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John Robinson

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I entirely agree with you about Gt 5; I often do drop the small Diaps.

 

Sometimes I add the Mixture on Sw.5 - it depends on what produces the most natural build-up - but, no, I wouldn't set just Sw. Diaps to Mixture on a piston (unless perhaps it's a very small 2- or 3-rank one). I set my pistons as much for accompanimental use as for solo pieces and I find mixtures undesirable in an accompaniment until the choir is singing fairly loudly - and by that time I'm looking for more richness, hence the Oboe gets priority.

 

To my mind, a good example of how careful you need to be about mixtures and upperwork generally is the last recording that David Willcocks made at King's - a disc of favourite warhorses from the English anthem repertory. The singing is wonderful, but the accompaniment, skilful though it is, is all brightness and sparkle with the reeds seemingly used almost as a last resort. To my ears this almost Baroque approach is quite inappropriate for this repertoire. I longed for some Romantic warmth. After all, the composers concerned would have been thinking predominantly in terms of colour at 8' and 4' pitches. The recording has recently been re-released on CD and, my reservation notwithstanding, should be in everyone's library. It's definitely one of my desert island discs.

 

I agree, VH - I was watching (and listening to) a DVD of King's earlier to-day. Amongst the repertoire was Naylors' marvellous Vox dicentis clama and RVW's Let all the world. Even on this later recording (1996), the organ is irritatingly bright.

 

Mind you, it makes a change from the sound of it on the Christmas Eve 18h BBC2 broadcast, where it usually sounds as if all the clavier 16p flues are stuck on. Incidentally, why do 'they' always reserve the 32p Ophicleide for the last chord - I cannot recall it ever being used for anything longer. If it is that big, perhaps Stephen Cleobury should consider having it revoiced....

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I too have a generalised pattern in mind which I tend to adapt on my perambulations. In fact I have two patterns, one for organs with 6 pistons per division, and one for organs with 8.

 

I do also, as a matter of course, look to see what settings the resident organists are using as it seems reasonable to assume they know their instrument and know what works. It isn't necessarily wise to be to rigid in ones settings without even having tried the instrument.

 

On a 8-piston per division instrument I like to have a 4' flute on swell 3. At Hereford and Exeter, and probably on many other Willis instruments, the combination of swell 8' flute, salicional and 4' flute, possibly also with a small diapason, is just ravishing.

 

Personally, I can never quite make up my mind whether I want the swell oboe on before the mixture, after the mixture, or with the mixture. It does depend partly upon the instrument concerned and the style and period of the piece you're trying to accompany/play. At Bath Abbey, for instance, the swell mixture is all but unusable in choral accompaniment (and Vox Humana's scheme for the Great pistons would also require a choir of hundreds to work on this organ!)

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Ah yes. I was thinking specifically of choir-only pieces. Congregations are an entirely different matter. For them, mixtures are pretty much essential. More so than a pedal reed, I reckon, even though that should in theory carry better to the back of a long nave.

 

Sorry - I disagree here - from long experience. The instrument which I have the great pleasure of playing for three services most Sundays has sixteen ranks of mixtures - all of them superbly voiced by Denys Thurlow. Whilst I would not change a single rank (particularly for repertoire), only the GO mixture (19-22-26-29 at CC) is any use in congregational accompaniment. The other stops merely add to the confusion. In our acoustically arid building, clarity and support comes from the use of multiple 8p, 4p (and often 2p) flue ranks, with generous use of the superb GO 16p Quintatön and the Swell Sub Octave coupler - particularly exciting with the Twelfth! Anything less and there is a clear sense of the congregation foundering. I have experienced this many times at various points in the Nave - particularly when my previous boss was playing the final hymn. He tended to use theoretical (or 'book') registrations, one stop of each pitch. In our building and on our organ, this simply does not work. It is almost impossible to tell which voice is on top.

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I too have a generalised pattern in mind which I tend to adapt on my perambulations. In fact I have two patterns, one for organs with 6 pistons per division, and one for organs with 8.

 

I do also, as a matter of course, look to see what settings the resident organists are using as it seems reasonable to assume they know their instrument and know what works. It isn't necessarily wise to be to rigid in ones settings without even having tried the instrument.

 

On a 8-piston per division instrument I like to have a 4' flute on swell 3. At Hereford and Exeter, and probably on many other Willis instruments, the combination of swell 8' flute, salicional and 4' flute, possibly also with a small diapason, is just ravishing.

 

Personally, I can never quite make up my mind whether I want the swell oboe on before the mixture, after the mixture, or with the mixture. It does depend partly upon the instrument concerned and the style and period of the piece you're trying to accompany/play. At Bath Abbey, for instance, the swell mixture is all but unusable in choral accompaniment (and Vox Humana's scheme for the Great pistons would also require a choir of hundreds to work on this organ!)

 

 

I agree - particularly with reference to your comments concerning Exeter Cathedral and Bath Abbey; the latter instrument has one of the loudest GO choruses which I have ever encountered. It sounded just as loud before the recent rebuild by Klais, too.

 

For the record, my own piston scheme on my own church organ, for my main channel (congregational accompaniment and much repertoire) is:

 

PEDAL

 

1) Bourdon

2) + 8p Flute

3) + Octave (M) 8p

4) + Principal 16p (M)

5) + Violone 16p (W) and Fifteenth

6) + Octave Quint, Nachthorn 2p and Mixture (19-22-26-29)

7) + Trombone and Crumhorn (both 16p)

8) + Posaune 8p, Clarion 4p and Schalmei 2p

 

POSITIVE

 

1) Gedeckt 8p

2) + Chimney Flute

3) Gedeckt and Blockflute 2p

4) Gedeckt and Principal 4p (a big fellow)

5) + Blockflute 2p and Crumhorn 8p (French shallots - excellent chorus/solo voice)

6) Gedeckt, Chimney Flute 4p, Quint 2 2/3, Blockflute 2p and Tierce

7) Gedeckt, Principal, Quint, Blockflute, Sifflute 1p and Cymbal (29-33-36)

8) + Larigot 1 1/3 and Crumhorn 8p (CC)

 

GREAT

 

1) Rohr Flute

2) Open Diapason II

3) + Principal

4) + Fifteenth

5) + Open Diapason I and Viola (Gamba) 8p

6) + Quintatön 16p and Mixture (19-22-26-29) - Viola

7) + Sesquialtera (12-17) and Trumpet 8p

8) + Twelfth and Clarion 4p

 

SWELL

 

1) Stopped Diapason 8p

2) + Flute 4p

3) Open Diapason, Stopped Diapason and Dulciana (Viola)

4) Open Diapason and Principal

5) + Fifteenth

6) + Twelfth and Mixture (22-26-29)

7) - Twelfth, - Mixture, + Double Trumpet 16p, Cornopean, Hautboy and Clarion

8) + Twelfth, + MIxture

 

GENERALS

 

1) 8p Flutes, Pedal Bourdon and most unison couplers, except GO to Pedal

2) Tutti 8p fonds; all unison couplers.

3) Tutti 16p, 8p, and 4p fonds; all unison couplers

4) Pedal 6, Positive 7, GO 6 (- 16p) and Swell 6; all unison couplers

5) Pedal 6 + both 16p reeds, Positive 5, GO 6 and Swell 8; all unison couplers

6) Tutti reeds (without the chamades); all unison couplers.

7) Pedal 8, Positive 5, GO 8, Swell 8; all unison couplers

8) Pedal 8, Positive 8 (+ chamades), GO 8, Swell 8; all couplers, except Swell Unison Off

 

It should be borne in mind that these settings are for a particular instument in a building with specific acoustical problems - and that I have known it for seventeen years and have spent hundreds of hours playing it - and also take the trouble regularly to listen to pupils playing on prescribed combinations in several parts of the building!

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On a 8-piston per division instrument I like to have a 4' flute on swell 3. At Hereford and Exeter, and probably on many other Willis instruments, the combination of swell 8' flute, salicional and 4' flute, possibly also with a small diapason, is just ravishing.
It's more than 30 years since I played Hereford and can't remember that much about it (apart from the fact that the tone was rather fine). Exeter's 8' Swell flues are rather softer than on most organs I come across and when I played there recently I found I had to modify my usual scheme quite a bit. In fact, I ended up putting the three stops you mention on Sw.2. As you say, they make a lovely combination!
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I agree, VH - I was watching (and listening to) a DVD of King's earlier to-day. Amongst the repertoire was Naylors' marvellous Vox dicentis clama and RVW's Let all the world.
Is that Francis Jackson's arrangement of the VW where he gets you simply to plonk a foot on bottom D and leaves all the busy stuff to the left hand? I heard King's do that arrangement on the telly last year. I have to say I think it's a complete cop-out and neuters the piece. :) Those downward scales really do need to be pedalled. :)
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Is that Francis Jackson's arrangement of the VW where he gets you simply to plonk a foot on bottom D and leaves all the busy stuff to the left hand? I heard King's do that arrangement on the telly last year. I have to say I think it's a complete cop-out and neuters the piece.  :angry:  Those downward scales really do need to be pedalled.  :)

 

I am not sure - I was only half-listening to it. I think that it was the 'proper' version.

 

I agree with you, I always play the scales on the pedals - it is much more exciting that way.

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I am not sure - I was only half-listening to it. I think that it was the 'proper' version.

 

I agree with you, I always play the scales on the pedals - it is much more exciting that way.

 

I find it often helpful with things like the RVW to go back to the full score. Had huge fun with this one at Romsey, not the most orchestral instrument out there. Working on Elgar Spirit of the Lord at the moment - definitely one to look at the full score and work back from there - and also get hold of Geoffrey Morgan's Guildford recording - it's like a symphony orchestra. Got a glimpse of the score tonight, with a bewildering array of instructions on how to play all four manuals at once and three pedal notes simultaneously. Don't think I'll manage that somehow...

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I find it often helpful with things like the RVW to go back to the full score.  Had huge fun with this one at Romsey, not the most orchestral instrument out there.  Working on Elgar Spirit of the Lord at the moment - definitely one to look at the full score and work back from there - and also get hold of Geoffrey Morgan's Guildford recording - it's like a symphony orchestra.  Got a glimpse of the score tonight, with a bewildering array of instructions on how to play all four manuals at once and three pedal notes simultaneously.  Don't think I'll manage that somehow...

 

 

Hmmm.... This is all very well if you have the time to sort it out.

 

On Sunday next I am due to play the Duruflé Messe Cum Jubilo, the (Duruflé) Variations sur Veni Créator and a Magnificat and a Nunc Dimittis which I have never played before and have only had a cursory glance at a copy. So far, I have been able to spend about thirty minutes on the two Duruflé works this afternoon. Tomorrow I have to go to Sherborne and I am out every night.

 

If I am playing The Spirit of The Lord I do try to get a vaguely orchestral 'feel' about it, but sometimes I am so busy that I am happy to face the correct way around on the bench and get most of the notes accurate - and in the right order....

 

:angry:

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Hmmm.... This is all very well if you have the time to sort it out.

 

On Sunday next I am due to play the Duruflé Messe Cum Jubilo, the (Duruflé) Variations sur Veni Créator and a Magnificat and a Nunc Dimittis which I have never played before and have only had a cursory glance at a copy. So far, I have been able to spend about thirty minutes on the two Duruflé works this afternoon. Tomorrow I have to go to Sherborne and I am out every night.

 

If I am playing The Spirit of The Lord I do try to get a vaguely orchestral 'feel' about it, but sometimes I am so busy that I am happy to face the correct way around on the bench and get most of the notes accurate - and in the right order....

 

:angry:

 

Do you a swap then? I love the Durufle.

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With "The spirit of the Lord" it definitely helps to have an awareness of the orchestration. There are two passages which call out for the use of a solo reed, not marked in the vocal score.

 

This piece is not unique in this respect. I've done a lot of choral society "organ only" accompaniment over the years (including full performances of Apostles, Kingdom and Gerontius) and in romantic works its near essential to have some idea of what colours are called for by the composer. I think the same holds true for earlier styles too - its very useful when playing St. Matthew Passion, for example, to know which arias have a solo flute as the obligato instument...etc.

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At Bath Abbey, for instance, the swell mixture is all but unusable in choral accompaniment (and Vox Humana's scheme for the Great pistons would also require a choir of hundreds to work on this organ!)
Actually, even on an average cathedral type instrument I don't normally go above Gt 3 + full Swell when the choir is singing (or Gt 4 at the most if they are going can belto). There are exceptions where you can use more without drowning them - it depends on how the organ part is written - and of course it's safe to loose the reins when the choir is silent (the introduction to Harwood's "O how glorious" and the climax in Ireland's "Greater love" come to mind).

 

But I've certainly encountered one instrument on which you can't really use the Great at all for accompanying because it's too big - Ely Cathedral (before the recent rebuild, but I don't suppose things are any different now).

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But I've certainly encountered one instrument on which you can't really use the Great at all for accompanying because it's too big - Ely Cathedral (before the recent rebuild, but I don't suppose things are any different now).

 

I'd say that's probably true of my instrument too - OD3, Gedeckt & Gemshorn is ok, but beyond that, unless the choir's really screaming...

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Can you get away with coupling Full Swell, box open, to that (assuming it works!) or is that too much?

 

Too much - the full swell is a monster, at least at the console and in the choir stalls. less so down the nave.

 

 

However, you can use the "miniature full swell" - 8+4+2+ Dulzian 16 + Hautboy 8, which is nice and rich.

 

Or Choir 16 8 4 2 + Trompette & combinations of the two.

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But I've certainly encountered one instrument on which you can't really use the Great at all for accompanying because it's too big - Ely Cathedral (before the recent rebuild, but I don't suppose things are any different now).

 

The same is true of Coventry and Salisbury cathedrals where, in each case, the GO is used as a coupling clavier.

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With "The spirit of the Lord" it definitely helps to have an awareness of the orchestration. There are two passages which call out for the use of a solo reed, not marked in the vocal score.

 

This piece is not unique in this respect. I've done a lot of choral society "organ only" accompaniment over the years (including full performances of Apostles, Kingdom and Gerontius) and in romantic works its near essential to have some idea of what colours are called for by the composer. I think the same holds true for earlier styles too - its very useful when playing St. Matthew Passion, for example, to know which arias have a solo flute as the obligato instument...etc.

 

However, any reasonably 'faithful' realisation of this is also dependent on the instrument on which it is performed.

 

Forgive me, Neil, but I cannot resist playing Devil's Advocate - have you ever accompanied this piece at Gloucester and, if you did, what solo reed did you use?

 

:D

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Forgive me, Neil, but I cannot resist playing Devil's Advocate - have you ever accompanied this piece at Gloucester and, if you did, what solo reed did you use?

 

B)

I've played the organ part in at least one full orchestral performance iof Apostles in Gloucester Cathedral and have also conducted a full performance in Gloucester Cathedral, but I can't honestly remember whether I've ever played for a separate choir and only rendition of "The Spirit of The Lord" there. If I had, I'd almost certainly have solo-ed the relevant passages out on great 8' & 4' principals in the absence of a usable solo reed.

 

Many years ago, when still a school boy, I accompanied "The Spirit of the Lord" on the (pre Kenneth Jones) Milton organ in Tewkesbury Abbey - so from the old 5-manual console on the north side. During the rehearsal I played the opening bars, until the first choir entry, on the Apse Echo, it was a spellbindingly lovely and etherial sound, but I turned to my page turner and commented that I'd have to change it because it was far to quiet. However, at the first opportunity the choir director shouted up that the opening combination was just perfect - so it stayed.

 

The Spirit of the Lord also benefits from softer solo voices in one or two places, such as the very last few notes, when the final motif (from memory) is scored for french horn. This works quite well on a gentle 8' diapason or gemshorn.

 

I've done a huge amount of organ-only accomaniments of choral works, and in my opinion it is not always correct or appropriate to try to match all of the orchestral solo voices. However a good understanding of what the correct orchestration sounds like, so easily obtained by listening to recordings, reveals sounds and voices in the texture of the accompaniment that often just cant be seen from reading the printed accompaniment in the vocal score. It makes for a much better organ accompaniment if you try to bring out the solo orchestral voices wherever possible even if using pure organ tones. One must never forget that you are still playing an organ, and need to make it sound effective, rather than getting carried away with the idea of trying to sound like an orchestra.

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Indeed, Neil - much sound advice, here.

 

Although I would suggest that there is nothing particularly wrong with the Swell Hautboy (at Gloucester) as a soft solo reed - it is at least under expression and there are two 8p flutes which are soft enough to use as an accompanilment.

 

What did you use for a harp?

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Its difficult to use the swell oboe as a soft solo reed during choral accomaniment at Gloucester because its within the only enclosed division. If you wanted to use it for the french horn motif at the end of The Spirit of the Lord, for example, you'd want to accompany it on enclosed strings - just not possible.

 

Re. the harp, I did say its not wise to try to replicate every orchestral colour, although it would be quite fun at Hereford to find an appropriate use for the glockenspiel.

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  • 1 year later...
Guest Psalm 78 v.67

A church at which I play regularly has a toaster with 6 generals on 6 channels, no divisionals, and a spec of Gt 16 8 8 4 4 2 1.1/3 III 8 Sw 8 8 8 4 2 II (sesq) III 16 8 4 Ped 16 8 8 4 16 4

 

How would YOU set them up for service playing? I have my own schemes, but would be interested to know what others would do.

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To pick up on an old item above in this thread:-

 

I agree, VH - I was watching (and listening to) a DVD of King's [College, Cambridge] earlier to-day. [...snip...] Even on this later recording (1996), the organ is irritatingly bright.

 

Mind you, it makes a change from the sound of it on the Christmas Eve 18h BBC2 broadcast, where it usually sounds as if all the clavier 16p flues are stuck on. Incidentally, why do 'they' always reserve the 32p Ophicleide for the last chord - I cannot recall it ever being used for anything longer. If it is that big, perhaps Stephen Cleobury should consider re-voicing it....

 

Indeed, it is that big. And I have heard it said that the 32' Double Ophicleide was even more devastating in the 50s, and what we hear today is a tamed version of its original incarnation...

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However, any reasonably 'faithful' realisation of this is also dependent on the instrument on which it is performed.

 

I know I'm responding to a very old thread, but it has just woken up again...

 

I recently conducted "Spirit" in St. Davids (I've still not got a satisfactory explanation for why there is no apostrophe) with 9 singers, and David Coram playing - http://www.adriantaylor.co.uk/lauda/st_dav...sday/spirit.mp3 - I think he makes a *very* good job of it...

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A church at which I play regularly has a toaster with 6 generals on 6 channels, no divisionals, and a spec of Gt 16 8 8 4 4 2 1.1/3 III 8 Sw 8 8 8 4 2 II (sesq) III 16 8 4 Ped 16 8 8 4 16 4

 

How would YOU set them up for service playing? I have my own schemes, but would be interested to know what others would do.

 

Rather depends on the size of the building, what you're accompanying, what the tonal qualities are, etc.

 

But, if it were me, I'd probably have one piston for full organ, one for basic hymn registration (then hand register) so that you can hit it in a hurry, maybe one for swell strings, ped 16, solo flute on great, then various for solo registrations, e.g. swell oboe + acc.

 

So, mostly hand register, but have generals for the more complex but common stop changes so that you can easily get to a solo stop + acc.

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