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Mander Organs
Peter Allison

Wot, no organ music?

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I have known a certain large organ in our area for many years. A friend, now deceased,  rebuilt it, and another friend, also now deceased, put a couple of electronic Pedal ranks in.   Its is a 4 manual , complete with Schultz pipe work, and a natural Tuba. I am not wanting to say where it is, although some might guess which Parish church it is. Anyway, I was listening to one of my first ever recordings from 1980 something, and got all nostalgic, as one does, and decided to write to the esteemed DOM.

here is the reply, its makes sense I suppose, but hiding a nice instrument away, seems a shame

Dear Mr Allison

 

Thank you for your enquiry. I’m afraid that at the moment we don’t do organ recitals, largely because they’ve been insufficiently well supported in the past to justify continuing them. Also we are a very busy church indeed, and fitting them in and providing practice opportunities has not proved easy.

The organ can be heard at every choral service we do 1.00 and 6.30 on Sundays, and we are planning a performance of the St matthew Passion with soloists and professional orchestra on April 17 next year.

 

Best wishes

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Well, I suppose there are an awful lot of very good organs upon which recitals are never given and whilst it's a shame from an organ enthusiast's point of view, it is good to see that the church you refer to is busy doing things that churches were set up to do - loving our neighbour, etc. At least the organ is in use at services! 

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you are right, of course Martin, I suppose, I was just hoping really, as there seems to be no organ music played in recital, in the Harrogate/Knaresborough area, one has to go to leeds/york/skipton areas

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13 hours ago, Peter Allison said:

"Thank you for your enquiry. I’m afraid that at the moment we don’t do organ recitals, largely because they’ve been insufficiently well supported in the past to justify continuing them."

I'm afraid that this does not surprise me in the least.

Some years ago I attended a recital at Cologne Cathedral and more recently at Passau Cathedral.  In each case the building was packed,  in fact in the case of Cologne people were sitting on camp chairs in the aisles.  We're talking of thousands of organ music fans.

In Britain you'd be very lucky to get a hundred, far less in some places.

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1 hour ago, John Robinson said:

I'm afraid that this does not surprise me in the least.

Some years ago I attended a recital at Cologne Cathedral and more recently at Passau Cathedral.  In each case the building was packed,  in fact in the case of Cologne people were sitting on camp chairs in the aisles.  We're talking of thousands of organ music fans.

In Britain you'd be very lucky to get a hundred, far less in some places.

I went to hear john Scott Whiteley and the organist of Sheffield cathedral. they were playing at Holy Trinity (Hull Minster) a few years ago....  there were a handful on both occasions

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I may have recounted this before here. If so, I apologise!

I was in Chartres on August 15th some years ago. Solemn High Mass in the cathedral at 11h00 was packed. At 15h00 in the, overflowing, church down the road Vespers began with the chanting of the Psalms. Between the Psalms and the Magnificat the entire congregation processed through the city, with an enormous statue of Our Lady, to be greeted at the great doors of the Cathedral with a fanfare prior to the Magnificat being sung, in Latin, by, again, a packed congregation. I suppose Vespers finished about 16h30 and there was to be an organ recital at 17h00 given by Patrick Delabre, the Titulaire. I expected large numbers to leave and, some did leave but their places were taken by others and, by 17h00 the cathedral was, again, packed for his recital. It wasn't a recital of, particularly, 'mainstream faire' but, judging by the applause at the end, it was enjoyed by all present. The whole day was amazing and not something I could have imagined taking place in the UK.

Some time ago I went to a recital in a 'civic' building on a large, well known instrument, given by a well-known player. There might have been twenty people present. At £5 a time it wouldn't have paid for the electricity, let alone the fee for the recitalist, the cost of opening the hall etc.

………………… and I don't have an answer to why it is so different! 

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personally I just think its an inherent "British" thing. I have seen a few hundred people at continental recitals, and the same programme played by the same organist over here, has hardly made a dent on the seats used 

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on the same kind of note, my dad organised a recital by an "eminent city organist", in Durham Cathedral, a few years ago. OK, it was to raise money for a charity, ran by the Freemasons, of which the recitalist and my dad/me, are. take away the 250 masons, and it would have been a very mediocre turn out indeed

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2 hours ago, Peter Allison said:

on the same kind of note, my dad organised a recital by an "eminent city organist", in Durham Cathedral, a few years ago. OK, it was to raise money for a charity, ran by the Freemasons, of which the recitalist and my dad/me, are. take away the 250 masons, and it would have been a very mediocre turn out indeed

On which topic, here are details of what promises to be a fine recital in under a fortnight.

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I wonder whether the lack of interest in organ recitals in this country is related to the rise of 'happy clappy music'!

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4 hours ago, wolsey said:

On which topic, here are details of what promises to be a fine recital in under a fortnight.

I would love to go, but sadly London is too far. My dad and James Lancelot paid a visit there, a few months ago, and had a good time, also Simon Lindley, was the Grand Organist, and is now Paul Bowen, I think, both have played for  us at Durham Cathedral

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34 minutes ago, John Robinson said:

I wonder whether the lack of interest in organ recitals in this country is related to the rise of 'happy clappy music'!

I think you could be right, John. Music is no longer taught in many of our state schools to the depth that it was 50 or 60 years ago. Unfortunately we now live in the age of twang and bang. And then there is the God factor associated with the organ.

Last year when Hull was the so-called 2017 UK City of Culture, the regional BBC TV news programme, Look North, hardly ever aired news of classical music, even though the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is strongly linked with the city. Throughout the year the main focus was on pop.

There was also a two-day organ event in the City Hall with the renowned organ at its heart. I reminded Look North of this event on a couple of occasions only for them to send its inept anchor man to interview the compere, news reader Huw Edwards. Guess what, he chose to talk to Mr Edwards about news reading.

 

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10 minutes ago, Peter Allison said:

I would love to go, but sadly London is too far. My dad and James Lancelot paid a visit there, a few months ago, and had a good time, also Simon Lindley, was the Grand Organist, and is now Paul Bowen, I think, both have played for  us at Durham Cathedral

I think Christopher Stokes (Manchester Cathedral) is now the Grand Organist.

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8 minutes ago, Barry Oakley said:

I think you could be right, John. Music is no longer taught in many of our state schools to the depth that it was 50 or 60 years ago. Unfortunately we now live in the age of twang and bang. And then there is the God factor associated with the organ.

Last year when Hull was the so-called 2017 UK City of Culture, the regional BBC TV news programme, Look North, hardly ever aired news of classical music, even though the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is strongly linked with the city. Throughout the year the main focus was on pop.

There was also a two-day organ event in the City Hall with the renowned organ at its heart. I reminded Look North of this event on a couple of occasions only for them to send its inept anchor man to interview the compere, news reader Huw Edwards. Guess what, he chose to talk to Mr Edwards about news reading.

 

Yes, society is changing... sadly.

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13 hours ago, Barry Oakley said:

 And then there is the God factor associated with the organ.

  ...

There was also a two-day organ event in the City Hall with the renowned organ at its heart. I reminded Look North of this event on a couple of occasions only for them to send its inept anchor man to interview the compere, news reader Huw Edwards. Guess what, he chose to talk to Mr Edwards about news reading.

I'm not sure the God factor plays a strongly negative role, because if it did, presumably it would also work against organ concerts in continental Europe whereas the anecodotes mentioned in some of the above posts confirm that it does not.  And as for the Huw Edwards story, that was indeed a shame considering that he himself plays the organ.  Surely he could have bent the thrust of the interview back towards the organ if he had wanted to?  He's skilled enough in front of a TV camera.

But the 'standard' type of organ recital can often verge on the ridiculous.  Later this month I'm planning to attend one which is free, given by a former cathedral organist on an instrument in an elevated west end gallery.  The console is attached, though it need not have been because the organ has electric action.  The upshot is that we (the audience) will be sitting with our backs to the instrument and the player, who also has his back towards us.  How absurd!  What other instrument is played like that?  Other than the sound, it removes any vestige of bonding between the performer and listener.  Would that a bit more money could have been raised to provide a detached console in view of the congregation, either instead of or in addition to the en fenetre one.  And why does this extremely skilled player value his services and ability so low that we are allowed to get in free of charge?  Looked at rationally, the whole thing is just plain ludicrous and I fully understand why any 'normal' music lover, wandering into the church and not previously exposed to an organ recital, would be turned off by the whole affair.  So sad.

Yet unless something extremely untoward happens, I know that I'll enjoy it nonetheless because, like everybody else here, I'm just used to it.  I'll let you know how it went idc ...

CEP

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1 hour ago, Colin Pykett said:

Later this month I'm planning to attend one which is free, given by a former cathedral organist on an instrument in an elevated west end gallery.  The console is attached, though it need not have been because the organ has electric action.  The upshot is that we (the audience) will be sitting with our backs to the instrument and the player, who also has his back towards us.  How absurd!  What other instrument is played like that? 

I agree.  I'm not being flippant, I really am not, but where organs are on a gallery at the west end of the nave, why can't the seats (or even pews) be turned around.  I should mention, I suppose, that as I am an atheist the organ is far more important to me than an altar.

Perhaps a compromise, such as what is frequently found in the Netherlands: seating in the nave facing the middle aisle; side on to both altar and organ.

In answer to your question, though, I suppose we usually only ever see the back of conductors!

 

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I think they  "Do God" more on the continent than they do here in the UK and is perhaps why they get many more listening to organ music prior to or after masses.

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My understanding was always that in the first half of the last century at least organ music was very popular in this country, with many recitals given in civic buildings, such as town halls. Classical music as a whole suffers in the UK from the free market obsession with reducing or eliminating subsidies or support to cultural and heritage activities. Thus many of our great products and cultural traditions have been allowed to disappear - the centuries old tradition of ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent being an example. A few years ago I visited the State Porcelain Factory in Meissen, Germany - thriving of course.I enquired of the guide whether she had been there some thirty-five years previously on a visit I had paid during the East German regime. O yes, she said, I’ve worked here all my life. Their prize exhibit was an organ whose pipes were made of ceramic. 

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On 31/05/2018 at 22:47, Barry Oakley said:

I think Christopher Stokes (Manchester Cathedral) is now the Grand Organist.

He's the Deputy.

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18 hours ago, John Robinson said:

I agree.  I'm not being flippant, I really am not, but where organs are on a gallery at the west end of the nave, why can't the seats (or even pews) be turned around.  I should mention, I suppose, that as I am an atheist the organ is far more important to me than an altar.

Perhaps a compromise, such as what is frequently found in the Netherlands: seating in the nave facing the middle aisle; side on to both altar and organ.

In answer to your question, though, I suppose we usually only ever see the back of conductors!

 

Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik have the problem sorted. The backs of the seats there adjust, to enable the congregation/audience to face either east or west, depending on service or recital. 

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4 minutes ago, Sesquialtera said:

Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik have the problem sorted. The backs of the seats there adjust, to enable the congregation/audience to face either east or west, depending on service or recital. 

Yes.  A logical solution, but how many places would do that.  I'm sure most of the incumbents would much prefer everyone to face the altar (for some reason!), in fact I'm surprised that more don't ban organ recitals as being 'distracting'!

Traditional pews could be a bit of a problem, though.

I remember attending an organ recital at Haarlem many years ago.  The seating consisted of individual chairs, most of which had been turned around to face west.  The recital had already started when a couple of people entered (very quietly) and, as luck would have it, chose two chairs that were still facing the 'wrong' way and turned them around, accidentally banging the legs together a few times rather loudly.  I recollect that there was a gentleman in an elevated position to the side of us (although I don't remember Haarlem having balconies at the side) recording the recital on a tape recorder... with a face like thunder!

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2 hours ago, John Robinson said:

I recollect that there was a gentleman in an elevated position to the side of us (although I don't remember Haarlem having balconies at the side) recording the recital on a tape recorder... with a face like thunder!

I know what he felt like, I have been that man countless times, a person near me coughed very loudly in Liverpool cathedral, the needles on my recorder jumped, as if the Trompette Militaire had suddenly be drawn during a Bach Chorale  ?

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1 hour ago, Peter Allison said:

I know what he felt like, I have been that man countless times, a person near me coughed very loudly in Liverpool cathedral, the needles on my recorder jumped, as if the Trompette Militaire had suddenly be drawn during a Bach Chorale  ?

 

I'm sure that you were making an official recording and, therefore, had the recitalist's permission to do so! How you get away from the extraneous noises of an audience I have no idea!

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6 minutes ago, S_L said:

How you get away from the extraneous noises of an audience I have no idea!

Don't let them in!  ?

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ALL my recordings (over 200) are done with the permission of the recitalist,( David Briggs, Nathan Laube, etc), and the church or cathedral putting on the recital, plus, many weeks or days preceding (by email),  its just for my own personal pleasure, as its a hobby, . And if say they say no, then thats fine, I just enjoy the music, one time only :-)

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