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Flute Celestes


Guest Cynic
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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

A while ago we were challenged to suggest some entirely new stops. This did not get very far, and got a bit bogged down with weird mixtures! There certainly have been a few of these, particularly in the late 60's from Grant Degens and Bradbeer - a firm which I always respected for pushing the envelope.

 

Flute Celestes are not new, but they are extremely rare in this country. Let us not confuse the real thing with Dulciana-style Unda Maris stops - beautiful as they can be in their way. I shall list the ones I know. Please add to this list if you know of any I don't. I invite comments both pro and anti, but IMHO these stops definitely give another dimension.

 

Westminster Cathedral - Willis III Choir Organ (at 8')

Westminster Abbey - Choir Organ (8' and 4') here, existing stops (one of them very ancient) were tuned to work in pairs with others at Simon Preston's instigation

Notre Dame de France - B.C.Shepherd and Sons - Choir (8')

Mormon Tabernacle, Hyde Park - HN&B (It is thirty+ years since I played but I seem to remember both Gemshorn and Flute celestes, Swell/Choir)*

Llandaff Cathedral - HN&B (Spitzflute Celestes 8' on the Swell - these are border-line Diapasons)

 

I have installed a couple in house organs - one useful thing in this context is that both tone and pitch can be just right to give a good (correctly tuned) Tierce by extension upwards. of course if you're going to the trouble of this, you have to have a 4' extension too - they are even more alarmingly seductive in sound.

 

Not very common in Europe, these are popular stops in America - and, although a touch of luxury, I can't imagine why so few organ builders over here seem to have tried them. Of course, in an ill-heated church, you can sometimes get a similar effect by coupling your Choir and Swell 8' flutes together, but I am talking about a proper stop - tuned for the purpose and of sufficient strength.

 

If anyone is moved to experimenting, I can reassure you in at least one respect - unlike string ranks, you can get a pretty good beat between flute celeste ranks that are not of even slightly similar construction. It obviously works better (as do conventional beating strings) if the ranks are not placed next to each other on the soundboard.

 

 

 

*Off at a tangent again!

I venture to suggest this was the last really good organ that HN&B built. It was 100% new and all of a style. In an unhelpful building it really 'worked'. Similar - but somewhat worked over recently by R&D is Ellesmere College Chapel, Shropshire

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

Just a quick clarify - when my posting (above) got automatically printed up, the asterisk that should have stood alongside Mormon Tabernacle, Hyde Park seemed to get much nearer to Llandaff Cathedral.

 

My intended suggestion was that Mormon Tabernacle was possibly the last really good organ HN&B built.

Llandaff Cathedral is/was not. Far from it! It is/was a 'heap' and other hands have contributed to making it (if anything) even more of one. Sorry to be rude. I'm sure everyone who has worked there has been 100% professional and 100% well-intentioned.

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Just a quick clarify - when my posting (above) got automatically printed up, the asterisk that should have stood alongside Mormon Tabernacle, Hyde Park seemed to get much nearer to Llandaff Cathedral.

 

My intended suggestion was that Mormon Tabernacle was possibly the last really good organ HN&B built.

Llandaff Cathedral is/was not. Far from it! It is/was a 'heap' and other hands have contributed to making it (if anything) even more of one.  Sorry to be rude.  I'm sure everyone who has worked there has been 100% professional and 100% well-intentioned.

 

Hi

 

Another to add to the list of organs with Flute celestes is Bradford Cathedral - there's a flute celeste on the (chancel) swell - the only undulant (no string celeste at all, except on the, currently non-functional, digital Nave division at the back of the building!). Could this be down to HNB's influence?

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Aha, there is interest for a typical late-romantic stop?

 

Fine!

 

This is an E-M Skinner stop, made not of flutes but Flauto dolce pipes.

Flauto dolce is synonym with Dolce, a german romantic stop that evolved

from the baroque Dolcan.

This very Dolcan a certain Johannes (aka John) Snetzler introduced in

Britain and then evolved up to a thing.......The english don't want any more

(the D......a)

And round and round we go!

 

The Dolce is an inverted conical, small-scaled stop which is an intermediary

between the Flute and the Gamba.

It is stringy in the bass and flutey in the treble.

Walcker used it as an accompanimental stop on the first manual.

There is an excellent one to be heard in the Dalstein & Haerpfer organ in

St-Ségolène Metz, whose responsible "conservateur" is a friend.

 

E-M Skinner had both ranks togheter on the chest, but with one rank higher

than the other to avoid problems.

This is a diminutive Voix céleste, so that in a romantic organ its place is on a softer manual, so the III or the IV.

This was the favorite of Skinner togheter with Flauto dolce 4' and Unda-Maris 4'.

 

A very complete scheme for a big "neo-post-romantic" organ would have:

 

-Aeoline and Voix céleste

-Salicional and Vox angelica

-Flauto Dolce and Flute céleste 8'

-Flauto Dolce and Unda-Maris 4'

 

On three different manuals of course; the VC on the II, the VA on the III

and the FC on the IV.

If we could afford a Fernwerk -the cream on the cake- I have a "Choeur céleste" from 3 to 5 ranks scheme somewhere in my papers.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
celestes need at least 5 feet of separation from unison ranks or they draw one another back into tune

 

skinner knew that u could separate them  by hundreds of feet for the most excelent and mystical results and my experiments agree with his teachings on this point

 

 

 

Now then, Steve, don't put anyone off trying! You're talking in ideals not necessities.

 

I can't think of a single organ (over here) where the celeste ranks have been as much as five foot apart! [And we do have some good romantic organs as witness.] For instance. the famous St.Paul's Cathedral Swell strings cannot be over five foot apart for a simple reason, there wouldn't be room in the box - which is (and always was) notably shallow and all the better for it. Those Celestes are among the best/most effective strings ever made. Incidentally, these were (among other Willis stops) an inspiration to the great Mr.Skinner.

 

How about (?):

"a good distance between ranks may be an advantage rather than a disadvantage if you've got the space."

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Of course 5 feet + would be even better, but there are other means that can help:

 

-To use blocks to rise the height of one rank

 

-To have a wood Flute between the two

 

-To have the mouths placed on the opposite sides

 

This said, in continental Europe today, to get any celeste at all

in a new organ is a victory. Ten years ago it would have been

strictly unthinkable!

In 1980 we obtained an Unda-Maris for the Guillou-Kleuker organ

of the Chant d'oiseau church in Brussels.

As a result the organ, the church and the organist were close

to banned from the organ community...

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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I thought that British Unda Maris stops were usually flute toned (?) I seem to recall a flute Unda Maris at Norwich Cathedral, but it was over 30 years ago that I played it, so my memory could be entirely up the spout. I certainly wouldn't know how it compares with American stops.

 

I agree that Flutes Celestes are a most distinctive and useful colour. But not too mistuned, please: I prefer them with a somewhat slower undulation than your average Celeste. I suppose its rarity over here is down to the fact that little or nothing in the mainstream repertoire actually calls for it. Chicken and egg.

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How about (?):

"a good distance between ranks may be an advantage rather than  a disadvantage if you've got the space."

 

A good point -I agree! Just as long as they are not on adjacent slides!

 

I have a 'hidden' flute céleste on my own instrument - the Swell Stopped Diapason beats very slightly with the GO Rohr Flute - resulting in a beautiful effect. Oddly, each rank seems quite in tune with other ranks on their own divisions.

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