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Midnight Mass from the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint George in Southwark

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(With reference to the moving console:) It would first have to fly over a solid screen and a high altar, then down I think three sets of steps with more ecclesiastical furniture in the way. Your friends are obviously more talented than I.

 

Unfortunately funds didn't even stretch to replacing the chest magnets, which have had their day; for some years there has been make do and mend and borrowing magnet caps from elsewhere (particularly the trebles of the strings) in order to keep more important stuff playing. Everything from the key contacts, pistons and stop solenoids up to the magnets has been replaced, and the console has had a Rolls Royce job done on it and shines like new. At least the magnets are relatively cheap and can be done a rank at a time in phases. In short, ignore the comment on the Youtube vid which says the organ is going to be scrapped; it's not.

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(With reference to the moving console:) It would first have to fly over a solid screen and a high altar, then down I think three sets of steps with more ecclesiastical furniture in the way. Your friends are obviously more talented than I.

 

Unfortunately funds didn't even stretch to replacing the chest magnets, which have had their day; for some years there has been make do and mend and borrowing magnet caps from elsewhere (particularly the trebles of the strings) in order to keep more important stuff playing. Everything from the key contacts, pistons and stop solenoids up to the magnets has been replaced, and the console has had a Rolls Royce job done on it and shines like new. At least the magnets are relatively cheap and can be done a rank at a time in phases. In short, ignore the comment on the Youtube vid which says the organ is going to be scrapped; it's not.

 

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Not a problem!

 

 

 

:unsure:

 

MM

 

 

 

PS: In the video, there is a very appropriate bit of text. "Where is that music coming from?"

Imagine a walking console, with suitable blue-ray interface.....the organist could stampede down the church and out into the borough; none daring to challenge him. He could still be playing the organ when he got to Waterloo Station.

 

Glad to hear that the organ isn't going to be scrapped.

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Friends:

 

Sorry to appear dim, daft or both. but where and how does one watch/hear the service we're discussing ?

 

KMW

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Friends:

 

Sorry to appear dim, daft or both. but where and how does one watch/hear the service we're discussing ?

 

KMW

 

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

 

 

 

You don't appear dim at all. The BBC iPlayer broadcast is not available in America; assuming that it still exists at all. However, Nick Gale, the DOM at Southwark RC cathedral has posted various video clips on You Tube, and can be heard there.

 

However, open the clip as normal, but then click on the YouTube symbol at the bottom of the frame, which will allow you to hear it directly from You Tube, whereupon you will find the other clips by scrolling up and down the listings on the right.

 

 

Try this:-

 

 

 

Being used to extension organs, tell us what you think to 18 or so ranks of the Compton extension organ at Southwark RC cathedral.

 

MM

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Yes, I've no idea what the last verse of O Come was meant to sound like. Astonished they didn't have someone conducting in the nave.

 

I fear there there is just an element of being too clever for one's own good about this. I can think of many occasions when I was directing music when we undertook anthems and such like that were just a bit too difficult for an amateur choir. I fear, though, that I would be terribly disappointed with the end result of how this service comes over especially with regard to the final hymn which is, let's face it, quite a mess. I tend to agree with the other correspondent, too, who mentions the latest round of descants from King's. These and the Southwark ones are just, in my view, too complex for the good of the overall context of music-making. It would be tedious if we never took risks, of course, but the last verse of "O Come" from Southwark could serve as a very helpful illustration of a risk too far. I can't quite tell what's gone wrong - a concatenation of circumstances, I fancy - but once a large, unrehearsed congregation gets on a roll and doesn't understand what on earth is going on with strange organ parts which many lay people can find off-putting, trumpet solos, and wildly different descants, there really is no controlling things. We introduced the wonderful Andrew Carter descant to O little town of Bethlehem a few years ago - (King's used it once about ten years ago) - but there is some element of it which makes the congregation (here) stop believing that they need to hold "O" at the beginning of the penultimate line of the last verse for two counts - O come to us, abide with us, and we had to give it up after a second try. Sometimes there is no accounting for these matters but I think there was a "perfect storm" (as it were) in "O come" at Southwark, unfortunately.

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Yes, I've no idea what the last verse of O Come was meant to sound like. Astonished they didn't have someone conducting in the nave.

 

This is what happens when you set a speed that doesn't take proper account of the acoustic and the sheer number of people present. It should have been obvious that the people towards the back of the building (and perhaps further forward too, judging from the obvious difficulty the trumpeter was having) weren't going to hear clearly what was going on and that a general mush would result. A slower tempo, more in keeping with the majesty of the occasion and allowing the notes and chords more time to make their impact, might have averted disaster.

 

That said, I also agree with the comments already made about the last verse.

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Oh Vox Humana, thou art wise -

 

It's a mentality that we're dealing with today. The common denominator amongst my students is that they know EVERYTHING, and that there is NOTHING that I know that could possibly be of any value to them, except, of course, when they've got their knickers in a twist over a technical matter, whether it be manual fingering, tricky registrational bits (Roger-Ducasse), pedaling, choir/clergy issues and the like. They are desperate for immediate First-Aid and demand it but shrink from any idea of a larger schooling and approach. Don't even mention hard work at the piano. Horrors !

 

So much of our work involves experience and learning from it, taste or the lack of it, and genuine care for the final result and its impact on the "man in the pew."

 

Hope this doesn't sound like a bitter old man. So much of it is just common sense.

 

emsgdh

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Colin:

 

I'm only used to extension organs because, as you well know, I'm old enough to have played them rather alot. One doesn't see too many over here any more. As my credentials are well-established as an out-of-control Anglophile, my reply may surprise you. The old Kimball firm was their equal, and better, with flutes, strings and orchestral reeds. Chorus reeds simply fabulous, but all quite dark as with the W. C. Jones school. The quality of their mechanical work was battleship-like. Curiously, Kimball built cheap pianos and expensive organs. In my opinion, Compton's distinction lay with their Diapason chorus work, although I've never heard one that was really in tune. There always seems to be some fighting going on.

 

I'm reminded of the famous quote of Arthur Harrison's when, asked if he could detect the unification in one of Compton's bigger jobs replied, "Of course, with considerable imagination."

 

Karl

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Colin:

 

I'm only used to extension organs because, as you well know, I'm old enough to have played them rather alot. One doesn't see too many over here any more. As my credentials are well-established as an out-of-control Anglophile, my reply may surprise you. The old Kimball firm was their equal, and better, with flutes, strings and orchestral reeds. Chorus reeds simply fabulous, but all quite dark as with the W. C. Jones school. The quality of their mechanical work was battleship-like. Curiously, Kimball built cheap pianos and expensive organs. In my opinion, Compton's distinction lay with their Diapason chorus work, although I've never heard one that was really in tune. There always seems to be some fighting going on.

 

I'm reminded of the famous quote of Arthur Harrison's when, asked if he could detect the unification in one of Compton's bigger jobs replied, "Of course, with considerable imagination."

 

Karl

 

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Shucks! :(

 

American strings and reeds ARE rather good, by and large, but Compton's out of tune?

 

Try this, but be forewarned, there is a pedal reed or something slightly out of tune on the last note.

 

 

The organ is Downside Abbey.

 

MM

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What I've always admired about Comptons is the standard of craftsmanship and the high quality of voicing. When i was in Belfast, my own organ at the Cathedral had Billy Jones reeds, Blossom strings and the rest pretty much top-class Harrison. I used to play now and again at St. Mark's, Dundela, which is not perhaps the best Compton ever built, but the voicing compared well with that at the Cathedral, especially the Swell reeds. I also find that the Compton recipe for a Swell with harmonic flute, string and trumpet (perhaps with diapason and hautboy on bigger jobs) tends to yield amazingly fine results. The Dundela organ had a fine Swell flue chorus but was let down by the Great, where the mixture was of little effect. To be honest, the same could be said about the Great Mixture at the Cathedral, which was at least partly the old Harmonics recast and suffered from unsteady wind. Philip Prosser improved the latter somewhat by substituting a chord for the cable controlling the chopper valve and doing what he could with the mixture on the voicing machine. Philip also maintained the Compton at Mullingar for many years and said that it was a really fine organ, but just needed some proper mixtures. On the other hand, the early-ish Compton at All Souls, Belfast had quite an effective Great Mixture based (I think) on the Dulciana, which was big enough to do the job, while being also effective as a quite unison stop.

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Friends:

 

I let that invitation to comment on the Retiring Procession slip through my fingers. Of course, it's an outrageous bit of overreaching, mad-sounding really. I would never have considered it myself, but I love it when others climb out on a limb and get up to no good.

 

When when considers the cloud that, until recently, RC musicians have been under, I, for one, feel that they're entitled to get wild and crazy, as long as no one gets hurt !

 

The purple, neon quality of it all gave me the giggles.

 

emsgdh

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Colin:

 

About the out-of-tuneness, I was referring SPECIFICALLY to the upperwork of the Diapason chorus.

 

And, of course, the famous Compton jobs are MIGHTILY impressive. I just wanted to get an oar in for the old Kimball outfit. They built magnificent organs.

 

You damn with faint praise the American strings and flutes. I've never heard their equal and I'm not given to giving ANYTHING American a blank cheque.

 

Karl

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Colin:

 

About the out-of-tuneness, I was referring SPECIFICALLY to the upperwork of the Diapason chorus.

 

And, of course, the famous Compton jobs are MIGHTILY impressive. I just wanted to get an oar in for the old Kimball outfit. They built magnificent organs.

 

You damn with faint praise the American strings and flutes. I've never heard their equal and I'm not given to giving ANYTHING American a blank cheque.

 

Karl

 

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I have to tread carefully, because my fellow-countrymen gat very sensitive about praising American organs.

 

They seem to think that everything is extension; over-loud and over-voiced, but WE know the truth.

 

Actually, I'll stick my head above the bellows and suggest that I have never heard finer reeds, strings and possibly even flutes than in America, but I hesitate about the flutes. You have to hear some of the old Netherlands flutes before judging anything....they are often sublime.

 

We'll keep it secret....no-one will read this, I feel sure. :(

 

MM

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Colin:

 

Sure you may be right, esp. re: gedeckts. There is one on a Flentrop in Raleigh, NC that is sublime.

 

Orchestral reeds, with the exception of the Willis Clarinet (Corno di Bassetto) are, as I'm sure you've experienced, simply superb, and from a number of different makers, all defunct: Skinner, Aeolian, Kimball and even Austin. Strings: forget it. There are none finer. Flutes run the gamut and I'm not prepared to suggest that the Americans are better. Chorus reeds, of the Willis type, made by Skinners, are very fine, as are the so-called French reeds turned out by A-S. Very fine chorus reeds were also voiced by Kimball and by Aeolian. The fractional-length reeds, made by Skinner (they are not really authentic copies, but are solid as a rock) and by the Moller reed shops far outshine anything else.

In the matter of Diapasons, again it's the Skinner, Kimball and Aeolian shops that excel. A-S eventually made many different types for a variety of tastes and situations. But English Diapasons are something special. I have to say that, at the end of the day, there are few organs in the US, or anywhere, for that matter, to equal instruments like Salisbury, Lincoln, Truro, all different in their ways, but alike in their astounding beauty and ability to thrill. The one CENTRAL issue is that, on the whole, American acoustics are so poor. There are many, many organs in America whose standard of tonal finish is fully equal to Arthur Harrison, but they are, by and large, speaking in rotten acoustics.

 

Karl

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I once wrote that I'd like to take the Solo Gambas at St. John-the-Divine to bed with me..... :wub:

 

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Indeed you did, and I didn't quite know how to respond the first time. :wacko:

 

How small scale are those strings? :rolleyes:

 

MM

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This is what happens when you set a speed that doesn't take proper account of the acoustic and the sheer number of people present. It should have been obvious that the people towards the back of the building (and perhaps further forward too, judging from the obvious difficulty the trumpeter was having) weren't going to hear clearly what was going on and that a general mush would result. A slower tempo, more in keeping with the majesty of the occasion and allowing the notes and chords more time to make their impact, might have averted disaster.

 

That said, I also agree with the comments already made about the last verse.

 

I couldn't work out how they managed to finish together, given the absolute shambles that was in progress during the penultimate line! I often think congregations have a better idea what speed the hymns go at in a particular building than the organists do.

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I couldn't work out how they managed to finish together, given the absolute shambles that was in progress during the penultimate line! I often think congregations have a better idea what speed the hymns go at in a particular building than the organists do.

 

 

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

 

 

A very pertinent observation Nick, and one with which I fully agree. Whenever I change the harmonies, or add a nice llittle organ descant over and above the tune, I have a golden rule. At line ends, I always use concordant harmonies, because once you get beyond a simple 7th, people instinctively hesitate. In between those natural commas and full stops, you can more or less do what you like within certain limits of harmonic common sense, and people will stay with you, in key and on time.

 

What strikes me about the Southwark debacle, is the fact that if you listen very carefully, the congregation are the ONLY ones in time and on time, but the choir goes all rubato and the trumpeter, (torn between one world and the next), just gets completely flumoxed. I actually think that the fault is entirely down to some very dubious and over emotional conducting, and no-one, (not even the choir), were going along with it.

 

I don't think it's ever a good idea to play Russian Roulette with congregational hymns, but I expect that Gesualdo would have approved.

 

MM

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At line ends, I always use concordant harmonies, because once you get beyond a simple 7th, people instinctively hesitate.

 

I think that's very sound advice.

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David D:

 

As for those Solo Gambas at St. J the D, you might not survive your fantasy. They are very, very powerful. Another member wondered about their scale. I don't know the scaling but, based on other examples, I would guess they are about +- 4" at CC, and inverted conical, four notes larger at the top of the pipe. Of course, they could be smaller but the effect is one of great broadness, like the 'cellos of the orchestra.

 

emsgdh

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David D:

 

As for those Solo Gambas at St. J the D, you might not survive your fantasy. They are very, very powerful. Another member wondered about their scale. I don't know the scaling but, based on other examples, I would guess they are about +- 4" at CC, and inverted conical, four notes larger at the top of the pipe. Of course, they could be smaller but the effect is one of great broadness, like the 'cellos of the orchestra.

 

emsgdh

 

Ooh yeah! The French Horn could figure in one's dreams, too. And the rest of it is disturbingly gorgeous as well. The only thing that lets it down is the cases - J.J. Binns on a mediocre day.

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Oh my ! I never thought of it. They ARE terribly Binns-like ! Taking those cases on face value, one would never imagine the glory that lurks behind them.

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Oh my ! I never thought of it. They ARE terribly Binns-like ! Taking those cases on face value, one would never imagine the glory that lurks behind them.

 

 

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Early Harrison & Harrison organs were just as numb, but at least J J Binns made this case in the factory:-

 

http://staidan-leeds.org.uk/music-at-st-aidans/the-organ-2/

 

It's a splendid organ, a very resonant (high anglican) church and rather beautiful to the eye.

 

MM

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For some reason that I can't remember now, I thought that this church and its organ had been blitzed. Glad it's still out there.

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