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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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13 minutes ago, Contrabombarde said:

Senator Richards took a surprisingly classical inspiration for his choruses.

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

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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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