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Most pointless stops?

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I remember an animated discussion many years ago between Clutton and a now much respected consultant/historian regarding organ design, stoplists etc. Clutton actually got quite heated while the other quite coolly stuck to his guns. With hindsight it is interesting to ponder on which of them has had a more lasting effect on things!

 

A

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Sam was ahead of his time for much of his life, and his enthusiasm was extraordinary, but he had fads which sometimes had more influence on him than was maybe healthy. I always thought St. Paul's was right in virtually every respect, but I had doubts about Ely. In either case, of course, one will never know how much of the scheme was down to Sam and how much to the resident organist and the organ-builder.

 

As a wealthy bachelor, he was able to travel a good deal, and he opened the eyes of many to the value of instruments in other traditions.

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As one who grew up as it were with figures such as Clutton and Dixon, who dominated organ consultancy in the mid-20th century, I found them irritating at the time. With hindsight they seem to me to be little more than anachronistic dilettantes. Sorry if this offends - it's simply my opinion. Clutton was loud, rude and overbearing when it suited him, both verbally and in print - one only has to look at the articles and (particularly) the letters he wrote in journals such as The Organ to see this even today. I didn't consider him over-competent musically either, because unless I'm wrong, I'm not sure he could put more than a few notes together on a keyboard to illustrate his points.

 

Dixon seemed to be one of those who considered that organ consultancy consisted of little more than drawing up a stop list merely by sitting in a library. Their jointly-authored book "The Organ - its tonal structure and registration" from 1950 is fascinating though, not so much because of what one can learn from it, but because of the almost amusing spotlight it throws on their differences. Clutton's enthusiasms are centred on the European organ whereas Dixon spends time telling us how to register effectively on a Compton extension organ. Thus to me they illustrate a period when the apotheosis of the dilettante, the cult of the amateur, dominated much of the cultural life of Britain at the time. W L Sumner was also of that ilk, an enthusiastic amateur who had an influence somewhat disproportionate to his actual competencies, even though he was also quite a nice guy unlike some of the others.

 

Today I am pleased to see that organ consultancy on the whole is much more soundly based. One only has to look at the CVs of those constituting the Association of Independent Organ Advisers for the evidence.

 

CEP

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'Agree with much of the above - does anyone know where Clutton's little Mander house organ ended up?

 

A

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1 foots - now I happen to think they can be quite special when used judiciously. On a three manual instrument I don't know if they are better off on the Swell or Choir, […]

There’s a 1' on the Choir where I play that is one of the least used stops on the organ. It was originally a Larigot 1⅓' but was re-formed as a 1' at some point. It’s nice as a tinkle but would be more useful if it could easily be part of the ultimate “gap” registration of 16' + 1' which, as the only manual 16' flue is a heavy Double Diapason on the Great, can only be done by coupling through the Swell 8' flute with the Sub-octave and Unison Off.

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'Agree with much of the above - does anyone know where Clutton's little Mander house organ ended up?

 

A

 

In one of the downstairs rooms at the Choir School of King's College, Cambridge - complete with Clutton's handwritten instructions and rationale. Personally, I thought that it was in a bad state (perhaps through being moved). Neither did I particularly care for the sound.

 

I took some pictures of it which I might try to find.

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...Thus to me they illustrate a period when the apotheosis of the dilettante, the cult of the amateur, dominated much of the cultural life of Britain at the time. W L Sumner was also of that ilk, an enthusiastic amateur who had an influence somewhat disproportionate to his actual competencies, even though he was also quite a nice guy unlike some of the others.

 

Today I am pleased to see that organ consultancy on the whole is much more soundly based. One only has to look at the CVs of those constituting the Association of Independent Organ Advisers for the evidence.

 

CEP

 

Interesting reflection - I wonder if that extends to someone like George Ashdown Audsley who was foremost a noted architect and expert in Japanese art, and presumably stumbled across the Willis at St George's Hall during a phase of his life when he worked in Liverpool, thus propelling himself into the world of organs too. He subsequently positioned himself as the foremost authority on organbuilding. Interesting and indeed beautiful as the "Art of Organbuilding" is, I can't help but wonder what processes could have resulted in one person claiming world authority in so many different spheres of life.

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Re #82, Audsley also claimed scientific insights diametrically at variance with those of experts. For example, he dismissed Tyndall's demonstrations of end corrections, and he maintained that sound propagates not as a longitudinal wave but as (I think) a motion of discrete particles. I say "I think" because his phraseology was so verbose that it is sometimes difficult to understand what he was on about. Had this not been so, I'm sure his two-volume tome on organ building could have been reduced to one.

 

CEP

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