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A british style of organ deisgn/building/eveloution


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And with any thuringian organ from the Bach period, it becomes soon

evident the 8' flues are made to be used in combination; not necessarily

the four (often the case on the HPTW) togheter, but two or three.

8-4-2-Mixture won't work there, save in a Silbermann in Saxony

(an outsider there, as we know, trained in France).

 

Where was the 8' Principal used alone, without a stopped rank added ?

In Italy -but sometimes with the Voce umana-.

 

Pierre

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I think that's not quite the same thing though, Pierre. There was no suggestion in Thuringia (so far as I know) that you should always draw the equivalents of the 8' Open and Stopped Diapason on each manual before drawing anything else. This was the case in Britain, where the first thing any organist did on sitting at his intrument was to draw the two diapasons on every manual. According to Jonas Blewitt c.1795, no stop was used without one or both diapasons except the 4' Flute. Additionally, John Marsh, writing around the same time, tells us that the Swell Principal should not be drawn without both the reeds lest the octave be too predominant. Evidently the British love for a predominantly foundational tone goes back further than sometimes realised!

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Ahh, this bass bias....Very true.

 

My amplifier has those things my B&W loudspeakers never need: "tone correctors",

you know, those stupid "bass" and "treble" buttons that are there only to get rust

on their contacts. Scratch-scratch after a while. How do I do to by-pass them ?

 

Let us imagine a belgian organist comes for the Tea- (organ!) Party, a lad who never

heard any british organ -yes, there are-.

Well , will I use something from this pile(s) of LPs I throw back from the UK ?

1970's stuff, crammed with Open Woods, more or less huge Open Diapasons (often leathered)

big Claribels, Tubas and Trombas, Contra-this and that, and some would-be "baroque"

high-pitched ranks 100 Miles apart from the rest ?

 

No, for the sake of it, let us take a recent CD you can find today:

 

Alexandre Guilmant

Septième Sonate (and others works)

Joris Verdin

Orgue Willis de Dundalk

RICERCAR RIC 267

 

The CD begins with that seventh Sonata, in a quite full combination.

The first "normal" reaction of my guest would be to grasp those correctors: "Bass"

to zero, "treble" to the Maximum!

But if you do that, the "Bass" button cuts 90% away, while the "treble" one increases

nearly nothing, because there is very few to increase.

 

It needs a rather long time to get accustomed to such a sound, but you end up realizing

the best way is to leave those tone correctors on "flat", exactly as with all others organs.

They simply are beautiful that way. In their way.

 

Heavy, large basses, thin treble. And this, as MM pointed out, because of acoustic reasons; the

british organ, however big it may be, remains an Orgue de choeur by continental standards.

With the old Worcester Cathedral organ, you had one of the most powerfull Swells I never met with

just above your head, hair (head?)-cutting.

French reeds in that position ? Would you really do that ?

 

The "large Bass-thin treble" bias may well be grounded in acoustics reasons. Short distances,

little rooms.

But there is more to it.

It seems the british voicers took much pain to remove much harmonics from their pipes, in an

aim to get a "pure", clean tone.

Arthur Harrison was well known for that, but he was not alone; it is a british trait.

Next to an Open Diapason, any german Prinzipal -except the neo-baroque ones, which differ

greatly from any older model- sounds like a Gamba.

The reeds, as already mentionned, are smooth and rattle-free (save some possible exceptions,

as always), however clear they may be in baroque organs and Willis organs.

 

The CD is not, therefore, the right manner to discover such organs. You must hear them

in Situ first. Impossible to understand the old Worcester Cathedral organ without having

toured the entire building while the organ was playing. Then, you understand the problems

the organ -and the organist!- faced.

The british style exists; it is one of the most idiosyncratic on Earth, blatantly recognizable.

It emerged from practical, acoustic traits, foreign influencies, and a taste for warm, smooth,

"clean" tones, tones that were intended to be heard nearby by those singing boys.

 

Pierre

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Ahh, this bass bias....Very true.

 

My amplifier has those things my B&W loudspeakers never need: "tone correctors",

you know, those stupid "bass" and "treble" buttons that are there only to get rust

on their contacts. Scratch-scratch after a while. How do I do to by-pass them ?

 

Pierre

 

Buy an amplifier without these controls - NAD does one in the mid-price range.

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  • 1 month later...
===========================

 

Let's remind ourselves of what T C Lewis could do:-

 

Southwark Cathedral T C Lewis

 

There is a recent release in The English Cathedral Series, recorded by Peter Wright in Southwark Cathedral, from Regent Records. I hadn't previously heard a recording of this instrument and it's many years since I heard it in the flesh. The programme includes Demessieux, Peeters and Jongen. Well worth a listen; it's a beautiful sound.

 

BTW I heard a snatch on R3 earlier in the week from a new "Organ Fireworks" recorded in Melbourne Town Hall. That sounded rather good too...

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There is a recent release in The English Cathedral Series, recorded by Peter Wright in Southwark Cathedral, from Regent Records. I hadn't previously heard a recording of this instrument and it's many years since I heard it in the flesh. The programme includes Demessieux, Peeters and Jongen. Well worth a listen; it's a beautiful sound.

 

BTW I heard a snatch on R3 earlier in the week from a new "Organ Fireworks" recorded in Melbourne Town Hall. That sounded rather good too...

 

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

 

It does raise an interesting question, as to why the Lewis sound has never been re-created or used as the basis for a more modern British organ style.

 

MM

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

 

It does raise an interesting question, as to why the Lewis sound has never been re-created or used as the basis for a more modern British organ style.

 

MM

 

There was a new path already open yet: William Thynne !

As far as I know, he worked with Lewis, after having tuned

the Doncaster organ for years. More, when he went away from Lewis,

he took some employees with him (!).

The Tewkesbury Grove organ displays the result: a Schulze-Lewis-like

Diapason Chorus (with Quint Mixtures) paired with Willis-like reed choruses.

There is a Saint-Saëns recording which is enough to convince.

 

Pierre

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There was a new path already open yet: William Thynne !

As far as I know, he worked with Lewis, after having tuned

the Doncaster organ for years. More, when he went away from Lewis,

he took some employees with him (!).

The Tewkesbury Grove organ displays the result: a Schulze-Lewis-like

Diapason Chorus (with Quint Mixtures) paired with Willis-like reed choruses.

There is a Saint-Saëns recording which is enough to convince.

 

Pierre

 

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

 

 

That's interesting Pierre, because I had never thought of making that connection.

 

Still, that's just ONE organ on the list; another being Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

 

However, I find it lamentable that the superlative sound of Lewis more or less found no followers, and the new fashion was much heavier, much darker, smoother and altogether more orchestral.

 

What goes around will eventually come around I expect.

 

 

MM

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

 

It does raise an interesting question, as to why the Lewis sound has never been re-created or used as the basis for a more modern British organ style.

 

MM

The Lord alone knows the answer to that one, as I think you have hit the nail on the head. It's obviously English, full of character and marries English heavy pressure reed voicing with gloriously clear principals, and lovely flutes. Strings are a bit scratchy for my liking, but the concept is there.

 

AJS

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One characteristic that I don't think I have read about here is the fact that when I was a lad, organists (when demonstrating the wonders of their instruments before letting me have a go) would revel in the way it was possible to illicit seamless crescendos and diminuendos when adding stops or decreasing them from their cathedral organ. With careful use of swell pedal controls (a little like changing gears on a car with the clutch to enjoy perfect and unnoticeable changes), this demonstrated to me as a youngster how the British organ was controlled. My Cathedral organist taught me how to play the 2nd Movt of Mendelssohn Sonata II using two expression pedals at the same time (Solo & Swell) and my brother taught me how to drive using brake and accelerator with one foot (heel and toe!) to achieve similar results for decreasing speed whilst using the left foot for the clutch. Early racing car methods! Therefore Mendelssohn was a good introduction for driving a Jaguar and Aston Martin later on in life.

The trick on the organ to create seamless stop changes was to shut the box at the same time a stop was added so that its presence did not create a 'bump' in the line of music. Then the crescendo was heightened when the swell was opened. Swell reeds always seemed to have been added in this way too - not just Great stops. Rarely did things come on 'straight'. This form of playing which was of course rooted in accompaniment, was just the correct technique that was used for Howells' solo music. Much of it (because of the style of playing used for it as well) makes me think that I am missing the choir part when I hear some works. Perhaps this set crescendo found on German instruments of the 19th century allowed players to live by the Rollschweller and a few pre-prepared combinations. The former never seems to have caught on in these shores.

The British style of Improvisation is mostly created using these styles of playing. The bane of my musical life when attending some churches is hearing pre-service music where the right foot being is fixed and occupied with the expression boxes, leaving the left foot alone, which thus moves legato with endless passing notes and little or no breathing. This then demands that pistons come into action. Are there any organs where the organist has not set them to go pp through to ff - Nos 1 to 8 (or so)? I always set No 5 to give me a Cornet (if on the department). No 1 the loudest solo sound etc. The last one I normally set as a general cancel for the department. I know you think that mad, but I look upon pistons as giving me specific sounds related to a department from which I can build or decrease with hands if necessary.

The British organs frequently seem to ooze subtleness for this style of seamless playing. The suddenness, excitement and power of using Ventils seems most alien to these shores. Therefore, the British organ for me was borne out of being the accompanimental instrument and subservient to the Choir. The instruments therefore rarely fall into the bracket of being contrapuntal with pedal divisions hidden behind the main instrument or even stashed into other places away from the main instrument. Therefore, in conclusion, the evolution of design and building has happened out of some form of necessity and character and not really rooted in indigenous solo composition. Now choirs and liturgy have fundamentally changed in the ordinary place, this leaves the opportunity of having new contrapuntal-style instruments. But looking (on paper) at two brand new cathedral organs for these shores, I see very few differences between now and 80 years ago. It's as if there are blue-prints produced by Henry, Henry and Arthur and we digress away from them at our peril.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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My Cathedral organist taught me how to play the 2nd Movt of Mendelssohn Sonata II using two expression pedals at the same time (Solo & Swell) and my brother taught me how to drive using brake and accelerator with one foot (heel and toe!) to achieve similar results for decreasing speed whilst using the left foot for the clutch. Early racing car methods! Therefore Mendelssohn was a good introduction for driving a Jaguar later on in life.

 

 

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

 

 

I know that when I ran a Jaguar 4.2, I used this technique all the time unless I chose to show-off to some poor, unsuspecting passenger. Then I used the left foot on the brake, braked modestly and then applied power early on a deserted, wet and greasy roundabout. Releasing the brakes, the brute would slew dramatically sideways, and exit in an impressive power-slide with steam pouring from the rear tyres!!

 

Well.....it was a lot of fun anyway, and sooooo easy to control. Mendelssohn isn't half so much fun.

 

:rolleyes:

 

MM

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

 

 

I know that when I ran a Jaguar 4.2, I used this technique all the time unless I chose to show-off to some poor, unsuspecting passenger. Then I used the left foot on the brake, braked modestly and then applied power early on a deserted, wet and greasy roundabout. Releasing the brakes, the brute would slew dramatically sideways, and exit in an impressive power-slide with steam pouring from the rear tyres!!

 

Well.....it was a lot of fun anyway, and sooooo easy to control. Mendelssohn isn't half so much fun.

 

:rolleyes:

 

MM

I have an SD1 that'll do the same - it's great in slippery conditions, so long as you don't mind going sideways. Mendelssohn may have written some exquisite music, but none of it compares to a free breathing V8 bellow.

 

AJS

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You have certainly put the brakes on this topic now, Pierre. That's the end of British Organ design for another year!

N

 

Would it be your wish maybe ? After a very interesting post....

(I have been a trained engine engineer in another life. My speciality

was fuel-efficiency)

 

Pierre

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One characteristic that I don't think I have read about here is the fact that when I was a lad, organists (when demonstrating the wonders of their instruments before letting me have a go) would revel in the way it was possible to illicit seamless crescendos and diminuendos when adding stops or decreasing them from their cathedral organ. With careful use of swell pedal controls (a little like changing gears on a car with the clutch to enjoy perfect and unnoticeable changes), this demonstrated to me as a youngster how the British organ was controlled. My Cathedral organist taught me how to play the 2nd Movt of Mendelssohn Sonata II using two expression pedals at the same time (Solo & Swell) and my brother taught me how to drive using brake and accelerator with one foot (heel and toe!) to achieve similar results for decreasing speed whilst using the left foot for the clutch. Early racing car methods! Therefore Mendelssohn was a good introduction for driving a Jaguar and Aston Martin later on in life.

The trick on the organ to create seamless stop changes was to shut the box at the same time a stop was added so that its presence did not create a 'bump' in the line of music. Then the crescendo was heightened when the swell was opened. Swell reeds always seemed to have been added in this way too - not just Great stops. Rarely did things come on 'straight'. This form of playing which was of course rooted in accompaniment, was just the correct technique that was used for Howells' solo music. Much of it (because of the style of playing used for it as well) makes me think that I am missing the choir part when I hear some works. Perhaps this set crescendo found on German instruments of the 19th century allowed players to live by the Rollschweller and a few pre-prepared combinations. The former never seems to have caught on in these shores.

The British style of Improvisation is mostly created using these styles of playing. The bane of my musical life when attending some churches is hearing pre-service music where the right foot being is fixed and occupied with the expression boxes, leaving the left foot alone, which thus moves legato with endless passing notes and little or no breathing. This then demands that pistons come into action. Are there any organs where the organist has not set them to go pp through to ff - Nos 1 to 8 (or so)? I always set No 5 to give me a Cornet (if on the department). No 1 the loudest solo sound etc. The last one I normally set as a general cancel for the department. I know you think that mad, but I look upon pistons as giving me specific sounds related to a department from which I can build or decrease with hands if necessary.

The British organs frequently seem to ooze subtleness for this style of seamless playing. The suddenness, excitement and power of using Ventils seems most alien to these shores. Therefore, the British organ for me was borne out of being the accompanimental instrument and subservient to the Choir. The instruments therefore rarely fall into the bracket of being contrapuntal with pedal divisions hidden behind the main instrument or even stashed into other places away from the main instrument. Therefore, in conclusion, the evolution of design and building has happened out of some form of necessity and character and not really rooted in indigenous solo composition. Now choirs and liturgy have fundamentally changed in the ordinary place, this leaves the opportunity of having new contrapuntal-style instruments. But looking (on paper) at two brand new cathedral organs for these shores, I see very few differences between now and 80 years ago. It's as if there are blue-prints produced by Henry, Henry and Arthur and we digress away from them at our peril.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

Nigel I fully agree. I'd like people to name a couple of really successful musical instruments that have been built in the UK in the past 30 years. I can only think of 2 and I look after one of them!

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Nigel I fully agree. I'd like people to name a couple of really successful musical instruments that have been built in the UK in the past 30 years. I can only think of 2 and I look after one of them!

I can think of 2 or maybe 3 of which only one was totally new, although the concept and execution of the other two would render them ostensibly new. I suspect if we collectively add our 2's we'll come up with a fair few. I'm thinking about their fitness for purpose rather the sound that they produce per se. It's harder than you might think.

 

AJS

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Would it be your wish maybe ? After a very interesting post....

(I have been a trained engine engineer in another life. My speciality

was fuel-efficiency)

 

Pierre

And ultimately I think you'll win the argument. My greatest joy is that the onward march of fuel efficiency leaves so much more petrol around for those of us who enjoy burning it. (Doesn't stop me enjoying a good kick from a turbo though.)

 

AJS

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