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DouglasCorr

P D Collins Organ At Turner Sims

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Sorry to disagree, but having seen the video I think it looks awful. It’s totally out of keeping with the building, partly because of its position on one side of the back of the church. Having said that, what I can see of the other organ is just as bad. I think it would be better to remove both instruments and start again with an organ designed specifically for that church, both acoustically and aesthetically.

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8 minutes ago, Zimbelstern said:

Sorry to disagree, but having seen the video I think it looks awful. It’s totally out of keeping with the building, partly because of its position on one side of the back of the church. Having said that, what I can see of the other organ is just as bad. I think it would be better to remove both instruments and start again with an organ designed specifically for that church, both acoustically and aesthetically.

I therefore suggest that you visit the church so you can see, and more importantly feel the situation. This is a church which has been handed an instrument on a plate which will enhance the worship and also the secular side of the place. I have rarely seen a village church which is so alive and which puts on wonderful concerts. These choral concerts have, each time so far had to be accompanied by a toaster because the 6 stop 2 manual is not suitable.

I can show you several organs which I care for which are not right for the building and which have been there forever and look out of place.

The organ they are hoping to be installed is costing a tenth of the value of its worth. It is a no brainer to me, so saying that they should ditch both and start again is frankly absurd.

 

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On 10/12/2005 at 10:37, David Coram said:

 

I know for a fact that the music department is doing its best; the lecturer in performance is both an exceptional player and an exceptionally nice person. Trouble is, the instrument is in woeful condition, with the usual Collins-of-the-period mechanical problems, and has some terrible design flaws that mean the tuning becomes unbearable when the auditorium has been filled for 20 minutes (sloping floor, steep temperature change gradient, Werkprinzip layout doesn't like it); the hall management is also doing its best, but its use is so compromised - you can't seriously engage a concert artist & tell them to play all the slow stuff in the first ten minutes, and everything thereafter must be fast and staccato, with nothing on the Oberwerk in the second half. The JSW recital you mentioned had such constraints upon it - I am told several ranks were unuseable by the end. There was a real stink when DGW did a recital on it and found it fine all day, but again virtually unplayable shortly after an audience had arrived. She was naturally unimpressed. A committee has recently been formed to see what to do about the organ so things ARE happening for the longer term.

 

I would think the term "significant concert instrument" may be a little too grand for it! Some may be hard pushed to describe it as even a "musical instrument" and would wish it to go the way of many other 1970's Collins instruments. Certainly, it can't realistically be used in the condition it's currently in. It's not a case of neglect - the thing's less than 30 years old, in a dream location in terms of sunlight, temperature and humidity, and had a major rebuild by Collins himself less than 10 years ago. Over the last few years it has received constant ministrations from two large organbuilding firms. That is certainly not a neglected instrument, just perhaps a not very good one.

Doesn’t sound very promising!

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Having actually been in Orford Church, I agree with Peter that the Collins organ looks fine, in fact one could even imagine that it was built for that position.  It looks more at home to me than the Collins at Mancroft.  With those broad aisles and big nave, the possibilities for imaginative use, both liturgically and in concert, are enormous. 

One would assume that, on installation, the site will have been adequately prepared with regard to floor levels and protection from sunlight, and that due diligence would be given to voicing, temperament and action.  There is no lack of precedent for such work, and in particular I can think of a number of organ builders who have worked wonders in regulation and tuning stability with classical revival instruments, the local firm of Bishop and Son being one.  I know of at least one East Anglian installation which was made vastly more reliable by this firm, and any reputable builder would be able to do the same thing here. If done properly, with regard to normal organ-building practice, there's no reason why the Turner Sims organ shouldn't sound better, and be more reliable at Orford than it did in Southampton.

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For once - and rarely - I disagree with Zimbelstern.

Organs are often quite architecturally distinct from the buildings in which they sit; and, often, the better for that. Of course, there are ugly exceptions. In addition, these buildings frequently consist of styles of architecture from many centuries, which do not always blend. Here, the presumed ‘garish’ medieval paint has been whitewashed, for later ‘tastes’. One can think of various, vandalistic ‘Victorianisations’ of otherwise splendid medieval edifices, too. Thus, a modern case will not always ‘fit in’, at first sight. Another consideration is that this case was not designed with this building in mind: the proportions will not ‘coincide’.

Here, though, I believe the wood in the case and its copper pipes assist a ‘marriage’ with the building. It’s better seen from further away than in the video. 

Finally, the ‘back’ of this church is a rather fluid concept, as it’s easily re-configured for its diverse uses - particularly ‘concertising’.

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Well, this forum would be extremely dull if everyone agreed with each other all the time! In the end it all comes down to personal preference and taste. It is good to have a forum where people can share and debate their views, and politely disagree. Over the last few months I have read carefully the entire series of posts regarding this organ, as well as those from years ago regarding the new organ in the Royal Academy of Music (which I have played and greatly appreciate). Both topics include a great deal of useful information both regarding the individual organs and also organ building and design, but also very differing views.

 

Personally, I have nothing against modern organ building styles and organ cases of any genre or any particular type. The most important criteria are how good the instrument is, and how appropriate it is for the liturgical function and/or repertoire that will be played upon it. The closer we are to a particular period in time, the more subjective the judgement is. All periods produce good and bad examples, and over time the removal of the bad results in a judgement of the period as a whole, whichever branch of the arts we are considering. Even after several hundred years, however, debates can still continue as to the merits or demerits of a particular organ - even if it no longer exists! A case in point is the Scheibe organ of the Paulinerkirche (University Church) in Leipzig, which Bach famously inspected and declared sound, although Johann Andreas Silbermann’s opinion several decades later was uncomplimentary. Academics are still arguing  about it. One of the world’s most eminent musicologists has stated categorically in print that is was tuned to Chorton. Another has produced documentary evidence to prove that it wasn’t! So much for objectivity.

 

When it comes to organs and their suitability for a church, it seems to me that, in addition to the location and acoustics, there are three aspects of the instrument which need to be considered: the sounds, the quality and reliability of the workmanship and the case design. I have seen organs whose sound I like, but whose cases I dislike in that setting. A couple of years ago I heard the new Klais organ in Leon Cathedral in Spain. I love the sound, but dislike the appearance of the organ, which I feel is out of keeping with the building, partly because of its location. Last year I heard the organ of St Eustache in Paris. I love the case, but the organ disappointed - all I could hear was a mush of sound when pieces were played fast. I’m sure, however, there are many who would disagree with me. It’s all a matter of taste I suppose. I haven’t heard the new organ in the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, but it looks stupendous. 

 

From what I have read in this forum, and having looked at the specification of the Turner Sims organ, it seems to me that, apart from anything else, it is rather limited in regard to the repertoire that can be sympathetically played upon it. The stop list seems to be informed by the fashion some forty years ago for so-called Neo-Classical instruments. I dislike many of the instruments of this kind which I have heard or played, mainly because of the sound they make, which doesn’t seem to resemble in any way the wonderful 18th century North German organs they were supposedly imitating. But there are, no doubt, good examples of the genre.

 

I’m sure organs of this type have their admirers and they are just as entitled as I am to their opinion. The organ I play on in church is a 1914 two manual William Hill pneumatic action organ. It was so well built that after more than hundred years, still in its original condition, and no major repairs, it makes a sound I and most people like, is reliable, versatile, and can be used for a very wide repertoire, ranging from Bach, through Widor, to Messiaen. Yet countless instruments of this era have been thrown out or altered beyond recognition. Why? Perhaps because of fashion. Or perhaps because they weren’t very good. Who are we to say? Perhaps in the end we are all just dedicated followers of fashion!

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I’m now happy almost entirely to agree !

I had my reservations about some aspects of León’s specification. I, too, found the acoustic in Saint-Eustache rendered fast music indistinct.

Yes, Turner Sims, translated to Suffolk, is very much of its time; but the acoustic here will, I believe, transform the instrument - and elevate its overall sound to something of beauty. There is no Swell, as such, and Howells will take on a (very) different guise; but, for instance, most French Baroque (organ) repertoire doesn’t sound ‘right’ at King’s.  

In parenthesis, I grew up on an earlier, pneumatic Hill. Wonderful - and great for developing finger strength !

 

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I also believe that the acoustic at Orford will be of great benefit to the Turner Sims organ, particularly if due attention is given to finishing when the instrument is installed.  As regards repertoire,  it's amazing how a well-built and voiced organ will give convincing performances of a surprising range of music. Even Howells - I believe the opening of the Rieger at Clfton Cathedral featured a piece of his and I have myself played Howells on the Grant, Degens & Bradbeer organ at Queen's University, Belfast (slightly tongue-in-cheek, I must admit, and I didn't know until I turned up for the concert that it was going to be broadcast).  It takes imagination, as for that matter does playing Bach convincingly on an old Hill, but if the instrument has quality, the results can transcend expectations to a tremendous degree.  Peter King's excellent piece on the registration of various schools of music ( http://peterking.org/playing_organs_21.html ) has plenty to say about this. A number of players have remarked that one doesn't notice the lack of a swell-box on old or modern Dutch organs.  It's all a matter of achieving an appropriate ambience - not necessarily something that is "authentic" but something that is convincing.

Those who have persevered with my other ramblings, here and elsewhere, will know that I am not a devotee of the neo-classical organ (I prefer the flexibility of electric action, 61 note compass with extra notes at the top to take the octave couplers, and swell-boxes to most divisions), but I like to think that I can appreciate and enjoy listening to and playing fine examples in any style.  I was bowled over a few months ago by a gorgeous Letourneau in the RC church at Rothesay, New Brunswick. Basically French classical and all unenclosed, but the sheer beauty of the sound and finishing was such that I can't think of much that it wouldn't do.

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Just looked at the Leon Cathedral Klais. Goodness me what a bland ugly case - reminded me of a very similar case but about 150 years earlier in Salisbury Cathedral with a sublime Willis sound (tongue therefore very firmly in cheek!). No - some combinations of case and building just seem to work despite the odds and the Collins didn't look out of place to me either in Turner Sims or in Orford though I haven't been to either building.

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The only advantage of the Salisbury fronts is that they are fairly inconspicuous!  Durham, which is much the same, has the advantage of that lovely stencil-work.  There are plenty of examples of modern cases looking good in old churches.  I think the Turner Sims looks superb at Orford.

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I am happy to report that the rejected Faculty application for the installation of the Collins organ in Orford has been reversed and so it is all systems go for the project. Completion due by Easter 2019.

 

Peter

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21 minutes ago, David Drinkell said:

Can I come and have a go on it next time I'm over in those parts?

I echo (rather, reverberate) David, here.

Sense has finally prevailed; no doubt, after much prayer and informed lobbying.

 

 

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