Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

On The Screen Or Not?


Phil T

Recommended Posts

With many cathedrals having nave divisions built and installed, where do others think is the best place for the main organ to be placed? A few examples are, Exeter (on the screen), Salisbury (either side), Guildford (in the crossing) and St Paul’s (dispersed throughout the building). What do others think?

 

<_<

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 106
  • Created
  • Last Reply
With many cathedrals having nave divisions built and installed, where do others think is the best place for the main organ to be placed? A few examples are, Exeter (on the screen), Salisbury (either side), Guildford (in the crossing) and St Paul’s (dispersed throughout the building). What do others think?

 

:)

 

Hi

 

It really depends on the tasks the organ has to perform and the building. In a typical English cathedral - with the need for big Nave services that were not common when most choir screen/chancel organs were installed - my preference would be West End - but in the open, not tucked into a tower arch as at Chelmsford - with a seperate choir organ for choral services - but then that needs 2 organs.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi

 

It really depends on the tasks the organ has to perform and the building. In a typical English cathedral - with the need for big Nave services that were not common when most choir screen/chancel organs were installed - my preference would be West End - but in the open, not tucked into a tower arch as at Chelmsford - with a seperate choir organ for choral services - but then that needs 2 organs.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

If only we had many more lofty churches with a suitable West end, as on the Continent, then you are quite right Tony - 2 organs it should be.

 

FF

Link to post
Share on other sites

Many of our cathedrals have large windows above the west door, its probably unacceptable to cover these with an organ even if it would be the best place for leading a large congregation in the nave.

 

It you take the original question to mean "where is the best position to site a single organ" then the west end is a non-starter. In this context Westminster Cathedral is not a valid example as the main organ is all but unusable for accompanying the choir.

 

I suspect that a pulpitum organ, assuming the screen is fairly central as at Gloucester and not too far east, is probably still the best position for a single instrument to have any hope of being effective in both quire and nave. This does bring its own problems of balance of sound with west-facing and east facing divisions. Whilst we organists may find the sight of the organs in Exeter and Norwich (for example) stunning its only fair to acknowledge that many other people take the view that they spoil the vista. Its most unlikely that a new organ screen would ever now be constructed in a cathedral where this is not a long-standing historic architectural feature.

Link to post
Share on other sites
With many cathedrals having nave divisions built and installed, where do others think is the best place for the main organ to be placed? A few examples are, Exeter (on the screen), Salisbury (either side), Guildford (in the crossing) and St Paul’s (dispersed throughout the building). What do others think?

 

:)

 

 

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

 

I suspect that for every "solution" another problem arises; especially in Anglican Churches, where robed-choirs are still something of a theatre-show: often an exclusive theatre-show behind a stone-screen.

 

Where a choir exists, and where is is part of the congregation, the musical results are often much better, as in a number of RC cathedrals. With this comes the advantage that choir and organ may be together; either at the west end (ideally), perhaps in a transept (often quite good) or in galleries, as found in many Italian churches for example.

 

However, there are obvious architectural considerations, due to the fact that genuine medieval-buildings usually had/have large stained-glass west windows, and I often shudder when I see beautiful 18th century organs in Holland, and the outline of bricked up tracery where a medieval stained-glass window was smashed and knocked out by the puritans.

 

There are very special problems with a building like Selby Abbey, which is very long, quite narrow and with an unusually long choir. The organ and the choir are together, but the sound has great difficulty getting into the nave, no matter what is tried.

 

Then take a building like York Minster, which has a garage acoustic. The sound flies everywhere, and returns in its own good time from far-flung regions. Much of the choral sound swirls around the choir, and can barely be heard in the nave. The organ, sitting on the screen (and elsewhere), has to somehow fulfil the task of both choir and congregational accompaniment instrument, but not with any great success even now.

Much of the sound goes into the very wide and high central tower, some of the sound projects east and some of the sound (including the big Tuba) is projected west. Rather like the old RC priest with his holy-water, everybody gets a bit, but it is like being rained upon from all directions at the same time.

 

The transept position at Chester is wonderful for organ-recitals and congregational hymns, but the choir can easily become dwarfed by the sound of the instrument, and the distances involved present problems of cohesion and balance.

 

Although something of a confusing acoustic, Liverpoool Metropolitan ("MetPot" "Mersey Funnel" or "Paddy's Wigwam") is in many ways the ideal layout, with the organ on the wall, with the choir/organ console in an open position, sitting almost within the congregation.

 

Musically, the absolute ideal is the gallery west-end position, but it simply isn't possible in many building for architectural the reasons mentioned.

 

There is, however, an alternative to all this, which is the "gallery" position represented by an organ like Liverpoool Cathedral, or off to one side, as at St.Augustine's, Kilburn, where the instrument is not buried under arches, but has quite a fresh-air position.

 

It's very interesting to compare York Minster (for instance) with Blackburn Cathedral: both huge acoustics.

 

Due to the fact that the organ at Blackburn is in a gallery position (albeit divided and actually tacked to the walls and speaking into a wide-open chancel "space"), an organ which isn't voiced very loudly, is heard well throughout the building, and being behind the choir, with a detached console, there is never a problem of balance.

 

To be honest, many English cathedrals are a nightmare, and many parish churches also.

 

Ultimately, there IS a solution......knock 'em all down and start again, but that would upset the historians, wouldn't it?

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites

It is obvious that a west organ as at Westminster Cathedral is a dead loss for accompanying the choir, but the original question was about nave divisions. Surely a nave division is for recitals, volutaries and goading the congregation into singing hymns? I stick by my point that the west end seems best for that. Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is unusual in that the building is about as wide as it is long, so its admirable solution is not likely to work in long, thin medieval buildings.

 

I have heard suggestions that a large pipe organ is an effective sound baffle and absorber, which stops the wall behind it echoing. I assume that for this to be true the organ has to more or less cover the wall. Does anyone know if this is true? If it is then installing a large west end organ may significantly alter the acoustic of the building. Would that be a benefit or a tragedy in any of our cathedrals?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Barry Oakley
With many cathedrals having nave divisions built and installed, where do others think is the best place for the main organ to be placed? A few examples are, Exeter (on the screen), Salisbury (either side), Guildford (in the crossing) and St Paul’s (dispersed throughout the building). What do others think?

 

:)

 

In our larger cathedrals where for all practical purposes it is necessary to have two organs, I feel the answer lies in an all-embracing console capable of controlling both instruments together. However, if the main nave organ is ideally sited at the west end it does call for a very versatile transmission system to ensure precise synchronisation. I wonder how much experimentation has been done with wireless transmission systems?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not aware of a single quire-screen organ that really works in the Nave.

 

It's easier at the old monastic cathedrals like Gloucester and Norwich than the saecular cathedrals like York and Lincoln, because in the Monastic buildings the choir-stalls (and hence the screen) were west of the crossing, and hence physically located in the (architectural) Nave. With the saecular cathedrals, the central tower is between the screen organ and the mob, and it acts as an acoustic hoover.

 

(I know this distinction is a bit simplified, but it makes the point I hope.)

 

I hate it when bits of organ are hived off in divers unlikely places. Nave divisions create problems with tuning, timing, balance and tone. The notion that you can get 'the organ sound' to all bits of the building in this way is analogous to the notion they have in Notre Dame in Paris that you can get 'the service' to people in the side aisles by filming it and broadcasting it onto plasma screens mounted on the nave pillars. (Well I suppose it gives the poor plebs something to alleviate their boredom as they sit wishing they could be right up there in the sanctuary with Monsignor Vingt-Trois. Yech.) I like my organs all in one piece, please (but I'll make an exception for Ruckpositives!).

 

I really think the only answer is two organs. (But then I'm an organist - of course I would say that!) One of them can be on the screen, that's fine. The question of where the Nave organ goes is not something I believe we can generalise very easily...

 

SC

 

ps I'd be really interested to know how the choir organ at Chelmsford copes with the Cathedral repertoire. It looks a very sensible design for an organ of its size (and I thoroughly approve of the idea to re-use good 19th century pipework), but has it got enough variety to do justice to the whole year's music? Is it only used for small / mid-week services? What happens at bigger evensongs? What happens when they do Dyson in D?

Link to post
Share on other sites
In our larger cathedrals where for all practical purposes it is necessary to have two organs, I feel the answer lies in an all-embracing console capable of controlling both instruments together. However, if the main nave organ is ideally sited at the west end it does call for a very versatile transmission system to ensure precise synchronisation. I wonder how much experimentation has been done with wireless transmission systems?

 

The problem is not getting action synchronisation but the speed of sound. Anything over 30' feet away starts presenting sound lag problems.

 

FF

Link to post
Share on other sites
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is unusual in that the building is about as wide as it is long.....

 

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

 

That's circles for you!

 

:)

 

MM

 

 

 

 

I'm not aware of a single quire-screen organ that really works in the Nave.

 

It's easier at the old monastic cathedrals like Gloucester and Norwich than the saecular cathedrals like York and Lincoln, because in the Monastic buildings the choir-stalls (and hence the screen) were west of the crossing, and hence physically located in the (architectural) Nave.

 

I didn't know that.....I'm impressed.

 

 

With the secular cathedrals, the central tower........acts as an acoustic hoover.

 

 

What a wonderful description!

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
The problem is not getting action synchronisation but the speed of sound. Anything over 30' feet away starts presenting sound lag problems.

 

FF

 

 

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

 

 

Indeed this is so.....and it raises an interesting idea.

 

In this day and age of computers and key-sensors, would it not be perfectly feasible to have programmable actions delays according to pipe positioning?

 

I'm not sure of the implications musically, because (for instance) it would be possible to have, in a huge building like St.Paul's, the epicentre of the conflgration at the West End, under the dome or in the Chancel.

 

What an extraordinary thought!

 

I have the strange feeling that it would be beneficial where pedal-pipes are scattered in odd places, such as up in triforia, or placed in side-aisles. as at York or Beverley.

 

After all, anyone can cope with a simple delay, but when the notes are arriving like trains at St.Pancras, and in the same sort of reverberation, would this be a good idea, or have I gone completely bonkers?

 

This is the stuff of "The mad professor" isn't it?

 

:)

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
=============================

Indeed this is so.....and it raises an interesting idea.

 

In this day and age of computers and key-sensors, would it not be perfectly feasible to have programmable actions delays according to pipe positioning?

 

MM

 

Well, not really, because it all depends upon where you are sitting/standing. The Romsey nave organ must be a good sixty or seventy feet away from the chancel organ, and the effect is strange; at the console, there is considerable delay and one must rely on the percussion of the Barker machine to let you know what's going on. In the choir stalls, the two are bang on together, as, strangely, they remain for about two thirds of the nave. Then, they seperate again, then right at the very back against the west wall they come together again. Building in an action delay only moves the problem somewhere else.

 

IMHO Norwich has got it about right with enclosed accompanimental divisions on both sides and the shouty stuff going down the nave, with plenty of intimacy in the choir. The positioning allows you to use quite "full" sounds and liberal use of the solo/swell - it's distant and very soft from the choir side. I didn't detect any noticeable problem with leading a big procession down, either; quite unlike Salisbury which I found terribly hard work with a big congregation.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, not really, because it all depends upon where you are sitting/standing. The Romsey nave organ must be a good sixty or seventy feet away from the chancel organ, and the effect is strange; at the console, there is considerable delay and one must rely on the percussion of the Barker machine to let you know what's going on. In the choir stalls, the two are bang on together, as, strangely, they remain for about two thirds of the nave. Then, they seperate again, then right at the very back against the west wall they come together again. Building in an action delay only moves the problem somewhere else.

Thankyou David for your very interesting reply. I too agree that any attempt to program in delay would be doomed to failure. My experience is based upon the (late lamented) Worcester organ where if you stood, or sat for a a recital, in the crossing under the tower the quire and transept organs would be heard in perfect sync. When playing at the console (in the quire) one always heard the transept organ late. If the organ builder attempted to compensate in the quire by making the transept organ speak early this would only have made matters worse in the nave.

 

If the entire organ is not in a single location, or in two directly opposite north/south locations, its difficult to see how this can ever be resolved.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Thankyou David for your very interesting reply. I too agree that any attempt to program in delay would be doomed to failure. My experience is based upon the (late lamented) Worcester organ where if you stood, or sat for a a recital, in the crossing under the tower the quire and transept organs would be heard in perfect sync. When playing at the console (in the quire) one always heard the transept organ late. If the organ builder attempted to compensate in the quire by making the transept organ speak early this would only have made matters worse in the nave.

 

If the entire organ is not in a single location, or in two directly opposite north/south locations, its difficult to see how this can ever be resolved.

 

The obvious test to try would be asking the congregation to sing slightly before the organ, or vice versa. Won't work. What the whole ensemble sounds like depends where and how far away you stand. Which is what makes St Paul's all the more impressive...

 

I'm finding more and more that it has to do with directness of sound than actual volume. I can belt away at full organ (buried in the chancel) and the congregation will flounder; if I add only the 4' flute of the nave to that, so there is *some* kind of air-moving noise there - then suddenly they have their aural bearings and off they go.

 

But clearly the two things aren't sounding at the same time; they're hearing me late, and I'm hearing them late. Playing hymns in a fairly detached manner (certainly under-parts, and even more so where notes are repeated), with a very obvious feel of where the barlines are, seems to do most to compensate for this, presumably because of giving the brain something subliminal to latch onto, so it doesn't need to listen and therefore by implication wait for something to happen.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Andrew Butler

Before the Mander rebuild, I can recall Martin Schellenberg at Bristol Cathedral accompanying the "Special Choir" in a nave concert and having to play the pedals a beat ahead to compensate for action + acoustic delay!

Link to post
Share on other sites

[quote name='David Coram' date='Jan 31 2007, 01:53 AM' post='19168']

I'm finding more and more that it has to do with directness of sound than actual volume. I can belt away at full organ (buried in the chancel) and the congregation will flounder; if I add only the 4' flute of the nave to that, so there is *some* kind of air-moving noise there - then suddenly they have their aural bearings and off they go.

 

A situation in the USA where a main organ in the chancel has been supplemented by an Antiphonal division on the front of the rear gallery consisting of just two contrasting 8' Diapasons has proved that this works. Even with just that the congregational singing has improved markedly.

 

AJJ

Link to post
Share on other sites
And indeed it would be both a clever builder and a clever action that could anticipate a key press before it happened :D

 

If you look at this from a reverse direction then it is possible to achieve. Rather than anticipating a key press, you retard whichever division needs to speak later. This would give a very odd feeling sat at the console as there would be a delay between key press and pipe sounding (A total nightmare for accompanying a choir). At the chosen position (nave or where ever) the two divisions would be synchronised. As some one else mentioned, this just move the problem from one place to another, rather than alleviating it. Another thing to consider is that all of the above is based on sound arriving by direct path. In any building you get sound reflections from walls, ceilings etc. This further complicates matters.

 

:D

Link to post
Share on other sites
If you look at this from a reverse direction then it is possible to achieve. Rather than anticipating a key press, you retard whichever division needs to speak later. This would give a very odd feeling sat at the console as there would be a delay between key press and pipe sounding (A total nightmare for accompanying a choir). At the chosen position (nave or where ever) the two divisions would be synchronised. As some one else mentioned, this just move the problem from one place to another, rather than alleviating it. Another thing to consider is that all of the above is based on sound arriving by direct path. In any building you get sound reflections from walls, ceilings etc. This further complicates matters.

 

:D

 

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

 

You're thinking of St.Paul's right?

 

I wonder what would be like to get the East and West divsions in sync at somewhere like St.John-the-Divine?

 

It would be like Blue Peter......."Now, here's one I played earlier"

 

:D

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
It would be like Blue Peter......."Now, here's one I played earlier"

 

 

Another board member will know which London-area organ I'm referring to (not strictly within the remit of this site, but one which he used to tune) where - as originally installed - the console was 101 feet from the nearest pipe!

 

A former organist at that establishment once told me that he could play his programme, walk across the road to a little cafe, have a nice cup of tea, read the paper, then return to the building to listen to what he'd played :D

Link to post
Share on other sites
========================

 

 

I wonder what would be like to get the East and West divsions in sync at somewhere like St.John-the-Divine?

 

:D

 

MM

 

I think it would be a very unmusical experience throughout the building apart from the “sweet” spot.

 

:D

Link to post
Share on other sites

The consultant at Brussels Cathedral maintains that the best place is half way down the nave on the north side, and that a west end position is traditional on the continent but a poor place to put it. If you go to Brussels you'll see his point, possible to hear the instrument wherever you are.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I think it would be a very unmusical experience throughout the building apart from the “sweet” spot.

 

:D

 

 

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

 

I know one of those sweet spots, just West of the Dome of St.Paul's Cathedral. For the ultimate big organ experience, it takes some beating.

 

MM

 

(Thought I'd just get a plug in for our host)

 

 

 

The consultant at Brussels Cathedral maintains that the best place is half way down the nave on the north side, and that a west end position is traditional on the continent but a poor place to put it.

 

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

 

Oh dear! The poor suffering people of Holland!

 

:D

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.


×
×
  • Create New...