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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

I love a good Clarion - maybe you're the same. Maybe you're not.... we shall see.

Even with a bright chorus and a good 8' chorus reed, there's something about the fire and splash that a good Clarion brings, IMHO they're virtually as essential in a 'final and complete' Full Swell as a 16' reed.

 

Now the point of my topic is that I've noticed a distinct trend to leave these stops out of new schemes. As to reasons, how about some of these:

 

1. Maybe lots of different designers don't like them (unlikely but possible)

2. They're seen as a luxury

3. Builders don't like them, treble reed pipes being pretty difficult to voice really well.

 

I think the first large organ scheme in recent times to leave out the Swell Clarion was the (famous/infamous) Gloucester Cathedral rebuild at the hands of HN&B and Ralph Downes. There, Downes had included (presumably for the same musical purpose) a Tierce Cymbal. Does this cover for the lack of a Clarion ? Like *beep* it does! Frankly that mixture is not a lot of good in the swell chorus either, bear in mind that there is no alternative mixture to top the chorus! The really irritating thing about this Swell is that Downes had the option to retain an existing Father Willis/H&H III Mixture and Clarion but he chose not to.

 

Recently I had a fault here (Holy Trinity Hull) caused by a short between two cotton-covered wires, which resulted in the Great Clarion coming on whenever the Swell to Great was used. Needless to say, with great regret I was forced to cut the wires to the Clarion and managed for several months without it. Now it's back on, I am aware of how much it adds - this is a Great with 16 8 8 4 in chorus reeds. I also have excellent chorus reeds at 8 8 4 currently on the Swell and 16 8 on the Bombarde. Logically, the difference of one little reed rank shouldn't have been that much but it was - particularly in the middle octaves! The splash and fire are back.

 

Would you specify a Clarion in a new Swell (or Great)? Opinions please?

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Would you specify a Clarion in a new Swell (or Great)? Opinions please?

 

Depends on the size of the rest of the instrument, but yes, I would. A good firey 4' reed is a wonderful thing. I have 2 Clarions (sw + gt) on my own instrument - I often leave the gt 8' reed in, and just use 16+4 - the 8' is a bit too smooth, whereas the 16+4 is good growling blast.

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According to the acoustics, the size of the room, we may have:

(only the chorus reeds mentionned)

Gt Tr 8'

 

Sw Bass 16' Tr8' Cl 4'

 

Ped 16 or 16-8

 

 

 

Gt 16-8-4

 

Sw (32) 16-8-4

 

Ped 32-16-16-8-4

 

 

The big one:

 

Gt 16-8-8-4-4

 

Sw 32-16-8-8-4

 

Pos 8

 

Solo Tuba 8'

 

Ped 32-16-16-8-4

 

So the Clarion may be left out only in little instruments, and when there is no Clarion on the Great, the Trumpet should be clearly voiced.

A swell without the 16-8-4 reed chorus is also one for little organs.

In Belgium there has been a period when the Swell reeds were all at 8' because of the octave couplers (with 72 notes on the chest). This may be a reason for the absence you mention in some organs.

 

Pierre

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Guest Lee Blick

The church organ where I was a chorister was being rebuilt and I remember listening to a conversation between the organ builder and a choir member looking over the newly refurbished console. The choir member asked the rationale was for the Clarion to be taken away from the Swell organ to make way for a new 2ft stop. The organ builder replied you can pull the octave coupler to get octave from the Trumpet. Which you can of course but there is nothing like getting the brightness of a Clarion to top off a 'full swell'.

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The church organ where I was a chorister was being rebuilt and I remember listening to a conversation between the organ builder and a choir member looking over the newly refurbished console.  The choir member asked the rationale was for the Clarion to be taken away from the Swell organ to make way for a new 2ft stop.  The organ builder replied you can pull the octave coupler to get octave from the Trumpet.  Which you can of course but there is nothing like getting the brightness of a Clarion to top off a 'full swell'.

 

 

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

 

The best "full swell" on a vintage Harrison organ, is usually best achieved with just the Mixture and the 16ft and 4ft reeds, plus octave coupler.

 

For some reason, the 8ft just thickens the effect, but doesn't add much in the way of outright organ-power.

 

Another thing....Clarions are so very useful as a pedal 4ft solo voice on such instruments, when coupled down.

 

Play an octave down, with just the Clarion and the 2ft Fifteenth, and you have a mini full-swell effect, just a bit louder than the other one, where the 8ft Oboe and 4ft Principal are drawn, or the other, other one, where you play an octave higher on the 16ft reed with 8ft Diapason.

 

Fond memories of psalm accompaniment indeed!

 

MM

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I love a good Clarion - maybe you're the same. Maybe you're not.... we shall see.

Even with a bright chorus and a good 8' chorus reed, there's something about the fire and splash that a good Clarion brings, IMHO they're virtually as essential in a 'final and complete' Full Swell as a 16' reed.

...

1. Maybe lots of different designers don't like them (unlikely but possible)

2. They're seen as a luxury

3. Builders don't like them, treble reed pipes being pretty difficult to voice really well.

...

Would you specify a Clarion in a new Swell (or Great)? Opinions please?

There are builders who advocate that there should be a decent 16-foot reed on the Swell before the Clarion comes in, especially in dead acoustics, as in carpeted churches, concert halls etc. Philipp Klais wrote something to that extent in Vol. II of "Beiträge zur Geschichte und Ästhetik der Orgel", the Klais anniversary book of 2001, in an article about their then recent concert hall instruments.

 

He did not give a reason, but I guess it has to do with the fact that in dead acoustics fundamental is needed rather than brilliance. If a Swell ensemble is voiced well, the combination of chorus reeds 16 + 8 with the 4-foot Principal and a regular chorus mixture should deliver all the weight and brilliance you could wish for, even for French repertoire. "Clarion mixtures" I never found sufficient, neither stringy cornets or slotted mixtures.

 

Sometimes I found that French reeds 8 + 4 on the Swell did not give the desired effect of fiery brilliance, but changed the overall sound of the organ to a not-so-graceful fat and reedy character, quite like a harmonium on steroids. Even a Clarion must blend with the foundations, which in turn must not sound obese or woolly. Maybe in this case Clarions are treated with too much caution, are being scaled too narrow or tamed down too much in comparison with the Trumpet. I suspect if you want the regular blast, there is no way to get it except letting the Clarion have its spectacular way.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Would you specify a Clarion in a new Swell (or Great)? Opinions please?

 

I think if you have two chorus reeds on the Great the German tradition is for 16' and 8' and the French tradition is for 8' and 4'. There is something thrilling about 4' AND 16' chorus reeds both in an enclosed Swell and on the Great. If I had to choose I'd have the 16' reed in the Swell and the 4' on the Great but you are right, Clarions are rarer now than before. There are 2 on the Rieger at Christ Church, Oxford, well, 3 if you count the one on the pedal.

 

Michael

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Now correct me if I'm wrong (I'm sure someone will!) Long, long ago a fellow student once told me that some organ builder had told him that in reeds stops the first harmonic is stronger than the fundamental. I never heard anyone else mention this, so when Colin Peacock was voicing my Wyvern I asked him whether there was any truth in this. Surprisingly (considering that voicing stops on the Bradford software entails juggling the harmonics) he didn't know, but he thought it might well be true.

 

Be that as it may, the first harmonic of trumpet-toned stops is at least very strong.

 

For that reason, while ideally I like a full complement of reeds, I am content to do without Clarions where size dictates. On the Swell, a Clarion would be a lower priority than both a 16' reed and an 8' diapason (such an indispensible stop for liturgical use and English music in general).

 

Similarly, on the Great I might well prefer a 16' before a Clarion, though I don't know that I would want to be inflexible about that since other factors, such as the size of the building and acoustic, might dictate otherwise.

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I think most British organists would agree that a 16' reed is more important to the typical "Full Swell" sound than a Clarion, I think the question is more to do with how many 8' reeds you would choose to have in preference to the 4'.

 

Gloucester, for example, has three 8' reeds on the swell -Trumpet, Hautboy and Vox Humana, but as Paul has already said no clarion. Personally I've always found the Vox Humana to be a chocolate tea-cup and would much prefer to have the clarion.

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I think most British organists would agree that a 16' reed is more important to the typical "Full Swell" sound than a Clarion, I think the question is more to do with how many 8' reeds you would choose to have in preference to the 4'.

 

Gloucester, for example, has three 8' reeds on the swell -Trumpet, Hautboy and Vox Humana, but as Paul has already said no clarion. Personally I've always found the Vox Humana to be a chocolate tea-cup and would much prefer to have the clarion.

 

My cumulative order of preference for swell reeds would be:

 

8 Trumpet, 8 Oboe, 16 Trumpet, 4 Clarion, 8 Vox Humana

 

But maybe this is boringly conventional - and I guess it would depend on the rest of the organ and the building.

 

My current organ has a 16 Fagotto with quarter-length basses as the only swell reed. In fact the only reed at all. Strange! Full swell is an odd sounding growl unless the octave coupler is used, at which point the mixture starts screeching.

 

JJK

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Guest Roffensis
Depends on the size of the rest of the instrument, but yes, I would. A good firey 4' reed is a wonderful thing. I have 2 Clarions (sw + gt) on my own instrument - I often leave the gt 8' reed in, and just use 16+4 - the 8' is a bit too smooth, whereas the 16+4 is good growling blast.

 

 

A Fr. Willis that I played for four years had both 8' and 4' reeds on Swell and Great. This suited the overall brassy tone of this instrument, and I loved the effect. That said, my current organ positions do not have 4 foot Clarions, nor have I missed them. I think in a large instrument, I would not want them unless there was a 16 foot reed to balance.

 

R

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Sometimes I found that French reeds 8 + 4 on the Swell did not give the desired effect of fiery brilliance, but changed the overall sound of the organ to a not-so-graceful fat and reedy character, quite like a harmonium on steroids. Even a Clarion must blend with the foundations, which in turn must not sound obese or woolly. Maybe in this case Clarions are treated with too much caution, are being scaled too narrow or tamed down too much in comparison with the Trumpet.

 

 

Thanks for your comments; you've made some very pertinent points.

 

I know exactly what you mean about reeds sounding like 'a harmonium on steroids' in fact, I've heard quite a few that fit this description. It is Zenophobic to suggest that most of the ones I've heard are on imported organs? It certainly appears that way to me.

 

Voicers working for the big UK firms definitely can provide good Clarions if they are asked to do it... the point is, for no terribly apparent reason a steady stream of Clarion-less organs seem to be coming out.

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First, I would ALWAYS put a Clarion above a 16' reed. Romsey has two, and no 16's (apart from on the pedal) - they are completely essential voices and couldn't be lived without.

 

There is a Walker tradition I think of Clarion Mixtures - a sort of hybrid replacement, which I understand to sometimes be a huge mixture, sometimes to be reed pipes with something else, or something. Don't really know. I know Portsea had one, and St Matthew's Northampton.

 

The comment about Harrison choruses is certainly apt. At St Peter's Bournemouth I always felt that adding the Gt 8' reed made the whole thing quieter, the 4' reed being the one to use first.

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Guest Roffensis
First, I would ALWAYS put a Clarion above a 16' reed.  Romsey has two, and no 16's (apart from on the pedal) - they are completely essential voices and couldn't be lived without.

 

There is a Walker tradition I think of Clarion Mixtures - a sort of hybrid replacement, which I understand to sometimes be a huge mixture, sometimes to be reed pipes with something else, or something.  Don't really know.  I know Portsea had one, and St Matthew's Northampton.

 

The comment about Harrison choruses is certainly apt.  At St Peter's Bournemouth I always felt that adding the Gt 8' reed made the whole thing quieter, the 4' reed being the one to use first.

 

 

Well of course .

 

With Romsey being a rather "round" toned organ, you would need 4' Clarions to add brilliance.

 

I agree.

 

R.

 

R

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
First, I would ALWAYS put a Clarion above a 16' reed.  Romsey has two, and no 16's (apart from on the pedal) - they are completely essential voices and couldn't be lived without.

 

There is a Walker tradition I think of Clarion Mixtures - a sort of hybrid replacement, which I understand to sometimes be a huge mixture, sometimes to be reed pipes with something else, or something.  Don't really know.  I know Portsea had one, and St Matthew's Northampton.

 

The comment about Harrison choruses is certainly apt.  At St Peter's Bournemouth I always felt that adding the Gt 8' reed made the whole thing quieter, the 4' reed being the one to use first.

 

 

The Clarion Mixture at Portsea is just an 'Octave Mixture' (without Tierces) - I'm fairly sure these stops never had a single reed pipe in them. They were definitely indended to give brilliance to the tout ensemble, an excellent idea - just a slightly odd name. I remain unconvinced that they were to replace a Clarion - someone will put me straight, of course.

 

Thanks for these responses, gentlemen and ladies, please keep them coming. If we'd got together like this (airing our opinions/experiences) thirty years ago, maybe we could have started a small rumble that could have retained all those precious Swell Oboes that were generally disposed of.

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Guest Roffensis
The Clarion Mixture at Portsea is just an 'Octave Mixture' (without Tierces) - I'm fairly sure these stops never had a single reed pipe in them. They were definitely indended to give brilliance to the tout ensemble, an excellent idea - just a slightly odd name. I remain unconvinced that they were to replace a Clarion - someone will put me straight, of course.

 

Thanks for these responses, gentlemen and ladies, please keep them coming. If we'd got together like this (airing our opinions/experiences) thirty years ago, maybe we could have started a small rumble that could have retained all those precious Swell Oboes that were generally disposed of.

 

Nothing can ever stop the rot! :lol:

 

As to Clarion Mixtures, Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, as I recall a fine old Walker, also had them.

 

R

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I love a good Clarion - maybe you're the same. Maybe you're not.... we shall see.

Even with a bright chorus and a good 8' chorus reed, there's something about the fire and splash that a good Clarion brings, IMHO they're virtually as essential in a 'final and complete' Full Swell as a 16' reed.

 

Now the point of my topic is that I've noticed a distinct trend to leave these stops out of new schemes.  As to reasons, how about some of these:

 

1. Maybe lots of different designers don't like them (unlikely but possible)

2. They're seen as a luxury

3. Builders don't like them, treble reed pipes being pretty difficult to voice really well.

 

I think the first large organ scheme in recent times to leave out the Swell Clarion was the (famous/infamous) Gloucester Cathedral rebuild at the hands of HN&B and Ralph Downes. There, Downes had included (presumably for the same musical purpose) a Tierce Cymbal. Does this cover for the lack of a Clarion ? Like *beep* it does!  Frankly that mixture is not a lot of good in the swell chorus either, bear in mind that there is no alternative mixture to top the chorus! The really irritating thing about this Swell is that Downes had the option to retain an existing Father Willis/H&H III Mixture and Clarion but he chose not to.

 

Recently I had a fault here (Holy Trinity Hull) caused by a short between two cotton-covered wires, which resulted in the Great Clarion coming on whenever the Swell to Great was used. Needless to say, with great regret I was forced to cut the wires to the Clarion and managed for several months without it.  Now it's back on, I am aware of how much it adds - this is a Great with 16 8 8 4 in chorus reeds. I also have excellent chorus reeds at 8 8 4 currently on the Swell and 16 8 on the Bombarde. Logically, the difference of one little reed rank shouldn't have been that much but it was - particularly in the middle octaves!  The splash and fire are back.

 

Would you specify a Clarion in a new Swell (or Great)? Opinions please?

 

I agree with you, Paul.

 

I also dislike the Swell Cimbel (CC: 38-40-43). I would much prefer to have kept the Clarion.

 

My own church instrument has three Clarion ranks - Pedal, GO and Swell. They are all different - and all extremely useful. I particularly like the excitement and 'blaze' provided by the Swell Clarion, which I find particularly useful when playing French symphonic music - and, for that matter, hymns.

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Nothing can ever stop the rot!  :unsure:

 

As to Clarion Mixtures, Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, as I recall a fine old Walker, also had them.

 

R

 

Indeed - although these have been long gone, replaced by reeds at 4p.

 

The original Walker Clarion Mixture commenced at 22-26-29. It was, in effect, simply an octave version of their standard 15-19-22 GO Mixture.

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The Clarion Mixture at Portsea is just an 'Octave Mixture' (without Tierces) - I'm fairly sure these stops never had a single reed pipe in them. They were definitely indended to give brilliance to the tout ensemble, an excellent idea - just a slightly odd name. I remain unconvinced that they were to replace a Clarion - someone will put me straight, of course.

 

 

Indeed - no reed pipes!

 

I believe that Walkers included them (and named the stop Clarion Mixture) in order to make the provision of a second (and higher-pitched) compound stop acceptable at a time when most upperwork was being whittled-down to a few fifteenths, piccolos and mixtures which never went above a 22nd.

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Indeed - although these have been long gone, replaced by reeds at 4p.

 

The original Walker Clarion Mixture commenced at 22-26-29. It was, in effect, simply an octave version of their standard 15-19-22 GO Mixture.

 

I can't lay my hands on the article right now but I will swear blind that I have seen a description of Clarion Mixtures as sometimes containing reed pipes.

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Guest Roffensis
I can't lay my hands on the article right now but I will swear blind that I have seen a description of Clarion Mixtures as sometimes containing reed pipes.

 

 

That also sounds familiar to me!

 

R

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I can't lay my hands on the article right now but I will swear blind that I have seen a description of Clarion Mixtures as sometimes containing reed pipes.

 

 

No - not the Walker ones, at any rate.

 

However, I can recall a number of old articles in back-issues of The Organ, in which Gilbert Benham and other contributors describe various reed stops and hazard a guess as to where flue pipes take over from reed pipes in the treble ranges.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest Barry Williams
Thanks for your comments; you've made some very pertinent points.

 

I know exactly what you mean about reeds sounding like 'a harmonium on steroids' in fact, I've heard quite a few that fit this description. It is Zenophobic to suggest that most of the ones I've heard are on imported organs? It certainly appears that way to me.

 

Voicers working for the big UK firms definitely can provide good Clarions if they are asked to do it... the point is, for no terribly apparent reason a steady stream of Clarion-less organs seem to be coming out.

 

 

I heard of one completely new organ where a Swell Clarion was specified by the church. The organ builder quoted without the Clarion and was therefore invited to requote. He refused, I think rather rudely, saying that his organs did not have Clarions. Needless to say the job went to someone else - about £450,000 of sale lost on a Clarion!

 

Barry Williams

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And if like me you play quite a lot of music from the 17th/18th century French repertoire then 8' and 4' reeds plus Cornet registration is a real necessity even if one has to 'fudge it' somewhat. Willis I Great reeds work quite well for an 'Anglo' version of this - try St Gile Cripplegate in London's Barbican where Mander managed to unite two such with a newer Cornet in the 1970s - it's quite electrifying!

 

AJJ

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