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BBC Proms 2014


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It's no surprise to me I'm afraid. The Proms, along with the whole of R3, has been dumb(p)ed down (on) by Roger Wright to the extent that I fully expect each Prom concert to have radio audience participation** by means of tweets, emails and texts.

 

The organ concerts have become increasingly marginalised in recent years culminating in 2013's fiasco.

 

The only good news is that Wright is leaving the station.

 

 

** Mind you......

 

"We're halting this performance of Vierne's Carillon De Westminster at this point to ask, "Should M.Latry draw the 32' reed where marked in the score or just for the final bars?" Tweet on #R3iskillingtheproms or text on 666"

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It seems to me that the BBC can no longer be regarded as a truly national broadcasting organisation, as it leans increasingly to the left and practises more and more PC activities.

 

We need a replacement that is truly apolitical and presents, as much as possible, a wide cross-section of musical styles and programmes.

 

If the public in general funds its activities, then the public in general should be catered for fairly.

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It is sad to say that ‘audience participation’ may be one of those bugbears which ‘true listeners’ have to tolerate. It is probably one of the numerous and ludicrous indicators/targets on which the license fee is contingent.

 

It is, of course and of national importance, that the opening of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony broadcast in retrograde and played on didgeridoo be recognised before the clip is faded, and that listeners immediately reach for their CleverFones and Twit in. Or that we are cajoled to participate in asinine mind games, to identify pieces of music featuring cuckoos, larks and other avians put through some additional and improbable mental mangle.

 

When I made my way through the cumbersome (deliberately so?) online complaints process, about the radical amputation of The Early Music Show, I received blandishments worthy of the most herpetologically evolved political spin doctors.

 

Mispronunciations (by ‘seasoned’ broadcasters) of the names of major composers and performers are rife and other inaccuracies legion. One such is the announcer who cannot pronounce Debussy ! Several find it impossible to distinguish between French and Spanish. This is embarrassing but, presumably, a product of our state schools’ lamentable lack of good language teaching- or, an anti-EU bias (?).

 

The RAH organ is (reach for your keyboards!) a better instrument than the RFH and, I am afraid, the BBC has put its money where its (pipe) mouth is- or, rather isn’t. At least we will be spared the organ equivalent of Laurel and Hardy performing an arrangement of a famous ringtone on 32’ Double Ophicleide and Cornet de Violes.

 

The quality has definitely deteriorated in recent years. This, at a time when we are able to hear more music, and know more about music(s), than ever before. The range of music(s) broadcast is, it must be said, impressive.

 

Nevertheless, it is probably still the best classical station in the world ! I regard myself as fortunate still to be able to hear it and constantly listen.

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...

 

** Mind you......

 

"We're halting this performance of Vierne's Carillon De Westminster at this point to ask, "Should M.Latry draw the 32' reed where marked in the score or just for the final bars?" Tweet on #R3iskillingtheproms or text on 666"

 

 

Oh God.

 

The worry of it is, that I am not entirely sure that this would not actually happen.

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... The RAH organ is (reach for your keyboards!) a better instrument than the RFH and, I am afraid, the BBC has put its money where its (pipe) mouth is- or, rather isn’t. At least we will be spared the organ equivalent of Laurel and Hardy performing an arrangement of a famous ringtone on 32’ Double Ophicleide and Cornet de Violes. ...

 

 

 

Um.... since we are talking (well, writing) about perceived inaccuracies of pronunciation and grammar, surely the above should read 'Cornet des Violes'....

 

In addition, even allowing for personal preferences, would it not be better to state that the RAH organ is a more suitable instrument for certain parts of the repertoire than is the organ in the RFH?

 

(Or are you simply thinking that it has been quiet here of late - and that it was about time someone posted something controversial, in order to liven things up a bit....?)

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Davidh,

 

With respect, I don't think that this is the point at issue. The RAH has a magnificent organ which is barely used; in itself a disgrace after the sterling work our hosts put in. If the money for the work came from public resources then we, the public, have been cheated by the organ's silence. We all know that organs must be used regularly to keep them in good condition. With lack of use how long before another rebuild is necessary and would money for this be available given its lack of use? The Proms should be an opportunity to showcase the organ, increase interest in it and its music and therefore ensure its future. I'm aware that the hall is used for all manner of events but surely regular organ concerts aren't outside the bounds of possibility?

 

The Proms' musical offerings have traditionally included several solo organ concerts but in recent years these have diminished in quantity and quality to, this year, zero. The replacements appear to be the Pet Shop Boys and something based on the Match of the Day theme; whatever that is. The Last Night has become a poor shadow of itself, so much so that last year was the first for 30+ years I did not listen to or watch it.

 

IMHO the BBC has lost its way with R3 and has followed the Classic FM model to the detriment of the area of "serious music" broadcasting.

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pcnd5584:

 

According to both NPOR and the Mander webpage for the instrument, it is as I wrote. There are others at Westminster Abbey and Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral and the French Wikipedia gives similar.

 

I will not atone for possibly ungrammatical stop knobs- although I do see the point you are making. Delving far back into the dark recesses of my inculcation into Sartre, Breton and all points Sud, I believe that both are acceptable.

 

From brief internet searches, I find that US and electronic makers prefer "des".

 

Please neither stop commenting on such faux pas (real or imagined), nor inhibit our exposure to your unparalleled knowledge.

 

Apparently, I wrote the previous post whilst still asleep !

 

As for your final point: soup needs to be stirred from time to time, otherwise it will stick to the pan.

 

 

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Like many here I have given up on Radio 3, totally lost its way. It seems that Classic FM also comes in for some stick, maybe justified but I like to listen to the radio when I go to bed at about 11 to 12 - have you heard the appalling noises on Radio 3 at that time? Not to mention the rubbish on Radio 4. However I find that Classic FM at that time is ideal, nothing too heavy and not just the "popular" classics; I've heard some unfamiliar music at that time. Recommended.

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Like many here I have given up on Radio 3, totally lost its way. It seems that Classic FM also comes in for some stick, maybe justified but I like to listen to the radio when I go to bed at about 11 to 12 - have you heard the appalling noises on Radio 3 at that time? Not to mention the rubbish on Radio 4. However I find that Classic FM at that time is ideal, nothing too heavy and not just the "popular" classics; I've heard some unfamiliar music at that time. Recommended.

Like you, Jim, I also like (or did like) to retire to bed and listen to Radio3. In the past, Late Junction often broadcast some acceptable, fairly melodious and harmonious music. Nowadays the programme's output is akin to standing in the middle of a printer's machine room, bombarded with monotonous, repetitive sounds. As you say, "appalling noises." I'll have to give Classic FM a whirl although I do get irritated when some of their presenters are unable to correctly pronounce the names of even well-known composers.

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I'm afraid I've gone the other way....all but stopped listening to Classic FM. They play the same small repertoire over time and time again and seem to have a stock of just three organ pieces - two toccatas and the SS organ symphony. My many listener requests for them to play other music has fallen on deaf ears. Radio 3 has been a revelation - so Handel did write more than just the Halleluia Chorus etc.

 

Back on post....other than the sometimes truncated organ voluntary at the end of Choral Evensong and Sunday Worship, what are people proposing to do to encourage more organ music on R3?

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Delivering targets . . . mission statements . . . audience involvement . . .

 

No wonder the national broadcaster doesn’t know where it’s going: the nation itself has lost its way. When did we lose our cultural identity ? Should we have one ? Do we really have to learn from Venezuela how to produce the orchestral musicians of the future ? The answer, it seems, is yes ! Yet, don’t we have a National Youth Orchestra already ? And a National Youth Choir ? Wasn’t the answer to expand the processes involved (finance being one of the most important) in the ‘production’ of musicians for these, rather than import a ‘Sistem’ from Japan, via South America ? No, not necessarily. We can and should learn from others.

 

We no longer possess a cultural identity (it was seriously wounded in the Somme and mortally injured after the 2nd World War), but a richness in and of cultures. We have uploaded, largely, but not exclusively, what passes for culture from across the Atlantic. We have almost obliterated ours. But, what was this, in any case ?

 

Music hall ? The Light Programme ? Folk song/Morris/e.g. VW’s ‘cowpat music’ ? The music of the public school chapel, then cathedral ? Radio 3 late at night ?

 

What IS it, now ? One Direction ? East Enders ? Ready, Steady, Sing ? (At least, this last generic type has created a wish for many to make music as adults, when they thought it was in the ‘Lost Luggage Office’ of their schools.) Rowan (I was about to write Atkinson!) Williams talks of us as ‘post-Christian’; I would describe us as ‘post-British Britain’.

 

Those who have travelled in Central and Eastern Europe may have noticed that most of these countries, now liberated from the Soviet yoke, have TV channels dedicated to their traditional music and dance. It is often played 24 hours. To a visitor, this is an invaluable insight into these realms. When I once asked one of my students, who’d come to the UK from one of these countries as a tweeny, he described this ‘stuff’ as ‘peasant music’ ! In another generation, therefore, will they lost their identity- as their young people imbibe deeply from the homogenising aural fount of Uncle Sam ?

 

The Proms are, probably and as they self-describe, the ‘greatest (classical) music festival in the world’, with a broad range of music(s). The hierarchy at the Beeb presumably consider that the recent infusion of concentrated organ stock from the RFH is more than sufficient for the next twenty years. Father Willis would only get in the way, as it means moving the mikes.

 

Some of the comments above make me despair in a quiet way: it is as if the 20th century had not existed, let alone our being in 2014. When teaching composition, one of my first tasks was to show my students how to LISTEN- with ‘open ears’.

 

Despite the serious brain disease from which I’ve been suffering for the last year, I find myself still inspired by ‘new sounds’. Occasionally, I even find it in me to compose.

 

‘Open minds’ are useful, too.

 

 

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Um.... since we are talking (well, writing) about perceived inaccuracies of pronunciation and grammar, surely the above should read 'Cornet des Violes'....

 

 

 

I have both the official stop lists from Harrison and Harrison in A4 pamphlet form for both King's College Cambridge and Westminster Abbey. In each the spelling is "Cornet de Violes".

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The RAH organ is (reach for your keyboards!) a better instrument than the RFH

 

They are certainly, in many distinct respects, very different instruments. But in terms of overall 'balance', and dare I say 'musicality', the RFH instrument is now several steps ahead of the RAH.

 

Not that we hear the RAH organ anyway, so any discussion on this is virtually futile.

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

I have both the official stop lists from Harrison and Harrison in A4 pamphlet form for both King's College Cambridge and Westminster Abbey. In each the spelling is "Cornet de Violes".

 

 

.... Which is not necessarily proof of anything, as a trip to Dublin will illustrate. On the floor of the North Transept stands HWII's original console (1902) - complete with a Pedal Stop engraved 'Contra Posanne 32'.*

 

I take Firsttree's point - but as far as I understood it, if the object is plural, the 'de' should be also. Research ito-date is inconclusive, so perhaps both are permissible.

 

However, I can think of several examples of mis-spelled or mis-aligned drawstops on some quite large instruments. (The HWIII console at Salisbury Cathedral - which I last played on Monday of this week - has a number of stops with incorrectly aligned or centered engraving - which I find irritating. Still, at least HWIII did include the correct accents on French stop names.)

 

 

 

* If one has neither the time or the inclination to visit this beautiful city, a photograph of the right-hand stop jamb of this instrument, which showed the offending stop, was used in some RSCM publicity material, certainly within the last two or three years, so there may still be a few copies knocking about somewhere.

 

Another photograph of this console is available here: http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org%2Fwikipedia%2Fcommons%2F4%2F4f%2FOrgan_St._Patrick_Cathedral_Dublin..jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fcommons.wikimedia.org%2Fwiki%2FFile%3AOrgan_St._Patrick_Cathedral_Dublin..jpg&h=822&w=1098&tbnid=_j9TpKF8vaWwQM%3A&zoom=1&q=organ%20patrick%20dublin&docid=92Q4WQNF6tUnrM&ei=WFltU-_1A-HH0QXJkoGQBA&tbm=isch&ved=0CFsQMygAMAA&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=509&page=1&start=0&ndsp=43. Unfortunately, the original is not clear enough to be able to read all of the stop names. In addition, since it is a three-quarter view (and the Pedal stops are situated on the right-hand jamb), the angle also mitigates against success in this case.

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... Back on post....other than the sometimes truncated organ voluntary at the end of Choral Evensong and Sunday Worship, what are people proposing to do to encourage more organ music on R3?

 

Personally, nothing. For the simple reason that I do not believe that under the present regime any change will be made.

 

And, no, I do not consider myself a pessimist - rather a pragmatist.

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pcnd5584:

 

According to both NPOR and the Mander webpage for the instrument, it is as I wrote. There are others at Westminster Abbey and Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral and the French Wikipedia gives similar.

 

I will not atone for possibly ungrammatical stop knobs- although I do see the point you are making. Delving far back into the dark recesses of my inculcation into Sartre, Breton and all points Sud, I believe that both are acceptable.

 

From brief internet searches, I find that US and electronic makers prefer "des".

 

Please neither stop commenting on such faux pas (real or imagined), nor inhibit our exposure to your unparalleled knowledge.

 

Apparently, I wrote the previous post whilst still asleep !

 

As for your final point: soup needs to be stirred from time to time, otherwise it will stick to the pan.

 

 

 

Indeed. The occasional controversial (or even outrageous) statement can do much to stimulate debate.

 

With regard to your comment above - I should say that there are several contributors here with a far greater depth of knowledge than my own.. Vox is one. He has a vast knowledge of musical history, performance practice - and the tonal attractions of the many instruments by Hele & Co., which may be found throughout the West Country....

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I was taught that accents on capital letters were usually omitted.

 

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/SpecialCharacters/faq0004.html

 

As was I - although the French do not seem to bother about this, these days. There are plenty of shop signs around Paris (for example), which employs accents on uppercase characters; c.f. firstrees' photograph - street signs too - and this appears to be an old one.

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Indeed. The occasional controversial (or even outrageous) statement can do much to stimulate debate.

 

With regard to your comment above - I should say that there are several contributors here with a far greater depth of knowledge than my own.. Vox is one. He has a vast knowledge of musical history, performance practice - and the tonal attractions of the many instruments by Hele & Co., which may be found throughout the West Country....

 

Well, gosh. Thank you. I am humbled. I never realised my charlatanism was so convincing. I must, however, disclaim any especial expertise regarding the tonal merits of the instruments of Messrs Hele & Co, largely owing to a complete inability to use the words "attractions" and "Hele" in the same sentence - except, perhaps, when deployed in conjunction with the words "bonfire" or "bomb". They are built like tanks though, I'll give them that.

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Well, gosh. Thank you. I am humbled. I never realised my charlatanism was so convincing. I must, however, disclaim any especial expertise regarding the tonal merits of the instruments of Messrs Hele & Co, largely owing to a complete inability to use the words "attractions" and "Hele" in the same sentence - except, perhaps, when deployed in conjunction with the words "bonfire" or "bomb". They are built like tanks though, I'll give them that.

 

Ha!

 

(Although I should still rate the Conacher at Saint Mary's Church. Calne, Wiltshire, as infinitely more deserving of the scrap-heap.)*

 

Vox, I often learn much from your posts - something for which I am grateful. And, no , I do not wish to borrow money, or anything else....

 

 

 

* Yes, I have played it - on a number of occasions, including a school carol service, with a capacity audience. As far as I am concerned, this instrument has virtually no redeeming tonal features whatsoever. It was also somewhat unwieldy, due in part to a lugubrious, minimal combination system and a number of faults.

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... I should still rate the Conacher at Saint Mary's Church. Calne, Wiltshire, as infinitely more deserving of the scrap-heap.

 

I can well believe that. I have played very few Conachers and the one that I thought fared best is this one. It has been mugged almost out of existence, but you can still detect its origins - just about. It now a rather nice instrument of its type. Useless for playing the French romantics, of course, but great for proper music. :)

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I lived in Ireland, where Conacher was the most prolific builder, for fourteen years, so I know a good number of their organs. They were in business for a long time, and under different ownerships, so their work varies in style and quality, although the workmanship was generally excellent. Among old Conachers, the three-manual at Kildare Cathedral was almost Schulzian (although not so much so as the slightly smaller Brindley at Kilmore Cathedral, Co. Cavan). The average turn-of-the-century two-manual could be a nice as those produced by more celebrated builders, e.g. Clogher Cathedral, Co. Tyrone. Later on, especially under Leonard Bartram's management, they produced quite sophisticated electric actioned jobs, often with horse-shoe stop-keys. I was particularly fond of that in Oldpark Presbyterian Church, Belfast, now, alas, gone (although I think the local Pipe Organ Preservation Co may have acquired it for installation elsewhere), and Great Victoria Street Presbyterian was another which is no longer there. Cregagh Presbyterian is a shocker, but possibly due to terrible positioning behind a false wall (Wells-Kennedy always said it was a good enough instrument when you were inside it; Simon Preston is reported to have said it was the worst organ he ever played, but that may have been because he left his organ shoes by the console while he went for a pre-concert meal and the verger threw them out). Belmont Presbyterian was quite remarkable for the early sixties, and had the first Positif division in Ireland - a good one, too, up to Cymbal - slightly let down a gormless Bourdon and tierce mixture on the Great. Pcnd and I disagree about Calne....

 

I don't know so many Heles. They always seemed to be well-built and well-voiced, although the smaller ones were inclined to be dull (they had a thing called "Principal Flute 4'" which they used on some small Greats). As a student, I sometimes played on the three-manual Hele at Stoke Bishop Parish Church, Bristol, which was a fine old job, quite up to the standard of a good Walker or Norman & Beard. It's still there, but was slightly pepped up by Percy Daniel just after I last played it.

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