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Organist Wayne Marshall Live in Manchester


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The more I think of this, the more I realise just how little sense it makes, and I add a few points below in what may very well be my last posting here in order to try and highlight what a load of utter nonsense you are talking. In my opinion.

 

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You may blame whom you will, but the man who designed the economical family car would just laugh at you. My own car will touch 150mph, but I certainly pay for it, with an average consumption of 17mpg around town and 25mpg on normal roads.

 

>>>> Totally irrelevant. Organs don't use petrol and there is no significant ongoing cost downside to having larger scaled pipes or higher pressures. Ian was referring to an under-powered car, not an economical car.

 

 

 

Before I get into the science of all this,

 

>>>>>> which I note you haven't.....

 

 

perhaps you should ask yourself a few questions:-

 

>>>>>> no; perhaps you should.

 

 

a) Who should take the blame for the organ of York Minster, which doesn't fill the building unless the big Tuba is used?

 

>>>>>> Nobody. How often is the building full enough to warrant it? Twice a year? Does it sound absolutely fantastic in the quire the rest of the time? Is that where 99.9% of the building's liturgical focus lies? Well, good. All is well.

 

 

b ) What would the organ of Clifton RC cathedral sound like in the Royal Festival Hall, if it were just moved there as it is?

 

>>>>>> Totally irrelevant and a question which belies a fundamental lack of understanding of basic organ building. It was scaled and voiced for Clifton RC cathedral, and jolly well too. Nowhere else.

 

 

c) What would a Wurlitzer theatre organ sound like in the Bridgewater Hall?

 

>>>>>> Totally irrelevant and redundant question for the same reasons.

 

 

d) What did they do to make the new organ in the Disney Concert Hall a musical success?

 

>>>>>> Allowed the organ builder to work to an appropriate timescale, and accepted (and paid for) his recommendations for improvements when it had been in use for some time (which included new and additional blowers)

 

 

e) What do you know about modern building materials?

 

>>>>>> Ian's not building the organ. That's not relevant. We all know you know more than all of us about everything ;)

 

 

f) What do you know about computerised acoustic modelling?

 

>>>> OK - now I'm scared of the bigness of your words

 

 

In fact, forget about organs altogether, and imagine what "Coll Reg" would sound like if you were to stand behind a cathedral choir, singing inside an anachoic chamber and facing away from you.

 

>>>>> I bow down before your majesterial intellect.

 

 

Would you be underwhelmed or overwhelmed?

 

>>>>>> Why the hell would I bother? What would be the point? Except to try and look clever?

 

There are things you need to know! ;)

 

>>>>> With all due respect, not a single one has a single iota of relevance to the building of the Bridgewater Hall organ.

 

 

MM

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Never mind all that. Ian's right. The organ was bespoke to the hall, was supposed to be a concert organ, and it's inadequate. If it had been scaled and voiced and winded properly for the building, then there wouldn't be a problem. If the hall wasn't ready, then more fool the builders for agreeing to press ahead without knowing the surroundings they'd be working in.

 

The organs of York Minster and Salisbury Cathedral and numerous others were never intended to completely fill the nave in that way, as most services were in the Quire with maybe a bit of overspill.

Thank you. I couldn't have replied better myself to such a condescending and largely irrelevant post, and I certainly have no intention of justifying my opinion or posting my CV on this forum. But by way of postscript, one should not assume that the Clifton Cathedral organ is 'adequate' for the building (depending on your definition), or that it stood a chance of ever being so. It was the best the Diocese could afford at the time, and is an improvement on the original intentions of the Diocese and architect. Like the BH organ, it is intrinsically a fine instrument, but the circumstances surrounding its installation are completely different. As MM says, there is a lot you need to know.

 

However, is it unreasonable to assume (and I accept that I have made an assumption) that acoustician, architect, organ consultant and contractors communicate, in circumstances where comparable projects have not provoked such a flood of criticism and controversy?

 

Or perhaps I have misunderstood. Perhaps MM could clarify whether he is implying that it is simply not possible to build an organ appropriate to the client's needs, in a space like Bridgewater Hall?

 

Off to enjoy the rest of my evening sucking eggs (cheeky wink).

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Totally OT, but my introduction to organ playing many decades ago was Nicolas Kynaston playing Bach on the Clifton Rieger, Classics for Pleasure. I was able to get it on CD later, when the original LP became see-through by too much playing. But the interesting thing is that when the 16' C pedal notes are held for the second canon and in the grand climax of BWV540, you can't actually hear any bass from the speakers. You can discern that the note is being played, but compared with the many recordings of it which I have in which the grand climax pedal C is on at least a 16' trombone or even a bombarde, or even a 32', it is underwhelming in its effect. Perhaps the microphones were placed at a dead point (antinode?). Can anyone confirm whether or not the 16' at Clifton actually makes any noise if you stand at the right place?

 

ATG

 

ps you can all go back to discussing WM now

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Having heard Wayne Marshall from the back of the Bridgewater Hall in competition with I forget which orchestra it was for the Jongen organ concerto I actually thought the score was organ 1 orchestra 0. It's the only time I've heard that organ and wasn't actually expecting to hear very much at all from all I had read, so was quite pleasantly surprised. Maybe it's not as bad as it's sometimes made out to be!

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Having heard Wayne Marshall from the back of the Bridgewater Hall in competition with I forget which orchestra it was for the Jongen organ concerto I actually thought the score was organ 1 orchestra 0. It's the only time I've heard that organ and wasn't actually expecting to hear very much at all from all I had read, so was quite pleasantly surprised. Maybe it's not as bad as it's sometimes made out to be!

At the risk of starting or re-starting a flame war the bold comment above would seem to indicate that there are sound issues in the hall that are nothing to do with the organ.

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At the risk of starting or re-starting a flame war the bold comment above would seem to indicate that there are sound issues in the hall that are nothing to do with the organ.

 

No flaming intended except that I felt an uncontrollable urge to respond to some particularly condescending, ill-informed and pompous claptrap.

 

I've had a look on Google, and can't find anyone else from architectural and acoustic wonks to orchestral players and concert reviewers who have anything particularly nasty to say about the way sound behaves in the hall, apart from the odd derisory remark that it's no good for rock and roll but just set up for classical.

 

Even if my other post gets deleted (and perhaps I should do it, and save Rachel the trouble), it's fair to say that the hall was built for musical performance, and the organ should have been built for the hall. However, contracts were awarded and design work began on the organ in 1992, over a year before the foundations were dug out. Physical construction of the organ in the factory began some twenty one months - almost two whole years - before the hall was even completed.

 

In my view, there's the problem. My belief is that you simply don't put anything on paper - even so much as a stoplist on a fag packet - until the site and the room and the furnishings are in place and can be experienced. When you can get a feel for the building with its actual carpets and winter coats - and other moveable forces such as pianos and orchestras have begun to find out about unexpected dead spots - then you begin to think about scaling, floorplan and grid layout. You do some test notes. Then you begin, having given artistic instinct (which is the hallmark of any fine organ) a reasonable chance to prevail.

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In my view, there's the problem. My belief is that you simply don't put anything on paper - even so much as a stoplist on a fag packet - until the site and the room and the furnishings are in place and can be experienced. When you can get a feel for the building with its actual carpets and winter coats - and other moveable forces such as pianos and orchestras have begun to find out about unexpected dead spots - then you begin to think about scaling, floorplan and grid layout. You do some test notes. Then you begin, having given artistic instinct (which is the hallmark of any fine organ) a reasonable chance to prevail.

That's if you have the choice. Was the organ builder given that luxury? He who pays the piper and all that. I really have no idea what went on, but I can imagine a contract stipulating a schedule for installation that simply didn't allow for any of that. It wouldn't be the first time a contract for something was drawn up by a committee that didn't have a clue. Just an idle thought that doesn't necessarily bear any relationship to reality.

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I realise that the BBC (and probably Wayne Marshall) wish to appeal to as many listeners as possible, but really - is it not about time that the '565', Widor's Toccata and even the Liszt BACH were retired gracefully....

 

... If listeners were given the opportunity to hear some other, perfectly accessible repertoire, they might actually enjoy it as much - if not more - than the tired old war-horses which are to be trotted out (well, 'trotted' is perhaps not the best description of the likely speeds involved) yet again.

I can't disagree, but I suspect that Wayne Marshall aims to appeal to the wider public and doesn't give the proverbial toss about what other organists think.

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In my view, there's the problem. My belief is that you simply don't put anything on paper - even so much as a stoplist on a fag packet - until the site and the room and the furnishings are in place and can be experienced. When you can get a feel for the building with its actual carpets and winter coats - and other moveable forces such as pianos and orchestras have begun to find out about unexpected dead spots - then you begin to think about scaling, floorplan and grid layout. You do some test notes. Then you begin, having given artistic instinct (which is the hallmark of any fine organ) a reasonable chance to prevail.

 

 

The point this topic has reached reminds me of the apparent situation that occurred at Sheffield City Hall in the early 1930’s. Designed by Bairstow and built by Willis III, the organ was a big disappointment to designer and organ builder when the hall was finally opened and the organ heard for the first time. I suspect the circumstances were not dissimilar to the Bridgewater Hall inasmuch that at Sheffield the organ was designed when the hall was in its embryonic stage, perhaps even at a drawing board stage. Having a typical concert hall stoplist the organ remains acoustically dead to this day and accounts for why it is rarely heard as a recital instrument.

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Thank you. I couldn't have replied better myself to such a condescending and largely irrelevant post, and I certainly have no intention of justifying my opinion or posting my CV on this forum. But by way of postscript, one should not assume that the Clifton Cathedral organ is 'adequate' for the building (depending on your definition), or that it stood a chance of ever being so. It was the best the Diocese could afford at the time, and is an improvement on the original intentions of the Diocese and architect. Like the BH organ, it is intrinsically a fine instrument, but the circumstances surrounding its installation are completely different. As MM says, there is a lot you need to know.

 

However, is it unreasonable to assume (and I accept that I have made an assumption) that acoustician, architect, organ consultant and contractors communicate, in circumstances where comparable projects have not provoked such a flood of criticism and controversy?

 

Or perhaps I have misunderstood. Perhaps MM could clarify whether he is implying that it is simply not possible to build an organ appropriate to the client's needs, in a space like Bridgewater Hall?

 

Off to enjoy the rest of my evening sucking eggs (cheeky wink).

 

 

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I wish people wouldn't get so outraged when someone tells them that there are things they need to know. There are millions of things I would like to know, and probably many hundreds of things I need to know, but life is too short.

 

What do musicians know about building-work, materials science, fire regulations and the timing of procurement contracts?

 

Bugger all, I would have thought, unless they've built new organs in new spaces.

 

Let me go right back to basics.

 

In the old days, cathedrals, town halls and other large spaces, were built using natural materials: largely stone, brick, planks of wood and such. Some buildings resulted in superb acoustical properties, and others were either less successful or a complete disaster. It was all very haphazard, and there was no real science beyond "shoebox" shapes and classically proportioned "double cubes."

 

Consider the vast acoustic of St George's Hall, Liverpool, which isn't such a vast space as all that.

 

Then consider the total lack of resonance in Sheffield City Hall or Leeds PC; both made of stone, brick and wood.

 

Whatever the faults and benefits of each, there is nevertheless a certain consistency, around which it is possible to work. The very resonant building will require strong upperwork and less powerful basses; the dead building would ideally require heavier basses and warmer mid-range tones.

 

This is what we have known for years, and I am briefly stating the obvious.

 

Organ builders have created fine sounding instruments across a whole gamut of acoustical types, when life was easy and buildings were straightforward.

 

To-day, it is very different. We don't just find materials which reflect sound and those which absorb sound, but acoustic materials which have some strange properties. There are materials which absord specific fequencies, but reflect others. There is seating which absorbs sound in such a way that speech remains clear, even in an empty building.

 

The list of very carefully engineered acoustic materials is long, and when it comes to fibre-boards, cavity walls, suspended ceilings, fire retardent doors and bulkheads.....it's a whole new ballgame, for which there are few or no precedents.

 

You've only got to recall the old Festival Hall, which promised so much, but delivered the driest and nastiest of musical sounds, partly because the builders didn't follow the material specifications from the architect. It was one of the first halls in the world to be acoustically engineered, but not terribly well, I suspect. It was 1950 or thereabouts, when it was designed, and acoustic engineering was in its infancy. The story make for fascinating reading.

 

Now come up to speed and consider the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, which not only uses modern building materials, fibreboards and laminates, but has been very carefully acoustically engineered USING COMPUTER BASED MODELS. Indeed, so clever and successful has this been, it is a credit to all those involved at, I believe Artec Associates.

 

Artec have done some of the finest modern concert halls in the world, and in order for the Brimnbham hall to fulfill a variety of uses, it has a VARIABLE acoustic; making use of a reflective soundboard which can be raised or lowered, as well as specific resonance chambers which can be opened or closed, depending on the use to which the hall is being put.

 

Arup Associates are another acoustic consultancy, who have pioneered a method acoustic modelling, using computers, to simulate and anticipate the final result in a new, full-size building, long before a drop of concrete has been poured. They're a bright bunch of cookies, I can tell you, and their website is a mine of useful information and fascinating factoids.

 

Now I don't know too much about the Bridgewater Hall, other than the fact that Arup Associates were involved, but when I hear music recordings from it, my ears tell me that this is a hall which is geared to speech and drama rather than classical music, (see correction below), and so far as I am aware, the acoustic is fixed rather than variable. (I will have to read up about it). What I do know, is that the building gobbles up mid-frequency sound, and with a classical tonal design, the "body" of the organ has no chance of flourishing and blooming as it would in a fine cathedral or traditional concert-hall.

 

Now I don't know how Marcussen were briefed, and whether attention was drawn to the acoustic nature of the building beforehand, but if not, the problems associated with the instrument can probably be layed at the door of the architect/designers rather than the organ-consultant. (I have no idea who that was). Of course, when it comes to contracts and buildings, the usual thing is for everything to made off site, delivered and then installed within a specific time-period. That further complicates the issue, and makes experimental tests almost impossible.

 

My point about the Disney Hall organ in the US was a valid one, because that instrument has high pressure additional choruses, designed to compensate for the tendency of modern materials to absorb mid-frequencies. The same point is also valid about a Wurlitzer organ, because by their very nature, they have massive mid-range power, high wind pressures and absolutely colossal diaphonic basses which can be heard in no uncertain terms, even in packed, softly furnished and heavily carpeted cinemas, where there are acres of curtain material.

 

So I wasn't being condescending at all. I was merely pointing out that the whole subject of ACOUSTIC COMPUTER MODELLING is both new, and probably beyond our range of experience as musicians, even if we are able to react instinctively to what our ears tell us.

 

Anyway, should anyone wish to know how complex and scientific the whole thing can become, I would recommend a visit to the Arup Associates web-site, which was a huge eye-opener for me when I poured over it some time ago.

 

 

http://www.arup.com/Services/Acoustic_Cons...ncertHalls.aspx

 

 

MM

 

PS: I am informed that the hall is very much designed with classical music in mind, but I'm ;eft with the distinct impression that the mid-frequiencies are killed more quickly than the rest. I may be right or I could be wrong.....must go there and listen for myself.

 

PPS: A further clarification about the Wurlitzer organ point I was trying to make. In a cinema, most of the musical sound heard is direct, primary sound from the chambers. The organ is quite capable of being sonically powerful enough to punch through to the listener, before the acoustics, (or lack of them), kill the sound stone dead. John Compton achieved much the same thing with many of his theatre, cinema and concert hall installations.

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No flaming intended except that I felt an uncontrollable urge to respond to some particularly condescending, ill-informed and pompous claptrap.

 

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Thank God you didn't suggest I was self-satisfied. That's something I leave to others.

 

MM

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

 

. . .Now I don't know how Marcussen were briefed, and whether attention was drawn to the acoustic nature of the building beforehand, but if not, the problems associated with the instrument can probably be layed at the door of the architect/designers rather than the organ-consultant. (I have no idea who that was). Of course, when it comes to contracts and buildings, the usual thing is for everything to made off site, delivered and then installed within a specific time-period. That further complicates the issue, and makes experimental tests almost impossible. . .

 

 

MM

 

Correct me if I'm wrong and I apologise if I am, but something nudges my memory to reflect that Thomas Trotter was involved in a consultancy capacity. I'm not sure if he contributes to this forum but it would be interesting if he could shed some light.

 

But on the matter of Bridgewater's main purpose and in view of the fact that it was well publicised beforehand that the hall was to become the new home of the Halle, I would have thought that music should have been the deciding factor for the architects and acousticians.

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Correct me if I'm wrong and I apologise if I am, but something nudges my memory to reflect that Thomas Trotter was involved in a consultancy capacity. I'm not sure if he contributes to this forum but it would be interesting if he could shed some light.

 

But on the matter of Bridgewater's main purpose and in view of the fact that it was well publicised beforehand that the hall was to become the new home of the Halle, I would have thought that music should have been the deciding factor for the architects and acousticians.

 

I had to visit Marcussen's works at the time the organ had been sent to Manchester and whilst a number of their workforce were over there. There was much talk about the long overdue completion of the hall. The organ builders were working to to a tight schedule because of their order book. As far as I can remember, the hall was just a concrete bunker - but I obviously stand corrected as to the lack of furnishings. I remember a telephone call from Manchester to the works while I was there and they were desperate because of the situation. However they hoped that their construction would suit the finished building. People remembered that they had produced a new organ for the Cathedral in Copenhagen to replace the 'soft' modern Frobenius organ and their result in the voluminous acoustic was not so well received. Perhaps in Manchester they erred a little on the less strident projection to compensate. All I can say is that because of constraints beyond their control the organ had to be installed 'blind'. Perhaps if time and finance allowed they could go back and re-voice and readjust dynamics now the building is finished and seated - something that was not allowed them when they were contracted to place and install the organ, as far as I can deduce.

I am sure that this was not the first installation that was burdened by external influences. I remember vividly the first French organ coming to these shores for about 120 years and when the builder arrived the building was without a floor and a huge JCB in the middle of the Choir. The Pulpitum was still not finished (the concrete foundations were still like quick-sand), and most things were disastrously incorrect for the erection of the organ. It is the builder's nightmare and the gloat of the critics.

Nigel

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I can't disagree, but I suspect that Wayne Marshall aims to appeal to the wider public and doesn't give the proverbial toss about what other organists think.

But this is exactly the crux of the matter.

 

If organists (and/or concert promoters) insist on serving-up the same fare at almost every 'popular' concert - albeit designed to 'reach the masses' - how on earth are the music-loving public at large ever going to discover that, actually there are many other wonderful and quite accessible pieces in the repertoire?

 

It is little wonder that orchestral players still largely refuse to take the organ (and its players) seriously.

 

I wonder, if the wider public were to be questioned, might they decide that, actually they could survive for a concert without hearing any of the above, if they were given the opportunity to explore more of the repertoire....

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

Consider the vast acoustic of St George's Hall, Liverpool, which isn't such a vast space as all that.

 

For the record, exactly how long is the reverberation period of a chord on the full organ (at 60° Farenheit) ? And what is the variation in this figure if the wooden covering to the marble floor is removed? Gilbert Benham once stated that it was thirty seconds - and went on to say something to the effect that this was perfect for organ music. It sounds rather too long for anything, to me.

 

 

 

You've only got to recall the old Festival Hall, which promised so much, but delivered the driest and nastiest of musical sounds, partly because the builders didn't follow the material specifications from the architect.

 

 

MM

 

... And also partly due to the fact that the acoustician (Hope Bagenal) confessed, some time after the RFH was completed, that he had made at least one error in his calculations.

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Correct me if I'm wrong and I apologise if I am, but something nudges my memory to reflect that Thomas Trotter was involved in a consultancy capacity. I'm not sure if he contributes to this forum but it would be interesting if he could shed some light.

 

But on the matter of Bridgewater's main purpose and in view of the fact that it was well publicised beforehand that the hall was to become the new home of the Halle, I would have thought that music should have been the deciding factor for the architects and acousticians.

 

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

 

 

I think on the latter point you are absolutely right. I was getting mixed up with venues, and the trouble is, I've never even been inside the Bridgewater Hall, let alone heard the organ.

 

I think you may well be right about Thomas Trotter being the consultant. That stirs memories for me too, and immediately leads me to a further point.

 

If you consider an orchestra like the Halle as a single instrument, it is a largely 19th century one isn't it?

 

A symphony orchestra makes a hell of a racket, yet against this, the consultants still advocate classical/neo-baroque type organs, which are easily swamped by more powerful forces. You can hear the same thing at a number of venues around the world; one of the nearest that I know being "Der Doelen" in Rotterdam.

 

To me, the great tragedy of the Bridgewater Hall was the failure to do the obvious. They should have removed the Cavaille-Coll from the Town Hall, (where it was seldom heard, and now lies silent), and re-built it in the Bridgewater. The vacant gap at the Town Hall could then have been nicely filled by the large Wurlitzer from either the Free Trade Hall, (which I helped to remove....now in Stockport), or from the old Odeon, which later found its way to the Granada Studious complex. (Now no more, and the organ lost to Manchester).

 

I think it's actually very sad that Manchester now doesn't have an important theatre organ, when it is home to the Hope Jones museum, and host to the Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust. There were always notable theatre organists in and around Manchester, such as Norman Cocker, and there has always been strong support in the city for the preservation of the instruments.

 

The Cavaille-Coll/Jardine would have been a far better "Symphonic" instrument, in what is effectively Manchester's "Symphony Hall."

 

I look forward to the day when consultants call for a blend of Lewis and Classical thinking in these situations, rather than a sound more appropriate for a highly resonant, continental church.

 

That's more or less the formula at the new Disney Hall, as well as the Meyerson Hall, and both instruments are admired almost

across the board.

 

MM

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Maybe there should be a new thread on concert hall organs, it might be more uplifting than re-airing our negative criticisms of particular performers and pieces.

 

I'm off to play piano and celeste in a concert in the Royal Opera House, Muscat in a few weeks. I suspect I won't get a chance to hear

 

this

 

in action.

 

Whilst the builders have a reputation for neo-classic instruments, the stoplist on paper seems to acknowledge a little of what MM has just suggested, with 3 Open Diapasons on the Great and 5 16' flues on the Pedal.

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Maybe there should be a new thread on concert hall organs, it might be more uplifting than re-airing our negative criticisms of particular performers and pieces.

 

I'm off to play piano and celeste in a concert in the Royal Opera House, Muscat in a few weeks. I suspect I won't get a chance to hear

 

this

 

in action.

 

Whilst the builders have a reputation for neo-classic instruments, the stoplist on paper seems to acknowledge a little of what MM has just suggested, with 3 Open Diapasons on the Great and 5 16' flues on the Pedal.

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Why should any point of view be described as negative criticism, when we are provided with free speech ?

Different viewpoints makes the world go round and that is good.

I like Carlo Curly, thousands probably don't but if they expressed that view it would be nonsense to suggest this was negative criticism.

I hope that contributors will continue with this debate, until they decide to cease.

Colin Richell.

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I'm neither a physicist nor an organ building expert. However...

 

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

 

To me, the great tragedy of the Bridgewater Hall was the failure to do the obvious. They should have removed the Cavaille-Coll from the Town Hall, (where it was seldom heard, and now lies silent), and re-built it in the Bridgewater.

Manchester Town Hall is not a big room; no bigger than the nave of a large(ish) parish church. Would an organ built for a space with a seating capacity of 400 really work in a space with a seating capacity of 2000, without the sort of revoicing/rescaling that would radically change its character? Perhaps this organ needs to go somewhere where it will be both heard and be accessible to students. There isn't an obvious place in Manchester, though one might fantasise that it find its way into the Whitworth Hall of the University, to supplant the catastrophically baroquized Willis II that languishes there.

For my money, the Manchester organ that should have gone in the BH is this one:

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N02080

 

It may not have the pedigree of the Town Hall instrument, but it made one heck of a sound, and stands in an auditorium of similar size to the BH

 

The vacant gap at the Town Hall could then have been nicely filled by the large Wurlitzer from...the Free Trade Hall,

Agreed

 

I look forward to the day when consultants call for a blend of Lewis and Classical thinking in these situations, rather than a sound more appropriate for a highly resonant, continental church.

You mean the sort of building for which ACC built most of his organs? :rolleyes:

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I'm neither a physicist nor an organ building expert. However...

 

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

 

To me, the great tragedy of the Bridgewater Hall was the failure to do the obvious. They should have removed the Cavaille-Coll from the Town Hall, (where it was seldom heard, and now lies silent), and re-built it in the Bridgewater.

Manchester Town Hall is not a big room; no bigger than the nave of a large(ish) parish church. Would an organ built for a space with a seating capacity of 400 really work in a space with a seating capacity of 2000, without the sort of revoicing/rescaling that would radically change its character? Perhaps this organ needs to go somewhere where it will be both heard and be accessible to students. There isn't an obvious place in Manchester, though one might fantasise that it find its way into the Whitworth Hall of the University, to supplant the catastrophically baroquized Willis II that languishes there.

For my money, the Manchester organ that should have gone in the BH is this one:

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N02080

 

It may not have the pedigree of the Town Hall instrument, but it made one heck of a sound, and stands in an auditorium of similar size to the BH

 

The vacant gap at the Town Hall could then have been nicely filled by the large Wurlitzer from...the Free Trade Hall,

Agreed

 

I look forward to the day when consultants call for a blend of Lewis and Classical thinking in these situations, rather than a sound more appropriate for a highly resonant, continental church.

You mean the sort of building for which ACC built most of his organs?

 

 

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

 

 

I quite agree with Paul's points, because the main hall within the complex we know as 'Manchester Town Hall' is actually quite physically modest. However, so too is the organ case, which probably measures about 16ft square, but with the bottom half of that square nothing but solid wood. This means that the egress of sound from inside the organ-chamber is a mere 8 -10ft vertically, and probably 16ft laterally.....not a very big opening for what is a fairly large instrument.

 

It's so long since I played this instrument, (possibly 25 years ago), I don't recall that it was either very loud or very underpowered, or for that matter, distinctly Cavaille-Coll in character.

 

Most of it is original of course, but Lewis must surely have increased the size of the instrument in 1912, beyond merely adding the Echo Organ. It was, after all, a full re-build and "modernisation," whatever that means.

 

Physically, the organ must be layed out horizontally I would have thought, with divisions one behind the other, if Barker-Lever action was the original machanism. This further implies that the Swell organ must be rather buried towards the rear of the instrument, assuming that the Echo organ isn't buried elsewhere. In addition, someone squeezed in a wooden 32ft reed at some point, which must be heavily mitred and folded I would have thought, in view of the limited height of the hall.

 

Assuming that the instrument wouldn't be as quiet as we believe it to be, (if it were to be encased and spread out), everything would then be heard to best advantage, especially with the addition of suitable chamades, which the town hall organ never had and never needed.

 

It's all hypothetical of course, but the 'historical quest' would always have been compromised by the later, non Cavaille-Coll additions .

 

I appreciate the joke about 'large resonant continental churches,' but to calrify what I meant rather than what I wrote, it was to point out that a natural acoustic with a slow decay and low sound absorbancy, (even a hint of the chaotic), is very different to engineered acoustics, which to my ears, always seem to sound slightly unnatural, no matter how brilliantly the acoustic engineers have manipulated and juxtaposed the science and material properties of the building.

 

MM

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I had to visit Marcussen's works at the time the organ had been sent to Manchester and whilst a number of their workforce were over there. There was much talk about the long overdue completion of the hall. The organ builders were working to to a tight schedule because of their order book. As far as I can remember, the hall was just a concrete bunker - but I obviously stand corrected as to the lack of furnishings. I remember a telephone call from Manchester to the works while I was there and they were desperate because of the situation. However they hoped that their construction would suit the finished building. People remembered that they had produced a new organ for the Cathedral in Copenhagen to replace the 'soft' modern Frobenius organ and their result in the voluminous acoustic was not so well received. Perhaps in Manchester they erred a little on the less strident projection to compensate. All I can say is that because of constraints beyond their control the organ had to be installed 'blind'. Perhaps if time and finance allowed they could go back and re-voice and readjust dynamics now the building is finished and seated - something that was not allowed them when they were contracted to place and install the organ, as far as I can deduce.

I am sure that this was not the first installation that was burdened by external influences. I remember vividly the first French organ coming to these shores for about 120 years and when the builder arrived the building was without a floor and a huge JCB in the middle of the Choir. The Pulpitum was still not finished (the concrete foundations were still like quick-sand), and most things were disastrously incorrect for the erection of the organ. It is the builder's nightmare and the gloat of the critics.

Nigel

 

 

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Thanks for this information Nigel, which puts everything into some sort of perspective.

 

It is not an uncommon problem it would seem, and I always think that the Fairfields Hall organ just doesn't "come together" due to the acoustic design; though it was always better than the old Festival Hall.

 

I just find it ironic, that the John Compton formula actually worked better in buildings similar to these! :rolleyes:

 

Did we every truly take a step forward?

 

MM

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

 

...and I always think that the Fairfields Hall organ just doesn't "come together" due to the acoustic design; though it was always better than the old Festival Hall.

I'm puzzled that you feel that Croydon's Fairfield Concert Hall organ just doesn't "come together" due to the "acoustic design". Are you referring to the auditorium, as its acoustic is very highly regarded indeed by orchestral players.

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I'm puzzled that you feel that Croydon's Fairfield Concert Hall organ just doesn't "come together" due to the "acoustic design". Are you referring to the auditorium, as its acoustic is very highly regarded indeed by orchestral players.

 

Surely an organ requires a somewhat different acoustic ambience to that favoured by orchestral players? Yes, an orchestra could sound good in Gloucester Cathedral, but if one listens to commercial orchestral recordings, there is clearly a more 'studio' type of acoustic being preferred by most, if not all, conductors.

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