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Guest Barry Oakley - voluntarily dereg

Holy Trinity Church, Hull

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You might try listenign - you might even learn something of spiritual benefit!

 

Not all sermons are boring. How would you feel if the audience sat reading books or whatever during your recital - or the choir's anthem?

 

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

 

I've got to confess that I have written papers during recitals, read a fascinating book about old trains and practised the organ silently during just about every sermon I never listened to and, with considerable self-control, once carried out a small operation to my hand when I removed a large wooden spell from it as people took communion.

 

I've had old ladies knitting during concerts, people offering me aniseed balls during voluntaries, small children climbing aboard the console to watch and an old lag who consumed a whole bottle of sherry to the accompaniment of a Handel Organ Concerto with full-orchestra!

 

If God is love and music be the food of it, I guess I have a good excuse.

 

MM

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Guest Barry Oakley

As the originator of this topic it now seems to have gone violently off course.

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Guest Barry Oakley
Hmm, yes it has - sorry, but I just had to reply to the comment by Rev. Newnham

 

If we are to keep this topic on track and also encompass other angles which have been added, I once heard a Holy Trinity curate, the Revd H Owens Wilton, whilst reading one of the lessons, turn from the lectern and tell the late Norman Strafford to "stop fiddling with his organ." NS was setting and testing pistons.

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pcnd, do you have three different sermons? I sometimes cover for a big church near here where I have had to listen to the same sermon three times, badly prepared and badly presented. I usually find it's a good time to go through the tuning and voluntary books and from the plethora of cartoons it's clear the regular does the same. No wonder churches are emptying in droves... and, yes, I entirely agree about people talking through voluntaries and once even had a vicar announce a hymn, his hands cupped to his lips in a shout, while I was still playing. I am reminded of someone or other famous who, seeing the line in a wedding order of service "during the signing of registers, the organ will play" sticking a pencil under middle C and going to the pub. When collared he replied that the organ was playing, and if they had wanted him to play it, they should have said so.

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I usually find it's a good time to go through the tuning

 

(Quote)

 

Really?

 

Maybe I don't understand, but this I didn't encountered yet!

I shall tell a friend to try this with the 16' Bombarde... :blink:

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers

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I usually find it's a good time to go through the tuning

 

(Quote)

 

Really?

 

Maybe I don't understand, but this I didn't encountered yet!

I shall tell a friend to try this with the 16' Bombarde... :blink:

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers

 

Actually, I think that deadsheep meant the tuning faults book and the voluntary book - not actually tuning ranks during a sermon! (Although to be honest, this could sometimes be less boring.) :angry:

 

For the record, deadsheep; no, the sermons are often repeated - by Matins on Christmas Day last year I could have preached the sermon. I had heard it already at the 08h Mass and the 09h45 Mass....Why? I do not normally repeat voluntaries within a year, except by request.

Ah well....

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If we are to keep this topic on track and also encompass other angles which have been added, I once heard a Holy Trinity curate, the Revd H Owens Wilton, whilst reading one of the lessons, turn from the lectern and tell the late Norman Strafford to "stop fiddling with his organ." NS was setting and testing pistons.

 

 

I assume that he was also able to adjust his combinations without leaving the seat.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Please may we have your Vicar when you have finished with him? :P

 

Seriously, it sounds a good scheme. If you get approval, will the nave console have similar luminous light-touches? If so, will you have them controlled by LEDs (and the choir console, too?) I once had had a few moments of panic some years back at St. Luke's, Chelsea and I also know of colleagues with similar stories at Downside Abbey. As you will know, one of the problems with the old Compton light-touches is that the bulbs kept (keep!) burning out. Unwittingly leaving a stray Contra Posaune 32p wandering around near the beginning of the Coll. Reg. Nunc (Howells) is not something to recommend... :P

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

 

Dear pcnd,

Yes, I rather thought that (if funds permit) the new nave console at HTH ought to be a modern interpretation of the same concept as Compton's, i.e. luminous touches once again. I agree with you about the problems that dead bulbs can cause, so we think that LEDs are the way to go. I have met a number of the remaining Compton luminous touch consoles, and I agree that they take a little getting used to. However, there are some definite plus points for this system:

1. Stop changes by piston are silent

2. General Crescendo build up is specific, visible and can be modified

3. One movement of the hand can simultaneously draw a new stop and silence another

4. The console can be a good bit more compact - the movement required is smaller, the space usually occupied by a solenoid is not needed and the 'stop-heads' can be a good bit closer together because you don't need to get your fingers around them.

 

 

To change the subject:

I realise that pcnd and others are very fond of the Gloucester organ. I am not. If it had been a new instrument I would probably admire it, because it can sound very fresh and exciting particularly in expert hands such as DBriggs Esq. I heard him live several times and (as it were) heard the instrument for the first time.

 

However, my main difficulty with the HN&B rebuild at Gloucester comes from the fact that a few spurious arguments about restoring antique pipes (which were then revoiced without permission of the Cathedral Authorities) and tidying up the look of the organ gallery were used to wreck one of the greatest romantic organs ever built. This is not just my opinion. It is as if someone has sprayed over a Rembrandt and painted a very interesting Warhol on top of it (keeping the Rembrandt frame, of course).

 

I was a student of Howells at the time it was done and had my weekly lesson on a Monday morning. He had been guest of honour at the opening of the new instrument and was (two days later) still white with rage. His exact words were 'they have smashed up my organ!'. He explained that whatever it said on the scores themselves, every single work of his was written with that unique instrument and building in mind.

 

When John Sanders was severely ill quite early on in his time of tenure, John (Herbert) Sumsion was begged to come back from his retirement to help out - he declined to go anywhere near the organ.

 

A very well-known cathedral organist guested on the console a few summers ago - beaming, he declared afterwards

'I've worked out how to play it!'

 

The solution apparently was

'You can play evensong on just eight stops -

mind you (said with a twinkle) DON'T DRAW THEM ALL AT ONCE!'

 

 

I love the irony of one classic statement to be found in the booklet produced for the opening of the organ. (Not to hand, so I quote from memory:)

 

'We have retained the Willis reeds but have fitted them with new shallots to fit into the new tonal scheme'.

 

If a new shallot is put into a Willis reed any fool knows (least of all professional organ builders) that the reed will never sound the same again. Exciting - maybe, striking and modern - probably, musical no. I agree with Neil Fortin - you would have to have a pretty unsubtle choir for either the Swell Oboe or the Choir Cremona to provide an appropriate counter-melody!

 

I must just tell one last Gloucester Cathedral tale:

By the time that the voicing was under way in the building itself, HN&B's staff generally were so frightened of Ralph Downes that no reed voicer was sent to Gloucester to finish the job. Apparently, the only voicer on the staff that could understand/bear with RD (who, I'm sure we all agree meant well!) was an Irishman called Prosser - a fine flue voicer, he was called upon to regulate the reeds too. Force majeure.

Those who really enjoy this instrument must ask themselves whether what they enjoy is

- the untamed, rawness of some of the larger sounds - which can genuinely excite?

- one of the best acoustics in Europe?

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Dear Paul,

 

Thank you for your reply; I enjoyed reading it - even the part about Gloucester!

 

A few thoughts come to mind:

 

I agree with your comments with regard to HTH except:

 

1) Any stop changes will, of course, only be silent at the console! Whilst I am aware that there are some builders who claim to have installed silent sliders and slider-motors, I have yet to hear any!

 

Gloucester:

 

I still like it!

 

It may be interesting to note that at the time of the rebuild, there were also many genuine musicians and music-lovers who also liked it. These same people had found the 1920 H&H oppressive and un-musical, particularly when played loudly (to quote Herbert Byard loosely!) It tended previously to engulf the singers with a thick, unclear noise, apparently (I am not old enough to remember it, so I have to rely on contemporary reports). Yes, there were also many (like Howells) who did not like it. I am entirely sympathetic to their viewpoints (I am extremely fond of the choral music of Howells). However, take, for example, the music of J. S. Bach. Formerly, played at Gloucester, it was apparently unclear and heavy - the voice-parts were unbalanced. Now, it is a thrilling, totally clear sound - even when listening whilst leaning against the west door.

 

As for the Swell Hautboy - I have heard far worse examples from several other builders in other organs, romantic and modern!

 

With respect to the revoicing of the antique pipes, Downes has written that permission was sought from the Dean and Chapter. I cannot agree that it was one of the greatest romantic organs ever built! It was a fairly standard H&H rebuild of a Willis, in which Arthur Harrison had also revoiced most of the chorus reeds (for example, the family of trombi on the GO). Probably Willis enthusiasts of the 1920s were also not entirely happy with the H&H transformation. Then there was the Choir Organ - six stops, including a Double Dulciana - which contributed greatly to the bulky and unsightly appearance of the case, with its excresences!

 

Possibly the organ builders at H N&B at the time were of a more nervous disposition then their colleagues at Durham had been twenty years earlier - they were apparently not frightened by RD - there are several instances of various H&H employees standing up to Downes!

 

Having played for quite a few services on the Gloucester organ and had many lessons on it with DB, I still find it superb and so alive. The thing I enjoy most is being able to hear all of the actual notes, as opposed to some acoustically-confused impression! Yet, as I have said before, I am able also to appreciate many other quite different organs. There is always beauty if one is prepared to look for it.

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Unlike the majority of contributors to this theme I have the good fortune to atttend a church where the rector's sermons are invariably interesting and frequently brilliant :unfortunately the same cannot be said of the music, which on many occasions reduces me to a state of apoplexy. Given what I go to church for I think this has to be the right way round (after all one is not attending a concert) although presumably no one would dissent from the proposition that consistently thought provoking preaching allied to appropriate music performed with conviction and enthusiasm and style would provide the most enjoyable church-going experience.

 

Turning to the vexed subject of the Gloucester organ I am on the side of Paul Derrett, though it is undoubtedly true that those who like that sort of thing will find that the Gloucester organ is exactly the sort of thing they like. However, I fail to understand why the inability of the former organ to be able to provide an authentic/satisfying performance (whatever that is - views do seem to change) of the organ works of JSB should be seen as of any particular significance, after all the function of that organ was as a liturgical instrument, not a concert one. As far as I am aware the Anglican liturgy does not require the works of JSB to be played and in the church I now attend I can never recall hearing one , with the possible exception of an arrangement of "Sheep may safely graze" which presumably ought not to count ! ( Since my CD collection contains 4 "complete" sets of the organ works, and numerous collections of selected works, the aforementioned fact has not prevented me from acquiring a certain degree of familiarity with Bach's music). So is the argument that Cathedrals have an obligation to educate their congregations by exposing them to only the best in music, an obligation which is not owed by lesser establishments ? Or is it a question of economics - that an organ more suited to performing the works of Bach can be marketed more successfully to more people who will pay to use/hear it and so make it, if not a source of profit, at least a lesser drain on cathedral funds than one which is not so suitable? Or is it just the preference of the player (s) who wish(ed) to play Bach rather than music for the performance of which the organ as it was was perfectly suitable ? Given that the majority opinion of contributors here definitely inclines to the view that most of the public do not listen to what is provided for them, one has to wonder why players should feel it necessary to bother. Surely any old thing should do as cover for the noise of a retiring congregation who are paying no attention anyway ? Of course, the fine music might be for the benefit of the Almighty himself but as He already has both JSB and GTB and even Virgil Fox (depending on what style of playing He would like to hear today) it might be thought that His needs were already fairly comprehensively provided for. The fact that an organ cannot play certain music convincingly is only a relevant factor if a convincing performance of that music is what the organ is there to do. It does not appear to have been demonstrated how the fact (if fact it be) that the old organ was not the ideal Bach organ impacted in any way on its ability to do its actual job!

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Guest Roffensis
Hi

 

You might try listenign - you might even learn something of spiritual benefit!

 

Not all sermons are boring.  How would you feel if the audience sat reading books or whatever during your recital - or the choir's anthem?

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

To be honest I agree with Tony. I also think too many organists see their positon as a job like

like any other, when in reality it isn't. Its a calling, and an outreach, or should be. I always listen to homilies in my own church, and enjoy them. I also always tell my chorsters why they are there, not as an entertainment, but to enhance the worship of almighty God. This may well not cut any ice with many organists, and is half the reason why there are such difficulites with organists in church, as there is often just no link with christianity and a organist. Thats all it is about though, its the reason for the church and everything to do with it. I think that decrying sermons per se is just plain ignorant, some are truly bad and not thought out, that's true. People do have a "cut off" point where they will stop listening, and that goes for music and everything else in life. But we still all have a lot to learn, and humility is a good start. Far better to support a priest in every which way you can and help in whatever way you can to build the church up. I also get thoroughly brassed off by loud talking during a voluntary, and talking through the sevice, first communions being a classic example, shher bedlam. But that is other peoples attitudes, and we need to set a better example. You cannot blame others or other aspects of the church for a few peoples lack of understnding and appreciation. I also note in this day and age that clergy often do not have the same outreach they used to have, but the thing is ultimately this. You have to be an organist for the right reasons, and that has to be a servant to the church and all it is. Otherwise its blackpool Tower, and you'll not only have talking to contend with but also dancing as well!!! Its worth noting that organ recitals are also plagued with chit chat, which would be unthinkable in a play. Two wrongs still dont make a right! A good slap in the face and "shullup" might work!! :P:P:P:P:P

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To be honest I agree with Tony. I also think too many organists see their positon as a job like

like any other, when in reality it isn't. Its a calling, and an outreach, or should be. I always listen to homilies in my own church, and enjoy them. I also always tell my chorsters why they are there, not as an entertainment, but to enhance the worship of almighty God. This may well not cut any ice with many organists, and is half the reason why there are such difficulites with organists in church, as there is often just no link with christianity and a organist. Thats all it is about though, its the reason for the church and everything to do with it. I think that decrying sermons per se is just plain ignorant, some are truly bad and not thought out, that's true. People do have a "cut off" point where they will stop listening, and that goes for music and everything else in life. But we still all have a lot to learn, and humility is a good start. Far better to support a priest in every which way you can and help in whatever way you can to build the church up.  I also get thoroughly brassed off by loud talking during a voluntary, and talking through the sevice, first communions being a classic example, shher bedlam. But that is other peoples attitudes, and we need to set a better example. You cannot blame others or other aspects of the church for a few peoples lack of understnding and appreciation. I also note in this day and age that clergy often do not have the same outreach they used to have, but the thing is ultimately this. You have to be an organist for the right reasons, and that has to be a servant to the church and all it is. Otherwise its blackpool Tower, and you'll not only have talking to contend with but also dancing as well!!! Its worth noting that organ recitals are also plagued with chit chat, which would be unthinkable in a play. Two wrongs still dont make a right! A good slap in the face and "shullup" might work!! :P  :P  :P  :P  :P

 

I generally agree, though the slap in the face , whilst it might well work in the short term and provide instant gratification, would be likely to prove counter productive in terms of the subsequent court appearance and adverse media attention.

 

I have in my possession a book by Harvey Grace, "The Compleat Organist" ,although I cannot find it to check my recollection, but I have a distinct memory of his advice to choir directors -- that NO ONE should be in the choir stalls who would not otherwise be in the pews on Sunday. I assume he would have thought the same applied to the organ bench.

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To be honest I agree with Tony. I also think too many organists see their positon as a job like

like any other, when in reality it isn't. Its a calling, and an outreach, or should be. I always listen to homilies in my own church, and enjoy them. I also always tell my chorsters why they are there, not as an entertainment, but to enhance the worship of almighty God. This may well not cut any ice with many organists, and is half the reason why there are such difficulites with organists in church, as there is often just no link with christianity and a organist. Thats all it is about though, its the reason for the church and everything to do with it. I think that decrying sermons per se is just plain ignorant, some are truly bad and not thought out, that's true. People do have a "cut off" point where they will stop listening, and that goes for music and everything else in life. But we still all have a lot to learn, and humility is a good start. Far better to support a priest in every which way you can and help in whatever way you can to build the church up.  I also get thoroughly brassed off by loud talking during a voluntary, and talking through the sevice, first communions being a classic example, shher bedlam. But that is other peoples attitudes, and we need to set a better example. You cannot blame others or other aspects of the church for a few peoples lack of understnding and appreciation. I also note in this day and age that clergy often do not have the same outreach they used to have, but the thing is ultimately this. You have to be an organist for the right reasons, and that has to be a servant to the church and all it is. Otherwise its blackpool Tower, and you'll not only have talking to contend with but also dancing as well!!! Its worth noting that organ recitals are also plagued with chit chat, which would be unthinkable in a play. Two wrongs still dont make a right! A good slap in the face and "shullup" might work!! :P  :P  :P  :P  :P

 

Actually, I take my job very seriously, including the spiritual aspect of the services! That is precisely why I am tired of over-long, badly-prepared 'sermons'. Read my post of 1st August! :P

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I did read somewhere this organ (the previous one) was Howell's...

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers

 

 

...favourite? :P

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Having played for quite a few services on the Gloucester organ and had many lessons on it with DB, I still find it superb and so alive. The thing I enjoy most is being able to hear all of the actual notes, as opposed to some acoustically-confused impression! Yet, as I have said before, I am able also to appreciate many other quite different organs. There is always beauty if one is prepared to look for it.

I agree wholeheartedly with Brian Childs' comments above re. liturgical use, thats absolutely the point.

 

To reply to pcnd5584 I have always enjoyed playing the organ in Gloucester Cathedral, which I have done on quite a number of occasions for both services and concerts, without liking the organ. Its such a priviledge to play in that building, and to feel the soft sounds drifting in the acoustic (altough the agressive voicing does spoilt this a bit). Like Paul Derrett, I can't imagine how anyone would use the foul choir crumhorn in choral accompaniment. With the old Willis the choir may have been swamped by fundamental tone, although I've never heard that from friends of mine that were associated with the cathedral's music in Sumsion's time, but now any choir is swamped by chiff!

 

Answer me this, just how do you play the opening of "God is gone up"? Or how do you play the opening of the Nunc D. in Sumsion in G? Or how do you play any of the trumpet tunes/voluntaries at weddings?

 

The Gloucester organ can sound quite thrilling (if you don't get too far back in the nave) especially in French Romantic music, but I don't think it can do any of the things I've cited as examples above - and that should be what its there for.

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IAnswer me this, just how do you play the opening of "God is gone up"? Or how do you play the opening of the Nunc D. in Sumsion in G? Or how do you play any of the trumpet tunes/voluntaries at weddings?

 

The Gloucester organ can sound quite thrilling (if you don't get too far back in the nave) especially in French Romantic music, but I don't think it can do any of the things I've cited as examples above - and that should be what its there for.

 

The Finzi: Reeds 8p and 4p on GO with Swell Trumpet 8p and Choir Cremona 8p (all coupled). The building then does the rest. It could equally be asked 'how do you play it at Ripon - on fat trombi?' Arguably, this could be just as un-musical.

 

Sumsion? Well, Swell strings and possibly the flute 4p. The Swell foundations sound quite different downstairs.

 

Well, it does need a solo reed (no, not a tuba, though!). It almost acquired one in 1999, but it was just impossible to find room for it. I suggested a horizontal reed at impost level, facing west. However, I was only partly serious. The case is beautiful and it would have ruined the proportions.

 

Incidentally, it is perfectly possible to accompany a service in the quire and avoid chiffing flutes. I do not particulary like them, either!

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This we don't know of course, but it was his first one!

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers

 

Oh! I had assumed you were going to type 'favourite'. It was probably that, too!

 

Apparently Herbert Byard who was, I believe, assistant to John Sanders at the time of the reconstruction actually liked the rebuilt Gloucester organ!

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The Finzi: Reeds 8p and 4p on GO with Swell Trumpet 8p and Choir Cremona 8p (all coupled). The building then does the rest. It could equally be asked 'how do you play it at Ripon - on fat trombi? Arguably, this could be just as un-musical.

 

 

The Ripon Cathedral Choir under late Ron Perrin recorded the Finzi (rather ponderously) on a CD of Twentieth Century Cathedral Music back in 1991. In his accompaniment Robert Marsh starts on the big, unenclosed Tuba for the first 2.75 bars in unison before switching to full Sw & Great choruses (without Trombi) - the effect being perfectly musical.

 

For its modest size, the Ripon organ has a formidable battery of high-pressure ammunition, needed to reach the nave across the gulf of the central crossing. Apart from the big Tuba - audible at the bus station 300 yeards away with the doors of the cathedral open - there is the smaller enclosed specimen at 16 and 8 and the Orchestral Trumpet lying on 18" wind on top of the swell box. The Arthur-Harrisonised Great trombas may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's only fair that such splendid dinosaurs should be preserved in at least one cathedral instrument, if only as a testament to early 20c organ building fashion. They have their uses, eg in the more bloodthirsty moments of the Healey Willan and, of course, on great festivals such as Christmas and Easter Day. We Yorkshire folk are proud of them!

 

JS

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For its modest size, the Ripon organ has a formidable battery of high-pressure ammunition, needed to reach the nave across the gulf of the central crossing.  Apart from the big Tuba - audible at the bus station 300 yeards away with the doors of the cathedral open - there is the smaller enclosed specimen at 16 and 8 and the Orchestral Trumpet lying on 18" wind on top of the swell box.  The Arthur-Harrisonised Great trombas may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's only fair that such splendid dinosaurs should be preserved in at least one cathedral instrument, if only as a testament to early 20c organ building fashion.  They have their uses, eg in the more bloodthirsty moments of the Healey Willan and, of course, on great festivals such as Christmas and Easter Day.  We Yorkshire folk are proud of them!

 

JS

 

As I have mentioned elsewhere - I would agree with you! Having played it on several occasions for services, I like the Ripon organ immensely. My point was that it could be argued from either position, depending on one's personal preference in reed-timbre. For the record, I can happily live with either!

 

Actually, the Orchestrul Trumpet can also be heard from the bus station. I did once stand on top of the Swell box, beside the pipes - fortunately, they were not in use at the time... :P

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Well pcnd5584 and I agree on many subjects but will have to agree to differ about Gloucester. I don't think its a question of timbre regarding the solo reed - its a question of its non-existance.

 

Many years ago now I sang in the Worcester Cathedral Voluntary Choir when they visited Gloucester to sing evensong one Saturday. Paul Trepte, the choir's director at that time conducted and had picked "God is gone up" as the anthem. Andrew Millington, who had been assistant at Gloucester for some years, played the organ and presumably knew how best to register the opening fanfares. These were memorably dreadful, (no criticism meant of Andrew's playing) you just can't make a good solo reed sound on this organ.

 

Its my local cathedral, I've heard the organ played by most of the cathedral organists & assistants from John Sanders' time onwards, and I just can't agree that "the building does the rest".

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