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Which British Organ For Europe?


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So far, so good.

 

Up to now we have this from MM:

 

"Of one thing I am certain, and that is the fact that in less favourable acoustics (which may well include many modern concert halls), there is a lot of mileage to be found in good, solid English Diapasons and Reeds rather than the thinner tones of other Euro-builders."

 

Here we may have a selling point: the ability to cope with bad acoustics.

 

There are certainly others.

 

The "Reform" did advocate a certain kind of classic organ -not the classic organ which is incredibly diverse-, the same worldwide.

It had to be "north german" but with only some of its voices that were permitted:

 

Principals

Stopped flutes

Open flutes but from 4'

Thin Trumpets

The Krommhorn

Two or three Regals.

 

Das war's!

 

This ideology has been so strong for so long a time that 90% of the organ's stops are nearly completely ignored today, especially in.....Their own country:

 

-Very few germans have heard a Doppelflöte

-Who among you have heard a Zauberflöte or a Dulciana Mixture?

 

(Of course all these things are "bad", "insular", etc).

 

So there is a strong tendancy, everywhere, to ask the builders for this very standardized-global style.

 

But if the builders follow that trend they will lose any competitivity abroad because

local builders will do the same for less money (not as long a travel etc).

 

But the british builders are not standardized.

 

What do they offer we did not cite already?

 

Pierre

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What can the UK's builders do as organs that the continental's cannot?[/i]

 

This difference would be the british "added value", the reason a belgian , french, german (etc) church or concert-hall would buy british.

Pierre asks the 64 million dollar question, and the answer just now would appear to be, 'Not a lot'. We have seen in recent years Marcussen at Tonbridge School and Klais at Symphony Hall, Birmingham adjust their cloth to the extent that one could be forgiven, if you shut your eyes, for thinking these instruments were built in the UK.

 

As for our own native organ builders, they have also adjusted their cloth to meet the requirements of the times and organ consultants to the extent that I sometimes think they've forgotten how to build a large traditional British organ. One problem has been the lack of opportunity, but there is also the influence Ralph Downes had as well, which has been immense.

 

If you look at the large instruments UK organ builders have produced over the past 40 years for UK based customers, very few of them could be said to have been built on traditional lines, following in the tradition of William Hill, Arthur Harrison and Henry Willis. I have listed some examples below of major builds during this time, but how many can be said to be truly traditional? Many have French-style reeds and choruses that are based on the neo-classical school that swept through the country from the Royal Festival Hall organ onwards. How many of these can be said to be the true descendants of the Hill, Harrison, Willis traditions and not affected by the continent to the extent that you could hear one of them blindfold and say, "Now that's a Harrison, Willis, Mander etc."

 

St Albans Abbey (Harrison 1962)

Coventry Cathedral (Harrison 1962)

Fairfield Halls, Croydon (Harrison 1964)

St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle (Harrison 1965)

Winchester College (Manders 1984)

Bolton Town Hall (Walkers, 1985)

Leighton Buzzard Parish Church (Harrison 1989)

St Martin in the Fields, London (Walkers 1991)

Douai Abbey (Tickell 1993)

St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham (Walkers 1993)

St John's College, Cambridge (Manders 1994)

Chelmsford Cathedral (Manders 1994/5)

St Barnabas, Dulwich (Tickell 1997)

Lower Chapel, Eton College (Tickell 2000)

Rugby School Chapel (Kenneth Jones 2001)

 

and looking ahead:

 

St Peter's, St Albans (Manders 2006)

Cheltenham Ladies College (Tickell 2006)

Worcester Cathedral (Tickell 2008)

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Someone evoked today on another thread the absence of

any UK-built organ in continental europe's Cathedrals.

 

Maybe we could discuss the reasons for that, and the means

to correct this anomaly.

 

There are german and french-built organs in the UK, so the

reverse should obtain. This is my point of view as a convinced

european first, and as an amateur of the british organ too.

 

I'd like to discuss this first:

 

What kind of organ the british builders should present to

  continental potential customers?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

 

I thought that it was worth quoting Pierre's original question - I am as capable as anyone else in going off-topic.

 

I would say that the first point to establish is the use(s) to which the instrument will be put.

 

British cathedral organs are primarily used to accompany the liturgy of the Anglican Church. Their role as recital instruments is purely secondary to this.

 

Herein we have a problem. The music of the British choral tradition (as practised in our cathedrals) is unique in Europe. I do not think that we can count Robert Weddle's excellent work at Caen, since it is very much a one-off and has spurred no immediate successors. I also recall that N.-D. de Paris did re-launch a boys' choir some years ago.

 

However, the type of music which a French, German, Belgian or Dutch cathedral organ (for example) is required to produce is essentially different from that of our own instruments - at least as far as any accompanying work is concerned.

 

For example: French organists do not need to call upon such registrations as 'Swell to mixture with 16p reed' - neither do they require an enclosed division with orchestral-type solo voices, in order to word-paint during the chanting of Psalms.

 

However, what they will want is an instrument on which they can perform a wide range of repertoire - from all periods. In addition, it will need to be an inspiring instrument on which to improvise - often several times during the Mass. This is, as I have observed, also true for German, Belgian and Dutch organists. Naturally there are traditions within each of the aforementioned countries; however the basic requirements remain similar.

 

With this in mind, any Birtish-designed organ will need to address these points, not only in the choice of stop-list or layout, but also in the voicing. These points will, naturally, be affected by the chosen site of the instrument and the acoustic properties (not merely resonance) of the space which it is intended to fill.

 

Obviously 'arm-chair' designing serves little point than to occupy minds and fingers, but perhaps later tonight I may come back with my own design for a cathedral organ - to be placed somewhere in continental Europe.

 

My scheme will probably be destined for Brussels Cathedral, since having seen the paper scheme, I am happy to accept Pierre's word that the present, fairly new organ is a bit pants.

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Thanks Mr Jones!

 

If the UK builders of today are cast in the neo-classical style, maybe they

could promote a classic english style, inspired by examples such as

Smith, Harris, England, Snetzler and even Green (If we accept to forget

Sir Sutton's 1847 condemnation), tough some of them were not british

of course, but their organs were.

 

An excellent example of something that might interest european buyers is:

 

http://www.mander-organs.com/portfolio/pembroke.html

 

Of course the Pedal division is probably not authentic, but this is a very good

compromise.

 

But even the romantic tradition might not be as dead as one could imagine:

 

-Mr Mander builds many "non-conformist" stops, like my pet-Dulciana, high-pressure

reeds etc; not two Manders are the same, every instrument has its personnality

and cannot be reduced to a this or that dogma;

 

-Willis tries to revitalise their tradition

 

-H&H does exactly the same

 

I have the impression these tree are extremely dynamic and would deserve some contracts here, while the others I do not know tough Tickell for instance seems to be

very appreciated.

I have the impression that if I asked H&H for Trombis and Viole d'orchestre they would be happy to build them again. Willis must still have its peculiar reed scales I never found any consistent data about it -so the secrets are still kept!-.

 

The british builders still work with electro-pneumatic actions -mastering of course the tracker action as well-.

So all what is needed is there.

 

What is lacking is maybe the promotion.

 

Helmut Walcha did much to promote the german baroque organ. While I was a child everybody in Belgium had at least one LP recorded at Alkmaar, and I shall never

forget them.

But english recordings we are maximum a handfull in Belgium to have. Whenever

an organist comes home here, if I make him listen to them, that's always a big surprise. An english reed stop 99% of the belgian or french organist never heard

once in his life.

 

But of course, if the british organists want to have french reeds instead in their own organs, how do you want to promote the british organ?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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"However, the type of music which a French, German, Belgian or Dutch cathedral organ (for example) is required to produce is essentially different from that of our own instruments - at least as far as any accompanying work is concerned."

 

(Quote)

 

This might need completion.

The liturgy in Europe is in a as deep crisis as elsewhere; there is no "standard", the range goes from gregorian chants to electric guitars.

So any enthousiast organist will tend to play "recital-masses", that is, to "place" favorite repertoire during the mass.

When there is a choir, attempts will be made to perform good choral repertoire.

 

When I placed a link to Crediton on my forum, the people heard the MP3s there and found the organ "versatile"!

 

So the first criteria for a choice may well be the originality of a style, while the would-be "all-purpose" organ is out.

Of course there are limits to this and I do not imagine people going for a Green copy

with twelve pull-down Pedals.

 

Pierre

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Guest Lee Blick

I would like to see more British organs abroad to encourage organists abroad to play more British music. I would laso like to see a Europe wide organist body to encourage greater interaction of organists between nations and especially an effort to recruit young organists into our churches and schools.

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When I placed a link to Crediton on my forum, the people heard the MP3s there and found the organ "versatile"!

 

Pierre

 

Weird! To my ears it is anything but. Personally I do not think that it is particularly good for Bach and other baroque composers. The reeds are wrong for French Romantic music. Obviously it makes a good job of British Romantic music - but I would not want to play Whitlock, Howells and Elgar every Sunday. I know - there are plenty more British Romantic composers whose works are widely played!

 

Anyway, here is my scheme:

 

Location: Brussels Cathedral

Site: Existing (South Triforium?)

Builder: H&H - naturally

Action: electro-pneumatic

 

PEDAL ORGAN

 

Sub Bourdon (Empruntée) 32

Contra Bass (W) 16

Open Diapason (M) 16

Bourdon 16

Octave (M)

Stopped Flute 8

Super Octave 4

Open Flute 4

Mixture (19-22-26-29) IV

Bass Trombone (Empruntée) 32

Bombarde 16

Trombone (W) 16

Clarion 8

Shawm 4

Choir to Pedal

Great to Pedal

Swell to Pedal

Solo to Pedal

 

CHOIR ORGAN

 

Open Diapason 8

Stopped Diapason 8

Gamba 8

Prestant 4

Nason Flute 4

Nazard 2 2/3

Recorder 2

Tierce 1 3/5

Larigot 1 1/3

Septième 1 1/7

Twenty Second 1

Cimbel (29-33-36) III

Cremona 8

Tremulant

Swell to Choir

Solo to Choir

 

GREAT ORGAN

 

Double Open Diapason 16

Bourdon 16

Open Diapason I

Open Diapason II

Rohr Flöte 8

Flauto Traverso 8

Octave 4

Principal 4

Chimney Flute 4

Twelfth 2 2/3

Fifteenth 2

Mixture (19-22-26-29) IV

Cornet (1-8-12-15-17) TG V

Bass Trumpet 16

Trumpet 8

Clarion 4

Choir to Great

Swell to Great

Solo to Great

Choir and GO Exchange

 

SWELL ORGAN

 

Quintatön 16

Open Diapason 8

Flûte Harmonique 8

Viole de Gambe 8

Voix Célestes (A10) 8

Principal 4

Wald Flöte 4

Flageolet 2

Sesquialtera (12-17) II

Mixture (15-19-22) III

Sharp Mixture (22-26-29) III

Hautbois 8

Voix Humaine 8

Tremulant

Bassoon 16

Cornopean 8

Clarion 4

Sub Octave

Unison Off

Octave

 

SOLO ORGAN

 

Open Diapason 8

Claribel Flute 8

Octave 4

Suabe Flöte 4

Super Octave 2

Full Mixture (12-19-22-26-29-33) VI

Corno di Bassetto 16

Trompette 8 (mf)

Unison Off

Octave

Bombarde 16

Tuba Magna 8

Orchestral Trumpet 8

Orchestral Clarion 4

Sub Octave

 

COMBINATIONS

 

Pedal and GO Pistons Coupled

Generals on Swell Foot Pistons

Pedal Divide

 

Notes:

 

It is intended that the Pedal, GO and Solo chorus reeds will be voiced on higher pressures than the flue-work; around 175mm for the Pedal and GO; around the same for the Solo Bombarde and Orchestral Trumpet and Clarion, with 300mm or so, for the Tuba. The flue-work should not be too high; around 85mm for the GO, with 90 - 100 for the Pedal, Swell and Solo. The Swell reeds would also speak on a pressure of 100mm w.g. The Choir Organ would be voiced on approximately 60mm.

 

Many points are, naturally, dependent upon acoustics, layout, etc - as has previously been mentioned.

 

However, I think that this represents a suitably British, yet 'European' organ, which would be able to give a good lead to congregational singing, provide a variety of accompanimental voices and to give a good account of the great majority of serious repertoire.

 

It should also be an inspiring instrument on which to improvise - at least, I would quite like it!

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I would like to see more British organs abroad to encourage organists abroad to play more British music. I would laso like to see a Europe wide organist body to encourage greater interaction of organists between nations and especially an effort to recruit young organists into our churches and schools.

 

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

 

Which music Lee?

 

I may genuinely be demonstrating a degree of ignorance about modern/contemporary British music, but other than the works of Francis Jackson, Berkley and Leighton, I can't think of very much of substance. That is not the same thing as suggesting that minor works are not worthy. I've heard music by Arthur Wills for example, but where are the BIG works we once enjoyed as new organ-music?

 

By inference, doesn't this mean that we are stuck in the Willis/Harrison camp and the music suited to those instruments.........Willan, Sumsion, Statham, Thiman (yuk), Bairstow et al.

 

Isn't this the British problem?

 

I don't want to harp on about Czech music yet again, because not all of it is good or especially noteworthy. However, the sheer bulk of contemporary music which has been composed in the Czech Repiblic (over 20,000 works), means that in the midst of it, there is really good music. In the midst of that good music are a number of very fine organ works, concertii etc etc.

 

I would suggest that by even contemplating the export of a traditional British romantic organ abroad, we are in danger of placing the cart before the horse. What would be the purpose of such an endeavour?

 

It is MUSIC which dictates the pace, and if the "happening thing" is to be found in Outer Mongolia, involving Tuvan Throat Singing and Stopped Diapason accompaniment, then THIS is what matters and the rest follows naturally.

 

With the best will in the world, there seems little of international worth which is British, and which is about to take mainland Europe by storm.

 

I'm afraid that Eastern Europe is way ahead of us and even have some wonderful choirs.

 

MM

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I like this spec quite a lot. I guess we'd all make slight tweaks, but there are only two I feel strongly about:

 

1. I do think that to omit a Solo Orchestral Oboe is to omit an essential English tone colour; and

 

2. I've never really understood the need for two loud 16ft pedal reeds. I'd personally prefer a Trombone and a 16ft Fagotto since a more restrained pedal reed is often very useful and telling. If it can be extended to 8ft as well, so much the better.

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Well, by "versatile", nobody meant "for Bach"!

 

This we already have....

 

As for british music, I do not understand why you find it so bad.

A friend of mine is working on West's organ music. I asked here

about it but it seems nobody knows.

I shall copy Pcnd's proposal and post it on the french forum so that

we will be able to share our toughts about it across the Channel.

 

Pierre

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I like this spec quite a lot. I guess we'd all make slight tweaks, but there are only two I feel strongly about:

 

1. I do think that to omit a Solo Orchestral Oboe is to omit an essential English tone colour; and

 

2. I've never really understood the need for two loud 16ft pedal reeds. I'd personally prefer a Trombone and a 16ft Fagotto since a more restrained pedal reed is often very useful and telling. If it can be extended to 8ft as well, so much the better.

 

1. I take your point. However, since it is not likely to be used predominantly as a vehicle for British Romantic music (or to illustrate Psalm verses), there would be little use for this stop. Most of the examples which I have played in this country are usually out of tune, in any case!

 

2. The Bombarde is included because I anticipate (reasonably!) that it will be used to play a lot of French Romantic music, for example. The Trombone would be a softer stop - I specified wood. The wooden Trombone on my own instrument is quite moderate in power.

 

However, as you say, we all have different ideas about what is suitable.

 

One of the things which I was trying to achieve, was to imagine possible uses of the instrument. To re-inforce my answer to your first point: whilst it is supposed to be a British-designed organ, nevertheless, it is to be situated in a continental European cathedral (in this case, Brussels). I did consider an Orchestral Oboe, but since I anticipate that the Solo Organ will be un-enclosed and that Belgian organists would find little (liturgical) use for one, I rejected the idea.

 

Instead, I included a mezzo-forte Trompette - which would have a similar timbre to a bright Orchestral Oboe - but without the tuning problems.

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Well, by "versatile", nobody meant "for Bach"!

 

This we already have....

 

As for british music, I do not understand why you find it so bad.

A friend of mine is working on West's organ music. I asked here

about it but it seems nobody knows.

I shall copy Pcnd's proposal and post it on the french forum so that

we will be able to share our toughts about it across the Channel.

 

Pierre

 

Thank you, Pierre! I await metaphorical brick-bats or fluffy bunnies, as appropriate.

 

It is not that I find British music so bad - I just find it ever-so-slightly boring - and not always of the highest calibre - whatever that is.

 

I realise that I am probably not explaining this very well.... Much of Whitlock, for example, all sounds alike, to me. I have, in a previous post, written of a similar problem when considering the organ music of Howells - particularly the Psalm-Preludes. The music of Leighton? Sorry, I do not particularly like the noise it makes! This is not to suggest that it is 'bad' music - it is just not to my taste.

 

I think that the point which I was attempting to make regarding the Crediton organ was, that its tonal ethos is, to me, so narrow that I could see little merit in it as a serious musical instrument - when one considers the broader repertoire, that is.

 

Is that any clearer?

B)B)

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As for british music, I do not understand why you find it so bad.

A friend of mine is working on West's organ music. I asked here

about it but it seems nobody knows.

 

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

 

You're in the wrong country Pierre!

 

I've heard Frank Bridge at Haarlem, Willan at Den Haag, Cocker and Harris in Rotterdam, Stanley at Leeuwerden and Walond at Groningen, plus numerous other UK composers elsewhere in Holland.

 

I think they like us!

 

MM

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I was introduced to Brewer's Marche Héroïque by the organ scholar at Aachen Cathedral. Moreover, while not organ music, the youth choir there did a Christmas concert a couple of years ago that included Howells's three carol-anthems and the Magnificat from his Hereford service, no less - and I wonder how many British choirs sing that service. There are certainly people in that neck of the woods with a taste for British cathedral music.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I would agree that there's nothing quite like a Graham Kendrick chorus!  B)

 

Sorry, everyone- they've got me going now! Caution - Rant alert!

Do you know, for years I've watched really nice people make vast amounts of money by writing music that wouldn't pass GCSE. I might not be referring to GK, there are some involved in the stage musical arena, and obviously masses of them writng for films and the pop world.

 

It's like politicians - all you need is a small part of the brain removed and anyone could do it.

 

Now if only someone had said to me at the right moment in my youth - "you can have taste, but that will reduce your earning potential."

 

Part of the problem is that I haven't yet pickled my brain in alcohol or illegal substances.

 

I do have a recipe for success: one has to be extremely strict and ruthless to do it. You must set out to write a weak, partly plagiarised 'melody' avoiding sequences or modulation and certainly avoiding accidentals; then add a select few common chords that move strictly in parallel motion in keys only suitable to guitarists of modest pretensions; finally ensure that the text is as banal as possible, always including words such as 'we want' 'love' and the real favourite: 'only'. There's gold in them thar hills!

 

There are a couple of (now very) senior clergy (no names no pack drill) who have achieved maximum personal publicity/exposure/notoriety by the simple expedient of attempting to write hymns. One of these is so reminiscent of 'I've been working on the railroad' - you know, the one with the chorus that goes 'Dinah, won't you blow your horn?. I have real trouble keeping a straight face with some of these choruses. Surely one can be open to The Lord, full of the spirit etc. and still adhere to common rules of grammar. Mind you, these folks work on the 'ignorance is bliss' principle.

 

Then there's the other bugbear, their offerings are never set out in such a way as to be intelligible at first glance.

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Guest Lee Blick

Goodness me! Wouldn't life be boring if composers and song writers had to confrom to traditional harmonic and compositional techniques!

 

Remember, not everyone has access to such a form of education. It seem a bit sad you are looking down on people who choose different forms of music making to you, Paul, those who look as music making as a form of entertainment rather than as an academic subject.

 

There are a couple of (now very) senior clergy (no names no pack drill) who have achieved maximum personal publicity/exposure/notoriety by the simple expedient of attempting to write hymns

 

Why shouldn't clergy be allowed to write hymns? Surely if the Spirit shold lead them to do so, what is the problem if their musical style is perhaps simplistic?

 

Thankfully we do not live in restricted times. If people want to make music, they are free to do so. Whether it is good music is all down to musical opinion. The Christian Church all over the world embraces a wealth of musical styles to glorify our Lord. May that continue! B)

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A little off-topic, but...

 

Take Samuel-Sebastian Wesley again. His music is often

extremely daring, and must have souded offending to

many a 19th-century's gentlemen!

This said he was a pro, not a leisurly musician at all.

 

Pierre

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Take Samuel-Sebastian Wesley again. His music is often

extremely daring, and must have souded offending to

many a 19th-century's gentlemen!

This said he was a pro, not a leisurly musician at all.

 

 

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

 

And S S Wesley's brain was pickled with alcohol!

 

Wasn't he the organist/composer who fell in the river at Worcester whilst the sermon was being preached?

 

When a passing policeman asked if he could be of assistance, Wesley replied, "Unless you can play the organ (hic), I very much doubt it!"

 

MM

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Sorry, everyone- they've got me going now![/b] Caution - Rant alert!

Do you know, for years I've watched really nice people make vast amounts of money by writing music that wouldn't pass GCSE.

 

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

 

The sad thing is, some popular music is REALLY well written, often by absolute professionals who shadow-write and compose classical music or arrange music professionally for bands and orchestras.

 

My pet rant is about what clergymen think is best for "ordinary people."

 

It was "ordinary people" who created the Brass Band movement as a response to those who considered them rough and incapable of the finer things if life. It would do these idiots good to listen to "Black Dyke Band," and especially the solo playing of someone like the organ-builder John Clough, who in his spare-time, happened to be one of the world's finest euphonium players.

 

I think it was Andrew Previn who said, "I wish I had brass players like this in the LSO!"

 

My uncle was a hill-farmer with a milk-round. He sang Messiah as a bass soloist, was entirely self-taught and shared the concert platform with Isobelle Bailey and Kethleen Ferrier.....he was always a milk-man though!!

 

I have an idea for a new chorus-song, which starts, "Let's praise God where the son don't shine!"

 

I expect to make millions!!

 

MM

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