Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Fairfield Hall


parsfan
 Share

Recommended Posts

Never hear much abt this organ these days. Does it still feauture in lunchtime recitals?

 

What is the verdict on this organ's significance?

 

I must admit that, generally, I regard the FH as the most cheerless and charmless of venues. I went to a concert once and music was being played over the hall's PA system before the concert !!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Never hear much abt this organ these days. Does it still feauture in lunchtime recitals?

 

What is the verdict on this organ's significance?

 

I must admit that, generally, I regard the FH as the most cheerless and charmless of venues. I went to a concert once and music was being played over the hall's PA system before the concert !!

 

The FH organ certainly features in lunchtime concerts - Crispian Steele-Perkins and Ian le Grice are playing there on 12th September, and Colin Walsh is giving a lunchtime recital on 24th October. The future of the FH (and much of the surrounding area) is unclear, as redevelopment plans are afoot - see http://www.croydon.gov.uk/business/esdu/re...oject/fairfield

 

It would seem from this that the organ would have to be dismantled and removed - to be reinstalled at a later date? I wonder...........

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Barry Williams
The FH organ certainly features in lunchtime concerts - Crispian Steele-Perkins and Ian le Grice are playing there on 12th September, and Colin Walsh is giving a lunchtime recital on 24th October. The future of the FH (and much of the surrounding area) is unclear, as redevelopment plans are afoot - see http://www.croydon.gov.uk/business/esdu/re...oject/fairfield 

 

It would seem from this that the organ would have to be dismantled and removed - to be reinstalled at a later date? I wonder...........

 

 

 

 

The organ in the Fairfield Hall is indeed a sad example of its time. Although the installation of solid state switiching has helped, the design of having each manual with several sound boards of just five or six stops prevents unanimous attack. The scaling and voicing is as inappropriate as is the location in the hall. The Great mixture appears to break to nothing higher than 2' at middle C, causing many recitalists to couple the Great to other manuals for what should be uncoupled chorus work. There are many opther design defects, some of which are especially evident when accompanying soloists - the Choir Organ drowns them and the Swell Organ is too distant. All in all, it is not good.

 

I learned that Mr Downes had no hearing at all in one ear and only a very limited aural range in the other. Whilst this did not stop him being a superb recitalist, one wonders if he heard organs as other hear them. (I think there is reference to this in recently published letters between Henry Willis III and a gentlemen in America.)

 

In the nineteen seventies there was a series of organ recitals at the Fairfield Hall with programmes that were, often, unfortunate. Several recitalists in succession played the Bach Passacaglia and Fugue, apparently unaware of what had been included in previous programmes. Then one recitalist played all three Franck Chorales, in numerical order, as the entire second half of the programme. These regrettable programmes seemed to kill the organ recital as a part of the main concert series, though no doubt there were other factors.

 

Sir George Thalben-Ball thought the design of the organ a lost opportunity. This is a massive understatement and it cost the ratepayers a lot of money.

 

More recently there was a very entertaining 'battle of the organs' with Carlo Curley and Geoffrey Morgan. It is a matter of huge regret that the pipeless instrument won hands down. There really was no competition and given the make of the pipeless machine, it is especially upsetting to have to admit it.

 

Barry Williams

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I learned that Mr Downes had no hearing at all in one ear and only a very limited aural range in the other.  Whilst this did not stop him being a superb recitalist, one wonders if he heard organs as other hear them.  (I think there is reference to this in recently published letters between Henry Willis III and a gentlemen in America.)

 

Barry Williams

 

Interesting - I did not know this. Do you know how you discovered this piece of information, please? It would also be helpful to learn at what point in his life his hearing was affected.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Barry Williams
Interesting - I did not know this. Do you know how you discovered this piece of information, please? It would also be helpful to learn at what point in his life his hearing was affected.

 

 

I heard this from several eminent recitalists who knew Mr Downes personally and from an organ voicer who worked with him. It was later confirmed in a book, I think by Charles Callaghan, from letters between Henry Willis III amd someone in America, but I cannot be sure about this as I only saw the book in someone else's house. The facts seem not to be in dispute and were certainly common knowledge in the organ building trade in the 1960s

 

As far as I can recall the deafness on one side was from birth, but there are several eminent church musicians with the same defect. The more worrying aspect is the lack of range of hearing in the good ear. It may not have affected his judgement, but many people seemed to think that it did. There was no trace of difficulty in his playing which was, until the end of his public career, very fine. He had a remarkable memory for complex music and could play much of the repertoire without a score.

 

Barry Williams

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I heard this from several eminent recitalists who knew Mr Downes personally and from an organ voicer who worked with him.  It was later confirmed in a book, I think by Charles Callaghan, from letters between Henry Willis III amd someone in America, but I cannot be sure about this as I only saw the book in someone else's house.  The facts seem not to be in dispute and were certainly common knowledge in the organ building trade in the 1960s

 

As far as I can recall the deafness on one side was from birth, but there are several eminent church musicians with the same defect.  The more worrying aspect is the lack of range of hearing in the good ear.  It may not have affected his judgement, but many people seemed to think that it did.  There was no trace of difficulty in his playing which was, until the end of his public career, very fine.  He had a remarkable memory for complex music and could play much of the repertoire without a score.

 

Barry Williams

 

Thank you, Barry - this is most illuminating.

 

Apropos your final sentence: apparently it is also well-documented that Downes, whils being a superbly musical player, was not the most accurate of executants. I cannot speak of his ability to memorise scores.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Thank you, Barry - this is most illuminating.

 

Apropos your final sentence: apparently it is also well-documented that Downes, whils being a superbly musical player, was not the most accurate of executants. I cannot speak of his ability to memorise scores.

 

 

I think this is unkind and fairly wide of the mark. Amphion have just re-released some Downes recordings all together on one CD, following the inclusion of a few Downes tracks on a previous sampler CD. Not easy to improve on these!

 

What we are used to these days is often playing that has been tidied up by mechanical means. You could even say that the great Germani made mistakes on his recordings and thus reason from that that he was not the greatest player of his day - of course, we know the truth! At the time Germani, Downes etc. made their recordings virtually everything was without edit and if a performance 'hung together' [musically] it went out without shame because that was the priority.

 

I realise that everyone now expects to hear everything accurately played so we all work very hard to get as near to this ideal as we can... however, it is all too common for the vital sweep and excitement of a real performance to be adversely affected by this no.1 target of '100% clean'. I won't repeat what I have written here before on this subject.

 

Downes was one of my lecturers at College and he was wonderful about the music, knowledge of the repertoire and his search for authentic sounds to draw on. His weakest area by far was that his knowledge of organ-building was so second-hand and 'ad hoc' that his poor voicers had to continually re-invent the wheel in order to satify his aural and ideological requirements. Whatever criticism I may have on this level, I still believe he was a very strong force for good.

 

If anyone reading this has not yet purchased a copy of Downes' book

'Baroque Tricks' they absolutely must. Most of it is enlightening and some of it is (unintentionally) hillarious to anyone who actually knows about the insides of organs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was not a personal observation, Paul.

 

I cannot now recall where I read it. In any case,. it was not levelled at recordings which he had made, but at his live performances.

 

Arguably, it is no more unkind then some of your own comments regarding improvisation - particularly when you seem to be happy to pass judgement without first hearing the evidence. (Or at least accepting the word of a professional musician whom you can trust.)

 

:wub:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...