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DaveHarries

RFH Organ

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Good news for the organ at the Royal Festival Hall: the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £950,000 for its re-installation.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/10342262.stm

 

Dave

 

We need something like this in Melbourne, Australia.

 

We have just been informed that the Casavant organ in our main concert hall (Hamer Hall) is to be removed during the refurbishing of the hall and NOT REPLACED!!!

 

Now, the organ does have problems as an instrument for such a venue as the stops are all mechanical action with only ventils, in French fashion as aids. It does mitigate against organists preparing major performances in the limited time that occurs for such events nowadays. The organ, whilst having some lovely softer stops, does rather lack grunt and can't compete with full orchestra in romantic organ concertos or THAT symphony by SS.

 

So, instead of taking the instrument and doing what is needed to make it work, they are going to get rid of it. We believe that this is largely because of a scathing letter written about ten years ago by a then famous international organist who has rather fallen out of favour in the meantime and who definitely was not a good selection to perform on this instrument. The problems with the instrument, as I see it, stem from relying on a single, somewhat misguided organ consultant in the initial building, and now will be lost because of another single opinion.

 

I wish these guys would learn instead of repeating mistakes to the detriment of the organ world.

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BBC London News had a feature on the organ tonight, and it can be found here 20' 55" into the programme. News programmes have a very short life on BBC iPlayer, and it will probably be unavailable after tomorrow (Friday) evening.

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BBC London News had a feature on the organ tonight, and it can be found here 20' 55" into the programme. News programmes have a very short life on BBC iPlayer, and it will probably be unavailable after tomorrow (Friday) evening.

 

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

 

I'm not sure we got the full effect of the organ, but did I detect that it sounds MUCH better in the re-vamped hall?

 

Best,

 

 

MM

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IAO London Organ Day tomorrow - quite a few of us here look likely to be there - it will be interesting to see and hear how things are now.

 

A

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IAO London Organ Day tomorrow - quite a few of us here look likely to be there - it will be interesting to see and hear how things are now.

 

A

Hope it goes well. I have had the priviledge of playing it for UAL degree ceremonies since its (part) re-installation - the acoustics are different but still dry and it remains an exacting instrument to play - every bit of articulation (intended or not) is accurately rendered - the precision and immediacy of the EP action is stunning.

 

The move of the console to the back of the choir stalls seems less of an improvement - it makes it much harder to judge the full effect in balance. Even though incomplete it is very rewarding to play (and the timetable does allow a few moments to explore the more recondite corners...). Roll on the return of the Choir, Solo & Pedal Reeds for 2014....

M

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In case it's been missed by anyone, the fully restored organ is being relaunched with a gala concert on the 18th of this month followed by a 'Pull Out All The Stops' organ festival. See the Southbank Centre website for more details.

 

There will be a fine array of organ recitals and recitalists (and an certain American whose Proms perfomance in 2012 generated a lot of opinion on this board) and it's also great to see that they are trying to get a future generation of organists involved. There are a number of events for younger people and opportunities for beginners and piano players to 'have a go' at playing an organ.

 

Also BBC Radio 3 are having a residency and setting up a studio in the Southbank Centre for the duration of the festival so I'm looking forward to hearing some great music on the radio.

 

D

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Well then, what did you all think about the RFH Gala concert/broadcast?? It was a complete sell out and dispite all the acoustically absorbing audience the organ did sound generally much better than in the previous Hall with its dead acoustics. I wonder how much revoicing was necessary to fit in with changed absorbencies of the new Hall? The loud pedal reeds seem to have returned more to their original "French" sound - and much better too - no more smooth English tromboney sounds! But what about the programme?? It couldn't have been more badly chosen?? Fancy starting without an organ solo - however effective organ and brass can sometimes be? And what about all the transcriptions??? I thought the Liszt sounds much better on the piano and transcribing it for organ achieves nothing except to show that a sustaining pedal can be left out (to some extent?!) - who really wants to hear this sort of thing? I won't say anything about the Mendelssohn transcriptions - OK in small doses for some people I suppose? I thought the two world premiers helped to demonstrate the diversity of the use of the organ, although I have to say I'm not bothered if I ever hear them again. So we were only left with 3 true organ pieces by Bach, Franck and Dupre - I was pleased to hear how these sounded on the restored organ. But I'm not sure really what the Franck: Fantaisie in A really has to offer, perhaps a first step towards romantic organ composition, but why bother with it in what should have been a landmark concert - if Frank has to be played why not one of the three chorales??

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Thank you Douglas for your contribution. Being just a lover of organ and choral music rather than an organist I kept asking myself "is it me?". I've heard the Gigout played with brass before but why in this concert? I've also heard a transcription of the Liszt before, but with respect to J.P-S. who one can't deny is brilliant, better than that. Also I think someone else could do the Dupre better. And as for the choral pieces, I think best forgotten. I'm sure that both T.T. and Maestro Latry's contributions will be far better and worth listening to.

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I agree with DouglasCorr that it was more than a slightly strange programme: a celebration of The Organ beginning, perversely, with the sound of brass instruments (!). But, then, the BBC has always had an ambivalent relationship with the organ and its music.

 

As regards the choral (+) works, it looks as if some ‘community/outreach’ aspects had to be balanced, to be eligible for certain funding. As for the premières, I’ve always felt that both Sir ‘Max’ and Sir John wrote much more excitingly in the 60s, when they were enfants terribles.

 

I’m not sure that the organ itself hasn’t shown up the extreme precision that’s required to perform on it. I’ve heard that it’s completely unforgiving (see #6)- and all the performers demonstrated this, with slips, infelicities and plain mistakes. I’ve heard all of them play better.

 

Some curious phrasing and articulation were employed in the Bach: it was definitely an ‘electric action’ performance. I did, nonetheless, enjoy the ornamental, improvisatory roulades, just before the conclusion to the Fugue, which were so gloriously un-English.

 

The Franck would have sounded perfect in St Paul’s, say- but we weren’t there. And it does take such a long time to ‘get going’. (I have heard a performance of L’Ascension, where the organist seemed to create reverberation in an almost completely dry acoustic. It will be more than interesting to hear how M. Latry copes. And, WHY NO MESSIAEN ? Arguably the second greatest composer for organ, this was an ideal opportunity for many in the Hall (and beyond) to hear works to which they wouldn’t normally be exposed.)

 

Arrangements of Mendelssohn ? What’s wrong with Vierne ? There’s so much of his music written for organ that would have done the same job.

 

Isabelle Demers is an incredible talent, with some fantastic clips on YouTube. She didn’t fire, here. Her Dupré was taken at a lick, but revealed some insecurity.

 

I agree, AJJ: bring on Maître Latry ! (A week today.)

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I attended the Organ Gala Launch Concert, and am listening to it again on BBC iPlayer with the Festival brochure in front of me. I think some perspective is needed when viewing the concert. It is the opening event of a three-month festival celebrating the return of the RFH organ, so surely it can be integrated into one evening of music-making with singers and other instruments? There are three celebrity recitals (John Scott, Thomas Trotter and Olivier Latry) - and other concerts/organists besides...

Moreover, the International Organ Series will feature five evening recitals from September 2014 - April 2015, and a free lunchtime recital series begins in September 2014.

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I tend to agree with wolsey on this. As I have to journey from nether regions to the RFH I booked the Latry concert to experience the new ambiance etc. and to hear him play. I've not yet experienced the opening 'do' on iPlayer and most likely will not as there's not much on it I am really anxious to hear. I will however look at who's playing what in the future and decide when to plan a further trip.

 

A

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Living even nethermore than AJJ, going to the Latry concert would necessitate an overnight stay for me in the Great Wen.

 

I must, perforce, look forward to the lunchtimes.

 

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wolsey: is it possible for you to relate your impressions of the opening concert and, even more pertinently, the organ LIVE and in situ ?

 

The differences, if any, between this and the iPlayer rendition would be valuable to those of us who have not had your good fortune.

 

Many thanks.

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I attended the Organ Gala Launch Concert, and am listening to it again on BBC iPlayer with the Festival brochure in front of me. I think some perspective is needed when viewing the concert. It is the opening event of a three-month festival celebrating the return of the RFH organ, so surely it can be integrated into one evening of music-making with singers and other instruments?

 

On the other hand, it has been possible to hear any number of concerts involving other instruments (than the organ) and choirs, over the last several years, whilst this iconic instrument languished in storage.

 

I should have preferred the opening concert to have featured the organ - solely. Surely this famous instrument needs no help from the brass section of an orchestra? I confess that I find this type of programme planning puzzling in the extreme. Why do those who plan these events appear to think that either the organ needs 'help' - or that concert-goers will be less likely to attend if there are no other instruments taking part? *

 

Whilst I am pleased to learn of the forthcoming series of organ concerts, I wonder if there is any possibility of re-instating the former Wednesdays at 5.55 series. I realise that many peoples' work habits and working hours have changed over the last twenty years; but it would beb good to see some kind of regular (and permanent) recital series re-established at the RFH.

 

 

 

* As far as I can recall, the short recital series which was held prior to the dismantling of the RFH organ was well-attended.

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Whilst I am pleased to learn of the forthcoming series of organ concerts, I wonder if there is any possibility of re-instating the former Wednesdays at 5.55 series. I realise that many peoples' work habits and working hours have changed over the last twenty years; but it would beb good to see some kind of regular (and permanent) recital series re-established at the RFH.

 

The Wednesdays at 5.55 series will not be re-instated. They were seen in more recent years as the sideshow to the main or 'real' musical event of the evening at 7.30pm. The International Organ Series and the other 7.30pm organ recitals before the closure of the Hall *were*/*are* the main musical event of the evening, thus confirming the organ in the mainstream of music-making. Of course, the new lunchtime recitals will be a regular series.

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While we're on the subject though, let's credit Radio 3 for the coverage they've given this. The entire output seems to be coming from their popup studio, and I've heard more organ music on air in the last week or so than in the last 20 years put together (if you don't count Choral Evensong). A big thank you from my corner.

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I should have preferred the opening concert to have featured the organ - solely. Surely this famous instrument needs no help from the brass section of an orchestra?

 

I am not so sure. Thinking of the mainstream musicians I have known, there is a tendency for them to regard the organ as a little more than a geeky niche interest, the instrument not being worthy to rank with those of the orchestra owing to its inherent inexpressiveness. It doesn't help, either, that the names of most of its composers are unknown to mainstream musicians,* or at best regarded as second-stream (Franck). This perception is not helped by the fact that the organ has a long-standing and probably unshakable reputation for being an inferior but cheaper alternative to an orchestra for accompanying community choir concerts. To my mind, the more the organ is featured alongside mainstream musical instruments the more chance it will have of being taken seriously.

 

* This may occasionally be to their loss. For example, I think the musical mainstream is missing something by ignoring Vierne.

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I am surprised you're taking a somewhat pessimistic view of how others view the organ?

 

In particular, and with regard to 'second-stream composers', I would have thought the contribution of J.S. Bach was mainstream enough?

 

The re-installed organ will hopefully change some of the attitudes of those 'mainstream musicians' who view the organ as a 'geeky niche interest'. I would suggest though, (and having performed with some 'mainstream musicians' myself), most appear to display traits of 'geekiness' in their own personalities. I hardly think this is a stable platform to judge the musical merits and contribution The organ, good on paper, still sounds lousy in spite of the enormous sum spent on its renovation thanks to the RFH’s abysmal acoustic. Meanwhile good organs in good acoustic surrounds in other parts of the country are crying out for funds. It is another example of the continuous focus aimed on London and the SE. of the organ.

The organ, good on paper, still sounds lousy in spite of the enormous sum spent on its renovation thanks to the RFH’s abysmal acoustic. Meanwhile good organs in good acoustic surrounds in other parts of the country are crying out for funds. It is another example of the continuous focus aimed on London and the SE.

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I am surprised you're taking a somewhat pessimistic view of how others view the organ?

 

In particular, and with regard to 'second-stream composers', I would have thought the contribution of J.S. Bach was mainstream enough?

 

The re-installed organ will hopefully change some of the attitudes of those 'mainstream musicians' who view the organ as a 'geeky niche interest'. I would suggest though, (and having performed with some 'mainstream musicians' myself), most appear to display traits of 'geekiness' in their own personalities. I hardly think this is a stable platform to judge the musical merits and contribution of the organ.

 

I did say "most of its composers are unknown ... or ... second-stream." I was excluding the likes of Bach, Mendelssohn and Messiaen. I would suggest that my statement remains true.

 

Maybe I am unduly pessimistic and I would be more than happy to be corrected if anyone has knowledge to the contrary. The impression I outlined above was honed just from things I heard as a student and, later, from provincial orchestral musicians, so I can't claim that it is comprehensive (and, for avoidance of doubt, it wasn't directed at my playing, except once!) When I was a student at the RCM I tended to mix with people other than organists - pianists and orchestral musicians mainly. They just didn't see the appeal of the organ. A pianist summed it in up after an organ recital I had dragged him to, wailing in desperation, "Can't you vary the expression of the notes?" I explained about stop changes, swell boxes, rubato and the rest, but of course he meant the sort of shaping of lines that an orchestral player, or he as a pianist, would use. I don't think I once heard anyone criticise the players themselves because, generally, they could all out-perform nearly everyone else at keyboard harmony and their general musical knowledge was on a par with anyone's. It was just the instrument itself that didn't appeal. I suspect that most pianists and orchestral players don't normally have much contact with the organ, so it's hardly surprising if they feel the same way. I don't think it's anything like contempt. There is definitely a recognition that an organist may be as much a professional musician as anyone else, but I do think they they tend to be regarded as somewhat peripheral.

 

It really is a shame about the RFH acoustic, but I can't imagine a better venue for getting the organ put on the serious musical map. I am glad to see the RFH biting the bullet that the Royal Albert Hall didn't.

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