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Manual Compass


Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I am wonderfing if there are any diligent souls who have made an in-depth study of the compass required for the organ literature over the centuries. Who has composed for only 51, 54, 56, 58 and full 61 notes? Of course 61 allows everything thanks to the USA.

 

As one goes down the scale of notes, so to speak, what is going to be left out? Also, how many major works will be out of reach if the pedals do not go up to G? I know that I should spend hours researching this in depth, but why do it if it is already done?! Any thoughts?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I am wonderfing if there are any diligent souls who have made an in-depth study of the compass required for the organ literature over the centuries. Who has composed for only 51, 54, 56, 58 and full 61 notes? Of course 61 allows everything thanks to the USA.   

 

As one goes down the scale of notes, so to speak, what is going to be left out? Also, how many major works will be out of reach if the pedals do not go up to G? I know that I should spend hours researching this in depth, but why do it if it is already done?! Any thoughts?

 

 

 

I think the greatest use of top notes (61 notes) is in 20th century French or American repertoire. Pedal compass of 30 notes hardly restricts the repertoire at all, but once again it is the adventurous 20th century stuff that goes up there - Berveiller, Dupre, Messiaen etc. Invocations by William Mathias is another case where I remember warnings on my score - don't attempt this one on anything other than a complete compass!

 

Off at a slight tangent: IMHO any builder who provides less than 56 notes on a manual is being particularly unhelpful to anyone who does not want a restricted repertoire. I was blessed with a neo-classical Dutch organ c.1980 for seven years of my organisting. I asked 'why do we not have at least a 56 note compass?' (manuals stopped at F) The answer came: apparently top F sharp and G are never provided on new organs in Holland. Since pipes are cheapest at the top of the compass and the action/chest space required is also the least, I found this economy a constant annoyance.

 

Prof. Peter Williams had a purpose-built home organ made for him by Lammermuir (Neil Richerby) and this featured an unorthodox compass - (from memory) I think both manuals and pedals only went up to D (51 and 27 notes respectively). His reason was that Bach's Trio Sonatas didn't need any more. Plenty of Bach needs more than 27 pedal notes so this struck me as a very odd sacrifice. Mind you, the organ did look very nice. I don't know him well enough to enquire whether he ever regretted having condemned himself to having to live without a standard compass. Given that he has now sold this organ, it's at least possible.

 

 

At the other end of NA's question - I have often played little Buxtehude and Pachelbel items 'an octave up' even on 56-note manuals, so if you've got a compass problem these might be good composers to try.

 

Thinking about compasses generally: It's a shame we hardly ever get new or rebuilt 'Traditional English' organs with long compass. Items written for the GG compass can so rarely be performed as intended. This is a challenge for Goetze and Gwynn, Bill Drake and (of course) John Mander! Trouble is, when one has work so hard in order to raise funds for a new organ, would such a proposal get through?

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Off at a slight tangent: IMHO any builder who provides less than 56 notes on a manual is being particularly unhelpful to anyone who does not want a restricted repertoire.  I was blessed with a neo-classical Dutch organ c.1980 for seven years of my organisting. I asked 'why do we not have at least a 56 note compass?' (manuals stopped at F)  The answer came: apparently top F sharp and G are never provided on new organs in Holland.  Since pipes are cheapest at the top of the compass and the action/chest space required is also the least,  I found this economy a constant annoyance.

 

Trinity College, Cambridge only goes up to F on the manuals; I seem to remember that Gillian Weir included Transports de Joie in her opening recital!

 

Has anyone played the Bach Pièce d'Orgue on an organ with the low B on the pedals? I once saw a suggestion that this was Bach nodding in the direction of the French ravallement (?) where the pedal reeds go down to the A below bottom C. Sumner lists the compasses of all the organs Bach "lived with" and I think none of them had the top F in the pedals that he uses in several pieces.

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Off at a slight tangent: IMHO any builder who provides less than 56 notes on a manual is being particularly unhelpful to anyone who does not want a restricted repertoire.  I was blessed with a neo-classical Dutch organ c.1980 for seven years of my organisting. I asked 'why do we not have at least a 56 note compass?' (manuals stopped at F)  The answer came: apparently top F sharp and G are never provided on new organs in Holland.  Since pipes are cheapest at the top of the compass and the action/chest space required is also the least,  I found this economy a constant annoyance.

 

Happens here (NL) all the time, thanks to the 'advisors/exerts' (who don't have to live/work with it).

Just give me (at least) 61/30

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I think the greatest use of top notes (61 notes) is in 20th century French or American repertoire.

 

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

 

 

And, of course, the Norman Cocker "Tuba Tune" which I never need to practise.

 

Silly me! I almost broke my little-finger in Holland!

 

:lol:

 

MM

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Most German baroque organs have a d' pedal compass - when it's only c' one notices it pretty quickly. Even today g' pedals are rare - partly because this note is VERY far away on a parallel pedal board.

 

The manual compass on the other hand routinely extended only to c''' - I cannot off-hand think of a Bach work that exceeds this compass, but I may of course be wrong. It has been known. This was the standard compass of Silbermann and Hildebrandt, for example. (48 notes, incidentally, since C# is not provided)

 

If Peter Williams only plays baroque music, as I should imagine is the case, then the compass of his house organ is sufficient.......

 

Ladegast always built to f''', and that remained usual in Germany until after WWII, after which g''' became the norm; now it might be a''', c'''' is still regarded as a slightly excentric wish.

Cheers

B

 

PS does one really need more notes on the pedals for any Bach except the F major Toccata, where the evidence just might imply that the bars that need these notes are not original?

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I am wonderfing if there are any diligent souls who have made an in-depth study of the compass required for the organ literature over the centuries. Who has composed for only 51, 54, 56, 58 and full 61 notes? Of course 61 allows everything thanks to the USA.   

 

As one goes down the scale of notes, so to speak, what is going to be left out? Also, how many major works will be out of reach if the pedals do not go up to G? I know that I should spend hours researching this in depth, but why do it if it is already done?! Any thoughts?

 

Hi

 

Soory Nigel - a 61 note C-c4 compass does NOT allow you to play everything! It excludes a lot of the early English repertoire that needs a keyboard descending to GG.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Hi

 

Soory Nigel - a 61 note C-c4 compass does NOT allow you to play everything!  It excludes a lot of the early English repertoire that needs a keyboard descending to GG.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

I'm sorry to be pedantic, but by playing up an octave on 61 notes using a 16' you get the the same effect as a GG compass. (The lowest G creating the same sensation as the GG compass). It also makes for a rather sparkling opaque chorus and one that is less large (sometimes) than a normal 8' based registration. You must position yourself a little higher on the bench of course. Thanks to such a generous compass you can play everything (I think) from early times without resorting to a dab of pedal.

 

There are one or two GG compass restorations/new organs. Hopefully they must have an old temperament to surely do justice to the reasoning behind this and short compass swells.

 

N

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Trinity College, Cambridge only goes up to F on the manuals; I seem to remember that Gillian Weir included Transports de Joie in her opening recital!

 

Has anyone played the Bach Pièce d'Orgue on an organ with the low B on the pedals? I once saw a suggestion that this was Bach nodding in the direction of the French ravallement (?) where the pedal reeds go down to the A below bottom C. Sumner lists the compasses of all the organs Bach "lived with" and I think none of them had the top F in the pedals that he uses in several pieces.

 

This quirk of a pièce doesn't even work on an organ (just about untouched) by Cliquot at Souvigny, the pedals start are F G A and then from C. The lowest sounds come from the Trompette 12'. The manuals are starting at the normal C and missing C#. It still makes it impossible to play this strange B in the central movement. I have not yet come across a ravalement which includes a B. These bottom notes are really used not to create a Tonic note but a Dominant note so as to make grander the final cadences of Grands Jeux movements or the odd Trompette solo at 8' when a melodic bottom A is required. Hence A being the first to be 'sent down' as so many works are in the 1st Tone (D minor-ish). Anyone found an organ lurking with a B? It would be so expensive to make if never used. (That's why it is possible to discard bottom C#/Db on olden instruments. The second most expensive pipe. The temperament frequently does not suggest it in the harmony and first inversions using it are not necessary right down at the bottom of the pedal board. This wasted key then allows an A below to be connected to it instead. Now that is good money well spent! Your 16' Bombarde suddenly bursts forth as a 32') Olden days were so practical and dramatic (and frugal) with their money - hence the short compass bottom octaves for the manuals.

N

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There are one or two GG compass ........ new organs. Hopefully they must have an old temperament to surely do justice to the reasoning behind this and short compass swells.

 

N

 

On the one hand, of course......... on the other hand, if we are talking about usefulness, which mostly seems to mean versatility, how useful it is really?

If one regards a house organ with d compasses as relatively limiting, what about this?

 

Just being a devil's advocate. I had my house organ tuned in Kellner. I had it changed pretty quickly.

 

Cheers

Barry

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Has anyone played the Bach Pièce d'Orgue on an organ with the low B on the pedals? I once saw a suggestion that this was Bach nodding in the direction of the French ravallement (?) where the pedal reeds go down to the A below bottom C. Sumner lists the compasses of all the organs Bach "lived with" and I think none of them had the top F in the pedals that he uses in several pieces.

 

No, but I had also always understood that this is why he wrote it - after all, the whole piece is a homage to the prevailing style in France at the time. I was interested (and slightly surprised) to read Nigel's point - I had also assumed that a 'B' would have been provided. Tsk! Tsk! These French builders....

 

However, I do have a recording of a French organ (in Sarre-union, near Strasbourg) which has this ravellement - and very fine it sounds, too.

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I'm sorry to be pedantic, but by playing up an octave on 61 notes using a 16' you get the the same effect as a GG compass. (The lowest G creating the same sensation as the GG compass). It also makes for a rather sparkling opaque chorus and one that is less large (sometimes) than a normal 8' based registration. You must position yourself a little higher on the bench of course. Thanks to such a generous compass you can play everything (I think) from early times without resorting to a dab of pedal.

 

There are one or two GG compass restorations/new organs. Hopefully they must have an old temperament to surely do justice to the reasoning behind this and short compass swells.

 

N

 

Hi

 

Playing up an octave really doesn't work if you want to be anything like authentic in registration! Even the basic "Diapasons" (i.e. Open Diap + Stopped Diap) isn't available at 16ft on many organs.

 

Thankfully GG compass is increasingly being retained (and appears on the odd new build) - and why a short-compass swell? There's no reason why later repertoire can't be played on a GG compass organ - so why limit the options in a new build? I suspect that there may well have been a handful of full-compass GG swell organs (St. George's Hall, Liverpool in it's first incarnation is a distinct possibility - no time to check today).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Anyone found an organ lurking with a B? N

 

Hi

 

Anything that retains a GG-compass pedal board! I know of one (but I wouldn't want to play large scale Bach on it (a 4-stop chamber organ) and I've seen another. Thaxted Parish Church? the 3-manual Lincoln organ has, IIRC, a pedalboard descending to FF.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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  I suspect that there may well have been a handful of full-compass GG swell organs (St. George's Hall, Liverpool in it's first incarnation is a distinct possibility - no time to check today).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Yes - St Georges Hall was originally GG-a (63 note) on all 4 manuals

 

JJK

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  • 4 months later...
Thinking about compasses generally: It's a shame we hardly ever get new or rebuilt 'Traditional English' organs with long compass. Items written for the GG compass can so rarely be performed as intended.  This is a challenge for Goetze and Gwynn, Bill Drake and (of course) John  Mander! Trouble is, when one has work so hard in order to raise funds for a new organ, would such a proposal get through?

Bill Drake has built or restored a number of organs with GG manuals.

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Bill Drake has built or restored a number of organs with GG manuals.

 

Grosvenor Chapel has four brass pedals to work the notes of the short octave - not sure if there are pedal pipes attached to these or whether they are just pulldowns.

 

I have just finished working on a little GG instrument on which the last builder had decided that GG must have curiously been left off. The actual pipe for GG was connected to GG# and the stopper rammed so far down its neck we nearly didn't get it back again.

 

The keyboard of this instrument is fairly standard fayre of the early 1800's but when we dismantled it we found it to be secondhand, and formerly the bottom manual of a 3 manual organ with a fiddle G swell and two octaves of pedals. Given this organ was probably assembled (built is too strong a word) in the early 20th century (possibly by an avid reader of Dickson's "Practical Organ Building"), I have been racking my brains for anything of that size in the Wiltshire/Hants/Dorset area that it could have come from, particularly with a key for GG# - surely not usual? Would it have been blanked off, worked its correct note, or possibly something exciting like F or D below? Pictures of organ/keyboard available at http://pub22.bravenet.com/photocenter/albu...915&album=40280 - if anyone can give me any more info on what they see I would be grateful.

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I am wonderfing if there are any diligent souls who have made an in-depth study of the compass required for the organ literature over the centuries. Who has composed for only 51, 54, 56, 58 and full 61 notes? Of course 61 allows everything thanks to the USA.   

 

As one goes down the scale of notes, so to speak, what is going to be left out? Also, how many major works will be out of reach if the pedals do not go up to G? I know that I should spend hours researching this in depth, but why do it if it is already done?! Any thoughts?

 

 

When I was looking for somewhere near work to practice at lunchtimes, I came across this instrument in All Saints, Broughton, near Skipton. It was built by Thomas Casson and has a 49 note compass starting at F. However, the keyboard has more than 49 keys, and can be moved sideways to make a different key stand over the bottom note.

 

I suppose it is intended purely as a hymn machine. It has a very nice tone - the diapasons are quite vibrant. But there's not much you can play on it.

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Hi

 

Anything that retains a GG-compass pedal board!  I know of one (but I wouldn't want to play large scale Bach on it (a 4-stop chamber organ) and I've seen another.  Thaxted Parish Church?  the 3-manual Lincoln organ has, IIRC, a pedalboard descending to FF.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

The best example of a GGG Pedal compass is the 1829 Bishop organ at St James, Bermondsey, magnificently restored by Goetze & Gwynn a few years ago. (This is the organ with the little one-and-a-half octave keyboard with its own music desk on the LH side so that an assistant can play the pedal part).

 

Sitting on the organ bench feels most odd at first; the temptation is to shift about 4 inches to the right. The trouble is that, after struggling to get your brain, hands and feet oriented, you go back to your own church next Sunday and find yourself playing hymns with the pedal line a fourth out!

 

JS

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Hi

 

Anything that retains a GG-compass pedal board!  I know of one (but I wouldn't want to play large scale Bach on it (a 4-stop chamber organ) and I've seen another.  Thaxted Parish Church?  the 3-manual Lincoln organ has, IIRC, a pedalboard descending to FF.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

Also the 1839 organ by Charles Allen at St Mary and St Everilda, Everingham, Yorkshire. Compass is GG to C. It has a 16' open wood. I assume this means the bottom pipe is 21 1/3 feet.

 

It's a wonderful church, too, though rather dilapidated, alas, and totally unheated.

Alan Spedding gave a recital on it in November 2004 with the temperature barely above freezing point, and the audience beginning to succumb to hypothermia.

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Hi

 

the 3-manual Lincoln organ has, IIRC, a pedalboard descending to FF.

 

Interesting - there's a 2m organ rescued by Mark Venning many moons ago which now resides in St Margaret of Antioch, Knook, near Heytesbury. I abitrarily decided it was by Lincoln on the basis of several similarities with another local machine that was definitely Lincoln but rebuilt by Walkers. Knook has GG manuals and FF pedals with one solitary pipe at the back for FF. This organ has no electric blowing and has the nicest chorus I have ever heard.

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Interesting - there's a 2m organ rescued by Mark Venning many moons ago which now resides in St Margaret of Antioch, Knook, near Heytesbury.  I abitrarily decided it was by Lincoln on the basis of several similarities with another local machine that was definitely Lincoln but rebuilt by Walkers.  Knook has GG manuals and FF pedals with one solitary pipe at the back for FF.  This organ has no electric blowing and has the nicest chorus I have ever heard.

 

 

Coincidentally I pass the lane to this one twice a day on the way to/from work! Another GG compass oddity with an interesting history somewhat off the beaten track down here can be found at Laverton - 'needs a proper restoration though - Osmonds seem to have done some strange things in the late 60s.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D01983

 

AJJ

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  • 4 years later...

This out-of-the-way church has managed to hang on to a lovely Walker with GG manual and GG pulldown pedalboard. The pedals and the gaps between them are so small, I'm told this is common for pull-downs on chamber organs like this, but how would one have played them with any comfort?! The pedals seem to be barely 2cm wide, with gaps of a similar width.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=C00827

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This out-of-the-way church has managed to hang on to a lovely Walker with GG manual and GG pulldown pedalboard. The pedals and the gaps between them are so small, I'm told this is common for pull-downs on chamber organs like this, but how would one have played them with any comfort?! The pedals seem to be barely 2cm wide, with gaps of a similar width.

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=C00827

 

Hi

 

Like everything else - practice! The pedalboard on the chamber organ here is very narrow, with narrow keys, but I can play most things on it (except the more complex pedal solos in some works) - at least when I'm not too rusty! Pedals were really only used for pedal points and etc. in the pre-c.1850 English repertoire - if at all, so as long as you could find the right note - even if somewhat slowly - then everything was OK.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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