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Mander Organs
David Drinkell

Awkward Organs

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I think it was John Norman who mentioned, in 'The Organ Today', that players in North America (and Canada in particular) favoured a slightly lower stool and thus a firmer seat. I'm just under six feet tall, but I find the Casavant console generally very comfortable. However, I've just learned the Bonnet Variations de Concert, and I found that I was having to support myself on my hands (like a gymnast on parallel bars!) in order to negotiate some of the double pedalling in the cadenza. Sorry if that makes the mind boggle. :P

 

I had a pupil who was less than five feet tall but managed the episodes in the St. Anne prelude on the Solo Organ (sounds weird, but it works on this organ) without difficulty.

 

Btw... I'm not trying to criticise the Casavant consoles (as they are very well built indeed) or the AGO standard, but I do find them a little miniature. I think you are right about organists in North America prefering a lower bench. The size will certainly be appreciated the organ pupil you mentioned! Have you seen a picture of the Metropolitan United Church Console in Toronto? Must be the post petite 5 manual console I've ever seen http://www.flickr.com/photos/sr667/2518781...in/photostream/ . In comparison, the 4 man Walker console down the road at the cathedral seems like a giant.

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Btw... I'm not trying to criticise the Casavant consoles (as they are very well built indeed) or the AGO standard, but I do find them a little miniature. I think you are right about organists in North America prefering a lower bench. The size will certainly be appreciated the organ pupil you mentioned! Have you seen a picture of the Metropolitan United Church Console in Toronto? Must be the post petite 5 manual console I've ever seen http://www.flickr.com/photos/sr667/2518781...in/photostream/ . In comparison, the 4 man Walker console down the road at the cathedral seems like a giant.

 

The Metropolitan console is indeed very compact for what it controls (I think it had 115 speaking stops when I played it in 1998, but they've added a west end section since then). However, the couplers are by rocking tablet over the top manual, which cuts down the height considerably. At the Anglican Cathedral across the road, the couplers are all by drawstop (lots of them, including Pedal Octave and Unison Off) and the drawstops are all in vertical columns of two, following British convention, while Casavants' group them North American style in threes and fours.

 

Incidentally, the Metropolitan console had its picture in one of the national papers (can't remember which one) recently as part of an article bemoaning the lack of young organists and predicting the death of traditional church music as we know it. I had at least four copies passed on to me and perused one during the sermon one Sunday morning (Choral Eucharist, Book of Common Prayer) feeling just a little smug.

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during the sermon one Sunday morning (Choral Eucharist, Book of Common Prayer) feeling just a little smug.

 

And so you should... long may it continue. Even in some of the English Cathedrals now you can be subjected to some absolute drivel these days. I'm not having a go at modern composers/liturgy, but rather the lack quality control by some of the clergy around.

 

Is there really a lack of aspiring young organists around? I'm sure this has been commented on many times before in other threads. What did your newspaper article have to say about this? Certainly there are enough in the UK to make sure the cathedrals and major churches continue high standards. In Canada? Well there are certainly some young players in Toronto, I haven't come across a great many people who actively teach the organ though.

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I must admit, I think I'm very lucky indeed. I have a fine building (one of Gilbert Scott's best), an organ which I like (and seems to like me), a choir which never complains whatever I throw at them (and parties often), an appreciative congregation and a Dean who thinks the music is wonderful and says so often. Also, we use the Book of Common Prayer at all principal services and are one of only four choirs in Canada singing two choral services every Sunday.

 

It makes up for all the snow-shovelling we have to do around this time of year.....

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e one of only four choirs in Canada singing two choral services every Sunday.

 

It makes up for all the snow-shovelling we have to do around this time of year.....

 

Really...

 

So there's you, St. Thomas's Toronto, St. James Cathedral... where else?

 

It's at last getting a bit warmer here in Toronto - where staring to thaw. But I bet you guys are still cold.

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Really...

 

So there's you, St. Thomas's Toronto, St. James Cathedral... where else?

 

It's at last getting a bit warmer here in Toronto - where staring to thaw. But I bet you guys are still cold.

 

 

Montreal Cathedral is the other one.

 

Winter was late coming in Newfoundland, but it's here now.....

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One of the churches at which I occasionally deputise has this Hewins, later rebuilt and slightly enlarged by Nicholson of Worcester. Unusually for a Hewins, there are no registrational aids although I suspect that any foot operated composition pedals may have removed when Nicholsons converted it from mechanical action to EP and provided a balanced swell pedal in the place of the kick-stick. It would be nice to have a few thumb pistons for each manual...

 

 

The fixed bench is at such a height that I, at 5'11", cannot sit without bowing my head to avoid the casework and always come away after practice or a service with an aching neck and back. It is also impossible for me to use my heels when pedalling without wearing embarrassingly high heels, something I generally try to avoid doing in public B) . Note the blu-tac, fixed to the woodwork on the extreme right, as a very necessary warning to the unwary.

 

For a very small two-manual the organ sounds quite pleasant and bright; Swell 8, 4, 2: Great 8, 8, 4 and Pedal 16, 8, 4. Incidentally, the 4' pedal flute is the nicest stop on the instrument and how I wish that it were available at full compass on the Great as it would match the Stopped Diapason quite beautifully.

 

PS. Don't get the wrong idea of my skills from the score on the music desk. I am learning just the 2nd movement for use as a Lenten voluntary.

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