited for colour rather more than hitherto.

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"In trying to prove that this music could be played effectively on such an instrument as Redcliffe, I am not sure.....etc

 

 

 

 

Bazuin

 

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

"Bazuin" extracts in red italics:-

 

 

So, please tell us your assessment of the Straube Bach aesthetic and the related organs.

 

I'm sure that the above was directed at 'pcnd,' but I think that having being likened to Dr Peter Williams, I have a right of reply. (To my eternal shame, I have never read anything written by Dr.Peter Williams).

I think that we would be taking on a very big subject if we were to spend very long discussing the Straube-Bach aesthetic.

Permit me to shorten the argument.....that aesthetic would have been impossible in Bach's day, and even if it had been possible, it would have been musically alien to the period. That is not to suggest that the style of Bach interpretation doesn't have musical validity as an insight into early 20th century performance practice; made possible of course, by the highly expressive instruments of the day.

 

If it were true then why do so many organs from the Bach period have 16' mixtures, tierce mixtures, multiple 8' stops etc?

 

Tonal colour and gravity are one thing, but the winding of the instrument is another. I think it is unlikely that the 8ft registers were used "en masse." I often palyed the organ of Hull City Hall, which has something like 30 stops on the Great Organ. The full "pleno," (whether playing Bach or otherwise), requires no more than about 8 stops to be drawn.

 

Is the rediscovery of this aesthetic worthwhile, insightful musicology?

 

Yes, of course, because it tells us much about the development and performance practices of the expressionistic style, about Straube, the German tradition and leading figures such as Reger and Middelschulte; the latter taking that style of performance to America. It makes sense of what Virgil Fox and other American performers did, and what some still do to this day. You fail to mention that Straube became involved in the "orgelbewebung" and inspired the rather bright, clear, chorus-sounds which emerged from the Steinmeyer organ-factory.

There is a parallell universe in the romatic-style of piano-playing, which led to the great expressionistic transcriptions of organ-music, such as those written by Busoni and Tausig. Reger saw fit to re-invent the two part inventions, by adding a third-part; not because he wanted to improve the music, but probably because it was an interesting contrapuntal exercise. (They are rather good by the way!)

 

Stretching the boundaries still further, perhaps the ultimate example of the expresionistic-style are the great orchestral transcriptions of Bach's organ-music; the most famous of which are those by Stokowski. Cameron Carpenter continues that rather odd German/American romantic tradition of re-composing and embelishing Bach to this day

 

Or a misunderstanding of the true nature of Bach?

 

Which is?

 

The idea of the Bach plenum having to be geared for clarity and transparency of texture is almost as much a 1960s cliche as the balanced choruses.

 

I recall that the late Stephen Bicknell once argued that the ability to hear and follow individual contrapuntal lines was impossible. With absolute respect for what Stephen Bicknell was and achieved, I suspect that he was judging others by his own, limited musical abilities. Counterpoint is more than an academic concept which falls upon deaf ears. It is at the very core of baroque-music. Counterpoint is democratic music, and without clarity, it degenerates into musical lobbying and Chinese whispers.

Of course, you may hold the view that the a-typical Thuringian instrument is the only one for Bach, but Bach never presided over the best instruments, even for his own music. He would have been well aware of Silbermann's work, and he is known to have eyed up Hamburg and the celebrated Schnitger organ. God only knows what Bach might have written had he been offered the post in Poland in which he expressed an interest.

The trouble is, we all have this rather silly idea that Bach was in control of his own destiny, when he probably wasn't. Like other musicians and artists, he was never anything more than a hired servant, (like the greatest organ-builders), who did what was required of him. I have no doubts whatever, but that Bach sought the best available appointments, which meant the ones with the best remuneration, the most perks and the free accomodation; not necessarily the ones with the best organs. Bach's music was always "head music," and like his choral music, would have been written for the very finest of sounds; sounds which he probably never had much pleasure of hearing.

'm not too certain about BALANCED choruses, but baroque organs invariably HAVE independent choruses, unlike many romantic instruments; especially in the UK. Many romantic organs in America were far better equipped in that particular respect, (the 'American Classic' especially), and by and large, they seldom relied on massive wood basses for the foundation tones of the pedal organ; but that's the imported Straube/German influence at work.

 

This is why organs such as the Norman and Beard at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh now receive fabulous restorations, whereas in the 1970s everyone wanted them thrown out.

 

There can't be more than one and a bit generations since around 1975, but that apart, quality comes in various guises. Organs which sound well can fall apart mechanically, very quickly, and some dreadful sounding instruments can remain in service for 100 years or more. We all know examples of each.

 

The organ of the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, is certainly fascinating; owing much to the era of Hope-Jones, (once employed by Norman & Beard), and the extremes of the orchestral-organ concept, but it is important to understand, that it represents a very brief and rather eccentric musical detour into a blind-alley. Is it a classical organ pretending to be an orchestra, or a one-man orchestra pretending to be a classical organ? There is a differece!

 

From the MUSICAL point of view, a Wurlitzer theatre-organ is probably a better option, because they were specifically designed to imitate, as closely as possible, the sounds of the orchestra. (The fact that they are better at imitating dance-bands and theatre-bands, is neither here nor there). They were never a half-way compromise which did all things rather badly, as I suspect must be the case with the organ at the Usher Hall.

 

That said, the organ of the Usher Hall is probably almost unique, and from that standpoint, quite an important period piece worthy of preservation. At the very least, it has lots of percussion stops to relieve the tedium of dull chorus-work. One thing you can always say about Norman & Beard, is that they had splendid reeds of all types, and their instruments were well screwed together.

 

Anyway, what has this got to do with Straube, the expressionistic style and Bach? Not a lot, I suspect.

At the end of the day, the entire English Town Hall genre of organ was developed to play orchestral reductions and transcriptions and there are (or at least were) many remarkable organs of that kind.

 

This is not quite true! There were actually two developments in the Town Hall concerts. The organ was there to provide backing for the great choral events which took place in the Town Halls, (and presumably other things too), but running concurrent to this, were "popular" concerts (usually mid-day), during which the "ordinary people" were encouraged to hear great orchestral music transcribed to the organ, and played by such as (Mr) W T Best. The fact that this was possible, in now way suggests that the great town-hall organs were in any way designed to be orchestral transcriptors. That particular foible followed later, after the turn of the century, by and large.

Study the Bach editions edited by (Mr) W T Best, (he really shouldn't have upset Queen Victoria :lol: ), and you find performing editions of some excellence. The phrasing shows that he understood Bach's music fully, but to be brutally honest, I've always been too lazy to investigate whether the notes are all correct, or even in the right order. Still, you get my point, I hope.

Basically, the Town Hall organs prior to about 1880 (or thereabouts), either fell into the category of "Victorian Baroque" organs, such as those made by Wm & Thos.Hill, as well as their imitators. It's actually quite interesting, (honestly), to look at the history of organs and organ-music in Manchester; even though the mind is usually focused on Liverpool. As early as 1857, J B Joules (of the brewing family in Manchester), had funded a huge, (at that time), 5-manual instrument; I think designed by Joules himself, (the brother of famous Physicist, James "I drink only low calorie beer" Joules <_< ). (He paved the way for the "mechanical equivalence of heat theory" better known to all organists as the "keep your fingers warm by rubbing your hands together theory" :rolleyes: ). This organ had a 17-stop Great, with no less than 9 rks of Mixtures. (St.Peter's, Manchester - built by Wadsworth).

In 1876, the brilliant talent of James Kendrick Pyne arrived at Manchester Cathedral, and he became City Organist later, playing the Cavaille-Coll organ of the Town Hall. Record has it that he was both a brilliant Bach performer and a remarkable teacher, with a prodigious technique.Even after the turn of the century, (when the orchestral "Hope-Jones" fashion gained prominence), James Kendrick Pyne designed a new organ for the Centenary Hall, Stockport (completed in 1910 by "Lewis"....presumably "Willis" by that time). Although the instrument had the typically useless English "Pedal" division, and an equally useless Willis "Choir" division, the "Great" division, with just 10 register, was topped by a VI rks Plain-Jeu and a single Harmonic Trumpet. The Plein-Jeu, (presumably copying Cavaille-Coll), was made of tin and on a separate wind-pressure; suggesting that it may have been quite dramatic.

 

So in Manchester at least, the organ-style remained "Symphonic" rather than "Orchestral," at least until the two big 4-manual Wurlitzer organs arrived from the USA; one of them now gracing Stockport Town Hall.

I'm being terribly long winded and pedantic, I know, but it is necessary to clear up the misconception that the town hall organ tradition is somehow orchestral, when by and large, it never was.

 

To be absolutely specific, the "orchestral" organ pehnomenon covers a period of only about 20-30 years at most, and more probably, less than 20 years. Whether it was achieved by "Unit Extension" (Hope-Jones/Wurlitzer/Christie (Norman & Beard)/Compton/Conacher/Spurden-Rutt etc), or by more extravagent means, is largley irrelevant.

 

In fact, whilst the Usher Hall organ is one of only a handful of such instruments remaining in the UK, (so far as I know- which isn't much), the apogee of the style has to be the Norman & Beard/Christie at the Dome pavilion, Brighton, which is half theatre-organ and half concert-organ. ("Would you like your Martini stirred, or are they using the Tremulants tonight, Sir.")

 

It wasn't just the English organ establishment that 'danced with the devil', in the USA the playing of orchestral transcriptions was at least as popular.

 

Oh indeed! Lemare to Virgil Fox........the organist's guide to making big bucks quickly!

 

Even today, truly great organists like Tom Murray or Peter Conte have made their names playing in that style on the ultra-late romantic American organs associated with it. Does this diminish their achievements as organists? I hope not.

 

Of course not, unless they want to emigrate to England or the Netherlands, where they would probably be frowned upon. I could also add the names of Jelani Eddington playing the Grieg Piano Concerti on theatre organ AND piano, Lynn Larsen playing Gershwin and Charlie Balough playing the most superb "Pink Panther Theme" at the Organ Stop pizza restaurant in Arizona.

 

That's entertainment folks!!

 

Of course, we're far too stuffy to appreciate this sort of nonsense in England. Having just written that, I remembered Quentin MacLean (Westminster Cathedral and the Regal Cinema, Marble Arch).....now let me think....who did he study with?

Oh yes....there we go....Karl Straube and Max Reger! :blink:

 

As Pierre knows, what goes around, comes around. :(

 

MM

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"that aesthetic would have been impossible in Bach's day, and even if it had been possible, it would have been musically alien to the period."

 

Indeed. I hope we can agree that the exactly the same can be said about the neo-baroque aesthetic.

 

"Tonal colour and gravity are one thing, but the winding of the instrument is another. I think it is unlikely that the 8ft registers were used "en masse." "

 

Sorry, you're way off the mark here. Go to the Trost organs in Thurinigia, are you going to use all those 8's one at a time?!

 

"You fail to mention that Straube became involved in the "orgelbewebung" and inspired the rather bright, clear, chorus-sounds which emerged from the Steinmeyer organ-factory."

 

I did, this is true. But his later Bach edition has registration instructions for the Hamburg Jacobi organ (which became the focus of the movement after 1926) without the front pipes, which had been taken for military use so, IMHO, this is less symptomatic of the period in question as his previous Bach edition intended for the Sauer organ type. My former teacher played a Bach recital, incidentally, in the Jacobi using all the Straube registrations as part of a conference. He said it was interesting but that he wouldn't repeat the experiment.

 

"Cameron Carpenter continues that rather odd German/American romantic tradition of re-composing and embelishing Bach to this day"

 

I doubt CC thinks of it like that, but you could be on to something there!

 

Or a misunderstanding of the true nature of Bach?

 

"Which is?"

 

EXACTLY!

 

"With absolute respect for what Stephen Bicknell was and achieved, I suspect that he was judging others by his own, limited musical abilities."

 

:rolleyes: Were they really so limited?

 

"Of course, you may hold the view that the a-typical Thuringian instrument is the only one for Bach"

 

I don't, that's Pierre! :P

 

 

"but Bach never presided over the best instruments, even for his own music."

 

Also true. But we know he had enough contact with enough first rate instruments for us to make a reasonably sound aesthetic assessment. Think (among the survivors) of Naumburg and Altenburg to name just two non-Silbermann examples.

 

" but it is important to understand, that it represents a very brief and rather eccentric musical detour into a blind-alley."

 

No, once again you've confused your subjective opinion (which I may or may not agree with!) and fact. I rather feel you would have to tar Ernest Skinner with the same brush. I admit that there is little significant repertoire associated with the organ-genre but equally you would have to admit that there was no significant organ repertoire associated with the famous Dutch organs until the early 20th century. When Alkmaar, Haarlem (fill in your favourite) was built, those organs were improvised on, exclusively.

 

"Anyway, what has this got to do with Straube, the expressionistic style and Bach? Not a lot, I suspect."

 

I think it does because you can't assess the importance of the English-Imperial organ style without also comprehending the contemporary styles in other parts of Europe (in the 1910s and 20s, this means Germany more than anywhere else).

 

"This is not quite true!"

 

You're right, I over-simplified the story. After 1900 I think my assessment holds true.

 

"Of course not, unless they want to emigrate to England or the Netherlands, where they would probably be frowned upon."

 

I doubt it. In the UK I think Tom Murray would do very well. In the Netherlands he has only played once (on the Walcker organ at Doesburg) and that recital is still talked about with reverence. Look at the aesthetic behind the Orgelpark in Amsterdam - the artistic director Hans Fidom has specialised almost exclusively in German and Dutch organ aesthetics of precisely the period in question. They commission new transcriptions of orchestral music and organise seminars about Bunk, Straube, Sauer et al...

 

Thanks for your long mail and especially your historical details about Manchester etc.

 

Bazuin

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"that aesthetic would have been impossible in Bach's day, and even if it had been possible, it would have been musically alien to the period."

 

Indeed. I hope we can agree that the exactly the same can be said about the neo-baroque aesthetic.

 

Bazuin

 

 

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

 

"that aesthetic would have been impossible in Bach's day, and even if it had been possible, it would have been musically alien to the period.

 

Indeed. I hope we can agree that exactly the same can be said about the neo-baroque aesthetic.

 

I cannot agree, because there is a significant difference of musical distance between that which hits the target, that which just misses the target and that which misses by a mile. If you played harpsichord-music by Bach, Pachelbel, Couperin and Scarlatti (et al), on a Goble concert harpsichord complete with a swell mechanism, it wouldn't destroy the music, but it may colour our perceptions of it. If you played the same music on a Square Piano, it would probably just about survive the ordeal. Play the same stuff on a Fender-Rhodes "piano", and it would die a death. My point is, that the concert Goble harpsichord is near enough, but the Fender/Rhodes piano is too far away to be useful. I'm not thinking in terms of authenticity, but in terms of what broadly works and what doesn't.

 

You mention a "neo-baroque aesthetic," but was there ever really such a thing, except in the minds of those who expound theory, and those who would prefer something else?

 

Certainly, in the origins of the German "orgelbewebung" mistakes were made, but a great deal of water has gone under the bridge since then. I think we often claim that this or that organ is somehow "wrong" for particular styles of music, and on paper at least, Reger at Haarlem and Bach at Sydney Town Hall really shouldn't work, but they do.

What did Wm Hill and Thos. Hill know of Trost, Silbermann or Schnitger? Absolutely nothing! Walcker wasn't even born when Muller built the organ at Haarlem.

Things don't have to be so precise that they are specifically "correct" for each and every composer or opus number, or we would have so many organs, the faithful would have to gather in the blower-rooms or sanctify the sacraments on top of the bellows..

 

The lesson of the neo-baroque, is that there is such a thing as "proper chorus-work" and "relative dynamics", which follow the physics of harmonic proportion and development. Hence the term "classical"...ordered and harmonius; each division complete within itself, but capable of blending with the whole. This can apply to romantic organs just the same.

If we substituted the word "ensemble" for the word "chorus," would anyone create a band using a Tuba, a Kalamazoo, an Oboe and a Fife? Would they wish to have a vocal quartet consisting of Luciano Pavorotti, Frank Sinatra, Kathleen Ferrier and Dolly Parton? If not, why not?

 

It is no co-incidence that musical ensembles comprise of things like Tuba, Tenor Horn, Flugel Horn & Cornet or perhaps Double Bass, Cello, Viola and Violin, where the timbres are both complimentary and concordent. (The former would work well in a quite dead acoustic; the latter sounding best in a lively acoustic....a clue as to what is required of the voicer).

It took the neo-baroque movement to draw our attention to what had gone wrong; rather than to what should be done to put things right, even if certain people actually believed that strict "wekprinzip" was desirable. The fact that I thoroughly enjoy playing and listening to theatre-organs, should tell anyone that I am not anti-romantic or even anti-orchestral, but what I can never accept, is an organ where the individual voices are so strongly idiosyncratic, that all balance and blend is lost in the pursuit of the individually beautiful, or individually striking register. Theatre organs work, simply because the Diapason foundations were dispensed with, and replaced with large scale flute tones (Tibias), which blend perfectly happily with almost everything else. If a theatre-organ has a diapason rank, (they usually do), they tend to be quite subdued; rarely having much in the way of "edge." They are almost never included in the tutti.

 

I believe that romantic organs are better when they retain enough of the classical ideal, so that they are truly an ensemble instrument rather than a collection of beautiful, but strangely unrelated sounds.I also suspect that the relationship between the manual dynamic levels is also desirable, which is why Compton extension organs are often better for the baroque repertoire than many of those by his contemporaries, because everythng has to be complimentary and concordent for the extension principle to work.

 

Two of my favourite, and very different instruments, have to be Blackburn Cathedral and St.Paul's Hall, University of Huddersfield. Both are superb for much of the romantic AND classical repertoire....and yes....they are neither neo-baroque nor romantic instruments, but they are not too far away from each, so as to be musically worthless.

 

Sorry, you're way off the mark here. Go to the Trost organs in Thurinigia, are you going to use all those 8's one at a time?!

[

color=#000000]I've never been to Thuringia, but I have been to Hockenheim when I was working in Formula One. In any event, I am a kindly soul....I wouldn't dream of over-taxing the poor organ-blower. 'Werkmeister' was a type of tuning, not a style of management!

 

It's no use having it on your conscience, when every time you go to the console, you have to step over a newly dug grave.

 

No, once again you've confused your subjective opinion (which I may or may not agree with!) and fact. I rather feel you would have to tar Ernest Skinner with the same brush. I admit that there is little significant repertoire associated with the organ-genre.......

 

Mmmmm!

 

There's quite a lot of repertoire associated with the era of Arthur Harrison and John Compton; the latter associated with Percy Whitlock and John Ireland to name but two. As for Ernest Skinner and American orchestral-organ romaticism, I can think of some remarkable repertoire. Names that come to mind are those of Robert Elmore, Leo Sowerby, Pietro Yon, Wilhelm Middelschulte (not just the pedal "Perpetuem Mobile"), John Cage (a bit ongoing), Samuel Barber and Walter Piston among others. Also, on the wider front, Dupre wrote the "Passion Symphony," having first improvised it at Wanamaker's Store, Philadelphia. (Now Macy's department store....been there, played it, wear the T-shirt). (I seem to recall that Flor Peeter's "Lied Symphony" was composed on the hoof in America).

 

Of course, we've both overlooked the obvious. The "orchestral" organ didn't start with Hope-Jones or chuch-organ builders at all! It began with automatons, which led eventually to the rather splendid "fair organs" fronting the sensation of the age; the "Bioscope Show." They then found their way onto the "Galloper" Carousels and into the dance halls.....Frei, Mortier, Gavioli, Marenghi, DeCaap, Chiappa, Wurlitzer etc etc. They even had an extended life well into the 1920's, with such interesting registers as "Jazz Flutes" and (real) "Accordians," designed to imitate the dance and jazz bands of the "Roaring 20's."

All that Hope-Jones did, was to use telephone technology to bring individual orchestral registers under the control of one player.....the "Unit Orchestra" was born and continued to be associated with the motion-picture industry, when Wurlitzer recognised the potential, developed the idea, built the largest (proper) organ-building factory of all time at Tonawanda, and then sold them across the world. Compton was quick to capitalise also, and soon established a huge factory for the purpose.

Of course, all this amounts to nothing, unless we consider the turbulent history of the 20th century....the successive wars, stock-market crash, depression years and the growth of extreme nationalism. It was a dangerous era, and people were ready for change....the growth of communism, trade-unions, the sufragette movement, calls to banish the monarchy, abdication etc.etc.

 

Music was one of the great binders in society; a frightened and rattled establishment encouraging it; especially during the inter-war years of economic depression and the growth of social protest when hostilities ended. Due to the enormous casualties of war, organists were able to fill a temporary gap in available personnel, and bring all manner of music to all manner of people....a good time to be an organist, in fact. Sandy Macphearson broadcast live from the BBC theatre-organ twice a day, and people like Reginald Foort, Quentin Maclean and Sir George Thalben-Ball were household names. With the organ heard everwhere.....radio, cinema, at the town halls and in churches..... the natural association developed between organ and orchestral transcription; both popular and classical. Whether it found approval among academia or not, the whole panorama of popular organ-playing and orchestral-transcription was desparately important to the national interest; no matter how good or dubious the quality may have been. Some star organists even became the pop-stars of their age, and enjoyed fabulous salaries.

 

I recall the late Ena Baga once telling me how she would, "Send for the car and driver" and, "....go shopping on Regent Street and Knightsbridge."

 

(This was presumably not when she was floating across the Atlantic as staff organist on-board the "Queen Mary," and having her photograph taken with Prime Ministers, Presidents, Diplomats, Business Tycooons and Sir George Thalben-Ball).

Others, such as Reginald Dixon and Sidney Torch, actually had hoardes of fans waiting outside stage-doors, whilst cathedral organists were unapproachable and local organists were often demi-Gods in the musical life of the community..

The orchestral-organ style certainly had a powerful and almost universal appeal, and I can understand why it survived for as long as it did.

 

".....you would have to admit that there was no significant organ repertoire associated with the famous Dutch organs until the early 20th century. When Alkmaar, Haarlem (fill in your favourite) was built, those organs were improvised on, exclusively.

 

Of the bone idle 18th century Netherlands organists, I know nothing, but the lack of repertoire doesn't suprise me at all; such was the attitude towards the organ in the Netherlands at the time. With the organ more or less banned during worship, unless it was acompanying Metrical Psalms, I should imagine that pure organ-music was actually frowned upon by the church authorities. This is what happens when zealous protestants have the upper hand. Presumably, the long tradition of improvisation, based on Metrical Psalm tunes, derives from that period and survives to this day.

Never mind, the people of the Netherlands gave us other things, bless them....human rights, flood defences, the greatest art, Heinekin, ever so pretty flowers, tomatoes in winter, GATSO speed-cameras and wooden klompen.

I love Holland!

 

They........organise seminars about Bunk..............

 

What a simply marvellous idea! I'm sure I could make a big contribution to one of those! When is the next one?

 

MM

 

PS: I don't know how we got here from "Badly positioned organs," but I think the one in Hungary (Szeged?) took the biscuit, where the sound of at least part of the organ, travelled along a huge wooden conduit, like a great horn-loudspeaker. That's almost as bad as sticking an organ under a stage or over the proscenium-arch, somewhere among the roof supports.

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"Certainly, in the origins of the German "orgelbewebung" mistakes were made"

 

It has nothing to do with mistakes, it is simply a question of identifying different style-periods for what they were and admiring them as such. The problem (especially in the UK) is that the neo-baroque theories are still too often taken to be the 'truth' while other places have moved on. Hence me having to justify the artistic merits of Arthur Harrison (which Pierre, among others must find bizarre), and organs still reaching these shore like the Lyme Regis organ mentioned by another contributer.

 

"What did Wm Hill and Thos. Hill know of Trost, Silbermann or Schnitger? Absolutely nothing! "

 

William Hill is known to have made two study trips abroad between 1834 and 1843 and also visited Cavaillé- Coll in Paris in 1847. I don't believe it is known where he went during the first two trips but if the travels of his English organist contemporaries are any guide he probably visited Haarlem!

 

"I've never been to Thuringia"

 

Please do so. Then you'll understand why your assumption about the organ blower is incorrect.

 

"There's quite a lot of repertoire associated with the era of Arthur Harrison and John Compton; the latter associated with Percy Whitlock and John Ireland to name but two. As for Ernest Skinner and American orchestral-organ romaticism, I can think of some remarkable repertoire. Names that come to mind are those of Robert Elmore, Leo Sowerby, Pietro Yon, Wilhelm Middelschulte (not just the pedal "Perpetuem Mobile"), John Cage (a bit ongoing), Samuel Barber and Walter Piston among others. Also, on the wider front, Dupre wrote the "Passion Symphony," having first improvised it at Wanamaker's Store, Philadelphia. (Now Macy's department store....been there, played it, wear the T-shirt). (I seem to recall that Flor Peeter's "Lied Symphony" was composed on the hoof in America)."

 

OK, great, so those instruments don't require any further justification after all!

 

"The "orchestral" organ didn't start with Hope-Jones or chuch-organ builders at all! It began with automatons,"

 

Or perhaps even with the changing orchestral practices of the time?

 

"With the organ more or less banned during worship, unless it was acompanying Metrical Psalms"

 

Could the Geneva Psalter really be described as metrical?

 

Bazuin

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... Hence me having to justify the artistic merits of Arthur Harrison (which Pierre, among others must find bizarre).

 

Please do not feel that you have to bother on my account. I have played a fair few for both service and recital work - and I am quite satisfied that I currently hold a post at the most suitable church for my taste in organs.

 

"What did Wm Hill and Thos. Hill know of Trost, Silbermann or Schnitger? Absolutely nothing! "

 

William Hill is known to have made two study trips abroad between 1834 and 1843 and also visited Cavaillé- Coll in Paris in 1847. I don't believe it is known where he went during the first two trips but if the travels of his English organist contemporaries are any guide he probably visited Haarlem!

 

 

Bazuin

 

So that would be pure conjecture on your part, then....

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With absolute respect for what Stephen Bicknell was and achieved, I suspect that he was judging others by his own, limited musical abilities.

I feel this is slightly unfair so I'll add my own insights on this for everyone to enjoy.

 

Stephen came from a musical family on his maternal side. His grandfather played the violin and his mother was a pianist. At Winchester College, Stephen took a lively interest in composition, an interest he was to keep throughout his life. He entered his compositions into the annual music composition competition, where he frequently found himself an honourable runner-up to Francis Pott. As in many areas, Stephen had a vast knowledge of the theory of music composition and delighted in finding a new tome to devour on the subject - I remember him eagerly scanning my copy of Marpung when I had him over for coffee, giving a spoken running cross-reference against the likes of Greene, Fux and the like.

 

Stephen was always very self-effacing about his ability to perform music. I think this stemmed from his time at Win Coll, where, rather than sing in the chapel choir or even at St. Michael's, he was speedily dispatched to the local parish church of St.Thomas on Southgate Street. While I think he found this privately slightly demeaning to someone so euthusiastic about music, his interest in the organ was enlivened each Sunday at this local parish church where the organist, himself an enthused amateur, played J.S.Bach's Preludes and Fugues week after week as voluntaries. Stephen's appetite for the organ was utterly whetted by this.

 

Stephen was an organist who did not use the pedals, except when a slightly gangly leg would stretch out for the occasional pedal point. He always took great interest in the English school of organ composition before 1850 and this continued after he started a career outside organ building, where he collected and edited the organ music of John Keeble in his spare time, with plans to publish the collection. He was always an amateur organist, who would happily stop and re-try passages if he wasn't happy with them first time round, taking delight in commenting on their compositional features as he played - the fugues and contrapuntal work of the early English school tended to be favoured. There was no side or pretension to his playing - he played not to show off his skill to others but for his own delight and amusement.

 

Stephen had a piano at his home and took similar pleasure happily bashing away - he commented he never held back. In his own words, he was quite capable of mangling a Schubert Impromptu or Chopin Nocturne. But I think this is Stephen's modesty showing through. At his heart, he was an artist with an innate musical instinct. He instinctively had a feel for the affekt of a piece and knew exactly where it should go and what he wanted it to do with it. I think that while he knew exactly how the piece should go and his listening was always very detailed, informed and nuanced, I think he felt his technique let him down from faithfully reproducing every nuance and detail in the music exactly as he felt and noticed. If he had developed the technique, then I'm sure he would have been a concert pianist of some distinction.

 

Stephen had a very keen ear indeed and the ability to understand objectively and describe what he heard. He could tell exactly what was going on from the smallest aural details. He took great delight listening to a real artist play the organ and seemed to have the ability to analyse what he heard and work out what was going on. He always had the utmost wonder for some musicians and organists, even if he didn't like them personally, but if they brought something new to the music that he hadn't heard before, he would eagerly comment on it with admiration. In many ways, he taught me how to listen to an organ objectively, showing me the effects of scaling and voicing, the effects of acoustic, pipe design, placement, projection and everything, really, for which I am extremely grateful.

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I feel this is slightly unfair so I'll add my own insights on this for everyone to enjoy.

 

 

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

 

I second Malcolm's gratitude, and I hope that my off the cuff comment didn't offend those who obviously knew the facts better than I.

 

In some ways, it makes Stephen's comment about counterpoint a bit unfathomable, unless Martin Haselbock was right, when we sat in a bar in Haarlem, and he commented:-

 

"The French think in vertical lines (harmony), but the Germans think in horizontal lines (counterpoint)."

 

Talk about modest and self-effacing, he never once mentioned that he had just won the Improvisation Competition at Sint Bavo. I didn't know until long afterwards; not being there for the festival.

 

MM

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

 

I second Malcolm's gratitude, and I hope that my off the cuff comment didn't offend those who obviously knew the facts better than I.

 

In some ways, it makes Stephen's comment about counterpoint a bit unfathomable, unless Martin Haselbock was right, when we sat in a bar in Haarlem, and he commented:-

 

"The French think in vertical lines (harmony), but the Germans think in horizontal lines (counterpoint)."

 

Talk about modest and self-effacing, he never once mentioned that he had just won the Improvisation Competition at Sint Bavo. I didn't know until long afterwards; not being there for the festival.

 

MM

 

Are you sure it was Martin? I was on the Jury there with his father, Hans and I believe he was once (if not more times) a winner.

N

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Are you sure it was Martin? I was on the Jury there with his father, Hans and I believe he was once (if not more times) a winner.

N

 

 

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

 

That's what he called himself Nigel, and as he talked about Vienna, I assume he wasn't a body-double!

 

I'm not sure that I can put a date on it, but it must have been thirty years or so ago.

 

No where did I pleasev moi spoctacles?

 

MM

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Stephen had a very keen ear indeed and the ability to understand objectively and describe what he heard. He could tell exactly what was going on from the smallest aural details.

 

Would that more people connected to organs/organbuilding had the same ability to received the 'smallest aural details'.

 

I once had the 'privilege' of being on tuning stand-by for a recording of Poulenc's Organ Concerto, with a world-class soloist and well known home-grown chamber orchestra. During a session break, I was invited to the control room to join with soloist, conductor and producer to review the takes. During playback I noticed a sustained chord which was clipped as a piston change removed stops, before the chord was released - a small but perceptible flaw. Mysteriously, there was no comment from the assembled company. At the next pause in playback I mentioned it to the producer...we all listened again... I showed them in the score the exact moment to listen for. It took five repeated playbacks before the soloist conceded that there was indeed a flaw. A re-take of the offending passage was made (and I was thanked for pointing out the wobbly moment.)

 

The worrying things was that out of all the pairs of trained ears listening, no-one had noticed anything wrong and had I chosen not to mention it, that performance would have gone down on the CD.

 

H

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"So that would be pure conjecture on your part, then..."

 

Indeed, but I hope quite realistic conjecture given that Haarlem was the destination of choice at the time.

 

Bazuin

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"So that would be pure conjecture on your part, then..."

 

Indeed, but I hope quite realistic conjecture given that Haarlem was the destination of choice at the time.

 

Bazuin

 

 

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

 

I'm not sure that this is good conjecture, given that the great interest in things German centered around Schulze and the ideas of Dr Gauntlett as far as the UK was concerned. Gauntlett certainly knew Mendelssohn, and he was a very important figure in Congregational Church music. Mendelssohn knew Prince Albert, and he was the one who invited Schulze to the Great Exhibition.

 

Shorlty after the "German" period in English organ-building, the influence of Cavaille-Coll becomes stronger, as witnessed by the events in Manchester, and the sudden introduction of French registers etc.

 

What we can safely say, is that England was very outward looking, and business people regularly went to Germany. The first railway lines, locomotives and carriages in Germany, were made in Doncaster.

 

In view of that, was Haarlem all THAT interesting to Hill and his contemporaries?

 

MM

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

 

In view of that, was Haarlem all THAT interesting to Hill and his contemporaries?

 

MM

 

I would hazard a guess that the Haarlem St Bavo organ has always had an attraction since it was built. Just the vision of it is enough to attract people. The young Mozart or those who were escorting him, thought that he should play it. It is an iconic instrument, whether in its original state or in its 1960's state. One thing is certain - it is a monument in every sense. It is a sight (coupled with history perhaps) that rather did for my very first time there when I was booked in to rehearse for a broadcast at the start of my career. It was towards the end of the day and I used my key to enter on the South side of this vast building. I made my way into the church and in the dying light of the early evening I spied the organ. Pictures had never conditioned me for this moment. I was violently ill - the emotion far too much to cope with. Thus, I never played a note! Regardless of what it was like before Marcussens or after, nothing can ever take away the aura that surrounds this musical instrument.

There are some stories surrounding the building and its organ that not too many people know. The occupation in the last War was swift and the folk of Haalem had little time to dispose of treasures. And anyway, the organ is rather too large to suddenly secret away over night. Nevertheless, the town's authorities secretly constructed a monumental concrete roof (above the wooden one) and over the organ so that a direct hit would perhaps save some of the organ, if not all. It must be around 5 or 6ft thick. It is there to this day. Extraordinary to see. Secondly the great screen separating Nave from Choir which is Brass or Bronze, could not be taken away also and so using a true Dutch tradition it was painted but to look like wood! It too survived intact.

Sorry to bore with anecdotes. I just felt in the mood as I wistfully sat in my study dreaming of Haarlem and listening to Piet Kee playing from there.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

PS To keep the topic alive - yes, it is a most wonderfully positioned organ too.

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I would hazard a guess that the Haarlem St Bavo organ has always had an attraction since it was built. Just the vision of it is enough to attract people. The young Mozart or those who were escorting him, thought that he should play it. It is an iconic instrument, whether in its original state or in its 1960's state. One thing is certain - it is a monument in every sense. It is a sight (coupled with history perhaps) that rather did for my very first time there when I was booked in to rehearse for a broadcast at the start of my career. It was towards the end of the day and I used my key to enter on the South side of this vast building. I made my way into the church and in the dying light of the early evening I spied the organ. Pictures had never conditioned me for this moment. I was violently ill - the emotion far too much to cope with. Thus, I never played a note! Regardless of what it was like before Marcussens or after, nothing can ever take away the aura that surrounds this musical instrument.

There are some stories surrounding the building and its organ that not too many people know. The occupation in the last War was swift and the folk of Haalem had little time to dispose of treasures. And anyway, the organ is rather too large to suddenly secret away over night. Nevertheless, the town's authorities secretly constructed a monumental concrete roof (above the wooden one) and over the organ so that a direct hit would perhaps save some of the organ, if not all. It must be around 5 or 6ft thick. It is there to this day. Extraordinary to see. Secondly the great screen separating Nave from Choir which is Brass or Bronze, could not be taken away also and so using a true Dutch tradition it was painted but to look like wood! It too survived intact.

Sorry to bore with anecdotes. I just felt in the mood as I wistfully sat in my study dreaming of Haarlem and listening to Piet Kee playing from there.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

PS To keep the topic alive - yes, it is a most wonderfully positioned organ too.

 

 

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

 

I always maintain, that as a work of restoration, what Marcussen did at Haarlem was dreadful, but as re-build, it is almost peerless. It is, in every way, THE most beautiful musical-instrument; visually and aurally.

In a way, I was well prepared when I played this instrument, for I had attended a couple of recitals there, and had got used to the almost overwhelming presence of the organ-case and the exquisite beauty of what came from within. Nevertheless, I recall the instant goose-bumps the moment I started to play on just a single 8ft Flute, and the tears which flowed when I attempted to play Bach half-blind. Then you go to see the Frans Hals museum, and the emotions start to roll once again....Haarlem really should carry a government mental-health warning!

 

Back to the conjectural visit by William Hill, I can certainly understand that anything is possible and even likely, but did it have much of an effect upon his work if he actually heard the Bavo-orgel?

 

Now if someone had said the same of Thos.Hill, I could see the connection.

 

The Netherlands would have been a bit of a trek from London, but it's amazing just where people turned up on their travels. It didn't stop the Danes and Romans in their tracks, did it? Certainly, the trade routes existed and there were plenty of ships going in and out of London, so anything is possible. The late Stephen Bicknell suggested that Hill's style certainly changed into something bolder and more German after about 1860 or so, but that points towards Gauntlett and Mendelssohn, I would have thought. As I've said previously, English organ-builders of the period were very much servants rather than masters; at least until 'Father' Henry Willis, who just did what he did, like Cavaille-Coll in Paris. I don't think Hill was an innovator at all, but he faithfully created what others required, to the best of his considerable ability.

 

The only other connection I can think of, was the organist of Doncaster PC....I forget his name. (Simpson?) He knew the work of William Hill at Doncaster, and he was a very well travelled man on the continent. It's interesting, that after the fire which destroyed Hill's work, he switched allegiance to Schulze; suggesting that Hill was, by then, considered a little too conventional and conservative in style. Perhaps it is significant, that the trade shipping routes between Doncaster and Northern Germany were particularly well established at the time.

 

I suspect that we will never know the answer, but actually, the Hill/Gauntlett "German System" was quite short-lived, except for manual and pedal compasses. The admiration of things German soon included things French, and as is often the case in English history, we see a certain fusion and confusion of styles thereafter.

At least we have plenty to discuss as a result.

 

MM

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

 

I suspect that we will never know the answer, but actually, the Hill/Gauntlett "German System" was quite short-lived, except for manual and pedal compasses. The admiration of things German soon included things French, and as is often the case in English history, we see a certain fusion and confusion of styles thereafter.

At least we have plenty to discuss as a result.

 

MM

 

Having heard a rather intriguing lecture* concerning The Reverend SIR FREDERICK ARTHUR GORE OUSELEY (1825-1889) and also having done a little delving to gain a prize on here concerning the emergence of undulants in the UK, I think that this gentleman was a far greater influence on our organ and music scene than we realize. The Hill/Gauntlett fusion seems to have taken centre stage, but I am beginning to think that the guy in the shadows of history played an equal, if not a greater part in organ design. That we can assume to have had an undulant two years or so before Cavaillé-Coll in France could quite possibly be down to him, I suggest. It only takes a thesis or two or a strong paragraph in a book to increase the shadow.

 

Best wishes,

N

 

* Dr Jim Berrow - Diocesan Advisers' Conference, Huddersfield, 1st September 2009

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"I always maintain, that as a work of restoration, what Marcussen did at Haarlem was dreadful, but as re-build, it is almost peerless. It is, in every way, THE most beautiful musical-instrument; visually and aurally."

 

Visiting and playing in the Bavo is always a very special experience, not least because the church is so extraordinary and sounds so incredible. The work Marcussen did was indeed, from a technical point of view, peerless. Tonally the organ lost out, nearby Alkmaar beats it all ends up (the individual stops, the plena, and especially the reeds) as do the well-preserved Muller organs. Klaas Bolt (one of the most influential organists and organ historians of the 20th century, but perhaps one of the least known internationally) noticed it immediately, "why are my flutes so much less beautiful than before?" he is supposed to have asked. The red stain in the case is also just slightly 'too' red by the way, Marcussen mis-judged the colour.

 

"The only other connection I can think of, was the organist of Doncaster PC....I forget his name. (Simpson?)"

 

Jeremiah Rogers.

 

Bazuin

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Lichfield Cathedral is a good example when it comes to badly positioned organs.

 

Before the addition of the Nave organ in 2000, the main instrument failed to make any impact in the Cathedral whatsoever...

 

 

EC

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Lichfield Cathedral is a good example when it comes to badly positioned organs.

 

Before the addition of the Nave organ in 2000, the main instrument failed to make any impact in the Cathedral whatsoever...

 

 

EC

 

Surely this is the case with many of our cathedral organs En Chamade? Off the top of my head, the following suffer similar problems to Lichfield - Winchester, Salisbury, Ely, Canterbury, Worcester, Southwark, and so the list goes on. In fact, any Cathedral where the organ is positioned in either the Quire or a transept.

Having said that, the primary purpose and use of a cathedral organ is to accompany the services which are mostly held in the Quire. Therefore it could be argued that these instruments are perfectly positioned for the role in which they were designed!

An added problem with Lichfield is the acoustic which is very dry indeed.

 

Best wishes

 

Richard

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How about the fine instrument in St Mary's Beverley? Wonderful to play and hear at the console (about 5 ft from the front pipes) but a great deal of sound is lost 1/3 of the way down the nave. I have very fond memories of this instrument having learnt on it. It has one of the most thrilling 16foot reeds l have ever heard. Also enclosed tubas at 16,8, and 4foot pitches (not extended) which with the box shut could be added to the swell to create a seemingly never ending crescendo. I would be very interested to hear others oppinions on this instrument.

 

William Northmore

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