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York Minster organ blessing


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Am I the only person who thought the service of the blessing of the Minster organ this morning was a big non event? I understand the service was choral eucharist, but after all the hype and press gone into such a major event, it was so low key. I appreciate the thanks given by the clergy during the service, but we never heard the voice of the very  thing thanks was being given about.

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If I have understood things correctly from the YM website, today was just a temporary measure - a blessing - so that the organ could come back into use officially, as it were, rather than wait for Easter Day when there is to be a full dedication. I thunk it's all to do with Lent and the fact that the Minster is still closed until next Sunday. Something like that, anyway.

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It’s all about a slowly-built climax.

Liturgically, we are on a journey to Easter with today being the third Sunday in Lent. The organ was blessed before its first contribution to worship (in the Kyrie) and can then be heard in several of its limitless layers of colour in various improvisations as the liturgy progresses. Not too much too soon, and just right for the day.

The big party, liturgically, is on Easter Day, when the organ will be dedicated by the Archbishop at Evensong and its contributions will be telling and celebratory. Between now and then, there will be the chance to hear it gradually revealing its multiple layers of colour within the liturgy. 

We then will move to an inaugural series of recitals where everything will be shown off in its full magnificence. 

You can hear some more layers during Evensong this afternoon here.  

After so long without the instrument, we are enjoying the journey of its return.

 


 

 

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2 hours ago, robertsharpe said:

We then will move to an inaugural series of recitals where everything will be shown off in its full magnificence. 

I'm looking forward to this.

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9 hours ago, John Robinson said:

I'm looking forward to this.

Yes, so am I, and wish I lived closer. Very good of Robert Sharpe to come on here and explain things, all of which makes perfect sense to me at this particular time. The Ethel Smyth chorale prelude that is being played at the start of the Evensong clip that Robert has posted, is the one alluded to by me in another post. The original Novello score has the left hand in alto clef, but it is available on IMSLP transcribed suitably for non-alto clef readers and is worthy of attention along with her more striking chorale prelude on Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag for Easter. 

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3 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

Yes, so am I, and wish I lived closer. Very good of Robert Sharpe to come on here and explain things, all of which makes perfect sense to me at this particular time. The Ethel Smyth chorale prelude that is being played at the start of the Evensong clip that Robert has posted, is the one alluded to by me in another post. The original Novello score has the left hand in alto clef, but it is available on IMSLP transcribed suitably for non-alto clef readers and is worthy of attention along with her more striking chorale prelude on Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag for Easter. 

The Ethel Smyth "Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag" is a nice piece of music, the relatively gentle 4' pedal reed on my instrument seems to bring the melody out nicely. To my dismay, it is the only piece of organ music by a woman composer that I can find in my collection. One thing strikes me - did Ethel Smyth have particularly big hands or long fingers? There are a couple of stretches which I can barely make, which doesn't happen often.

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On the subject of women composers and York Minster, it was good to hear Ben Morris on Radio 4 this week playing some Florence Price on the newly restored organ.   There's some more of her music available in the series 'King of Kings - organ music by Black composers" which is well worth a look (search Gia Music online).

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6 hours ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

The Ethel Smyth "Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag" is a nice piece of music, the relatively gentle 4' pedal reed on my instrument seems to bring the melody out nicely. To my dismay, it is the only piece of organ music by a woman composer that I can find in my collection. One thing strikes me - did Ethel Smyth have particularly big hands or long fingers? There are a couple of stretches which I can barely make, which doesn't happen often.

Hi Damian - a couple of things I've read recently suggest that Dame Ethel probably intended an 8ft reed in the pedal. See here, for example. And I agree re those stretches!!

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13 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

Hi Damian - a couple of things I've read recently suggest that Dame Ethel probably intended an 8ft reed in the pedal. See here, for example. And I agree re those stretches!!

The copy I have is in Anne Marsden Thomas' Graded Anthology for Organ, vol 5. There are some interesting notes. On the score, it says "Pedal part originally written in tenor clef, an octave higher, to sound on 4 trumpet", and the study notes indicate that the 8' only registration for the manuals seems inadequate if the pedal is bright. I'm no musicologist, but these points are interesting and suggest different interpretations and the opportunity for exploration. As it happens, on my electronic the pedal 4 reed is a quite gentle cornet which goes well with a single 8' principle, which I realise may also not be what was intended, but it sounds nice. An interesting link, by the way, thanks.

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I'm bound to say that I think both work very well. I haven't tried 4ft pedal reed down an octave - I guess that's the more comfortable option. No 4ft pedal reed at church (and at home I have to couple down from the Great or Swell unless there is one hidden in  my 'library' that I haven't yet discovered. However, on my church instrument good old HW III provided his traditional 'Swell Octave to Pedal' so that saves the day.

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23 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

Hi Damian - a couple of things I've read recently suggest that Dame Ethel probably intended an 8ft reed in the pedal. See here, for example. And I agree re those stretches!!

Martin. Thanks for the link to the Doctorate thesis. I read it, entirely, this morning. I thought it a  bit 'lightweight' to be honest but it was a jolly good read!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Based on today's Festal Eucharist, admittedly only via YouTube, I have to say the rebuild sounds to be a triumphant success! The distinctive sound of that organ is still very much in evidence, but there is just more of everything, especially as the choruses build! Congratulations to all involved on a clever plan very well executed!

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Sadly I missed it.  Living in the Southern Province I watched the BBC televised Eucharist from Canterbury Cathedral with the Archbishop presiding.  Mixed feelings about some of it; I thought the girls’ choir was impressive.  David Newsholme directed and Adrian Bawtree played the organ.  It was difficult to get any real impression of the organ from the sound quality of an ancient television.  Adrian Bawtree certainly opened up the organ in the closing voluntary, Guilmant’s “Grand Choeur”, but in best BBC tradition this was faded out to a scene of someone preparing pastry with a rolling-pin!  One realises that time schedules come into play, but this seemed unnecessarily insensitive.

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I haven't watched the Eucharist but would commend the Evensong which included the dedication of the organ by the Archbishop of York. It features a rather interesting set of improvisations early in the service under the section 'The singing of the organ'. But perhaps even more ingenious is the sermon, which is accompanied by the organ in a descriptive manner - I'm not sure if this was wholly improvised although clearly Ben Morris had the text to follow and respond to. Add to this Demessieux Te Deum before, Lanquetuit Toccata after and that Ashfield triple chant for Psalm 66.

At the end of Dyson in D Mag I'm pretty sure you can hear the (now) two 32' reeds in succession (smaller then larger).

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9 hours ago, swalmsley said:

Based on today's Festal Eucharist, admittedly only via YouTube, I have to say the rebuild sounds to be a triumphant success! The distinctive sound of that organ is still very much in evidence, but there is just more of everything, especially as the choruses build! Congratulations to all involved on a clever plan very well executed!

Yes, I watched that (on YouTube) earlier today and I completely agree that the organ sounded wonderful.  I was especially impressed with the Swell which sounded particularly clear, presumably because of the new shutters on the west side of the box (assuming that the sounds were recorded from the nave!).

I'm looking forward to listening to the evensong and dedication of the organ when I have time, probably tomorrow.

Congratulations to Harrisons and, of course, to Robert Sharpe who no doubt led the decisions on the rebuilding of the instrument.  I have suggested elsewhere that I thought it sad that the organ had lost its Cornet and Sesquialtera, but I now realise my mistake and that it really doesn't need either of those two voices.

One day, hopefully, I shall have the opportunity to hear it in 'real life', when I shall possibly have the opportunity to hear ALL FOUR or the 32' stops (one at a time, of course) and which cannot possibly demonstrate properly their voices even on my hi-fi system!

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8 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Sadly I missed it.  Living in the Southern Province I watched the BBC televised Eucharist from Canterbury Cathedral with the Archbishop presiding.  Mixed feelings about some of it; I thought the girls’ choir was impressive.  David Newsholme directed and Andrew Bawtree played the organ.  It was difficult to get any real impression of the organ from the sound quality of an ancient television.  Andrew Bawtree certainly opened up the organ in the closing voluntary, Guilmant’s “Grand Choeur”, but in best BBC tradition this was faded out to a scene of someone preparing pastry with a rolling-pin!  One realises that time schedules come into play, but this seemed unnecessarily insensitive.

I get the impression that, unfortunately, the BBC are not exactly great fans of the organ!

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1 hour ago, Philip said:

I haven't watched the Eucharist but would commend the Evensong which included the dedication of the organ by the Archbishop of York. It features a rather interesting set of improvisations early in the service under the section 'The singing of the organ'. But perhaps even more ingenious is the sermon, which is accompanied by the organ in a descriptive manner - I'm not sure if this was wholly improvised although clearly Ben Morris had the text to follow and respond to. Add to this Demessieux Te Deum before, Lanquetuit Toccata after and that Ashfield triple chant for Psalm 66.

At the end of Dyson in D Mag I'm pretty sure you can hear the (now) two 32' reeds in succession (smaller then larger).

Order of service, for anyone wondering, can be found at https://d10okuw2vik61v.cloudfront.net/uploads/2021/03/Easter-Day-Evensong-2021.pdf

That "singing of the organ" bit sounds, if an early edition of Choir & Organ is anything to go by, like part of the dedication mass of the organ of Notre-Dame, Paris following the work of the early 1990s. That service featured something similar.

Dave

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10 hours ago, John Robinson said:

One day, hopefully, I shall have the opportunity to hear it in 'real life', when I shall possibly have the opportunity to hear ALL FOUR or the 32' stops (one at a time, of course) and which cannot possibly demonstrate properly their voices even on my hi-fi system!

It's quite clear, from the streams, that the auto level control on the (otherwise excellent) sound feed is working very hard indeed to compress the dynamics when the new 32' is drawn. 

Which is a very good sign!

Apparently an in-person visit, or at least a gain-set-for-peak transmission, will be needed.

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1 hour ago, Martin Cooke said:

Did we hear the Tuba Mirabilis at any point? There were definite tuba-ings in the pre-service music but was that the famous stop?

I doubt it!  I think that must have been one of the enclosed tubas.

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4 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

Did we hear the Tuba Mirabilis at any point? There were definite tuba-ings in the pre-service music but was that the famous stop?

Yes, in the Demessieux Te Deum before the service (all the pre-service music is on the stream). The next level down is the Tromba, then the enclosed Tuba. With the west shutters, Posaunes and Swell reeds are joint fourth place. 

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... and what stunning playing throughout. The organ sounds absolutely magnificent.

Thank you for sharing so much of the rebuilding process with us. I look forward to 1) a long weekend in York for Mrs H and me and 2) a recording when all has settled down.

 

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