Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford


DaveHarries
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hardly a casual visitor, obviously! Also clearly one with a hang-up about the organ (which I will concede is, though in many respects excellent, not as eclectic an instrument as it might have been). I'm afraid I think the report says more about the mystery worshipper than about the service. Though it's a long time since I have been there and even longer since I played there (on the old H&H!!) I distinctly remember that the worst thing about CC is the acoustic. An absolute "bummer" (pardon the expression). To my mind, it's that which compromises the Rieger more than anything else. If you must have a "brittle" toned organ, at least make sure you have an acoustic to give it some bloom.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hardly a casual visitor, obviously! Also clearly one with a hang-up about the organ (which I will concede is, though in many respects excellent, not as eclectic an instrument as it might have been). I'm afraid I think the report says more about the mystery worshipper than about the service. Though it's a long time since I have been there and even longer since I played there (on the old H&H!!) I distinctly remember that the worst thing about CC is the acoustic. An absolute "bummer" (pardon the expression). To my mind, it's that which compromises the Rieger more than anything else. If you must have a "brittle" toned organ, at least make sure you have an acoustic to give it some bloom.

 

This is a fair comment, Vox.

 

Whilst the former FHW/H&H instrument will have sounded quite different (and, arguably, more suitable for certain types of accompaniment), I wonder if it also lacked that magical quality which a good acoustic can bestow? And I do not simply mean resonance, but bloom, warmth - call it what you will - which lends another dimension to the sound of an organ.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well of course, but not necessarily more so than the present instrument, which was my point. If there isn't a magical acoustic, how can the organ sound magical?

 

But it was - what? - 40 years ago? Like the rest of me, my memory is a bit dim, but I remember spending a week there in two consecutive years with a visiting choir. I remember not liking the H&H overmuch - heavy, thick and unlovely is how I remember it - but I thought the acoustic by far the greater handicap. In a dry acoustic, surely a warm, romantic organ tone is likely to be more acceptable than a clinical, classical one? I remember hearing a tape recording of one of our Evensongs featuring Stanford in A and, if I say so myself, it actually sounded quite well. I also remember one of the choir raving about how I had made the organ sound just like a Schnitger in some Bach voluntary (which was purely fortuitous, but in retrospect I think he probably had a point - those tierce mixtures...)

I am by no means unsympathetic to modern continental instruments. Far from it. I have played several in Germany for Anglican-style services (mainly by Klais for some reason) and found them perfectly adequate. Where I have often found them wanting is in their reeds, which are so often the "wrong" side of French and too raucous. I have often felt, too, that they are deficient in string tone. Usually the only strings have been on the Schwellwerk - the obligatory celestes and maybe a 4' Fugara. I just don't get this. I would happily trade in a flute or two elsewhere for a Gamba. Maybe I've just been unfortunate with the instruments I've encountered...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I recall a week spent at The House in the 70s, as one of a visiting choir.

 

The organ was then still the ‘old one’, but the ‘new’ organist (a Mr Preston). At one service, he accompanied us in the Collegium Regale Mag & Nunc (Howells). This was a quite wonderful experience as he had, of course, been Organ Scholar at King’s. He conjured up magical stop combinations, which seemed almost to alter the acoustic, to its benefit.

 

I also recall a comment on the action (was it by him, or at one remove from Dr Watson?) being like ‘playing on melted chocolate’.

 

A few years later, I returned, to hear a choir transformed into what was now possibly the most exciting choral sound in any UK cathedral/college chapel at the time- and a private mini-recital on the Rieger.

 

A stunningly bright sound in an acoustic which would be enhanced by the sort of work done at Chelmsford. The new organ was not, of course, now entirely (!) appropriate for Howells and the accompaniment would have sounded very different and probably not to its benefit. This does seem to be a slight non sequitur, as it were, in an English cathedral.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...