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Vanity Or Practicality?


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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

Thanks David, I had forgotten that I had written this (perhaps after coming back from an unfruitful trip though my leafy lanes in the Midlands).

Readers might like to know of one major parish church in my 'care' that wishes to remove/throw out a substantial instrument from the 19th century (in an unburied position) because "we are told that it will cost us £700 a year to maintain". This organ dates back to the 19th century and was last rebuilt around 1950. They want to purchase an electronic substitute for £30,000 as there is no maintance (they say). I suggest that even if all goes well for 30 years with this device, they have written a cheque for a £1,000 per year and they have no(t)/much collateral at the end of it.

 

The digital device (Bradford) I hear each Sunday in my local church cost many £1,000's in 1991. It is sounding very odd now. The PCC bought it without even seeing it or hearing it (I kid you not - I was the organist helping out at the time). I was allowed 2 minutes to speak to the PCC about the project as the incumbant feared my argument. (They had just received around £4,000 insurance money for water damage to repair the organ). The two manual Nicholson was thrown out and bought by the previous organist who installed it in another church! Now they want to buy another electronic, I hear. Therefore, I suggest that a church in the long term needs to be pretty smart in setting aside a goodly sum of money each year to purchase the next device and also that they should certainly not just sit back and think that they have saved a pot of gold on maintance contracts.

 

Until I play something electronic with mechanical action between my fingers and the sound, I can't even think that we have anything approaching a contest. I don't see a contest between my Steinway Model C and the Roland connected to my PC. Both have a purpose, but when it comes to teaching and thence to performing, there is just no substitute nor inspiration.

Both have a place in a modern musican's life. But when it comes to Music, there is no choice.

 

Season's greetings,

Nigel

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I've been out to look at this church Adrian refers to. It is small, and in my view would be served beautifully by a nice redundant large 1m or small 2, just a nice chorus which a small reed on top. Adrian points out that they'd never find anyone to play it. So how the hell has most of the country managed for the last x-hundred years???

 

These days, you have different species - the competent organist and choirmaster, and the downright reluctant and not very good who don't have a clue how to run a choir, and . I know that's a broad generalisation, but... When you add in that most village churches with a decent choir will still only pay for an "organist" - i.e. someone to direct the choir and play the organ, the situation gets complicated. Then factor in that there are almost certainly FEWER competent organists and choirmasters than there are jobs. We can then pick and choose.

 

So, if you've got the choice of church with an ok choir and a very small organ, or a church with an ok choir with a more exciting organ (and I don't mean a toaster), which one will you choose? (Assuming all other factors are equal)

 

Personally, given the choice between a small pipe and a good but larger (and I don't mean stupidly large, I mean say 2 manuals, 16 stops as opposed to 1/2m 8 stops) toaster, then I'd go for the toaster. My repertoire is limited - I have not grown up with small instruments, the ABRSM grade system is not setup for repertoire for small instruments, and I don't have the talent and sheer love of playing that someone like David does to revel in playing on a single 8' stop for a year.

 

I'm not in favour of ditching real organs for toasters. But, given the choice of replacing a toaster with another one or a pipe organ, then the choice is trickier.

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So, pray tell oh well-educated fellows, when does it make sense to have a digital instrument to replace an extant pipe organ? Is there ever a justification? Just curious....

 

Lack of space, lack of money, or cloth ears

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Any "takers" for this question.? :)

We had a top-of the-range 3-manual viscount on hire at my previous church 4 years ago while the HNB pipe organ was being renovated. My opinions of this instrument (baring in mind that I'm not one of the out-and-out toaster haters, now playing a new 3-manual Wyvern in my present post) are not fit to print.

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We had a top-of the-range 3-manual viscount on hire at my previous church 4 years ago while the HNB pipe organ was being renovated. My opinions of this instrument (baring in mind that I'm not one of the out-and-out toaster haters, now playing a new 3-manual Wyvern in my present post) are not fit to print.

 

I believe the difference between the best digital instruments and the also-rans is enormous - and I think this is not just due to the technology used. The number of channels deployed, and the quality of the speakers is a big factor - and those things don't come cheap.

 

But even the best simulators don't really match a good pipe organ - loudpeaker distortion and nowhere near enough channels being the limiting factors in my opinion (even if you have a lot of channels, you're competing with an instrument with thousands of channels). This article is quite interesting:

EndofPipeOrgan

 

JJK

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So, pray tell oh well-educated fellows, when does it make sense to have a digital instrument to replace an extant pipe organ? Is there ever a justification? Just curious....

 

Depends how bad the extant pipe organ is. Even then, you've got to assume that you've got the basis of something salvageable that's able to be turned into a usable musical instrument. There are a few pipe organs I've played where I've wondered if would be possible to do *anything* to make them musical, but I'm sure a competent organ builder with a limited budget could make something.

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I believe the difference between the best digital instruments and the also-rans is enormous - and I think this is not just due to the technology used. The number of channels deployed, and the quality of the speakers is a big factor - and those things don't come cheap.

 

JJK

 

You are right about the quality of the speakers. We have had a three-manual Makin organ on hire where I play for the past 12 months. Previously it had been in Peterborough Cathedral I think. It came with 24 loudspeakers, including an enormous woofer for the 32 ft stops and about 3KW of power. I think the amplification itself was worth about £12,000. The building has a good acoustic (3 - 4 secs when the building is empty) and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed playing this instrument. Whether I would want one permanently is another matter, but I do think that they have their place.

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