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Stairs To The Loft


nfortin
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There are many other organs which have have exceptional loft arrangements: I once remember eight people cramming into the Corpus Christi college Cambridge loft, which is tiny, and then a similar number of people in the (not much bigger!) loft at Clayesmore college in Dorset. If you are in the nave of the Clayesmore chapel, then you can see how precarious this might be: the organ loft seems to be suspended over the south-west end, and I was surprised that the construction propping it up could support the weight of the console, let alone eight visitors! Incidentally both of these have stone staircases. Luckily the organ where I play (St. Mary's, Hanwell, Middlesex) has a very spacious organ loft accessed from a side gallery; it is constructed in such a way that there is a space in the middle of the organ as well, which is big enough to walk in and sit down. At the other place where I play (St. Paul's School, London), an organ loft would be most welcome, as it would stop busybodies pressing keys/pulling out loud pedal reed stops at imappropriate places in the middle of your playing. Do any other organists who have no organ loft suffer from this?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
A close friend of mine's son was born while he was at the console, in the same room, playing Thaxted.  Does that count?

 

 

More interesting if his wife had been playing at the time.... :o

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

Saint Augustine, Kilburn (J.L. Pearson) has a lovely spiral staircase incorporated into the fabric - although it is also another entrance to the glorious processional triforium which has a stately staircase at the West End of the Nave.

 

Continental organists are not so well catered for. At Strasbourg Cathedral I played on a snowy January. You have to climb a spiral staircase that is built into the North West tower and which is open to the elements. I played in a blizzard and one page was lost by the pager turner behind me. Having gone up, you then cross a parapet and go down until you reach the roof of the North Aisle! This you walk along until you find a little ladder that takes you up to a little door through which you enter behind the organ. You then come out onto a swallow's nest siuation and see the sides of the Nave and (thankfully) the large timbers which make the organists' perch.

 

The scariest in Europe must surely be at Metz Cathedral in Eastern France. To play the Renaissance organ (about 100 feet from the ground of the Nave) seriously calls into doubt the sanity of yourself in wanting to play an organ in the first place. There you ascend to the roof of the South Choir Aisle. You walk along the sloping roof with nothing to stop you going over the edge (not for the faint hearted and certainly not to be attempted in frosty weather without crampons). You then have to open a panel in a Clerestory window of the South Transept and step onto a little path that sometimes has a metal bar to stop your descent to the cathedral paving. You go all the way around the Transept until you reach the head of the Nave. The organ clings to the first bay of the Triforium and the nest only is built for a tiny swallow of an organist. Changing stops to your right gives you a complete vista westwards down the Nave wall. To your left you see the cavenous space of the the Crossing and the mighty Apse. This situation gives performances a kind of rigidity that quite surprises one. As you near the end of your playing, a kind of musical rigor mortis sets in as a tiny portion of your brain reminds you that you must leave the Cathedral by the same route as you entered.

Tuning this instrument is done by the organist, the stupendously musical Norbert Petry. He pushes the bench under the keyboards; takes a ladder that he props up against the centre of the case and the base of the ladder stopped by the outer frame of the 'nest'. I saw no more as I had my eyes shut.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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Funnily enough I've worked on a few instances lately of organs moving out of chancels and back into new West End galleries.

 

Bearing in mind the very fine churches around here that are having to be closed (St Mary's Devizes is an extremely fine example, with a historic Sweetland over which he himself presided) because of the inconvenient lack of toilets and disabled access, I always wonder how long it's going to be before disabled access to the organ loft reaches the top of someone's in-tray.

 

Will this day ever come, do you think? What the hell are we going to do if it does?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Funnily enough I've worked on a few instances lately of organs moving out of chancels and back into new West End galleries.

 

Bearing in mind the very fine churches around here that are having to be closed (St Mary's Devizes is an extremely fine example, with a historic Sweetland over which he himself presided) because of the inconvenient lack of toilets and disabled access, I always wonder how long it's going to be before disabled access to the organ loft reaches the top of someone's in-tray.

 

Will this day ever come, do you think?  What the hell are we going to do if it does?

 

 

This is no sillier than the situation which obtained when my wife was teaching at a special school (Moderate Learning Diffulties - which takes you almost right to the thinnest point on the ability bell-curve!) in Gloucester. According to our beloved National Curriculum, the whole school population were legally entitled to French lessons and had to have them - to the detriment of Basic Maths, English, Life Skills etc.

 

The new (moderately inconvenient) legislation concerning seat belts and booster seats for under-14s of course excludes buses and taxis! Presumably strangers are more likely to take care when driving my (and your) children than you or I do.....and their vehicles are bound to meet fewer unexpected road hazards.

 

Sex offenders are now entitled to demand (as part of their human rights) free pornography in jail.

 

There is a certain mentality which takes no account of logic..... so don't suggest anything like this (even in fun) David, some total pratt from The Ministry may detect an unequal provision here and 'move in' in characteristic fashion.

 

Thinking on:

What about me......? I am too heavy to earn my living as a jockey and too unfit to be a ballet-dancer. Being kept out of these professions is an infringement of my human rights! I think The State should provide me with a specially bred horse (and modify The Jockey Club's handicap regulations so as to cause me no disadvantage) and a mechanical dancing frame at the taxpayer's expense.

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Funnily enough I've worked on a few instances lately of organs moving out of chancels and back into new West End galleries.

 

Bearing in mind the very fine churches around here that are having to be closed (St Mary's Devizes is an extremely fine example, with a historic Sweetland over which he himself presided) because of the inconvenient lack of toilets and disabled access, I always wonder how long it's going to be before disabled access to the organ loft reaches the top of someone's in-tray.

 

Will this day ever come, do you think?  What the hell are we going to do if it does?

 

I think that this is unlikely for two reasons.

 

1) An organ loft is not a public place, or even somewhere to which the general public have right of access.

 

2) The wording of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995 - revised 1999) is: "Since 1999, service providers have had to take reasonable steps to change a practice, policy or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to make use of its services. For instance, if a disabled person were denied Communion at a church service, that would now be unlawful. ..." (My emphasis.) It could be argued that rebuilding the entire west end of a church in order to provide lift access did not constitute 'reasonable steps'. In addition, most churches would fall under the purview of English Heritage or similar bodies - some will also be listed buildings. As such, major reconstruction work on the fabric of the building would be forbidden on architectural and historic grounds.

 

"... from October 2004 service providers will have to have considered which physical features of a building inhibit use of services by disabled people, and will need to take reasonable steps to remove the feature, alter, provide a way of avoiding it, or provide a reasonable alternative method of making the service available. For churches this could include looking at the access to the church and parts of the interior, use of WCs, notice boards, churchyards etc.

 

The implications of this new duty for churches have understandably caused concern. However, only reasonable alterations are required, and it is quite lawful to make services available whilst avoiding physical features or providing a service in a different way. The important principle is that all people are included in the provision of the service."

 

In each case, there is at least the stipulation of 'reasonable'.

 

Even the US, with its litigation-obsessed culture, has not yet thrown reason to the dogs:

 

"A judge in the US district court for the Southern District of Florida has dismissed a lawsuit against Southwest Airlines filed by a blind internet user who claimed that the carrier's web site did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The judge reasoned that the Act does not apply to the internet."

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Thinking on:

What about me......? I am too heavy to earn my living as a jockey and too unfit to be a ballet-dancer. Being kept out of these professions is an infringement of my human rights! I think The State should provide me with a specially bred horse (and modify The Jockey Club's handicap regulations so as to cause me no disadvantage) and a mechanical dancing frame at the taxpayer's expense.

 

Well, OK - but, please - no tights....

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