Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Never seen that before...


Martin Cooke
 Share

Recommended Posts

Just watching Simon Johnson's Sunday afternoon recital from St Paul's - the first he's played in the current series commemorating 150 years of the 1872 organ. He's just opened with his arrangement of Holst's Uranus and has used his nose several times to play a note whilst his hands have been full! Thoroughly recommend this series of recitals involving all three organists.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not claim any sort of equivalence with Simon Johnson, but was forced to use my nose once in a recital. This would have been in the 80s. 

The organ was not over-endowed with generals, the registrant had failed to materialise and there was one place where this was the only way to hold down a note, whilst simultaneously changing stops with one of my hands.

I cannot remember which piece it was, but had not practised this manoeuvre and felt right daft ! It probably did not look all that good, either.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Hurford mentioned this is his book "Making Music on the Organ". It took me some time to find the relevant passage (bottom of page 71), as the book is an enjoyable read. It's probably well known to many, but here it is:

" Praetorius wrote in 1619 that 'There are many matters of this kind where the impression can be given that there is only one right way of doing something. So, for instance, some keyboard players are held in contempt for not using some particular fingering or other. This is ridiculous, in my opinion. If a player can fly up or down the keyboard, using the tips, mid-joints, or the backs of his fingers - yes, using his very nose if that helps - and either keeps or breaks every rule in existence, so what? If he plays well, and plays musically, it matters little by what means he does so.' " (De organographia, Wolfenbuettel, 1619). 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've seen it done with a pencil - stuck in the back of the key!

............. and isn't there a piece by Tim Souster that involves a small block of wood high up on one of the manuals? And then, of course, there is Ligeti - but that's smething different!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

20 minutes ago, S_L said:

I've seen it done with a pencil - stuck in the back of the key!

............. and isn't there a piece by Tim Souster that involves a small block of wood high up on one of the manuals? And then, of course, there is Ligeti - but that's smething different!

Don't know the Souster, S_L, must investigate... there is the Dubois 'three kings' piece and also a short piece by Noel Rawsthorne that requires this pencil jamming technique. 

By the way, the whole recital is well worth watching. Uranus is totally captivating and it closes with the Duruflé Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d'Alain. One of the great things about all these recitals is that one is brought up close and personal to the player and the console and can see what's going on. The other two recitalists have, as far as I could tell, used only the chancel divisions, but Simon Johnson used dome resources yesterday, opening on the Trompette Militaire. You can't see the dome chorus stop knobs from the camera/phone angle, but one can notice the pedal stops pop in and out (even if you can't read them) as they are right on the LH side of the picture. There was also some delicious Herbert Brewer and some Ravel yesterday.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

... there is the Dubois 'three kings' piece

I'd forgotten about the Dubois 'Marche des Rois Mages'. Henry Fairs played it after High Mass in St. Chad's Cathedral on the Feast of the Epiphany one year. You could almost see the camels!!!!

Organ Music - Andrea Berti plays Dubois: Marche des Rois Mages.wmv - YouTube

I liked the comment that went with this, not very good, performance:

When this piece was first performed at Madeleine Church in Paris by Dubois, the organ builder of the organ of that church, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, was present. When he heard the "star of bethlehem", he did not realize that it was part of the music, then went into the organ case during concert to remove what he thought to be an awkward trouble. After the concert, a mountain of curse fell onto the poor Cavaillé-Coll. Source: CD "La Madeleine et ses Organistes", by Francois-Henri Houbart.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of George Thalben-Ball’s 113 Variations on Hymn Tunes requires a high note held throughout. I don’t have the music to hand, but I seem to recall it is Irby? There were specific instructions on the relevant page. I have always used a piece of paper folded the necessary number of times to achieve the objective.

Tony

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel for him. It must require a particularly good aim to manage that with a stick and limited mobility, and your whole body aches from being lop-sided, if only temporarily. Last year I broke my right thumb which, being right handed, was more disruptive of life in general than I could have imagined. Although the daily urge to play was thwarted, I'd recently bought Anne Marsden Thomas' book on pedal technique, so could at least profit from that, even though it's surprisingly tiring on the ankles!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The 'Bach and his stick' story certainly appears in one of the major biographies but like VH I can't remember which one. The use of the organ with other instruments isn't unheard of either... I know that Brühns would often play his own bass line on the pedals whilst playing a violin. Also, which of us hasn't used an errant elbow to get rid of swell to pedal?!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 07/02/2021 at 16:56, Martin Cooke said:

Just watching Simon Johnson's Sunday afternoon recital from St Paul's - the first he's played in the current series commemorating 150 years of the 1872 organ. He's just opened with his arrangement of Holst's Uranus and has used his nose several times to play a note whilst his hands have been full! Thoroughly recommend this series of recitals involving all three organists.

Watching? As on You Tube... is there a link if it was

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, Peter Allison said:

Watching? As on You Tube... is there a link if it was

Here is the link: 

I haven’t got round to watching it yet, but I’ve enjoyed the other recitals in the series, all of which are still available on the St Paul’s YouTube channel. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

40 minutes ago, OwenTurner said:

I think there's something going on with a pencil in this - jump to 45 mins in for about 5 mins. Player is Claire Innes Hopkins, on Hradetzky 1973 IV / 40.

 

Yes, that's right, Owen - this is the Dubois piece, cited above - Marche des Rois Mages - the held note supposedly representing the star. I think the composer actually specifies 'une gomme' to be used to fix the note!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually he suggests a third hand (presumably a 2nd person!). Or a small weight. He suggests it can be sustained or intermittent, and that the tremulant can be used from time to time (if my French isn't misleading me).

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Possibly the record for the most number of people required to play a piece of organ music is held by Daniel Roth at Saint-Sulpice. In at least one video he has, in addition to himself, two registrants, a page turner and of course the camera operator!

I hope the nose technique isn't widespread as I tend not to wipe down keyboards before I start playing on an unfamiliar instrument (not that I've actually played anything other than my home practice organ since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic) but if Uranus becomes popular in the repertory I might need to reconsider.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, John Robinson said:

Pencils, weights, rubbers?

I believe that Keith Emerson often made use of a knife!  🤨

He did indeed.  There's a synthesiser etc. museum in the States that has one of his organs (an Hammond L100) complete with daggers!  I use a pencil if I need to set up a drone.

Every Blessing

Tony

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would guess that a weight would be the least harmful thing to use for this task.  There was a post here some time back strictly enjoining against use of a pencil - the risk of graphite particles contaminating key contacts.  I suppose a rubber in good condition might be safe.  My local cathedral has a strict instruction to visiting organists not to use a rubber on scores on the music desk, again, particles potentially getting down into the key spaces.  I think Contrabombarde makes a valid point about using the organist's nose!  As for knives! - with electric actions?

Not wishing to be a killjoy, and a controversial question, possibly, but are organists sufficiently respectful of their instruments, especially the console?  Someone once made the point that a fine console should be treated with the same respect as a Steinway grand, and that you wouldn't insert drawing pins into the music desk of the latter!  I possess a very old LP with a cover picture showing the cathedral's music list actually secured with drawing pins to the music desk of one of our most celebrated cathedral organs!  There's also the famous story of a student attaching a mirror to the Ahrend organ (designed by Peter Williams and Gustav Leonhardt) in the Reid Concert Hall at Edinburgh University using nails! - predictably resulting in the apoplexy of John Kitchen!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

Possibly the record for the most number of people required to play a piece of organ music is held by Daniel Roth at Saint-Sulpice.

I'm sure the situation was not unique when I was once one of a group of three volunteers and an organ builder sitting inside a big instrument overdue a rebuild in one of its final fundraising concerts, under instructions to watch things that might stop working. So that was four of us regardless of the console crew.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/02/2021 at 22:45, John Robinson said:

Pencils, weights, rubbers?

I believe that Keith Emerson often made use of a knife!  🤨

I used to know a chap who made a wage of hiring out Hammond organs for gigs. He complained that he had to replace a lot of keys due to excitable tribute acts based on that precedent. I am sure replacing a broken key isn't an easy job, but gets easier with repetition!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recall an occasion when an unfinished organ was required to be used for a Christmas service.  We had an organist playing manuals and pedals, another being the pedal couplers as they weren't in place, and as there was neither stop action nor swell linkage, someone with the running order manipulating the slides on each soundboard - the organist just had to trust that a suitable setup was available on each manual at any given time... 

Oh, and someone had to pull a piece of string to play bottom D on the unconnected pedal reed!  D is a very useful pedal note at Christmas, if you've only got one...

Five people other than the organist, I think it was.  It worked out.  My place was unjamming trackers that were getting stuck (until I saw the reason and fixed it).

Paul

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...