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Adding Digital Stops To Existing Instrument..

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Well that's something I ought to have checked. (But at least I got it right that there was a Pavillion there somewhere ... (hehe)) Thanks pcnd5584

 

Regards

Malcolm F

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All this nonsense about 32' effects is simply organist ego talk. Where we have a substantial building with room and provision for 32's then let them be real. But in most parish church situations the provision of 32' digital stops in existing pipe schemes just serves to perpetuate this 'it must sound/be like a Cathedral myth'.

 

This is EXACTLY the sensibilities Digital pedlars play with- how many adverts do we see where Copeman Hart, Rodgers, Allens et al play on our fantasies to have 'cathedral effects'?

 

The only digital organ ever to 'pop my cork' was the Copeman Hart installed in Southwell Cathedral which I played for two hours in 1994. I actually liked it BETTER than the Nave organ which I found a little bit of a bitzer- although to be fair I should like to hear it in service work.

 

Why can't a parish church organ BE a parish church organ. When I want a 32' for the last chord of (for example) Thalben-Ball's 'Elegy' I draw my Open Wood 16. In our totally dry acoustic that works remarkably well. In Wellington Cathedral a 32 flue rank was installed constructed from a stopped 16 wood. The result is most ineffective in certain notes due to the organ chamber and the problem of standing waves.

 

Keep digitals where they belong- in the home/music room!

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I fully agree, Michael.

 

A parish church does not need a cathedral organ. What is lost in "grandeur" can be gained in delicacy and refinment. An experiment can be led at home; let a superb HI-FI chain be installed in a little room. That mighty 32' may well be perfectly heard....by the neighbourgs in their bigger living-room, and not at all by yourself.

So what.....Have a 32' for the birds outside?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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In reply to Michael Cox - I agree with regard to the digital stops, but I presume that you have never heard the Roger Yates re-build (1950s) of the organ in Kilkhampton Parish Church, North Cornwall. It has quite the best stopped Subbass 32' I have ever heard. Down to low G it is a continuation of the Subbass 16', belolw this, it is quinted on itself, but a fourth below the fundamental. Even the low notes are very effective.

 

Kilkhampton church is not particularly large. It consists of a nave with north and south aisles, with a rood screen separating the easternmost bays. Having played this organ many times, I would not part with the 32' octave. It is an excellent example of how effective a stopped 16' can be. The church has almost no resonance and the stop is not either on the front or the back of the organ, but placed in the middle.

 

With stops such as this, there is no need to resort to toasters (sorry, electronic organs - or parts of them...) But additionally, with stops like this, I cannot se any reason why a parish church should not install one, if it seems appropriate! :P

 

Incidentally, the Pedal Organ at KIlkhampton also has a real French Bombarde - this is most exciting in the church. It is probably fair to state that the organ is partly so good due to the excellent voicing and workmanship of Roger Yates.

 

Whilst one does not wish to encourage some of the excesses which have been perpetrated by organists with delusions of grandeur, it is also refreshing to see schemes such as Kilkhampton, which are just a little bit different, but work extremely well in the buildings for which they were designed.

 

There is also a village in the wilds of Dorset - Marnhull. This has an organ re-built by a chap called Tim Trenchard. He has done a super job. He added a Trombone/Trumpet rank on electric action, with the Trombone on the pedals and the Trumpet available on both manuals. At first sight (and from the console) it appears as if the new rank is vastly out of scale with the rest of the organ. But in practice, it has made a really dull organ very exciting. In the nave, the new stops do not swamp the rest of the organ, and can be used on a normal Sunday, without inducing apoplexy in those of a more advanced age... :rolleyes:

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Having moved again, and settled myself into my new home, I've joined a local church which has an ageing electronic instrument. It's on its last legs, and the clergy and organist are thinking of replacing it. With a pipe organ? No. With an up-to-date digital instrument.

 

While there appears to be ample room for a "parish-sized" pipe organ (that is, one without cathedral pretentions), the matter is ultimately one of practicality and cost. You see, we are now in Perth, Western Australia. We have just finished a summer with temperatures often well over 30C and sometimes over 40C - a baking heat with very little humidity - and are now moving towards winter, which we can expect to be much, much cooler, and during which most of our annual rain will fall. Apart from the problem of financing a pipe organ at the outset, I am told that maintenance and tuning costs would be more than the parish would want to afford. And the "ample room" is of course on the (both real and ecclesiastical) north side, which is of course most directly effected by the sun in our southern summers.

 

So, notwithstanding "roffensis'" comments that a venue that houses an electronic instrument ceases in his estimation to be a building (see the quote at the top of this page 2), I will have to content myself with listening to, and perhaps an occasional foray on, an ageing electronic instrument and the new digital one (when it arrives). That is, unless I can find a way of doing something about the weather, instead of just talking about it ...

 

Regards

Malcolm F

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Few people seem inclined to describe the advantages of good electronic stops but these are numerous! I can see good argument against electronic 32' 'foundation stops' in buildings which are not large enough to accept the larger pipe work or to allow the sounds to propagate (a speaker enclosure or baffle to create these frequencies must also be fairly substantial in size). I'm not sure however that this argument extends to reeds, where the greater harmonic content allows more leeway (?) Further, the point that a building may be large enough to hold the lowest pipe but not the rest of the rank, makes the argument about these sounds being 'out of place' rather spurious.

 

With regard to Southwell instruments, by far the least satisfying aspect of the electronic ranks (on the triforium organ) is the illuminated jamb-side switches; they sound well in the nave and provide a musical and useful addition to the specification.

 

In a previous post, the idea of switchable voicing was impugned, but who doesn't sometimes wish their organ was better suited to Buxtehude or to Dubois, or whatever the voluntary is? That stops can be so easily altered and that their equipment can be used to produce a range of diffent timbre of reeds, flutes, diapasons is an advantage over actual pipework.

I also believe that the electronic pedal stops of Blackburn Cathedral's main organ change volume with the general crescendo (?)

 

As we are considering the use of electronics to augment proper pipe instruments, shouldn't we embrace this and suggest ways of making this technology as good as possible, rather than objecting to not using pipes, after all, I've played some pretty bad 'real instruments' too!

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PCNDs references to Kilkhampton were interesting - Roger Yates had some ideas well ahead of his time - the organ is a gem. Incidentally the 32' dates from work done by T C Lewis in 1892, the Bombarde having been added by Yates in 1962 (see NPOR). (The Pedal mixture there has two ranks but apparently was originally to have contained a tierce as well.) Most of the energy behind Yates' work came from the then Rector, Rev. Ronald Watts - an organist himself who I was lucky to be able to interview at some length during the mid 1980s while preparing an article on Yates for Organists' Review. Last time I played the organ it was showing signs of its age but since then I believe work has been done to return it to good order.

There is also an interesting Father Willis organ in Kilkhampton Methodist Church - 3 manuals with only 7 speaking stops yet a model of planning. It was apparently built for W H Monk (composer of hymn tunes) in 1867. (See again NPOR)

AJJ

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Indeed!

 

In fact, on the old console at Kilkhampton Parish Church (retained on the west front of the case) the stop knob for the 32' Subbass actually has the date '1892' engraved on it.

 

I did play the Willis in the Methodist Church once, for a concert. It is indeed a good small instrument, with sone fine sounds. Quite the smallest three-manual I have ever played, though.

 

Ron Watts was indeed quite a good organist. Unofrtunately, he also considered himself an ecclesiastical artist of sorts, as a glance at the monuments around the inside of the church will show. Apparently one day, whilst in a fervour of inspiration he went into the church armed with pots of 'Dulux' in various hues and set about applying colour to the formerly monochrome tablets. Now, there are cherubs with bright pink faces, vivid greens and reds, to say nothing of blues.

 

Fortunately, he exercised somewhat better taste with regard to the organ, and was the (sole?) driving force behind the re-building of the instrument.

 

The pedal mixture (labelled 'Rauschquint') is indeed of two ranks (12, 15). I believe that it is derived from other ranks. Certainly, having been inside the organ on numerous occasions, there is no pipework which appears to belong to this mixture. Lance Foy, who currently looks after the organ tells me that the wiring for the Pedal derivations is something of a nightmare. I got the distinct impression that he hoped it never malfunctioned....

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Yes, I understand that this is the case at Blackburn.

 

I still feel that it is missing the point. There may well be some tuning problems (which can, I expect, be overcome with adjustable tuning to electronic ranks).

 

For me, it boils down to the fact that it feels like 'cheating'. Where do you stop? Oh, a couple of 32' pedal ranks. Perhaps a tuba? Or a chamade-style effect? I must confess that I have never heard a 32' electronic 'reed' which sounded realistic throughout the compass - the upper parts seemed unpleasant. No, I know that one does not often use a genuine 32' reed alone in the upper reaces of the pedal board, but they are often extended from a 16' parent rank.

 

However good the Rodgers was at Gloucester (while the H, N&B/Downes was having a re-build) it just gave me a headache after about 30 minutes. Strangely, the electronic did not resonate or spark the superb Gloucester acoustic in the same way that the pipe organ does. Perhaps that is the point - electronics do not 'move the air'. So the sound will inevitably sound less 'alive'.

 

I still prefer a stopped 16' if a full-length 32' is cost-prohibitive, or too bulky.

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For me, it boils down to the fact that it feels like 'cheating'. Where do you stop? Oh, a couple of 32' pedal ranks. Perhaps a tuba? Or a chamade-style effect?

Indeed, where do you stop? I think that's the real question here.

 

In designing a (pure) pipe organ, or adding to one, there must necessarily be considerable discipline. The huge cost and large space required impose restraint. So too, the resonating space of the building must I think impose a limit on size - as a few have noted above, some venues simply won't bear 32' tones. On the other hand, these things - at least the first two of them, in any case - aren't nearly such overwhelming factors where electonics are concerned.

 

As I mentioned above, I've moved to a place where the church I've joined has an ageing electronic instrument, and is looking in the same direction for its replacement. While I have as yet no great experience of electronic / digital instruments, I'm concerned that there is no over-riding need for discipline. I would like to think that whoever will ultimately be responsible for the new organ will be guided by a sense of what is appropriate for the building, and not be lured into something that would be entirely inappropriate if it were a pipe organ. However, this may not be the case - not when a large American manufacturer advertises on its website instruments of up to some 80 stops (including Solo Tubas at 16', 8' and 4', and two 32' reeds on the Pedal) apparently as a standard, off-the-shelf range. (On the other hand, my impression of Copeman Hart's installations, again taken from their website (as I have no direct knowledge of them) is one of more restraint, as the instruments seem relatively modest, and and at least provide the feeling of being rather more in keeping with their homes.) But how easy it would be to justify that Tuba, or that 32' Pedal reed!

 

And here's a question: if a smallish church chooses a vast 80 stops digital, complete with 32' reeds and battery of Tubas, how are the dynamics treated? I assume the one would want - need - a Voix Céleste to sound no softer than if it were the "real thing". But surely the tutti would have to be scaled down to suit the building, so that the overall dynamic range would need to be compressed. How does this work in practice?

 

Regards

Malcolm F

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There's a range of options for dealing with this (none of them that authentic!).

 

Above general volume controls, some 'instruments' :D have 'voicing' parameters which extend at least to amplitude, per rank (and hopefully per note), which allows some control but can also create micro-tubas etc.

Manufacturers also sometimes provide a volume pedal to the Great, but not in the manner of 'enclosing' the department, as the attenuation of higher frequencies is not simulated (- scale becomes quite confused.)

Another possible option is compressor/limiter devices, which are used in Public Address and sound recording to control the dynamic range of audio signals.

 

It's all fairly unpipelike, which isn't necessarily bad (e.g. I find it fairly easy to believe that the swell-box was invented to controll volume but not brightness of sound), but with our organ expectations, I guess the point is that these 'flight simulators' are ok for practice, but if you must have an electronic for preformance, go for custom-built Copeman Hart, Phoenix, etc.

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I think James White is being a little unfair in his comments re. swell pedals as most of the quality digital manufacturers now can tailor the effect of the swell pedal on harmonic patterns to mimmic the effect of enclosed pipes rather than just controlling the volume.

 

It is true that there is a great temptation with digital instruments to go for ridiculously large specifications. This is encouraged by the standard models offered by the most prominent US suppliers but I can't honestly see these machines appealling to many UK organists.

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I think James White is being a little unfair in his comments re. swell pedals as most of the quality digital manufacturers now can tailor the effect of the swell pedal on harmonic patterns to mimmic the effect of enclosed pipes rather than just controlling the volume.

 

Just to clarify my point here - I believe that the manufactures indeed mimic enclosure for the swell but often do not when providing a similar pedal to the Great, as this is mainly done to compensate for over large specifications and not to give the impression of another box.

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Few people seem inclined to describe the advantages of good electronic stops but these are numerous! I can see good argument against electronic 32' 'foundation stops' in buildings which are not large enough to accept the larger pipe work or to allow the sounds to propagate (a speaker enclosure or baffle to create these frequencies must also be fairly substantial in size). I'm not sure however that this argument extends to reeds, where the greater harmonic content allows more leeway (?)

 

I think we are dipping into dangerous territory here when proclaiming that any pipe organ can be complemented with digital voices and how nice it would be to have a 'Buxtehude' organ etc. This philosophy presumes a degree of ignorance of the very nature of organ history and period musical styles, recognising that for each period of organ building the instrument nutured its own distinct repertoire until the later eighteenth century when the distinctions became somewhat blurred.

 

I agree that digital organ manufacturers often make slavish claims and tempt unknowledgable churches and resident organists of (sometimes) slender professional standing into accepting an instrument extremely well resourced with digital effects but little musical integrity. Many of these instruments offer an over-sized Anglo-American model which is well beyond the requirements of many churches. They also duplicate registers and aim for a 'mass of sound'.

 

We have had a furore here in NZ very recently where a pipe organ with 1899 origins was usurped in a major Town parish church by an $85K digital instrument. Most of this organs potential lies in a rotary dial which supposedly creates a different acoustical ambience for the speaker system. The stop list has several deficiencies for such an expensive machine. There is no Cornet for example and the Choir division is less worthy than a late Victorian Choir division on your average Midlands built pipe organ! The resident organist revels in the sound of the chimes and swell strings.

 

In my opinion the subsitution of a pipe organ by a new digital organ in a parish church is sometimes a result from the dumbing down of the socio-liturgical music programme of that musical community. An abundance of worship songs, worship group bands and the abandonment of sacred choral music within the liturgy are often associated hallmarks.

 

What do others think?

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Well, that would often seem to be the case.

 

Surely, one thing to keep in mind is, as far as is possible, to try to make music with the resources at one's disposal; but, where this is not possible, to augment the pipe organ with complementary ranks within a reasonable budget. In addition, to try to enhance the instrument whilst avoiding the trap of over-inflated and inappropriate schemes and cramped sites. Oh, and - no toasters.

 

That being said, there are still situations where it is possible sensitively to enlarge a pipe organ with some modest additions which not only enhance the tonal scheme but make it more interesting to play. I am not necessarily thinking about 32' ranks, but stops which will be of real practical value (perhaps a small trumpet instead of an oboe on the Swell, or a fifteenth instead of a dulciana). See my post re-Marnhull above.

 

Anyone else know of such well-conceived (and executed) rebuilds?

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The digital stops at Blackburn Cathedral work very well (just 32' and 16') but of course they benefit from a very generous acoustic.

 

If you want to hear a mixed pipe/digital organ that is less than entirely satisfactory, try St Peter's, Addingham (near Ilkley). It is a small carpeted building and has the driest acoustic I have ever come across in a church. The organ is about 50% digital. The individual digital stops are (largely) very nice played singly, and it can be difficult to tell which stops are digital and which pipes. But when put together, they fails to blend into a convincing whole.

 

It is my belief that one can get away with digital stops provided:

  • There aren't too many
  • They are at the bass end only
  • The acoustics are good
  • You are lucky

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Guest Barry Oakley
... The individual digital stops are (largely) very nice played singly, and it can be difficult to tell which stops are digital and which pipes.  But when put together, they fails to blend into a convincing whole.

 

It is my belief that one can get away with digital stops provided:

  • There aren't too many
     
  • They are at the bass end only
     
  • The acoustics are good
     
  • You are lucky

 

I would not entirely agree. George Sixsmith has successfully installed digital stops on pedal and manual divisions and across all registers. He uses the Musicom system. On an instrument at Sale he enlarged an organ to four manuals, adding a Solo and also augmenting the Swell and Pedal divisions. The amalgamation of pipes and digital stops blended exceptionally well to such an extent that a very eminent cathedral organist was unable to identify the two different sound sources. It was not a case of being lucky, either.

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I completely agree with the sentiments that digital stops and digital organs as a whole are a cheap and inferior substitute for the real thing.

 

Quite apart from the sound which, to some extent must be subjective, a factor which appears not to have been considered is that a pipe organ, provided that it is well maintained, may well appreciate in value over a (long) period of time, whereas digital organs quickly deteriorate by all accounts.

 

Look at all the priceless historical organs of Europe. Can you imagine this situation pertaining for digitals in, say, a couple of hundred years?!

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Guest Barry Oakley
I completely agree with the sentiments that digital stops and digital organs as a whole are a cheap and inferior substitute for the real thing.

 

Quite apart from the sound which, to some extent must be subjective, a factor which appears not to have been considered is that a pipe organ, provided that it is well maintained, may well appreciate in value over a (long) period of time, whereas digital organs quickly deteriorate by all accounts.

 

Look at all the priceless historical organs of Europe.  Can you imagine this situation pertaining for digitals in, say, a couple of hundred years?!

 

I quite agree, but this thread is about the adding of digital to conventional stops. There is no long-term prospect for the life of a digital organ. But for a church strapped for cash £10,000 is better spent on a digital organ than investing in a drum kit anda couple of electric guitars.

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This topic shouldn't be here at all, unless we also seriously consider adding a moustache to the Mona Lisa or adding some extra columns to Stonehenge. To seriously propose mixing digital and pipes is no less a bastardisation of ideals and principles, and one which absolutely no other field of art or culture would entertain. If money NEEDS spending, then it's going to be something like action or soundboards or a simple wash and brush up. Adding stops or whole divisions is NOT a need, it's a want. Ego, ego, ego, as with so much else in this insular and confused world we inhabit...

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I do agree that anything (even a digital) is better than the 'electric guitars and drum kits', but I think that is probably a desperate attempt by the Church to attract young people rather than a musical statement.

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I do agree that anything (even a digital) is better than the 'electric guitars and drum kits', but I think that is probably a desperate attempt by the Church to attract young people rather than a musical statement.

 

Hi

 

Sorry, but no way can I agree with this sort of statement. Who said chuerch music MUST only be accompanied by the organ? What right have we to tell people that their form of worship is not acceptable?

 

Yes, there is a place for the organ in churches in the 21st century - but it is not the only valid musical instrument - and "traditional" worship (whatever that phrase means) is not the only sort of worship that's acceptable to God.

 

This is the sort of intollerant comment that's caused much of the anti-organ feeling in some churches.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Did I say that church music MUST only be accompanied by the organ? As we all know, it very often is not.

 

I am, however, allowed to express my own opinion, and stand by what I have said.

 

Although my opinion may seem intolerant to some, I fail to see how it has caused 'anti-organ feeling'. I suspect that the reduction of interest in the organ in this country is more likely to have occurred due to many factors, including television, MP3 players and even the steady increase in atheism and agnosticism over the past several decades. Surely you do not blame this latter, too, on those of us who prefer organ music to twanging guitars?

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Hi

 

Sorry, but no way can I agree with this sort of statement.  Who said chuerch music MUST only be accompanied by the organ?  What right have we to tell people that their form of worship is not acceptable?

 

Yes, there is a place for the organ in churches in the 21st century - but it is not the only valid musical instrument - and "traditional" worship (whatever that phrase means) is not the only sort of worship that's acceptable to God.

 

This is the sort of intollerant comment that's caused much of the anti-organ feeling in some churches.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

Dear Sir,

 

I did not read the comment as if it were decrying a particular type of worship.

 

However, my experience has been, sadly, quite the opposite. I have noticed extreme intolerance from those who favour the more evangelical and charismatic type of worship. I am often given the feeling that I am in a 'lower class' of worship and really, choruses are much better.

 

On a practical point, based on years of experience with many different types of worship, the organ is often the most suitable instrument with which to accompany massed voices. (Unless, of course, you can only see merit in the 'Spring Harvest' type of band, with electrically-amplified guitars and drums.)

 

Perhaps one day, we will all get to the point where we can worship in churches which stick to their own particular styles of worship, without attempting to ape that of another church - often on the pretext of 'making it more attractive to the young people'. Again, my experience has been that this pleases no-one and can occasionally achieve the opposite - and empty a church. Surely this is not glorifying to God - I think that it is dishonest. Sorry, I am probably not explaining this well - but it is 01h01 - I am tired!! :blink:

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This topic shouldn't be here at all, unless we also seriously consider adding a moustache to the Mona Lisa or adding some extra columns to Stonehenge. To seriously propose mixing digital and pipes is no less a bastardisation of ideals and principles, and one which absolutely no other field of art or culture would entertain. If money NEEDS spending, then it's going to be something like action or soundboards or a simple wash and brush up. Adding stops or whole divisions is NOT a need, it's a want. Ego, ego, ego, as with so much else in this insular and confused world we inhabit...

==========================

 

 

If the Mona Lisa had a moustache, we would all be able to share the enigmatic smile. I once saw a bearded lady in Blackpool.....

 

However, returning to organs and digital additions, it isn't just a case of ego, ego, ego.

 

Take the recent re-build at Blackburn Cathedral; an organ which has always been quite thrilling in recital, but one which is not the easiest on which to accompany. It has always lacked a little bit of gravity in the pedal. The ideal solution would have been the provision of a 32ft and 16ft Open Wood, but there simply wasn't room to install one in such a way that it could make sense. The "chambers" (shelves?) are just big enough to carry what is there, and no more.

 

The additional Walker Digital registers have circumnavigated the problem and they are invaluable in service music rather than recital music.

 

Perhaps they don't quite "move air" in the same way that Open Wood registers do, but they are certainly not out of place in the ensemble.

 

Of course, adding a whole new digital manual would be another matter, but that hasn't been done at Blackburn.

 

The core Walker instrument sounds just the way it did before, so nothing has been ruined by the addition of the digital stops.

 

Real rather than fake would have been nice, but what they now have sounds quite acceptable to my ears.

 

MM

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