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Vanity Or Practicality?


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Paul's suggestion is very practical. Extension organs can be musical and useful if carefully planned and expertly voiced.

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Agreed. I played a lovely Walker extension built in, I think, the late 60s, in Holy Trinity, Dockhead in South London which was more than capable of most of the repetoire; one recital I gave included Buxtehude, Bach (565) and the Reger Dankpsalm as well as Messiaen's Apparition.... I understand it has now been neglegted, but there is also a deligfhtful Mander 1 manual with pedals (only coupled no dedicated stops) in St Ann's, Kingston Hill. This is a small church so might be worth a look.

 

Peter

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Agreed. I played a lovely Walker extension built in, I think, the late 60s, in Holy Trinity, Dockhead in South London which was more than capable of most of the repetoire; one recital I gave included Buxtehude, Bach (565) and the Reger Dankpsalm as well as Messiaen's Apparition.... I understand it has now been neglegted,  but there is also a deligfhtful Mander 1 manual with pedals (only coupled no dedicated stops) in St Ann's, Kingston Hill. This is a small church so might be worth a look.

 

Peter

 

 

Sorry for my two ghost posts - I hit the send button accidentally. But on the Walker subject, has anybody found the double-touch canceller any use? I playwd in Llantarnam Abbry a couple of years ago with the sadly-missed Dom Alan Rees and was actually happy to discover that the canceller on the Walker organ there (same vintage) wasn't working! But there again I've never played a Walker with drawstops.

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well, you just have to look at what it's being used for... personally I wouldn't tune a large instrument in an unequal temperament unless there was a good historic reason.

 

Take the Metzler in St Mary the Virgin Oxford, for example - you can very easily play in any key, and they are differently flavoured rather than any being noticeably unpleasant.

 

I recently helped with the restoration of a 5 stop chamber organ, which was moved to the west end.  Initially I set it to equal temperament - and it sounded absolutely foul.  Really horrible.  So I changed it to something more interesting and now it sounds wonderful (for everything except Slane and Repton, where according to my tuning meter it isn't actually any worse than equal temperament...)

 

If you've got a good tuning it needn't prohibit anything being played on it, not even Anglican choral repertoire.  Accidentals are there to create an effect and if the tuning accentuates that slightly, all the better. 

 

There are some good demos at http://www.xs4all.nl/~huygensf/english/temperament.html - the harpsichord ones are better to actually hear the temperaments at work, but hearing (on the organ) the difference between Neidhardt I (a very chromatic chorale prelude from the Orgelbuchlein) in comparison with the Buxtehude in equal temperament - well, it sounds dull, flat, lifeless and dreary by comparison.  And the Bach isn't even "out of tune" - just livelier.  Good tuning, that...  If you want extreme, listen to 3rd comma on the harpsichord... if you want a poor tuning, Werckmeister III - never understood the appeal of that one...

 

anyway, sorry Adrian... have your subject back now!!!

 

I see the appeal of using all those old temperaments, but Henry Smart just wouldn't sound the in an unequal tuning, beautiful as it can be.

What also about using the organ for accompaniment? The singers wouldn't really know where they were so you'd get organ temperament and choir temperament together. If the organ's going to be used for solo work only I can see the point, (just about), but there's not much point tuning it to Coram III otherwise. As has been poined out, most people would just think it was out of tune, if they even notice.

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I see the appeal of using all those old temperaments, but Henry Smart just wouldn't sound the in an unequal tuning, beautiful as it can be.

What also about using the organ for accompaniment? The singers wouldn't really know where they were so you'd get organ temperament and choir temperament together. If the organ's going to be used for solo work only I can see the point, (just about), but there's not much point tuning it to Coram III otherwise. As has been poined out, most people would just think it was out of tune, if they even notice.

 

Last word on this before we get back to the subject.

 

Actually, "organ temperament against choir temperament" is exactly what you get at all times anyway. Only woodwind and brass are "tuned" to equal temperament and in both cases there's enough pitch flexibility for it to be irrelevant.

 

Tell a choir to sing a chord and they'll try to sing in just intonation - i.e. perfectly in tune - not anything remotely like equal temperament, with the tenors beating against the basses 53.2 times per second on an open 5th etc etc. Same goes for string players. In equal temperament, all intervals (apart from the octave) are out of tune - simple as that. A choir that sang in equal temperament wouldn't get asked back. This is probably why so much Tudor polyphony sounds glorious in performance but if you try & play it on a piano it somehow falls short.

 

You're probably right about what most people would think - but only because it's now what we're used to - for too long there has been nothing to compare it to apart from a smattering of "period" instruments. We must all get out of this habit of equating a non-equal tuning with screaming horrors and any debate about it as being the realm of the anorak. A GOOD tuning will allow perfectly free modulation into all keys and a bit of interest but won't prevent anyone doing anything in C# minor if they don't want to (and why bother writing a piece in a so-called "dark" key with lots of accidentals if you don't want to create tension in the music?) Bach understood this perfectly well - look at the first prelude from the 48 to see all the radiant and harmonious open chords, the "bad" intervals being brought in at those points where tension is required (and is immediately released into a "good" chord again).

 

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be making recordings of some really good tunings involving repetitions of the same piece in different temperaments, representing music from a wide variety of ages as well as use of solo instruments and voices. I'll stick it all on the web & then we can all have an informed shout about it. There is no earthly reason why equal temperament should rule the world - it's no more than a mathematical solution and a response to late 19th century desires for standardisation.

 

The temperament debate has always seemed to have been held in a slightly aloof, scholarly, anorakish and inaccessible way. There are still lots of prejudices to fight against but if you'll only open your eyes you will discover that better solutions do exist out there.

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Last word on this before we get back to the subject.

 

Actually, "organ temperament against choir temperament" is exactly what you get at all times anyway.  Only woodwind and brass are "tuned" to equal temperament and in both cases there's enough pitch flexibility for it to be irrelevant. 

 

Tell a choir to sing a chord and they'll try to sing in just intonation - i.e. perfectly in tune - not anything remotely like equal temperament, with the tenors beating against the basses 53.2 times per second on an open 5th etc etc.  Same goes for string players.  In equal temperament, all intervals (apart from the octave) are out of tune - simple as that.

 

You're probably right about what most people would think - but only because it's now what we're used to - for too long there has been nothing to compare it to apart from a smattering of "period" instruments.  We must all get out of this habit of equating a non-equal tuning with screaming horrors and any debate about it as being the realm of the anorak.  A GOOD tuning will allow perfectly free modulation into all keys and a bit of interest but won't prevent anyone doing anything in C# minor if they don't want to (and why bother writing a piece in a so-called "dark" key with lots of accidentals if you don't want to create tension in the music?)  Bach understood this perfectly well - look at the first prelude from the 48 to see all the radiant and harmonious open chords, the "bad" intervals being brought in at those points where tension is required (and is immediately released into a "good" chord again).

 

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be making recordings of some really good tunings involving repetitions of the same piece in different temperaments, representing music from a wide variety of ages as well as use of solo instruments and voices.  I'll stick it all on the web & then we can all have an informed shout about it.  There is no eartly reason why equal temperament should rule the world - it's no more than a mathematical solution and a response to late 19th century desires for standardisation. 

 

The temperament debate has always seemed to have been held in a slightly aloof, scholarly, anorakish and inaccessible way.  There are still lots of prejudices to fight against but if you'll only open your eyes you will discover that better solutions do exist out there.

 

 

Kimberger III...... <_<

 

R

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I find double touch cancellers absolutely invaluable. Where they exist, they are the first tab I engage - even before the Gt & Ped Combs coupled.  <_<

 

Hi

 

And I never turn the double-tocuh cancels off when I come across them - the double-touch cancel feature on stop keys or drawstops is just too useful - except on a Rushworth & Dreaper organ that I used to play, where the 2nd touch spring was just too light - and double-touch cancel was evenapplied to the couplers - no fun trying to add sw-gt for a climax and cancelling the entire great (or ending up with just the Great mixture!).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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And I never turn the double-tocuh cancels off when I come across them - the double-touch cancel feature on stop keys or drawstops is just too useful - except on a Rushworth & Dreaper organ that I used to play, where the 2nd touch spring was just too light - and double-touch cancel was evenapplied to the couplers - no fun trying to add sw-gt for a climax and cancelling the entire great (or ending up with just the Great mixture!).

 

Compton organs that are set with a setter board (as opposed to their early 'capture' system) treat the second-touch cancel as another piston, so there is an extra row of switches after the pistons for that manual.

 

This means that you can set certain stops to neutral if you wish - hugely useful for couplers, and in the case of theatre organs very useful for tremulants.

 

However, the down side is that you could - if you were daft enough - set things to come ON with the cancel! I once played a small Compton theatre organ which, at the time, belonged to someone who has quite a reputation as a theatre organist (although it wouldn't be polite to say whether that's a good or bad reputation...) and he had the Great cancel set to bring all sorts of rubbish on. When I questioned it he just said "Well it works OK like that so I'm going to leave it."

 

Now't as queer as folk as they say...

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A friend of mine runs a church that has a late 80's, disgusting sounding, over large, 3 manual Copeman Hart in it, with the most ugly speaker installation I've ever seen.

 

The church probably seats about 150, maybe even 200.

 

It's a peculiar shape building in that it's not really got any transepts - it has a very very narrow sanctuary/choir (8ft or so), and an aisle on the North side which is as wide as the nave.

 

The old pipe organ used to be in a vaulted chamber underneath the tower (arches into the choir and into the south side of the nave), but this space is now in use.

 

There isn't really any usable space in the church to put a pipe organ.

 

My question is, what would you do?

 

As I see it, the options are:

1. Build a small pipe organ, say Bourdon plus 8/9 manual stops over 2 manuals, and try to shoehorn it in somewhere.

2. Get the existing toaster modernised

3. Get a new toaster, with a small spec to suit the church, as if speccing a pipe organ for the building

4. Get a new toaster, with a larger spec.

 

Working on the basis that money's no object, I still can't decide what the "right" thing to do would be.

 

Installing a pipe organ would be a shoehorn job - I can't think of anywhere obvious to install anything more than a box/chamber organ.

 

I also can't decide whether going with a smaller spec organ, as befits the size of the building, is the right thing to do, or to go with a larger spec (digital, of course) for vanity's sake... Would the church attract the kind of Director of Music it wants (position vacant from Christmas) if the organ is "small" ?

 

Quandary...

Oh, Adrian, you're not already thinking of moving from St. Mary's!?!

 

What sort of Organist is this church after? My mind boggles a bit from your note.

 

What do organists look for when looking for a job? Well, a number of random things spring to my mind: a vicar I get on with and respect, a healthy and friendly congregation (healthy in all ways, preferable), a friendly and enthusiastic choir, well run administration, solvent finances, etc, etc. In a nutshell, I would want somewhere I look forward to going to on a Sunday.

 

My point is the organ is only one factor for a prospective organist, and a factor that can be changed if other factors are favourable. In your situation, I would leave the organ as it is for now and suggest to the church that it may be better to hint at the possibility of an organ project to prospective organists, rather than present them with a solution they may not like and have little likelihood of changing. That will appeal to many more organists, whether they would prefer a 7 stop Brombaugh in meantone temperament or a 90 stop Copeman Hart with "French" voicing.

 

The problem your friend may have is the fear of the unknown and what this new organist may want. In this case, I would give your friend some advice on how to run an organ project, in particular getting good quality, professional, impartial and responsible advice for the church.

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Oh, Adrian, you're not already thinking of moving from St. Mary's!?!

 

What sort of Organist is this church after? My mind boggles a bit from your note.

 

What do organists look for when looking for a job? Well, a number of random things spring to my mind: a vicar I get on with and respect, a healthy and friendly congregation (healthy in all ways, preferable), a friendly and enthusiastic choir, well run administration, solvent finances, etc, etc. In a nutshell, I would want somewhere I look forward to going to on a Sunday.

 

My point is the organ is only one factor for a prospective organist, and a factor that can be changed if other factors are favourable. In your situation, I would leave the organ as it is for now and suggest to the church that it may be better to hint at the possibility of an organ project to prospective organists, rather than present them with a solution they may not like and have little likelihood of changing. That will appeal to many more organists, whether they would prefer a 7 stop Brombaugh in meantone temperament or a 90 stop Copeman Hart with "French" voicing.

 

The problem your friend may have is the fear of the unknown and what this new organist may want. In this case, I would give your friend some advice on how to run an organ project, in particular getting good quality, professional, impartial and responsible advice for the church.

 

Yes, I am already thinking about leaving St. Mary's - I'll explain why via e-mail, but you've hit on many of the points in your 2nd paragraph.

 

I think your response highlights many of the issues that concern me about speccing and organ for this place. My main concern is that, if I were going for the job, I would want to have an instrument that I wanted to play and could play a reasonable quantity of repertoire on. The space available in the church leaves you, I think, with a realistic pipe organ size of 1m, 8 4 2 + Bourdon. Even with extension, I think you'd struggle to get much more in, and if that was the organ in the church, then I probably wouldn't want the job.

 

Your instrument for example - which, despite my disparaging comments about it not being as powerful as I would want for your church, would be well suited to this particular church - would not fit.

 

I'm pretty certain that the church wouldn't make any decision until they've appointed a new organist.

 

What I was hoping to discuss on this thread was whether it would be wrong of me, if I applied for and was given the job to:

 

1) Recommend a digital organ

2) Spec up the digital organ such that it was larger than a "suitable" pipe organ for the same building. I don't mean stupidly big, which I think the current spec is.

 

I just find it hard to reconcile recommending that a digital organ is the way to go, plus I'm always critical of others when I go to a small church to find a 3 manual beast with a 32ft reed and a tuba...

 

Clearly, it's not going to be my advice that really counts - there are others in more official positions and with more knowledge (e.g. the DOA) - but the vicar does put value on my opinion.

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I don't think there can be much objection to replacing an old or ailing toaster with a newer and better one, or in making it clear that you're only interested in accepting a particular job on the understanding that serious consideration will be given to replacing a poor instrument.

 

I did exactly this when I took my present appointment at St. Mary's, Charlton Kings, and some 18 months later our new custom Wyvern instrument was installed and has been a great success.

 

We used Holy Trinity, Fareham as one of our reference sites - they have a 2-year old custom Makin installed there, which many of our PCC were very impressed by. I would also recommend you to take a trip up to Chobham to try the Wyvern in the parish church there. This shows what can be achieved in a small-ish building.

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Guest Roffensis
I don't think there can be much objection to replacing an old or ailing toaster with a newer and better one, or in making it clear that you're only interested in accepting a particular job on the understanding that serious consideration will be given to replacing a poor instrument.

 

I did exactly this when I took my present appointment at St. Mary's, Charlton Kings, and some 18 months later our new custom Wyvern instrument was installed and has been a great success.

 

We used Holy Trinity, Fareham as one of our reference sites - they have a 2-year old custom Makin installed there, which many of our PCC were very impressed by. I would also recommend you to take a trip up to Chobham to try the Wyvern in the parish church there. This shows what can be achieved in a small-ish building.

 

 

Hmm, not convinced. Mind you, November 5th looms!! :P:P And, there are lot of small tracker jobs redundant.... :D

 

No offence!!

 

R

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Mmmmm  :P   bit worrying that toasting seems to be more and more acceptable these days. Strange, given the glut of 2nd hand instruments which they can't seem to give away these days.

 

I had a similar thought.

 

A couple of summers ago, I played what was at the time a fairly new Makin. It was a custom installation, provided during the rebuilding of the pipe organ in a large church. As far as I was concerned, little or no tonal improvement had been made since their flagship instrument was unveiled in a famous parish church on the south coast (about twenty-five years previously).

 

The flutes were acceptable (but they almost always are), the choruses were not good (mixtures in particular sounding highly artificial) and the reeds were the worst I had heard for a long time. The console was of a strange design - and not very impressive at that.

 

All things considered, if you have room anywhere Adrian, go for a pipe organ - even an extension instrument.

 

Failing that - are you sure that things are that bad where you are? Vicars can change, get run over on the M27 - or simply become Lithuanian. Rich old ladies with a fondness for large Willis organs can die and leave all their money to an organ restoration fund - "Just as long as that nice young man is still in charge of the music here..."

 

After all, you do have a 32p reed, a reasonable echo and a mini-bar....

 

:D

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All things considered, if you have room anywhere Adrian, go for a pipe organ - even an extension instrument.

 

That's exactly the problem - there is NO room anywhere. My preference, by far is to go far an instrument, rather than a substitute. No offence to those who like them, but I just don't enjoy playing digital instruments, whether pianos or organs. I never have - the physical sensation of playing is not the same, and the physical sensation of listening is definitely not the same.

 

Failing that - are you sure that things are that bad where you are? Vicars can change, get run over on the M27 - or simply become Lithuanian. Rich old ladies with a fondness for large Willis organs can die and leave all their money to an organ restoration fund - "Just as long as that nice young man is still in charge of the music here..."

 

After all, you do have a 32p reed, a reasonable echo and a mini-bar....

 

 

Unfortunately, yes - this thread wasn't supposed to be about me thinking about moving on, but...

 

I have nothing against the vicar of St. Mary's, at all - he's a good guy, and prepared to listen.

 

My reasons for thinking about moving on are around the fact that i) I don't enjoy the church, ii) I don't realistically think that there's any chance of raising the money to restore the organ, iii) my wife doesn't like the place, iv) my primary interest is in choirs, v) leaving isn't the same as not having keys to go in and make a loud noise :D vi) it's a half hour to go practice, and, with a 9 week old baby, I don't go and practice on it.

 

My reasons for staying are i) great organ, ii) great organ, iii) great organ, iv) I feel like a failure for not having made a difference.

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Hmm, not convinced. Mind you, November 5th looms!!  :P  :P And, there are lot of small tracker jobs redundant.... :D

 

No offence!!

 

R

Fair enough, but would you really want to play a one-manual chamber organ, with all the limitations that imposed on repertoire, over an extended period of time. And what if there was a choir, this would seriously restrict the instrument's accompanimental possibilities.

 

In my experience extension organs are poor. I believe I've said on a number of occasions that a good pipe organ is still way beyond the possibilities of any synthetic substitute, but the provision of a good, comprehensive pipe organ is just not a practical possibility in every situation today. I've played many poor electronic instruments, including some very recent ones, and can understand the scepticism, but whenever I go in to practice at Charlton Kings I stay longer than intended because the organ makes such sumptuous sounds its difficult to drag oneself away

 

We are also now finding, in a town well equiped with large and well maintained pipe organs, that we are receiving an increasing number of requests from choral societies and groups wishing to use the church as a concert venue as our new organ is such a superb and versatile tool for accompaniment.

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Fair enough, but would you really want to play a one-manual chamber organ, with all the limitations that imposed on repertoire, over an extended period of time. And what if there was a choir, this would seriously restrict the instrument's accompanimental possibilities.

 

 

Precisely what I've been trying to get at - I wouldn't want to play a 1m organ all the time, and I'm sure that no other half decent organist would either - i.e. the kind of organist that a "thriving" church (in an Anglican kind of way - the average age of the congregation is lower than the total number of occupied pews) wants to attract.

 

This makes an interesting moral dilemma - I thought my preference would always be for pipe. But, if the choice is 1m, 5 rank extension pipe versus 2m, 20 stop electronic, I think I'd be plumping for the organ substitute, just because I could do a lot more with it.

 

So, given that my role in this is not that of organist, but as an advisor to a decision maker, what the hell do I say? I still can't quite reconcile recommending 15-20k on a digital organ when that same amount of money would probably get them a nice reliable tracker redundant organ cleaned up and installed - the tracker will probably still be going strong in 50 years, but they'd be on their 3rd or 4th digital by then. Oh, but then I'm back to the lack of space for a good size instrument argument. And then I'm back to the 1m tiny thing versus a flexible digital organ. Oh damn it. I've tied myself up in circles again.

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How about a hybrid.  A 2 or 3 clavier toaster with an 842 chorus on it, that can be detached from within the console and wheeled around as a chamber organ.

 

I have no experience of hybrids, but they always sound like a recipe for disaster to me - anyone got any experience of them?

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This makes an interesting moral dilemma - I thought my preference would always be for pipe. But, if the choice is 1m, 5 rank extension pipe versus 2m, 20 stop electronic, I think I'd be plumping for the organ substitute, just because I could do a lot more with it.

Well there you go. When the chips are down - buy chips!!!
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I still can't quite reconcile recommending 15-20k on a digital organ when that same amount of money would probably get them a nice reliable tracker redundant organ cleaned up and installed - the tracker will probably still be going strong in 50 years, but they'd be on their 3rd or 4th digital by then. Oh, but then I'm back to the lack of space for a good size instrument argument. And then I'm back to the 1m tiny thing versus a flexible digital organ. Oh damn it. I've tied myself up in circles again.

Maybe the question to ask is: will the church still be in use in 50 years time?

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