Jump to content
Mander Organs
Philip

Getting to know an unfamiliar instrument

Recommended Posts

Oh, I'm sorry - there was nothing further from my mind. I was confessing, apologetically, my own deliberate shortcoming that I tend not to bother with it too much any more. I used to, and spent so much time worrying about hitting the right button at the right time that I was far too tense and wound up to enjoy the experience and help others enjoy it too - which is why people organise cathedral visits, on the whole. So now, I make quite sure there are no surprises in store, and then go for a pint with everyone else B)

 

Fair enough. But I did consider the wording of your post for several hours before responding. I wanted to try and avoid mis-understanding you. Either I have failed to do so or there was a perceived ambiguity in the way you phrased it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would not want to spoil a good story - but I suspect it is no more than that. These pipes (according to H&H, some time around the previous restoration/cleaning) speak on about 35 - 40mm pressure. They are very gentle, and unlikely to blow off anything.

 

That's not even two inches! I'd be astounded - and very impressed - if they were on less than 5. They're very good indeed.

 

You might not blow any hats off with them, but you can gently inflate the surplices of a choir lining up - I've done it, even though a whole tone scale descending down the sharp side and back up the C side wasn't the most musical thing I've ever played at 5 to evensong.

 

And you can certainly startle inquisitive tourists, to the quiet delight of the chap who rings the bells.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fair enough. But I did consider the wording of your post for several hours before responding. I wanted to try and avoid mis-understanding you. Either I have failed to do so or there was a perceived ambiguity in the way you phrased it.

 

OK, I'm sorry it made you feel like that. As it happens, that part of my original posting wasn't responding to you or anyone else in particular, and therefore there's no reason for you to assume that anything in it was in any way referring to what you prefer to do, which I very much admire and wish I had the patience to do so.

 

I'm glad you can find your way round the octaves at Salisbury. I hate them. I'm only just familiar enough (and brave enough) with octave couplers to realise, far too late, where the extra noise is coming from and stare hopelessly at the Swell stops looking for the octave, before (eight pages later) realising the one I want is over the other side. Then knocking off the wrong one. And so on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Every time I have had the pleasure of playing at Salisbury Cathedral, I have found the console to be entirely comfortable. I have never been confused by the many couplers. In any case, the non-unison inter-pedal and -clavier couplers are engraved in black, not red, so they are easily distinguishable - even at a cursory glance. I have never liked the Willis habit of grouping them in one long row above the top clavier. For a start, this raises the level of the music desk higher than I would wish and I find it much more inconvenient to locate the couplers I want to use with this layout. For the record, I have met Willis organs with even more 'secondary' octave couplers than Salisbury.[/font]

 

Salisbury is the way it is because Sir Walter Alcock disliked a row of rocking tablets for couplers, describing them as resembling a set of false teeth (according to the 'Percy Whitlock Companion'). The old console at Canterbury also had an all-drawstop layout and I think Alcock had been consulted about it.

 

It's all down to personal preference and what one is used to. The first 'big' organ of which I had charge was the Willis at St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall - not all that large (3m, 42ss), but a more or less full set of couplers by rocking tablet. I liked it - the provision of couplers opened up a far wider range of registrations than would have been possible any other way and you could see at a glance what was on. I missed the couplers that weren't there (C/P4, C/G16, S/C16, S/C4). The Harrison at Belfast was all-drawstop, couplers with the departments they augmented, octave, sub and UO on Swell, working through. Fine, but not as versatile as the Willis provision. My present console (Casavant) has 34 couplers by tablet over the top manual, including a few unusual ones (G/C, G/So, S/So), Octave, Sub and UO on all four manuals and extra top notes on the soundboards (68 on G, C,So, 73 on S). They all get used frequently and the organ would not have the potential it has without them. I think the Willis style of tablet is slightly more user-friendly - the tablets are shaped so as to make it less easy to jab the wrong one and there is a degree of vertical movement. I am glad to be back with the North American style and much prefer it. The desk is no higher than on the Harrison and the console is low enough to see over.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would not want to spoil a good story - but I suspect it is no more than that. These pipes (according to H&H, some time around the previous restoration/cleaning) speak on about 35 - 40mm pressure. They are very gentle, and unlikely to blow off anything.

You could be entirely right - we'd had a few pints at the time of story-telling, hence my disclaimer. Shame, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All these stories of turning up at a unfamiliar organ with 20 minutes to prepare for choral evensong all focus on working out how to manage the organ than actually getting to know it. They all focus on button pressing.

 

So how do people get to know and understand an unfamiliar organ? Let's take away the time constraint and the preoccupation of how it balences the choir for accompanying choral evensong and let's focus on how people work out how all the elements of the organ fit together. What do you do?

 

Quote: "I was far too tense and wound up to enjoy the experience and help others enjoy it too - which is why people organise cathedral visits, on the whole. So now, I make quite sure there are no surprises in store, and then go for a pint with everyone else"

 

I like this. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So how do people get to know and understand an unfamiliar organ? Let's take away the time constraint and the preoccupation of how it balences the choir for accompanying choral evensong and let's focus on how people work out how all the elements of the organ fit together. What do you do?

 

Find all the trio registrations! And I mean all of them, including up the octave and down the octave. The instruments I know best and can get round the most colourfully are ones where I know exactly what balances with what.

 

In considering that statement, I've realised that pretty generally involves abandoning all playing aids and hand registering.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
All these stories of turning up at a unfamiliar organ with 20 minutes to prepare for choral evensong all focus on working out how to manage the organ than actually getting to know it. They all focus on button pressing.

 

So how do people get to know and understand an unfamiliar organ? Let's take away the time constraint and the preoccupation of how it balences the choir for accompanying choral evensong and let's focus on how people work out how all the elements of the organ fit together. What do you do?

 

Thank you Colin for steering the discussion in this direction. I suppose part of the thrust behind my original post was about getting to know how to get the best out of an instrument. Of course this can rarely be done in a short space of time. I'd be interested to hear further thoughts from people about how they explore instruments and try to work out good combinations etc.

 

I'm delighted with the way this topic has sparked some interest and discussion so far.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
All these stories of turning up at a unfamiliar organ with 20 minutes to prepare for choral evensong all focus on working out how to manage the organ than actually getting to know it. They all focus on button pressing.

 

So how do people get to know and understand an unfamiliar organ? Let's take away the time constraint and the preoccupation of how it balences the choir for accompanying choral evensong and let's focus on how people work out how all the elements of the organ fit together. What do you do?

 

Quote: "I was far too tense and wound up to enjoy the experience and help others enjoy it too - which is why people organise cathedral visits, on the whole. So now, I make quite sure there are no surprises in store, and then go for a pint with everyone else"

 

I like this. :)

 

 

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

 

Well Colin, that's why I included improvisation as a useful tool to getting to know an instrument. Instead of watching the pages and becoming unnerved by mistakes or tiny nuances of delay, improvising allows an organist to "listen and learn" to both the instrument AND the acoustic environment.

 

Any unfamiliar acoustic needs to be learned, and for me, that usually occupies about 20 minutes or so. Only then would I try to play anything seriously and expect half decent results.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
All these stories of turning up at a unfamiliar organ with 20 minutes to prepare for choral evensong all focus on working out how to manage the organ than actually getting to know it. They all focus on button pressing.

 

So how do people get to know and understand an unfamiliar organ? Let's take away the time constraint and the preoccupation of how it balences the choir for accompanying choral evensong and let's focus on how people work out how all the elements of the organ fit together. What do you do? ...

 

They probably focus on button-pressing because, if you only have twenty minutes or so for a rehearsal, prior to producing a creditable performance at a service, there is not much more that you can do. For an instrument to give up its secrets, as it were, one should allow many hundreds of hours' intimate contact - and with an open and inquisitive frame of mind.

 

I have been acquainted with my own church organ for more than twenty years, but hardly a week goes by without me finding a new sound or a different effect, which I had not tried or noticed before. In fact, it was only last Christmas that it occurred to me to try the Positive 4ft. and 1ft. flutes (playing the RH down an octave), instead of the 8ft. and 2ft. flutes, for the opening of Willcocks' Angelus ad virginem. The result was quite different in timbre and even in sound projection - and much more interesting to listen to.

 

However, even with limited time on an unfamiliar organ, there is usually a moment or two when one can experiment. Perhaps the Swell 16ft. reed has too much body, or is too loud. So, for a verse or two of a psalm which needs something a bit reedy (but also with a little gravitas), try one or two foundations, the Oboe and the sub octave coupler (or perhaps a quiet Bourdon). It the Swell strings seem a little quiet or insipid, find some other strings (perhaps Choir or Solo, for example) and couple up - with or without an octave coupler or two, if it gives more shimmer.

 

If one desires an 'interesting' or piquant solo (instead of the ubiquitous Corno di Bassetto), and there is a Solo Organ, try an 8ft. flute (particularly if it is a Harrison organ and the flute is harmonic) with a 4ft. Viole (if present, obviously), or an 8ft. Viole and a 4ft. flute (again, harmonic would probably work better than a stopped flute - but it depends on the voicing). Or, a 'big' 4ft. flute may make a good (and slightly quieter) 8ft. flute down an octave.

 

One example - I have discovered that on my own church organ, the most effective registration for the middle adagio of Franck's Third Choral is a 4ft. one, with all claviers played down an octave. (No details here, I need to keep some secrets....)

 

Or, on another tack, if there is no 32ft, (Wells)* experiment with quinting on the Bourdon, or other random intervals. My own church organ has several notes which work well: The Bourdon quinted (low D and A above), F# and C# are also good. But actually, so is A, with the C# below. (Yes, I know there is no logical reason why this should be aurally acceptable, but it is on this organ, in this building.) also, so is B-flat, with low D (no couplers, supporting Swell strings (end of Blessed city - Bairstow). For louder 32ft. effects, I often use all Pedal 16ft. and 8ft. foundations, 16ft. reeds (both), Full Swell (no mixture) and G.O. to Mixture IV, but with 16ft. flue, all coupled. For the '32ft.', I have the Positive Gedeckt (uncoupled) and I play a tonic ninth chord (i.e., Pedal low C; Positive low E - G - B-flat - D). This works well in the following major keys: C, E-flat, F, G and A.

 

Whilst some of these 'tricks' took a while to discover, once one has found a few useful registrations or 'tricks' on an instrument which one plays regularly, the principle can be quickly adapted to another organ, experimenting to see which (if any) notes, chords or registrations are effective.

 

 

 

* On this organ, I would happily amalgamate the most useful ranks of the Choir and Positive organs, lose a soundboard and utilise the space for a downward extension of the Pedal Sub Bass, particularly for service playing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
=====================

 

Well Colin, that's why I included improvisation as a useful tool to getting to know an instrument. Instead of watching the pages and becoming unnerved by mistakes or tiny nuances of delay, improvising allows an organist to "listen and learn" to both the instrument AND the acoustic environment.

 

Any unfamiliar acoustic needs to be learned, and for me, that usually occupies about 20 minutes or so. Only then would I try to play anything seriously and expect half decent results.

 

MM

 

This, too, is a valuable tool.

 

The first time I played at Christ Church, Oxford for a week's services, I had been told that the organ was very difficult to handle, awkward to register 'convincingly' and difficult to balance with a choir. So I decided to improvise all my voluntaries and use any available practice time to ensure that the service music was (1) totally accurate and (2) effectively and suitably registered (as far as was possible) - with all stop changes (however achieved) being smooth and not distracting. This decision was also partly due to the fact that the conductor insisted on using that absurd Saint Paul's Psalter, which I found awkward to play from.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Salisbury is the way it is because Sir Walter Alcock disliked a row of rocking tablets for couplers, describing them as resembling a set of false teeth (according to the 'Percy Whitlock Companion'). The old console at Canterbury also had an all-drawstop layout and I think Alcock had been consulted about it. ...

 

Indeed, Although I cannot but think it a pity he seemed untroubled by unsymmetrical stop-jambs. (At Salisbury, the LH jamb has six staggered rows, the RH only four.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
OK, I'm sorry it made you feel like that. As it happens, that part of my original posting wasn't responding to you or anyone else in particular, and therefore there's no reason for you to assume that anything in it was in any way referring to what you prefer to do, which I very much admire and wish I had the patience to do so.

 

I'm glad you can find your way round the octaves at Salisbury. I hate them. I'm only just familiar enough (and brave enough) with octave couplers to realise, far too late, where the extra noise is coming from and stare hopelessly at the Swell stops looking for the octave, before (eight pages later) realising the one I want is over the other side. Then knocking off the wrong one. And so on.

 

OK - thank you for this. It may be something to do with being half Russian....

 

One thing that is quite useful at Salisbury is the G.O. to Solo coupler.

 

With regard to the multitude of octave and 'secondary' octave couplers, if one had a few minutes of spare time during a rehearsal, it might be possible to plan which clavier was to be used at a given moment, then stick a 'Post-it' note on the score inscribed 'Sw. Oct G.O. - RH side', or something. I know it would still be necessary to read it, but having planned it and written the note, this might stick in the memory. Just a thought.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Hector5

I think my worst experience was playing for the principal Saturday night mass at St Peter's Rome with only 15 minutes allowed for practice with choir before the service. Once allowed in, the key was found, the beastie opened and the nightmare began. EVERYTHING was the wrong way round - even the pistons. Number 1 was FFF number 6 was PPP! There were five general pistons which brought on soft to loud which were no use to man nor beast. We were doing music that required major organ work, so I flew by the seat of my pants, mainly registering by hand as the tabs seemed to be in a fairly logical order (although there were about 140 of them). The problem was, which division was where?!?!?! Eventually I found that I had a large three manual by the choir and the console and a large two manual half a city block the other side of the chancel. With a congregation of 700 souls I used plenty of organ. The rather odd monk who seemed to be the organist, decided early on (during the improvised prelude) that I could play the entire service, accompanying the very efficient operatic cantors (three of them) and the congregational bits. When I gesticulated about seeing some music - he smiled and tapped his head. Mercifully, each tenor started and I joined in, and to my surprise I knew everything that was thrown at me. And yes, I improvised a voluntary - possibly the best I've ever done, and when I finished the congregation gave me a rousing round of applause. The monk - well, he grabbed all my copies of our English service music from me (Stanford, Rutter et al) and said 'ees forrrrr me", took it and walked off into the mist! What a buzz!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think my worst experience was playing for the principal Saturday night mass at St Peter's Rome with only 15 minutes allowed for practice with choir before the service. Once allowed in, the key was found, the beastie opened and the nightmare began. EVERYTHING was the wrong way round - even the pistons. Number 1 was FFF number 6 was PPP! There were five general pistons which brought on soft to loud which were no use to man nor beast. We were doing music that required major organ work, so I flew by the seat of my pants, mainly registering by hand as the tabs seemed to be in a fairly logical order (although there were about 140 of them). The problem was, which division was where?!?!?! Eventually I found that I had a large three manual by the choir and the console and a large two manual half a city block the other side of the chancel. With a congregation of 700 souls I used plenty of organ. The rather odd monk who seemed to be the organist, decided early on (during the improvised prelude) that I could play the entire service, accompanying the very efficient operatic cantors (three of them) and the congregational bits. When I gesticulated about seeing some music - he smiled and tapped his head. Mercifully, each tenor started and I joined in, and to my surprise I knew everything that was thrown at me. And yes, I improvised a voluntary - possibly the best I've ever done, and when I finished the congregation gave me a rousing round of applause. The monk - well, he grabbed all my copies of our English service music from me (Stanford, Rutter et al) and said 'ees forrrrr me", took it and walked off into the mist! What a buzz!

 

This sounds a little unnerving.

 

I had a not dissimilar experience in Normandy, a few years ago. I had to accompany Langlais' Messe Solennelle (with no personal practise time on the organ whatsoever), on a two-clavier organ which was built on shelves at the west end of a large, resonant church, which had to be partly rebuilt as a result of U.S. forces 'liberating' the town during WWII. There were a couple of general pistons, whose settings were fixed - and about as useful as a chocolate teapot. So, there was nothing for it, I had to register by hand. Only the tutti piston was used. Since this appeare to give everything including both chamades (G.O.), I could only use this device sparingly.

 

A few years later, I had to accompany Fauré's setting of the Requiem on the same organ - again, registering solely by hand (the tutti général was no use for this work).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think my worst experience was playing for the principal Saturday night mass at St Peter's Rome with only 15 minutes allowed for practice with choir before the service. Once allowed in, the key was found, the beastie opened and the nightmare began. EVERYTHING was the wrong way round - even the pistons. Number 1 was FFF number 6 was PPP! There were five general pistons which brought on soft to loud which were no use to man nor beast. We were doing music that required major organ work, so I flew by the seat of my pants, mainly registering by hand as the tabs seemed to be in a fairly logical order (although there were about 140 of them). The problem was, which division was where?!?!?! Eventually I found that I had a large three manual by the choir and the console and a large two manual half a city block the other side of the chancel. With a congregation of 700 souls I used plenty of organ. The rather odd monk who seemed to be the organist, decided early on (during the improvised prelude) that I could play the entire service, accompanying the very efficient operatic cantors (three of them) and the congregational bits. When I gesticulated about seeing some music - he smiled and tapped his head. Mercifully, each tenor started and I joined in, and to my surprise I knew everything that was thrown at me. And yes, I improvised a voluntary - possibly the best I've ever done, and when I finished the congregation gave me a rousing round of applause. The monk - well, he grabbed all my copies of our English service music from me (Stanford, Rutter et al) and said 'ees forrrrr me", took it and walked off into the mist! What a buzz!

 

 

I did the Thursday morning English Mass there in 1990. Fortunately, the year before, the choir of Lichfield Cathedral had sung at the same celebration and I had written to Jonathan Rees-Williams to ask him of his experiences. Somewhere I still have his very witty letter, written in reply. It basically said to forget doing anything major that involved choir and organ and sing unaccompanied music. It also warned me of a 'mad nun' who had a habit of grabbing a microphone and singing Taize chants, loudly, down it - without warning! When we arrived she was, fortunately, nowhere on the scene - but, from his warning, I suspect he must have experienced her!!

 

My worst experience was one Sunday morning taking a choir to sing in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool. The coach broke down just off the motorway outside Liverpool. The driver tried to get another coach but eventually several members of the choir, having changed to save time at the other end, and so dressed in cassock-albs, flagged down a service bus and persuaded the 'good Catholic' bus driver that it was an emergency with a "take this bus to the Metropolitan Cathedral". Where his destination was we had no idea but, at that time in the morning the bus was empty and he did as he was asked and they arrrived outside the great 'wigwam' at 10:20. The rehearsal had to finish at 10:40, prior to High Mass at 11:00 - on the programme that morning the men of the Abbey choir were singing the Durufle 'Cum Jubilo' Mass - in an acoustic, much maligned and, actually, quite comfortable - when you are used to it!!

 

As someone else has said - I'm sure that, between us, we could write a book - and we would all recognise the scenarios and the characters that we had met on the way - even if we really find it difficult to believe that it happened to us!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The famous Monty Python four Yorkshiremen sketch comes to mind while reading through this thread...

so here's mine....

We took our school choir to Italy in 2002 and were asked to sing at a Mass in Florence Cathedral. A week before the tour we were told that we could not use the organ at the mass - it all had to be unaccompanied. With a week's notice, and a school choir the programme change was impossible, but Florence was not going to budge. Our tour company came up trumps however and Pisa Cathedral came to the rescue, asking us to perform there with the organ. (I sensed a little bit of politics going on behind the scenes) However, when we arrived in Pisa to perform Faure's Requiem we ran against more hassles...the authorities took a long time to let us in,(they wouldn't believe that we had been given permission to sing). It wasn't until the priest who had given the permission arrived that the police on duty would budge.

They were visibly shocked when we mentioned using the organ; having use of the instrument was unheard of, leading to some "Italian moments", gestures shouts laughter etc etc. They finally agreed after having seen 2 letters granting permission and a return visit from the priest).

Then we discovered that we would not be allowed to rehearse in the Cathedral, neither could we perform in jeans, nor could we change anywhere...to cut a long story short, they would not open the organ until 10 minutes until before our performance and we were not allowed to touch it until, at 2 minutes to the hour, the organ lights came on and the instrument sprang to life, my assistant was then given permission to sit on the stool. He shrugged his shoulders and got on with it totally blind as there was at least 100 feet between us and the choir were blocking his sight line to me. Nevertheless, we managed to get through the Faure with a few interesting sounds as it seemed that the organ was made up of a number of small departments dotted around the East end of the Cathedral - at least the stop tab console had a general crescendo pedal - its only redeeming feature!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think anywhere in Italy is a bit of a 'hit and miss' affair.

 

The week we were in Rome we were due to sing in the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls on the Tuesday morning. We arrived at about 9:00 to do a rehearsal at 9:15 for 10:00 a.m Mass, to be greeted by a fairly truculent official who had it in his diary that an American choir were supposed to be singing that morning. - he had us down for the following day. I speak some Italian, he spoke no English, and so I did my best to explain to him that this was impossible as, the day after, we were singing to John Paul II at an audience. I also had the letters from the Dean of the Basilica confirming our visit for the Tuesday. Mention of the Dean and John Paul II and he got the diary and triumphantly drew a pencil line through the name of the American choir, wrote our name in its place, became very friendly, got the key to the organ and showed us were we could put our things and change prior to a short rehearsal. About 10 minutes later the American choir turned upl!!! - they weren't too pleased but stayed for Mass and seemed to appreciate a programme that was entirely unaccompanied and included the Vittoria 'Missa O quam gloriosum'.

 

As for using the organ, it was in a dreadful state, virtually unplayable, miles from the sanctuary where the choir were singing. Our organist used it to improvise during the offertory of the Mass and to, somehow, manage to play a fairly spectacular voluntary afterwards. The American choir had brought with them music for choir and organ. Quite how they would have performed it, i'm not sure.

 

Moral of story. It's not like a Cathedral visit in the UK. Don't expect big, prestigious churches, in Italy, to have wonderful instruments. Turn up early, be prepared to argue, take all the paperwork with you, don't expect the organ to work or be anywhere near where you are expected to sing from and be prepared to change your programme, at the last minute, to suit the ciurcumstances.

 

................................... and if you can, try and find someone who has been there before and ask them what it was like!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here here, totally agree with you. I am planning a return to tour to Italy and our tour company have just been informed that La Duomo is not accepting visits from overseas choirs anymore...well perhaps someone on here may know differently, but I don't think I really want to bother singing there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Hector5
I think my worst experience was playing for the principal Saturday night mass at St Peter's Rome with only 15 minutes allowed for practice with choir before the service. Once allowed in, the key was found, the beastie opened and the nightmare began. EVERYTHING was the wrong way round - even the pistons. Number 1 was FFF number 6 was PPP! There were five general pistons which brought on soft to loud which were no use to man nor beast. We were doing music that required major organ work, so I flew by the seat of my pants, mainly registering by hand as the tabs seemed to be in a fairly logical order (although there were about 140 of them). The problem was, which division was where?!?!?! Eventually I found that I had a large three manual by the choir and the console and a large two manual half a city block the other side of the chancel. With a congregation of 700 souls I used plenty of organ. The rather odd monk who seemed to be the organist, decided early on (during the improvised prelude) that I could play the entire service, accompanying the very efficient operatic cantors (three of them) and the congregational bits. When I gesticulated about seeing some music - he smiled and tapped his head. Mercifully, each tenor started and I joined in, and to my surprise I knew everything that was thrown at me. And yes, I improvised a voluntary - possibly the best I've ever done, and when I finished the congregation gave me a rousing round of applause. The monk - well, he grabbed all my copies of our English service music from me (Stanford, Rutter et al) and said 'ees forrrrr me", took it and walked off into the mist! What a buzz!

 

I forgot to say - said monk who was supposed to be playing for the mass at 6pm in St Peter's Rome was really quite inebriated and you could have lit his breath with a match!!!!!!

 

We also visited another church to give a concert, and was informed by the Australian priest that the pipe organ was out of action and that he needed help to bring the current instrument they used from the west gallery. This involved many flights of stairs, traveling into, and along the roof space for some time, dealing with rickety stair rails until we reached the west end. The same journey back with the toaster keyboard was twice as hazardous!!! Most of the larger organs I played on were really quite reasonable and had been recently restored with good piston systems.

 

The tour was a fantastic success, although I still don't know how my wife managed to fill in the school risk assessment!!!

 

Hector

 

P.S. There is a rather fine book available with CD rom 'Organi di Roma' available from http://www.libreriauniversitaria.it/organi...o/9788822256744. The CD rom has many more pictures and specifications and well worth the paltry €25

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moral of story. It's not like a Cathedral visit in the UK.....

Moral of the story for any foreign parts (including English-speaking ones):

Do a recce yourself or, at the very least, talk to someone who has done, who knows the building, the instrument and the right people.

Only go to places where you speak the language, or have someone with you who does, and whose linguistic competence you trust.

Talk to the resident organist beforehand (overseas phone calls cost virtually nothing these days). Get specifications and, if possible, pictures.

Send them your programme notes with dates and times.

Personal contact is important. I would never leave it all to a tour company, however experienced.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moral of the story for any foreign parts (including English-speaking ones):

Do a recce yourself or, at the very least, talk to someone who has done, who knows the building, the instrument and the right people.

Only go to places where you speak the language, or have someone with you who does, and whose linguistic competence you trust.

Talk to the resident organist beforehand (overseas phone calls cost virtually nothing these days). Get specifications and, if possible, pictures.

Send them your programme notes with dates and times.

Personal contact is important. I would never leave it all to a tour company, however experienced.

 

 

That's all very well - and I don't disagree with any of that, particularly the comments about language and communication - but sometimes it isn't practical or possible to to a) do a recce or :( talk to the resident organist. (Can you imagine trying to contact the 'organist' of St. Peter's in Rome?). It's usually possible to find someone who knows the place - particularly in Rome or the big Italian cities - but, again, in my experience, advice given isn't always reliable!!

 

I wouldn't touch a tour company with a barge pole apart from allowing them to organise accommodation and travel and, even then, I would be wary. (We sang Palestrina 'Missa Pape Marcelli' in the Cathedral at Palestrina, some 30 miles outside Rome and months and months later I was still haggling over the £300 the tour company wanted to transport us there!).

 

Sometimes you just have to trust to instinct - but it's worth remembering that it's all a different mind-set - especially in Italy and also, to a lesser extent in France.

 

But, to those of your planning tours this year - enjoy them!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread has gone a long way 'off topic' - its possibly my fault - and, for that, I apologise!! I'll try not to post any more on my experiences 'in foreign parts'

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This thread has gone a long way 'off topic' - its possibly my fault - and, for that, I apologise!! I'll try not to post any more on my experiences 'in foreign parts'

 

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

 

 

No. no, no! That's the wrong attitude. The trick is to start a subject.....any subject....then see where it goes. It's like an old time, smoke-filled common-room where everyone gets distracted.

 

We start in a humble village church in Somerset and end up in Florence discussing Italian pasta dishes. No-one knows how or why, of course.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think anywhere in Italy is a bit of a 'hit and miss' affair.

 

The week we were in Rome we were due to sing in the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls on the Tuesday morning. We arrived at about 9:00 to do a rehearsal at 9:15 for 10:00 a.m Mass, to be greeted by a fairly truculent official who had it in his diary that an American choir were supposed to be singing that morning. - he had us down for the following day. I speak some Italian, he spoke no English, and so I did my best to explain to him that this was impossible as, the day after, we were singing to John Paul II at an audience. I also had the letters from the Dean of the Basilica confirming our visit for the Tuesday. Mention of the Dean and John Paul II and he got the diary and triumphantly drew a pencil line through the name of the American choir, wrote our name in its place, became very friendly, got the key to the organ and showed us were we could put our things and change prior to a short rehearsal. About 10 minutes later the American choir turned upl!!! - they weren't too pleased but stayed for Mass and seemed to appreciate a programme that was entirely unaccompanied and included the Vittoria 'Missa O quam gloriosum'.

 

As for using the organ, it was in a dreadful state, virtually unplayable, miles from the sanctuary where the choir were singing. Our organist used it to improvise during the offertory of the Mass and to, somehow, manage to play a fairly spectacular voluntary afterwards. The American choir had brought with them music for choir and organ. Quite how they would have performed it, i'm not sure.

 

Moral of story. It's not like a Cathedral visit in the UK. Don't expect big, prestigious churches, in Italy, to have wonderful instruments. Turn up early, be prepared to argue, take all the paperwork with you, don't expect the organ to work or be anywhere near where you are expected to sing from and be prepared to change your programme, at the last minute, to suit the ciurcumstances.

 

................................... and if you can, try and find someone who has been there before and ask them what it was like!!!

 

I too have done battle with this rather odd and dysfunctional organ, having to play for some priestly ordinations. No practice time, and seat of pants flying. It was hot, so was I, and very glad to get out and into the nearest bar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...