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Another Organ Ready For A Rebuild:


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Along the lines of Paul Derrett's interesting proposition of a few weeks ago, I had a similar thing happen to me about three Sundays hence. However, in this case, I have not yet actually been asked to carry-out the work myself!

 

I was playing for a special Choral Evensong at another church (having been allowed the evening off from my own). Between the rehearsal and the service, I was talking to one of the churchwardens who informed me that the organ was due for a rebuild. The present organist (well, there is actually a rota) does not like it, some of the congregation are attracted to the idea of a toaster and others want to effect a radical rebuild.

 

Personally, having played it for services and concerts several times before, I rather like it.

 

The present stop-list is as follows:-

 

PEDAL ORGAN

 

Open Diapason (M; Haskelled bass) 16

Bourdon 16

Principal (Ext.) 8

Flute (Ext.) 8

Fifteenth (Ext.) 4

Great to Pedal

Swell to Pedal

 

GREAT ORGAN

 

Open Diapason 8

Stopped Diapason 8

Principal 4

Nazard 2 2/3

Fifteenth 2

Tierce 1 3/5

Mixture (19-22-26) III

Clarionet 8

Swell to Great

 

SWELL ORGAN

 

Spare slide [16] (?)

Gamba 8

Lieblich Gedackt 8

Principal 4

Harmonic Flute 4*

Fifteenth 2

Larigot 1 1/3

Mixture (22-26-29 ?)

Contra Oboe 16

Cornopean 8

Tremulant

 

* This sounds suspiciously as if it has been changed for a Stopped Flute.

 

The former stop-list included an extra rank on the Swell Organ - a Bourdon 16. This does not currently appear. I have not yet had a look inside the instrument, so I am unable to confirm whether or not there is a spare slide.

 

It was last rebuilt in about 1970, by Nicholsons, who acted partly upon advice received from Roger Yates. I think that there have been one or two minor alterations since then.

 

The action is tracker to the claviers and couplers; the Pedal is either direct electric or pneumatic (or possibly electro-pneumatic). The clavier action is now very noisy and uneven - but not uncomfortably heavy.

 

The organ is situated at the east end of the North Aisle, in a case with a three-sided front; the (old) console is attached to the front of the instrument and is raised about eighteen inches from floor level. The case has little artistic merit.

 

Before anyone gets all excited about the presence of three mutations, I would mention that the primary use of the instrument is to accompany services. There are few concerts here and I do not think that ther has been an organ recital in the church in the last ten years. As such, I did not find the mutations particularly useful. Personally, I would prefer a greater choice of 8p and 4p stops. In particular, I would re-instate the undulant in the Swell, sacrificing the Larigot (1970, or later) without a moment's hesitation.

 

The tone is bright - which is why I feel fairly safe suggesting the intervals for the Swell Mixture (I forgot to check it when I was playing). However, full organ is not really adequate for the building and I doubt that it would cope with a full church.

 

There is a little extra room which could be found - the organ case could fill-in the 'missing' corner, as it were, and fill the west-facing arch.

 

I do not know of the financial situation of the church, but one could safely assume that an appeal would be necessary.

 

I would be interested to know what contributors would do to this instrument.

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Along the lines of Paul Derrett's interesting proposition of a few weeks ago, I had a similar thing happen to me about three Sundays hence. However, in this case, I have not yet actually been asked to carry-out the work myself!

 

I was playing for a special Choral Evensong at another church (having been allowed the evening off from my own). Between the rehearsal and the service, I was talking to one of the churchwardens who informed me that the organ was due for a rebuild. The present organist (well, there is actually a rota) does not like it, some of the congrgation are attracted to the idea of a toaster and others want to effect a radical rebuild.

 

Personally, having played it for services and concerts several times before, I rather like it.

 

The present stop-list is as follows:-

 

PEDAL ORGAN

 

Open Diapason (M; Haskelled bass) 16

Bourdon 16

Principal (Ext.) 8

Flute (Ext.) 8

Fifteenth (Ext.) 4

Great to Pedal

Swell to Pedal

 

GREAT ORGAN

 

Open Diapason 8

Stopped Diapason 8

Principal 4

Nazard 2 2/3

Fifteenth 2

Tierce 1 3/5

Mixture (19-22-26) III

Clarionet 8

Swell to Great

 

SWELL ORGAN

 

Spare slide [16] (?)

Gamba 8

Lieblich Gedackt 8

Principal 4

Harmonic Flute 4*

Fifteenth 2

Larigot 1 1/3

Mixture (22-26-29 ?)

Contra Oboe 16

Cornopean 8

Tremulant

 

* This sounds suspiciously as if it has been changed for a Stopped Flute.

 

The former stop-list included an extra rank on the Swell Organ - a Bourdon 16. This does not currently appear. I have not yet had a look inside the instrument, so I am unable to confirm whether or not there is a spare slide.

 

It was last rebuilt in about 1970, by Nicholsons, who acted partly upon advice received from Roger Yates. I think that there have been one or two minor alterations since then.

 

The action is tracker to the claviers and couplers; the Pedal is either direct electric or pneumatic (or possibly electro-pneumatic). The clavier action is now very noisy and uneven - but not uncomfortably heavy.

 

The organ is situated at the east end of the North Aisle, in a case with a three-sided front; the (old) console is attached to the front of the instrument and is raised about eighteen inches from floor level. The case has little artistc merit.

 

Before anyone gets all excited about the presence of three mutations, I would mention that the primary use of the instrument is to accompany services. There are few concerts here and I do not think that ther has been an organ recital in the church in the last ten years. As such, I did not find the mutations particularly useful. Personally, I would prefer a greater choice of 8p and 4p stops. In particular, I would re-instate the undulant in the Swell, sacrificing the Larigot (1970, or later) without a moment's hesitation.

 

The tone is bright - which is why I feel fairly safe suggesting the intervals for the Swell Mixture (I forgot to check it when I was playing). However, full organ is not really adequate for the building and I doubt that it would cope with a full church.

 

There is a little extra room which could be found - the organ case could fill-in the 'missing' corner, as it were, and fill the west-facing arch.

 

I do not know of the financial situation of the church, but one could safely assume that an appeal would be necessary.

 

I would be interested to know what contributors would do to this instrument.

Not very much, I suspect!! The action can be quientened by overhauling it - noise is no argument to get rid of it. Old consoles are worth keeping - especially if the oran is near original condition - I would be loathe to throw it out just because the organist wants more buttons.

 

The only stop list changes are as you suggest - re-instate the swell bourdon, exchange an undulant for the larigot. I would also think about returning the oboe to 8' pitch if you've now got a swell flue double.

 

Without knowing the provenance or period of the organ and what it's like mechanically or tonally, difficult to comment further... the spec looks basically fine, it could be a lovely organ or it could be a monster.

 

I'd also ask the questions: does it do everything it's supposed to or does it struggle accompanying the congregation or choir? Is it a viable organ mechanically? If it's good provenance or simply capable, there's no reason to do more than the bare minimum to keep it running.

 

It might just be that the incumbent organist just wants to have a bigger, better organ. In which case, I'd arrange a visit for him to his dream organ, give him the telephone number if he wants to return, let him get it out of his system and he'll then be much happier with the church organ at his disposal.

 

There's potential here to spend a lot of money and create an expensive and nasty monster. I would advise caution and moderation.

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Not very much, I suspect!! The action can be quientened by overhauling it - noise is no argument to get rid of it. Old consoles are worth keeping - especially if the oran is near original condition - I would be loathe to throw it out just because the organist wants more buttons.

 

The only stop list changes are as you suggest - re-instate the swell bourdon, exchange an undulant for the larigot. I would also think about returning the oboe to 8' pitch if you've now got a swell flue double.

 

Without knowing the provenance or period of the organ and what it's like mechanically or tonally, difficult to comment further... the spec looks basically fine, it could be a lovely organ or it could be a monster.

 

I'd also ask the questions: does it do everything it's supposed to or does it struggle accompanying the congregation or choir? Is it a viable organ mechanically? If it's good provenance or simply capable, there's no reason to do more than the bare minimum to keep it running.

 

It might just be that the incumbent organist just wants to have a bigger, better organ. In which case, I'd arrange a visit for him to his dream organ, give him the telephone number if he wants to return, let him get it out of his system and he'll then be much happier with the church organ at his disposal.

 

There's potential here to spend a lot of money and create an expensive and nasty monster. I would advise caution and moderation.

 

I would generally agree with you, Colin. For the record, I would not wish to get rid of the tracker action, either! A good overhaul and adjustment with new bushings, etc., should work wonders.

As I mentioned, the organ is not really loud enough for the church, partly due to its buried position. It would probably stand a Pedal Trombone and a GO Trumpet - but then comes the vexed question of action.

 

The Swell changes are quite sensible.

 

Personally I am not convinced about keeping the old console - it was, in any case, partly spoiled by the addition of the Pedal upperwork (such as it is); the controls for these ranks are by ugly rocking tablets, mounted on a huge piece of wood above the swell clavier - which looks dreadful.

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I would generally agree with you, Colin. For the record, I would not wish to get rid of the tracker action, either! A good overhaul and adjustment with new bushings, etc., should work wonders.

As I mentioned, the organ is not really loud enough for the church, partly due to its buried position. It would probably stand a Pedal Trombone and a GO Trumpet - but then comes the vexed question of action.

 

The Swell changes are quite sensible.

 

Personally I am not convinced about keeping the old console - it was, in any case, partly spoiled by the addition of the Pedal upperwork (such as it is); the controls for these ranks are by ugly rocking tablets, mounted on a huge piece of wood avove the swell clavier - which looks dreadful.

 

Hi

 

Who was the original builder, and have there been any changes prior to Nicholson's work? The current stop list looks typical of the 1970's - grafting mutations onto organs that were never desinged to have them - and I find that they rarely work really well.

 

Is there scope for re-siting the organ at the West End - or at least in a more open position? To my mind, over-large organs are storing up trouble for the future when they next need restoring. Is there actually enoguh space to add anything and still maintain access for tuning and maintenance?

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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The name Nicholson and the date of the last re-build is interesting.

 

It hints at the tonal work of Denys Thurlow.

 

I think I'd leave it just as it is, with suitable re-furbishment.

 

MM

 

 

Denys Thurlow almost certainly voiced the new ranks.

 

I would certainly not wish to spoil it. However, it was somewhat radically altered at the time of the 1970 rebuild and as a result, lost part of its character.

 

I would still consider replacing one or two of the 8p stops - and probably the alterations to the Swell which Colin Harvey has mentioned.

Ideally, as I mentioned in my reply to Colin, a Pedal Trombone and a GO Trumpet would also help to give the instrument a little more ability to cope with larger services, without actually ruining it.

 

The console needs tidying-up, in view of the nasty rocking tablets for the Pedal Organ.

 

I do agree that it should not be spoiled, though.

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Hi

 

Who was the original builder, and have there been any changes prior to Nicholson's work?  The current stop list looks typical of the 1970's - grafting mutations onto organs that were never desinged to have them - and I find that they rarely work really well.

 

Is there scope for re-siting the organ at the West End - or at least in a more open position?  To my mind, over-large organs are storing up trouble for the future when they next need restoring.  Is there actually enoguh space to add anything and still maintain access for tuning and maintenance?

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Bishop (1823) and subsequently Henry Jones (1892).

 

The GO mutations are post-1970. THe Swell lost an Open Diapason 8 (and probably a Bourdon), but gained the GO Harmonic Flute - which sounds as if it has been converted to (or replaced by) a Stopped Flute.

 

Yes - it could possibly be re-sited at the west end - something which has been mooted by some of the church members. If it was not moved, there is more space (but not enough for another clavier soundboard), where a Trombone could be added (and maintained).

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It depends on what the style of voicing currently is, but it's obviously been designed with the classical repertoire in mind. Romanticising it might run the risk of bodging its integrity. For that reason I'd be sceptical about the wisdom of reinstating a Swell Bourdon. But then, I dislike the aural mud produced by manual Bourdons anyway.

 

I'd be quite happy to lose the Larigot in favour of a Céleste.

 

If there's a spare slide, I'd consider moving the Oboe up to 8ft and replacing it with a Contra Fagotto (or maybe a Double Trumpet - though this again would depend on instrument's nature; it might be too thick).

 

If the Clarinet is a Romantic voice I'd ditch it in favour of a Trumpet. Alternatively, if the organ sounds a bit on the classical side I might turn it into a Cromhorne that can be used as both a solo and a chorus voice.

 

It would be nice to have a 16 ft Trumpet on the Pedal if there's room.

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  • 1 year later...

Re: Adding a Pedal Trombone

 

What you could do if there isn't enough space in the organ for the pipes or wouldn't be good for tuning/maintenance is, add it in a case at the side of the organ.

An organ which I play was restored with additions in 1986 and the Trombone was added then in an extra case.

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The console obviously sounds as if it needs rationalising - I'd also go for the Celeste/Larigot substitution (Larigots should really go with the other mutations not on their own) and maybe the reinstatement of the 16' flue on the swell if the space is still there. 'Not sure about the 16 Oboe but I'd probably put it back to 8' - especially so if it were minus its bass octave in its present transposition. If Thurlow was involved then maybe keep the voicing. I also have a feeling that there is enough 'neoclassical' in the same general geographical location as this church for one not to need to go any further in that direction with this one.

 

AJJ

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Guest Barry Williams

If this an organ intended for accompanying the liturgy then surely the parish should be encouraged to make whatever changes are necessary for that purpose, rather than any other.

 

Barry Williams

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I disagree. You can accompany the liturgy on all sorts of instruments. To my mind the changes made to the organ should be those which best serve it as a musical instrument. The country is full of organs that have had liturgical needs clearly enough in mind yet are incapable of making music. I suggested a céleste for this organ, but if the organ is neo-classically voiced it might easily be the least musical option.

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Guest Barry Williams
I disagree. You can accompany the liturgy on all sorts of instruments. To my mind the changes made to the organ should be those which best serve it as a musical instrument. The country is full of organs that have had liturgical needs clearly enough in mind yet are incapable of making music. I suggested a céleste for this organ, but if the organ is neo-classically voiced it might easily be the least musical option.

 

 

Yes, I agree, on a reasonable size instrument designed with integrity, the liturgy can usually be accompanied satisfactorily. Numerous examples spring to mind. However, there are a number of small pseudo 'neo-baroque' organ languishing in churches that can never function properly for any liturgy. Many have dust on their keys whilst electronic keyboards are used for the accompaniment of divine worship. The restoration of the 'Father' Willis St Peter's College Oxford is possibly an example of a change of heart. I understand that the other instrument has now been removed after about twenty years' service.

 

In the Church of England those providing official advice are obliged to do so (whether they like it or not) on the basis that the parish is the centre of worship and mission. Organs are not mentioned in the relevant statute. (The roman catholic church has no legislation binding on advisers in quite the same way)

 

Barry Williams

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Yes, I agree, on a reasonable size instrument designed with integrity, the liturgy can usually be accompanied satisfactorily. Numerous examples spring to mind. However, there are a number of small pseudo 'neo-baroque' organ languishing in churches that can never function properly for any liturgy.

I cannot comment on this since, whilst I understand "baroque" and "neo-baroque", I am not sure what you mean by "pseudo 'neo-baroque'". However I would argue that it is even more true of small instruments than of reasonably sized ones. In a small church where the services are mainly congregational and you are limited to an organ of only, say, nine stops, liturgical requirements are far, far more likely to be served better by an instrument voiced classically with choruses than by something like 8,8,8,4; 8,8,8,4; 16.

 

Of course, where exclusively choral services are concerned, that is a different matter entirely.

 

But I still think it is essential for any instrument to be a proper musical instrument. I do not personally know any octopods that could be described as such though others here have reported finding some.

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Guest Barry Williams
I cannot comment on this since, whilst I understand "baroque" and "neo-baroque", I am not sure what you mean by "pseudo 'neo-baroque'". However I would argue that it is even more true of small instruments than of reasonably sized ones. In a small church where the services are mainly congregational and you are limited to an organ of only, say, nine stops, liturgical requirements are far, far more likely to be served better by an instrument voiced classically with choruses than by something like 8,8,8,4; 8,8,8,4; 16.

 

Of course, where exclusively choral services are concerned, that is a different matter entirely.

 

We agree. I am referring to instruments with stops lists such as: 8 4 22/3 2 13/5 Mixture : 8 4 2.2/3 2 1/1/3+ buzzing reed plus a Bourdon, all voiced agressively (i.e. not bearing any relationship whatsoever to an historical model.) (This is an actual if somewhat extreme, but no means unique example, complete with unsteady wind.) Classical choruses of say, 8 8 4 2: : 8 8 4 2 Mixture, Reed, etc will always do extremely well for congregational work, especially if they follow classical principles, have the stops voiced cleanly and of about the same power, so that blend and tonal variety are possible. Father Willis, William Hill, Gray & Davison, etc and others made fine instruments. These are never ugly and unmusical octopods.

 

Coventry Cathedral set the modern standard. Its choruses are incisive and on classical principles wihtout the needless 'chiff' of the 1960s. The problem of the small organ is so much greater and especially so when there is little acoustic to assist the sound.

 

What would your nine stops be?

 

Barry Williams

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What would your nine stops be?

I don't think I can really answer that since, on the one hand, it would depend on the circumstances in the church and, on the other, whatever I think today, my views tomorrow will be different. Also I would have to question whether I know enough about organ design (but when did that ever stop an organist? :) ). But, to play the game, two possible schemes might be:

 

Man I

Chimney Flute 8

Principal 4

Fifteenth 2

II-I

 

Man II (possibly encl.)

Stopped Flute 8

Quintadena 4

Recorder 2

Chromorne 8

 

Pedal

Sub Bass 16

Principal 8

I-P

II-P

 

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

 

Man I

Stopped Diapason 8

Principal 4

Fifteenth 2

Mixture (19.22.26.29)

II-I

 

Man II (enclosed)

Chimney Flute 8

Salicional 8

Gemshorn 4

Trumpet 8

 

Pedal

Sub Bass 16

I-P

II-P

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Man I

Stopped Diapason 8

Principal 4

Fifteenth 2

Mixture (19.22.26.29)

II-I

 

Man II (enclosed)

Chimney Flute 8

Salicional 8

Gemshorn 4

Trumpet 8

 

Pedal

Sub Bass 16

I-P

II-P

 

Nice one - though I'd add a II-I Suboctave and a couple of Tremulants for added flexibility.

 

AJJ

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What would your nine stops be?

 

Barry Williams

 

Gr.

open diapason 8

lieblich gedeckt 8

principal 4

 

Sw.

stopped diapason 8

dulciana 8

voix celeste 8

gemshorn 4

oboe 8

 

Ped.

Bourdon 16

 

couplers +tremulant

 

In fact, this is 'our' Hill organ + dulciana & celeste. Sounds incredible in our church ...

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Manual I

 

Bourdon 16'

Open Diapason

Stopped Diapason

Principal 4'

 

Manual II (enclosed)

 

Lieblich Gedackt 8'

Aeoline 8'

Voix céleste 8'

Zauberflöte 4'

Physharmonica 8' (with its own expression so two times expressive)

 

Pedal

 

Soubasse 16' (from I)

 

Pierre

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Nice one - though I'd add a II-I Suboctave and a couple of Tremulants for added flexibility.

Agree about the tremulants. :)

 

In fact, this is 'our' Hill organ + dulciana & celeste. Sounds incredible in our church ...

Interesting that the Lieblich Gedeckt is on the Great and the Stopped Diapason on the Swell. Were they originally the other way round, I wonder?

 

Pierre: What's this? An English Romantic Great and a German Romantic Swell? Tch, tch! I thought you didn't approve of eclectic instruments! :D

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Pierre: What's this? An English Romantic Great and a German Romantic Swell? Tch, tch! I thought you didn't approve of eclectic instruments! :)

 

As a belgian, I stick to the belgian tradition, which is ecclectic from the 16th century.

But this ecclectism has nothing in common with the néo-classique "Répertoire" Mantra,

which builds a specification from outside inwards, with a bit of this there to play Jones,

and a bit of that for Tartempionine.

A "traditionnal ecclectic" specification is written from the inside. You use elements you have

"in the ear" as bricks you build a wall with. Those elements must be from the same epoch,

voiced as they are/ were in their own area.

 

Here the basis of the whole is, of course, the Open Diapason, and the backbone of the

whole Bourdon 16',OD, SD, PR.

Voiced after.....Euh...Somewhere in western England. "Churchy roll". OD and PR could even be

leathered. Scales big, thick zinc and Spotted.

 

The II isn't a Swell, rather a Manual Zwei. Lieblich Gedackt after Walcker (with two mouths), clear

and liquid.....Like the Thynne's (english) Zauberflöte. So both will really go togheter.

 

The Physharm. serves as well as a soft soloist as a Tierce substitute (with the coupler and the Manual I Churchy roll then)

Aeoline and Celeste after Sauer, really magic, praying, poetic.

 

As to what you will play on it: not my problem, but yours. I build the walls, you decide how you live in the house.

 

Pierre

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Interesting that the Lieblich Gedeckt is on the Great and the Stopped Diapason on the Swell. Were they originally the other way round, I wonder?

 

Besides the casework and a tremulant drawknob (tremulant is not yet connected), the organ is 100% original.

The LG8 is quite big in tone, coupled to the SD8 it gives a nice BIG soloflute.

Though not so big as the OD8, which has Pierre's 'churchy roll' on it :)

 

Small, but the best English organ in Holland and nice acoustics we have too (sample)

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Beautiful.....TONE, and here we are.

 

Both Arp Schnitger and Ernest Martin Skinner saw themselves as tone providers, not

"texture" or other intellectual, flesh-less theoretical concepts.

If Schnitger provided tones that suited the polyphony, it is because polyphony was

the musical form he had in the ear.

Skinner had orchestral music in the ear, and so he provided tones that went towards

that musical form.

It all comes from the guts, not the brain.

 

We( with G. Walcker) just revoiced à 2' Doublette a néo-classique builder added 1962 in the Namur

Walcker organ.

It was an absolute nightmare, with the feet bored by a machine tool and then dropped

on the chest without any voicing -For pop music maybe?-

We closed the feet somewhat and then voiced the pipes from scratch. In one day the thing

now provides a clear, silvery, amabile chorus with 8' and 4'.

 

You don't do that with theories, rather with lots of music in the ears.

 

Pierre

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Guest Cynic
Beautiful.....TONE, and here we are.

 

Both Arp Schnitger and Ernest Martin Skinner saw themselves as tone providers, not

"texture" or other intellectual, flesh-less theoretical concepts.

If Schnitger provided tones that suited the polyphony, it is because polyphony was

the musical form he had in the ear.

Skinner had orchestral music in the ear, and so he provided tones that went towards

that musical form.

It all comes from the guts, not the brain.

 

We( with G. Walcker) just revoiced à 2' Doublette a néo-classique builder added 1962 in the Namur

Walcker organ.

It was an absolute nightmare, with the feet bored by a machine tool and then dropped

on the chest without any voicing -For pop music maybe?-

We closed the feet somewhat and then voiced the pipes from scratch. In one day the thing

now provides a clear, silvery, amabile chorus with 8' and 4'.

 

You don't do that with theories, rather with lots of music in the ears.

 

Pierre

 

Yes.

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