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Pedal-board Dimensions


Mark Taylor

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... But when you talk about the comparisons of sound quality, I have played the latest and greatest by Wyvern, Copeman Hart, Makin, etc. While many have left me impressed (I ended up quite enjoying the tempory Makin in Sherborne Abbey), I have yet to hear an electronic which can match the quality of sound or flutes from say, Romsey Abbey or St Mary Redcliffe. ...

 

 

I had to play a concert on the temporary Makin in Sherborne Abbey - and thought that it was execrable. Makin clearly have made no advance on the tonal side since Christchurch Priory!

 

The console was also badly-designed and had a deeply-unattractive thick lump of wood below the music-desk.

 

;)

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... I've also recent experience of having played the 'real' organs in the cathedrals of Hereford, Worcester, Gloucester, Birmingham, Exeter, Wells, the abbeys of Bath, Tewkesbury and Romsey, major churches including St. Mary Redcliffe and St. Mary's Warwick.

 

All opinions are of course subjective, but I must re-iterate that to my ears our new Wyvern Phoenix organ at St. Mary's Charlton Kings is easily the best recital instrument in Cheltenham. The flutes are unsurpassed in the town. The reeds are commanding. Few of the cathedral and abbey organs I've listed above could match the flutes on this instrument. ...

 

 

As you say, all opinions are of course subjective; however, I have also played most of the cathedral and abbey organs which you mention (and many others besides) and, I am sorry, Neil, but this just stretches the willing suspension of my disbelief way too much....

 

Exeter and Gloucester alone (two cathedral orans which I know well) are infinitely superior in all tonal respects to any electronic which I have either played or heard. But that, of course, is just my opinion....

 

;)

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In which case, we might just as well all sell our homes, cars and other trappings of Western society and donate all the money to the poor and starving.

 

....

 

Personally, if the old organ really was beyond redemption, I would have actively investigated the possibility of salvaging a worthy redundant organ.

 

....

 

One further point. Whilst I have played on several pipe organs with awkward or nasty consoles, it seems to me that electronic substitutes (even quite expesive examples) have uniformly 'plastic' consoles - often encased in cheap veneer.

Well I've certainly provoked some reaction with my comments re. poverty. I'm not saying its morally wrong for anyone to invest in a new pipe organ, but I do think there will be many PCC's up and down the country that would take this view. Its probably easier to convince a PCC to restore an existing instrument, using the argument that we're custodians and have a duty to hand things on in good condition, than it would be to convince them to spend half a million on a new one.

 

In the case of my church, as I've mentioned elsewhere, the building dates from the 13th century and was not designed to house an organ. Even if we had limitless funds its hard to see where a pipe organ could successfully be positioned, this problem applies equally to a rehoused redundant organ. This was largely why the 3M Hill was removed in 1966 - it was buried in a transept (the only place it could possibly be), swamped the choir but gave little support to the congregation in the nave. Had I been the Director of Music in 1966 I'm sure I would have fought tooth & nail to retain the pipe organ whatever its perceived shortcomings.

 

Toaster consoles can be rather plastic, the Allen consoles are unsatisfactory in many ways - really not suited to british tastes. However in the custom-build end of the market most builders use industry-standard components - such as Kimber-Allen drawstops for example, and this criticism would be unfair. Copeman-Hart rightly take great pride in their drawstop consoles which are more solidly built and more comfortable to play than a great many pipe-organ consoles.

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On the flip side of the success at Cheltenham, if you want to hear a few truly awful, fairly modern, digital Wyvern installations, I know a few good places.

Well thats fair enough, but pipe organ builders don't always get it right either. Does anyone think the West End organ in St. Mary's Warwick is anything better than horrible? Many of the organs in small churches here in the South West suggest that the only good thing to come out of Taunton is cider.

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Colin H is the one to talk to about this, having convinced the PCC of a fairly small rural church to commission a new 2m Harrison, being erected as I speak. In many cases, even using very conservative estimations of longevity a new pipe organ can make better financial sense than a toaster, quite apart from the considerations of recruiting future organists, hiring out of buildings for teaching/exams/practicing/concerts and all the many other questions. Often, it would seem to come down to whether the ego can cope without a battery of 32' reeds and fifty-rank mixtures and other toys that come easily with electronics. There are so many really fine redundant organs being broken up or put into storage, there's no sensible excuse.

 

On the subject of pedalboards though - not just dimensions, but positioning is a common problem. On one of the crematorium instruments I play, it's set much too far back and a semitone too far to the left. Also, the pedals are made of wood-effect plastic, and make horrible creaking and clicking noises in playing. I'm no stranger to wacky Victorian consoles but this 1 year old Allen is the only instrument that leaves me with prolonged backache after only an hour or so of playing.

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There are so many really fine redundant organs being broken up or put into storage, there's no sensible excuse.

 

And yet many Parish churches get rid of pipe organs in favour electronic. They seem to be taken by the fact that once installed, there is little servicing (tuning etc) required so little money outlay for many years. ;)

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And yet many Parish churches get rid of pipe organs in favour electronic.  They seem to be taken by the fact that once installed, there is little servicing (tuning etc) required so little money outlay for many years.   B)

 

I suspect that in a number of cases, they are quickly disabused of this notion.

 

The Makin at Christchurch Priory required regular work throughout its life - if the church had been paying, the cost would have been comparable to that of maintaining a fine pipe organ. In the event, part of the original installation deal which Geoffrey Tristram negotiated included a permanent free maintenance clause....

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Well thats fair enough, but pipe organ builders don't always get it right either. Does anyone think the West End organ in St. Mary's Warwick is anything better than horrible? Many of the organs in small churches here in the South West suggest that the only good thing to come out of Taunton is cider.

 

Now here we agree, Neil!

 

I have played it but once - and once was enough.

 

I also thought that the console was the most outrageously tacky and unwieldly object since Allen started importing toasters to the UK....

 

B)

 

The best pipe organ console? For me, nothing beats the H&H at Coventry Cathedral (if you do not mind that it smells like a Jersey cow).

 

However, Nôtre-Dame de Paris does look quite sexy....

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I had to play a concert on the temporary Makin in Sherborne Abbey - and thought that it was execrable. Makin clearly have made no advance on the tonal side since Christchurch Priory!

 

The console was also badly-designed and had a deeply-unattractive thick lump of wood below the music-desk.

 

B)

 

I can't help commenting that for some reason every organ I sit down to play has a deeeply-unattractive thick lump opposite the music desk. So, frankly, pcnd, count your blessings!

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I had to play a concert on the temporary Makin in Sherborne Abbey - and thought that it was execrable. Makin clearly have made no advance on the tonal side since Christchurch Priory!

 

The console was also badly-designed and had a deeply-unattractive thick lump of wood below the music-desk.

 

B)

The Copeman Hart I had to play in Sheffield Cathedral is much, much worse. And that's a much more long-term installation.

 

I know what you mean about the console - I dislike plastic, shiny keys; the toe pistons were too closely bunched together and very stiff and I remember the couplers were laid out in a rather mad way. To cap matters, some clot had managed to pull off the stop head off the Great to Pedal coupler at a concert a few nights before.

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The Makin at Christchurch Priory required regular work throughout its life - if the church had been paying, the cost would have been comparable to that of maintaining a fine pipe organ. In the event, part of the original installation deal which Geoffrey Tristram negotiated included a permanent free maintenance clause....

 

At my mother in laws church, their electronic has performed for over ten years without missing a note. It stays in tune no matter how hot or cold the church gets. It is far larger in terms of specification than the old organ chamber could ever allow a pipe organ to be. I know it’s a shame to see a pipe organ go from a church, but I can also see the attraction of an electronic. B)

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At my mother in laws church, their electronic has performed for over ten years without missing a note.  It stays in tune no matter how hot or cold the church gets.  It is far larger in terms of specification than the old organ chamber could ever allow a pipe organ to be.  I know it’s a shame to see a pipe organ go from a church, but I can also see the attraction of an electronic.   B)

 

So is this specification in keeping with the size of the church and the type of music sung there - or does it have two or three 32p stops, several clavier divisions and a battery of en chamade transistors - sorry, electric trumpets?

 

I can but think that they are very lucky - I know of several installations which needed regular maintenance.

 

In the case of a certain preparatory school at which I used to teach, there stood in the chapel (a converted Nissen hut) a two-clavier Copeman Hart. Ernest Hart was often called-in to repair or tweak something. However, this was a double-edged matter, since before tackling the beast he always took samples from the school wine cellar - which usually meant that the result of his tinkerings was not always an improvement but was often a surprise....

 

B)

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So is this specification in keeping with the size of the church and the type of music sung there - or does it have two or three 32p stops, several clavier divisions and a battery of en chamade transistors - sorry, electric trumpets?

 

It’s very much in keeping with the size of the building and the music done. The church never had a good size chamber and there is only so much you can (or should) shoe horn in to a small space.

 

Interestingly, St Mary’s in Ewell have a fine 3 manual Willis (only two or three stops smaller than Truro) that is far too big for the building. It sounds superb but it really is too big.

 

B)

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It’s very much in keeping with the size of the building and the music done.  The church never had a good size chamber and there is only so much you can (or should) shoe horn in to a small space.

 

A fair point - but personally, I would still choose a pipe organ every time.

 

Interestingly, St Mary’s in Ewell have a fine 3 manual Willis (only two or three stops smaller than Truro) that is far too big for the building.  It sounds superb but it really is too big.

 

B)

 

Arguably, Truro is also too loud (if not too big) for the building - full organ is more than adequate and even with the cathedral full of methodists singing lustily, the organ clearly dominated - without all of the big reeds or the Tuba.

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The church never had a good size chamber and there is only so much you can (or should) shoe horn in to a small space.

 

Yes, absolutely. A good reason for going down the electronic simulation route.

 

I will reply at some stage about how we justify expenditure on such frivolities like new pipe organs when there is massive 3rd world debt, AIDs, starvation, poverty, etc. It was something that got raised in PCC and APCM meetings when initiating our organ project. However, as organist, I didn't really have to justify the argument - that's what I have a (very intelligent and lucid) vicar for.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I dislike plastic, shiny keys;

 

 

 

Hear, hear! (Said with real feeling).

 

There are now a lot of these about - and not by any means just on electronic organ-substitutes. I don't know about other readers, but I believe that a bone or ivory surface is so much more comfortable/secure to play upon than any kind of plastic that I would be prepared to forgo something else on a scheme - a few memories, or a rank of pipes in order to have the real thing.

 

I think (but am not sure) that ivory absorbs the natural moisture that can be around in nervous playing conditions - I'm trying to phrase this gently.

For very obvious reasons, plastic doesn't. One skids.

I hasten to add, I don't think my hands perspire any more than anyone else's.

 

I'm trying to remember an example of some high-profile plastic keys - are there some at St.David's on the brand new four-manual H&H console there? I think there are!

I am open to correction, I have been wrong many times before.

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I'm trying to remember an example of some high-profile plastic keys - are there some at St.David's on the brand new four-manual H&H console there? I think there are!

I am open to correction, I have been wrong many times before.

 

You could well be correct, Paul. I am also suspicious of the statement by Mark Venning in which he maintained that they had enough spare drawstops to skim and re-engrave for the new console. I suspect that H&H actually had some ivory stock left - no doubt legal, before the rules changed. However, I would be surprised if they had enough to manufacture four new claviers....

 

Leicester Cathedral had some dreadful HN&B keyboards (sorry, Frank). I wonder if H&H replaced them in the recent restoration?

 

On the other hand, I heard that the new claviers at St. John's College, Cambridge had become worn very quickly and required early remedial work. As far as I know, the naturals were covered in bone. Does anyone know whether this wears less well than ivory? In addition, how well does a bone key-surface cope with sweat?

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Hear, hear! (Said with real feeling).

 

There are now a lot of these about - and not by any means just on electronic organ-substitutes.  I don't know about other readers, but I believe that a bone or ivory surface is so much more comfortable/secure to play upon than any kind of plastic that I would be prepared to forgo something else on a scheme - a few memories, or a rank of pipes in order to have the real thing.

 

I think (but am not sure) that ivory absorbs the natural moisture that can be around in nervous playing conditions - I'm trying to phrase this gently.

For very obvious reasons, plastic doesn't. One skids. 

I hasten to add, I don't think my hands perspire any more than anyone else's.

 

I'm trying to remember an example of some high-profile plastic keys - are there some at St.David's on the brand new four-manual H&H console there? I think there are!

I am open to correction, I have been wrong many times before.

 

How about this 4 manual console as an example of no-expense spared! No plasitc in sight!

 

http://www.willis-organs.com/news01.html

 

JJK

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Yes, absolutely. A good reason for going down the electronic simulation route.

 

I will reply at some stage about how we justify expenditure on such frivolities like new pipe organs when there is massive 3rd world debt, AIDs, starvation, poverty, etc. It was something that got raised in PCC and APCM meetings when initiating our organ project. However, as organist, I didn't really have to justify the argument - that's what I have a (very intelligent and lucid) vicar for.

 

Apologies - I had to prepare music last night for the choir but ended up spending an inordinate amount of time just looking at the new arrival taking shape in our church. Not a shiny, plastic key in sight - all bone and ebony...

 

Anyway, the 3rd world question really dissappeared when we realised that the money we were going to raise for the organ was otherwise simply not going to be raised for any other cause, like solving 3rd world debt, etc. It was just going to sit in people's pockets unrealised. At the same time, we realised that we were already a very generous church, giving to many causes both in terms of money and our time and skills and it wasn't really reasonable or practical to ask ourselves to do more.

 

It's not just generous sums of money we donate - we are also very blessed to have an exceptional couple in our church, a pair of doctors, who work for much of the year in 3rd world countries, giving their time and skills in hospitals and surgeries. Remarkable people, who have my admiration and respect. I believe they have recently been in Afganistan.

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Leicester Cathedral had some dreadful HN&B keyboards (sorry, Frank). I wonder if H&H replaced them in the recent restoration?

 

- - - - - - - - - - -

 

It is easy to talk about beautiful ivories when you were not liable to be prosecuted for using them to cover keys.

 

At one time I used to get Spike Milligan, who could be very rude and not in the least amusing, on the phone blasting off about ivory covered keys. Likewise many churches also needed confirmation that we would not be using ivory.

 

What happened in the piano industry? There never seemed to be the outcry from pianists that organists managed to come up with.

 

FF

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You could well be correct, Paul. I am also suspicious of the statement by Mark Venning in which he maintained that they had enough spare drawstops to skim and re-engrave for the new console. I suspect that H&H actually had some ivory stock left - no doubt legal, before the rules changed. However, I would be surprised if they had enough to manufacture four new claviers....

 

Leicester Cathedral had some dreadful HN&B keyboards (sorry, Frank). I wonder if H&H replaced them in the recent restoration?

 

On the other hand, I heard that the new claviers at St. John's College, Cambridge had become worn very quickly and required early remedial work. As far as I know, the naturals were covered in bone. Does anyone know whether this wears less well than ivory? In addition, how well does a bone key-surface cope with sweat?

Bone is much harder wearing than ivory and doesn't discolour with age and lack of air/ sunlight like ivory does. Bone copes fine with sweat - not as good as ivory but much better than plastic - it is slightly porous.

 

Surprised St. John's has worn so quickly - I wonder why?

 

MV is a most honourable and modest man. I'm sure if he said he had sufficient ivory and stop heads for the console at St Davids he meant it. I noted he's not exactly short of grey matter up top and would foresee it would be counter productive if he tried to fob a major Cathedral contract with artificial substitute.

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MV is a most honourable and modest man. I'm sure if he said he had sufficient ivory and stop heads for the console at St Davids he meant it. I noted he's not exactly short of grey matter up top and would foresee it would be counter productive if he tried to fob a major Cathedral contract with artificial substitute.

 

I am sure he is, although I have met him only once.

 

I did not for a moment accuse him of passing off Ivorine or Ivothene, etc as ivory - rather that H&H must have had a legal store of ivory left-over, from which they were able to supply the several new draw-stops for St. David's Cathedral.

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... It is easy to talk about beautiful ivories when you were not liable to be prosecuted for using them to cover keys. ...

 

FF

 

Indeed, but I had thought that the claviers at Leicester were supplied years before the ban came into effect. Obviously I am mistaken.

 

Having said that, H&H replaced the keyboards with bone and ivory keys in 2003, apparently without the threat of legal action.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N04497

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