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11 minutes ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

A couple of interesting things occur to me here, not knowing anything about the Hexham instrument.  Perhaps someone can help.

Is it possible that the 'back' (the chancel side) of the organ is mainly covered up for a very good reason?  That the organ, being so close to the choir stalls, might be too powerful here unless attenuated by the use of these boards, yet unobstructed at the nave side where a more powerful sound is needed.  (Or perhaps the chancel and choir stalls are never actually used.)

My other question, completely unrelated to this particular organ though brought to mind by the picture, concerns the common practice of providing a curtain to 'hide' the organist from view.  Is this done for the organist's benefit, if s/he is a 'reserved' sort of person, or to avoid the congregation being aware of his/her presence as a distraction from the religious side of things?  Hopefully, the curtain can be slid to one side if a recital is taking place!

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Firstly, NPOR N04090 gives as the reason for the appearance of the organ's east (?) front "Plain rear to hide tuner's passage boards".

But these pictures are puzzling.  The 1991 IAO Congress was held in Durham, and included a coach visit to Hexham for a recital by Nicolas Kynaston (as I recall).  One front of the organ, and I assumed it to be the back, was almost entirely vertical swell shades, and it was very noticeable at the time how much the swell pedal was being used, and, unless I am mistaken, the shades opened slightly sequentially and their action was very 'fluid'.  We understood that it was wholly mechanical.  I can't reconcile that memory with the 'Google' photographs.  Moreover there is mention on NPOR  of 'East swell shutters with indicator'.  Létourneau worked on the organ subsequently in 1998.  Did they make changes to the original Phelps east front, and does it incorporate the vertical swell shades?  Someone with local knowledge can surely tell us.

Curtains around the console were standard at practically every English cathedral and some major churches, and still are in quite a few.  On my last visits to York and Lincoln, they were still there.

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Hi

I don't know the reason for curtains hiding the organist - I suspect it's to reduce distractions.  When I was director of music at Rye Baptist Church, many years ago, the decision was taken to re-order the platform area, removing the fixed central pulpit, and as part of that I suggested they removed the curtain hiding the organist (organ was centre front as in many free churches).  Several of the congregation commented the following Sunday that they'd founds it fascinating - especiallyas, for the first time, they could see the pedals.

Every Blessing

Tony

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2 hours ago, Tony Newnham said:

Hi

I don't know the reason for curtains hiding the organist - I suspect it's to reduce distractions.  When I was director of music at Rye Baptist Church, many years ago, the decision was taken to re-order the platform area, removing the fixed central pulpit, and as part of that I suggested they removed the curtain hiding the organist (organ was centre front as in many free churches).  Several of the congregation commented the following Sunday that they'd founds it fascinating - especiallyas, for the first time, they could see the pedals.

Every Blessing

Tony

Indeed.  I'm pleased to hear that many found the presence, even the existence! of an organist fascinating.  That is one of the reasons I mentioned it.  I shouldn't be surprised to hear that some are not even aware of an organist, believing that the organ is a machine which plays itself, just like their HiFi at home!

I always found the story of the famous organist W. T. Best amusing when, awaiting his prompt to play a town hall organ, the mayor announced to the audience that "The organ will now play", remained in his seat and when a questioning look from the mayor was forthcoming said, "Damn the organ, let it play!"

I personally believe that the organist should be visible to the congregation (assuming s/he is willing!), just as everyone else on the 'stage' is.  It might even result in the general public in this country taking more interest in the organ especially as, if the organ had as much public following here as in, say, Germany and the Netherlands, we might find that fewer organs in churches are being scrapped!

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Mention of curtained organists brought to mind John Betjeman's description of St Enodoc's church in Cornwall:

 

... "A rattle as red baize is drawn aside,

Miss Rhoda Poulden pulls the tremolo,

The oboe, flute and vox humana stops;

A Village Voluntary fills the air

And ceases suddenly as it began,

Save for one oboe faintly humming on" ...

 

I think she was playing a reed organ, as the poem ends with:

 

... "The Lord's name by harmonium be praised" ...

 

To me this is particularly and sadly evocative at a time when it's next to impossible to envisage visiting that beautiful place.

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Cologne Cathedral's organ can be seen here but, unfortunately, not from the loft. I wonder how Google would go about adding images although clearly it is possible for users to do so as shown by this one - https://goo.gl/maps/AWjPSFYDNtpxk5Gn6 - which has been added by a user. If I find myself in Cologne again it would be tempting to ask if I can do a panorama from the organ loft. The view of the cathedral interior would be as splendid to see as the organ itself is to hear!

Dave

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23 hours ago, DaveHarries said:

Cologne Cathedral's organ can be seen here but, unfortunately, not from the loft. I wonder how Google would go about adding images although clearly it is possible for users to do so as shown by this one - https://goo.gl/maps/AWjPSFYDNtpxk5Gn6 - which has been added by a user. If I find myself in Cologne again it would be tempting to ask if I can do a panorama from the organ loft. The view of the cathedral interior would be as splendid to see as the organ itself is to hear!

Dave

I agree about the Cologne Cathedral organ, with which I have had a long-term interest, and it does produce an excellent sound.

On that matter, there is a broadcast on Facebook tomorrow and weekly thereafter at 1845.  Excellent close-ups of the player in action, of course!

https://www.domradio.de/web-tv/orgelfeierstunde-drittes-konzert

I watch these on Facebook using Amazon Firestick on our TV with good quality sound, though it should be possible to do it on a computer.  Incidentally, it states 2000, but that is 1900 our time of course!

EDIT:
My apologies.  I have just 'tuned in' to watch this evening's recital and find that it actually starts bang on 1900 (our time).

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Another find - the seven-manual console of the Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City

These 360 panoramas seem to have become more and more popular in the last couple of years.  What do people use to make them?  I had a feature on my phone where I could stitch lots of photos into one panorama, but it was very fiddly, took ages and the results were often very poor.  There must be a better way?  I wouldn't mind making a few myself!

Re. the Echo organ at Hexham, I seem to recall reading somewhere it was retained as a tax-efficient measure, to prevent having to pay VAT on the Phelps because with the old Echo still in situ the Phelps could be categorised as an 'additional organ' - does anyone know if that's true?

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