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ptindall

BBC studios and the organ

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The BBC is far advanced in plans to replace the Maida Vale studios with a new music centre at the Olympic Park in East London. Among other things, it will have a new hall large enough for public concerts with full choir and orchestra, equipped with adjustable acoustics (The BBCSO usually gives concerts at present in the Barbican Hall, which is a squeeze, and Maida Vale has only space for 200 audience.

At the moment, there is no provision for an organ. Other recent radio halls have them, for instance in Copenhagen, Paris and soon in Katowice.

From another point of view, perhaps thought ought to be given to a new home for the historic Compton organ at Maida Vale, since it is almost certainly going to be replaced with housing. 

 

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“At the moment there is no provision for an organ” sounds ominous, rather suggesting that one isn’t planned.  That would surely amount to a huge gap for repertoire “with full choir and orchestra” and rule out performances of the organ concertos and symphonies.

Admittedly the Barbican doesn’t have an organ, but in spite of its relatively small size, the Maida Vale organ has fulfilled its role effectively.  It’s not a solo recital instrument.  Would a transplant to Olympic Park be possible?  I can imagine hands held up in horror at such a suggestion - an extension organ in a 21st century concert hall!  But why not, if it fulfils the role, and it is already owned by the BBC. I can think of a firm of organ builders (I believe they have already worked on both of the BBC’s London organs) who would make a good job of this.

There have been instances where planners and architects have made no provision, or inadequate provision, for an organ only for later installation of the organ to involve structural changes and additional cost.  An organ should be on board at the planning stage.

 

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41 minutes ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

“At the moment there is no provision for an organ” sounds ominous, rather suggesting that one isn’t planned.  That would surely amount to a huge gap for repertoire “with full choir and orchestra” and rule out performances of the organ concertos and symphonies.

I have no idea how the project is being funded, but it is probably unrealistic to expect a cash-poor public body to be able to fund a new pipe organ. However, I wonder why they are not relocating the Compton (assuming they are not).  Playing Devil's advocate, I suppose that, for works with a prominent organ part, they could always hire a venue that does have an instrument, while for works in which the organ is just another member of the orchestra (e.g. Howells's Hymnus Paradisi; Holst's The Planets) a Hauptwerk set-up would suffice.

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To clarify my earlier post, my question was why don’t the BBC move the Maida Vale organ there?  Not a ‘new’ pipe organ as such, just moving one which they already own.  Of course there will be a cost in doing so, but even with the credentials of the HW which you mention, isn’t a pipe organ to be preferred - and expected - from a broadcaster with an international reputation?

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To add to the above, a Google search reveals that the Olympic Park site “will contain recording and rehearsal studios, providing a purpose-built base for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the BBC Singers, as well as being used regularly by the BBC Concert Orchestra.”

Other arts neighbours on the site will include the V&A, Sadler’s Wells and the London College of Fashion.

In his post ptindall said that Maida Vale “is almost certainly going to be replaced with housing” -  possibly a source of some potential funding?

 

 

 

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I know we're not supposed to mention such things here, but since the subject has already been raised above (by VH and RW), it should be noted that the BBC already have a HW instrument at Media City, Salford, for use (inter alia) for the Daily Service, since they stopped using a nearby church for that. And it's movable between studios.

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Salford is a long way from Olympic Park!  This is to be HQ for the BBCSO and the others mentioned above.  If it’s feasible, surely we would wish to see a pipe organ at Olympic Park.  Possibly ptindall might know more.  I recall his saying how well the Maida Vale organ sounded at Christmas (2017?) considering how little it is used.  

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On 01/02/2019 at 19:38, DHM said:

I know we're not supposed to mention such things here, but since the subject has already been raised above (by VH and RW), it should be noted that the BBC already have a HW instrument at Media City, Salford, for use (inter alia) for the Daily Service, since they stopped using a nearby church for that. And it's movable between studios.

Whilst we're not mentioning digital options, folk may be interested in the article on the Viscount UK website about the organ at St Bride's, Fleet Street, that has suffered from a lightening strike. This is the third lightening strike on a pipe organ that I have heard of - Llandaff (before the new instrument) - Salisbury in 2018, and now St Bride's.

(a) are such things more common than that, and...

(b) what can be done to prevent such damage?

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On 03/02/2019 at 06:59, Martin Cooke said:

Whilst we're not mentioning digital options, folk may be interested in the article on the Viscount UK website about the organ at St Bride's, Fleet Street, that has suffered from a lightening strike. This is the third lightening strike on a pipe organ that I have heard of - Llandaff (before the new instrument) - Salisbury in 2018, and now St Bride's.

(a) are such things more common than that, and...

(b) what can be done to prevent such damage?

Pipe organs which use electronics in any form, as distinct from those which only have an electric action of the old-fashioned (electromechanical) variety, are most at risk of damage due to lightning.  Even one whose key action is entirely mechanical will commonly use electric stop control which includes an electronic combination system.  The problem with electronics is that it is susceptible to relatively small transient voltage and current spikes which can be induced in the wiring (including the mains wiring) by a nearby lightning event, one which might not have caused noticeable damage to the building otherwise, or not even struck the building at all - maybe a neighbouring one or a strike which just hit the ground or a tree nearby.  It is irrelevant whether the organ is switched on or not for the damage to occur.  After all, a sudden current rush of 50,000 amps or more can induce sufficient energy to cause damage  to anything containing semiconductors (integrated circuits, transistors and diodes) within a radius of at least several tens of metres.  The extensive wiring associated with such systems in organs acts an aerial or antenna which picks up the radiated energy from the strike and feeds it into the susceptible circuitry.  Old fashioned electromechanical actions (those containing relays but no electronics) are more resistant to lightning in that they will only fail when the currents are sufficient to cause physical damage such as burnt wiring.  This generally requires a direct hit on the building of sufficient ferocity to cause obvious damage to other fittings and even the fabric itself.

As to what can be done to prevent such damage, it's problematical.  Lightning conductors will often prevent or reduce damage to the building itself, yet paradoxically increase the chance of damaging the organ because the massive currents flowing through the conductor augment still further the induced currents in the organ wiring nearby.  One obvious approach is not to build organs which incorporate electronics.  (No vituperative correspondence please - I've amassed enough of this over the years to paper my walls with it).  Nevertheless, facts are facts.  You pays your money and you takes your choice, which means knowingly accepting the risks when incorporating electronics in pipe organs.

CEP

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I understand that the Maida Vale organ is to be used in the near future for a performance with the BBC Symphony Chorus - so there will be a clear need for an organ at Olympic Park.  To move the Maida Vale organ there would be feasible if room was provided for it - the point made in my first post above.  How do we persuade the BBC?  Does anyone here have contacts?

There is also the much larger Compton (approximately three-times as many ranks) at Broadcasting House.  At present I don’t know whether this is played - or playable.  

 

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