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American Mega-organs


Guest Lee Blick
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Guest Lee Blick

I was looking at links and discussions and the development of some of the larger instruments in the US, and it occured to me how ridiculously large some have become.

 

1) Is this down to the vanity of the organist/authorities?

 

2) Are American organs so feeble that they need more ranks to beef up the sound?

 

3) Is there so much money swilling around in church coffers that they don't know what to do with it sensibly?

 

I don't mean to sound rude but I would be interested in the rationale behind some of these rebuilds especially the huge ones that seem to go on growing and growing! :o

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Guest Lee Blick

I feel slightly patronised by your reply.

 

To be more to the point, what I am asking are there any parameters that organ-builders adhere to to maintain the integrity of designing an organ.

 

You mention St. Paul's and Liverpool Cathedral. They are indeed large edifices but the organs were built to suit those buildings. For St. Paul's, indeed it took several decades to develop the resources to satisfy the musical needs of the cathedral.

 

I have played organs here in the UK and on the continent where large buildings had relatively small instruments but were ample to accompany services because of the quality of the voicing and well-thought out design.

 

Looking at the website for West Point Cadet Chapel and the organs linked on the Pipedream website and I was amazed by the number of organs that seemed to be four or five times larger than was necessary for the size of the building.

 

Is it in the case of American organbuilding, the bigger, the better? It is fine to have ten Open Diapason stops rather than two? Is it acceptable that a perfectly good, properly resourced instrument can get swallowed up by another organ builder to satisfy the whims of the organ-stop hungry organist?

 

So, is there a line drawn between an organ properly suited to a building or is it the case of some American organbuilders happy to go along with the bigger is better concept as long as they make a healthy profit out of it?

 

Finally, at what point does an instrument such as the organ go from one being musical to a blaring noise-maker and window rattler, which can be heard three blocks away? :o:o

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Guest Lee Blick

stevebournias,

 

Please don't be so defensive. I was not seeking to denegrate your nation or anyone. I was asking some pertinent questions about organbuilding in the US. I wasn't critisizing anyone.

 

As for the 'Royal Trumpets mimicking diesel locomotives', you should remember the organ builders responsible for installing that rank of pipes happen to be the owners of this discussion board, so you are advised to tread carefully. :o

 

The Tuba Magna, you refer to at Liverpool Cathedral is within the one of the main cases. The Corona Trumpet is sited within the central space, offering antiphonal opportunities with the main instrument. It is in keeping with the integrity of the instrument as a whole.

 

What I am talking about is employing 100 stops when 25 is sufficent. Augmenting instruments where adequate resources already exist. Adding unnecessary divisions to memorialise people seems to relegate the organ from being a musical instrument to a commemorative fixture, IMHO.

 

 

"...pauper who is outside the bakery looking in lustfully drewling at the sumptuous delites right behind the window."

 

I would prefer to be looked on as a pauper who would look into a bakery, then move along to view a modest market stall selling vegetables and fruit and realise they are the products that would properly satisfy my hunger.

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Dear Lee,

 

The american churches aren't to compare with ours.

In a normal belgian church, any 12 stops job will fill

the room.

In the USA the churches are designed to render the speech understandable

up to the least seat, because the sermon is central to the liturgy there.

They use deadening materials etc to that aim.

To the point a 100 stops organ may not equals the belgian 12 stops one

in a comparable size room!

 

So let's avoid judging situation A with situation B references!

 

The West point organ is a gem. Look out for CDs, there are excellent ones

by Chorzempa.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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I was looking at links and discussions and the development of some of the larger instruments in the US, and it occured to me how ridiculously large some have become.

 

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

 

 

Well....yes!

 

However, it ain't restricted to America or even American churches. There is a rather large instrument in Sydney Town Hall, a huge instrument or two in Germany (Passau for example) and the biggest of them all (still working) in a department store in Philadelphia. Then look at the fraction of organ which survived from the Hundred Year Hall, Breslau (Wroclaw), Poland, built by Sauer, and which is still a very large organ now that it graces the cathedral there.

 

They were all built in an age of imperialism and extreme nationalism, when music made triumphant noises and God was Commander-in-Chief.

 

There's something rather fun about sitting at a console in America, turning to the organist and asking for directions such as "Do you have a Great & Pedal pistons combined stop?"

 

He/she replies, "Jeez! We missed something out?"

 

Nowadays, American organ-builders are good.....very good in fact. They have taken on board the lessons of organ-reform, they have studied the best voicing from all around the world and the best are truly magnificent, largely economical instruments.

 

Yes, we COULD fill Liverpool Cathedral with a 3-manual neo-baroque organ placed on the rear gallery, but it wouldn't be the same, would it?

 

Let's see these amazing instruments for what they are; great monuments to an age, like the Buggati Royales or the Duesenburgs of the same period. Huge, opulent, perhaps completely OTT.....but great fun to have around.

 

Whatever happened to fun?

 

MM

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Organ reform....

Lessons, or......Beliefs?

 

Pierre

 

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

 

 

Most definitely lessons!

 

One only has to listen to the recordings of E Power-Biggs and the Flentrop at the Busch-Reisenger to understand why.

 

I have played that instrument, and it is wonderful in that acoustic.

 

MM

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[Let's see these amazing instruments for what they are; great monuments to an age, like the Buggati Royales or the Duesenburgs of the same period. Huge, opulent, perhaps completely OTT.....but great fun to have around.
Or like a Macdonald's obesity problem, perhaps. :D

 

I've said rather too much on this topic recently, but I was always a sucker for taking a dangling bait...

 

American organs are certainly not under-powered. In my experience the voicing is usually rather more assertive, more "in your face", than your typical British Romantic organ. In the smaller churches I've never felt that the instrument's size is dictated by the acoustics of the building. I'm certain that ostentation is a driver with the very big instruments (none of which needs all the stops and departments it has): the Forrest Burdette console must surely be a classic case of oneupmanship (pity the instrument is mostly digital!)

 

But bear in mind that we're talking about a country that has a much higher standard of living than ours (let's not get into the gulf between the "haves" and "have nots") and more disposable income. To have a 50- or 60-stop four-manual in an ordinary-sized church is just not the extravagance that it would be in England. The churches can afford it. And good luck to them, I say.

 

John Wanamaker bought his organ from the St Louis fair and transported it back to Philly. When he installed it in his store he found it disappointingly underpowered and that's one reason, at least, why he set about enlarging it.

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And if Flentrops -tough no doubt excellent- aren't to my taste?

 

Pierre

 

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

 

 

Well, here we start to build a suprious argument if we are not careful.

 

Neo-baroque may equate to minimalism.....the least necessary to make a wonderful sound.....perhaps the 1960's Lotus Elan of the organ-world. The Harvard Flentrop falls into that category.....brilliant, responsive and superbly balanced, but definitely not a vehicle for anything but for that for which it was designed and built.

 

What's wrong with that?

 

If, as a performer or listener, one is unable to respond to that, then the problem is possibly not with the organ or the organ-builder.

 

Following the lessons learned after the neo-baroque reformers did their work, there are many contemporary instruments which have benefitted as a result, and not all of them are neo-baroque by any means.

 

Dobson organs in the US are usually fine instruments; largely based on the tonal characteristics of T C Lewis organs, yet they also incorporate the balance and cohesion of neo-baroque thinking.

 

Once again, what's wrong with that?

 

Is the superlative Mander at St.Ignasius-Loyola, NY, the net result of pre-neo-baroque thinking?

 

Somehow, I very much doubt it: the organ has integrity.

 

Is there anything wrong with that?

 

Go back to G.Donald-Harrison and the American Classic.

 

Are they "bad" organs which he built, simply because he tried to reverse the trend of extreme orchestral tastes?

 

It isn't a question of whether an instrument is "romantic" or "neo-baroque" in character, but whether the ancient traditions of classical integrity are adhered to, and for which the bulk of great organ music was written.

 

Of course, if one is hooked on Stokowski or Orchestrians, then there is no hope but Hope-Jones.

 

Hey-ho....back to Worcester!!

 

MM

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"back to Worcester!!"

 

(Quote)

 

Enough has been said about this one...

Back to the "lessons".

 

What you call "integrity" I call Werkprinzip, that is, the backbone

of the classic organ.

Among other "lessons" where articulation, texture etc, aimed at

"clarity" and "enlightment".

 

There is as much difference between a classic organ and a romantic one

than between a clavicord and a piano; both are worthwile.

 

A romantic organ is not build after the Werkprinzip, but according to a

completely different conception.

Many trials have shown to mix the two is impossible.

Same for the voicing: to my ears modern neo-voicing is anything

but musical-a matter of taste-. Chiffs are something my ears feel

as a mistake. Sorry!

Best wishes,

Pierre

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(Quote)

 

A romantic organ is not build after the Werkprinzip, but according to a

completely different conception.

Many trials have shown to mix the two is impossible.

Same for the voicing: to my ears modern neo-voicing is anything

but musical-a matter of taste-. Chiffs are something my ears feel

as a mistake. Sorry!

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

 

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

 

I've never quite understood how so many different types of organs can be lumped together under the heading of "romantic." Even less do I understand any basic concepts which somehow unite them, each to the other.

 

The only requirements of a romantic organ are as follows:-

 

a) It should be expressive by any means possible

 

:D It should be capable of roaring like a lion

 

c) It should shake the floor

 

d) It should have pretty solo voices

 

e) It should have many quiet, ethereal registers

 

 

The French did it with Swell boxes and heavy-pressure reeds, the Germans did it with block-busting flues and the Rollshweller. The English did it with big Diapasons and Tubas, plus very effective swell boxes. The Dutch either stole from Cavaille-Coll or just made louder baroque organs which remained essentially "werkprinzip."

The Americans did it with every possible means, from swell boxes and heavy pressures, to combination actions, general cresendo pedals and extremes of voicing.

 

The fact is, there is no such thing as "a" romantic organ; merely organs which are romantic. In that same category, I would include St.Bavo, Haarlem, in spite of its' pedigree, date and layout....heroic, powerful, visually stunning and in every sense a majestic flight of musical fantasy.

 

I would love to know which "experts" claim that classical voicing and romanticism cannot be blended perfectly well. Are they organ-builders, pipe-voicers or couch-potato theorists?

 

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I will repeat something which I have mentioned before......St.Moritz, Olomouc in the Czech Republic: the perfect fusion of genuine, unaltered baroque 18th century voicing by Engler, and the large contribution of ranks added by Rieger-Kloss. It is an organ which seems as perfect for French Romantic music as it is for Bach.....go study it and marvel at its' musical qualities.

 

It is a very famous instrument for that reason, and not because it is merely old or messed around with.

 

 

MM

 

 

 

MM

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"The only requirements of a romantic organ are as follows:-

 

a) It should be expressive by any means possible

 

cool.gif It should be capable of roaring like a lion

 

c) It should shake the floor

 

d) It should have pretty solo voices

 

e) It should have many quiet, ethereal registers"

 

(Quote)

 

If this is true, then here follows the only requirments for a classic organ:

 

a)-All the stops must be the same strenght

 

2)-It must scream like a miniature dog towards the cats

 

3)-It should have pretty mutations

 

4)-It must chiff like a locomotive.

 

 

A bit short, isn't it? (and completely unfair)

 

Do I need to translate this one:

 

http://forum.aceboard.net/18898-3414-15070...ng-ennuyeux.htm

 

(As long as Worcester...)?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Guest Lee Blick

Pierre

 

I don't think MM was intending to be disparaging about the requirements for a 'romantic' organ. Your response was rather cutting in my humble opinion.

 

I hope the contributors are not divided up into a 'romantic' camp or a 'classical' camp (Well I suppose a lot of organists are rather camp, but that is another story :D ). It is pointless as the Fundementalist Christian vs Catholic Christian or Evolution vs Creationism divisions.

 

Surely we can appreciate each other's organbuilding preferences without resorting to bitter remarks. :D

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Dear Lee,

 

I am sorry if my sayings you may have felt as bitter.

May I suggest you read the 4500 and so previous posts

on this forum -of which too much by far are mines, with

this I would fully agree- in order to get an idea of what's there.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers

Organ historian

Administrator "Plenum" french forum.

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I don't think MM was intending to be disparaging about the requirements for a 'romantic' organ. Your response was rather cutting in my humble opinion.

 

I hope the contributors are not divided up into a 'romantic' camp or a 'classical' camp (Well I suppose a lot of organists are rather camp, but that is another story :D ).

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

 

I'm sure Pierre wasn't being bitter or cutting, but he naturally has his own feelings on the subject of romantic organs and expresses them well.

 

For my own part, I love good baroque organs as much as I love romantic instruments. I am not camp!

 

I've been like "Rambling Sid Rumpole" concerning the organ at St.Moritz, Olomouc in the Czech Republic, but now, in the comfort of your own homes, you too can sample the delights of this fine 18th century instrument. The organ is an untouched Engler instrument with tracker action and an attached console. To this, Rieger-Kloss added a lot, but left the original organ untouched, but made the mechanical action Engler bits playable from a large 5-manual console.

 

I am devastated that the original URL's which I had for the French Romantic audio samples seem to have been taken off the net, but they included bits of Franck, Messaien and Boellmann, and very, very effective they were too.

 

Camp moment....I dance across the floor to "Steps" singing "Tragedy" and hold my head as in "The scream."

 

Here are the URL's of BAROQUE music (sorry Pierre) as played at Olomouc....not a chiff to be heard:-

 

http://www.musicvars.cz/Audio/0114.mp3

 

http://www.musicvars.cz/Audio/0030.mp3

 

You'll all just have time to read through the specification of this superb instrument, and doubtless bemoan the fact that the instrument has electronic harp and bell thingies......talk about campanology!

 

ST.MORITZ, OLOMOUC, CZ

 

 

I. manuál (dolní stroj-Unterwerk)

Handregisterfeststeller

Principal 8'

Flaut ambile 8'

Unda maris 1x 8'

Oktave 4'

Flaut minor 4'

Trinuna 4'

Spitzflaut 2 2/3'

Superoktave 2'

Mixtur 4x 1 1/3'

Harfe-elektronisch

Glocken-elktronisch

III - I 8'

IV - I 8'

V Sp - I 8'

V Bw - I 8'

II. manuál (hlavní stroj-Hauptwerk)

Hauptwerk ab

Principal 16'

Bordonflaut 16'

Salicent 8'

Principal 8'

Flaut major 8'

Gemshorn 8'

Gamba 8'

Oktave 4'

Nachthorn 4'

Quinte 2 2/3'

Cimbel 2x 2'

Mixtur 6x 2'

Trompete 8'

I- II 8'

III - II 8'

IV - II 8'

V Sp - II 8'

V Bw - II 8'

III. manuál (horní stroj-Oberwerk)

Principal 8'

Flaut allemand 8'

Rohrflaut 8'

Quintadena 8'

Oktave 4'

Quinte 2 2/3'

Superoktave 2'

Mixtur 4x 1 1/3'

Vox humana 8'

Harfe-elektronisch

Glocken, Echo-elektronisch

IV - III 8'

V Sp - III 8'

V Bw - III 8'

Tremolo AW

Handregister ab

Walze ab

Zungen ab (general)

Man. 16' und Ped. 32' ab

Mixturen ab

IV. manuál (Schwellwerk)

Spitzgedackt 16'

Weitprincipal 8'

Rohrgedackt 8'

Harfpfeife 8'

Vox angelica 3x 8'- 4'- 4'

Kupferoktave 4'

Spillflöte 4'

Rohrquintatön 4'

Nachthornquinte 2 2/3'

Quintadecima 2'

Waldflöte 2'

Koppelflötenterz 1 1/5'

Querflöte 1'

Farbenmixtur 3-4x

Mixtur 6-7x

Quintzimbel 3x 1/1'

Bassethorn 16'

Franz. Trompete 8'

Rohrschalmei 8'

Geigendregal 8'

Clarion 4'

Harfe-elktronisch

Glocken-elektronisch

V Sp - IV 8'

V Bw - IV 8'

Tremolo 8'

V. manuál (Schwellpositiv)

Schwellpositiv ab

Gedackt 8'

Trichterprincipal 4'

Blockflöte 4'

Kleinprincipal 2'

Quinte 1 1/3'

Schwegel 1'

Sesquialtera 2x 2 2/3'- 1 3/5'

Scharf 5x 1'

Krummhorn 8'

Singend Kornett 4'

Tremolo V Sp

V. manuál (Bombardenwerk)

Bombardenwerk ab

Holzprincipal 8'

Solokornet 4-6x 4'

Principalmixtur 8x 4'

Trompete 16'

Trompete (horizont.) 8'

Trompete (horizont.) 4'

Pedal (Altes Werk)

Maiorbass 32'

Principal 16'

Offenerbass 16'

Subbass 16'

Quintadenbass 16'

Oktavenbass 8'

Gemshornquinte 5 4/3'

Mixtur 6x 4'

Contraposaune 32'

Posaune 16'

Trombabass 8'

Clarino 4'

I - P 8'

II - P 8'

III - P 8'

Pedal (Neues Werk)

Pedal NW ab

Holzprincipal 16'

Gedacktpommer 16'

Grossnasat 10 2/3'

Kupferprincipal 8'

Bleikoppelflöte 8'

Choralbass 4'

Rohrpfeife 4'

Russischhorn 2'

Rauschbass 5x 5 1/3'

Mixtur 6x 2'

Bombarde 16'

Trompete 8'

Kopftrompete 2'

Zink 2'

Glocken-elektronisch

IV - P 8'

V Sp - P 8'

V Bw - P 8'

Pedal AW ab

 

 

NOTE: I'm sure you can all work it out, but manuals 1 to 3 and the "Altes Pedal" make up the original, untouched Engler pipework which can be played from a separate tracker console.

 

I think I could live with!

 

MM

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Guest Lee Blick
Camp moment....I dance across the floor to "Steps" singing "Tragedy" and hold my head as in "The scream."

 

Now dear, that IS camp! :lol::lol::lol:

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I hope the contributors are not divided up into a 'romantic' camp or a 'classical' camp (Well I suppose a lot of organists are rather camp, but that is another story  :lol: ).  It is pointless as the Fundementalist Christian vs Catholic Christian or Evolution vs Creationism divisions.

 

I doubt you need to worry too much. Individuals undoubtedly have their personal preferences but one of the particular pleasures of this site is the fact that debate is invariably carried on in a civilised fashion, with due respect paid to the rights of others to hold an opinion which differs from one's own. Which is not to say that attempts are not made to persuade others of the errors of their views. However, I am a little surprised that you would say that the division between those who support evolution and those who support creationism is "pointless". If this difference is of minimal significance then it is difficult to conceive of many that would have a point that was significant.

 

Best wishes,

 

BAC

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.

You'll all just have time to read through the specification of this superb instrument, and doubtless bemoan the fact that the instrument has electronic harp and bell thingies......talk about campanology!

 

Was there no space for REAL bells ? Well . as far as I am concerned, the electronic variety are better than none at all, so while we have all had to read the specification, not ALL of us seem likely to have the same complaints about it. I thought I had a CD of this organ somewhere but I cannot seem to find it. Anyone know if one actually exists or is my SD simply getting worse ?

 

BAC

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Guest Lee Blick
division between those who support evolution and those who support creationism is "pointless".

 

Sorry, I was referring to Christian MSN groups where this debate is repeated continual with a lot of fervour and passion and sometimes too much so, polarising people to encamp in the extremes of either side. I would hate to see a similar situation on this board. After all we are all humans living together on this planet, we are all lovers of organs on this board, let not us become divided, thats all really.

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Sorry, I was referring to Christian MSN groups where this debate is repeated continual with a lot of fervour and passion and sometimes too much so, polarising people to encamp in the extremes of either side.  I would hate to see a similar situation on this board.  After all we are all humans living together on this planet, we are all lovers of organs on this board, let not us become divided, thats all really.

 

Of course, Lee,

 

If you had read those 4500+ postings, you would have seen what Brian Childs

says: this forum is maybe the most civilized among the organ Websites.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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