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Guest Echo Gamba
Indeed - a nasty sound, but Ralph Downes knew this and instructed players never to use the two together.

 

 

I didn't, but I've heard Martin Schellenberg playing the Bristol organ superbly, presumably with similar colours in Edwardian repertoire, since he was CH's assistant.

 

I seem to remember that CH had the Large OD coming on very early on the then 5 Great pistons!

 

I was (very unoficially!!) let loose on the Bristol organ by a verger, when I was 10 in 1966! I had never come across pistons before, and of course I tried them all, but I can't remember the scheme exactly.

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My ears must work differently. For years people have said 'thick and muddy' when I just hear warm and rich. I always add manual doubles fairly early, and rarely use strings alone without either the sub octave or a nice quiet 16' flue to give them more presence and warmth. Even in Baroque music, I'd far rather hear a sumptuous 16,8,8,4,2 chorus than single pitches with scratchy neo-classical mixtures. If the organ is well made, you will have 'clarity'. Assuming clarity has to be the primary consideration, which is not always the case.

 

:blink: I'll get my coat...

Completely agree with everything Ian's said on this thread. I can hardly add any more to his later comments on choral accompaniment either. I've had quite a few eureka moments with manual 16 flues and would far rather have a manual 16 flue than a 16 reed, if asked to choose. The gravitat of manual doubles can be quite addictive but I would caution against over-use, when the effect can wear off and it just becomes muddy and turgid. As lots of people have commented, it has a lot to do with the quality of the 16 manual flue. Something slow and indistinct is going to be horrid - but they can be wonderful on a good organ - Romsey Abbey has already been rightly mentioned. Further uses of a manual 16 flue:

  • Congregational accompaniment - a manual 16 speaks at the same pitch as the majority of men's voices so it helps support their singing. Obviously, you need at least a 4' to make the organ heard above the singing but the 16 adds much support to the men's voices.
  • It can be used in the pleno - pieces like the Bach C minor prelude BWV 546 and e minor BWV 548 sound much better to my ears on a 16' chorus.
  • German Romantic organ music. For example at my church, something like manuals 16.8.8.8.8.8.8 (including Oboe, no celestes) sounds utterly wonderful for Brahm's Hertzlich tut mir verlangen (the first one). It's not muddy at all - just wonderfully rich and warm and immediately transports you to the sound world of late Brahms. It was quite an OMG moment for Stephen Bicknell when we tried that out the first time...
  • French Romantic organ music - look at how often Widor and Franck ask for Grande Orgue fonds 16.8.4… a big, rich, warm sound…
  • Getting the sound of the organ round corners. This is particularly pertinent to Britain, with our organs stuck in chancel arches and accompanying congregations. Bass notes at 16 pitch are much better at getting out of enchambered spaces and round corners than higher pitches - it's part of the reason why the pedal pipes at the back of the organ get out into the open very happily, past the Swell and Great organs and balencing happily, while a pedal mixture in the same place doesn't...

Now take somewhere like Sherborne Abbey, where the organ is stuck round the corner, on gallery on the north wall of the north transept. There must be at least 20 feet from the front of the main organ case to the front of the arcading in the nave. Not a great place for getting the sound of the organ to the back of the nave - in fact, it's nearly hopeless. The only way to accompany the congregation before Ken Tickell added his Nave division at the west end was to use a lot of 16 tone on the manuals. When this happened, the lead from the organ was quite acceptable in the nave. When the mixtures were used instead of the manuals 16s, the organ just shrieked its head off into the crossing and not much happened in the nave, except for a rather indistinct swirl of reflected sound. It's interesting to note that in the Organ Journal of 1935, this organ was described as giving a perfectly adequate lead to the congregation but has been felt to be inadequate since the 1960s. Probably to do with the changing styles of playing the organ and organists' expectations, not forgetting some rather unsympathetic rebuilds of a very good Gray and Davison.

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Oh yes, one further use of 16' flues is playing them up an octave, to get neo-baroque effects out of your Victorian warhorse. 16,8,2 2/3,2 can so easily become 8.4.1 1/3.1 (with a good, strong 1 1/3 and 1 above your light 8 flute as well). What more could one ask for?

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My ears must work differently. For years people have said 'thick and muddy' when I just hear warm and rich. I always add manual doubles fairly early, and rarely use strings alone without either the sub octave or a nice quiet 16' flue to give them more presence and warmth. Even in Baroque music, I'd far rather hear a sumptuous 16,8,8,4,2 chorus than single pitches with scratchy neo-classical mixtures. If the organ is well made, you will have 'clarity'. Assuming clarity has to be the primary consideration, which is not always the case.

 

:blink: I'll get my coat...

 

No, Ian - leave it hanging on the hook yet awhile....

 

I agree with you; I add manual doubles early, too. Or, a Swell Sub Octave - not just with the strings, either. In addition, on my own church instrument, I prefer to add the 16 Quintatön with the Mixture IV. Not because the Mixture is too high-pitched or badly voiced, it is neither. However, in the very dry acoustic here the versatile soft 16ft. gives the sound more character and substance. In addition, I use all four 8ft. flues on the same setting.

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Guest Echo Gamba
Oh yes, one further use of 16' flues is playing them up an octave, to get neo-baroque effects out of your Victorian warhorse. 16,8,2 2/3,2 can so easily become 8.4.1 1/3.1 (with a good, strong 1 1/3 and 1 above your light 8 flute as well). What more could one ask for?

 

My initial comments were based on chorus use. I often use effects such as you mention, or even the Gt 16' Bourdon coupled to the pedals (no stops) under, say, the celestes.

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No, Ian - leave it hanging on the hook yet awhile....

 

I agree with you; I add manual doubles early, too. Or, a Swell Sub Octave - not just with the strings, either. In addition, on my own church instrument, I prefer to add the 16 Quintatön with the Mixture IV. Not because the Mixture is too high-pitched or badly voiced, it is neither. However, in the very dry acoustic here the versatile soft 16ft. gives the sound more character and substance. In addition, I use all four 8ft. flues on the same setting.

Yes, I agree - I have a similar situation: a very dry acoustic, with pin-point like accurracy and a fairly gentle but prompt 16 Bourdon on the Great organ. It helps to give more body and fullness to the sound. Usually I add the 16 at around the same time as the mixture - sometimes before, sometimes after. I often add a 2nd 8 when I add the mixture - otherwise in the treble the 4,2 2/3 & 2 ranks are all doubled but not the 8... Although this isn't really necessary as the 8 is larger than the 4, which is larger than the 2 & twelfth (which are about the same). However, this does allow me to do some very weird things: I can start with the Mixture and Great 8 Open Diapason alone (yes, really), then add the principal, twelfth and fifteenth...

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My initial comments were based on chorus use. I often use effects such as you mention, or even the Gt 16' Bourdon coupled to the pedals (no stops) under, say, the celestes.
Yes, absolutely - I do the same sometimes, using the manual double as a soft pedal 16. I'll sometimes resort to the 16 up an octave when needed - sometimes it's the only way to get enough brightness and clarity out of some organs.
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I seem to remember that CH had the Large OD coming on very early on the then 5 Great pistons!

 

It is a long time ago but as I remember it when I was a frequent visitor to the organ loft for daily evensong the settings went:

1. SD 8

2. SD 8, Wald FL 8, OD III 8, Principal II 4

3. OD I, II, III, Principal I, Principal II 4

4. 3. + DOD 16, Twelfth, Fifteenth

5. Mixture and reeds

 

There were no generals until the Mander rebuild and the divisionals were not easily adjustable (and rarely changed) so had to serve for both repertoire and accompaniment. With only 5 pistons to each division Clifford Harker did a lot of hand registration or made use of his page turner when he had one.

 

With only five pistons on swell, which went something like

 

1. Strings

2. SD, Dulciana, fl 4

3. SD, OD Principal

4. + 15

5. Principal, Twelfth, Fifteenth, Mix, Reeds

 

Contra Fagotto and Oboe was often added by hand after piston 4.

 

A Clifford Harker favourite in Psalm accompaniment not on Solo pistons was Solo strings, Cor Anglais 16' with Pedal Contra Gamba and 32' flue. At this point the left hand seemed to move at great speed as these stops were on the right hand jamb!

 

I am talking about happy days of 40-odd years ago so please make allowances for the accuracy.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest Echo Gamba
Well, it depends on repertoire, organ and acoustic, obviously, but I would often add the Great double flue after the 2' and before adding the Mixture. If it's a nasty 22.26.29 Mixture stuck on decent Edwardian foundations, then I would add the reed(s) and save the Mixture til last. I would certainly do all this in hymns and the majority of repertoire. When under a choir, it's all about creating the illusion of power and warmth, without overpowering. So, I still add Sw & Ch ( & So) doubles quite early, but lay off the thicker 8' stops; rarely any Gt stops at all, saving light Gt foundations til very late. For example, Full Sw & Ch (& So orchestral reeds), tempered by the swell pedals, with Gt stopped 8' and Principal 4', ought to be a rich but bright plenum. Likewise on the Pedal: avoiding heavy 16s but certainly adding 32 flue (or Quint) fairly early, for gravitas, certainly under any 16,8,4 colours, and/or Full Sw.

 

(Incidentally, I would usually add the Sw oboe before the 2' - it's a foundation stop here in the UK too - it gives useful 'bite' for the singers and often the Sw 2' simply doesn't blend with the Ob.)

 

 

Likewise at Peterborough, where they also have a 'French symphonic' channel.

 

Do you know, roughly, how the "French Symphonic" channels are set?

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Guest Echo Gamba
It is a long time ago but as I remember it when I was a frequent visitor to the organ loft for daily evensong the settings went:

1. SD 8

2. SD 8, Wald FL 8, OD III 8, Principal II 4

3. OD I, II, III, Principal I, Principal II 4

4. 3. + DOD 16, Twelfth, Fifteenth

5. Mixture and reeds

 

There were no generals until the Mander rebuild and the divisionals were not easily adjustable (and rarely changed) so had to serve for both repertoire and accompaniment. With only 5 pistons to each division Clifford Harker did a lot of hand registration or made use of his page turner when he had one.

 

With only five pistons on swell, which went something like

 

1. Strings

2. SD, Dulciana, fl 4

3. SD, OD Principal

4. + 15

5. Principal, Twelfth, Fifteenth, Mix, Reeds

 

Contra Fagotto and Oboe was often added by hand after piston 4.

 

A Clifford Harker favourite in Psalm accompaniment not on Solo pistons was Solo strings, Cor Anglais 16' with Pedal Contra Gamba and 32' flue. At this point the left hand seemed to move at great speed as these stops were on the right hand jamb!

 

I am talking about happy days of 40-odd years ago so please make allowances for the accuracy.

 

 

Sorry - I missed this when you originally posted it. Very interesting reading. Yes, I remember that huge "English" diapsason sound on great 3! I believe he had the Cor Anglais converted from 8' to 16' many years ago.

 

Before the Mander rebuild, but after CH's retirement, Malcolm Archer had the pistons reset, and I turned pages for Clifford when he came back to accompany a visiting choir for an evensong directed by one of his ex-choristers. He did all the registration himself, but was complaining that the pistons had been reset!

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  • 1 year later...

Sorry to re-open a long-dormant topic, but I'm always amazed that many small-ish Victorian organs have a double flue much more often on the Swell than on the Great. Swell flue Doubles always muddy the sound of the division (to my mind at least), and in my playing I put it on only when approaching Full Organ. It would seem more useful IMHO to have a flue Double on the Great, and Sumner says that a Swell Bourdon is of little value, which is also my experience. Any thoughts on this?

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Sorry to re-open a long-dormant topic, but I'm always amazed that many small-ish Victorian organs have a double flue much more often on the Swell than on the Great. Swell flue Doubles always muddy the sound of the division (to my mind at least), and in my playing I put it on only when approaching Full Organ. It would seem more useful IMHO to have a flue Double on the Great, and Sumner says that a Swell Bourdon is of little value, which is also my experience. Any thoughts on this?

 

Yes.

 

IMHO Swell Bourdons are much maligned and much missed (by me if nobody else) when they are absent. A number of times recently I have found otherwise good (recent) schemes to be sadly lacking in this area. What does one use them for (?), I hear you ask.

 

1. They add slight gravitas in accompaniment. 'Slight' is a positively good thing!

2. They provide an alternate (sometimes the only) soft pedal when coupled down

3. They facilitate such combinations as 8' + 4' flutes to accompany (when played up an octave) and such luxurious sounds as 8' Flute and 4' Celestes (ditto).

4. They enable one to follow particular combinations where specified, Durufle and Messiaen (for example) are two composers who specify this stop very regularly.

5. They enable the 16' Fagotto or Double Trumpet to be that bit bigger because smaller combinations can have a 16' element without it overpowering Oboe, Principal etc.

 

For an organ-builder or designer to place such a stop in the Swell when there is not one on the Great is doing a sensible thing, because it can of course be used to underpin (ever so slightly) either division. However out of fashion a manual 16' flue is, these stops definitely add something, particularly where there is little acoustic.

 

This is not to say that there are no bad Swell Bourdons, but correctly used I think there are very few. Indeed, one often finds the oldest pipes in a much rebuilt organ at the top of such a rank, and they can be positively delightful when played on their own occasionally.

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Sorry to re-open a long-dormant topic, but I'm always amazed that many small-ish Victorian organs have a double flue much more often on the Swell than on the Great. Swell flue Doubles always muddy the sound of the division (to my mind at least), and in my playing I put it on only when approaching Full Organ. It would seem more useful IMHO to have a flue Double on the Great, and Sumner says that a Swell Bourdon is of little value, which is also my experience. Any thoughts on this?

Me too! I frequently use a 16' on the manuals in accompaniment and solo work, and find it far more useful to have it in the Swell, although I would prefer one on every division.

 

Jonathan

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Quite often if the 8' Swell/Cornopean is big enough in the bass it is almost of more use to have a 16' flue instead of a 16' reed. Some of the smaller to medium F. Willis organs show this well. One place where I play has some of the best sounds for service use by using selective quiet flues up an octave on the Swell (as Cynic says above) - including a lovely mid Victorian 8' & 1' - not strictly authentic but nice at Christmas!

 

A

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  • 1 month later...

I was a student at Bristol University 1975-78 and I well remember Clifford Harker's piston settings. I also remember Garth Benson's at St. Mary Redcliffe, which were similarly Edwardian. I had lessons from Garth and he gave me a few recitals and services. The Redcliffe pistons were adjustable at a switchboard, but it was difficult to talk Garth into lending the keys to the cabinets.

 

'What do you want to change the pistons for? I never change them.'

 

I could understand his point of view, since it takes a while to set up a big four-manual on a switchboard, but I couldn't quite work with what he had set up, although I think my generation were beginning to get tired of neo-baroquery and was appreciative of Romantic organs and the way to register them. I certainly learned a lot from Garth's registration, and also from listening to Clifford accompanying the psalms at week-day Evensongs.

 

I believe that one channel at Redcliffe is reserved for Garth's settings.

 

One does learn, even from odd lines in conversations. I remember the late Richard Galloway (Holy Rude, Stirling - the best example of the oft-heard adage 'Rushworth's could really do it if they wanted to') saying, 'My dad used to like using 16' stops on the manuals', and finding several new dimensions to my own playing as a result. Similarly, sitting next to Francis Jackson at Evensong when I was fourteen and watching him accompany the psalms had an effect which is still with me forty years later.

 

Getting back to 'Doubles Off' - I find this very useful when it's there. I first got used to it when Ernest Warrell used to let me loose at Southwark, a very generous gesture towards someone he didn't know.

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