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D Quentin Bellamy

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I can well understand the delight of Musingmuso in listening to George Thalben Ball playing "Ride of the Valkyries" on the Alexandra Palace Organ.

Happy days !

Colin Richell.

 

 

--------------------------------------

 

Erm....it weren't me guv.

 

I hate Wagner!

 

It was a quote from Simon Preston!

 

MM

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Thank you MM for that excellent and informative post.

 

Fascinatingly, in retirement, Torch showed little interest in music; keeping his grand piano locked and unplayed, in spite of the fact that he was a true virtuoso pianist. He explained, "Music was my business, and when I retired, I retired from music."

The story of him snapping his baton and walking out is certainly true, but I have a feeling that what Sid said he thought about his music in retirement, and what he did actually think were not always the same thing. Bill Davies once told me that Torch did in fact continue to play piano at home during his retirement, and to discuss music of all types (Bill was a frequent visitor) and although he tended to rubbish his organ playing after he'd moved into orchestral work, he did still involve himself in a small way from time to time.

 

The story of Bill getting him to play the organ during a FNIMN rehearsal is well known. George Blackmore (FRCO - just to keep the thread slightly on track) also caught Sidney jazzing it up on a Hammond one lunchtime in a studio at Broadcasting House, and Sid pleaded with him not to tell anyone. Torch reminisced with Bill Davies quite happily in a phone call relayed over the PA system at the State Kilburn's 50th anniversary celebrations in 1987, and earlier that year, on the morning of the re-opening of the ex Regal Edmonton organ at Barry Memorial Hall, he phoned the team there and sent a message of good luck and congratulations.

 

In his most recent CD release, Simon Preston plays the restored organ at the Royal Albert Hall (splendidly carried out by out hosts, Mander Organs); the title of the CD being "Organ Restored."

 

 

Interviewed about the recording, Simon Preston (a non FRCO!) included the following:-

 

..... and the other - equally favourite - was Quentin MacLean playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on the organ in the Odeon Marble Arch."[/b]

Simon Preston then reveals a "trade-secret" which has puzzled many of us for years:-

 

"At the age of five I could not work out how Quentin MacLean did the opening glissando in Rhapsody in Blue; apparently he used the Siren stop - useful for Cops and Robbers chases in the silent movies - switched the organ on and, when the wind went into the bellows, it produced this very smooth glissando up to the top E flat!"

 

It is a remarkable recording, and one of my favourites of its type. The syren gliss wasn't done quite like that though. Maclean had designed the Marble Arch organ, and during the process there were quite a few changes specified. In a letter to Herbert Norman dated 22nd April 1928 he asks for a number of such changes and his final paragraph reads:

 

"In the effects department it would be nice to have two syrens, one quick, & the other slow. One could be played from the manual piston, & the other from the toe piston, no additional control needed."

 

It is generally thought that it was the slow syren used at the start of the 'Rhapsody in Blue' recording. Perhaps he had this in mind when specifying it!

 

I am, though, very impressed to think that Simon Preston listened to, and enjoyed, 'Mac' at a theatre organ.

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Sorry to be pendantic, but isn't is R R Terry not C S Terry??  (Richard Runciman Terry - who wrote that tune to Praise to the Holiest in the height - can't remember the name of it - but it's a good tune!) :(

 

 

Yes, the tune you are thinking of is called 'Billing'

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

 

Absolutely right!

 

I should have known better, but anyway, I went back to the notes of a lecture I gave at Bradford University some years ago, and refreshed my memory.

 

Quentin Stuart Morvaren Maclean (1896-1962) was born in London: his father being Alexandre Morvaren Maclean ("the God of Scarborough") who conducted the Spa Orchestra, Scarborough, and elevated it to high status as one of the finest to be heard at the seaside resorts.

 

Thus, Quentin Maclean was not only born in London, he lived there with his family and took lessons with Richard R Terry at Westminster Cathedral. Presumably (?) Aleck Maclean must have either relocated to Scarborough, or spent the summer months there.

 

In any event, Aleck Maclean was a fairly prolific composer, and his works (especially operatic works) were not only well known in England, but also in Germany apparently.

 

Aleck Maclean's father was the British light-music composer Charles Donald  Maclean(1843-1916)

 

Some of the significant works written by Quentin Maclean after his studies in Leipzig with Straube and Reger, include the following:-

 

Piano Trio (1937) - d.1937

 

Trio Ricercare (1954) - d.1954

 

Stabat Mater

 

Marche Selennelle, for organ

 

Organ Concerto?  (First performed by George Thalben-Ball?)

It should also be mentioned that Quentin Maclean was not only invited to play an RCO recital, he also gave the first British performance of the Hindemith Organ Concerto. Quentin Maclean also had, as his assistant theatre organist, Sidney Torch; the doyen of light music conductors, who with the late William Davies, established that very long running BBC institution, "Friday night is music night."

Although Torch more or less went into denial about his early days as a theatre organist, it was characteristic of the man that when the day came for him to retire from music, he did it in style, taking hold of his baton and greaking it in half; laying it on the music stand and departing the BBC concert orchestra with the words, "Ladies and gentlemen, that was my last concert."

 

Fascinatingly, in retirement, Torch showed little interest in music; keeping his grand piano locked and unplayed, in spite of the fact that he was a true virtuoso pianist. He explained, "Music was my business, and when I retired, I retired from music."

 

In his most recent CD release, Simon Preston plays the restored organ at the Royal Albert Hall (splendidly carried out by out hosts, Mander Organs); the title of the CD being "Organ Restored."

 

Interviewed about the recording, Simon Preston (a non FRCO!) included the following:-

 

"In America the traditions of theatre organ playing are still kept very much alive. As a child I remember playing two very old records over and over again on a wind-up portable gramophone - the sort that had wooden needles which you had to keep sharpening.

 

The first was George Thalben-Ball playing The Ride of the Valkyries on the Alexandra Palace organ, and the other - equally favourite - was Quentin MacLean playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on the organ in the Odeon Marble Arch."

Simon Preston then reveals a "trade-secret" which has puzzled many of us for years:-

 

"At the age of five I could not work out how Quentin MacLean did the opening glissando in Rhapsody in Blue; apparently he used the Siren stop - useful for Cops and Robbers chases in the silent movies - switched the organ on and, when the wind went into the bellows, it produced this very smooth glissando up to the top E flat!"

 

(I love that little throw-away line, "At the age of 5, I could not work out....." :( )

 

So desparately trying to keep this thread on-topic, the above information links the names of Maclean and Simon Preston (as non-FRCO holders), and further links them to others who obviously were not, namely: Carl Straube, Max Reger and Paul Hindemith.

 

Presumably, (I know I shouldn't presume anything), Sir George Thalben-Ball was an FRCO, but what about R R Terry?

 

There we are Quentin....back on topic.....and I know what Santa's going to be sending me this Christmas!

 

(Just when you think these thread are wandering off-topic, they come back to haunt you!)

 

:(

 

MM

 

 

Even after all these years, Torch's playing is unsurpassed. Who else would have thought of using the tuned bird whistles in 'Hot Dog'?

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Even after all these years, Torch's playing is unsurpassed. Who else would have thought of using the tuned bird whistles in 'Hot Dog'?

My feeling about Torch at the cinema organ is that one tires of it after a while. Though it is always pleasant to come back to after a good break! What he said about his own playing is very enlightening. Apparently he felt that he could have done so much better. I often wonder what he would have achieved with today's modern consoles, midi etc etc....

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My feeling about Torch at the cinema organ is that one tires of it after a while. Though it is always pleasant to come back to after a good break! What he said about his own playing is very enlightening. Apparently he felt that he could have done so much better.  I often wonder what he would have achieved with today's modern consoles, midi etc etc....

 

 

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

 

I know exactly what Quentin means, but I think 'tire' is perhaps the wrong word.

 

There is a limit to how much "up tempo" swing-band style one can tolerate at any one time, and that was Torch's special category: possibly never bettered and only seldom approached in quality.

 

Interestingly, the Torch style derives entirely from the pianistic technique, where the hands are extremely mobile, but the feet do little more than tread out the bass.

 

It's very interesting to compare the Torch style with that of Quentin Maclean, who was perhaps not quite so instantly "pop" in style, but who did devlishly clever things and prepared them meticulously. Calling on both true organ and piano technique, as only Maclean could, he was quite capable of playing something like "The old man of the mountains," and at one point, almost playing it fugally and contrapuntally, with a hidden "Peer Gynt" moment or two thrown in for good measure. I think this is what makes his name one of the truly great theatre organists, and elevates his style above that of mere enetertainment.

 

Of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with the RCO, but at least it is a lot less controversial.

 

MM

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
===========================

 

I know exactly what Quentin means, but I think 'tire' is perhaps the wrong word.

 

There is a limit to how much "up tempo" swing-band style one can tolerate at any one time, and that was Torch's special category: possibly never bettered and only seldom approached in quality.

 

Interestingly, the Torch style derives entirely from the pianistic technique, where the hands are extremely mobile, but the feet do little more than tread out the bass.

 

It's very interesting to compare the Torch style with that of Quentin Maclean, who was perhaps not quite so instantly "pop" in style, but who did devlishly clever things and prepared them meticulously. Calling on both true organ and piano technique, as only Maclean could, he was quite capable of playing something like "The old man of the mountains," and at one point, almost playing it fugally and contrapuntally, with a hidden "Peer Gynt" moment or two thrown in for good measure. I think this is what makes his name one of the truly great theatre organists, and elevates his style above that of mere enetertainment.

 

Of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with the RCO, but at least it is a lot less controversial.

 

MM

 

I have heard tell of Sidney Torch (and of Percy Whitlock's approval of his performances, to name but one) - but how does one get to hear what his playing sounded like?

 

Anything been re-released - or can anything be linked here?

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I have heard tell of Sidney Torch (and of Percy Whitlock's approval of his performances, to name but one) - but how does one get to hear what his playing sounded like?

 

Anything been re-released - or can anything be linked here?

 

There are quite a few re-releases available, but for a taster (not necessarily representative of his most memorable theatre organ work) try this site which features him at a number of different instruments. Just scroll down to the 'T's

 

http://theatreorgans.com/southerncross/Radiogram/UKfiles.htm

 

Personally, as a lover of light orchestral music, I always think that Torch made the right decision to leave the organ behind and concentrate on his orchestral work. In some of his organ arrangements you can hear ideas which were subsequently more fully developed in both his compositions and arrangements post war. I also think his rhythmic 'dance band' style - exciting though it is - may have dated a lot quicker than did that of some of the more 'traditional' theatre organists, and had he continued he may have found that what was cutting edge before the war had become old hat after it. He was a very shrewd man, and I'm sure he knew exactly what he was doing.

 

A remarkable musician though, if not the easiest of people to get along with....

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Keeping this on track, the following appeared in the "Musical Times," which represented a particular view of cinema organs and organists at the time; the replies to which are absolutely fascinating.

 

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

 

 

Sir,

 

One has every sympathy with those who, for economic reasons, have been compelled to migrate from the church to the cinema, but Mr. Frank Newman's facetious defence of that glutinous contradiction in terms, the cinema organ, is singularly unconvincing. With an instrument the tonal scheme of which is badly balanced and consistently ugly throughout, musical results are practically impossible, but needless to say the resources of the instrument (such as they are) can be exploited either efficiently or inefficiently, as can those of the Jew's harp, mouth-organ, or tin whistle.

To say, however, that 'to be a successful cinema organist one must be a musician first and an organist second' is sheer nonsense: I have attended all the principal cinemas in London, and have never yet heard anything emanating from the instrument (of torture) that could possibly be described as 'music,' save in the sense that the News of the World might be described as literature.

I suggest that far more suitable qualifications for the manipulators of these machines are 'showmanship first and foremost, and musicianship (of a sort) last -- if at all.'

Every time a new cinema is built we are treated to the same farrago of fatuities : 'Mighty 0rgan -- l5,679 pipes -- l,OOl miles of wire,' &c., ad libitum, ad nauseam.

When, out of curiosity, one is tempted to listen to the contraption, one is then treated to the sight and sound of an individual who gradually materialises from the depths by the aid of an electrically elevated rostrum, thrown into a kaleidoscopic limelight, and proceeds to dole out remorselessly ‘storms’, monastic gardens, so-called ‘theme songs’, and the usual jazz paraphernalia, which have been well summed up, once and for all, by the most trenchant writer on music, Kaikhosru Sorabji, as being ' . . . far below the lowest depths ever reached by the Victorian or Edwardian ballads, which are virile and sturdy in comparison. . . the entire genus is pervaded by a drooling, bibulous snivelling which makes it unspeakably repulsive and disgusting to all those who are not besotted by it, or those who flatter it from interested motives.' To allege that this sort of thing requires musicianship, even if it necessitates arranging at sight from a pianoforte copy, is to betray a very curious and entirely new conception of the term.

I am not suggesting, for a moment, that diapason tone, and a selection of Bach, Rheinberger, or Karg-Elert should be introduced into the cinema: on the contrary, I consider that the 'unit orchestra’ and its oleaginous outpourings are, musically and psychologically, entirely at one with the almost incredible imbecility and vulgarity which they accompany on the screen.

If Mr. Newman and his cinematic confrères would be honest with themselves and admit what is obvious to musicians, then there would be nothing to discuss, but when claims are made on behalf of 'artistry,' 'musicianship,' &c., emphatic protest becomes necessary.

Incidentally, it is highly improbable that a musician - as opposed to those whose sole claim to the title is a string of academic appendages - would ever be seen or heard in the base atmosphere of the cinema, for he would accept almost any type of employment in preference to degrading himself and his art. - Yours, &c.,

CLINTON GRAY-FISK

99, Alexandra Road,

St. John's Wood, N.W.8.

"The Musical Times" Vol 72, No. 1057, 1 March, 1931, pp. 254-5

 

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

 

:lol:

 

MM

 

PS: I just love those words 'farrago' and 'oleaginous'

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Although I am not yet a member, I would like to say how helpful and encouraging the RCO has been to organists of the younger generation, particularly in Masterclasses.

 

In my time as a student in Birmingham I attended many of these things and probably my favourite one was the one they held at the Symphony Hall. They hosted a huge recital, where many young people had the opportunity to play a couple of pieces on the Klais organ. It's these sorts of things I like about the College and I hope many more are yet to come, as I believe it is important to get more young people to play what is a wonderful instrument that is the organ.

 

 

JT

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There are quite a few re-releases available, but for a taster (not necessarily representative of his most memorable theatre organ work) try this site which features him at a number of different instruments. Just scroll down to the 'T's

 

http://theatreorgans.com/southerncross/Radiogram/UKfiles.htm

 

 

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

 

 

The following link demonstrates "The art of the theatre organ" across the generations and on both sides of the pond.

 

It's a wonderful programme!

 

http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/0330/

 

Included are tracks from both Quentin Maclean and Sidney Torch, but somewhere I have a wonderful tape of Quentin Maclean, which shows him in very different light.

 

The Sidney Torch "Bugle Call Rag" is probably played in stricter tempo than that produced by an atomic clock! Talk about military precision!

 

MM

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Although I am not yet a member, I would like to say how helpful and encouraging the RCO has been to organists of the younger generation, particularly in Masterclasses. 

 

In my time as a student in Birmingham I attended many of these things and probably my favourite one was the one they held at the Symphony Hall.  They hosted a huge recital, where many young people had the opportunity to play a couple of pieces on the Klais organ.  It's these sorts of things I like about the College and I hope many more are yet to come, as I believe it is important to get more young people to play what is a wonderful instrument that is the organ.

JT

Maybe this is it. Could it be that the RCO exists for sturdenty types? After all they get a discounted membership and other benefits denied to those of us in the real world.... :lol:

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It may be the RCO exists just to sustain the junior > organ scholar > cathedral organist conveyorbelt, and since many of it's officers are a product of this route, is it any surprise they are so wedded to it?

 

That being said, a few days ago I posted an earnest question in this thread (before it got subsumed by all things theatre organ) and I received as much feedback from the learned people hereon than I did from an email sent to the RCO on the same day. That is to say, sweet FA.

 

Perhaps this forum and the RCO are more similar than certain members may care to recognise?! :lol:

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It may be the RCO exists just to sustain the junior > organ scholar > cathedral organist conveyorbelt, and since many of it's officers are a product of this route, is it any surprise they are so wedded to it?

 

That being said, a few days ago I posted an earnest question in this thread (before it got subsumed by all things theatre organ) and I received as much feedback from the learned people hereon than I did from an email sent to the RCO on the same day. That is to say, sweet FA.

 

Perhaps this forum and the RCO are more similar than certain members may care to recognise?! :lol:

 

 

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

 

 

Perhaps no-one knew of anyone in the South East who could help you with the paperwork exams?

 

Having you tired searching under 'music teachers'?

 

The paper-work is not that much different from any other; they just expect the answers to be done a lot better.

 

MM

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

Perhaps no-one knew of anyone in the South East who could help you with the paperwork exams?

 

Having you tired searching under 'music teachers'?

 

The paper-work is not that much different from any other; they just expect the answers to be done a lot better.

 

MM

Well we do exist - see (relatively cheap) ad in OR

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The paper-work is not that much different from any other; they just expect the answers to be done a lot better.

 

MM

Not that much different compared to what? Having sat ALCM, ARCO, grade 8 theory and 'A' level music when it was hard I would have to disagree with you. I'm grateful for a response though. Thanks. :lol:

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Guest drd
The paper-work is not that much different from any other; they just expect the answers to be done a lot better.

 

Yes, I'd agree with that. This is one of the good things about the RCO.

 

One of the principal thusts of the argument, though, is that the College seems to do little for the majority of its members who are unable, for many reasons, to take part in its educational outreach.

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Since this subject (brought up a few weeks ago) produced one of the largest responses to date on the Mander forum, and even produced a response from one of the trustees, I wonder if the matters raised have been brought to committee, and if there is to be any positive response from the RCO -- or do they hope that the subject has died and therefore gone away? :P

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I wonder if the matters raised have been brought to committee, and if there is to be any positive response from the RCO -- or do they hope that the subject has died and therefore gone away?

 

 

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

 

I totally misread this; possibly because I started at the end. I thought for one awful moment that.......

 

:unsure:

 

What a relief!

 

MM

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Guest Lee Blick
======================

 

I totally misread this; possibly because I started at the end. I thought for one awful moment that.......

 

:o

 

What a relief!

 

MM

 

Cmon MM, you were were hoping too.... :unsure:

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Guest Cynic
Well.... did you all renew your subs????

 

 

;)

 

No disrespect to the folks now running the RCO, but I didn't.

 

I think the folks currently responsible for the RCO are trying really hard to do a good job, and what they offer is genuinely useful to a relatively small number of (mostly) young people. Unfortunately, this target clientele is essentially the same as that of the Oundle Course. Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of that work, and I completely and utterly respect the sincere effort and energy put in by present council members and staff. For all that, I'm still very angry that things got into this state and that their vision and the status of what might fairly be termed Our College has had to be restricted by wrong decisions taken earlier on by others who have simply baled out and left a pale shadow of the old FRCO behind them.

 

Bearing in mind what is actually on offer, I decided that a subscription to the RCO was an expenditure I couldn't afford. It was costing me more than all my other memberships combined and I couldn't see that I was getting anything out of it other than seeing my name in a ('didn't always arrive!') publication. This is a selfish attitude, yes I know. If I were nearer the centre of things and offered a chance to actually do anything I might have viewed it differently.

 

There were blind alleys that the RCO got into IMHO which I fear cannot all have been tidied up:

The desire to impress at vast (other people's) expense - just read those (still quite recent) announcements about the new Goll organ!

The plentiful and rather haphazard election of honorary FRCOs and those people's involvement in any way with examinations when they themselves had never sat an RCO exam.

The totally unbelievable lack of foresight, the botched move, the botched grant applications, the messed up library plans, the useless website, the total silence when membership started asking relevant and important questions.....

 

Mind you, I feel that sort of thing towards several other areas of national music making! The RSCM has contracted, changed its focus, force-fed its customers with pap and like the RCO baled out of a proper home (which had been paid for by us). The National Curriculum syllabus for Music represents a ludicrous dumbing-down of what music teaching used to offer our children. The Music A level syllabus and arrangements are now a joke and in no way prepare the young for either music college or university as they should. That's why I got out. Thank God for the organizations that have not completely trashed their act! I would list Oundle, The I.A.O, The St.Giles Organ School and the Associated Board, these are both 'on task' and, to use the approved jargon, 'achieving their targets'.

 

I'll shut up now.

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No disrespect to the folks now running the RCO, but I didn't.

 

 

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

 

 

For Sale: Flac jackets (well used) £15

 

Ear defenders (disposable) £1

 

Snorkel anoraks (Hire) £0.50p per hour (available in Leeds)

 

 

;)

 

MM

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

For Sale: Flac jackets (well used) £15

 

Ear defenders (disposable) £1

 

Snorkel anoraks (Hire) £0.50p per hour (available in Leeds)

:)

 

MM

Ermmm would these be in RCO colours? ;)

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