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I recently read about "Choir pits", at Whalley Abbey, Lancashire. Apparently these are the only remaining examples in Britain. These pits are placed below a choir, to provide some reverberation and enhance the effect of the choir's sound. I had never heard of this before, it sounds like it is a very old idea.

I know of this idea being used more recently for organs in dead spaces to bring a bit of life to the sound. Birmingham Symphony Hall, for example, has large concrete chambers behind or to the sides of the organ to do this. Klais say that they put a number of ranks of the organ in them!

Is this used anywhere else, for organs as well as choirs? I've heard of a couple of "Fernwerk" divisions, e.g. the Walcker organ in the Martinikerk in Doesburg, the Netherlands  https://martinikerkdoesburg.nl/walcker-orgel/ where an echo division is placed at the end of a 21m long tunnel for the distance effect, and a couple of tunnels directing sound around awkward shaped churches, but never this.

https://ecclesiasticalandheritageworld.co.uk/news/481-work-on-historic-whalley-abbey-choir-pits-completed

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3 hours ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

 

I know of this idea being used more recently for organs in dead spaces to bring a bit of life to the sound. Birmingham Symphony Hall, for example, has large concrete chambers behind or to the sides of the organ to do this. Klais say that they put a number of ranks of the organ in them!

 

At Symphony Hall there are, indeed, several large concrete chambers to the sides of the main organ case. The doors of which can be electronically opened or closed. Two of the chambers contain organ.

The 'Right Echo' and the 'Left Echo' containing:

Right side: Unda Maris 8', Trombone 16', Trumpet 8', French Horn 8'

Left side: Tuba 8', Cor Anglais 8',  Tuba Clarion 4'

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The French Horn on the Symphony Hall organ is one of the best reed stops I have heard anywhere. It is absolutely beautiful particularly when the shutters are closed which give an ethereal effect which is a hair raiser. The organ itself is not one of my favourites by any means. It seems to need the chamades to produce any real volume and the bottom end appears, to me at least, to be lacking in power with the full organ. I much prefer the one just along the way in the Town Hall. 

I once mentioned this to Andrew Fletcher (my DoM at St Mary's Warwick) after a recital at the Town Hall and he said words to the effect that he wouldn't be too bothered if he wasn't asked to play the Symphony Hall organ again but would miss the Town Hall organ terribly if he couldn't play it.

 

 

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8 hours ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

I recently read about "Choir pits", at Whalley Abbey, Lancashire. Apparently these are the only remaining examples in Britain. These pits are placed below a choir, to provide some reverberation and enhance the effect of the choir's sound. I had never heard of this before, it sounds like it is a very old idea.

I know of this idea being used more recently for organs in dead spaces to bring a bit of life to the sound. Birmingham Symphony Hall, for example, has large concrete chambers behind or to the sides of the organ to do this. Klais say that they put a number of ranks of the organ in them!

Is this used anywhere else, for organs as well as choirs? I've heard of a couple of "Fernwerk" divisions, e.g. the Walcker organ in the Martinikerk in Doesburg, the Netherlands  https://martinikerkdoesburg.nl/walcker-orgel/ where an echo division is placed at the end of a 21m long tunnel for the distance effect, and a couple of tunnels directing sound around awkward shaped churches, but never this.

https://ecclesiasticalandheritageworld.co.uk/news/481-work-on-historic-whalley-abbey-choir-pits-completed

I'm sure I remember something similar being found in a ruined abbey in Yorkshire.  I can't remember much more, or which abbey, but I do remember mention of large pottery jars being sited underneath the stalls.

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10 hours ago, handsoff said:

The French Horn on the Symphony Hall organ is one of the best reed stops I have heard anywhere. It is absolutely beautiful particularly when the shutters are closed which give an ethereal effect which is a hair raiser. The organ itself is not one of my favourites by any means. It seems to need the chamades to produce anyreal volume and the bottom end appears, to me at least, to be lacking in power with the full organ. I much prefer the one just along the way in the Town Hall. 

I once mentioned this to Andrew Fletcher (my DoM at St Mary's Warwick) after a recital at the Town Hall and he said words to the effect that he wouldn't be too bothered if he wasn't asked to play the Symphony Hall organ again but would miss the Town Hall organ terribly if he couldn't play it.

 

 

That's unfortunate to hear about a concert being a bit under powered. This is not an organ I have ever heard in person but I'm wondering if this due to the halls acoustics or just the design of the organ. 

 

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3 hours ago, Niccolo Morandi said:

................................. This is not an organ I have ever heard in person but I'm wondering if this due to the halls acoustics or just the design of the organ. 

 

As one who has played and conducted in Symphony Hall on a number of occasions I can assure readers that the acoustics in the hall are excellent and, of course, are 'adjustable' to suit a Symphony Orchestra or a string quartet.

As far as the organ is concerned I have only been to one organ recital in there. I had the impression that the organ was a little underpowered but, there again, the recital was so awful that the dreadful playing, from an organist if International standing (no names!!), distracted from any thoughts about the instrument. The playing was so bad that a very large number of the audience left at the interval!!!

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Wow that reminds me of the so called "Organ Spectacular" concert way back in 2007 at the Melbourne Town Hall. I can't remember what the program was or who was performing but I remember that it was an organ and orchestra concert that was about two hours long but contained somewhere around 15 or 10 minutes of organ playing. 

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I absolutely agree that the Symphony Hall acoustics are first rate. The organ has some lovely individual registers and the full Swell Organ is impressive but the tutti needs, in my very humble opinion, a bit more oomph in the choruses, both flue and reed. The pedal Contrabombarde could do with more power to better match the full organ sound or perhaps there should have been two 32' reeds, as in the Town Hall, to avoid compromise. One stop for an impressive effect with less than full organ for use with choirs and orchestras and another for loosening the plaster with everything drawn in solo organ music. Money clearly wasn't an issue when the hall was built and the design could have incorporated space for an additional set of pipes.

What might have been... I still wish that Cavaillé-Coll had built his design for Rome. 😋

 

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The choir stalls in the wonderful Ss Peter & Paul, Salle, Norfolk stand on something akin to a rather large guitar body.

See: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salle,_Ss_Peter_%26_Paul_church,_choir_stalls_(28285923066).jpg

and

http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/salle/salle.htm

The Tallis Scholars recorded several CDs there, taking advantage of the fine acoustics.

 

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17 hours ago, Niccolo Morandi said:

That's unfortunate to hear about a concert being a bit under powered. This is not an organ I have ever heard in person but I'm wondering if this due to the halls acoustics or just the design of the organ. 

 

Interestingly, the Bridgewater Hall organ in Manchester has also been accused of being underpowered.
As I understand it, the organ was planned and built before the hall had been completed, and when the interior of the hall had finally been finished, they found that whilst the acoustics were very good generally, the organ should have been planned and voiced to be louder.
If that was the actual case, perhaps it would have been better to leave the installation of the organ until the hall was properly completed and its acoustics assessed by the builder (Marcussen).

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You will have to have to forgive me as I think the issue of under powered organs is more of a separate topic. But I guess the thing I can't get my head around is that I just find it unfortunate seeing something that has had so much effort put into creating like a big concert organ only for the power of the instrument to be just OK. But my biggest problem is that once it's done that's it, there is probably not much that can be done once the instrument is built and installed.

 

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When the concert hall of the Danish national broadcaster was being planned, a scale model of the inside was made by a Japanese acoustics company. I read somewhere else (and of course have forgotten where) that some of these models are put in a chamber filled with a gas which affects the speed of sound prorportionally, so that things like movable acoustic panelling, stage layouts, and organs can be planned and experimented with.

The organ in this hall was built by van den Heuvel Orgelbouw, in Dordrecht, NL, not too far from where I am. I might have a demo CD of it somewhere. With 91 stops in the decidedly French, C-C style that van den Heuvel are known for, and have used in halls such at the Victoria Hall in Geneva, and the Tonhalle in Zurich, I'm not aware of it being underpowered. A question of overall design concept and context? It's not as if organ builders don't know these things. I really don't know.

What is interesting is that, as far as I can see, it only has a single, mobile console, whereas many British concert organs, according to comments in these pages over the years, seem to make a point of having en fenêtre mechanical consoles which are rarely used.

http://vandenheuvel-orgelbouw.nl/en/instruments/item/426-dr-kopenhagen-en.html#dr-byen

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13 hours ago, John Furse said:

The choir stalls in the wonderful Ss Peter & Paul, Salle, Norfolk stand on something akin to a rather large guitar body.

See: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salle,_Ss_Peter_%26_Paul_church,_choir_stalls_(28285923066).jpg

and

http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/salle/salle.htm

The Tallis Scholar recorded several CDs there, taking advantage of the fine acoustics.

 

Another example of the extraordinary wealth of churches in East Anglia. The late David Drinkell seemed to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of them, and their organs, and there are a couple of websites dedicated to them. A rich legacy of a particularly wealthy period of English history. Again, despite my name I have no links at all with Norfolk and Suffolk, but I long for the time when I can explore these counties properly!

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1 hour ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

 

What is interesting is that, as far as I can see, it only has a single, mobile console, whereas many British concert organs, according to comments in these pages over the years, seem to make a point of having en fenêtre mechanical consoles which are rarely used.

 

Hi

Jonathon Scott used the tracker console at Bridgewater Hall for his You Tube recital there recently.  It's perhaps also worth remembering that the tracker consoole will be useable if there's aan electronics failure in the detached console!

I have the CD of the Dordrecht organ, and listened to it recently.  I certainly sounds a good instrument.  (I'm in the process of listening to & listing my organ CD's - a long job, especially with so many good livestreams around at the moment.)

Every Blessing

Tony 

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Martin Renshaw in his 2018 book the 'ABC of a medieval church' has a paragraph on 'Acoustic jars' in his section on chancel acoustics.  Apparently in some places large acoustic clay jars were placed either under the choir stalls or in side walls high above the singers.  Examples cited include Lyddington in Rutland, St Clement's in Sandwich and Leeds in Kent near a priory and a royal castle.  Their purpose has been much discussed but they are found in buildings 'where there would have been proficient  , sophisticated and sensitive musician-singers'.   

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My only experience with the Manchester Bridgewater Marcussen was in a stand off between Wayne Marshall and a full orchestra playing the Jongen Symphonie Concertante. I certainly didn't get the impression the organ was struggling to keep its head above water, despite the organ seemingly having a reputation for being on the softer side. I preferred it to the Birmingham Klais sound which is very confident but I find a little brash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

My only experience with the Manchester Bridgewater Marcussen was in a stand off between Wayne Marshall and a full orchestra playing the Jongen Symphonie Concertante. I certainly didn't get the impression the organ was struggling to keep its head above water, despite the organ seemingly having a reputation for being on the softer side. I preferred it to the Birmingham Klais sound which is very confident but I find a little brash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If only these contracts had been awarded to reputable British organ builders.

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22 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

My only experience with the Manchester Bridgewater Marcussen was in a stand off between Wayne Marshall and a full orchestra playing the Jongen Symphonie Concertante. I certainly didn't get the impression the organ was struggling to keep its head above water, despite the organ seemingly having a reputation for being on the softer side. I preferred it to the Birmingham Klais sound which is very confident but I find a little brash.

Having mentioned that it has been accused of being underpowered, when I attended a performance of the choir of King's College, Cambridge, the organ sounded perfectly good and well balanced to me.

Am I right in thinking that the bottom few of the 32' Principal are Haskelled?  I think I heard that some years ago.

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On 05/09/2020 at 15:11, Philip J Wells said:

Martin Renshaw in his 2018 book the 'ABC of a medieval church' has a paragraph on 'Acoustic jars' in his section on chancel acoustics.  Apparently in some places large acoustic clay jars were placed either under the choir stalls or in side walls high above the singers.  Examples cited include Lyddington in Rutland, St Clement's in Sandwich and Leeds in Kent near a priory and a royal castle.  Their purpose has been much discussed but they are found in buildings 'where there would have been proficient  , sophisticated and sensitive musician-singers'.   

In a slightly vague response this occurance of choir pits got me thinking. I have certainly come across choir stalls in chancels of earlier buildings rebuilt/restored in the 19th cent or indeed of wholly new 19th cent buildings where from a solid/tiled floor immediately on entering the choir stalls one stands on floor boards with what would seem like a void underneath. I never really gave it a thought except that there might be some heating pipes underneath. Now I wonder... (Apologies - I can't give you a specific place at the moment, the memory fails!!)

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