Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Seething


Recommended Posts

I have just endured the most depressing experience I have had for quite some time - and when I say depressed I genuinely mean it. Mrs Humana and I have just been to a Choral Evensong in a large church in Lincolnshire. Good, spacious acoustic, fine H&H organ, well-tuned choir. Byrd responses, Walmisley in d minor, Balfour Gardiner Evening Hymn. Apart from the responses, which were insecure, the choir sang very pleasingly in the soft bits. They probably did so too at mf and above, but unfortunately it was impossible to tell for sure because they were completely drowned out by the organist. Even making allowances for circumstances (for all I know, Covid and other factors may have meant the choir was under strength) there was no need for sheer volume of organ used. It wasn’t that the organist couldn’t play. He or she was evidently a highly competent player. Perhaps he/she was only following the choirmaster’s orders, but, whatever the reason, it totally ruined the service. We might as well not have been there. This feeling was compounded, after a very well played voluntary, when Mrs Humana wanted to speak to the vicar, but we waited five minutes while she pointedly ignored us. You would have hoped that any vicar worth their salt would have welcomed visitors, but no. This was old-style Anglicanism at its worst. The whole experience left us feeling very depressed. We certainly won’t ever return here again. Essentially what we got was an organ recital punctuated by readings and prayers. It wasn’t what we went for and we took away nothing positive. This was yet another very competent organist who had no clue about accompaniment. Why?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That does sound incredibly frustrating.  But giving the benefit of the doubt, for the minute... is it possible that the balance was OK from where the choirmaster was standing and they were both just unaware of the balance down the nave?  Not that that is an excuse! It's a shame as no doubt others were put off as well, from what could have been a worthwhile experience. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Indeed, Darius. I did consider that, but I doubt it very much. We were at the front of the nave (no screen), not very far from organ and choir. The choir may have been slightly more easily audible in the quire, but the difference could not have been much, if anything: the organ would still have been far too loud. The organist was simply using far too much Great Organ - especially for a lumbering, thick-toned H&H (although it was a magnificent instrument of its type). I think the others have already been put off: there was hardly anyone else there! It is, of course, the job of the choirmaster to control the balance, but I have known organists who take this very badly and one in particular who has been told many times by different people that he is playing too loudly, yet remains quite incorrigible. And how many organists have heard their own playing from the congregation’s position?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

 And how many organists have heard their own playing from the congregation’s position?

Perhaps a mobile console nearer to the choir!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I fear that a lot of the skill needed to be a good organist has been lost over the past 20 years or so, one such skill was the ability to adjust ones playing to suit the building & acoustics. Console management, or the lack of it, is partly to blame in my opinion. At a recent recital I attended, the whole program was played on one manual with all registration & manual changes being done with the aid of an assistant pressing the sequencer advance piston. Even the music was on an iPad, with pages being ‘turned’ by a piston!

The management skills of organists like Harry Gabb, for example are now in short supply & sadly missed.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, John Robinson said:

Perhaps a mobile console nearer to the choir!

In this case the organ is directly above the cantoris choirstalls, so I’m not sure how much advantage a ground-floor console would confer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you've pretty much identified the church now! An exceptionally good view from the tower if I'm not mistaken? And probably better organ balance there too!

I've been a "camp follower" for family in visiting choirs and more than once I've been able to advise an organist of balance from sitting in pews during a rehearsal when more than one very experienced choir directors haven't done so. 

There's an interesting point of west end organs with east end choirs not yet mentioned perhaps. Where in the building are you aiming for proper balance? I've never been sure. At the mid position with the hearer equidistant from both choir and organ, although in different directions, it'd probably be the same balance as a west end choir would warrant. I always played a fair bit louder, presumably for best balance at the choir director. Is that the right answer?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, OwenTurner said:


There's an interesting point of west end organs with east end choirs not yet mentioned perhaps. Where in the building are you aiming for proper balance? I've never been sure.

A dilemma.

Even worse when most of the organ is at the west end, but some of it (and the console) are in the chancel, as at Enville:

https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=D06595

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...