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Recital cancelled


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Have just found out from the Church's website that the recital that was to be given by olivier latry on the restored Walker organ has been cancelled and has been put back till October 2011. They say the Organ is not ready and needs further work . I suppose it's makes sense to run the Organ in for a few months to alleviate any teething problems. Neverless it is a disappointment.

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Have just found out from the Church's website that the recital that was to be given by olivier latry on the restored Walker organ has been cancelled and has been put back till October 2011. They say the Organ is not ready and needs further work . I suppose it's makes sense to run the Organ in for a few months to alleviate any teething problems. Neverless it is a disappointment.

 

I really think that such occasions should only be booked and artists engaged after the organ is in, considered finished by the builders, and paid for. It is a frightening experience for the artist as s/he has a reputation to carry and the organ builders some standing in their world. I also (for an inaugural concert) suggest that the organ should be available for the artist to play before considering the programme. S/He wants to provide the best as do the builders. And when rather large sums of fee are involved it is imperative that all parties are happy. Maxim: Never book an opening concert until the organ is in and is being played for a good few months.

It should be part of the contract.

Playing to sponsors and devoted congregations knowing that the builders are holed-up in the vestry (or beneath the organ) clutching screw drivers and prayer books, does little for the inspiration but more for the perspiration and only lines the pockets of psychiatrists.

N

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I really think that such occasions should only be booked and artists engaged after the organ is in, considered finished by the builders, and paid for. It is a frightening experience for the artist as s/he has a reputation to carry and the organ builders some standing in their world. I also (for an inaugural concert) suggest that the organ should be available for the artist to play before considering the programme. S/He wants to provide the best as do the builders. And when rather large sums of fee are involved it is imperative that all parties are happy. Maxim: Never book an opening concert until the organ is in and is being played for a good few months.

It should be part of the contract.

Playing to sponsors and devoted congregations knowing that the builders are holed-up in the vestry (or beneath the organ) clutching screw drivers and prayer books, does little for the inspiration and only lines the pockets of psychiatrists.

N

 

Some very sound advice, Nigel.

 

Let us hope that, when the inaugural recital does take place, all is finished to the satisfaction of everyone concerned - and the recitalist has been able to have plenty of time to become accustomed to the instrument.

 

I was once organist of a church in which the organ was subject to a major rebuild and enlargement. Whilst I did have the privilege of re-designing it (including producing full-size drawings for the stop, piston and pedal sweep layout, amongst many other technical details), it was slightly disconcerting to have it handed back on the Friday night prior to Palm Sunday. Not only were there considerably more stops, but the enitre console layout had been altered. I realise that I had designed this myself - whilst it proved to be entirely practical and comfortable (and fairly elegant), the point was, that it was also entirely different.

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I really think that such occasions should only be booked and artists engaged after the organ is in, considered finished by the builders, and paid for. It is a frightening experience for the artist as s/he has a reputation to carry and the organ builders some standing in their world. I also (for an inaugural concert) suggest that the organ should be available for the artist to play before considering the programme. S/He wants to provide the best as do the builders. And when rather large sums of fee are involved it is imperative that all parties are happy. Maxim: Never book an opening concert until the organ is in and is being played for a good few months.

It should be part of the contract.

Playing to sponsors and devoted congregations knowing that the builders are holed-up in the vestry (or beneath the organ) clutching screw drivers and prayer books, does little for the inspiration but more for the perspiration and only lines the pockets of psychiatrists.

N

 

 

We let the beast bed down for six months and we booked Thomas T a year in advance...everyone was happy. I have however been to plenty of New Organ Openings where someone had to whack something in the innards during the evening. This is not good for business. I think Im going to book Nigel next time, well in advance, and when I can afford the perfect Dom Bedos copy in perfect acoustics.

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We let the beast bed down for six months and we booked Thomas T a year in advance...everyone was happy. I have however been to plenty of New Organ Openings where someone had to whack something in the innards during the evening. This is not good for business. I think Im going to book Nigel next time, well in advance, and when I can afford the perfect Dom Bedos copy in perfect acoustics.

 

And if you were lucky enough he would no doubt feature the concert in one of his Radio programmes as a bonus.

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I really think that such occasions should only be booked and artists engaged after the organ is in, considered finished by the builders, and paid for. It is a frightening experience for the artist as s/he has a reputation to carry and the organ builders some standing in their world. I also (for an inaugural concert) suggest that the organ should be available for the artist to play before considering the programme. S/He wants to provide the best as do the builders. And when rather large sums of fee are involved it is imperative that all parties are happy. Maxim: Never book an opening concert until the organ is in and is being played for a good few months.

It should be part of the contract.

Playing to sponsors and devoted congregations knowing that the builders are holed-up in the vestry (or beneath the organ) clutching screw drivers and prayer books, does little for the inspiration but more for the perspiration and only lines the pockets of psychiatrists.

N

 

I quite agree. I know of two places where Nigel Ogden at one and Carlo Curley at the other were booked for opening recitals almost as soon as dismantlng work had started on the respective organs. The same builder carried out both projects but has now, quite understandably, made a point of asking churches to refrain from arranging concerts so soon into the project.

 

John R

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Given the notoriously dodgy nature of this particularly tricksy action design, I would have left a year between completion and the opening recital, even if they have got one of the best firms in the business doing it.

 

I know that all the experts will be horrified by this suggestion, but I really can't see the point of this kind of restoration. A good modern electro-pneumatic action would work much better, could be made to feel very similar at the console and nobody would hear the difference. It typifies the waste of NLF money that gave us all those instruments with two consoles where nobody uses the tracker action action console.

 

Organs are (can be - sometimes, very occasionally) musical instruments, not some kind of exhibit out of a steam engine museum. This restoration will, I am sure, be done as well as it possibly can be, but I am quite confident that the tuner's book in 20 year's time will tell a sad story. This Walker action design is simply too complicated - it's just not worth perpetrating it in a working church instrument, where it will be nothing but trouble.

 

Doubtless many people much more knowledgeable than I will now explain why this is an idiotic point of view, but I know that I am right!

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Given the notoriously dodgy nature of this particularly tricksy action design, I would have left a year between completion and the opening recital, even if they have got one of the best firms in the business doing it.

 

I know that all the experts will be horrified by this suggestion, but I really can't see the point of this kind of restoration. A good modern electro-pneumatic action would work much better, could be made to feel very similar at the console and nobody would hear the difference. It typifies the waste of NLF money that gave us all those instruments with two consoles where nobody uses the tracker action action console.

 

Organs are (can be - sometimes, very occasionally) musical instruments, not some kind of exhibit out of a steam engine museum. This restoration will, I am sure, be done as well as it possibly can be, but I am quite confident that the tuner's book in 20 year's time will tell a sad story. This Walker action design is simply too complicated - it's just not worth perpetrating it in a working church instrument, where it will be nothing but trouble.

 

Doubtless many people much more knowledgeable than I will now explain why this is an idiotic point of view, but I know that I am right!

 

Well I'm with you - to a point. If it was an undistinguished instrument by a second or third rate builder, I would be electrifying like a shot. This isn't either of those things. If it's kept in fine fettle, and nobody decides to cut corners and give the maintenance contract to another firm, there is every reason for optimism. Theoretically, the leather of the motors should last longer than an electronic transmission system might be expected to and will not be susceptible to lightning strikes and other unpredictable problems (which are more common than you might imagine).

 

I challenge you to justify "notoriously dodgy" and "particularly tricksy". And "simply too complicated". And "all those instruments with two consoles" (because of HLF stipulations) - one? two?

 

And the difference - insignificant as it may seem - comes in 75 years time when the organ once again seeks major funding. If I had over-painted an original painting with a new type of paint a bit more UV stable than the original master used, or discarded a composer's manuscript in favour of a much easier to read Sibeliussed version, the result - though looking and sounding the same - would not be nearly so special, and it would not be preserved. Many instruments electrified in the 50s and 60s and 70s and 80s are now facing the scrap heap because, no longer being an 'original instrument', it was felt quite OK to make tonal changes and perhaps a detached stop-tab console, and character is diluted and lost.

 

Quite rightly, people should be able to see where British organ building was at in the early 1900s and how technology developed. Unlike a painting, or a manuscript, or an old car, we can't make a copy and put the original in a museum. Walker tended to know what he was doing and I think it's a mistake to suggest that an action which has coped perfectly well for a century should not be allowed to carry on.

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Given the notoriously dodgy nature of this particularly tricksy action design, I would have left a year between completion and the opening recital, even if they have got one of the best firms in the business doing it.

 

I know that all the experts will be horrified by this suggestion, but I really can't see the point of this kind of restoration. A good modern electro-pneumatic action would work much better, could be made to feel very similar at the console and nobody would hear the difference. It typifies the waste of NLF money that gave us all those instruments with two consoles where nobody uses the tracker action action console.

 

Organs are (can be - sometimes, very occasionally) musical instruments, not some kind of exhibit out of a steam engine museum. This restoration will, I am sure, be done as well as it possibly can be, but I am quite confident that the tuner's book in 20 year's time will tell a sad story. This Walker action design is simply too complicated - it's just not worth perpetrating it in a working church instrument, where it will be nothing but trouble.

 

Doubtless many people much more knowledgeable than I will now explain why this is an idiotic point of view, but I know that I am right!

 

 

I played this organ shortly after it was last restored (by our hosts in about 1985). At that time, there were apparently some modifications to the action to prevent running problems which had existed since the organ was built, but it still didn't seem completely happy mechanically. Possibly this was due to atmospheric conditions (I remember the newly-restored Eton College Chapel organ being in a woeful state one hot summer). I was organist on a 1908 Walker at St. Leonard-at-the-Hythe, Colchester in the early seventies. It had pneumatic action to the Swell. There had been a restoration in the 50s and it was done again (by ex-Walker man Ken Canter) in 1978. I found that the action generally gave little trouble, but it looks like it needs restoring every 30 years, which is probably more often than some other patterns.

 

Electrifying can change the feel of an organ - there are certain characteristics of touch which one might not want to lose. Didn't (for example) Harrisons' get round this at Westminster Cathedral by keeping the pneumatics at the keys and electrifying the rest? I believe a similar plan for a Lewis & Co. in Belfast was scuppered by the Lottery people, who wouldn't give money unless the (always troublesome) pneumatics were retained throughout - at much higher cost.

 

I must confess to being a little disappointed with the sound of the Wimbledon organ. I grew up with Walker organs and I knew Bristol Cathedral very well as a student, but Wimbledon didn't quite cut the mustard for me. Probably just the way it took me on the day.....

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Thank you, Mr Drinknell, my point is made perfectly.

 

I am not sure that electrifying a pneumatic action necessarily has to change the touch at the keys but - let's face it - the feel of pneumatic touch boxes isn't usually particularly agreeable and it's perfectly possible to copy it (go and try the electrified classic 1913 N&B in Witney Methodist Church, for instance, which felt exactly the same after it was rebuilt). Whether you would want to do this when instead you could have a lovely new set of P&S keys with bone facings and magnetic toggle touch is another matter - I know which I'd go for. (I think I am right in saying, incidentally, that at Westminster Abbey the pneumatic part of the console is those incomparable Harrison electro-pneumatic drawstop machines - probably too expensive these days - nothing ever worked quite as snappily as they did).

 

There is a frame of mind which says that the only way to maintain organs is to take the whole instrument out and redo everything - this is a route to pipe organs being impossibly expensive to maintain. There is no reason why, if the layout permits, everything shouldn't be accessible for maintenance and replaceable piecemeal when it goes wrong or wears out. If pallets, for instance, are pinned at the back rather than glued on leather hinges, then they could be taken out and releathered with the windchest in situ. Compound magnets can replace delicate primary magnets and pneumatics and can be easily replaced if they give trouble. Diode/transistor note switching systems can be simply repaired (I am not so enthusiastic about microprocessor note switching systems - they're cheaper but if they go wrong on Sunday morning or get struck by lightning you've had it). Modern windchests, if constructed out of the right materials, will last almost for ever. Direct electric action can be pretty good, too.

 

Of course we all agree that mechanical action is best although - let's face it - some people have made a pretty serious mess of those over the last fifty years (never our hosts, to my knowledge). But given the materials at our disposal today I really don't see the point of restoring more than a few pneumatic actions as historical curiosities. Yes they can work quite well, but they don't work as well as modern electro-pneumatic or direct electric actions.

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Thank you, Mr Drinkell, my point is made perfectly.

 

I am not sure that electrifying a pneumatic action necessarily has to change the touch at the keys but - let's face it - the feel of pneumatic touch boxes isn't usually particularly agreeable and it's perfectly possible to copy it (go and try the electrified classic 1913 N&B in Witney Methodist Church, for instance, which felt exactly the same after it was rebuilt). Whether you would want to do this when instead you could have a lovely new set of P&S keys with bone facings and magnetic toggle touch is another matter - I know which I'd go for. (I think I am right in saying, incidentally, that at Westminster Abbey the pneumatic part of the console is those incomparable Harrison electro-pneumatic drawstop machines - probably too expensive these days - nothing ever worked quite as snappily as they did).....

 

 

Of course we all agree that mechanical action is best although - let's face it - some people have made a pretty serious mess of those over the last fifty years (never our hosts, to my knowledge). But given the materials at our disposal today I really don't see the point of restoring more than a few pneumatic actions as historical curiosities. Yes they can work quite well, but they don't work as well as modern electro-pneumatic or direct electric actions.

 

 

OK - some pneumatics have a distinctive feel which electrification would remove, and thereby subtly alter the player's experience of the instrument. Not all of them, to be sure. Some pneumatic actions don't feel good at all, but then some actions (period) don't feel good. I believe pressure pneumatics are generally nicer to play on than exhaust.

 

Think about those lovely long keys which are a classic Walker feature. It would be a crime to mess those about.

 

Belfast Cathedral organ had Harrison e/p drawstop machines in the console and they were b***** noisy! Ironically, we reckoned that it was the H&H perfection that made them so - if a lesser builder had done it, everything wouldn't have fired so absolutely together and the noise wouldn't have been so bad.

 

I most definitely don't agree that mechanical key action is best. Electric action allows much more flexibility with the resources available. The challenge is to make sure the design and execution is up to the same standard that tracker demands.

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So there's good and bad in everything. The best examples of good workmanship work well and you can feel the quality. One has to compare like with like to make a valid comparison and often that comparison is more closely defined than one might initially imagine.

 

A well made charge pneumatic action has a lovely positive snap to it as you are after all in many of them, working a pallet with a key just like a mechanical action. There are so many pitfalls in t/pn action design that not everyone got it right every time and seeing different types of soundboard pallet control in the same instrument always makes you think that the original maker saw a reason for doing that - you then start to ask why and investigate, possibly drawing the same conclusion, and possibly not, although you may have the deficit in knowledge. The problem arises if we assume that over the entire evolution of a particular action type, we assume that every builder knew everything there was to know from day one and hence always produced the best result every time. Clearly this is nonsense otherwise no such evolution would have occurred.

 

A positive approach here is to respect the type of action such as it is but to improve it in places where evolution of that action type has taught us how to make it work better. The slavish approach only retains the issues that were there, be they good or bad. The nature of the action, and its interaction with the rest of the instrument is in principle unaltered, but it works with the efficiency that I'm sure it's original maker would have wished and intended to achieve, and to the best of ability and knowledge at the time, did.

 

AJS

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A positive approach here is to respect the type of action such as it is but to improve it in places where evolution of that action type has taught us how to make it work better. The slavish approach only retains the issues that were there, be they good or bad.

 

And, of course, the purpose of restoration is to restore - not to improve. The job of a Heritage Lottery Fund is to make funds available for restoration, not improvements - especially not irreversible ones. If something is not good enough for restoration as it is, then it shouldn't be getting what is in effect public funding.

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