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Vox Humana

Buckfast Abbey

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Yes, I must admit, I found the absence of a 32’ flue more than a little surprising- considering the beast will have 78 stops/100 ranks.

 

But, then, how many organs in the UK have antiphonal 32’ reeds ? I can’t think of any. (I await speedy correction.)

 

That part of Devon will be truly blessed with a range of some marvellous instruments.

Durham Cathedral?

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Yes, I must admit, I found the absence of a 32’ flue more than a little surprising- considering the beast will have 78 stops/100 ranks.

 

Quite. I would assume that the Quintflöte will be voiced to give a resultant,* but, given that Fastbuck Abbey isn't short of the odd bob or two, I'm puzzled as to why this stop was considered preferable to a stopped 32' flue (in the quire organ). That the 32' on the Downes/Walker had the bottom four notes of the Subbass quinted suggests a height restriction, but even that is preferable to having the whole 32' pitch quinted (IMO, of course).

 

*In my experience resultants on American organs generally work quite well, unlike British ones, so Ruffatti's experience over there might be grounds for optimism.

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I always find it interesting, and I know that I am going to be 'shot down' for this comment, that the 'amateur' organ builders, often, sometimes, maybe, or, possibly not, very fine players, have so much to say when a specification of a new or rebuilt instrument is released! I suppose that is part of the nature of the organist make-up! I knew an organist when I was an Undergraduate at Cambridge who spent his days designing what he considered to be the smallest 2 manual and pedal instrument it was possible to think of that would, satisfactorily play whatever he wanted it to (he considered organ music died, by the way, in 1750!). It was a complete waste of his time, his degree suffered and he has, since, disappeared into obscurity, presumably still following his dream!

 

I looked at the specification and wondered why they might want a drum, some bagpipes and a nightingale (5 pipes immersed!). I also wondered how close to the Abbot's stall the Abbatial Trumpet was going to be and, at one point, felt slightly sorry for the Abbot! But then I thought that the instrument, I suppose, is going to cost upwards of a million pounds, (VH. 'fastbuck' Abbey is a bit of a cheap jibe, I thought!), The people on the ground, it isn't the work or dream of one person, which will include people who work and worship in the place as well as a highly competent consultant, know what they want the instrument to do, they have a vision. Who am I to comment? They know the building and how it behaves and they know the kind of sound they want the instrument to make. They're not going to be pressured into spending money unwisely and will have to, at some point, justify their spending and the cost of the instrument. Presumably, there is a reason behind no 32' flue, a cornet de bagpipes or whatever and who are we, on the back of our 'fag-packets' to criticise or be-little, or even to comment, on their expertise and vision.

 

We might have done it differently - but the point is, we aren't doing it - they are!

 

And, of course, we all look forward, in 2017, to hearing the final result - and then some will be saying "I told you so!!" - for whatever reason!

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In my experience the best instruments produce the best music. That is how I would decide whether the organ is a good one rather than by stoplist analysis before it has even been built.

 

A

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I always find it interesting, and I know that I am going to be 'shot down' for this comment, that the 'amateur' organ builders, often, sometimes, maybe, or, possibly not, very fine players, have so much to say when a specification of a new or rebuilt instrument is released!

 

Then again, how many organists and DoMs involved in designing organs for their edifices are professional organ builders? 32' flues (the only stop here to have been queried so far) can be found in a very wide variety of acoustics and churches. In some smaller, dry American churches one may well wonder whether a 32' flue was really needed and conclude that it is there because the money was available. That sort of consideration can apply to the whole spec - and, frankly, good luck to them. For what it's worth, I would imagine that such a stop was fully considered at Buckfast and there must be good reasons, to which we are not party, as to why one was not included in the spec. I am mildly curious, but that's all.

 

In my experience the best instruments produce the best music. That is how I would decide whether the organ is a good one rather than by stoplist analysis before it has even been built.

 

But of course! :)

 

VH. 'fastbuck' Abbey is a bit of a cheap jibe, I thought!

 

O come on, SL, do get a sense of humour. If the abbey is such a joyless place that they can't raise a wry smile at the name then I have overestimated them and feel sorry for them.

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O come on, SL, do get a sense of humour. If the abbey is such a joyless place that they can't raise a wry smile at the name then I have overestimated them and feel sorry for them.

 

 

Post deleted by SL - in the interests of maintaining reasonably cordial relations!!!

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Durham is not antiphonal in the true sense, is it mgp (#76) ? At Buckfast, the organist will be able to ‘tennis-ball’ on the two 32’ reeds from one end of the building to the other and the congregation/audience will have complete 32’ reed surround-sound. The same with the fanfare reeds, as at our host’s St Paul’s. Tremendous ! Bring it (them) on.

 

I’m not quite sure how we got here, though ! I would, for one, find it most odd, were one to be denied the possibility of discussing specifications on a forum devoted to pipe organs.

 

My view is that, since this is such a large instrument (King’s has 79 stops; this, 78 ranks/100 stops), it seems almost to be a missed opportunity. There is an ample supply of quiet, stringy and other effects, which members seemed to find desirable, even before the publication of the stop-list and which should sound wonderful in this building. I consider it slightly odd that a 32’ flue was not included, to underpin these in such a reverberant acoustic- apart from any other reason (e.g. Howells, for one). It would be nice to know why it was decided not to include one. Perhaps, as someone else suggested, there are compelling reasons of space. (Would pcnd5584 be able to enlighten us.)

 

As for the Italian rinascimento division: why not ? It’ll be the first in the UK and may open our ears to, and start a new interest in, this rich repertoire.

 

Similarly to SL, I can hardly wait to hear this instrument- and wish it every success, in all its guises.

 

[À propos rien, it’s also about time there was an organ in the UK capable of properly rendering earlier Spanish organ music.]

 

 

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They certainly haven't skimped on the celestes!

 

That's surely the American influence making itself felt - especially with the flûtes célestes. I imagine that the Cor de Chamois + celeste will be just a pair of (German-type) Gemshorns under a French name, which again strikes me as very American - but then I'm completely ignorant about current Italian organs, so maybe I'm misinterpreting the influences entirely.

 

At Buckfast, the organist will be able to ‘tennis-ball’ on the two 32’ reeds from one end of the building to the other

 

If the quire organ is going where the Walker/Downes was, this will apply only to the nave, which isn't very long. Previously all the pipework was at the westernmost end of the quire. There is a substantial presbytery area to the east of the quire (firstly the tower and the space beneath it and then the high altar area to the east of that), so the distance between the quire and west-end organs may be only half the length of the building - no great distance. I fully expect that the antiphony between the two party horns will be effective though.

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À propos rien, it’s also about time there was an organ in the UK capable of properly rendering earlier Spanish organ music.

 

Yes! Maybe there's even scope for an Oxbridge college to rescue and restore a decaying original from Spain! (I'm not sure how one would compensate for the acoustics though.)

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My cornet de bagpipes quip was just that - not a criticism. I simply have no idea how such bagpipe stops would sound; perhaps they are meant to be imitative of a Breton cornamuse, in acknowledgement of the local-ish Celtic music culture. I am no more than a dilettante in these matters, but I'm very curious to know.

 

I've only once heard bagpipes in a church, during a commemoration service for the 11 September attacks in the Klooster Kerk in The Hague. The Marcussen was no match for a 5-piece bagpipe group. Although unusual, they played a very moving lament, wholly appropriate to the commemoration, and put paid to the claim that "bagpipe music" is an oxymoron. But it is easily the loudest thing I have ever heard in such a building.

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... The Marcussen was no match for a 5-piece bagpipe group. Although unusual, they played a very moving lament, wholly appropriate to the commemoration, and put paid to the claim that "bagpipe music" is an oxymoron. But it is easily the loudest thing I have ever heard in such a building.

 

Bagpipes are indeed tremendously loud, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I realised quite how loud. My wife and I were out for a country walk one Sunday morning near to where we live when we heard bagpipes start up in the distance. Odd to hear such a thing in the middle of Hampshire downland. As we returned to the car park we came across not only the ear-splitting volume of the instrument but the very friendly piper, with whom we had a most interesting conversation. Among other things, he told us that opportunities for practice were increasingly limited because the local council(s) had forbidden him to do it. He was imminently expecting a similar restriction to be placed on him in that area also. Hitherto I had not realised what a problem that can be for a piper, and was sorry that such restrictions were being placed on his art. At a suitable distance, I have always found the pipes very beautiful.

 

CEP

 

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As usual, I should have been more specific and stated that these were Scottish Pipes, which are of course intended to be used outside and consequently are very loud. No wonder there were laws about them, and I believe that in Spain there were similar restrictions on the use of the batteries of llamada stops during services - too much of a good thing, of course!

 

My wife, the real musician in the family, hails from the North-East and among her many musical interests is Northumberland's folk tradition. Northumbrian pipes obviously form part of this, and are a different beast altogether, being elbow-blown, played while sitting, and intended for use as an equal voice among whatever other instruments happen to be around. While in Newcastle over the May bank holiday there were a couple of pipes players around, one in the rather beautiful arcade off Grey Street. They produce a rather pleasing, plaintive sound, obviously reedy, but blending. An organ stop sounding like this would be interesting, and I could imagine it suiting some early vocal and consort music quite nicely, if that is what is intended. But of course I don't know, and look forward to finding out. And if so much thought has gone into just one particular voice, imagine how much has gone into the rest of this instument.

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I simply have no idea how such bagpipe stops would sound;

 

Given the pitches (C, F and G - why else both 3' and 2 2/3'?)), and their position among the effects in the stop list, my presumption is that these are not full-compass stops, but drones.

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Durham is not antiphonal in the true sense, is it mgp (#76) ? At Buckfast, the organist will be able to ‘tennis-ball’ on the two 32’ reeds from one end of the building to the other and the congregation/audience will have complete 32’ reed surround-sound. The same with the fanfare reeds, as at our host’s St Paul’s. Tremendous ! Bring it (them) on.

 

I’m not quite sure how we got here, though ! I would, for one, find it most odd, were one to be denied the possibility of discussing specifications on a forum devoted to pipe organs.

 

My view is that, since this is such a large instrument (King’s has 79 stops; this, 78 ranks/100 stops), it seems almost to be a missed opportunity. There is an ample supply of quiet, stringy and other effects, which members seemed to find desirable, even before the publication of the stop-list and which should sound wonderful in this building. I consider it slightly odd that a 32’ flue was not included, to underpin these in such a reverberant acoustic- apart from any other reason (e.g. Howells, for one). It would be nice to know why it was decided not to include one. Perhaps, as someone else suggested, there are compelling reasons of space. (Would pcnd5584 be able to enlighten us.)

 

As for the Italian rinascimento division: why not ? It’ll be the first in the UK and may open our ears to, and start a new interest in, this rich repertoire.

 

Similarly to SL, I can hardly wait to hear this instrument- and wish it every success, in all its guises.

 

[À propos rien, it’s also about time there was an organ in the UK capable of properly rendering earlier Spanish organ music.]

 

 

 

Having read the scheme, I regard it as wasteful, badly thought-out and, in places, gimmicky.

 

Buckfast Abbey is not a large building;yet there are two 32ft. reeds, two big solo reeds - but no chorus reeds on the Gallery G.O. Perhaps more inexplicable, is the apparent lack of any kind of 32ft. flue stop - which is of great use liturgically. To answer the question from firstrees: I believe that there would be room for at least a 32ft. Sub Bass, since (as Vox has already stated somewhere), there was such a stop on the Walker/Downes instrument - although the lowest four notes were resultant. Even so, it was a reasonably good stop and sounded effective in the sensitive acoustics of the abbey. However, with regard to the two 32ft. reeds and the two fanfare-type reeds, I should have thought that, in this building, this was somewhat unnecessary.

 

There is also a certain amount of duplication in the mutation scheme, yet the Quire Swell Organ has no 8ft. Open Diapason (which is invaluable for choral accompaniment) and only a half-length bass to the 16ft. reed. I note also that this scheme perpetuates one of the few flaws of the previous instrument: there is no proper 16ft. chorus reed anywhere. Surely if the G.O. is not to have a stop at this pitch, then it is imperative that the Swell sub-unison reed is of trumpet scale, voicing and power. A Basson with a half-length bass is unlikely to provide enough sub-unison reed tone.

 

A further point about the mutation scheme is that, with the exception of the Positive 1 1/3ft., all of the solo mutations are under expression.

 

I realise that I am not the organist here, but I do wonder about the inclusion of the Glockenspiel, Nightingale, Drum and Bagpipes; I wonder how much use these fripperies will get during services.

 

It would be interesting to know which of the Pedal 16ft. flue stops are to be constructed of metal - or are they all to be of wood?

 

The Gallery Expressif division is somewhat small in comparison to the other divisions, with nothing above 4ft. pitch, no 16ft. register - either flue or reed. In fact, the exact purpose of this division is puzzling. Again there is no unison Open Diapason (so nothing to partner with the Prestant - either above or below). However, there are two undulants, with their attendant unison ranks. Surely at least one pair of these (perhaps the Violoncelli) would be of greater use in the Quire Organ? There are two chorus reeds here - but both under expression. Thus, with the lack of a chorus reed (even if only at unison pitch) on an open soundboard, there is likely to be a huge jump between these reeds and the fanfare-type Pontifical Trumpet. Neither does this division bear any particular resemblance to the schemes of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Nor, for that matter, does that of the other two departments, other than the nomenclature of three of the G.O. foundation stops.

 

The Solo Organ has six unison pitch ranks (including two undulants), but one solitary 4ft. stop. There are also only two quiet solo reeds. The Vox Humana might have been better placed in the Swell Organ and its place taken by something more generally useful; if one did not wish for a Romantic voice, such as an Orchestral Hautboy, surely there are other choices which could have been included. There is no quiet 16ft. reed, for example. (If the Swell Basson is intended to fill this role, then it will be even more unsuitable to form the basis for the Swell reed chorus.)

 

Again the Pédale Orgue looks to be rather 'woody', with a distinct lack of metal stops at any pitch. (If the Soubasse is to be of metal, why call it that?) For that matter, I note that all the clavier flue doubles are Bourdons - not even a Quintatön. The lack of at least one metal flue double again suggests that the instrument is likely to be lacking in gravitas (until the 32ft. reeds are drawn).

 

Clearly the time to judge it will be when it is finished. No doubt the incumbent musicians have thought carefully about the scheme, and this is what they want. Apparently.

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Having read the scheme, I regard it as wasteful, badly thought-out and, in places, gimmicky.

 

 

......................................... Equally obviously, no doubt the incumbent musicians have thought carefully about the scheme, and this is what they want, apparently.

 

 

Wasteful - badly thought-out and gimmicky! - but, no doubt, the incumbent musicians have thought carefully .............. and this is what they want, apparently!

 

Don't be backward in coming forward with your opinions!

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Wasteful - badly thought-out and gimmicky! - but, no doubt, the incumbent musicians have thought carefully .............. and this is what they want, apparently!

 

Don't be backward in coming forward with your opinions!

 

Opinions which are shared by at least one cathedral organist, incidentally.

 

The final statement is not to be seen as contradictory to the first.

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Opinions which are shared by at least one cathedral organist, incidentally.

 

 

Wow!! - at least one Cathedral organist!!

 

 

That must make it all right then!!

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Wow!! - at least one Cathedral organist!!

 

 

That must make it all right then!!

 

Stephen, your snide comments are not particularly constructive.

 

You appear to take delight in ridiculing some of us here. Perhaps you should enlighten us and give us the benefit of your wisdom.

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SL: you are in danger of sounding petulant. I don’t know what may be your connection to Buckfast, but I’m sure I’m correct in describing pcnd5584 as a solid and long-standing member of this forum. I sought his opinion, which he gave . . . and more. His knowledge of so much we discuss on here is invaluably encyclopædic.

 

If the Abbey is in need of being defended, I hope someone with inside knowledge will feel able to divulge some of the thought processes involved in how the stop-list emerged. These (specs.) are, inevitably, compromises; but, as pcnd5584 states, there do seem to be some notable omissions, given the size and apparent comprehensiveness of the instrument.

 

I share his puzzlement at many of the decisions made in the drawing up of the spec., but decided to focus on one.

 

If members are unable to voice their opinions without sarcastic retort, I’m sure they will forbear from posting- or, at least, hesitate from doing so. This would be a great pity. I have done this on other forums (not music-related), despite manifold entreaties to continue.

 

Please be a little more restrained- as befits your august provenance.

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I note also that this scheme perpetuates one of the few flaws of the previous instrument: there is no proper 16ft. chorus reed anywhere. Surely if the G.O. is not to have a stop at this pitch, then it is imperative that the Swell sub-unison reed is of trumpet scale, voicing and power. A Basson with a half-length bass is unlikely to provide enough sub-unison reed tone.

 

Given that the swell box must speak over the top of the high-backed choirstalls you immediately run into height limitations due to the triforium. I would guess that this explains why the bottom eight notes of the Bassoon are half-length.

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Given that the swell box must speak over the top of the high-backed choirstalls you immediately run into height limitations due to the triforium. I would guess that this explains why the bottom eight notes of the Bassoon are half-length.

 

Indeed, Vox. Although (as you have stated elsewhere), it would be entirely possible to mitre the pipes, suspending the basses from the roof of the box.

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