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A New Cathedral Organ.


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Gentlepersons:

 

I happened across this board quite by accident, and can think of no better place to pose my question than here. To wit, we have a new cathedral organ; and I would really like to know what CoE organists think of if. Would anything like this have ever come to pass in a provincial Anglican cathedral in GB today? Even in modern history?

 

Now that it has been installed and properly regulated, I will have to say that parts of it are really quite good. Judiciously registered, the Great, Choir, and Pedal are perfectly up to handling Bach, et al.; and it can adequately handle the French stuff; most of the Romantic German excresence that passes for organ music, etc. (exception: Brahms); and the usual English bits. It is just that there is so much muchness there (forgive me, Gertrude Stein). I must admit here that I have little use personally for organs of more than 60 ranks or so, anything bigger is just playing the game of mine's-bigger-than-yours—especially in so small an acoustic space.

 

I find parts of the specification appalling. I mean, glockenspiel? Harp? Chimes? Two voxes (an unkind rumor has it they wanted five—sharp, flat, vox-in-a-box, etc., or was that p-ppppp)? Really? In an Episcopal cathedral? Have both E. M. Skinner and Virgil Fox come back from the grave in full drag? I cannot decide whether the goal was ultimate-retro or decadent New Age. In addition, at least two more 32' sets, plus numerous additions to the principal choruses were lusted after, and about a half dozen other things—funds were not the issue here. Mind you, this is a modestly sized cathedral by English or East Coast, USA standards; and the builder must grudgingly be given his due for cramming so much into so little space. The builder, Schantz, has a excellent reputation for quality of workmanship, but I cannot image the long-term maintenance of this instrument will be easy.

 

We of the very-high-church-but-not-quite-anglocatholic ilk, timorously suggested we could perhaps wait a little and consider an English builder (visions of St. Iggy's, NYC danced through our heads). Based solely on that experience with their instruments, I naturally thought Mander should be very high on the list. Alas, our humble prayers failed even to reach the ears of the cloven-hoofed, though none of use ever really thought there was a chance: The powers-that-be had already made their decision, and I will have to give them credit for one thing: They got the job done promptly, less than two years and there it was! Unheard of! How much did it take to grease the the production wheels I wonder? And still they ponder why so many of us refer to the place as Roosevelt St. Methodist.

 

Ah well, what can you expect from someone who has never forgiven them for giving the BoCP the old heave ho—though I heartily endorse nearly ever thing else that has come to pass in the last 30 years; and if the Archbishop of Canterbury wants this Anglican to apologize offending the English sensibility for recognizing all as being Christ's children, he'll be told quite firmly to stick it in his ear.

 

Enough. If the link below does not work, just Google “Shantz Organs, USA” and go to “What's New.” It's number two on the list.

 

http://www.schantzorgan.com/w-new/Listing.cfm?Selection=81

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Guest Geoff McMahon
I can assure you, I am not S. Bournias, whoever he may be. Take it he must have rocked the boat a bit.

 

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Guys - now that we have new member validation enabled, please give new members a little more elbow-room to show that they are not Bournias - especially if s/he does not include vast specifications and/or write in text-speak - and not jump on a new member's first post: a new member who is genuinely not Bournias could find this rather upsetting. I have deleted the four comments before this one.

 

Welcome, David: I hope that you and I are correct in believing you not to be Bournias!

 

Moderator, Mander Organs

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The American liking for lots of celestes well in evidence here, I see. I don't mind that personally.

 

Not sure I feel comfortable with virtually all of the Pedal being borrowed. (Or is it, Midmer-Losh-like, really the other way around?) I'd happily have sacrified some manual stops for more independence here.

 

Tell me: why the Clarinet and Orchestral Oboe on the Choir instead of the Solo? I know Ernest Skinner did this sort of thing and there must be a reason. I've got an idea why, but I'd be interested to hear from an American.

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In that case, a very warm welcome, David!  :(

 

I, too, am pleased to welcome you, David.

 

My apologies for my earlier, hasty assumption. From my own point of view, I feel that it was not without reason. However, I am happy to know that you are not SB!

(Although I am concerned to note the builder of this instrument - are not Schantz based in Ohio?)

 

I hope that you enjoy the board.

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(Please pardon the untimely reply.)

 

The American liking for lots of celestes well in evidence here, I see. I don't mind that personally.

 

 

>>I couldn't agree more. This instrument warrants two, no more. I find celestes are like descants, effective in inverse proportion to their use. I could have been worse though: Remember the Wanamaker has 90 (sic!) ranks of celestes in the string division alone. Can't remember off hand what the grand total is for that thing.

 

Not sure I feel comfortable with virtually all of the Pedal being borrowed. (Or is it, Midmer-Losh-like, really the other way around?) I'd happily have sacrified some manual stops for more independence here.

 

>>Again, I agree; but space more than money dictated how the specification would be achieved (and not the other way around, as it should be. Let me clarify that: Frist decide what the space needs and can acoustically support, then keep digging into your pockets until you come up with enough loot to do the job properly). But actually, they've done a rather decent job balancing things out. None of that unit organ all tops and bottoms nonsense. Nonetheless, the pedal division is the most serious compromise—given that you accept the overall specification as musically valid (I do not). At least 5-6 more ranks are needed. Even 2-3 fully augmented ranks would go a long way in correcting an obvious weakness. In addition, there is a definite need for a Quint 5-1/3' and possibly a independent 10-2/3'.

 

One other complaint I have is the great. It really needs a Fourniture IV (2-2/3'); and a Cymbale III (1/3'); and probably, again, a 5-1/3', if it's going to live up the specification to which it aspires. I don't know your experience, but I think a manual full-gamut 32' is near the ultimate in ostentatious nonsense. I've only played three instruments that had manual 32' sets, and I could not think of a single valid musical use for any of them. Plus, you need a monstrous acoustic to support one. St. John the Devine, NYC (if it's ever finished), and the National Cathedral are the only two Episcopal churches that come to mind that have the volume to possibly support one; and, to the best of my recollection, neither has one. I'm sure St. John's doesn't (at least in its present iteration), I've played it twice; and I'm sure I wouldn't have forgotten that. Incidentally, I really do hope they can come up with the 4-5M$ needed for a full rebuild. It's one of the Skinner/Aeolian-Skinner blends that really lives up to its reputation

 

I guess what really frosts me the most about this big collection of penny whistles we now have is that we had a chance to do-the-right-thing after that catasctrophic fire and we blew it. Since we are of English derivation, I, and others, felt we should give very serious consideration to an English builder. After my experince with the St. Iggy's in NYC, I was completely sold on Mander. That instrument is a marvel, and I generally don't like froggy organs (I've earned the right to use the perjorative, I was married to one for 29 years and still feel I deserve the Croix de Guerre). I generally don't pass around such high praise either; here it is warranted. But. Oh, is that instrument intimidating. It seems to have "No fools will be tolerated" painted all over it; but once you start to play it, just seems to come alive and want you to do well (I wasn't the only one that evening that remarked on the strange feeling it gave you). Best mechanical action I've ever played. I've played a couple of big van der Heuvels, which I thought were the best large trackers I'd every wandered across, but the Mander is definitely better. I really regret the Jesuits have it and we don't.

 

I cannot imagine Schantz will last a century, it's just too pretentious to be taken seriously; and I think over time it will prove to be an embarassment.

 

It still seems people cannot resist the temptation to make ~65 ranks look like 90-100.

 

 

Tell me: why the Clarinet and Orchestral Oboe on the Choir instead of the Solo? I know Ernest Skinner did this sort of thing and there must be a reason. I've got an idea why, but I'd be interested to hear from an American

 

 

>>First, the real question is why is there a clarinet? In my opinion a nearly worthless stop. Even Virgil Fox said—and I was there when he said it—he could count the number of good clarinets he'd encountered on one hand and have several fingers left over. He almost always added a nazard when he had one to add (often he did the same thing with the typical “organ” oboe). A clarinet and no cormorne/krummhorn? Surely one or the other should have come first, and there is not even a preparation for one. I guess the Choir Rohrschalmei is supposed to deputize.

 

About orchestral anythings, the less said the better. One exception, I've always like Skinner/Aeolian-Skinner French horns. Go figure.

 

But to answer your question directly, my best answer is space. The solo box is shoehorned in on top of the choir on the choir north wall. The building's architecture is weird, but that's another story. I don't think there is any sinister cabal here. Another thing: Although it isn't too apparent at first glance, note form the spec that these are essentially 8' divisions, very odd since there is a 32' on the great you'd expect the swell would have a big 16' open flue. Another dead give away that trade offs are being made to the space available. I'm not even sure the full 16' octave of the Violone is enclosed.

 

I am curious, however, as to your thinking on the rather odd disposition. In my opinion, Skinner did a lot of strange things; and I never could puzzle out the logic behind what he did. Perhaps there was none. Have you devined something I have not?

 

In closing, thank you for your comments.

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Guest Lee Blick

I know just the person you should speak to, adig, but alas his manners were very laxed, even for an American, so he is no longer with us. He is very knowledgable and he has regaled us with lots of fancy (if rather useless) stop lists.

 

I do rather think it is just a little rude to describe a french person as a 'froggie', it would be like calling an American a 'yank' or a 'Bush-licker', it really does not promote cultural tolerance.

 

:unsure::blink:

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"Skinner did a lot of strange things; and I never could puzzle out the logic behind what he did. Perhaps there was none."

 

(Quote)

 

Well, maybe this could be the reverse.

There is an acute logic with Skinner's designs, one again

best displayed in the little organs, like with Willis I.

This is another builder whose specifications are worthwile

hand-copying!

Skinner tought, as Mr Ambrosino explained it, an electric

organ you do not design like a tracker one. In short the

couplers are "build-in" so you can cut choruses in several parts

in order to rise the flexibility.

The lesson has been well used by a dedicate Jean Guillou....-with

tracker this time!-

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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space more than money dictated how the specification would be achieved (and not the other way around, as it should be. Let me clarify that: Frist decide what the space needs and can acoustically support, then keep digging into your pockets until you come up with enough loot to do the job properly).
I agree up to a point, but it needs only a dozen stops at the very most to fill any building. The second consideration is what functions the organ has to fulfil: those will start to dictate what other stuff you decide to include. Once you have decided what is essential, you can start to consider what scope there is for optional extras to increase the instrument's flexibility. But perhaps that is what you were really saying. In any case, there is a fair bit of unessential stuff on this instrument that could have been sacrificed in favour of an extra, independent pedal stop or two. I don't know the space considerations,of course, but the Ch/Gt Violone wouldn't actually be missed on the manuals and maybe the space could have been used for a pedal rank of 32, 16, 8 and maybe 4. On the Sw you could also lose two of the celestes, one of the 4ft flutes and one of the Vox Humanas without feeling significantly worse off. That would reduce the size of the Swell box and soundboard and maybe (?) free up room for another pedal rank or two. I just worry about the lack of pedal ranks independently voiced to underpin the choruses - a lack of Gravität in other words. As it stands, all that variety on the manuals doesn't look as if it is going to be adequately supported in the Pedals.

 

I am curious, however, as to your thinking on the rather odd disposition. In my opinion, Skinner did a lot of strange things; and I never could puzzle out the logic behind what he did. Perhaps there was none. Have you devined something I have not?
I don't know. The only reasons I can think of for having the Clarinet and Orch. Oboe on the Choir rather than the Solo are (1) space limitations and (2) it permits dialogue between two different solo stops. These days (2) can be just as easily achieved by using thumb pistons, so I'd much rather have all the solo stops on the Solo - but that's just a matter of personal taste.
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First, the real question is why is there a clarinet? In my opinion a nearly worthless stop. Even Virgil Fox said—and I was there when he said it—he could count the number of good clarinets he'd encountered on one hand and have several fingers left over. He almost always added a nazard when he had one to add (often he did the same thing with the typical “organ” oboe).  A clarinet and no cormorne/krummhorn? Surely one or the other should have come first, and there is not even a preparation for one. I guess the Choir Rohrschalmei is supposed to deputize.

 

Well each to their own tastes of course, but there are many wonderful clarinet stops in the UK and, as has been discussed before under other topics, these are extremely valueable in choral accompaniment and in much of the english romantic repertoire.

 

If the main purpose of an organ is to accompany choral evensong a crumhorn is an unnecessary (and often unusable) rude noise!

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Having had a brief look at the specification, I would personally wish ruthlessly to prune its apparent excess - and introduce a largely straight Pedal Organ. All this extension and duplexing will actually result in less flexibility, in my view.

 

The Pedal Organ desperately needs some independent ranks - particularly at 16p pitch.

 

I like undulating ranks, but I could lose about half of those in this stop-list and still not feel particularly bereft.

 

On an instrument of this size, I would have expected a better attempt at building families of tone-colours, like the Arthur Harrison idea of a Solo Organ. To take the same number of slides:

 

SOLO ORGAN

 

Viole de Gambe 8

Voix Céleste (CC) 8

Viole Octaviante 4

Harmonic Flute 8

Concert Flute 4

Harmonic Piccolo 2

Orchestral Bassoon 16

Corno di Bassetto 8

Tremulant

Tuba Magna 8

Bombarde 16

Trompette Harmonique 8

Clairon Harmonique 4

 

This, I feel, would be far more satisfying (if produced by a good voicer working with good material) and ultimately far more musical.

 

The Pedal Organ could probably be reduced in size by about one-third and still be arguably more effective:

 

PEDAL ORGAN

 

Contra Violone (M) 32

Sub Bourdon (Ext.) 32

Contra Bass (W) 16

Open Diapason (M) 16

Violone (Ext. ) 16

Bourdon 16

Salicional (M) 16

Principal (M) 8

Violoncello (Ext.) 8

Stopped Flute 8

Fifteenth 4

Open Flute 4

Nachthorn2

Mixture (19-22-26-29) IV

Contra Trombone (M) 32

Bombarde 16

Trombone (Ext.) 16

Fagotto (W) 16

Posaune 8

Bassoon (Ext.) 8

Clarion 4

Shawm 2

 

Similar treatment could be accorded to the other departments, dispensing with much of the extension and all of the duplexing.

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Tuba Magna 8

Bombarde 16

Trompette Harmonique 8

Clairon Harmonique 4

 

Arthur Harrison?

Well, then the Sushis are belgian!

Pierre

 

Well, no, Pierre - I meant insofar as families of tone-colours are concerned. Having said that, the rest of the Solo Organ is reasonably typical. I kept the four solo reeds fairly close to the scheme which was linked.

 

No, if Arthur Harrison had designed it, the last four would probably be:

 

Contra Tuba 16 (possibly enclosed, à la Ripon)

(Unenclosed)

Orchestral Trumpet 8

Tuba 8

Tuba Clarion 4

 

I hear that a new Sushi Bar has recently opened - in Jan Blomstraat, Antwerpen.

:P

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