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Aubertin at Vichy – that 16-foot Principal


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Dear members,

 

is there anyone (Nigel, perhaps?) who knows details about the Aubertin organ at Vichy?

 

The stoplist gives the Pedal Principal, which is the only 16-foot flue in that division, as starting from F#. Nothing is being said there what that means precisely – front pipes, with the first six being inside or behind the towers or the main case? Or a rank that indeed lacks the first six notes?

 

The latter would be rather improbable, considering the 10 2/3' + 6 2/5' and the GO’s being firmly based on a 16-foot flue. I also am under the impression that there is 16-foot tone present here (BWV 563, Vernet at Vichy, notes E, C#-D-E-F#). But the stoplist would not tell.

 

Does anybody know anything about this?

 

Thanks in advance,

Friedrich

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From the photograph (and instances of this type of thing in other instruments), I would guess that the lowest six notes are stopped wood - and inside the cases. Although it is difficult to say conclusively from the photograph, the Pedal towers do not look to be approaching eighteen feet in height - particularly since they are surmounted by pavilions or whatever is the correct term.

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I spent a very happy morning at Vichy a couple of years ago but can not remember what goes on with the 16' in question - the bass end of the 32' reed has been mentioned on here before and is outside the case. It's one of those instruments that makes you question all you have ever done before with the appropriate repertoire and certainly requires much time to get to know it.

 

A

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Passing by here, I came across this post. This was the organ that I found completed in the workshop when I first encountered the builder and the workshop in September,1990. The first time that Bernard used a full length 16ft Principal is in the case of St Louis-en-l'Isle, Paris. It is to do with the proportions of the Golden Section and thus - as rightly pointed out - the five bottoms notes play a Stopped and a Quint. One is not at all conscious of this when playing as the voicing is impeccable. The Quint & Tierce provide a sound simiar to the Berlin Philharmonic double basses. The 32' Napoléon was added a few years after the opening and is so called after the founder of the modern-day Vichy, Emperor Napoléan III who, along with his son and wife are buried in the Crypt of Farnborough Abbey in Hampshire.
I trust that this answers a few of the querries.

Nigel

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The 32' Napoléon was added a few years after the opening and is so called after the founder of the modern-day Vichy, Emperor Napoléan III who, along with his son and wife are buried in the Crypt of Farnborough Abbey in Hampshire.

I trust that this answers a few of the querries.

Nigel

Curiously, Napolean III was first entombed at St Mary's Catholic Church, Chislehurst, Kent but subsequently re-interred at Farnborough. I can't recall the precise reason for the move...a family dispute of some kind, I think.

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... It is to do with the proportions of the Golden Section and thus - as rightly pointed out - the five bottoms notes play a Stopped and a Quint. One is not at all conscious of this when playing as the voicing is impeccable. The Quint & Tierce provide a sound simiar to the Berlin Philharmonic double basses. ...

Nigel

 

Forgive me - but do you mean the lowest six notes?

 

In addition, do you mean that there is a stopped 16ft. sounding for the lowest six notes - but with a 10 2/3ft. quint in addition? In which case, I wonder why. Would not a stopped 16ft. rank be better, if there was insufficient room in the case for a full length metal bass? Why the 'fake' 32ft. effect, when all that is needed is to complete the compass of the 16ft. rank? I could understand an quiet, slightly stringy 8ft. metal 'helper' for the lowest six notes, but I would not wish for a 16ft. metal stop suddenly to become an acoustic 32ft. effect for the lowest six notes.

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C to E are from a stopped 16ft and a Quint (5 1/3 of course - I imagined everyone would understand that), and perhaps an 8ft too. I can't remember about the latter. The 32ft effect comes from the two low mutations which he first used in Sarralbe (1987) an instrument that so overwhelmed the authorites in Vichy, they decided to purchase from BA.

N

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C to E are from a stopped 16ft and a Quint (5 1/3 of course - I imagined everyone would understand that) ...

 

 

Since you did not specify the pitch of the quint, actually - no.

 

I can see even less point in having an octave quint pitch sounding. We have such an effect here (although in this case the is stop derived from the Bourdon). Even allowing for separate pipes and different voicing, the effect here is utterly pointless. All one gets is a Bourdon with a parallel octave quint. There is no resultant with the combination of these two pitches. Neither does it enhance the 16ft. register. I have never encountered this marriage between two such pitches before - other than on my own church instrument. If the 5 1/3ft. quint is subsumed so successfully into the fundamental pitch, this begs the question as to whether it was necessary in the first place; a well-voiced Sub Bass (if there is insufficient height for a full-length stop) is surely entirely adequate.

 

I am reasonably familiar with resultant 32ft. effects - such as the mutations at Nôtre-Dame de Paris, S. Sulpice, Gloucester Cathedral (Briggs/Nicholson, 2000) and Belmont Abbey (Briggs/Nicholson, 2010) †. in addition, there are a number of instruments either by Compton, or with additions by Compton, which possess various 32ft. effects, or 'Harmonics' stops. There is a recent reconstructed example near here at Christchurch Priory - although in this case, the stop has been re-constituted by Nicholsons. It involves a number of pitches being tapped off the Bourdon. Another example is the former Compton instrument in Saint Peter's, Parkstone, Here, in 1982/3, the consultant Roger Fisher retained the two Compton 'Harmonics' stops - of 32ft. and 16ft.

 

However, as I stated, I have never encountered a 16ft. metal flue stop which peters out into a stopped bass - but with a parallel 5 1./3ft. quint inseparably linked to each of the lowest five notes.* As the only 16ft. flue stop, it would be interesting to learn of the rationale for this.

 

 

 

† Interestingly, in both of the English instruments cited, Briggs omitted the 5 1/3ft. register, instead providing a Quint at 10 2/3ft., a [Grosse] Tierce at 6 2/5ft. and a [Grosse] Septième at 4 4/7ft.

 

 

* Out of interest, what happens on low F? The stop-list, as sprondel points out, states that the Principal runs only to F#.

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Hi

 

The use of a Stopped Bass to open metal ranks, with a "helper" is becoming more common where there's no room for a fulllength rank. The "helper" is there to fill in the harmonics missing from he stopped pipes, and is normally an octave rank, not a Quint. I don;t know what the thinking is here - Stopped pipes already have plenty of the 3rd harmonic (octave and a fifth above the fundemental).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I seem to recall that the lowest few notes of the Montre 16' on the Rieger at Christ Church, Oxford are as Tony describes; 16' stopped + 8' open "helper". And the same technique is used, an octave higher, for the lowest notes of the 8' Diapason on small-ish church instruments. I too don't understand the 16' stopped + 5 ⅓' as described by Nigel. There would be a noticeable missing 8' partial.

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I would concur entirely with the views of both Tony and innate, as above.

 

Indeed there are a number of clearly documented instances of well-known organ writers reviewing the Pedal Bourdon ranks on older instruments by FHW, for example. In these, one often finds the criticism that, in addition to a transient 'cough' the third harmonic is present to an unduly prominent degree - thus mitigating against good, clear speech. One commentator then went on to state that he felt that such Pedal Bourdons were inferior to the magnificent new Sub Basses being currently built at Durham (at that time).

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I seem to recall that the lowest few notes of the Montre 16' on the Rieger at Christ Church, Oxford are as Tony describes; 16' stopped + 8' open "helper". And the same technique is used, an octave higher, for the lowest notes of the 8' Diapason on small-ish church instruments. I too don't understand the 16' stopped + 5 ⅓' as described by Nigel. There would be a noticeable missing 8' partial.

 

With tenuous relevance to the question in hand: how did you get such a neat effect with your fractions, please, innate? Mine, even with super- and sub-script (but no unison off-script....) and the smallest type size still straggles above and below the line of type. Which is most unsatisfactory.

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If only I knew, pcnd! I was merrily typing and the 1 / 3 (without spaces) suddenly flipped to the ⅓ you see. It's never happened before. I would never even think of trying to achieve that on an online forum, although when working in other situations I will futz around trying to use the correct unicode fraction and font. I'll see which other fractions work here:

 

⅔ ¼ ½ ¾ 1/5 3/5 4/5 1/6 ... Ah, so a nice feature, but limited. 127/128? Does that feature in the new Notre Dame spec?

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If only I knew, pcnd! I was merrily typing and the 1 / 3 (without spaces) suddenly flipped to the ⅓ you see. It's never happened before. I would never even think of trying to achieve that on an online forum, although when working in other situations I will futz around trying to use the correct unicode fraction and font. I'll see which other fractions work here:

 

⅔ ¼ ½ ¾ 1/5 3/5 4/5 1/6 ... Ah, so a nice feature, but limited. 127/128? Does that feature in the new Notre Dame spec?

 

Thank you for this!

 

Nôtre-Dame? Goodness - I hope not. This instrument has acquired enough mutations over the years to please even the most ardent Baroqueophile.

 

(Is that even a word?)

 

(And in case anyone is wondering what I am doing posting at 18:57 on a Sunday, I have had a rare day off, with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Chorus singing an unaccompanied Evensong. And very nice it was too.)

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Off topic perhaps, but given the dissent on the effectiveness of creating an "acoustic" 32' effect using a wooden stopped 16' pitch (ie only 8 foot long pipes) and a metal 8 foot helper, or a 10 2/3 pitch quint, or 5 1/3 pitch quint etc, what are the opinions about the most effective 32 foot flue effect in a building that either doesn't have the height or finances for a new full-length open 32 foot? Just as one can fit a quarter-length 32 reed into a case barely 8 foot high (but likely be disappointed with the result) one could quint a stopped 16 foot pitch and a stopped 10 2/3 foot pitch with a roofline only just over 8 foot high. Extending the roof to 16 foot allows for a 16 foot long stopped bourdon 32' but lacking the even harmonics. Is that necessarily worse musically than an acoustic, quinted 32 effect using an open 16 foot long, 16 foot pitch, fundamental? How about Haskelling open pipes, 32 foot pitch but 16 foot long? Or a Compton style polyphone, which if I understand correctly is like the musical instrument flute is a single tube with several holes that are stopped or opened depending on the pitch (though only allowing one note to be played at once? Or (at the risk of being thrown off the forum) a digital 32' and a proper indusatrial strength subwoofer?

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There are a number of stopped 16ft. ranks which are more effective than certain full-length 32ft. stops - particularly wooden ranks. One or two of them are even in buildings with dry acoustic properties. A stopped 16ft. can be a really good solution.

 

A Compton-type polyphone is indeed another possibility. An extant example is that in Launceston Central Methodist Church, Cornwall. This instrument was originally built by John Compton, in 1909. The Pedal Organ included a stop labelled 'Double Open Wood 32ft.' - which was, in fact, a polyphone. As far as I can recall, it consisted of six pipes in the 32ft. octave, each pipe being made to speak two notes, in order to provide a full octave.

 

Another possibility is his 'cube bass'. As far as I know, these units never went below E in the 32ft. octave - I believe that the lowest four notes simply repeated. Here is a link to an image of the cube bass* at Christchurch Priory: http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/XMLFunctions.cgi?Fn=GetPicture&Rec_index=D06714&no=3 . A local organ builder has just constructed one for a church about twenty miles away. I believe that a well-known large firm supplied the plans, which were presumably either based on those of Compton, or were drawn up by reverse-engineering an existing unit.

 

Haskelled pipes can work - although those at the RFH never spoke well in that arid acoustic ambiance. Neither did they add anything much in the way of gravitas or real weight. (I am fairly certain that this was stipulated in this manner by Ralph Downes. The last thing that he would have wanted was a 'rolling' cathedral-style Double Open Wood effect, such as the type of 32ft. wood stop which is a feature of several large vintage Harrison organs.)

 

Perhaps an acoustic effect might be considered by some to be the worst option. However, if such a stop were to utilise the Bourdon from middle C of the pedal-board, with the Bourdon 'repeating' (at 16ft. pitch) for the lowest twelve notes and with independent quint pipes, this might work. On my 'own' church organ, I can obtain some surprisingly good effects, using the Bourdon 'on itself' - low D and A above is good, as is F# and C#. G and D are fairly good, as is bottom C and the G above. However, for A and B-flat, I play the C# and the D below, respectively. With no Pedal couplers, this gives a fairly realistic 32ft. rumble - although it should not work in this way. There is another example of a partly stopped and partly acoustic 32ft. Bourdon known to me: that at Kilkhampton Parish Church, North Cornwall. This stop (added to an already old instrument, by T.C. Lewis, in 1892), It is formed by extending the Sub Bass (16ft.) down to G, in the 32ft. octave, then sounding the fundamental with the fourth below. Again, this technically should not work. On paper, the resultant note would be a second inversion of whatever chord was played above. However, in practice, it is one of the most effective and realistic 32ft. stops I have ever met. The church is acoustically dead, so the good result is even more surprising. This may in part be due to the comparatively wide scale and substantial thickness of these pipes.

 

The problem with digital 32ft. stops is, that in order to be effective, the bass horn needs to be substantial - about sixteen feet long; and of very stout construction. A polyphone would take less room than this.

 

 

 

* Presumably I have these terms the correct way around. A polyphone is (as I understand it) a pipe with a number of holes along its length, over which are fitted large 'keys', which were controlled pneumatically (or electrically?). Thus a single pipe might be made to speak up to six notes - although, as you state, only one note could sound at any one time. However, a cube bass consisted of a wooden pipe, of about nine feet or so in length, with a shorter section on top of this. Inside were a number of chambers, which could be opened in various combinations, in order to produce the different pitches of the 32ft. octave - down to low E.

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I think there was some confusion inherent in the nomenclature because the Compton staff referred to polyphones as 'pentaphones' and possibly to cubes as 'polyphones'.

 

Ken Jones built a cube bass for one of his jobs with the mouth facing up. At the opening, a trumpeter used it to put his music on and when the pipe spoke itblew the whole lot over the edge of the gallery.

 

The acoustic bass here, with independent quints in the bottom octave working with the Tibia Profunda (the original organ was a Hope Jones, although now it's a Casavant and they kept the terminology) works very well.

 

The fourth below for the top five notes of the 32' octave works well at St. Magnus Cathedral although, as pcnd says, it shouldn't.

 

I've rarely found a 10 2/3 Quint working all the way up that was any good above the bottom octave. Not enough resultant, too much Pink Panther.....

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To get back to the original topic: A member of the German forum at orgel-information.de has e-mailed titulaire of the Vichy instrument and posted the reply on the forum. The gentleman claims that the first five notes (should be six, according to the addendum « 1er fa# » in the stoplist) of the Principal consist of Bourdon 16' + open 8'; in other words, the classical helper approach. Furthermore, everyone who knows the instrument seems to be quite excited about the effect of the 32-foot harmonics; it appears to work very well.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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To get back to the original topic: A member of the German forum at orgel-information.de has e-mailed titulaire of the Vichy instrument and posted the reply on the forum. The gentleman claims that the first five notes (should be six, according to the addendum « 1er fa# » in the stoplist) of the Principal consist of Bourdon 16' + open 8'; in other words, the classical helper approach. Furthermore, everyone who knows the instrument seems to be quite excited about the effect of the 32-foot harmonics; it appears to work very well.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

Thank you for this, Friedrich - this makes much more sense. (At least, your reply does - my ability to translate German is limited to brand-names of lager and organ stops.)

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