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Adding Digital Stops To Existing Instrument..


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Guest Cynic
I accompanied choral evensong in Brecon Cathedral on Saturday. Since my previous visit several new, digital stops have been added by Phoenix Organs. I believe the only addition to the manual divisions is a 4' flute on the Positive. Several new pedal voices have been provided, I think including Violone 16', Open Wood 16', Double Open Wood 32' and a 32' reed.

 

The 4' flute is stunningly good. I don't think anyone would realise this was a digital voice. The Violone is also quite wonderful - and very useful. The other pedal stops are a bit heavy and bring with them a lot of rattle. This may be partly due to vibrations from the furniture around them. They may also not be in correct balance at the moment because the speakers for the pedal stops are behind the high altar (as there was no room for them in the case) and the rest of the organ is currently wrapped up in thick plastic sheeting.

 

All in all, despite my previous doubts about the values of hybrids, this has been very well done.

 

 

Following on from the above comments, I gave a recital at Brecon in March before the polythene sheeting went up. I agree with Neil's opinion - some of the new stops are ideal, others are set quite a bit too strong. For me, the imitation 32' Bourdon was about the strength I would expect an Open Wood (if it were to prove generally useful), the power of the 32' 'Wood' was (for me) seriously too much, indeed I don't think I felt able to use it even once in my recital. The Bombarde 32' similarly was effective for final cadences but not a lot more.

 

Seeing how easy it would be to provide a volume control for all these 'ranks' at the console, I'm not at all sure why this has not been done.

 

If these sort additions are going to appear more often (and I see no terribly good reason why they shouldn't - they do less harm to the rest of an organ than usual additions!) both pitch and volume need to be adjustable by the player. To the level of skilled engineers who carry out such an installation, incorporaing a remote adjustment facility shouldn't be any challenge at all and barely any cost either. If one is anxious not to spoil a console, such things can always be hidden below waist level.

 

Mind you, I think an official maximum volume should be set (along the lines of a speed governor on heavy good vehicles) somewhere firmly out of reach, in case some damn fool with delusions decides to over-step good taste and go for broke when he, she or it 'plays'.

 

Not connected with the above comment in any way, it is true to say that The Very Revd. John Davies (Dean of Brecon) plays the organ, and I believe that he is slightly hard of hearing.

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Following on from the above comments, I gave a recital at Brecon in March before the polythene sheeting went up. I agree with Neil's opinion - some of the new stops are ideal, others are set quite a bit too strong. For me, the imitation 32' Bourdon was about the strength I would expect an Open Wood (if it were to prove generally useful), the power of the 32' 'Wood' was (for me) seriously too much, indeed I don't think I felt able to use it even once in my recital. The Bombarde 32' similarly was effective for final cadences but not a lot more.

That's very interesting because I found the softer 32' flue to be very gentle and ideal for the odd verse in the psalms. Perhaps its been turned down a bit.

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That's very interesting because I found the softer 32' flue to be very gentle and ideal for the odd verse in the psalms. Perhaps its been turned down a bit.

 

Personally, I think that it is a shame that this organ has been messed-around with (to the extent of adding digital effects). I had the pleasure of playing it some years ago, before the previous additions. I thought that it was a fine, if small, cathedral organ. It now has a particularly fine chamade stop, so I understand.

 

I do wonder how well adding an odd flute here and there (well, on the Positive, at any rate) will work. Surely there would be issues regarding the tuning? Not all of these can be solved by a rotary pitch selector, even with a fine-tining function.

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Guest Cynic
Personally, I think that it is a shame that this organ has been messed-around with (to the extent of adding digital effects). I had the pleasure of playing it some years ago, before the previous additions. I thought that it was a fine, if small, cathedral organ. It now has a particularly fine chamade stop, so I understand.

 

I do wonder how well adding an odd flute here and there (well, on the Positive, at any rate) will work. Surely there would be issues regarding the tuning? Not all of these can be solved by a rotary pitch selector, even with a fine-tining function.

 

 

I agree absolutely. The Chamade is superb!

 

I was extremely suspicious of the solitary electronic 4' flute incorporated into an otherwise all-pipe division, but in practice I did find it useful. I wouldn't choose it in preference to other 4' flutes (there's a Lieblich Gedackt 4' on the Great and an Open Flute 4' on the Swell) but since there isn't one on the choir and no Choir Octave coupler to provide one from the Stopped Diapason, there is plenty of reason for this addition.

 

The main problem with the Brecon Cathedral organ has long been the serious lack of space within the chamber. This explains the borrowing of the Pedal Bourdon up onto the Great, the small quantity of Diapason bass pipes, the Choir Clarinet being sited in the swellbox and one or two other things being extended rather than independent. I am quite sure that if there had been space for a 'proper' 4' Flute in the Choir this would have been done.

 

I have always enjoyed playing this instrument, which is far better balanced than most cathedral organs. For many years David Gedge lived with a smaller version and the additions made in the last ten years or so have been his reward for staying the course! Of these, the Chamade is (literally) outstanding. His son used to be a chorister at St.John's Cambridge and when funds were eventually found, DG asked Daniels for a similar stop to the 50's HN&B one there. Actually, I think they've got a better one!

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Guest Cynic
Being reminded of the delightful David Gedge, I do not recall any feed-back on his condition after the stroke.

 

MM

 

 

He has made near-enough a complete recovery; he was certainly able to resume most of his duties after Christmas and I think went out with a (mini-)bang since his retirement became effective at the end of Easter Day! Holy Week has always been a real marathon at Brecon with concerts or special services most days and I don't think that this year's programme was very much less than usual.

 

David and Hazel have now gone to live in Hazel's ancestral home, Kidwelly on the S.Wales coast. A great man, indeed a great couple!

 

Mark Duthie (presently Sub at Peterborough) has been appointed to succeed David and he is to take up his post in September.

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He has made near-enough a complete recovery; he was certainly able to resume most of his duties after Christmas and I think went out with a (mini-)bang since his retirement became effective at the end of Easter Day! Holy Week has always been a real marathon at Brecon with concerts or special services most days and I don't think that this year's programme was very much less than usual.

 

David and Hazel have now gone to live in Hazel's ancestral home, Kidwelly on the S.Wales coast. A great man, indeed a great couple!

 

Mark Duthie (presently Sub at Peterborough) has been appointed to succeed David and he is to take up his post in September.

 

 

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

 

Thank you for the information Paul.

 

It's strange really, but I've only met David three times, and Hazel just the once, but some people are so utterly decent and charming, one hates to think of them in any sort of distress.

 

MM

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