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Simon Walker

Accompanying English romantic choral repertoire on a neo - classical organ

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After my recent bashing of neo - classical positive divisions and all things 60's and 70's in general... I would like to ask a practical and sensible question. So here goes for anyone here has been an organist at Magdalen Oxford or Christ Church oxford, or anywhere else without something approaching a romantic swell division with chorus reeds.

 

How do you get Stanford in C and Balfour Gardiner Evening Hymn to sound sensible? I notice a fair amount of that kind of repertoire on the music list of CC Oxford. Any ideas? I'm thinking more about achieving a suitable blending sound rather than the problem of organ management without pistons - though that's a valid concern too! Personally I've never had this issue to deal with - every organ I've regularly played has done justice to the English repertoire, but I realise there are many out there who have a more complicated task!

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After my recent bashing of neo - classical positive divisions and all things 60's and 70's in general... I would like to ask a practical and sensible question. So here goes for anyone here has been an organist at Magdalen Oxford or Christ Church oxford, or anywhere else without something approaching a romantic swell division with chorus reeds.

 

How do you get Stanford in C and Balfour Gardiner Evening Hymn to sound sensible? I notice a fair amount of that kind of repertoire on the music list of CC Oxford. Any ideas? I'm thinking more about achieving a suitable blending sound rather than the problem of organ management without pistons - though that's a valid concern too! Personally I've never had this issue to deal with - every organ I've regularly played has done justice to the English repertoire, but I realise there are many out there who have a more complicated task!

Talk to "hecklephone". He might have some useful tips from recent experience.

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Difficult to say specifically but a technique I have used is to couple everything up to everything else, then depending on the size of the 8's add as many as you need using Sw ones mainly so as to get the effect of the box if you have one. Then listen horizontally at each pitch across the entire organ and organise your additions/subtractions accordingly and go from manual to manual a la francaise for dynamic changes. You can find yourself grabbing all sorts of odd combinations to bulk out thin little reeds, quintadenas are quite good and a soft wide scale tierce is a possibility. Pretty much avoid the mixtures if the choir are singing.

 

Just a few thoughts

 

AJS

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After my recent bashing of neo - classical positive divisions and all things 60's and 70's in general... I would like to ask a practical and sensible question. So here goes for anyone here has been an organist at Magdalen Oxford or Christ Church oxford, or anywhere else without something approaching a romantic swell division with chorus reeds.

 

How do you get Stanford in C and Balfour Gardiner Evening Hymn to sound sensible? I notice a fair amount of that kind of repertoire on the music list of CC Oxford. Any ideas? I'm thinking more about achieving a suitable blending sound rather than the problem of organ management without pistons - though that's a valid concern too! Personally I've never had this issue to deal with - every organ I've regularly played has done justice to the English repertoire, but I realise there are many out there who have a more complicated task!

 

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

 

 

With only a Pedal 16ft reed and two unenclosed manual divisions, you'd think it wouldn't be possible, but whilst I've never done it, I just KNOW that Stanford in C COULD be accompanied on the organ I play. Don't ask me how or why it could work......it's the combination of voicing genius and the magnificent acoustic.

 

The local choral groups have achieved similar things in concert, but I expect that even they would baulk at the Balfour Gardiner.

 

It's not different to hearing Thalben-Balls "Elegy" played on a Netherlands 18th century instrument, or Reger played at Haarlem.

 

The BIG challenge would be Howells of course, and I'm very glad that I am far too dim to rise to it. B)

 

MM

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One should go further in adopting the score to the instrument by playing an octave lower to get 16'-range earlier and maye have a useful sound in 4' in the 8' position. Also mixtures, certainly if beeing enclosed, are more suitable to 19c style when turned one octave down.

These ideas are connected to the liberty of splitting the score up to several manuals, when it should be played on the same only. To build up crescendi (or to do the opposite), a "seamless" switching to another division may help, as can do transposing of a part ov the voices only, not the complete texture.

This would not work with a solo performance (but I have done such things also at some occasions), but many of the problems of such practice can be hidden by the sound of the choir accompanied.

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One should go further in adopting the score to the instrument by playing an octave lower to get 16'-range earlier and maye have a useful sound in 4' in the 8' position. Also mixtures, certainly if beeing enclosed, are more suitable to 19c style when turned one octave down.

These ideas are connected to the liberty of splitting the score up to several manuals, when it should be played on the same only. To build up crescendi (or to do the opposite), a "seamless" switching to another division may help, as can do transposing of a part ov the voices only, not the complete texture.

This would not work with a solo performance (but I have done such things also at some occasions), but many of the problems of such practice can be hidden by the sound of the choir accompanied.

This is excellent advice, kropf. Thank you.

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Talk to "hecklephone". He might have some useful tips from recent experience.

 

Ha! Well, I wouldn't call those particular instruments neo-classical exactly... certainly not in a perjorative way.

 

I always begin from the premise that music is music and musical instruments are (hopefully) musical instruments. Therefore, just play music. Attempting to create a sweeping full swell on a Brustwerk is doomed, so don't try.

 

There are certain effects you can create however - someone has already mentioned playing down an octave. Another is keeping similar registration on two manuals so you can fake a crescendo. (I'll shortly be releasing a version of Saint-Saens The Swan where I change from Sw to Ch to Gt and back again depending on the dynamic, and at no point can even I distinguish the manual change - three Open Diapasons of varying size.)

 

Paying scant heed to the printed notes and thinning/thickening the texture as appropriate gives a further illusion of dynamic control, as do spread chords, adding off-beat material or repetitions etc.

 

Where down an octave isn't an option - e.g. Howells, where you quickly run out of notes and it sounds silly - Magnus Williamson used (at St Mary's Oxford) to play on 4' stops. Whenever I have been to Evensong at New College, they frequently do the same - I have often heard psalms accompanied only on the various 4' Flutes, invariably with tremulants. It's amazing how quickly the ear attenuates to the new 'home' pitch, and then when you add an 8' it gives a good impression of sub-unison. 4' stops tend to be more gentle, too - think of Howells Like as the hart with a typical 8' Prinzipal in the tenor. Same thing with a nice gentle 4' Oktav and tremulant - lovely. Then add the pedal 16 sparingly, as you would a 32' wood, for touches of distant rumble.

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They don't programme the Balfour-Gardiner very often at ChCh, but when they do, Mr Driskill-Smith seems to have no trouble with it....

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The BIG challenge would be Howells of course, and I'm very glad that I am far too dim to rise to it. :rolleyes:

There's a CD of Howells and Leighton from The Queen's College, Oxford. The accompanied Howells items are the Chichester Service, A Hymn for St Cecilia, My eyes for beauty pine and Like as the Hart. It works well.

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There's a CD of Howells and Leighton from The Queen's College, Oxford. The accompanied Howells items are the Chichester Service, A Hymn for St Cecilia, My eyes for beauty pine and Like as the Hart. It works well.

 

That`s interesting. I heard a recording from Jesus College Cambridge accompanied by the old 1970`s Mander organ. The results were actually quite acceptable, but the more contemporary repertoire - mostly Britten, Leighton etc I think helped. That old instrument must have seemed rather uncompromising by current organist preferences. Does anyone know what became of the Mander organ after its replacement? NPOR says it was offered for sale but gives no further information.

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That`s interesting. I heard a recording from Jesus College Cambridge accompanied by the old 1970`s Mander organ. The results were actually quite acceptable, but the more contemporary repertoire - mostly Britten, Leighton etc I think helped. That old instrument must have seemed rather uncompromising by current organist preferences. Does anyone know what became of the Mander organ after its replacement? NPOR says it was offered for sale but gives no further information.

 

The organ's name was Derek. Lance Foy has it, I believe. It's been put up somewhere, with additions, but I'm not quite sure where.

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The ex Jesus Coll Cambs Mander organ went to Truro School Chapel. The Organ Club are due to hear it on their West Country Tour this September.

PJW

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After my recent bashing of neo - classical positive divisions and all things 60's and 70's in general... I would like to ask a practical and sensible question. So here goes for anyone here has been an organist at Magdalen Oxford or Christ Church oxford, or anywhere else without something approaching a romantic swell division with chorus reeds.

 

How do you get Stanford in C and Balfour Gardiner Evening Hymn to sound sensible? I notice a fair amount of that kind of repertoire on the music list of CC Oxford. Any ideas? I'm thinking more about achieving a suitable blending sound rather than the problem of organ management without pistons - though that's a valid concern too! Personally I've never had this issue to deal with - every organ I've regularly played has done justice to the English repertoire, but I realise there are many out there who have a more complicated task!

 

 

I played Darke in F, Stanford in C and other such repertoire in Ch Ch in 2006 with a visiting choir and I agree with Hecklephone that you simply have to accept what it is and play it like a musical instrument and not try to make it sound like a Harrison or Willis! I found it a good instrument and while it wasnt my cup of tea I enjoyed what it had to offer and really brought Bach alive for me in a way that other instruments never had. Warning though if accompanying a choir; it is very easy to swamp them - it really is a case of less is more!

 

I also played Magdalen at the same time for one service and hated it - I would set fire to it in a heartbeat. I had expected it to be the other way around and was pleasantly surprised to end up playing extended practice sessions on the Rieger as I enjoyed it so much!!

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I played Darke in F, Stanford in C and other such repertoire in Ch Ch in 2006 with a visiting choir and I agree with Hecklephone that you simply have to accept what it is and play it like a musical instrument and not try to make it sound like a Harrison or Willis! I found it a good instrument and while it wasnt my cup of tea I enjoyed what it had to offer and really brought Bach alive for me in a way that other instruments never had. Warning though if accompanying a choir; it is very easy to swamp them - it really is a case of less is more!

 

I also played Magdalen at the same time for one service and hated it - I would set fire to it in a heartbeat. I had expected it to be the other way around and was pleasantly surprised to end up playing extended practice sessions on the Rieger as I enjoyed it so much!!

 

Of all the strange contraptions in Oxford, New College is the one for Balfour Gardiner. You really can't go wrong with it as long as you stick with the stops labelled in whole numbers. Even the Chamade works.

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Of all the strange contraptions in Oxford, New College is the one for Balfour Gardiner. You really can't go wrong with it as long as you stick with the stops labelled in whole numbers. Even the Chamade works.

 

.... When it is not engaged in falling on to the glass swell shutters below....

 

I should still far rather play this on Christ Church.

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.... When it is not engaged in falling on to the glass swell shutters below....

 

I should still far rather play this on Christ Church.

 

...except the shutters are above the chamade... and have, on one occasion, fallen out, a bit... is that what you meant?

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