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Pierre Lauwers

Worcester Cathedral's Organ

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"One of the main features about werk-prinzip construction is that the most successful continental examples are shallow - only one department deep"

 

(Quote)

 

This structural principle is excellent for baroque organs, not for romantic ones, and even a Holtkamp does not work that way.

 

Pierre

 

Which serves to prove my point - surely it is self-defeating to adopt such a course of action in the case of the Priory organ?

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Another point occurs to me about Worcester (well, you did choose to read this thread!) - I realise that it is easy to sit and criticise a paper scheme, which is, as it were, in a vaccuum at present; however, there do seem to be some basically odd choices. Why put the cornet séparé on the GO? Particularly if this organ is primarily intended for the accompaniment of the choral services?

 

Secondly - if the above is the case, then what is the Choir Organ for - why include a sesquialtera? (not the most useful accompanimental voice). Also, a II rank mixture - given that it will not necessarily have to serve as a foil to the GO, why waste space with a mixture at all? Why not have a greater choice of 8p or 4p stops?

 

The Cor Anglais - keep it on the Solo, out of harm's way - or lose it. See next point.

 

The Solo Organ - possibly over-reeded - if there is to be an Orchestral Oboe, also to include a Cor Anglais on a five-stop soundboard is wasteful. Given that the Swell and Choir strings seem to be intended to be gentle (insipid?) Angelicas, why not include a Viole Céleste? One of the faults of several recently-construced instruments is a lack of colour - there is often too much emphasis on chorus structure and duplicated mutation ranks. It is simply not possible to do everything with mutations, as someone has said.

 

To clarify - I am not suggesting a return to an 'orchestrion' - I value a good chorus more than anything, but again, if the primary role of this instrument is to accompany choral services, there appear to be some wasteful elements in the scheme.

 

I made many comments with regard to the (then) proposed scheme at Christchurch Priory many months before the contract was signed. My letter was passed (without my consent!) to the consultant who replied, rather rudely, that I did not know what I was talking about.

 

Since the organ was completed, virtually all of my suggestions (and one or two extra points) have been adopted in costly, further work.

 

Now there's a funny thing....

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To me the problem does not lie with the Tickell organ, but with what must happen before it can be build!

I don't know what the Thickell will be worth before hearing it (but of course I won't go back there. Once again, this is no criticizing against the new organ)

At Brussels cathedral the same thing happened, but the builder who replaced the organ is a member of my forum and we are happy chatting and researching togheter. Indeed, the decision to scrap the beautifulest belgian organ was not his's but the titulaire's.

 

We'd better find a new place for that old nail -which may somewhere answer pcnd's question, hé hé hé... :blink: -

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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"a good chorus"

 

(Quote)

 

Once again, what is such a thing?

 

Pierre

 

My 'own' instrument has three-such choruses - including what I consider to be one of the finest GO choruses I have ever played.

 

I do not have any mp3s - however, I do have a CD which was recorded on the organ and released commercially last May - a copy of which I can supply, if desired. (Assuming that I am permitted to advertise, here - I have no idea!)

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Thanks!

 

But my wish is a definition. A "good" chorus is: this, this and that.

 

(I wait with some thousands of different, as "good" ones...)

 

Pierre

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Hmmm.... I think that this would be like trying to explain the difference between blue and orange to a blind person.

 

Please do not think me rude or uncouth - I simply mean that it is very difficult accurately to describe the components of a good chorus. It is also somewhat subjective, by its very nature. However, here goes:

 

Naturally, I can only speak personally, but I look for firm, yet bright diapason(s) -with some harmonic development. The octave and fifteenth ranks should be perhaps a little smaller, but not greatly softer. I do not personally like twelfths in my choruses and tend generally to omit them from piston settings. I am aware that some organists talk about 'binding the chorus together'; however, I just find the effect quinty and one that serves to obscure the texture. For the GO, my ideal mixture would commence at 19-22-26-29, with the breaks kept off the Cs and ending at 1-8-12-15 on a 61-note compass. (I would consider taking up the 19th rank, if the compass were only 56 notes.)

 

I realise that I have not mentioned scales, cut-up or wind pressures. So much depends upon the acoustic environment, casework, the precise use to which the chorus will be put, etc.

 

This is the best that I can do at present - my lunch is ready and I have just opened a nice Côtes-du-Rhône, which is simply asking to be drunk. Rest assured that I have not forgotten that I have yet to play for Evensong to-day. I have no intention of being found drunk in charge of an organ - particularly one with chamades....

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Hmmm.... I think that this would be like trying to explain the difference between blue and orange to a blind person.

Yes!

 

Please do not think me rude or uncouth - I simply mean that it is very difficult accurately to describe the components of a good chorus. It is also somewhat subjective, by its very nature.

Of course it is subjective.

 

Naturally, I can only speak personally, but I look for firm, yet bright diapason(s)

This would exclude Schnitger's from "good" choruses.

 

-with some harmonic development Ditto.

 

. The octave and  fifteenth ranks should be perhaps a little smaller, but not greatly softer.

Then any classic and baroque choruses aren't "good" ones. See Bicknell.

 

I do not personally like twelfths in my choruses and tend generally to omit them from piston settings. I am aware that some organists talk about 'binding the chorus together'; however, I just find the effect quinty and one that serves to obscure the texture. For the GO, my ideal mixture would commence at 19-22-26-29, with the breaks kept off the Cs and ending at 1-8-12-15 on a 61-note compass. (I would consider taking up the 19th rank, if the compass were only 56 notes.)

 

I realise that I have not mentioned scales, cut-up or wind pressures. So much depends upon the acoustic environment, casework, the precise use to which the chorus will be put, etc.

 

This is the best that I can do at present - my lunch is ready and I have just opened a nice Côtes-du-Rhône, which is simply asking to be drunk. Rest assured that I have not forgotten that I have yet to play for Evensong to-day. I have no intention of being found drunk in charge of an organ - particularly one with chamades....

 

Why not try other kinds, like say:

 

-A french Fourniture in two parts (Grosse mixture-Fourniture) plus cymbale on top of a british chorus with 16-8-8-8-4-4-2 2/3'-2

 

-A "Harmonics" with the reeds

 

-A Progression harmonique on the Swell with the reeds

 

-A Dulciana chorus on the III

 

-A Salicional chorus topped with Harmonia aetherea...

 

(Just an idea) or a Jordi Bosch's like 25 ranks mixture with many doublings, crammed with tierce ranks like in Santanyi? (exceptionnaly fine)

 

Or an italian Ripieno (a whole chorus with independant ranks, soft an slightly narrow principals)

Or a flemish chorus with tierce rank

-Etc, etc, etc, etc

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OK, I think I have your replies sorted-out from my quote....!

 

As I intimated, I only had a short time before lunch.

 

I do like many types of chorus (except Willis tierce mixtures and H&H Harmonics). Even some baroque choruses can excite me! However, I suspect that I would quickly get bored with the organ in St. Bavo, Haarlem - sorry! I like Bach, Buxtehude and a number of other baroque composers, but I also like French and German romantic music, too. I remain unconvinced by previous postings extolling the suitability of the St. Bavo organ for this repertoire.

 

I hope that this serves to clarify my views.

 

Now I absolutely have to do my yearly accounts - my accountant is currently having a cow....

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To me the problem does not lie with the Thickell organ, but with what must happen before it can be build!

I don't know what the Thickell will be worth before hearing it (but of course I won't go back there. Once again, this is no criticizing against the new organ)

Pierre's animosity towards the replacement of the current Worcester box of whistles is nigh on legendary, but I do hope his bastardisation of the name of the builder of the new organ - Kenneth Tickell - was not intentional.

 

We all enjoy being armchair critics of specifications, but as I think John Mander has gently suggested on this discussion board before, the proof really is in how the finished product sounds in situ.

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There are so many things wrong with the Priory organ - not least that it is covered in an enormous wooden box. Tone-cabinets are not always the answer.

 

 

It's pretty well accepted that case design is equal a factor in how an instrument sounds as winding, choice of tuning, early voicing decisions etc. The main problem with that instrument is it's just daftly laid out - shifting the second (tracker) console to the very back, out of the way, as it's never used & you can't see anything from it anyway, would enable the Great to come forward 10 or so feet with - how much effect, do you think, bearing in mind even the Chaire case is invisible from the nave, and then you have 15 feet or action parts before the next soundboard? The design of the Sw box is silly, with two enormous caverns at each end for the basses instead of a uniform height (or at least a curvature) and access doors slap bang in the middle of the shutter front - even though there are access doors on the back of the box also. Do the tuners run relay races through it?

 

There are lots and lots of bad cases around, and some with no case at all that desperately need help to project and focus the sound. There are several tiny instruments (6/7 stops) I have seen that go wildly out of tune when you shut the access doors - tuning is a complete and utter nightmare, all the pipes are shouting at each other and being muffled by the case. There is another I have seen, more daft still, with the Sw in a separate case behind, but with access doors on the ends of the passageboard (rather than the middle) - guess how much sound got out of that one! But a really, really, really GOOD case, such as those of Bill Drake or Bernard Aubertin, for example, will be having an inimitable and vital effect on the sound.

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Indeed, David!

There is another point about the Priory Swell-box: despite the builders designing the case, interior layout and the internal dimensions of the box - the bass of the 16ft. Bourdon is outside!!

WHY??

If dimensions are not pre-determined and space is not exactly at a premium (there is enough room behind the case for a hippo to live comfortably), then why can they not design a box big enough for every rank?

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If you go to:

 

http://www.worcestermusicandlight.com/aims.html#pipes

 

you will see the proposed designs for both instruments. The coloured one on the left is for a Nicholson organ and the one on the right is Ken Tickell's design. I think the proposal is that both organs are to be built, maybe with a common console as well.

 

John Pike Mander

 

Hmmm, the site seems to have gone, wonder what that means for the organ(s) ....

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Hmmm, the site seems to have gone, wonder what that means for the organ(s) ....

Go to http://www.tickell-organs.co.uk/specInfo/Worcesterspec.htm for the specification of the Worcester Quire Organ, an explanation of the organ's disposition, the plans for Transept and Nave organs by Nicholsons and a link to the drawings of the proposed Quire cases.

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Guest Roffensis

Recently I was in Cumbria and played a Hope Jones, with very high wind pressures, and diaphones. I was actually very pleased with the beauty of the pipework, very musical. Interesting that so much has been written about high pressures, yet here at Ambleside was a very balanced and musical organ. For me that was just more confirmation that Worcester's old organ could be glorious, and one must never lose sight that Worcester is principally Harrisons anyway.......

Meanwhile, I also used the Viol which is also akin to the one stop of HJs that is being kept if the current proposal takes place. A very soft stop, and really I came away thinking how petty it appears to keep such a small voice while ditching all else. It really strikes me as most odd. The daphones are an interesting survival at Ambleside, and may become the more so. I also am concerned that such a relatively new builder with so few organs to his name should be awarded such a contract. I also find the organs I have heard from the Tickell company to be fine instruments in their own right, even if Eton is too classical to be in any sense English, and if one worries about such implications for Worcester. I wonder if plain metal will be the one metal that is not used, but rather tin, with all its associated characteristics. One thing is for sure, the new organ will never sound in any way as good as the current, and even if on paper it looks actually very logical, by the time we hear it it will be too late. I fear another Oxford, and with it many other notable and unique sounds that will be lost to us out of sheer whim so it appears.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Recently I was in Cumbria and played a Hope Jones, with very high wind pressures, and diaphones. I was actually very pleased with the beauty of the pipework, very musical. Interesting that so much has been written about high pressures, yet here at Ambleside was a very balanced and musical organ. For me that was just more confirmation that Worcester's old organ could be glorious, and one must never lose sight that Worcester is principally Harrisons anyway.......

Meanwhile, I also used the Viol which is also akin to the one stop of HJs that is being kept if the current proposal takes place. A very soft stop, and really I came away thinking how petty it appears to keep such a small voice while ditching all else. It really strikes me as most odd. The daphones are an interesting survival at Ambleside, and may become the more so. I also am concerned that such a relatively new builder with so few organs to his name should be awarded such a contract. I also find the organs I have heard from the Tickell company to be fine instruments in their own right, even if Eton is too classical to be in any sense English, and if one worries about such implications for Worcester. I wonder if plain metal will be the one metal that is not used, but  rather tin, with all its associated characteristics. One thing is for sure, the new organ will never sound in any way as good as the current, and even if on paper it looks actually very logical, by the time we hear it it will be too late. I fear another Oxford, and with it many other notable and unique sounds that will be lost to us out of sheer whim so it appears.

 

 

Several things here.

 

1. I am thrilled to hear that anything like a complete Hope-Jones job still exists. Thanks to Roffensis for this. I tried a trawl some while ago on the NPOR (while I could still understand how to work it) and failed to find one. I love the H-J stops at Warwick. By the way, although H-J himself was not a voicer, he had some of the best men of the time working for him.

 

2. The Tickell at Eton (Lower Chapel) was never intended to sound English. There was a definite brief - and for all that I find the organ extremely loud - I believe that he followed this to the letter. Plentiful funding (and astute planning over the last thirty years) has quietly ensured that Eton College has the finest collection of pipe organs in private ownership in this country - our royal family not excepted. What Eton staff and students didn't have was anything in a specifically French style. They have it now. You may say that it isn't a Cavaille-Coll - again, it was not intended to be. What you have is, at any rate, more effective than a Danion-Gonzalez - not bad for a builder 'relatively new with few instruments to his name'. Pity there is no acoustic, but this is nobody's fault. In any case, pack the chapel with boys and any acoustic there might have been would disappear immediately.

 

In case you imagine that I must know Kenneth Tickell in person, I don't - we have never met. I have had the pleasure of playing a number of his instruments. Each one excites and impresses me. The interesting thing is that they are all different. Sometimes very widely so.

 

3. I must ask re: 'I fear another Oxford'. To which organ does Roffensis refer - Christ Church, New College, Magdalen, Pembroke, Balliol, St.John's, St.Peter's, The University Church?...I could go on and on.... One by one, the organs which 'did the job' (accompanimentally speaking) have been sacrificed in favour of narrow (in some cases very narrow) repertoire needs. In most of these cases, these schemes have been justified because the previous organs were overdue for a rebuild. In practically all cases, some bright musical spark has excercised influence - only to sail off fairly soon afterwards to wreak 'improvements' elsewhere!

I should say, I liked New College (as first installed) and I admire Pembroke - probably the only one of the list to end up better off, viewed 'long term' and 'fit for the job'!

 

4. Worcester is well overdue for a rebuild. You cannot blame the Cathedral for wanting something that will last a decent while. You (and we) must rejoice that the organ-substitute in the Nave Triforium is going to be replaced with something honest. You cannot blame Adrian Lucas for wanting Nicholson to do some of the work - they did very well for him at Portsmouth. Only the totally-biased Nicholson-hater could claim that the organ they have provided there is not streets better than the previous one. And lastly, you cannot blame a pendulum for swinging.

 

I sat and listened to a short recital about a year ago in Worcester Cathedral given by the cathedral organist. With me were some Dutch friends, one of whom is a top-class professional musician. He (and I) love the building and admire the musical tradition which is why we were attending choral evensong. We were treated to some Bach first - this was both embarrassing and painful; the fault was not the player's though maybe a bit of registration checking might have improved things. Sorry, Pierre, Worcester may have a stunning accompanimental organ, and it certainly has contributed wonderfully well to the recordings you love so much, but a fully cohesive, effective, decent, presentable musical instrument it isn't! Must we moan and moan about serious attempts to improve matters?

 

May I suggest that anyone who really admires the W.C. pipework (not going into the rebuild scheme) contacts the builders direct? I am sure that they would consider letting you have redundant material in exchange for its value as scrap.

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"May I suggest that anyone who really admires the W.C. pipework (not going into the rebuild scheme) contacts the builders direct? I am sure that they would consider letting you have redundant material in exchange for its value as scrap."

 

(Quote)

 

This is the thing to do, no doubt; indeed, it was my question at the very beginning

(very very far above) of this thread.

Better still would have been to find a new home for the whole thing, I mean the cases included.

 

We -I included- all know the acoustics at Worcester are rather peculiar, and a nightmare for any organ. (I apologize my souvenirs date back 1978-1983 but I'll try to tell something not too stupid)

 

This one ( the H&H with several H-J stops, let's say broadly the 1925 organ) is effective in the choir, whereas in the nave the Solo has to do the job; a Solo it is indeed not at all.

 

So as already said here, the mistake was to try to do the job with one instrument, while previously there were two -by Hill!-

 

H-J's idea was to split the organ into three parts.

Part of its magic lies there, it has a tremendous presence (again, in the choir).

Indeed, this idea may have had quite disputable grounds: H-J was asked to made the two Hills playable togheter in the first place! (and ended up with some Hill pipes kept...)

The people at Worcester were content, tough, and had the action not failed round 1920, the Hope-Jones organ would have had a longer life.

This is not a fancy from a dreaming tourist, this is written in Vernon Butcher's leaflet I bought in the Cathedral, "The organs and music of Worcester Cathedral", 1981, 48 pages.

 

I am convinced other solutions were thinkable. For instance, to build a new organ for the nave -why not a big Tickell, no problem-, to supress the would-be-Solo division

and build a true Solo division instead on Arthur Harrison lines, for example along the

1908 Ely scheme with its Cornet de Viols which is so original.

BUT...Now that's to dream, all right.

 

We talked here between friends about that matter after a recital. We indeed have the experience of Brussel's Cathedral.

We have an excellent organ there today. Built by Gerhard Grenzing, an excellent builder from the very same school as John Pike Mander's. A friend moreover!

But the organ that obtained there previously should have been kept -it was in another place so that it was possible- because it was something quite peculiar, something whose a comparable magic I felt only in....Worcester.

 

Anybody know the Koekelberg's Basilique in Brussels? That horrible thing one may tell the belgian Fourvière (Lyon)?

 

Of course there as anywhere else in poor little Belgium, there is no money, but a huge space a little organ tries to fill -in vain-.

 

If you put new windchests to W's old nail and place it there, it would give a tremendeous effect.

This would cost money (and let's avoid dreaming, this money does not exist) but at least we would have avoided to make the same mistake twice... That is, ending up calling such pipes scrap.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Guest Roffensis

Had the new organ spec included tracker action then perhaps purists could justify the wholesale slinging out of the organ at Worcester, but as it's EP, there's no justification to wantonly replace everything. There are also several Hill stops in the organ, and the Diapasons are typically Harrison.

There are of course limitations in the current organ, and these could be addressed without the melting pot coming into play. I have heard it many times, and it depends HOW it is used. My "own" Hill organ has incredibly thick Great Diapasons, so that for Bach, in they go, bar the 4 foot Harmonic Flute, coupled with swell to mixture. Minimal 8 foot, it just doesn't need it. Lesson...what you see on paper will not always be true to it's logical musical use. Worcester has never been regarded as a Bach organ, but it is a true Romantic English sound, and one that should be regarded relative to its use, and how it is used. It made an incredible sound in 1978 when opened, and everyone thought so then. What happened, it just got tired, neglected. It's really all down to fashion. It will be interesting to see if the Viol stop of HJ is put on its correct pressure, if not then why bother, as it will surely need revoicing. If they put it in its high wind, then the opening is there for other stops. QED....or not.......or, QEWD....Quite Easily WONT Do.

Cathedral outings are not unique in England, and Oxford is the one I refer to, at the expense of a nice Willis/Harrison that was ideal for the building and its use. I have heard very bad comments about Portsmouth as it is, manily that it is too classical. I can't comment. But, the moral to all this, don't chuck the baby out with the bathwater. Radical ideas have no place, and by and large our cathedrals have had a high time reversing alteratrions in the 1970s, again down to fashion.

Worcester has a recognisable sound and it met its function well in capable hands. Its fortune since is nothing short of a travesty, and there is pipework essential to its character that could, and should, be incorporated. Revision yes, destruction, never.

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I'm reminded of an organist who was having a previously untouched, small, two-manual Father Willis modernised and extended so that it could play Baroque music. I was horrified and said so. His response was, "It's all very well for you, but you don't have to play the thing every week." I still thought he was wrong, but I could see his point.

 

Funnily enough, I'd never really heard the Worcester organ until this Christmas when a relative gave me that new CD of old Ryemuse recordings from the 1960s. The first track is the Worcester organ (in Mulet's Carillon-Sortie). If it really does sound like that in the flesh, then it's truly dire and the sooner it goes the better. It's not as if it were an unadulterated example of RH-J's work anyway, so there seems little historical reason to retain it.

 

But it's easy to be an armchair critic and I'd be the first to admit I don't know the facts.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
  I have heard very bad comments about Portsmouth as it is, manily that it is too classical. I can't comment.

 

 

I agree that one could get that idea from reading the printed specification. In practice this isn't the case, at least to the ears of this player.

 

One funny thing, (assuming I correctly understood what I was told when I first played there) two Swell stops* are not officially there at all - their engraved knobs (allegedly) having to be removed when 'experts' come round to admire! They were not in the official (published)scheme and I'm not sure exactly when they arrived. They are both pretty well vital stops in a cathedral organ.

 

*They are a Voix Celeste 8 and a Contra Fagotto 16. I agree that if you went only on what you read, you might think that this Swell hasn't got the scope which it ought to have.

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Guest Roffensis

The Ryemuse recordings were generally closely miked, and even since that particular recording was made, it has been "toned down" three times even so. No, it sounds far finer than that, and no one is going to judge any instrument on its recorded sound! :o

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I agree that one could get that idea from reading the printed specification. In practice this isn't the case, at least to the ears of this player.

One funny thing, (assuming I correctly understood what I was told when I first played there) two Swell stops* are not officially there at all - their engraved knobs (allegedly) having to be removed when 'experts' come round to admire! They were not in the official (published)scheme and I'm not sure exactly when they arrived. They are both pretty well vital stops in a cathedral organ.

*They are a Voix Celeste 8 and a Contra Fagotto 16. I agree that if you went only on what you read, you might think that this Swell hasn't got the scope which it ought to have.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



As far as I can remember, the most recent time that I played this organ, the stops had been engraved correctly. (I had previously seen them with blank knobs.) I suspect that the story of them being removed when the DOA visits is apocryphal....

I remember Portsmouth as being fairly pleasant - but personally, I would not have described it as 'classical'.

I know I have said this before, but having played Worcester for services on a few occasions (including some fairly big voluntaries) I thought that it was superb and fitted the building like a glove. Niether was it out of tune, apparently short of wind or malfunctioning in any other way - save for one disconnected Gedeckt 8ft. on the Swell.

It may not play Bach particularly well, but it does an exceedingly good job of French (and English) Romantic music. It could just as easily be argued that Salisbury and Truro do not play Bach that well, either. Having played all three, I think that I would prefer to play JSB on Worcester - at least it has decent quint mixtures on three manuals (and pedals).

In case anyone looks at the date and time of this post and thinks 'New Year's Eve - how sad is that?' I am staying with some friends and the programme currently being watched in the lounge does not excite me....

Happy New Year!!

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"It may not play Bach particularly well, but it does an exceedingly good job of French (and English) Romantic music. It could just as easily be argued that Salisbury and Truro do not play Bach that well, either. Having played all three, I think that I would prefer to play JSB on Worcester - at least it has decent quint mixtures on three manuals (and pedals)."

 

(Quote)

 

JSB could go very well.....The Virgil Fox way. Reger and Karg-Elert would go very

well too!

 

GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR

Pierre

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