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DaveHarries

RFH Organ

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[Off topic, indeed ! Good Lord ! And, thank you, Philip J Wells.

 

Where would it have gone ? (And I love that quasi-biblical designation of Simon.)

 

And how would a 35-stopper have coped with Mahler or Saint-Saëns ?]

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With orchestral concerts (in the RFH) in mind, further acoustic enhancements should be on the cards- notwithstanding the fact that those cards will not be dealt for a very long time. There is an obvious desirability for even greater bloom, in this regard. With an increased (future) knowledge of reflective and reverberance-enhancing materials and the investigation of the possibility of cavity creation, for increased resonance, these should be pencilled in now.

 

I’m not suggesting the complete re-building of the Hall, but we will know what to do and how to achieve it even better, in the future- whenever that might be.

But if, from an orchestral point of view, the hall's acoustic was improved markedly during the refurbishment, why should yet more work be carried out? I take it you've been to an orchestral concert there since the hall was re-opened?

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How much of a "Downes instrument" is this going to remain, I wonder? It has been in pieces for the last year (chez a local builder, I believe) and there isn't any imminent sign of it being put back. It will be reinstated once the abbey have decided what to do with it and where to put it (the west gallery is one option, apparently - the toaster speakers were up there last time I played there). I am told that there are differing opinions about what should be done, but at least one of these involves substantial alterations to the instrument. I am not at all sure that there is any commitment to keep the organ "as is".

 

I was not aware of this. It is indeed a most worrying situation. What was wrong with leaving it where it was? (It is not as if there is a shortage of seating-space and, in any case, its former site was not somewhere which would be convenient to place chairs.) In addition, why is it presently dismantled? Was it a rebuild/restoration which went wrong, or ran out of money?

 

All further information will be received gratefully, Vox.

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I

 

I have heard a description of the relatively new Nicholson at Llandaff Cathedral, when on ‘full throttle’, as a ‘Wall of Sound’. Would those who have had the fortune to hear the RFH instrument live describe this in similar terms ?

 

And, does anyone know if Downes actually liked Tubas ? I cannot find many in organs he designed. (I’m prepared to be instantly corrected, by those with superior knowledge- which is why I ask.)

 

 

 

 

Llandaff - I have a colleague who has played it (and heard it live), but who gave a rather different description of this new instrument.

 

Downes - no, I am certain that he did not like tuba stops. For one thing, he is clearly dismissive of them in Baroque Tricks (I can find chapter and verse if you would like the specific reference). For another, during my discussion with him, the question of the discarding of the Gloucester Tuba (which went to All Saints', Margaret Street, W1) came up - and I was left in no doubt that he regarded this stop as entirely unnecessary - along with the 32ft. wood, which had been added by Harrison, in 1920..

 

Interestingly, aside from the instruments at the RFH and Saint David's Hall, Cardiff, I do not recall that he specified any other 32ft. reed. Given that he regarded that at the RFH as taking a crucial role in the tutti, it seems strange that he did not at least suggest a similar stop at Paisley Abbey, Saint Alban's Cathedral or Gloucester Cathedral. Whilst at Gloucester it could be argued that there were very tight restrictions on available space, such restrictions were not necessarily quite as important in the other two buildings. However, this organ already overflowed into the north side of the Pulpitum - and not just Bishop's 'monster' open wood 'Flute'; the Pedal Bourdon was also sited outside the case* - and upside-down.

 

 

 

* Something which Downes did not admit when describing the layout of the instrument as being almost entirely within the historic cases (except for the Pedal Flute).

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Certainly from the opening Gala concert was concerned the brass ensemble sounded quite lively to me. But the acoustics presented were about the same as for the organ - a mild improvement in ambience, but nothing to write home about. Same goes for the choral output.

 

As already mentioned, the most significant improvement came in the lower registers of the organ, so I believe your question is a good one. I would like to hear a full orchestra to reach a full judgement. But I suspect the verdict will roughly be the same: mild improvement, favouring the bass line.

 

 

 

 

I shall be interested to attend an organ recital myself. Certainly listening on i-Player (PS3, HDMI connection to a TV, then the sound being provided entirely by a large Bose* unit, via optical link), the acoustic sounded remarkably similar to the way I recall it sounding years ago. There was a very slight improvement in the projection of lower frequencies; but I did wonder if those who spoke so effusively regarding a perceived improvement in the hall's acoustic ambiance (with regard to the organ) were partly just attempting to justify the enormous cost of the refurbishment and alterations.

 

However, to me the organ still sounded fairly unpleasant. (Whilst I do regard it as an important and iconic instrument, I neither particularly like its sound nor its overall tonal disposition. I regard the apparent mis-calculation with regard to the chorus reeds as a serious and inexcusable error.)

 

In this dry - almost arid - acoustic, it really does need reeds with a more rounded sound - and slightly more power. The best examples by Hill (around 1890 or so), I should regard as being entirely superior. In any case, the grafting of French-style reeds to what was supposed to be a vaguely North German chorus (but which in practice had more in common with eighteenth-century Dutch chorus-work) I regard as somewhat dubious.

 

 

 

* For anyone unfamiliar with this type of sound-production unit, it is greatly superior to a standard TV sound system, both in clarity and frequency response.

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I was not aware of this. It is indeed a most worrying situation. What was wrong with leaving it where it was? (It is not as if there is a shortage of seating-space and, in any case, its former site was not somewhere which would be convenient to place chairs.) In addition, why is it presently dismantled? Was it a rebuild/restoration which went wrong, or ran out of money?

 

All further information will be received gratefully, Vox.

 

In the last two or three years the abbey has undergone an extensive cleaning, first outside and then inside - and I have to say that it all looks magnificent. As the scaffolding moved up the nave the organ was taken down to protect it from dust and dirt. I did hear rumours that there was a wish to reduce the number of stops to make the pipework less cramped and then, later, another rumour that perhaps it might be transferred to the west gallery in order to lead the congregation better - which will be disastrous when it comes to accompanying choral concerts. All I know for sure is what a steward told me when I asked about what was happening, viz. that "an organist from Durham Cathedral" had been down to look at the building and advise. I thought this a little odd and wondered whether it was actually someone from Harrison and Harrison.

Incidentally, did you know that the abbey now has a DoM, an organist (in addition to Fr Sebastian) and an adult choir? I hear that the choir is very good.

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In the last two or three years the abbey has undergone an extensive cleaning, first outside and then inside - and I have to say that it all looks magnificent. As the scaffolding moved up the nave the organ was taken down to protect it from dust and dirt. I did hear rumours that there was a wish to reduce the number of stops to make the pipework less cramped and then, later, another rumour that perhaps it might be transferred to the west gallery in order to lead the congregation better - which will be disastrous when it comes to accompanying choral concerts. All I know for sure is what a steward told me when I asked about what was happening, viz. that "an organist from Durham Cathedral" had been down to look at the building and advise. I thought this a little odd and wondered whether it was actually someone from Harrison and Harrison.

 

Incidentally, did you know that the abbey now has a DoM, an organist (in addition to Fr Sebastian) and an adult choir? I hear that the choir is very good.

 

 

Vox - many thanks for this.

 

Dom Sebastian - is he still there? Incroyable!!

 

I am glad to hear that the choir is (now) very good. There is an old recording of Schubert's Mass, in G.... (Enough said.)

 

Now all the abbey authorities need to do is to re-instate the organ where it was - and as it was. Let us hope that common sense and respect for a unique instrument* will prevail.

 

 

 

* To my ears, nothing ever sounded quite like this organ in this glorious acoustic. (Gloucester sounds a little like the Danion-Gonzales instrument Chartres Cathedral - but better. Saint Alban's and Paisley abbeys have certain recognisable Downes' 'trade-marks', but Buckfast has a very distinctive sound; in a different way, the H&H instrument at Exeter Cathedral has an unique and again distinctive tutti. Some years ago, Paul Morgan broadcast Rheinberger's Eighth Sonata entire. The sound of the full organ - minus Tuba and Trompette Militaire - on this broadcast was both unlike any other organ, even a Harrison, and instantly identifiable as the Exeter organ.

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Vox - many thanks for this.

 

Dom Sebastian - is he still there? Incroyable!!

 

I am glad to hear that the choir is (now) very good. There is an old recording of Schubert's Mass, in G.... (Enough said.)

 

With apologies for the further digression, there are some photos of the new choir here: http://www.buckfast.org.uk/site.php?id=171&galleryID=75. I do know one of the sopranos. Some years ago someone described her as the best choirboy in Plymouth. IMO she still is.

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With apologies for the further digression, there are some photos of the new choir here: http://www.buckfast.org.uk/site.php?id=171&galleryID=75. I do know one of the sopranos. Some years ago someone described her as the best choirboy in Plymouth. IMO she still is.

 

Goodness - the place appears to have been partly ripped apart.

 

Thank you for the link, though.

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Unhappily, I haven’t, yet (re #103). When the lunchtime recitals begin, I shall try and take the opportunity to hear the instrument live. (For health reasons, it would prove very difficult at the moment.) I have gleaned my impressions of this by reading all that has been written, on here and in other places, and by listening on the radio/iPlayer, via Roland studio monitors. Perhaps, when I read that the acoustic is now ‘fantastic’ or ‘brilliant’, I shall essay the other.

 

Why should we, in this country, suffer so frequently the results of compromises, for so many ‘problems’ ? Why should we not aim to emulate the very best (e.g. the Concertgebouw), rather than make do and mend ? Actually, and possibly contradicting myself, Birmingham and Manchester could be said to buck this trend. Of these, similarly, I have no ‘live’ knowledge. (Impressions/comparisons, please- especially as regards full symphony orchestra ?)

 

Again, thank you pcnd5584 for your powers of recall and profound depth of knowledge- at least the equal of the lowest pedal pipes at Sydney.

 

I am surprised at the negative opinions of Llandaff (perhaps, this merits a separate thread): the CD I’ve heard leaves me feeling good about the whole thing. OK, one can argue with the original conception (‘insularity’ and a limited number of mutations, for example), but the overall sound is impressive, to my ears.

 

And Buckfast, of course, deserves major support and restoration (again, possibly, a separate thread).

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Birmingham and Manchester have certainly tried, but unqualified praise for the new organs there is hard to find, as it is for some other neo-classical concert organs.

 

On the other hand, I haven't heard anything but good opinions about the scheme, workmanship, sound and fitness-for-purpose of the new cathedral organ at Llandaff.

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At the risk of repeating myself - as well as what has been written by others who have heard the organ live - the sound of the organ and the acoustics have been noticeably improved. When one is used to hearing organs in buildings with a significant period of reverberation, an organ in a concert hall will never sound 'perfect'; the 'ideal' acoustic for an organ is not the same as that for an orchestra. Whatever one's opinion of the sound quality of the recent radio relays (by whatever means), these broadcasts will never convey the full impression of sitting in the RFH auditorium - nor will CDs. As an example, the thrilling tutti I heard live in the last movement of the Saint-Saens Symphony last Wednesday bore no relation to the emasculated sound and balance currently available on BBC iPlayer. Having attended two recitals and two concerts in the POTS festival (and having heard and played the organ at other private events beforehand), I am pleased that one of the capital's concert halls is proving to be a superb venue in which to experience music-making, and that its organ has been re-instated with considerable success. Both the ambience and organ of the RFH in 2014 are quite different beasts to those known hitherto.

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I'm with Wolsey.

 

I was present for both John Scott's recital and Cameron Carpenter's improvised accompaniment to the silent film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" on Saturday evening. The latter concert was not broadcast but I compared the John Scott sound to a recording of the broadcast shortly after I returned.

 

The sound in the hall is much better than the (admittedly good) broadcast sound. It is truly a wall of sound, the lateral disposition giving that unusually stereophonic effect which has always been evident. I always admired the softer flutes and clean classical choruses of the organ before it was taken out, but what has changed now is that the improved resonance in the 16ft and 32ft registers has rebalanced the sound in the hall to the extent that the tutti is now very satisfying and has become the organ's best sound, whereas before I found this somewhat grating. The blend that has been achieved with the chorus reeds and mixtures is a marked improvement.

 

 

Many highly admired instruments achieve, by careful balancing, this effect of being extremely loud in a way which is not at all tiring on the listener and the rebuilt RFH organ is now in that category. I had several hairs-on-the-back of the neck moments during both performances, admittedly helped by the interpretations, but something which cannot be faked, and which I sadly find much more often on the continent than here.

Particularly noticeable in the hall and less so in the broadcasts is the way in which the improved bass resonance and the slight improvements in hall acoustics are just sufficient to remove the old impression of the hall sucking the life out of the space between each note and chord.

 

In my opinion, this is now a very, very good organ and on a somewhat selfish note I'm very pleased that it's local!

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At the risk of repeating myself - as well as what has been written by others who have heard the organ live - the sound of the organ and the acoustics have been noticeably improved. When one is used to hearing organs in buildings with a significant period of reverberation, an organ in a concert hall will never sound 'perfect'; the 'ideal' acoustic for an organ is not the same as that for an orchestra. Whatever one's opinion of the sound quality of the recent radio relays (by whatever means), these broadcasts will never convey the full impression of sitting in the RFH auditorium - nor will CDs. As an example, the thrilling tutti I heard live in the last movement of the Saint-Saens Symphony last Wednesday bore no relation to the emasculated sound and balance currently available on BBC iPlayer. Having attended two recitals and two concerts in the POTS festival (and having heard and played the organ at other private events beforehand), I am pleased that one of the capital's concert halls is proving to be a superb venue in which to experience music-making, and that its organ has been re-instated with considerable success. Both the ambience and organ of the RFH in 2014 are quite different beasts to those known hitherto.

 

 

In which case, I look forward to hearing it live. Can anyone tell me when the next solo recital is, please? Or when the lunch-time recitals commence; the on-line website is less than helpful in its layout and search facility.

 

For the record, whilst I cannot speak of the balance, the sound quality when listening through the system which I described is anything but emasculated.

 

I look forward to hearing the organ once again in the 'flesh' - and assessing the improvement in the acoustic ambiance as soon as is possible.

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Like others here, I was present at the Gala (very strange program), Thomas Trotters recital and the silent film classic accompanied by Cameron Carpenter.

The first two of these were broadcast by Radio 3 so I was able to set up a recorder at home also.

 

My conclusions are in agreement with wolsey and swalmsley above. Back home I listened on a very high end B&W sound system with subwoofer which is excellent for organ. I also compared the sound with a Dame Gillian recital broadcast by Radio 3 before the restoration for which I was also in attendance. I am delighted with the work H&H have carried out, had a chance during the festival to chat with those folks and the restored instrument is indeed a great success. The pedal flues sound significantly more effective and the new swell boxes work wonderfully. I believe the entire restoration project has been a complete success. The auditorium acoustics, for all music, is something of an improvement which has benefited the organ. The organs action is now very quiet indeed. Being such a huge swell organ, I hope more film events take place!

 

I look forward to Bernard Foccroulle's recital on April 11th.

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I am (as is pcnd5584), keen to learn details of the lunchtimes (having similarly found the website less than easy to penetrate to this level of information).

 

[Were I to attend an evening concert in central London, the fastest travel time by rail means that I would not arrive back home until after 6 a.m. the next day ! Driving this, for me, is not an option.]

 

Googling provided the following: the occupied reverberation time of the RFH is now 1.65 seconds; the Concertgebouw, 2.2. Unoccupied, the latter is 2.8: close to the ideal for the organ.

 

From all the above, I would conclude that opinion is divided ! I very much look forward to hearing the instrument ‘in the flesh’- and hope my 2nd-hand auditions are proved misleading.

 

WARNING ! THIS IS AN APRIL 1st RELATED STORY- AND, THUS, SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS GOSPEL

 

On Radio 3 this morning, after a movement of a Hindemith, played by Peter Hurford, the announcer proceeded to describe, in convoluted and unconvincing detail, the Ratzeburg Cathedral Rauschwerk stop which, when pulled out, opens a drink cabinet ! Never mind, they had a go.

 

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WARNING ! THIS IS AN APRIL 1st RELATED STORY- AND, THUS, SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS GOSPEL

 

On Radio 3 this morning, after a movement of a Hindemith, played by Peter Hurford, the announcer proceeded to describe, in convoluted and unconvincing detail, the Ratzeburg Cathedral Rauschwerk stop which, when pulled out, opens a drink cabinet ! Never mind, they had a go.

 

 

 

......but isn't that actually what it does? Somewhere I have a photo.

A

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Such stories (true, or otherwise) are not meant to be debunked until after midday, surely ?

 

Since Rauschwerk is a sort of mixture, the pull-out drawer should only be used to hold cocktails, mild-and-bitter, shandy, etc.(?).

 

Confusingly, it’s included in the Pedal section of the spec. (http://www.ratzeburgerdom.de/3501_grosse_rieger_disp.htm); perhaps it is assumed that one has already fallen off the organ stool.

 

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...

WARNING ! THIS IS AN APRIL 1st RELATED STORY- AND, THUS, SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS GOSPEL

 

On Radio 3 this morning, after a movement of a Hindemith, played by Peter Hurford, the announcer proceeded to describe, in convoluted and unconvincing detail, the Ratzeburg Cathedral Rauschwerk stop which, when pulled out, opens a drink cabinet ! Never mind, they had a go.

 

 

 

No, this is quite genuine. I have also seen a photograph of it.

 

There are a number of similar 'gadgets' around. The late George Sixsmith [& Son.] also added a 'Tibia Liquida' stop to the organ of Saint Paul's, Newcastle-under-Lyme, which activates a door giving access to to a small cocktail cabinet or, if you will, a mini-mini-bar.

 

I also had a stop labelled 'Choir to Pub' installed on the instrument at Saint Aldhelm's, Branksome, when we had it rebuilt and enlarged nearly twenty years ago.

 

I shall probably have a duplicate made, if we ever get our organ restored and rebuilt. However, I am definitely having a further stop installed. And this one is to bear the legend 'PULPIT TRAPDOOR'.

 

And it is going to be connected.

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