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Adlington Hall Temperament

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Anyone know how the Adlington Hall organ is tuned? I ask because I've just bought a CD of it with loads of period pieces and it sounds great!

Regards,

Oliver Horn

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The tuning at Adlington Hall is actually one that I had to devise myself. In 1959 when my father restored the organ there was little interest in unequal temperaments so it was tuned to equal temperament. I visited the organ in the mid 70s and it occurred to me that it might benefit for being tuned to an unequal temperament and managed to persuade the then owner of Adlington Hall (Charles Legh) to allow me to do this. He (and the rest of the family) was a little concerned that the organ did not get tuned to a temperament which would severely restrict what could be played on the organ. Their words were "We don't want to restrict the organ to the sort of dusty old music which Suzi Jeans plays." Clearly, straight quarter comma meantone was not going to be acceptable, so I tried to work out something which would have the flavour of the time, but still be acceptable to the owners. I gave considerable thought to this and ultimately devised a temperament which starts as more or less pure quarter comma meantone for the key of C major, but progresses from there to give an almost closed system with an acceptable wolf fifth. It is a little difficult to describe in a piece such as this, but I will attempt to do so. I will put below the progression round the circle of 5ths and if you then transfer that to a piece of paper and make it a circle, it will probably make sense. The fractions refer to a fraction of a comma and the minus sign means the 5th is narrow of pure; a plus that it is wide of pure; 0 is pure (in the usual fashion). In a straight line it looks like this:

 

C -1/4 G -1/4 D -1/4 A -1/4 E -1/4 B -1/6 F# -1/5 C# -1/6 G# +2/3 Eb 0 Bb 0 F 0 C

 

I have to admit that there is absolutely no precedent for this historically, so it is not authentic in any shape or form, but I do believe that it enhanced the music for which the organ is most suited. This is of course a fascinating instrument in all respects. It has been written about on a number of occasions, but I don't think I have seen anything in print since the article in the BIOS Journal number 10 of 1986. In that I attempted to draw together some of the pieces of the jigsaw. Whilst doing the re-tuning, I had quite a good look at the pipework and scaling all of which is described in the article in some detail. I believe that I established that the embryonic pedal board was in fact original to the instrument (I believe to be 1693 going by the coat of arms above the instrument) but it was probably never completed and made with a paucity of hard information as to how a pedal board should be made. Even more interesting was a chalk drawing I found on the inside of one of the case panels which gave me the strong impression that the organ was made from bits of an existing instrument, the drawing serving to give the carpenters who made the gallery at the same time an idea as to what was wanted, but significantly different from the way it finished up. Details of that are in the BIOS article as well.

 

John Pike Mander

 

PS. Which recording were you listening to?

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I am happy to read something about this important matter.

 

According to several sources, il seems Henry Willis (the first) still used a mean-tone (or unequal) temperament for his instruments up to at least 1850. Which one was it, if we still know?

 

Would it be interesting to use such kind of temperament in a modern romantic organ?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Unfortunately, this is all somewhat shrouded in mystery. We don't (as far as I know) have any record of which temperament Father Willis might have used. Old organs we have investigated all seemed to lead to either quarter or sixth comma meantone temperaments. Thomas Young devised a temperament in 1800 very similar to that of Vallotti's of about 1730, but we have no record of Young's ever being used. My hunch (and it is only a hunch) is that some form of meantone temperament was used in England up till the time that equal temperament was used and if that is the case, it would not be particularly useful for romantic organs, although we have used Vallotti and Kellner for a couple of instruments with romantic leanings. The jury is very much out as to whether that works. Some people think it does and others don't.

 

John Pike Mander

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The CD is 'The Organ at Adlington Hall played by Alan Cuckston'. It is a 'home made' ie non-label production on CDr but with good colour booklet and printed CD and is as good a presentation as you could want. I bought it off eBay from user ID 'foxgloveaudio'. It is well played and recorded. Maybe this seller has more copies, try e-mailing him. Music is mainly from 1550-1780 and seems to suit this instrument well. Hope this all helps,

Regards,

Oliver Horn

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I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Adlington Hall organ sits on a gallery supported by two oak trees which pre-date the Hall and still have their roots in the ground. Does anyone know if this is true, and if so, whether this arrangement is unique to Adlington?

 

Jeremy Jones

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Absolutely true and as far as I know unique. The hall at Adlington Hall in which the organ stands was originally a hunting lodge with a small flush gallery at one end between the oak trees. The gallery was extended forwards and a new front was made at the same time the organ was installed. The oak trees were even carved (and of course still are).

 

John Pike Mander

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Guest Roffensis

There are other recordings of this organ also, one was on Cappriccio, long deleted but it turns up on ebay or Amazon. I have a copy........Bate did some pieces on it which are still available on the Regis label. I personally love it, it is such a character. While everyone else is going on about Tubas and 32 foot reeds and the 32 flue they must have, even if electronic, this organ is just a breath of fresh air, as well as reminding us where we have all come from. I recently picked a Cd of Knole House, another ancient gem, I love old instruments. In Liverpool we have a old Bewsher and Fleetwood job of about 1830, 3 decker, with a very forward looking spec. Hand blown still, but not in a good way really. There are also a couple of very early Gray and Davison jobs here, still original. Such organs are just wonderful to my ears. Just right for William Walond voluntaries! The tuning question is also fascinating, I love unequal temperament, it gives such colour to keys (!), and of course there are radical differences between them, unlike equal where everything is just that....equal. Pity about Adlingtons tuning, but it seems you have got a good compromise there John. Long live Adlington! Other fascinating jobs I know are at Rotherhithe, Framlingham, and there is even an old Snetzler in Liverpool Museum. An old Wren, and an old Green or two in Manchester!!! I could play on such gems all day.

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I have bulldozed many instruments, large and small, 1850's and much later, into some form of unequal temperament (usually Thomas Young's, as described by Charles Padgham) with never less than startling results and absolutely no loss of functionality:

 

1) The difference in tone is clearly discernable to the layman and manifests itself with greater clarity and travel, greater perceived volume, and much less shrillness

 

2) Extended mutations are generally more useable

 

3) Tierce mixtures (and, to a lesser degree, quint mixtures) are INFINITELY more pleasant to listen to (hearing the difference, one could never go back again - and one can understand why someone with such taste as J.C. Bishop went around ripping out Cornets and Sesquialteras when equal temperament started to spread)

 

4) It is far easier to tune

 

Repertoire-wise -

 

5) Most things, if not everything, works fine if you've chosen the tuning well. Howells in particular often works better - look at the Psalm-Preludes - like any composer (especially Bach), Howells builds tension by introducing unexpected harmonies, so the temperament serves to amplify the effect that is already in the music. These are generally resolved onto "pure" chords where, again, the lack of beats will amplify the sensation. Sometimes, it may be necessary to miss out some notes to avoid too close proximity of slightly unhappy 5ths on the final chord.

 

Viz - end of Bach Orgelbuchlein "O Mensch, bewein dein wotsit oojimmy" - those notes are there for a purpose and the tension created by the tuning is paramount. Listening, slowly, to these last two bars in a good unequal temperament will change your life, and dissolving all that tension and discord into the radiantly sunny slopes of the pure final chord will make you a disciple. (This is why there is no dominant in the final chord; because it would have burred just a little bit, he left it out. Brilliant.) Then, play the second movement of Trio Sonata I and tell me what's different about the rising dominant 7ths and semitone clashes. Finally, if you will, play the C major prelude from the 48 and - guess what? - yep, same thing again, each time with an awesome resolution into a pure key. If one more person tells me Bach invented equal temperament, I shall most likely punch him in the hooter.

 

If you're still not convinced, go for Piece Heroique and listen for the right hand F#-G-F# in about bar 4 (or 8 - can't remember the time signature), the staccato pedal bit in the middle where the potentially contentious notes are on a different stop, and the big chords at the end. It all works.

 

 

So, as you may have gathered, I am something of a fan of unequal temperaments as long as they are carefully and thoughtfully chosen because:

 

a) they improve the sound of all mutations and mixtures

:P the vast majority of repertoire sounds better, and all of it can be played

c) equal temperament has been around for by far the minority of the organ's lifetime, and created the startling difference in tone that directly led people to build instruments with nothing above 4' pitch

 

Keep equal temperament on the piano if you must (even though mine is currently Werckmeister III) but let's all go out under cover of darkness and retune every organ in the land. Please!!!!

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Well,

 

Did you ever hear a Walcker or a Link Tierce mixture -with aequal temperament?- Maybe to "run trough the land to re-tune all" would deserve some tought in the first place. This said, I myself would be quite interested to try slightly unequal temperaments in new romantic organs; Father Willis used them, Samuel- Sebastian Wesley advocated them. I agree it would be interesting to hear Howells with this kind of temperament, and the same may be said for Tournemire.

But -like the neo-baroque organs- please leave the remaining romantic organs alone with their aequal temperament...

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Well, obviously, yes.

 

In many cases though, especially in the UK, "romantic" organs tend to be once-classical organs but had all the fractions, mixtures and upperwork castrated or removed altogether because of the shock to the shenshibilities that was brought about by equal temperament.

 

In this restorative environment there is often a case for changing temperament and then opening the upperwork up a bit to see what it can do - none of which, you will note, spoils the "romantic" 8' and 4' sounds.

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Well, obviously, yes.

 

In many cases though, especially in the UK, "romantic" organs tend to be once-classical organs but had all the fractions, mixtures and upperwork castrated or removed altogether because of the shock to the shenshibilities that was brought about by equal temperament. 

 

In this restorative environment there is often a case for changing temperament and then opening the upperwork up a bit to see what it can do - none of which, you will note, spoils the "romantic" 8' and 4' sounds.

 

Here there might be a danger -the temperament wasn't the reason-. The move towards "gravity" commenced about 1750, far before the aequal temperament was widespread. In romantic organs, you need romantic mixtures. "opening the upperwork a bit", that has been done in Belgium since WWII. The result with romantic foundation stops is invariably a catastrophe. Finally, the....Romantic foundations were removed! Moreover, the roles of mixtures are different in romantic organs. A glimpse in the "Tierce mixtures" thread might be interesting.

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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I am really pleased to find this discussion which was by pure accident.

I was he who made this recording which was quite a while ago now. Just after the introduction of digital recorders.

It was made using a sony F1/701 recorder on to Betamax video cassettes, two AKG414 large diaphragm condensor microphones with no EQ. compression or other tweaks.

Editing was a bit difficult, but I discovered that, transferred to U-Matic video tape, it could be cut using a two machine video editing suite withoput leaving the digital domain.

Alan Cuckston and I made another recording of a "Father Smith" organ at Auckland Castle, home of the Bishop of Durham. This being maintained by Harrison of Durham, which is another interesting instrument. I can remember being in trouble there for parking my car in "the Bishop's private parts". That's what the sign said anyway. The sign was later removed.

Both of these were originally released as a cassette, but I later transferred the Beta tapes on to computer, and now still in their digital form can be run off as CDr as and when required.

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can be run off as CDr as and when required.

 

Yes please!!!

 

How can we purchase a CD from you?

 

Alan Taylor

London

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On 12/05/2005 at 15:22, deadsheepstew said:

I have bulldozed many instruments, large and small, 1850's and much later, into some form of unequal temperament (usually Thomas Young's, as described by Charles Padgham) with never less than startling results and absolutely no loss of functionality:

1) The difference in tone is clearly discernable to the layman and manifests itself with greater clarity and travel, greater perceived volume, and much less shrillness

2) Extended mutations are generally more useable

3) Tierce mixtures (and, to a lesser degree, quint mixtures) are INFINITELY more pleasant to listen to (hearing the difference, one could never go back again - and one can understand why someone with such taste as J.C. Bishop went around ripping out Cornets and Sesquialteras when equal temperament started to spread)

4) It is far easier to tune

Repertoire-wise -

5) Most things, if not everything, works fine if you've chosen the tuning well. Howells in particular often works better - look at the Psalm-Preludes - like any composer (especially Bach), Howells builds tension by introducing unexpected harmonies, so the temperament serves to amplify the effect that is already in the music. These are generally resolved onto "pure" chords where, again, the lack of beats will amplify the sensation. Sometimes, it may be necessary to miss out some notes to avoid too close proximity of slightly unhappy 5ths on the final chord.

Viz - end of Bach Orgelbuchlein "O Mensch, bewein dein wotsit oojimmy" - those notes are there for a purpose and the tension created by the tuning is paramount. Listening, slowly, to these last two bars in a good unequal temperament will change your life, and dissolving all that tension and discord into the radiantly sunny slopes of the pure final chord will make you a disciple. (This is why there is no dominant in the final chord; because it would have burred just a little bit, he left it out. Brilliant.) Then, play the second movement of Trio Sonata I and tell me what's different about the rising dominant 7ths and semitone clashes. Finally, if you will, play the C major prelude from the 48 and - guess what? - yep, same thing again, each time with an awesome resolution into a pure key. If one more person tells me Bach invented equal temperament, I shall most likely punch him in the hooter.

If you're still not convinced, go for Piece Heroique and listen for the right hand F#-G-F# in about bar 4 (or 8 - can't remember the time signature), the staccato pedal bit in the middle where the potentially contentious notes are on a different stop, and the big chords at the end. It all works.

So, as you may have gathered, I am something of a fan of unequal temperaments as long as they are carefully and thoughtfully chosen because:

a) they improve the sound of all mutations and mixtures

:P the vast majority of repertoire sounds better, and all of it can be played

c) equal temperament has been around for by far the minority of the organ's lifetime, and created the startling difference in tone that directly led people to build instruments with nothing above 4' pitch

Keep equal temperament on the piano if you must (even though mine is currently Werckmeister III) but let's all go out under cover of darkness and retune every organ in the land. Please!!!!

I was searching for the BIOS issue which first covered Padgham's tests with unequal temperaments and this thread popped up.  If anyone's summed up the reasons for putting temperament on the agenda more generally in musical considerations, pianos as well as organs, member here deadsheepstew summed it all up very succinctly.

If I come across as a little bit enthusiastic about temperament, even stark raving nuts of course, it's because classical music and instruments needs an impetus of new inspiration, and boring equal temperament and sticking to it is simply not engaging people emotionally.  When heard through the lens of other tunings music we think to be familiar can take on a new light.

Best wishes

David P

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