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A Rather Small Cathedral Organ

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Dixit Muso:

 

'I really don't undertand why a complete and independent pedal organ should be incompatible with anything; assuming that we are referring to a "small cathedral scheme."'

 

'What exactly is so special about the accompaniment role, that it renders an independent pedal chorus redundant?'

 

 

Isn't the sticking point the limit of 35 speaking stops? An organ which is principally used for accompaniment will arguably be more useful if it majors on manual stops and not on a full Pedal chorus. If the reckoning was in ranks rather than speaking stops, one could compromise with an Open Wood, a metal unit from 8', a Bourdon unit and a reed unit, some of those possibly also available on the manuals.

 

'Meanwhile, Thomas Hill and T C Lewis were building PROPER organs, but few recognised the fact.'

 

I would rather have a Willis than a Hill. With one or two exceptions (like Chester and Cork), I don't find much excitement in Hill organs, especially the later ones, so I would be happier with (in the same general area), St. Peter's, Brighton (http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N00951) rather than All Saints, Hove (http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N15507). Or St. Augustine, Kilburn (http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N17146) rather than All Hallows, Gospel Oak (http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N17086) - although the latter is one of my favourite Hills. When it comes to Lewis, unless an instrument was above a certain (quite large) size, you have a stonking Great chorus but nothing much to balance or counter it. Wonderful sounds, but not the easiest beasts to drive. I love St. John's, Upper Norwood, though. This could be a contender on this thread, as it only has 36 speaking stops, but see where the leeway for plenty of accompanimental stops is obtained - by pruning the Pedal down to absolute basics (as left by Lewis, it didn't even have a reed).

 

How about St. Giles, Cripplegate? Allowing for duplication of the Great reeds and Cornet, and the slightly over-large Great, it would almost come within the parameters - it would do most things well and it has a proper Pedal Organ.

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N17641

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Isn't the sticking point the limit of 35 speaking stops? An organ which is principally used for accompaniment will arguably be more useful if it majors on manual stops and not on a full Pedal chorus.

Well quite. There's nothing wrong with fully developed pedal departments on any organ, but if you have to compromise it's the obvious first place to look to make savings with the least inconvenience.

 

Another thing about pedal upperwork. It may be one thing to design a pedal chorus from scratch, but simply extending existing 16ft pedal stops upwards on a traditional Romantic organ isn't necessarily going to provide you with a satisfactorily independent pedal. Hele quite routinely extended his pedal Bourdons to 8ft, even on small organs. I've never really understood why. Time and again I hear local organists playing, say, a Bach chorale prelude with pedal 16' and 8' uncoupled, oblivious of the fact that if your Bourdon is an ill-defined rumble at 16' pitch (as most of them are - and not just Hele's) it is still likely to be one at 8'.

 

I would rather have a Willis than a Hill.

There's a song there somewhere.

 

I'm Henery the IVth, I am...

I'd rather have a Willis than a Hill.

 

Sorry. I'd get my coat, but someone's nicked it.

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Well quite. There's nothing wrong with fully developed pedal departments on any organ, but if you have to compromise it's the obvious first place to look to make savings with the least inconvenience.

 

Another thing about pedal upperwork. It may be one thing to design a pedal chorus from scratch, but simply extending existing 16ft pedal stops upwards on a traditional Romantic organ isn't necessarily going to provide you with a satisfactorily independent pedal. Hele quite routinely extended his pedal Bourdons to 8ft, even on small organs. I've never really understood why. Time and again I hear local organists playing, say, a Bach chorale prelude with pedal 16' and 8' uncoupled, oblivious of the fact that if your Bourdon is an ill-defined rumble at 16' pitch (as most of them are - and not just Hele's) it is still likely to be one at 8'.

 

 

There's a song there somewhere.

 

I'm Henery the IVth, I am...

I'd rather have a Willis than a Hill.

 

Sorry. I'd get my coat, but someone's nicked it.

 

 

Love it!

 

 

I think one reason for the Bourdon/Bass Flute provision was so that the 8' acted as a helper to the 16', giving it definition and depth. One should still, as you say, couple down under most circumstances.

 

There are some papers in the Cambridgeshire Record Office relating to the rebuilding of the organ at Stapleford Church in 1925. The main rivals for the job were the local firms of Miller and Bedwell (HN&B quoted a price three tmes as high, and Harrisons' suggested Walkers' might do the job well for a lesser sum!). Called to advise, the organist at Ely Cathedral, Noel Ponsonby, wrote that the 8' flute was 'essential' and also recommended complete basses for each stop.

 

W.T. Best, in his notes about the Bolton Town Hall Organ of 1874, wrote concerning the Pedal Organ:

 

The Clarabella Bass 'furnishes a soft octave tone to the 16' stop and thus supplies organists with what they often complain of not being able to get, even on large instruments - a soft 16ft and 8ft bass uncoupled.'

 

The other 8' stop specified was a Violoncello, so I think he was thinking of definition above everything else. Maybe Best's Clarabella Bass was envisaged as having a little more character than the Bass Flutes of slightly later years, so uncoupled use might be a more musical practice.

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Another thing about pedal upperwork. It may be one thing to design a pedal chorus from scratch, but simply extending existing 16ft pedal stops upwards on a traditional Romantic organ isn't necessarily going to provide you with a satisfactorily independent pedal.

 

Now we are getting warm...

 

Trying to graft a so called independent pedal onto a romantic or quasi romantic instrument is rarely a complete success. To me, a proper 'independent pedal' implies far more than merely the inclusion of a metal 16' and a mixture. A true independent pedal should have a balancing combination for every likely combination on the manuals without coupling, otherwise it is a constraint rather than an asset. This isn't too difficult with a classical tonal design, but it becomes more problematic with schemes that build up horizontally as well as vertically.

 

It's effectiveness also depends on the voicing and disposition of the organ. I suspect one reason for the lack of pedal choruses on English organs is that our instruments are often cramped, speak in several directions or are divided around the building - and it's no use having a wonderful pedal chorus that is 40 feet away from anything else and balances completely differently depending where you are stood. From experience with cathedral organs that have had chorus work added to the pedal, I have to say that I have never been entirely conviced. Yes, they allow you to play uncoupled if you are determined to do so; but they still sound nothing like Buxtehude's organ, so what's the point?

 

The concept of an independent pedal is fairly alien to English romantic instruments and the repertoire they are optimised for. Just because the Germans have something and it sounds good, doesn't mean we have to have it too.

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Just because the Germans have something and it sounds good, doesn't mean we have to have it too.

:angry:

BTW, over here, it's just the other way round – the Brits have something and it sounds good, so we do want to have it too!

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Now we are getting warm...

 

[snip] Yes, they allow you to play uncoupled if you are determined to do so; but they still sound nothing like Buxtehude's organ, so what's the point?

[snip]

Hear hear. One simply wants an adequate bass to the manual stops when accompanying. Balanced independent choruses are not only completely irrelevant but undesirable, since one accompanies a cathedral choir by using the organ like a giant one-manual, perhaps leaving one keyboard free for uncoupled solo effects occasionally. Even that might be a rare thing, since an enclosed Solo division will usefully be coupled down for many things. So, one might be moving mainly between Swell and Choir (with So and Sw coupled to Ch) most of the time, with solos played on the Gt flutes or diapasons. Or one couples everything to the Great, sans Great stops (since jumping from Choir to Swell is a pain) leaving the Solo free for clarinets and harmonic flutes, or 'squeak & growl' in the psalms (16' Cor Anglais, Gamba, [Clarinet] & 4' Flute with right hand up an octave, left hand down an octave etc etc). That leaves wriggle room to thicken the stew with softer Great stops when the choir sings more lustily. The most important things to find when practising on a cathedral organ, are the 'fake' effects and to get the hang of reaching such combinations by the most efficient route, since setting up generals for a psalm or anthem is both time consuming and restricting. For example, 'diapasons with full swell' might only be Stopped Diapason and 4' Principal (unenclosed somewhere) plus Swell 8, 8, 4, 2, Oboe, Double Trumpet, if the Swell 2' and unenclosed 4' have sufficient harmonics. Why 'fake'? Well, any more stops and it might sound too muddy or blow the choir away.

 

But I digress. If pedal upperwork (by which I mean anything other than an 8' Bass Flute) is any good, it will have been voiced to balance the Great upperwork, which is seldom used under a choir. One needs six pedal stops, at most: rumble, mf bass, p bass, [pp bass], helicopters (32 & 16). Conveniently placed Great to Pedal and Choir to Pedal pistons are essential. Then, if the rest of the organ is well voiced (bearing in mind the size constraints of this particular challenge), pedal upperwork is again pretty redundant. Bach is perfectly convincing at Truro using the Great 16' to Mixture chorus coupled down to the Pedal Violone, Bourdon and Octave: 10 stops. Perhaps plus Ophicleide (but not Open Wood) and Great reeds in the right piece. Because the chorus is well voiced, the treble sings, the bass has definition, but the middle voices can still be heard.

 

My ideal small cathedral organ exists in several forms already so doesn't need reinventing: Truro, Blackburn, Malvern Priory immediately spring to mind. I'm sure there are several smaller parish church organs which would do the job perfectly well. As Dr Who once said (after filming in Wells Cathedral) the organ is more of a mixing desk than a musical instrument - this is absolutely right, especially when playing symphonically, which is precisely what one is doing when accompanying Anglican liturgy on a typical Anglican cathedral organ.

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Now we are getting warm...

 

Trying to graft a so called independent pedal onto a romantic or quasi romantic instrument is rarely a complete success. To me, a proper 'independent pedal' implies far more than merely the inclusion of a metal 16' and a mixture. A true independent pedal should have a balancing combination for every likely combination on the manuals without coupling, otherwise it is a constraint rather than an asset. This isn't too difficult with a classical tonal design, but it becomes more problematic with schemes that build up horizontally as well as vertically.

 

It's effectiveness also depends on the voicing and disposition of the organ. I suspect one reason for the lack of pedal choruses on English organs is that our instruments are often cramped, speak in several directions or are divided around the building - and it's no use having a wonderful pedal chorus that is 40 feet away from anything else and balances completely differently depending where you are stood. From experience with cathedral organs that have had chorus work added to the pedal, I have to say that I have never been entirely conviced. Yes, they allow you to play uncoupled if you are determined to do so; but they still sound nothing like Buxtehude's organ, so what's the point?

 

The concept of an independent pedal is fairly alien to English romantic instruments and the repertoire they are optimised for. Just because the Germans have something and it sounds good, doesn't mean we have to have it too.

 

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

 

 

There is truth and fallacy contained in the above.

 

What has Halifax got?

 

You have only TWO 16ft pedal flues....big wood and little wood; the 16ft Geigen is from the Great and the Dulciana is from the Choir.

 

Our brief was to create a 35 speaking stop organ without extension: a limitation too far in view of the useful pedal derivates and extensions which could be realised.

 

Now let's debunk a few myths. A 16ft Principal is not an absolute. Schnitger and others often used wood basses and many baroque builders used wooden Posaunes. Schnitger also used leather on the shallots to soften and broaden the tone. The mixtures are usually made of plain, hammered lead, and as such, are quite dull in tone....nothing ever screeches; no matter how high pitched. (Partially due to the considerable resonance of brick hall churches).

 

Now I would absolutely agree with the premise that many instruments, (particularly overlarge instruments), tend to be buried or scattered here there and everywhere, and Halifax is a good enough example of the latter. This naturally has an effect on the tonal integrity of an instrument, as well as posing special problems to the player. However, this is often over-egged, because when you play an organ like the Bavokerk, Haarlem, it pays to look upwards, to see just how far away some of the pipework is, as well as just how far to left and right are the pedal towers. You can hear this very clearly when sitting at the console, but of course, down the cathedral, it all comes together as one piece.

 

I don't fully understand the comment about Buxtehude's organ, because it was Mendelssohn who abandoned concerts due to the lack of proper pedal organs in England. It was because of this that important minds met, and what followed was the Hill/Gauntlett revolution; no doubt thanks to discussions between Mendelssohn, Prince Albert, Dr Gauntlett and William Hill. (Germany 2 - England 2) (I feel sure there were others involved also). The last thing I would personally want, is an English organ which sounds like a German one, even if the one I play sounds like a Netherlands one! :angry:

 

There is, and was and continue to be, as a result of that revolution, organs with impressively independent pedal organs. Listen to the fabulous pedal department at Chester, or the awesome variety in the largely independent pedal at Hull City Hall, (most of it Forster & Andrews), and then check out the pedal organ at Holy Trinity, Hull, where a huge variety of sound is provided by way of extension and duplication, in addition to the original stops prior to the Compton re-build.

 

The comment about the Germans having something good which we do not want, I find amusing.

 

When did the great changes occur in English organbuilding?

 

I think you'll find that they exactly co-incided with the German influences of Fr Smith, John Snetzler (Swiss, but working in Germany tradition of the Netherlands), Edmund Schulze and, with the advent of travel and recordings, the influences of Silbermann and Schnitger.

 

MM

 

 

PS: 'Recently we heard plenty of nasty noises from the Continent in Messrs. Clutton & Jones's efforts on the Third Programme, including a cynical reference to one of our best organists who coined the phrase 'nasty noise'. How very apt - Alkmaar excepted! There is no doubt that people like (Noel Bonavia-Hunt) and the late Colonel Dixon knew what a proper British organ should consist of. One can only hope that there are still many who have ears to hear!' (Maurice Forsyth-Grant, Musical Opinion, June 1957)

Now how's that for dual standards?

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I have often wondered what this sounded like. Liturgically it looks as if it could be quite effective as well as coping with the appropriate repertoire.

 

A

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I have often wondered what this sounded like. Liturgically it looks as if it could be quite effective as well as coping with the appropriate repertoire.

 

A

 

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

 

 

No, I think if I had to live with this, I'd probably hang myself from a bell rope. :lol:

 

 

MM

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This was the organ, built by Samuel Green, once in Bangor Cathedral, but presently unplayable and in the Church of the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross, Staffordshire.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N05336

 

 

But this scheme was as rebuilt for Hoar Cross, wasn't it? It never stood in Bangor like that. It will be interesting to see how the restoration turns out.

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