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Cd Of Eeop Organs


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Since it's extraordinarily quiet here tonight, I though the anoraks among you might be interested in this new CD featuring the two reconstructed Tudor organs by Goetze & Gwynn: http://www.oxrecs.com/eeop.htm. The "Streaming Audio" page has a sample track - Byrd's Teach me, O Lord.

 

Early Tudor organ music is definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone, but the programme is well-chosen and varied and I enjoyed it all very much. Magnus Williamson's playing is exemplary. The 10' diapason of the Wetheringsett organ - not an easy stop to find a use for since it only covers the bottom 19 notes - is heard in the choruses of Byrd's Magnificat, providing a "suboctave" bass. The Regal stop on the same organ, heard in a couple of tracks, is a superb specimen.

 

The only black mark is that I could find nothing to tell me which organs were used in which pieces - a rather serious omission in my view. If you have played the organs you will probably be able to tell, but if not you will probably find it difficult. I wasn't always sure.

 

Nice to have the liner notes available online. They contain some diagrams of the soundboards. You really need to download the hi-res version to see these properly, but be warned: it's a very large pdf file.

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I am still personally mystified how anyone can take down a barn door, scratch their head and claim to have reconstructed an ancient and important instrument from it. I know that claims made for the instrument are realistic, but the expectation and hype seems to go a lot further. Surely there can't be THAT much information (other than it had slides and bearers and a certain number of notes/stops) if we can't even be sure of a stoplist? Virtually everything about the instrument would appear to be speculative. I'm just not convinced of the value of the project; the emperor's tailors seem to be very busy at the moment. Anyone wish to persuade me otherwise?

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I have no connections with the EEOP; nor am I an organ builder. However I do know a bit about Tudor music, so should be able to pull together at least some information, though it will take me a few days as the strands are complex and involved.

 

But you are correct insofar as the bottom line is that much about the organs is not susceptible to proof. Rather, like all other aspects of Tudor performance practice, the organs represent current best understanding of the available evidence. I do not believe that we can be at all sure that these are what Tudor organs actually did sound like, but it is probably safe to say that they are a whole lot nearer than anything else we have, bearing in mind that the sound of the pipes is only one aspect of the picture.

 

As to the value of the project I am not sure that it tells us anything about the performance of this repertoire that we couldn't have worked out on paper, but I daresay the organs provide an instructive shortcut for the more practically minded. For example, you really do need to use period fingering: it's very difficult to use your thumbs on those short keys.

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I am still personally mystified how anyone can take down a barn door, scratch their head and claim to have reconstructed an ancient and important instrument from it. I know that claims made for the instrument are realistic, but the expectation and hype seems to go a lot further. Surely there can't be THAT much information (other than it had slides and bearers and a certain number of notes/stops) if we can't even be sure of a stoplist? Virtually everything about the instrument would appear to be speculative. I'm just not convinced of the value of the project; the emperor's tailors seem to be very busy at the moment. Anyone wish to persuade me otherwise?

 

I agree with David upto a point: yes, much of the organ is speculation and extrapolation and yes, I think it important not to unthinkingly accept the products of the project as authoratative examples of Tudor organs. I think it is important to manage people's expectations, as David suggests, otherwise the hype will get out of hand.

 

However, I wouldn't go as far to say that the value of the project is unconvincing: they are the best examples we've got for this period of organ and I think that much can be learnt performing music from the period on them - even if it is not an authoratative experience, they still stimulate thought and discussion. I think they also serve to highlight and invigorate a period of music which shouldn't be overlooked. The project has also raised the profile of the organ in people's mind and captured the imagination of both musicians and the general public. I think the project has been very imaginative and interesting and has resulted in a couple of rather beautiful organs.

 

I've had to go and buy that CD... it seems to be £12.95 including P&P.

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I agree with David upto a point: yes, much of the organ is speculation and extrapolation and yes, I think it important not to unthinkingly accept the products of the project as authoratative examples of Tudor organs. I think it is important to manage people's expectations, as David suggests, otherwise the hype will get out of hand.

 

However, I wouldn't go as far to say that the value of the project is unconvincing: they are the best examples we've got for this period of organ and I think that much can be learnt performing music from the period on them - even if it is not an authoratative experience, they still stimulate thought and discussion. I think they also serve to highlight and invigorate a period of music which shouldn't be overlooked. The project has also raised the profile of the organ in people's mind and captured the imagination of both musicians and the general public. I think the project has been very imaginative and interesting and has resulted in a couple of rather beautiful organs.

 

I've had to go and buy that CD... it seems to be £12.95 including P&P.

 

Fair comments all round. But bearing in mind the speculative nature of all of it, surely any conclusions we reach from playing will be largely speculative too. Apart from one piece of timber they surely aren't examples of this period of organ at all, merely best guesses, and more energies could instead be focussed on restoring instruments we DO have information about - the removal of equal temperament from St James Clerkenwell being one obvious example of something that could be done to right a wrong straight away. The derelict Lincoln organ at Knook, Wiltshire, never fitted with electric blowing, and the derelict Joseph Davis barrel organ at Dauntsey's School (a six-foot barrel playing Mozart Magic Flute overture and some Handel, whose pinning pre-dates the first performance of Flute in this country) are other random examples of instruments containing material of a certain age and quality, where careful research and study would yield real information.

 

It's one thing to have this type of thing in museums but quite another to have it in the real world, in frequent use and being pitted against modern-day requirements. Without this last acid test being passed, such efforts will always seem ephemeral at best and cranky at worst to the people who would decry them - who curiously are often happy to accept even greater musical, practical and aesthetic compromises, as the proliferation of nasty continuo organs and dull toothpaste-tube larger instruments from some quarters would suggest. I would personally prefer to direct energy and effort to seeing that no organ is ever built (or worse, "restored") again using plastic drainpipe and cut lengths of extruded aluminium as core components - to me, this is something far more worth getting excited about than the odd exception, principally for aesthetic reasons (how can anyone ultimately have craftsman's pride in something they've bought from B&Q, for crying out loud?) but also for historical ones - as the trend seems set always to be towards respect for the work of others, just what will future generations decide to make of "plastic organs"? Regarding them as second class and placing them tenderly in a skip would be my guess, and then we risk leaving an unfair and unbalanced picture of this generation's work for our successors 150 years down the line and beyond.

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Will I be able to play Cochereau on it?

 

Frankly, I find the entire scenario bizarre - I am, like David, somewhat sceptical.

 

However, I shall have a look around the Minster tonight. I might even try the huge room above the central tower, there are many old beams and pieces of wood - possibly enough to reconstruct a sketchy four-clavier instrument....

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I am still personally mystified how anyone can take down a barn door, scratch their head and claim to have reconstructed an ancient and important instrument from it. I know that claims made for the instrument are realistic, but the expectation and hype seems to go a lot further. Surely there can't be THAT much information (other than it had slides and bearers and a certain number of notes/stops) if we can't even be sure of a stoplist? Virtually everything about the instrument would appear to be speculative. I'm just not convinced of the value of the project; the emperor's tailors seem to be very busy at the moment. Anyone wish to persuade me otherwise?

 

Hi

 

There have been a couple of comprehensive articles in the organ journals giving the background and justification for the design details of the designs - I think you'll find the references on the NPOR surveys - ref numbers E00205 & E00491.

 

It seems to me a valid academic exercise - the organs are not intended for everyday use in the modern church!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Do we actually know that this is Lincoln?

 

AJJ

 

Shape of wooden pipe feet, ironmongery, case detail, certain pipe markings... it's had at least 2 replacement ranks (part of the Gt Stopped Diapason, a handful of wooden basses and one rank in the Sw) but I would be willing to bet on it being Lincoln, certainly. Lots of echoes with the Buckingham Palace Ballroom one as well as Great Wishford just up the road (rebuilt and compass changed by Walker, but many details in common). I'm also pretty sure that the Sw had a small reed of some kind, which has been replaced by something clearly supposed to fulfil the function of a celeste - all that evidence gone - what a shame.

 

It seems to me a valid academic exercise - the organs are not intended for everyday use in the modern church!

 

That's my point - perhaps they SHOULD be. I'm only semi-sceptical about pinning too many academic hopes on practical guesswork but there will be others (I spoke to one earlier) who think the whole thing is a complete waste of time. My perspective is simply to wonder whether it's not a bit self-indulgent to make such guesses at instruments like these when there are, scattered around, plenty of genuinely old instruments in derelict condition where the same or a lesser amount of time and study would bring more information which would potentially be of more practical use and application, and in the case of the two derelict instruments mentioned above, halt a process of decay which is fairly close to being irreversible.

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Fair comments all round. But bearing in mind the speculative nature of all of it, surely any conclusions we reach from playing will be largely speculative too. Apart from one piece of timber they surely aren't examples of this period of organ at all, merely best guesses, and more energies could instead be focussed on restoring instruments we DO have information about - the removal of equal temperament from St James Clerkenwell being one obvious example of something that could be done to right a wrong straight away. The derelict Lincoln organ at Knook, Wiltshire, never fitted with electric blowing, and the derelict Joseph Davis barrel organ at Dauntsey's School (a six-foot barrel playing Mozart Magic Flute overture and some Handel, whose pinning pre-dates the first performance of Flute in this country) are other random examples of instruments containing material of a certain age and quality, where careful research and study would yield real information.

 

It's one thing to have this type of thing in museums but quite another to have it in the real world, in frequent use and being pitted against modern-day requirements. Without this last acid test being passed, such efforts will always seem ephemeral at best and cranky at worst to the people who would decry them - who curiously are often happy to accept even greater musical, practical and aesthetic compromises, as the proliferation of nasty continuo organs and dull toothpaste-tube larger instruments from some quarters would suggest. I would personally prefer to direct energy and effort to seeing that no organ is ever built (or worse, "restored") again using plastic drainpipe and cut lengths of extruded aluminium as core components - to me, this is something far more worth getting excited about than the odd exception, principally for aesthetic reasons (how can anyone ultimately have craftsman's pride in something they've bought from B&Q, for crying out loud?) but also for historical ones - as the trend seems set always to be towards respect for the work of others, just what will future generations decide to make of "plastic organs"? Regarding them as second class and placing them tenderly in a skip would be my guess, and then we risk leaving an unfair and unbalanced picture of this generation's work for our successors 150 years down the line and beyond.

 

Hi David,

 

I agree with all your points above, wide ranging that they are. I think that the EEOP organs probably are more "museum" pieces which are "on tour" and I think they are encouraging the musicians who use them to think creatively and outside the box about how they can be used. Modern day requirements are not so inflexible that they cannot be altered for the resources and instruments at one's disposal. I feel that to regard "Modern day requirements" as inflexible can be used as good justification to perpetuate some real atrocities when an organ is rebuilt. But, of course, some balence is required and my arguement can rapidly be reductio ad absurdum.

 

I think that the best and most liked organs of our period should/ will survive to give a representative sample of our period, while the chaff will be consigned to the dustbin, as indeed they should and will. Rather like hymns, in a way.

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I agree with all your points above, wide ranging that they are. I think that the EEOP organs probably are more "museum" pieces which are "on tour" and I think they are encouraging the musicians who use them to think creatively and outside the box about how they can be used. Modern day requirements are not so inflexible that they cannot be altered for the resources and instruments at one's disposal. I feel that to regard "Modern day requirements" as inflexible can be used as good justification to perpetuate some real atrocities when an organ is rebuilt. But, of course, some balence is required and my arguement can rapidly be reductio ad absurdum.

 

I think that the best and most liked organs of our period should/ will survive to give a representative sample of our period, while the chaff will be consigned to the dustbin, as indeed they should and will. Rather like hymns, in a way.

 

 

There is much sense in this - perhaps I could begin to see some point in the exercise. However, I am still unconvinced of the amount of conjecture involved in such a project. After all, there is much which remains mysterious concerning the history of the organ presently in Kilkhampton Church, Cornwall. This organ retains a surprising amount of old wood work and other materials; for example, the original console is still present, on the west face of the instrument. However, no-one seems able to ascertain whether or not any part of it did once form part of the Schrider organ at Westminster Abbey - or, whether it simply came from Langley Marish. If the latter is the case, it would be interesting to know how Langley acquired such a historic instrument - and why they chose to dispose of it in 1860.

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Shape of wooden pipe feet, ironmongery, case detail, certain pipe markings... it's had at least 2 replacement ranks (part of the Gt Stopped Diapason, a handful of wooden basses and one rank in the Sw) but I would be willing to bet on it being Lincoln, certainly. Lots of echoes with the Buckingham Palace Ballroom one as well as Great Wishford just up the road (rebuilt and compass changed by Walker, but many details in common). I'm also pretty sure that the Sw had a small reed of some kind, which has been replaced by something clearly supposed to fulfil the function of a celeste - all that evidence gone - what a shame.

 

Thanks for this info. David - interesting stuff (I drive past the end of the road to Knook twice every day - 'popped in a year or two ago) - doesn't Mark Venning also know something about it?

 

AJJ

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Thanks for this info. David - interesting stuff (I drive past the end of the road to Knook twice every day - 'popped in a year or two ago) - doesn't Mark Venning also know something about it?

 

AJJ

 

Yes, Mark Venning rescued it from Sutton Veny (?) congregational (?) church when it closed many years ago, and he and the friends helping him have duly signed inside (in pencil). They are very lucky to have it, and it was very lucky to be saved. For the purposes of accompanying about a dozen services a year it does admirably.

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Thanks for this info. David - interesting stuff (I drive past the end of the road to Knook twice every day - 'popped in a year or two ago) - doesn't Mark Venning also know something about it?

 

AJJ

 

Yes, Mark Venning rescued it from Sutton Veny (?) congregational (?) church when it closed many years ago, and he and the friends helping him have duly signed inside (in pencil). They are very lucky to have it, and it was very lucky to be saved. For the purposes of accompanying about a dozen services a year it does admirably.

 

In response to Colin - sadly, it is not necessaily the worst organs I was referring to with the plastic comments. There are some tonally very impressive and well crafted machines which are, to me, let down by containing components which should not be there. Not an occasion for naming and shaming, but I could list several machines which would be a loss to our or any other generation but I fail to see how future generations will be able to take their construction seriously when compared with the best of what there is.

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My perspective is simply to wonder whether it's not a bit self-indulgent to make such guesses at instruments like these when there are, scattered around, plenty of genuinely old instruments in derelict condition where the same or a lesser amount of time and study would bring more information which would potentially be of more practical use and application, and in the case of the two derelict instruments mentioned above, halt a process of decay which is fairly close to being irreversible.

 

Hi

 

But are there actually any genuine, reasonably complete, survivals from the period?

 

I agree about the many later, but still historic organs around - but that really is a different issue.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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But are there actually any genuine, reasonably complete, survivals from the period?

 

I agree about the many later, but still historic organs around - but that really is a different issue.

I think the very least we can do, collectively, to develop our understanding of the organ music of previous ages is to make some, however speculative, examples of significant types of organ from the past where none survive. To that end, here in England, we need something from the late Tudor period and something from the Restoration. Other European countries have done much to foster interest in their indigenous organ "schools" in a way that we should emulate. The EEOP is a very laudable step in the right direction, as far as I'm concerned.

 

Michael

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I have found it impossible to summarise all the relevant information on the EEOP organs, so have merely cherry-picked some of the more important points. There are two key articles that go into much more detail: one by Dominic Gwynn in Organ Building, 2002, and the other by Andrew Johnstone in Early Music, Nov. 2003. The account in Stephen Bicknell’s The History of the English Organ is also useful.

 

Firstly, whilst a soundboard can hardly give us full information about an instrument, the point has been made that you can tell more about an organ from its soundboard than from any other single part. This enabled Gwynn to claim that “the more musically important features are also the most securely established. We can be sure, for instance, that the pitch and key compass are correct”.

 

As is well known, the surviving information about Tudor organs is frustratingly fragmentary, much of it just tantalising entries in accounts recording purchases such as springs or skins for bellows, etc. The most informative items we have are the 1519 contract between Anthony Duddyngton and the church of All Hallows, Barking and the 1526 contract for the Howe & Clynmowe organ for Holy Trinity, Coventry. The similarities between them suggest that both instruments were of a type.

 

Duddyngton’s organ had the following:

· A compass of double C fa ut [i.e. C below the bass stave]

· 27 plain keys

· The principal to contain the length of 5 ft

· Basses called Diapason to the same containing the length of 10 ft or more

· Double principals throughout the instrument

· Pipes of pure tin

· As few stops as may be convenient

 

The Howe & Clynmowe organ had:

· Towers of Cases of the pitch of double C fa ut

· 27 plain keys and 19 musics

· 46 Cases of tin

· 14 Cases of wood

· 7 stops

· 2 starts and an image of the Trinity on the top of the organ

 

The Coventry organ must have had a full chromatic compass of 46 notes (27 naturals and 19 accidentals) from C – a′′′ (virtually none of the repertoire from this period goes above a′′′ and the few pieces that do can all be played an octave lower). Barking’s compass was similar. The meaning of “cases” is obscure, but must surely relate in some way to the pipes since there are 46 of tin – one for each note. So both organs had tin pipes. Coventry apparently also had 14 wooden pipes, possibly related to Barking’s “basses called diapason”.

 

The term “principals” most probably refers to the Blockwerk rather than to a single stop – the organ at Westminster Abbey c.1558 had a Great Bass and 10 Principals – so it would seem that in Duddyngton’s organ each of the principal-toned stops was duplicated (or had two pipes).

 

The Wetheringsett soundboard was obviously from a very similar instrument. The layout and size of the holes clearly suggested that the stops were paired. So the assumption that these were for metal, principal-toned pipes, as at Barking, is perfectly reasonable. Originally two Fifteenths were to be supplied, but its pilot holes were partially covered by the 19 “basses” – evidently as an afterthought.

 

The least certain feature of the Wetheringsett specification is the Regal. On the original soundboard this rank has large toeholes placed too closely together for flue pipes. We know that some churches had regals of the stand-alone variety. Though there is no evidence, it is not unthinkable that such stops were sometimes incorporated in pipe organs.

 

The wooden basses of the reconstructed Wetheringsett organ are copies of the three surviving Dallam pipes from the 1630-1 Chair Organ of Magdalen College, Oxford; these have also determined the instrument’s pitch. In the nineteenth century Alexander Ellis measured old pipes from elsewhere which have since disappeared with virtually identical results. There is also a fair amount of evidence to suggest that a 5 ft pitch standard obtained throughout the Tudor period and the voice ranges of Tudor church music strongly suggest that its pitch remained constant (though it can hardly have been fixed as precisely as modern concert pitch).

 

For aspects of the construction for which English evidence is lacking, most notably the metal pipes, Goetze & Gwynn resorted to early Spanish instruments. They might equally have gone to Italy where the early organs also have similarities with Tudor ones, but those in Spain were more accessible.

 

The Wingfield soundboard has 40 channels. That this implies a compass of F - a′′′ with bottom G# missing seems certain when one considers the surviving repertoire. (John Caldwell had postulated the existence of these two distinct types of organ long before the soundboards turned up.) NPOR lists an organ of 82 pipes at Chagford, Devon, in 1594; presumably this had a similar compass, but without the missing note. (Was this a survival from pre-Reformation times, I wonder? Does anyone know where this reference comes from?).

 

The Wingfield soundboard also suggests paired ranks, except for the 5 ft Principal which is permanently “on”. The wooden pipes of the reconstruction are modelled on those of the Knole House chamber organ. The scaling is narrow. They cannot be wider because of the spacing of the holes on the soundboard and cannot be narrower without a risk of overblowing.

 

Paradoxically, to my mind the main value of the EEOP organs lies in what they may teach us about the practicalities of performing the alternatim choral music of the period, whether plainsong or polyphony, and of accompanying verse anthems/services. Inevitably this will seem entirely irrelevant to the sort of organist who likes to judge an instrument by how loud and impressive a noise full organ makes – and I’m sure we’ve all met a few of those!

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I could find nothing to tell me which organs were used in which pieces
I asked OxRecs Digital whether they could give me any information on this and in reply they kindly supplied the following information.

 

The Wingfield organ is heard in the following tracks:

#2 (A solis ortus cardine)

#4 (Felix namque)

#6 (Where grypinge griefes)

# 16 (Byrd's Ut re mi fa sol la) - this is a duet using both organs

 

All the rest are played on the Wetheringsett organ.

 

Top marks to OxRecs for their brilliant service. I'm impressed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There was a three-minute slot about the EEOP organs on Radio 4's "Today" programme yesterday. Can't say it was particularly riveting, but it wasn't aimed at us and anything that might get the great unwashed interested in organs has to be a good thing.

 

Anyone interested can hear it here (for the next few days), at 7.45 a.m. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/tuesday.shtml

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