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Guest Lee Blick

Vierne Finale Symphony No.1

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I agree with you, Stephen - it is a fantastic instrument. I normally get to play it for a week in August with a regular visiting choir.

 

I personally find the pedal-board very comfortable - much better than my own R-Co one.

 

I do agree that it can be unforgiving, though. I have to say that I would not wish to play Stanford, in A, with James Whitbourn sitting downstairs with headphones and a mixing-desk!

It's lovely, isn't it? In my time at Ch Ch for the BBC we did Tippett St John (after I had been there about a month); Forbes Aedis Christi Mag and Nunc; Parry Hear my Words; one or two big Howells; and a huge commissioned piece of Francis Pott. I lost weight, at least.

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It's lovely, isn't it? In my time at Ch Ch for the BBC we did Tippett St John (after I had been there about a month); Forbes Aedis Christi Mag and Nunc; Parry Hear my Words; one or two big Howells; and a huge commissioned piece of Francis Pott. I lost weight, at least.

 

I am not surprised.

 

I am also impressed! I do not know that particular Forbes piece - but Francis Pott's music is not exactly easy. The Parry is almost a small organ concerto with choir obbligato.

 

At that time, how many nights were you in practising (not just the notes, but registering and getting used to the instrument)?

 

Personally, I think the only thing that I would change is the Voix Humaine on the Récit - I would prefer an Hautbois as a rank of more general utility in both accompanimental use and in general repertoire. (Excluding, of course, several sections of works by César Franck!)

 

I also find the Bombarde reeds very exciting. The first time I played there, there was a notice (from David Goode) on the console, warning against using the tutti - even in voluntaries. I have to confess that my first thought was: "Sod that - if it is on the organ, it has been voiced for the building - so I am using it!" Now, I did try to ensure that I accompanied the choir with sensitivity, but where appropriate (usually for the end of a piece), I did not hesitate to use the tutti. Apparently everyone loved it - I got many kind comments afterwards.

 

I know (because I took the precaution of checking whilst a colleague used my specified registrations) that the Bombarde reeds are louder downstairs - but they are not that loud - just really exciting. I assume that the notice frome DG was directed at organists who would habitually reach for the big reeds for the last verse of every hymn, for example.

 

Stephen, may I ask your views on these important stops - and also, what use you made of them, please?

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I am not surprised.

 

I am also impressed! I do not know that particular Forbes piece - but Francis Pott's music is not exactly easy. The Parry is almost a small organ concerto with choir obbligato.

 

At that time, how many nights were you in practising (not just the notes, but registering and getting used to the instrument)?

 

Personally, I think the only thing that I would change is the Voix Humaine on the Récit - I would prefer an Hautbois as a rank of more general utility in both accompanimental use and in general repertoire. (Excluding, of course, several sections of works by César Franck!)

 

I also find the Bombarde reeds very exciting. The first time I played there, there was a notice (from David Goode) on the console, warning against using the tutti - even in voluntaries. I have to confess that my first thought was: "Sod that - if it is on the organ, it has been voiced for the building - so I am using it!" Now, I did try to ensure that I accompanied the choir with  sensitivity, but where appropriate (usually for the end of a piece), I did not hesitate to use the tutti. Apparently everyone loved it - I got many kind comments afterwards.

 

I know (because I took the precaution of checking whilst a colleague used my specified registrations) that the Bombarde reeds are louder downstairs - but they are not that loud - just really exciting. I assume that the notice frome DG was directed at organists who would habitually reach for the big reeds for the last verse of every hymn, for example.

 

Stephen, may I ask your views on these important stops - and also, what use you made of them, please?

The Forbes is wonderful - double choir with a free organ toccata against it which has to coalesce with the choir, or into more strictly measured rhythm on its own, at strictly predetermined points - I seem to remember 8 a sudden against 5 against 3 in the Nunc after 4 pages of frenzied aleatory flapping. That broadcast was the cause of my most heart stopping moment ever - pushing the Tutti piston in the middle of a frenzied organ solo outburst which contained nmerous essential rhythmic and pitch cues for the following choir entry and playing what was supposed to be a fanfare onthe Bombarde Reeds(!) to discover that the tutti piston had stopped working. Grabbing a handful of stops is not easy at Ch Ch as you know - it felt like a month before I got the chord down but on the playback it was the merest hesitation. My life flashed before me. Thank God I don't have to do the accompaniment thing every day anymore!

Back to the plot. I used to go in most nights for a couple of hours, and most days too - probably about 6-7 hours a day altogether, and I used to practice everything - hymns, the lot, certainly for the first year. The Vox H is a funny stop - we hardly ever used it and it was a b%^&*r to keep in tune. Good for comedy effects though. A Basson-Hautbois would be better, yes.

Bombarde Reeds - occasional tutti use was the main employment for them.They're not as brash as they seem upstairs, but the pedal can seem a bit light when they are coupled to the GO in the big tutti. We used the 16' quite often as a GO 16 reed via the IV-II coupler. I can't remember whether there was a IV-P coupler - I have a distant memory of using the 16 to bolster the pedal reeds, but I could be wrong. We had a Dean during my time there whose wife hated the organ - said Dean used to stand under the organ gallery (of all places) to talk to departing punters. He forbade loud voluntaries because he couldn't chat against them, so I played the Eucharist congregation out to a 12 bar piece of Tallis on the Sw 8 flute and left the loft before he had his surplice off. Fewer problems with volume after that.

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Stephen, thank you - I found this most interesting.

 

There is not a IV-P coupler, unfortunately. This was the only other thing which I missed - almost as much as a Swell to Choir at Chichester!

 

I was also interested to read of your consternation during the broadcast. That you managed to maintain a degree of sang froid is truly impressive - for, as you say, it is not a simple matter to hand-register at Christ Church; particularly at at moments of extreme need!

 

As for 'that' dean - I heartily approve of the course of action which you adopted.

 

Clergy can be so insensitive....

:unsure:

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Stephen, thank you - I found this most interesting.

 

There is not a IV-P coupler, unfortunately. This was the only other thing which I missed - almost as much as a Swell to Choir at Chichester!

 

I was also interested to read of your consternation during the broadcast. That you managed to maintain a degree of sang froid is truly impressive - for, as you say, it is not a simple matter to hand-register at Christ Church; particularly at at moments of extreme need!

 

As for 'that' dean - I heartily approve of the course of action which you adopted.

 

Clergy can be so insensitive....

:lol:

Hi pncd - The Guildford clergy are amazing in this regard (and many others) I have to say - the Dean sits at the front of the Nave to listen to the Sunday Evensong voluntary and shushes the people near him who try to talk, then applauds loudly at its conclusion. A rare specimen I fear. We also have an excellent Precentor in Dr N Thistlethwaite. The music department is actually rather good fun with those two around. The stories I could tell (but won't).....

I didn't mean to make myself look heroic in relating that little story about the broadcast, by the way - it really was a 'there but for the grace of god' moment'. If my luck had gone the other way and I had had a bad landing I might have made it on to that compilation of Choral Evensong disasters that circulates every few years....

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that compilation of Choral Evensong disasters that circulates every few years....
What have I been missing? Does anyone have a copy they can send me by private message please? Or a URL?

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What have I been missing? Does anyone have a copy they can send me by private message please? Or a URL?

 

Well, I do have certain video extracts (usually of Midnight Masses) in which organists of well-known cathedrals are heard to be less than blameless. However, since we all make mistakes and the pressure of such events (even though they are usually recorded earlier) is such, that I feel it would be nothing short of churlish to mention them!

 

However, I have not seen a copy of the document which Stephen describes.

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Well, I do have certain video extracts (usually of Midnight Masses) in which organists of well-known cathedrals are heard to be less than blameless. However, since we all make mistakes and the pressure of such events (even though they are usually recorded earlier) is such, that I feel it would be nothing short of churlish to mention them!

 

However, I have not seen a copy of the document which Stephen describes.

There isn't a document as such, alas; the item was a cassette produced by someone who used to tape all the R3 Evensongs and extracted the snippets we'd all rather forget. These got put on to a tape for the consumption of a closed circle, which got endlessly copied and passed on with strict injunctions not to pass it to anyone else etc. I only got to hear about it because I knew someone etc etc. I don't know whether there has been a recent issue but I remember hearing a good couple of dozen howlers - maybe there are fewer howlers these days.....a paritcular favourite was an extended 'after you' moment from a live Daily Service in which the organist and announcer attempted respectively to play and announce the final hymn. Not once but about 5 times, each time followed by silence during which each waited for the other to get on with it. But nothing tops the Winchester sermon, alas not broadcast, in which a visiting Diocesan Bishop preaching on the subject of bravery described a terrifying scene in which a would be attacker 'rushed towards a group of terrified victims, brandishing his enormous chopper'....disarray of epic proportions followed, most of the choir some of the clergy and even some of the congregation reduced to a state of audilbe palsy. Those were the days.

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a visiting Diocesan Bishop preaching on the subject of bravery  described a terrifying scene in which a would be attacker 'rushed towards a group of terrified victims, brandishing his enormous chopper'....disarray of epic proportions

 

I regret that we didn't have a Fly-On-The-Wall documentary team at a service planning meeting, just before the installation of our present Dean. A very senior member of the staff decided that he needed to describe the 'incident' of Peter Tatchell storming into the pulpit and causing a scene at the retirement service of the previous diocesan Bishop. He referred to the intervention of one of the then Canons as being so brave that he almost fisted Mr Tatchell, his intention being to convey that the said Canon was close to punching Tatchell's lights out. Unfortunately under the circumstances this was a poor choice of phrase. Many took it the wrong way and lost plot for several minutes. This includes most of the clergy present so I didn't feel too bad about my own lack of self control!

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I regret that we didn't have a Fly-On-The-Wall documentary team at a service planning meeting, just before the installation of our present Dean. A very senior member of the staff decided that he needed to describe the 'incident' of Peter Tatchell storming into the pulpit and causing a scene at the retirement service of the previous diocesan Bishop. He referred to the intervention of one of the then Canons as being so brave that he almost fisted Mr Tatchell, his intention being to convey that the said Canon was close to punching Tatchell's lights out. Unfortunately under the circumstances this was a poor choice of phrase. Many took it the wrong way and lost plot for several minutes. This includes most of the clergy present so I didn't feel too bad about my own lack of self control!

 

====================

 

I used to live very near Peter Tatchell and would sometimes bump into him at the Asian-owned "Deli."

 

We had furious rows about "outing" clergy whilst squeezing bananas and plums, to the extent that the unfortunate shop-owner would raise his arms and start praying to Allah.

 

Even though this was quite close to the 'London Dungeon' we never resorted to fisticuffs........dear God....what a thought!

 

MM

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I regret that we didn't have a Fly-On-The-Wall documentary team at a service planning meeting, just before the installation of our present Dean. A very senior member of the staff decided that he needed to describe the 'incident' of Peter Tatchell storming into the pulpit and causing a scene at the retirement service of the previous diocesan Bishop. He referred to the intervention of one of the then Canons as being so brave that he almost fisted Mr Tatchell, his intention being to convey that the said Canon was close to punching Tatchell's lights out. Unfortunately under the circumstances this was a poor choice of phrase. Many took it the wrong way and lost plot for several minutes. This includes most of the clergy present so I didn't feel too bad about my own lack of self control!

Andrew - be sure to find me at the next COA to claim your prize-winning-story pint.

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Guest Lee Blick
We had furious rows about "outing" clergy whilst squeezing bananas and plums,

 

You are so very naughty!! :lol::lol:

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Hi pncd - The Guildford clergy are amazing in this  regard (and many others) I have to say - the Dean sits at the front of the Nave to listen to the Sunday Evensong voluntary and shushes the people near him who try to talk, then applauds loudly at its conclusion.  A rare specimen I fear. We also have an excellent Precentor in Dr N Thistlethwaite. The music department is actually rather good fun with those two around. The stories I could tell (but won't).....

 

This is indeed heart-warming - your Dean sounds to be a wonderful person. Just purely out of interest, does he applaud the skill of the playing, or the sound of the piece? Or, to put it another way, is the warmth of his applause tempered by the music of, say, Sorabji - or is it the skill and effort of the player which he appreciates?

 

 

I didn't mean to make myself look heroic in relating that little story about the broadcast, by the way - it really was a 'there but for the grace of god' moment'. If my luck had gone the other way and I had had a bad landing I might have made it on to that compilation of Choral Evensong disasters that circulates every few years....

 

Even so, there are no doubt those who would have baulked at the challenge (and telephoned SD claiming indisposition!).

 

I have had a few moments myself, where I was conscious of my own mortality, as it were - such as the time when there was an electrical storm in the vicinity during Evensong, which temporarily wiped all the memories from every single piston on every channel. Or the moment in the Poulenc Concerto where, through a brief lack of concentration, I mis-counted during a loud tied chord. Fortunately, on that occasion, with incredible prescience, my boss (now retired) somehow realised and gave about the clearest downbeat I have ever seen him do (no slight intended, here!).

 

Then, there was the slightly more amusing occasion at Winchester Cathedral one Sunday morning, (whilst you were Sub Organist there: in fact, you came up to the loft and introduced yourself). I was playing for a visiting choir. For the Mass, they sang the Langlais' Messe Solennelle. By the time we got part-way through the Agnus Dei, I was playing quite loudly, as marked (and as requested by the conductor). In the distance, I could clearly hear the officiant yelling THE BODY OF CHRIST! to some poor communicant, over the roar of just about everything (including the 32p reed) on the Willis/H&H. I did enjoy myself - but I also got some strained looks from the clergy afterwards.

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There isn't a document as such, alas;
Alas indeed! Still, I've enjoyed the stories that have emerged. Which reminds me: is there any truth in the rumour that after the first performance of Tippet's Mag & Nunc the officiant announced the creed: "I still believe in God"? I'd love it to be true, but somehow I don't quite believe it!

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I regret that we didn't have a Fly-On-The-Wall documentary team at a service planning meeting, just before the installation of our present Dean. A very senior member of the staff decided that he needed to describe the 'incident' of Peter Tatchell storming into the pulpit and causing a scene at the retirement service of the previous diocesan Bishop. He referred to the intervention of one of the then Canons as being so brave that he almost fisted Mr Tatchell, his intention being to convey that the said Canon was close to punching Tatchell's lights out. Unfortunately under the circumstances this was a poor choice of phrase. Many took it the wrong way and lost plot for several minutes. This includes most of the clergy present so I didn't feel too bad about my own lack of self control!

 

Andrew - this is the best laugh I have had all week!

 

I have just returned from the local supermarket, where I was largely avoided by all other customers, due to the fact that I was walking around chuckling the entire time - apparently for no reason. It was even more fun than playing 'Supermarket Trolley Challenge'.

 

Two further stories concerning cathedral organists spring to mind. I have a vague notion that I may already have posted the first - if this is the case, my apologies.

 

One organist was directing a choral course for young singers in the U.S. One morning, he was taking an open rehearsal for girl singers - there were also several sets of parents present. At one point, after the girls had sung something in a rather weak and timid manner, the director said (wih some emotion) "No, no girls! I want you to blow me against the west wall!"

 

The second concerns a choir practice in a provincial English cathedral. The Organist and Master of the Choristers in question is known for a particular vocal peccadillo - a type of nervous utterance, made in his normal cultured tones. The nearest which I can come to describing it phonetically, is "Eehh". (Pronounced quietly, with a wide, flat mouth-shape, the neck straining up a little.)

 

On this occasion, during a rehearsal, a few of the choristers were pushing the bounds of acceptable behaviour. After several minutes, the Organist reprimanded them and then returned to the practice. Almost immediately, a boy (one of the ring-leaders) resumed messing around. At this point, the Organist, now quite ruffled and wishing to make an example, meant to say something to the effect of "Now you're exactly the kind of boy to which I refer".

 

What he actually said was "Eehh, now you're exactly the kind of boy which I prefer".

 

This occasioned much quiet mirth and winking amonst the lay clerks.

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This is indeed heart-warming - your Dean sounds to be a wonderful person. Just purely out of interest, does he applaud the skill of the playing, or the sound of the piece? Or, to put it another way, is the warmth of his applause tempered by the music of, say, Sorabji - or is it the skill and effort of the player which he appreciates?

Even so, there are no doubt those who would have baulked at the challenge (and telephoned SD claiming indisposition!).

 

I have had a few moments myself, where I was conscious of my own mortality, as it were - such as the time when there was an electrical storm in the vicinity during Evensong, which temporarily wiped all the memories from every single piston on every channel. Or the moment in the Poulenc Concerto where, through a brief lack of concentration, I mis-counted during a loud tied chord. Fortunately, on that occasion, with incredible prescience, my boss (now retired) somehow realised and gave about the clearest downbeat I have ever seen him do (no slight intended, here!).

 

Then, there was the slightly more amusing occasion at Winchester Cathedral one Sunday morning, (whilst you were Sub Organist there: in fact, you came up to the loft and introduced yourself). I was playing for a visiting choir. For the Mass, they sang the Langlais' Messe Solennelle. By the time we got part-way through the Agnus Dei, I was playing quite loudly, as marked (and as requested by the conductor). In the distance, I could clearly hear the officiant yelling THE BODY OF CHRIST! to some poor communicant, over the roar of just about everything (including the 32p reed) on the Willis/H&H. I did enjoy myself - but I also got some strained looks from the clergy afterwards.

 

pncd - He is indeed a fine chap - how many Deans would say to the Lay Clerks on a wet February Monday 'Gentlemen, there are few unalloyed pleasures in being a Dean but your singing is one of them'? He especially likes Bach, as it happens, but enjoys most things as far as I can tell - a recent favourite was the Bruhns e minor. He is most concerned to be seen supporting and appreciating the music in all its facets - he quite often drifts in a listens to boys rehearse before Evensong, and once or twice came over to school to watch morning chorister practices. We are very keen to keep him! He also berated the congregation on a Sunday morning for failing to come to Evensong during the week 'how do you think that makes the choir feel?'

I had no idea we had met - I hope I was friendly...that 32' is rather lethal, but you can't tell from the console.

S

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This reminds me of the splendid tale about the bereaved husband in Yorkshire, who noticed that the headstone on his wife's grave had been mispelled.

 

It read, "She was thin."

 

The husband angrily went around to the stone-mason to point out the error.

 

"You left an 'e' out!"

 

The mason promised to make good the defect.

 

The following week, the grieving husband went back to the grave, and on the headstone was carved, "Eeeeeh, she was thin."

 

MM

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I had no idea we had met - I hope I was friendly...that 32' is rather lethal, but you can't tell from the console.

S

 

As far as I can remember!

 

Actually, there is one way to gauge the effect of the 32p reed from the console - look in the TV monitor at the faces of those congregants who are sitting in the stalls....

:lol:

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Guest Lee Blick
Tippet's Mag & Nunc the officiant announced the creed: "I still believe in God"? I'd love it to be true, but somehow I don't quite believe it!

 

The Tippet is my most favourite setting. I love the solo 'tromba' flourishes. Does anyone sing it nowadays?

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