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DouglasCorr

Kings College on BBC TV

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This afternoon I thought I would take a look at Carols from Kings on the iPlayer before it vanished. To my surprise and delight there were two additional progammes about Kings (on the iPlayer with about 19 days left) - one about the first TV carol broadcast in 1954 and the other a documentary on these broadcasts over the last 60 years. This post is to suggest that many of you may be upset if you miss these programms as I nearly did. There is too much to write about here - but I'm sure you will be enchanted by the 1954 service from an almost forgotten era - the voices, haircuts, tempi, conducting with just a finger and much more....

 

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I thought that the boy singing 'Once in Royal David's City', and pretty much ignoring Boris Ord's finger, was quite amusing.

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I thought that the boy singing 'Once in Royal David's City', and pretty much ignoring Boris Ord's finger, was quite amusing.

 

Yes, he admitted this in the 60 years documentary, didn't he? Actually, the whole choir were pretty much ignoring Boris and doing their own thing throughout the whole service. The choir looked to me as if they were well used to coordinating with each other and I was left with the impression that Boris was rather superfluous TBH. We certainly didn't get anything like the razor-sharp precision that a proper conductor could get from today's top singers, but the ensemble was probably very good for its time. How on earth Hugh McClean managed to coordinate with the choir in the Bach piece I don't know. I'd be surprised if there were a CCTV at that date and I can't imagine that the back of Boris's head looked very precise at that distance from the console. I wonder how far ahead of the choir he needed to play. I noted that all the other choir carols were unaccompanied and I can quite see why.

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I'd be surprised if there were a CCTV at that date and I can't imagine that the back of Boris's head looked very precise at that distance from the console. I wonder how far ahead of the choir he needed to play.

I'm sure that Kings would have done the full spectrum of accompanied services before CCTVs appeared. CCTV would be too big and expensive before the 1980's, however a loudspeaker in an organ loft would be feasible. There was such an arrangement at Ely in the 70s for services in the nave, I don't know if Kings ever had any similar arrangements.

It would be interesting to consider what the impact of CCTV is on the modern cathedral repertoire.

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One thing I noticed when watching 'Carols from King's' on Christmas Eve recently was that there were a couple of shots of the organ where a Tuba (or comparable loud reed) was sounding solo, yet I could not correlate it with what the player's fingers were doing. There was an assistant but he did not seem to be actually playing notes. Was this an example of where the BBC synthesises unreal events from audio and video sequences unrelated in time? It's quite possible since the TV programme is pre-recorded. They do it often on 'Songs of Praise'. e.g. at RAH 'Big Sings' where successive shots have the organ console illuminated and complete with player, whereas in the next shot a couple of seconds later the player has apparently skedaddled and the console in is darkness. Occasions like this give a whole new meaning to the term 'virtual pipe organ' ... (Or, something else which has just occurred to me - does the organ have second touch? Maybe it does and I blinked and missed it).

 

Anyway, I'm grateful to the above posters, who reminded me that I can check all this again at leisure while the programme is still on iPlayer.

 

CEP

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I think the reed solo might have been played on the pedals.... :)

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I think the reed solo might have been played on the pedals.... :)

That caught me out too for a brief moment!

 

I should very much like to see the whole service, minus the spoken and unaccompanied bits, as recorded in the organ loft. Perhaps the BBC should sell a DVD...

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I think the reed solo might have been played on the pedals.... :)

 

I'm sure it was. I noticed this the last time they performed this arrangement (and used a more discreet reed). From the credits in he booklet for the radio service it would seem that this arrangement of the orchestral score is by Peter Stevens. The published version is a much more straightforward affair.

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I think the reed solo might have been played on the pedals.... :)

 

Ah, yes. How presumptuous of me to assume that nobody could possibly have a better pedal technique than I ...

 

CEP

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Ah, now then, Colin... actually, something you wrote about on the forum around Christmas made me go to your website where I picked up on your playing of the Alan Gray "Slow" piece which made me go and seek it out. Thank you for that! Yes, a delightful collection, but somehow, the Thalben Ball Elegy has never caught my interest, either. In fact, the only GT-B I play is the other Elegy and also Tune in E, a delightful ditty.

 

Ugh! - sorry - this relates to my post re the funeral music.

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I'm sure it was. I noticed this the last time they performed this arrangement (and used a more discreet reed). From the credits in he booklet for the radio service it would seem that this arrangement of the orchestral score is by Peter Stevens. The published version is a much more straightforward affair.

 

I believe the arrangement was originally for two players at the piano and presume Peter Stevens has reduced it to be playable (by Kings organ scholars, at any rate!) by one player for organ. I have a recording of Christmas music from their neighbours at St Johns and this credits a second organist, implying that the 'tune' is not in the pedals but played on the solo manual by a second player. Said recording also uses the Zimbelstern at the end!

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I think the reed solo might have been played on the pedals.... :)

 

Indeed - the piece is published in Carols for Choirs, Volume Five.

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I believe the arrangement was originally for two players at the piano and presume Peter Stevens has reduced it to be playable (by Kings organ scholars, at any rate!) by one player for organ.

 

Ah, right. I stand corrected.

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I'm sure that Kings would have done the full spectrum of accompanied services before CCTVs appeared. CCTV would be too big and expensive before the 1980's, however a loudspeaker in an organ loft would be feasible. There was such an arrangement at Ely in the 70s for services in the nave, I don't know if Kings ever had any similar arrangements.

It would be interesting to consider what the impact of CCTV is on the modern cathedral repertoire.

I wonder if an even greater impact resulted from the move away from the tradition where, unless it was for a recording or a very special occasion, singing was only conducted if it was unaccompanied. Has anyone plotted the history of this particular development, which I think happened between 1965 and 1975? Would performances of e.g. Stanford in Bb be more "authentic" without a conductor.............

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Indeed - the piece is published in Carols for Choirs, Volume Five.

 

The Carols for Choirs 5 version doesn't have the solo pedal reed passage though, but shorter links between the verses. The original arrangement for pianos was by Mack Wilberg.

 

Steve

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Indeed - the piece is published in Carols for Choirs, Volume Five.

Though without the two extended interludes featuring the fleetly footed tuba - they do appear in the single sheet version.

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Though without the two extended interludes featuring the fleetly footed tuba - they do appear in the single sheet version.

 

Indeed - althoug, having looked at a copy earlier today, it would be easy to re-arrange it: play the solo reed part on the pedals and a progression of seventh chords (as appropriate) with the left hand. (I only watched it once, but as far as I can remember, I think that this was what Douglas Tang was doing with his left hand at this point.)

 

A further confirmation of this was that, immediately prior to this section, the other organ scholar pressed a piston, which cancelled all the Pedal stops. I presume that this was the stepper piston, which simply advanced through the general pistons.

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In a post on Christmas Day on the Facebook Organists' Association group, Doug Tang confirmed the registration here, different between Radio & TV versions:

Carols from Kings (TV): Tuba, unison off, octave, solo to pedal...

9LC (Radio): Gt 4' Octave Tromba, Pd 4' Octave Tromba (they're different) and the 4' Schalmei.

 

Nice to have the choice...!

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In a post on Christmas Day on the Facebook Organists' Association group, Doug Tang confirmed the registration here, different between Radio & TV versions:

Carols from Kings (TV): Tuba, unison off, octave, solo to pedal...

9LC (Radio): Gt 4' Octave Tromba, Pd 4' Octave Tromba (they're different) and the 4' Schalmei.

 

Nice to have the choice...!

 

 

Indeed - although I am surprised that it was thought worth drawing the Schalmei in addition to two high-pressure Trombe ranks. (Those on the G.O. speak on around 450mm w.g. - approximately 18 inches. At least these stops are under expression, in the Solo box.)

 

The Pedal 4ft. Tromba, being derived from the G.O. Contra Tromba (16ft.), speaks on the same pressure, but would have a slightly different scale and voicing. However, I am still wondering if the Schalmei was actually audible.

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If the box was closed, the Schalmei might well be effective in putting an edge on the tone. I can do something similar here by coupling the Vox to the Tuba and shutting the Solo box.

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