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On 11/02/2020 at 23:03, John Robinson said:

I seem to recall from a booklet I can't lay my hands on right now, that the 32' Praestant is of a relatively narrow scale, the bottom C of 235mm (9.25") diameter if I recall, which seems very narrow comparatively speaking.  I must have another look for the booklet to check my facts.

We're so used to big scale Open Woods at 32ft, we tend to forget that the great hall-churches allow sound to bloom and develop, and even a failry subtle 32ft metal open makes its presence felt down in the body of the church, due to the unrestricted werkprinzip layout.  Nothing at Haarlem shouts or dominates.....it sings like no other I can bring to mind. Furthermore, none of the sound has to crawl around the Swell Box, find a suitable arch through which to escape and then aisles in which to get lost.

Like the famous lager, the Bavo-orgel is "probably" still the best in the world, but it has a lot of competition, just in the Netherlands.

MM

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On 02/01/2020 at 07:44, Colin Pykett said:

 

Asking these sorts of questions also makes one realise what a fabulous engineer an organ builder has to be.  Imagine the hidden substructure within the base of a 32 foot pedal tower with 9 pipes or so.  Imagine not just the weight of each pipe but the sheer pressure exerted on the region of a few square inches where it sits.  And they didn't fall down - far from it, they lasted for centuries.  (Well, like the buildings themselves, I suppose they fell down from time to time, thus teaching the builders valuable lessons as to what would work in engineering terms and what wouldn't.  We don't see the ones which fell down ... ).  Gabler's organ at Weingarten Abbey leaves me speechless, not the instrument itself (which of course is also wonderful) but its visual impact.  Yet its filigree appearance strung across those windows without obscuring them conceals stories of structural design which only an engineer today could properly marvel at, and I am not one I'm afraid.  I find it as moving to look at, let alone listen to, as any contemporary painting in an art gallery.

Great craftsmanship and sound engineering principles are always handed down; father to son or masters to apprentices. It's what built Britain and the rest of Europe, and I quite agree, it IS beautiful and moving to inspect and admire. I recall my brother telling me a "craft story", of a quite elderly blast-furnace man, who took him up to the top of a smelt. My borther was armed with a spectrometer, but the old man just kept spitting on the smelt; briefly raising his protective face shield. My brother watched his instrument, and announced that the smelt was ready to tap, but the old man said, "Not quite".

My brother checked his instrument, and realised that it had been calibrated incorrectly.

The old man gave the order, and the smelt was poured.

My brother asked how he knew it was at exactly the right temperature, the old man said, "Well, when I spit onto the smelt, I can tell from the sizzle it makes and the speed it goes across the top of the liquid metal" 

He was absolutely spot-on, after years of experience doing the same thing day in and day out.

That's craftsmanship in action!

MM

 

 

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On 11/02/2020 at 05:31, Niccolo Morandi said:

I just remembered a couple of videos of the Boardwalk organ which I thought would be worth sharing which are of the 32' principle and the 64' Diaphone.

 

 

Thanks for the link. I'm fortunate enough to have actually heard that pipe speak in the flesh (and seen it in the remarkably informative and popular tour inside the Atlantic City organ) and can best describe it as the sound I would expect a helicopter would make if one was landing in the hall. Or several helicopters, as the hall is big enough for an entire squadron to fly around it.

 

It was heartening to read in the latest Organist's Review of the progress being made to restore it to full working order, it truly is a remarkable beast. I couldn't help but feel when I heard it four years ago that it was rather overblown and overscaled, though out of necessity given the size of the room. That might just have been the registrations available and working at the time. As it's a short drive from there to Philadelphia I also heard the Wanamaker in concert and of the two I'd take that in a heartbeat with its luscious strings and delicate beauty. The store has fallen on hard times over the years and whilst the central hall is several floors high, all but the lowest of the galleries are glazed in as most of the building is now offices rather than a giant department store. This must surely have changed the sound considerably (and possibly for the better I wonder - can anyone recall how it sounded when it played throughout all floors)?

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I wonder why I find the excesses of Broadwalk, such as the 64ft Diaphone, so unmusical.

To me they sound like pneumatic drills digging up roads.

Yes, I accept a great feat of engineering but perhaps not of organ building.

Martin

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Having been fortunate to see inside it, I feel it cannot be described as anything other than a great - even monumental - feat of organbuilding.

The grand excesses of the tonal scheme will not be to the personal taste of everyone, but I find they make a lot of sense within the context, which is - to say the least - unusual. 

Dare I even suggest it, but to my ears the 64' makes a definite musical contribution to several of the tracks of the 1998 CD.

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I've mentioned this before but it might be worth repeating.  The organ was built exactly at the time when a sudden expansion was occurring in the options available for making loud musical noises in large buildings.  Prior to that, the only way to achieve it had been to build a pipe organ, and that was one of the reasons it was invented centuries earlier.  But in the 1920s electronic valve amplifiers started to appear, partly capitalising on the accelerated developments during the first world war.  The first commercially practical moving coil loudspeaker also appeared at this time.  However both the amplifiers and speakers were inadequate at first to fill a space the size of the Hall with sound of the necessary power and of passable quality.  Also some other essential components of a half-decent audio system (microphones and electrically-recorded gramophone/phonograph records) were likewise still in their infancy.  So, at the time, it was likely that a pipe organ was still deemed to be the best solution for providing a musical background to events in the Hall, or for providing music in its own right at concerts.  Also the Great Depression reduced the manufacturing capability of some electronics companies and wiped others out completely, thereby reducing the opportunity to shop around for a music system of the necessary capabilities for such a huge space.

Thus the organ was installed in the Hall instead.  It is possible that those who considered it unmusical were always in a minority, because its main purpose of making a loud and impressive noise had been achieved.  However, within a few years the shortcomings of early audio systems had been largely solved, plus the fact that electronic organs such as the Hammond (and, not much later, many other makes such as those by Baldwin) were coming along as well.  So unfortunately the pipe organ would probably have been seen fairly rapidly as a white elephant by the Hall's management, with a corresponding lack of enthusiasm to keep it properly maintained and fit for purpose at a time when cheaper options for doing the same job were emerging rapidly. 

The situation is analogous in some ways to what happened to the theatre organ, which also was eclipsed by the same rapid developments in audio electronics which, in that case, led to the talkies.

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The question about when is an organ to big is something that has interested me for a long time and in places like America I feel that there does seem to be a bit of an obsession for Melbourne town hall size instruments. A couple of examples that spring to mind is an Austin organ located at St. Lutheran Church in Hanover Pennsylvania, and the Ruffatti organ at Coral Ridge Presbyterian church in Fort Lauderdale Florida.

Looking at the specification of the Austin organ of St Lutheran I must confess that I do wonder if it is really necessary for an organ to have over 200 ranks. While with the organ at Coral Ridge I am curious as to what the reason was behind adding digital stops to such a massive instrument was.

 

http://www.stmattlutheran.org/music/the-organ/

https://www.crpc.org/ruffatti

As for my opinion of both the Wanamaker and Midmer Losh organs I do feel that yes I don't think it is necessary for these organs to be as big as they are but I do still appreciate both these instruments. I feel that they were both intended to hold the title of being the largest organs or musical instruments in the world but at the same time I think care was still taken to make them more than just show piece.

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On 25/02/2020 at 13:02, Niccolo Morandi said:

The question about when is an organ to big is something that has interested me for a long time and in places like America I feel that there does seem to be a bit of an obsession for Melbourne town hall size instruments. A couple of examples that spring to mind is an Austin organ located at St. Lutheran Church in Hanover Pennsylvania, and the Ruffatti organ at Coral Ridge Presbyterian church in Fort Lauderdale Florida.

Looking at the specification of the Austin organ of St Lutheran I must confess that I do wonder if it is really necessary for an organ to have over 200 ranks. While with the organ at Coral Ridge I am curious as to what the reason was behind adding digital stops to such a massive instrument was.

As for my opinion of both the Wanamaker and Midmer Losh organs I do feel that yes I don't think it is necessary for these organs to be as big as they are but I do still appreciate both these instruments. I feel that they were both intended to hold the title of being the largest organs or musical instruments in the world but at the same time I think care was still taken to make them more than just show piece.

Whilst we're on the subject of 32 foot stops, the Austin has over 14,000 pipes, yet its only non-digital 32 rank is a (presumably) stopped Bourdon! It has four digital 32 foot flues and a 32 foot digital reed. You'd have thought it they wanted a proper 32 foot sound they could have swapped a few smaller ranks for 32 foot length pipes surely?

As for Wanamaker and Atlantic City, I believe there was some friendly rivalry and of course they are only about 50 miles apart. Presumably this is long past as many of the team who look after the Wanamaker organ are also leading the Atlantic City restoration. Tonally they had quite different inspirations - Dupre amongst others advised the Wanamaker which is a much more "symphonic" instrument, whilst Senator Richards took a surprisingly classical inspiration for his choruses. If I had to choose one to play all day I think it would have to be the Wanamaker which just seems and sounds much more musical, but I'm glad the Atlantic City organ exists even if it is something of an organic monument to biting off more than one could reasonably chew. Senator Richards had huge problems just getting builders to tender for it - some of those who did respond deliberately put in impossibly high quotes as they didn't want the reputational risk of being involved in the project, and for a while he pursued Willis III fresh from his Liverpool Cathedral magnum opus, but to no avail. The range of pipework and materials - including some pipes built of papier maché - and the huge dynamic range that comes from such a wide range of wind pressures, the challenge of designing a console with seven reachable manuals, the world's loudest and longest organ pipes...it's a veritable textbook of organ building all right, just not one that's readily transferable to more modest buildings.

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1 hour ago, Contrabombarde said:

Senator Richards had huge problems just getting builders to tender for it [the Atlantic City Boardwalk organ] - some of those who did respond deliberately put in impossibly high quotes as they didn't want the reputational risk of being involved in the project, and for a while he pursued Willis III fresh from his Liverpool Cathedral magnum opus, but to no avail.

Henry Willis III, ever perceptive, speculated in correspondence who - from a number of different builders - would eventually get the contract, and correctly predicted that it would be Midmer-Losh.

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9 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

How much of that is because the instrument is really just a glorified extension organ?

I think that's being a little harsh. I interpret the spec as being that of the foundation of a straight concert organ on a very grand scale, with liberal use of extension in the (many) secondary divisions, for solo, imitative, cinematic, and special effects. In this it is quite different from a normal "theatre" style instrument.

Notwithstanding this, it is also fair to say that extension is used rather more heavily in the pedal divisions than is normally the case for a concert organ.

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OK in fairness, the organ was controlled by two stop-tab consoles, one five manuals, the other seven. The five manual is currently disconnected and was an exhibit in the lobby when I visited a few years ago. My understanding from what was described (correct me if I'm wrong) was that the five manual was intended to be completely "straight" and reflected the entirety of the organ without duplication or transmission through extension, whereas the seven manual was the whole shebang. Not sure what the point of extension is in such an organ, but with over 30,000 pipes under its control the five manual console without the extensions is still pretty big as organs go!

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On 03/02/2020 at 00:18, Vox Humana said:

This is all related in Roger Judd's book The Organs in Windsor Castle. The files at H&H reveal that the Vox Humana was sourced from their organ at Devonshire Street Congregational Church, Keighley, in which the Vox Humana stop was said (in both a letter from the church and in the programme for the opening recitals) to have been made and voiced by Messrs Cavaillé-Coll. In 1964 the organ was sold back to H&H and, according to the firm's files, the Vox Humana then found its way to Windsor.  Or maybe not.  Neither Mark Venning nor Peter Hopps thought that the pipework of this stop is Cavaillé-Coll's.

At the turn of the 19/20 century the Cavaillé-Coll company would regularly order reeds in from Merklin. Perhaps this explains why the Vox humana from Keighley did not look like an early Cavaillé-Coll reed. In this period the CC company were producing so many organs for export that out-sourcing was very often used.

Concerning metal v. wood prices in 19th C Britain, assuming that the 32' metal pipes were made from zinc rather than tin which has always been more expensive than pine/spruce:

After Napoleon blockaded the Baltic wood trade before 1815, prices rose until Canada's exports become cost effective and by 1860 soft wood prices were relatively low and stayed low until WWI.

Zinc prices were much more volatile rising sharply during the 1850s as the industrial revolution took off, peaking in 1857. Then the US civil war spread panic and prices fell. The price struggled to rise but had a brief high during 1866 when the Austro-Prussian war closed zinc mines in Silesia. Prices recovered by 1870, peaking in 1875 which put pressure on countries to find their own supply, thus prices fell again. The German producers didn't like this and formed a Cartel in 1879 along with other European countries in 1882 in an attempt to keep the price high. Their attempts failed and the price had fallen by 1885. The Cartel acted again managing to push prices up to a peak in 1890. Again this forced other producers to come on line and the price dropped slightly, but then rose steadily until WWI helped by the Spelter Convention of 1909. After the war prices rose slowly until a peak in 1920 during the economic boom, but fell during the crash and didn't recover until after WWII.

The source for this data is Martin Stuermer, Dept. of Economics, University of Bonn.

However, without knowing the costs per ton and just how much material is used in making a 32' pipe, the above is of little use. What I can say is that the production of a 32' zinc pipe is not quite as easy as some think. For a start zinc is produced in rolls but the width of the roll is not 32' ! So either the sheet has to be unrolled and then rolled at 90° to make a tube or the pipe made in several short sections. The equipment needed to roll such large sheets of zinc is expensive and takes up space. Unlike lead/tin alloys, zinc is not easily beaten around a mandrel. For most builders as the call for a 32' facade was quite rare, it was easier to make the pipes from wood and hide them at the back laid horizontally if necessary. It is not advisable to place a 32' zinc pipe on its side as it will rattle, deform, or worse still, roll away taking out half the choir!

So I tend to think the choice would be for visual effect rather than for reasons of cost, particularly as one of the zinc price peaks coincides with Willis's 32' zinc pipes at Carlisle.

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5 hours ago, Lausanne said:

At the turn of the 19/20 century the Cavaillé-Coll company would regularly order reeds in from Merklin. Perhaps this explains why the Vox humana from Keighley did not look like an early Cavaillé-Coll reed. In this period the CC company were producing so many organs for export that out-sourcing was very often used.

Thank you. That makes sense.  I still find it hard to believe that the stop ever went anywhere near a Cavaillé-Coll workshop though.  You can hear it here (with the Lieblich Gedackt + Tremulant) at 2:40.  Personally, I think it sounds horrible. 

 

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6 hours ago, Lausanne said:

For a start zinc is produced in rolls but the width of the roll is not 32' ! So either the sheet has to be unrolled and then rolled at 90° to make a tube or the pipe made in several short sections.

If I remember correctly the metal open 32' at York Minster appears to have been made in this way. I recall thinking,  a bit irreverently, that the pipes resembled dustbins welded together. They had been painted into a stone colour and matched the Minster's pillars quite effectively.

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Only this week, sitting in the audience at St George’s Hall, Liverpool, I was admiring the Father Willis metal Pedal 32’ Double Open Diapason which features so prominently in the case.  I could not detect any visible joins in the largest pipes (nor any signs of sagging or buckling, and they are 165 years old).  It would still be intriguing to know how they were transported to Liverpool in 1855. I have always assumed that they were made in London, or is it possible that Willis made them on site or in a nearby workshop?  Does anyone know?  That question equally applies to the full-length 32’ open wood which he also supplied.  One gets just a glimpse of the tops of those pipes which are inside the organ.  

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I don't know about St George's Hall's 32's, so in time-honoured tradition I shall answer a different question.

The 32' case pipes in Birmingham Town Hall were made by Hill in his factory, and then sent by canal to the Venice of the Midlands. A rather suitable and convenient transport mode for such a load. I understood that in order to make these pipes, Hill invented the 3-roller metal sheet roller, with adjustable roller distances for different radii, which is in common use today. Unfortunately, I can't remember where I learnt this, but I did mention it in an essay in my A-level British Social and Economic History exam in 19.., and got a grade B in a subject which I only did for fun, so it must at least have convinced the examiner!

As for 32' open woods, there are a few recently (Leiden, Canterbury) which have been made in interleaving sections, and assembled and sealed on site. There are also pictures of the lowest wooden pipes of Tickell's Worcester organ going into the cathedral in one piece, but I can't remember which octave they were.

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I can't remember all the details off-hand but I am sure many of the 32' pipes at SGH were replaced in either 1896 or 1931 as they were cast-iron iirc.  At any rate, behind the current fronts is an elaborate system of springs and hooks to help support the weight of the pipes.  I am sure I have a photo somewhere which I will try and dig out.

Adrian

 

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15 hours ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

I don't know about St George's Hall's 32's, so in time-honoured tradition I shall answer a different question.

The 32' case pipes in Birmingham Town Hall were made by Hill in his factory, and then sent by canal to the Venice of the Midlands. 

I have it in my mind, and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, that some of the 32' pedal pipes of the Klais organ in Symphony Hall in Birmingham came to the hall by canal. I'm sure I saw a local news programme about it in 2001. It is logical - there is a canal immediately behind Symphony Hall ……………….. but I might be imagining it!!!

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This was a repeat of what happened when the Town Hall was built. The Open Wood 32' pipes for that were delivered by canal barge. Those were the pipes which HW4 cut up with a chain saw for some inexplicable reason, leaving parts of the sawn up pipes in the organ. I tried to persuade Ian Bell to do a delivery by barge when we did the rebuild in 1983, but as it was not his idea, he didn't want to do it. I had friends at the time who had an old barge themselves, but more importantly, knew people who had barges which could still be used for transport. I was not aware that Klais actually reproduced the original delivery.

John

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They are of full length timber.  I wonder whether there are any tonal implications in the resulting sound of 32’ wooden pipes joined in sections as at Canterbury (and, we are told, Leiden) by comparison with full length timber ones.  

I do now have a faint recollection of there being cast iron 32’ pipes at St George’s Hall.  Awkward to make and awkward to install, I would have thought.  Anyway, their present successors are very handsomely decorated and an impressive feature of the organ.

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Well all wooden pipes are of necessity constructed by sealed grooves along their length, so joining in lateral sections similarly makes no difference to the tone. As with many wind instruments, mitring, bending, and twisting pipes doesn't have too much impact upon the sound. However, the moment you get the slightest leak, you know about it. I've heard Leiden's 32' wood, though haven't played it yet, and it sounds nice and clean to me,  not even much wind noise.

There's a photo of the 32s at Canterbury being installed, which are horizontal, with the heads of a few people popping out of the mouths. Just for a moment I revelled in a wicked day dream of taking some of the awful church folk groups I've met on a tour of an organ. "Just pop your heads through there now - feel the edge of the languid - sharp, isn't it? Mwah ha ha ... " But I mustn't. Acknowledging unreservedly that there are very good groups whose music I greatly enjoy even if it's not my thing, and that we should all be able to appreciate music and musicians of all genres.

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I asked the question as I harboured doubts that a pipe constructed in several sections with tongue and groove joints would possess the same characteristics as a 32’ pipe of full-length timber with joints only along its length.  I wonder whether Colin Pykett has a view on this.  One accepts that H&H must know what they are doing.  It just struck me as an unusual innovation, particularly in such an important organ as Canterbury.  It does have a very obvious advantage in being much easier to assemble and install on site, overcoming the kind of transport issues which faced William Hill at Birmingham and Father Willis at Liverpool.

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