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St Mary-at-Hill, London


sprondel
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Are there any recordings available of the Hill organ in St Mary-at-Hill, London, that was reconstructed by our hosts? As the church offers itself as a recording venue in the web, I expected to find some, but didn't.

 

The history of that reconstruction reads quite interesting. One wonders how the first attempt could go that far astray.

 

Best regards

Friedrich

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Are there any recordings available of the Hill organ in St Mary-at-Hill, London, that was reconstructed by our hosts? As the church offers itself as a recording venue in the web, I expected to find some, but didn't.

 

The history of that reconstruction reads quite interesting. One wonders how the first attempt could go that far astray.

 

Best regards

Friedrich

 

The only recording of this fascinating instrument of which I am aware, is an old LP (with a monochrome photograph of the case on the front face). I have no recollection of who was playing on the recording - or what was played. None of which quite answers your question.

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Guest Geoff McMahon

I am afraid that there have not been any recordings made on the reconstructed St Mary at Hill organ thus far. I don't know why, as this is an important instrument, even in its changed form. But there is plenty of the original character left to make it a worthwhile instrument to record.

 

One possible reason it has not been recorded may be that the restored church has lost the wonderful acoustic it had before the disastrous fire, probably largely due to the large curtain hanging where the reredos used to be. That could be taken down for a recording of course.

 

I fear that there is, sadly, just not quite enough interest in this organ to encourage a recording company and artist to record on it. If only they knew.

 

John

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I have in my collection a cassette tape of David Sanger at St Mary at Hill. It was recorded from a Radio 3 broadcast (from memory I would say c.1984, therefore well before the fire). David introduced the programme himself.

 

I have no idea if the tape is still playable but if anyone is interested I will attempt to resurrect it. I also know a very helpful organist/BBC sound engineer...

 

H

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I'm sure your BBC engineer friend would be the best bet, but cassette tapes of that age are often unplayable owing to a phenomenon called 'binder ooze' (among other names, some less polite than others). This means that what is, in effect, the 'glue' which binds the oxide particles to the tape itself eventually seeps through the oxide layer. It reduces the frictional grip between the capstan and pinch roller and thus makes the tape impossible to play. It can also wreck your cassette player in extreme circumstances.

 

A short term fix is sometimes possible by applying gentle heat, such as by placing the cassette in an airing cupboard or on top of a boiler, but I attach it to a domestic radiator using Blu-Tak for a day or so. Admittedly this is less convenient during the summer months, but it does seem to work. The last time I tried it, on the tape which accompanied Charles Padgham's book on organ temperaments ('The Well-Tempered Organ'), it was entirely successful. Others have apparently used an oven on the lowest temperature setting for an hour or two, but this sounds dodgy to me.

 

I suggest you transfer the contents of the tape to some other medium straight away if it plays properly, such as a CD using your computer. The heat treatment is only a short term fix as its effects seem to recede after a few days.

 

Best of luck

 

CEP

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I am afraid that there have not been any recordings made on the reconstructed St Mary at Hill organ thus far. I don't know why, as this is an important instrument, even in its changed form …

 

Today, I found this. The Video is downloadable complete or just in sound; the downloads sound better than the video on the web. Lecturer and player perform quite brilliantly.

 

To me and my continental ears, all of this is quite illuminating, even with Thistlethwaite’s voluminous book in the background (not to mention Stephen Bicknell’s wonderful “History”). Nice to hear Quinney’s remarks about boomy English basses, which by the way are quite attractive, apparently, to many continental organ lovers.

 

Let me, however, wonder together with John where there is the next recording – all of Mendelssohn, a Bach P&F selection, some more recent pieces …

 

Best,

Friedrich

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