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Guest Vox Humana 8'

Something which can be a pain is the standard type of piston where you can get your shirt cuffs caught on them while playing on the manual above - I notice our hosts put in cylindrical pistons on the organ at St. Peter's, St. Alban's, so this is not a problem.

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Something which can be a pain is the standard type of piston where you can get your shirt cuffs caught on them while playing on the manual above - I notice our hosts put in cylindrical pistons on the organ at St. Peter's, St. Alban's, so this is not a problem.

 

I have never managed to do this - although I dislike the square pistons at Gloucester (for example). Catching a corner under a thumbnail is a little painful.

 

Do you have particularly long shirt cuffs? I am not sure how this would be possible; unless one were to play as far as possible towards the visible back-ends of the keys.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Continentals seem rather less enamoured with pistons than we Brits. For instance the British versions of Johannus organs have pistons to each manual plus toe pistons whereas the continental version only have around 8 generals. That has become my biggest (only?) peeve with my own 3-decker, as I hadn't appreciated how limited that can be, and how often I might want to change one manual's registration without affecting the rest of the organ.

 

There again, I only have 40-odd stops to contend with.

 

Yesterday, attending a service in a cathedral in Switzerland, I got chatting with the organist after the service who calmly said "take it away - there's the Off switch after you've had enough"...and went home. Four hours later...

 

But the five-manual beast in question, with well over 100 stops had just 12 generals, under the Positif, and a sequencer. OK, so there were thirty levels of memory, but most were locked and I couldn't figure out how to operate the memory. Nor did any series of pistons appear to have a remotely intelligent series of combinations. Nevertheless I rompted around some of the French romantic repertoire, but couldn't help but wish for a more comprehensive series of pistons. Its redeeming feature was that at least it had a general crescendo. Anyway, I certainly can't complain about the instrument - it's not every day one gets to spend half a day with such an amazing creature!

 

Incidentally, an unrelated question, and probably for another thread - why build a 5 manual organ with 120-odd stops, down to 32' on the Great and 64' on the pedals, with mechanical action and a mobile console in the nave? Nothing wrong with 5-manual organs, but it seems the mechanical console a few hundred feet up level with the triforium arches is hardly ever used. And my experience of Birmngham and Manchester halls has been that the mechanical action consoles there are seemingly never used either. Why go to the engineering trouble, cost and design restrictions of a massive mechanical action organ only to then only ever use the obligatory mobile console?

 

Contrabombarde

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The Continentals seem rather less enamoured with pistons than we Brits. For instance the British versions of Johannus organs have pistons to each manual plus toe pistons whereas the continental version only have around 8 generals. That has become my biggest (only?) peeve with my own 3-decker, as I hadn't appreciated how limited that can be, and how often I might want to change one manual's registration without affecting the rest of the organ.

 

There again, I only have 40-odd stops to contend with.

 

Yesterday, attending a service in a cathedral in Switzerland, I got chatting with the organist after the service who calmly said "take it away - there's the Off switch after you've had enough"...and went home. Four hours later...

 

But the five-manual beast in question, with well over 100 stops had just 12 generals, under the Positif, and a sequencer. OK, so there were thirty levels of memory, but most were locked and I couldn't figure out how to operate the memory. Nor did any series of pistons appear to have a remotely intelligent series of combinations. Nevertheless I rompted around some of the French romantic repertoire, but couldn't help but wish for a more comprehensive series of pistons. Its redeeming feature was that at least it had a general crescendo. Anyway, I certainly can't complain about the instrument - it's not every day one gets to spend half a day with such an amazing creature!

 

Incidentally, an unrelated question, and probably for another thread - why build a 5 manual organ with 120-odd stops, down to 32' on the Great and 64' on the pedals, with mechanical action and a mobile console in the nave? Nothing wrong with 5-manual organs, but it seems the mechanical console a few hundred feet up level with the triforium arches is hardly ever used. And my experience of Birmngham and Manchester halls has been that the mechanical action consoles there are seemingly never used either. Why go to the engineering trouble, cost and design restrictions of a massive mechanical action organ only to then only ever use the obligatory mobile console?

 

Contrabombarde

 

It didn't happen to come from the other side of the Atlantic by any chance did it?

 

AJJ

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It didn't happen to come from the other side of the Atlantic by any chance did it?

 

AJJ

 

I've been rumbled...yep, it was the 2003 Fisk in Lausanne Cathedral. Ear-shatteringly loud from the mobile console halfway down the nave, so maybe it's as well I wasn't up in the organ loft. I wonder if Health and Safety have made earplugs obligatory for organists up in the loft directly under the chamades?

 

Seriously, it's got to be easily the loudest organ I've ever played. And as nobody was objecting, and indeed I had quite a crowd of japanese tourists surrounding me at one point, I thought I'd get my money's worth out of the Guillmant sonata in particular. Apologiies if I disturbed you, at ful pelt you could probably hear it from the UK! Still, you only live once (twice?) and one's gotta have a bit of fun now and again. Beats flying Concorde, that's for sure;-) I can see another thread coming along here...

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Incidentally, an unrelated question, and probably for another thread - why build a 5 manual organ with 120-odd stops, down to 32' on the Great and 64' on the pedals, with mechanical action and a mobile console in the nave? Nothing wrong with 5-manual organs, but it seems the mechanical console a few hundred feet up level with the triforium arches is hardly ever used. And my experience of Birmngham and Manchester halls has been that the mechanical action consoles there are seemingly never used either. Why go to the engineering trouble, cost and design restrictions of a massive mechanical action organ only to then only ever use the obligatory mobile console?

 

Contrabombarde

 

My guess: because the neo-baroque movement has 'taught' us to do so.

 

Well, Schoenstein doesn't care obviously; may I invite you to listen to their new organ in the Laura Turner hall at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville?

Click the audio player here.

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Guest Psalm 78 v.67
I've been rumbled...yep, it was the 2003 Fisk in Lausanne Cathedral. Ear-shatteringly loud from the mobile console halfway down the nave, so maybe it's as well I wasn't up in the organ loft. I wonder if Health and Safety have made earplugs obligatory for organists up in the loft directly under the chamades?

 

Seriously, it's got to be easily the loudest organ I've ever played. And as nobody was objecting, and indeed I had quite a crowd of japanese tourists surrounding me at one point, I thought I'd get my money's worth out of the Guillmant sonata in particular. Apologiies if I disturbed you, at ful pelt you could probably hear it from the UK! Still, you only live once (twice?) and one's gotta have a bit of fun now and again. Beats flying Concorde, that's for sure;-) I can see another thread coming along here...

 

You could play chamade duets with pcnd! :blink:

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You could play chamade duets with pcnd! :blink:

 

Har! Har!

 

(Or, since yesterday was 'National Talk Like a Pirate Day', Arrrrrrrr....)

 

Actually, I did manage to frighten an entire congregation a couple of weeks ago. There was a baptism during the Mass and I played the party down to the font at the west end with a suitably fileuse-like doodle (on 8p and 4p flutes), but ended with a Cochereau-esque trick: I pressed my tutti piston for the last two or three chords.....

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I recently conducted "Spirit" in St. Davids (I've still not got a satisfactory explanation for why there is no apostrophe) ...

http://www.adriantaylor.co.uk/lauda/st_dav...sday/spirit.mp3[/url] - I think he makes a *very* good job of it...

 

The standard text on the cathedral by Jones and Freeman has an apostrophy "The History and Antiquities of St David’s by W B Jones & E A Freeman ( 1856)" so it must be a result of a 20th centuary slide in standards; perpetuated in many places including the cathedral web site..... :blink: ...

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The standard text on the cathedral by Jones and Freeman has an apostrophy "The History and Antiquities of St David’s by W B Jones & E A Freeman ( 1856)" so it must be a result of a 20th centuary slide in standards; perpetuated in many places including the cathedral web site..... :blink: ...

 

But does it also have an apostrophe....?

:lol:

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But does it also have an apostrophe....?

B)

Well! :lol: Apart from the History and Antiquities of St David's, throughout the book the town is described as St David's - you can quickly verify this yourself if you look in the copy in your book case. :P

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Well! :lol: Apart from the History and Antiquities of St David's, throughout the book the town is described as St David's - you can quickly verify this yourself if you look in the copy in your book case. B)

 

 

You misunderstand him. His point was you said

'apostrophy' [which, if it exists might perhaps be something along the lines of atrophy]

rather than

'apostrophe'! [which sometimes does duty as the legendary greengrocers' comma!]

 

 

Actually, I think these little bits of humour are quite a feature of this virtual clan.

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Much as I regret it, it seems to have become perfectly normal these days to omit the apostrophe from place names and street names. As cynic points out the species seems to have forsaken its customary habit in favour of the more verdant environment of greengrocers' shop windows. I blame global warming.

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You misunderstand him. His point was you said

'apostrophy' [which, if it exists might perhaps be something along the lines of atrophy]

rather than

'apostrophe'! [which sometimes does duty as the legendary greengrocers' comma!]

Actually, I think these little bits of humour are quite a feature of this virtual clan.

 

Absolutely, Paul! .... And meant in good humour, too!!

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The standard text on the cathedral by Jones and Freeman has an apostrophy "The History and Antiquities of St David's by W B Jones & E A Freeman ( 1856)" so it must be a result of a 20th centuary slide in standards; perpetuated in many places including the cathedral web site..... :lol: ...

 

Doesn't necessarily mean that it's right though - it may be a case of a few Victorian gentlemen deciding that the correct grammatical form was an apostrophe, so sticking one in.

 

90% of the cathedral printed matter does not have an apostrophe, but the sign on the way back into the city from the north has one, the south doesn't, and nor does the eastern approach. Confusing!

 

Conducting uphill was an interesting experience too!

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Doesn't necessarily mean that it's right though - it may be a case of a few Victorian gentlemen deciding that the correct grammatical form was an apostrophe, so sticking one in.

 

However, this could be said to apply to other rules of English grammar* - which is not necessarily correct, either.

 

Whilst we are on the subject of pistons (well, we were, at one stage), what are the views of board members regarding sequencers?

 

When I played for Evensong at Salisbury a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that the organ had acquired a new piston system, together with a sequencer. This is controlled by a large, ugly black metal panel, which now disfigures the right-hand stop jamb. It would have been less obtrusive if the stop-jambs had been left with their ebonised finish, which had been originally applied by Willis in 1934.

 

I did not bother with the sequencer, so I cannot even say whether it is a simple 'stepper' (which simply advances through the general pistons, a channel at a time) or the more expensive version, with 'edit', 'insert' and 'delete' facilites.

 

Personally, I should have preferred a well-stocked mini-bar.

 

 

 

* For example, split infinitives - or hyphens.

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I don't trust steppers and sequencers. You have to remember every single press. Forget one and you're stuffed. Also they occasionally suffer from Alzheimer's. I have know performances grind to a halt due to this. I rather envy people who do have the courage to use them. I'm sure they are very useful 99.9% of the time and no doubt enable you to play all those Victorian orchestral arrangements with far more colour and variety than the arrangers ever dared envisage, but the remaining 0.1% would be sure to fall to my lot. If I need a lot of registrations I'd much rather use multiple channels.

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However, this could be said to apply to other rules of English grammar* - which is not necessarily correct, either.

 

Whilst we are on the subject of pistons (well, we were, at one stage), what are the views of board members regarding sequencers?

 

When I played for Evensong at Salisbury a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that the organ had acquired a new piston system, together with a sequencer. This is controlled by a large, ugly black metal panel, which now disfigures the right-hand stop jamb. It would have been less obtrusive if the stop-jambs had been left with their ebonised finish, which had been originally applied by Willis in 1934*.

 

I did not bother with the sequencer, so I cannot even say whether it is a simple 'stepper' (which simply advances through the general pistons, a channel at a time) or the more expensive version, with 'edit', 'insert' and 'delete' facilites.

 

Personally, I should have preferred a well-stocked mini-bar.

* For example, split infinitives - or hyphens.

 

 

* Are you sure? I first played this organ in the 60s before anyone but Willis III had rebuilt it. I don't remember the panels being ebonised then. This would have been Willis III's usual style, but there were several departures from this, no doubt at Walter Alcock's request. Again from memory (the last time I played there was in the 80s) aren't the couplers on a panel and not below the music desk?

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* Are you sure? I first played this organ in the 60s before anyone but Willis III had rebuilt it. I don't remember the panels being ebonised then. This would have been Willis III's usual style, but there were several departures from this, no doubt at Walter Alcock's request. Again from memory (the last time I played there was in the 80s) aren't the couplers on a panel and not below the music desk?

 

Yes, the couplers are indeed on the jambs, as at Truro. However, over the years, the console has lost all of the ebonised finish, the most recent example being the key cheeks and slips, which were so treated during the most recent work.

 

There is a photograph in The Organ at around the time of the 1934 rebuild. It shows the console at ground level in an aisle (presumably before it was hoisted into position). Alcock is seated at the console, but turned to face the camera. I am virtually certain that the stop-jambs were ebonised at this point. However, I do not have a copy of this particular issue; I shall ask a colleague to look at a slightly more sociable time (it is now only 07h38).

 

Certainly, Harrisons made new stop-jambs (and a music desk) in 1978 when they restored the organ. They also restored the Pedal Mixture to one stop of four ranks; it had been divided in 1969, presumably in order to isolate the tierce rank. At this time, the Pedal Ophicleide and Clarion were moved from the south to the north case and re-sited in the space formerly occupied by the original console of 1876.

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Yes, the couplers are indeed on the jambs, as at Truro. However, over the years, the console has lost all of the ebonised finish, the most recent example being the key cheeks and slips, which were so treated during the most recent work.

 

There is a photograph in The Organ at around the time of the 1934 rebuild. It shows the console at ground level in an aisle (presumably before it was hoisted into position). Alcock is seated at the console, but turned to face the camera. I am virtually certain that the stop-jambs were ebonised at this point. However, I do not have a copy of this particular issue; I shall ask a colleague to look at a slightly more sociable time (it is now only 07h38).

 

Certainly, Harrisons made new stop-jambs (and a music desk) in 1978 when they restored the organ. They also restored the Pedal Mixture to one stop of four ranks; it had been divided in 1969, presumably in order to isolate the tierce rank. At this time, the Pedal Ophicleide and Clarion were moved from the south to the north case and re-sited in the space formerly occupied by the original console of 1876.

 

 

You're right and my memory is wrong. I have located an article from 1934 in The Rotunda, and HW3 describes the console and the panels were originally ebonised. Mind you, in the same article the Pedal Mixture is given as 12.15.19.22 i.e no Tierce.

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You're right and my memory is wrong. I have located an article from 1934 in The Rotunda, and HW3 describes the console and the panels were originally ebonised. Mind you, in the same article the Pedal Mixture is given as 12.15.19.22 i.e no Tierce.

 

Paul, you are indeed correct regarding the Pedal Mixture. I was mistaken. I think that I had in my mind the G.O. Mixture (which is 15-17-19-22); this is probably how I managed to give the Pedal Mixture a tierce.

 

I must try to locate the picture of Alcock at the console - I believe that he had his hands on the keys, but had his head and upper body turned to face the camera. I remember wondering how anyone could have been expected to believe that he was playing the organ in this position - it simply looked lame. There are a number of similarly daft photographs of various famous organists, with hands resting limply on the keys - and often with no stops drawn. There was even an occasion during an episode of a programme produced by Howard Goodall, in which Ian Tracey was shown (in close-up) playing the organ of Saint George's Hall, Liverpool. A torrent of exciting organ sounds issued from the speakers of my television - which surprised me, since the wind was clearly switched off.

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There are a number of similarly daft photographs of various famous organists, with hands resting limply on the keys - and often with no stops drawn.
Having been caught in such a position myself, I am quite sure it is mostly due to the photographer requesting such a pose. The answer is of course to have sufficient assertiveness not to do meekly as one is told. At least I did have the wit to draw some stops.
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Having been caught in such a position myself, I am quite sure it is mostly due to the photographer requesting such a pose. The answer is of course to have sufficient assertiveness not to do meekly as one is told. At least I did have the wit to draw some stops.

 

... but did you remember to switch on the wind, Vox?!!

 

B)

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Paul, you are indeed correct regarding the Pedal Mixture. I was mistaken. I think that I had in my mind the G.O. Mixture (which is 15-17-19-22); this is probably how I managed to give the Pedal Mixture a tierce.

 

I must try to locate the picture of Alcock at the console - I believe that he had his hands on the keys, but had his head and upper body turned to face the camera. I remember wondering how anyone could have been expected to believe that he was playing the organ in this position - it simply looked lame. There are a number of similarly daft photographs of various famous organists, with hands resting limply on the keys - and often with no stops drawn. There was even an occasion during an episode of a programme produced by Howard Goodall, in which Ian Tracey was shown (in close-up) playing the organ of Saint George's Hall, Liverpool. A torrent of exciting organ sounds issued from the speakers of my television - which surprised me, since the wind was clearly switched off.

 

 

The photograph you remember may be the one also given in The Rotunda article which I found this morning. There is another reason why this photo looked 'staged' - that console wasn't remotely playable at the time. It is pictured on the floor of the South Aisle not up in the gallery where it should be! It appears that the famous photo we've all seen was taken for (Willis) publicity purposes immediately upon the console's arrival in the cathedral.

 

P.S. Along with reporters who seem unable to avoid serious cliches every time they write stories about organs ('pulling out all the stops' etc.) photographers seem to go to enormous lengths to use consoles in totally unrealistic ways. I seem to remember a photograph of Carlo Curley (either at The Albert Hall or Blenheim Palace) where the photographer had to be standing inside the organ and shoving his lens through where the (missing) music desk should be. Mind you, these shots can be creative in useful ways too. The guy who took quarter of an hour of my practice at York Minster last year on behalf of the Yorkshire Post managed to take his snaps from such a clever angle that he not only loses the precious top manual of the organ, but also makes me look ten years younger and several stones lighter. Never say that a camera never lies!

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