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Barry Oakley

Merton College

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It would be interesting to find out Philip’s opinion, post performance, of the Hymn to St C.

 

 

Well, its certainly not twaddle! No, this was serious music (the Jubilate is somewhat lighter, I think its fair to say) and while it wouldn't perhaps be a Desert Island Disc for me, I enjoyed it.

 

It was also interesting to note that my opinion of Britten is shared by a number of other members of the choir - so maybe he polarises opinion somewhat?

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... As for the Jubilate in C, a miniature masterpiece of Mozartian perfection, hands would have been available for registration on both sides of the player at St George’s, Windsor. (I have never understood why many organists here shun the use of registrants. Perhaps it’s that we have more pistons, etc, than most continentals.)

 

 

To pick up on one point: I can think of a number of reasons why many organists shun the use of registrants. Here are just a few:

 

1) They would almost certainly wish to be paid - particularly if they were to be engaged regularly.

2) One would need to rehearse with them. Now it gets complicated. I have enough trouble finding time to practise on our organ when I am not teaching, when the building is not in use and when I am not too tired to achieve anything worthwhile. If one had also to allow for one or two others also to be available, the logistics become even more difficult.

3) What happens when one or both are ill or indisposed - or simply stuck in traffic?

4) I dislike using registrants. I have found that even reliable people can make mistakes - so this is yet another thing to worry about.

5) Using registrants (who would need to rehearse, whilst following a per-arranged registration plan) is too inflexible, What happens when a number of choir members are ill, or unable to attend on a particular day? On my own, I can simply re-set a few pistons with smaller-scale combinations. If one had to rely on registrants in such instances (more common than might be supposed), there may simply not be any time to explain a new scheme to them, with consequently different hand movements. it is also extremely likely that there would not be any time to rehearse an amended scheme.

6) If (as is likely), the registrants were not organists, then they could probably not be left to adapt or to 'improvise' in a given situation, since they would not necessarily understand the philosophy behind what the player required - or, in the wider sense, the art of registration.

 

I was once in the tribune at S. Sulpice, whilst Mme. Sophie-Veronique Cauchefer-Choplin was rehearsing - with two registrants. Before each piece, it was necessary for all three of them to consult a large ring-binder, decide who was going to do what and when, then prepare the stops - and then to rehearse their hand movements; this necessitated much starting and stopping. I realise that the organ at S. Suplice is perhaps less manageable than most large British instruments, but nevertheless, it may serve to highlight certain problems inherent in using registrants. Furthermore, I wonder how long it took to draw up the registration schemes for each piece and compile them in this binder? Each was quite detailed. In addition, of course, there were many markings on the score - using a code presumably devised between the three of them. Some were on Post-it notes. These are fine - until they lose their adhesive properties.

 

With regard to Britten's hymn harmonisations in Noye's Fludde and Saint Nicolas. They are certainly different. I still find them gauche to my ears. Certainly, I have never felt that they actually worked effectively in performance.

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... It was also interesting to note that my opinion of Britten is shared by a number of other members of the choir - so maybe he polarises opinion somewhat?

 

I think that this may well be the case. Amongst our gentlemen of the choir there is a similar feeling. About the only one who likes anything of Britten's works is our main alto - and even then, this is limited to Rejoice in the Lamb. (He also admits that this is due almost entirely to the presence of the alto solo 'For the mouse...'.) Whilst it would indeed be foolish to question either Britten's musicianship or his virtuoso piano technique, I am still not convinced that he really understood the organ. He certainly did not regard it highly as an instrument.

 

Britten's Hymn to Saint Cecilia: not twaddle, certainly. But I do not like it any more for this. I find several of the key changes unsatisfying. The various sections seem too disparate; to my ears, there is a lack of overall unity. A few parts of it sound like a classically trained musician trying to write what was perceived as a vaguely jazz style. Not my thing at all. I have tried to listen to both the King's College recording and that by The Cambridge Singers. Whilst both are beautifully sung, this music leaves me cold.

 

I suppose that we cannot all like the same thing.

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The acoustics are good. The church has recently had the nave re-ordered - previously there were raised wooden areas on which the chairs stood - these have gone to be replaced with an all new floor with underfloor heating, and this has enhanced the acoustic. The mixtures on the organ certainly take flight!

 

Thank you for this. If only we could do something similar.

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To return to the topic - I've just seen the new Merton organ on the cover of 'The American Organist'. My word! it's a handsome looking beast! There's an interesting article inside, too (rare for TAO, which is not a patch on The Organists' Review) by the builder, describing the thoughts and planning behind the new instrument.

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To return to the topic - I've just seen the new Merton organ on the cover of 'The American Organist'. My word! it's a handsome looking beast! There's an interesting article inside, too (rare for TAO, which is not a patch on The Organists' Review) by the builder, describing the thoughts and planning behind the new instrument.

 

is there any (legal) way of seeing this - without taking out a subscription - please, David?

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See the series of fascinating construction photos on Dobson's website and decide for yourself.

http://www.dobsonorgan.com/html/instruments/op91_merton/installation/op91_installation.html

 

So this is the second substancial organ that came to Europe (which GB still belongs to, BTW, despite all efforts to change this) from an American builder. I am looking forward to read about how it will be received.

 

As to the architecture – it was their choice. I tend to think that, in this area, creative impulses went mostly one-way.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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is there any (legal) way of seeing this - without taking out a subscription - please, David?

 

I don't think so - I get to see it because it gets mailed to Queen's College, where I am in charge of the chapel music.

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I read this (AO article) online, somewhere.

 

Possibly, via the builders' website or Merton, itself.

 

Whatever, the link now seems to have been taken down.

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I read this (AO article) online, somewhere.

 

Possibly, via the builders' website or Merton, itself.

 

Whatever, the link now seems to have been taken down.

 

No, the article is still available via the Dobson’s website:

http://www.dobsonorgan.com/html/instruments/op91_merton/TAOcoverfeature.pdf

 

Here’s also another short post about this organ:

http://www.theladyorganist.com/first-performances-on-dobson-op91-at-merton-college-oxford/

 

M

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I particularly like the colour scheme and especially the pipe shades upon which more colour becomes visible as you move over to the sides.

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No, the article is still available via the Dobson’s website:

http://www.dobsonorgan.com/html/instruments/op91_merton/TAOcoverfeature.pdf

 

Here’s also another short post about this organ:

http://www.theladyorganist.com/first-performances-on-dobson-op91-at-merton-college-oxford/

 

M

 

Thanks SlovOrg, for putting that link to my blog. And I agree, firstrees, it LOOKS absolutely fabulous. I'm going to get to play it next April, on a RCO Diploma study course. Can't wait!

 

And hello all, I'm a newbie here and this is my first post. Looking forward to meeting you

 

Morwenna

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Thanks SlovOrg, for putting that link to my blog. And I agree, firstrees, it LOOKS absolutely fabulous. I'm going to get to play it next April, on a RCO Diploma study course. Can't wait!

 

And hello all, I'm a newbie here and this is my first post. Looking forward to meeting you

 

Morwenna

I'd just like to say that it's nice to see the occasional lady on here!

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I'd just like to say that it's nice to see the occasional lady on here!

 

(I'd use the 'Off Topic' but it seems to have gone.)

 

Hello from another occasional lady; shall follow your blog with interest. Good luck with the course and hope you enjoy using the instrument.

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