PipeChat Digest #4618 - Thursday, July 15, 2004
Organ Builders
  by "Bob Conway" <conwayb@sympatico.ca>
Re: hymn playing
  by "John Foss" <harkat@kat.forthnet.gr>
"New York Style" Hymn playing and organ design
  by "Emily Adams" <eadams@cinci.rr.com>
Fred Swann Opens OHS 2004-Buffalo
  by "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net>
Re: "Catholic" organ specs
  by "John L. Speller" <jlspeller@swbell.net>
Re: Life Imitates Art (x-posted; long and tendentious)
  by "Colin Mitchell" <cmys13085@yahoo.co.uk>
Re: "New York Style" Hymn playing and organ design
  by "Roger Brown" <roger2@rogerbrown.no-ip.org>
Re: hymn playing
  by <Keys4bach@aol.com>
Re: Fred Swann Opens OHS 2004-Buffalo
  by <DarrylbytheSea@aol.com>
Hymn Intros, Text Painting, and stuff...
  by <RMB10@aol.com>

(back) Subject: Organ Builders From: "Bob Conway" <conwayb@sympatico.ca> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 07:23:46 -0400   At 04:27 AM 7/15/2004, Will Light wrote: >As for organ firms - I think Conacher is still going - at least they >answered a letter I sent them a couple of years ago. I'm not sure about >Bishops - I haven't heard anything about them one way or the other.   Will,   According to www.buildingconservation.com   Bishop and Son are still operating out of Beethoven Street, London W10 4LG. Tel. No 020 8969 4328.   Thank you for telling us where you play in Coventry, - I do not know it, but was interested as my brother was married in Holy Trinity Church.   Is the Coventry Cathedral organ fully restored since the fire, - I haven't =   heard it since then.   Bob Conway          
(back) Subject: Re: hymn playing From: "John Foss" <harkat@kat.forthnet.gr> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 14:37:14 +0300   May I suggest that a good way of preparing hymns is to read them through = the night before the service, sing them to yourself - though maybe not if you are travelling on public transport - and get the rhythm into your soul. = Like most things, it's the rhythm that drives the music - vary the registration and have the occasional climax, but don't drive the congregation into = losing their voices. 4' Principals are good for support - better than non stop diapasons 1, 2 and 3! Accompanying hymns can be very satisfying. John Foss www.johnfoss.gr      
(back) Subject: "New York Style" Hymn playing and organ design From: "Emily Adams" <eadams@cinci.rr.com> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 07:48:22 -0400   From Roger: "And why would you assume that a varied harmonisation is appropriate to introduce a hymn. It certainly is NOT appropriate in the tradition in = which I work (Anglican). And while I am at it, I am VERY wary about text painting - unless one is possessed of great discretion, the result is almost always disruptive of = the congregational singing."   Since my limited skills don't extend to improvisation, I use (among = others) things from June Nixon's collection "Organ Miniatures" for introductions sometimes, but only for tunes that are thoroughly familiar to the congregation. It's a way I can introduce variety and still be sure I'm not confusing them or interfering with their singing.   Mostly I wanted to say amen to your comment about disrupting = congregational singing. While I appreciate an interesting treatment of a hymn as much as the next organist, I think in this area as in others there's the potential that the organist's desire to showcase his/her capabilities will interfere with the primary wants and needs of the congregation which pays our salaries. That said, of course we each know our own congregation best.   As to the question of what the congregation really wants--and to = potentially send the conversation off on a tangent--last week a member told me she'd switched from the traditional to the contemporary service partly because = she can't read music and wasn't comfortable trying to sing hymns that are unfamiliar to her. (Our Worship Committee chair who selects the hymns does = a great job, but has said explicitly she doesn't worry about whether the congregation knows them or not. I see this as both a positive and a negative <g>). If this level of insecurity exists in even a few = congregants then I'm further convinced that in my particular situation basic is best.   By the way, has anyone found an effective way of addressing the issue of = the congregation's attitute toward unfamiliar hymns? Although I'm all for peaceful and cooperative coexistence with the contemporary service folks, I'd also love to do anything I can to stop or reverse the migration of members from my service to theirs. Within our liturgical context something like the mini-lessons to learn new hymns that I've seen in other denominations wouldn't be possible.    
(back) Subject: Fred Swann Opens OHS 2004-Buffalo From: "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 07:50:40 -0400   Frederick Swann, St. Stanislaus R.C. Church, Buffalo July 14th, 2004 - 8 pm OHS Convention Grand Opening   Is an introduction to this man a necessity to most reading these words? = For years, while traveling in various parts of Europe, Organists and even real people, when they learn that I am an American (we're easy to spot!) and an Organist (sometimes easy to spot as well!), want to know, often as the = first question, "Do I know Fred Swann?" The "Hour of Power"was, during his = sixteen years at the "Crystal Cathedral, watched throughout the free and not so = free world. That he can now, since his official retirement, still attract an audience, was evident from the size of this evening's crowd. This very = large church, while not completely full, was quite close to it. It was a great occasion. All available clergy seemed to be in attendance, including the Bishop. There were many parishioners and many Fred Swann fans from the Buffalo area.   The Organ surely must be a point of great pride for the parish. It began life as Johnson Opus 797 of 1893. It ran into a detour in 1954, when the Tellers Company of Erie electrocuted it, made some additions, and took advantage of the new electric action to organize some borrowings and extensions. With all that, the instrument makes a mighty and noble noise = in this large and acoustically sensitive building. Apparently, there is now a plan afoot to restore the Organ, reversing some of what was done in 1954. The always copious notes in the Organ Handbook for the convention give the original specification of the Johnson mechanical instrument, and one longs to hear that as it was. I guess the mind-set of 1954 demanded that the old tracker action be scrapped in favor of the new electro-pneumatic chests. = At 40 stops of grand scale, befitting this large building, some muscle might have been wanted, if the action lacked the sensitivity that modern actions can achieve. I note that there were "Relief pallets in windchests."   Mr. Swann gave us a program that certainly was not the "same old thing." I believe he has always been a thoughtful program builder, and we were = treated to an interesting mix of styles and periods, juxtaposed interestingly. He began with the lovely Introduction and Passacaglia from Sonata 8 (Opus = 132) .. . . Joseph Rheinberger (1839-1901). This was our first hearing of the instrument, and it was a fine beginning. After the Introduction, the buildup in the Fugue led us to a broad chorus topped by a fine, silvery 4-rank Mixture, which appears to be from the original Johnson.   Woodland Flute Call . . . Fanny Charles Dillon (1881-1947) My goodness. Memories, memories. Sometime in the 50s, we Oberlin Organ students were bundled into cars and vans and trucked over to a church in = the nearby town of Elyria, to hear Alexander Schreiner. Those were the days = when there was no verbal communication between player and listener, a sort of taboo that was quickly destroyed by Schreiner, as he walked to the front = of the church, and simply said "Good Evening." I can't recall whether we sat there mute, or if we had the nerve to actually respond with a "Good = Evening" of our own. Anyway, the second time he spoke to us was on the occasion of his playing the Woodland Flute Call. He told us that Fanny Charles Dillon had been his teacher, and had given him this piece, and he hoped that if anyone amongst us wanted to give him a gift of a musical work, it would be as lovely a piece as this one. After some 50 years, I can be forgiven for forgetting. This really is a fine, and not uncomplicated piece, involving = a wonderful Harmonic Flute among other Flutes. Mr. Swann gave it a wonderful performance. I suggest you go to John Henderson's great Dictionary of Composers for Organ and look up both Fanny Charles Dillon and Alexander Schreiner. There are some happy surprises there. (Yes, as always, I have = the Henderson book with me, heavy though it be.)   Fantaisie in A . . . C=E9sar Franck (1822-1890) Following the classification systems of most, this Franck work is a = secular piece. To me, it has always been sacred. Hearing it is something of a religious experience! Hearing it on THIS Organ took it to the realm of the sublime. I wanted, perhaps, somewhat more deliberate tempi in a few = places, but that's me. There are places where one wants to linger and stretch a = bit, but withal, what an experience!   Hymn: Holy God, we praise thy Name . . . "Grosser Gott" When I first got the Organ Handbook upon registration for the convention, = I saw this hymn listed and said something like "Why, oh why, this tired old thing?" Well, shut my mouth! Mr. Swann knew exactly what he was doing, and as always happens at OHS Conventions, we sang lustily while the visitors stood with their jaws gaping open, thinking perhaps they had found heaven = on earth. Two stanzas in unison, and then the third accompanied only very lightly as we filled the place with celestial harmony. After a rousing improvisation, we finished with a fourth stanza in unison. Wow!   By the Waters of Babylon . . . John Huston (1915-1975) This is one of three published works of John Huston, who was an Organist = in New York during my student days there. I don't know if this work is still = in print, but if it is to be found, I suggest finding it. The beginning is quiet (Oh, that Choir Clarinet!), and I wished for the Psalter so I could try closely to follow the words of Psalm 137, which is, in itself, quite = an amazing piece of work. It was the "peanut butter Psalm" to my choir boys, who loved "Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth . . . " They had = no comment on "Happy shall he be who takes your little ones, and dashes them against the rock!" I feel sure the music was intensely programmatic, and I really did want that text in front of me.   Petite Suite . . . Gerald Bales (1919-2000) Introduction - Intermezzo - Finale. The introduction was kind of a Quartal affair. The Intermezzo showed something of the Hindemith = influence, I thought. The Finale was a crashing toccata. I need to hear this again. I failed to discern many of its virtues on this first hearing. It received a truly brilliant performance.   Intermission   Symphonic Chorale "Ach bleib mit deiner gnade" . . . Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) I did not know this piece, and was feeling powerful urges about going out and buying it. I think this is Karg-Elert at his best, and the performance was stunning.     Meditation . . . Maurice Durufl=E9 (1902-1986) What work of Durufle is not glorious? This gentle piece captures the = heart, as does the sound of this Organ - a real "double header."   Fantasia and Fugue in G . . . Sir C. Hubert H. Parry (1848-1918) Here was the ultimate comfort food - real meat and potatoes, with an extra-rich gravy. I loved every minute of it. I don't believe I have heard this piece before. I thought, in the wondrous Fugue, I heard just one = little touch of B-A-C-H. What a recital it is that brings one a large percentage = of unfamiliar fare, although music by composers known to us, and in which = each of these unknown pieces demands your immediate respect and love. This was, without question, an "Hour of Power."   At the end of the recital, all rose to their feet, powerfully applauding until we were vouchsafed one adorable little encore, a Corelli Allegro, transcribed from an orchestral work. This was an OHS Convention Opening Night to be remembered. Thank you Fred, thank you Saint Stanislaus Church, thank you Joe McCabe and your committee for what you have given us this evening, with an almost incredible collection of musical wonders yet to come.   Malcolm Wechsler www.mander-organs.com          
(back) Subject: Re: "Catholic" organ specs From: "John L. Speller" <jlspeller@swbell.net> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 07:02:38 -0500     ----- Original Message ----- From: "Will Light" <will.light@btinternet.com> To: "'PipeChat'" <pipechat@pipechat.org> Sent: Thursday, July 15, 2004 3:27 AM Subject: RE: "Catholic" organ specs     > I think the Cathedral organ takes some getting used to - mainly because = of > the acoustic in there- it needs very careful handling - but it is still the > best of a rather poor bunch here in Coventry.   Handled properly, I think it is indeed one of the best instruments of its period in Britain, comparable with instruments like St. George's Chapel, Windsor and St. Alban's Abbey. I emphasize "handled properly", because it is very difficult to gauge volume and balances from the console. I = believe the cathedral insists for this reason on supplying the organist when visiting choirs sing there. What the instrument can sound like at its best is manifest from the very fine gramophone recordings Walter Hillsman made there back in the 1970's.   > As for organ firms - I think Conacher is still going - at least they > answered a letter I sent them a couple of years ago. I'm not sure about > Bishops - I haven't heard anything about them one way or the other.   Conacher have a website at http://www.musiclink.co.uk/conacher/ Bishop & Son don't seem to have a website, but as far as I know they are still in business.   John Speller          
(back) Subject: Re: Life Imitates Art (x-posted; long and tendentious) From: "Colin Mitchell" <cmys13085@yahoo.co.uk> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 05:13:10 -0700 (PDT)   Hello,   One of the nice features of the Walker Digital electronic 32ft bass at Blackburn Cathedral, here in the UK, has been a stop which activates three levels of volume.   Now isn't that a GOOD IDEA?   After all, the volume knob is almost as old as the swell box!   As for recordings, I once heard a lengthy discussion about recording techniques, in which Dr.David Wylde (the current MD of Henry Willis & Sons) claimed that "single point" recording was better than multi-point recordings. He used a very high quality single Calrec stereo condenser microphone even in York Minster, when Dr Francis Jackson recorded, for posterity, his astonishing performances of Bairstow....a "standard" if ever there was one.   OK, it works well, and the effect is not absolutely pin-sharp aurally, but the ambience is the nearest thing you will hear to standing in the nave at York, and I like it.   I have another recording, done at All Soul's, Langham Place, London........not a big acoustic and not a very big church. It seems that the engineer went to extraordinary lengths to attach a microphone to every pipe.   The end result is nothing short of horrific!   However, from a recording engineers viewpoint, it is very necessary to multi-point in an acoustic such as the Royal Albert Hall, here in the UK. The BBC are masters of live recordings from this ghastly acoustic, and they always take great care to balance clarity against ambient sound. In fact, I would suggest that the best place to listen to almost anything from the Royal Albert Hall, is in front of a pair of good loudspeakers at home, with a good glass of wine.   When I have been inside the place, all I here are echoes running around galleries and sounds bouncing off the magic mushrooms in the ceiling!   London really doesn't have a good, large concert hall. The best ones are the Queen Elizabeth Hall (with the delightful Flentrop organ) and the little Wigmore Hall, with its intimate acoustic. The other venues, such as St Augustine's, Kilburn, and St.John's, Smith Square, were designed as churches of course, but are acoustically perfect for music.   So perhaps we should not knock multi-point recording....I have heard, live, some spectacular results. I have also heard the opposite....simply awful recordings by cloth-eared engineers. However, if we have to live with bad engineers, then the best thing is to limit them to one microphone!   Oddly enough, as I come full circle, I recall the wonderful recordings of Brian Culverhouse, who used minimal microphone placements and got fabulous results; albeit recordings which often lack absolute clarity. His sound engineering of, variously, Jane Parker-Smith at Blackburn (a great swirling acoustic)and the awesome "Black Dyke Mills Band" in their heyday as triple champions back in the 70's, are standards of good taste and effective, minimal recording technique.   There is much to learn from the past masters of the art!   Regards,   Colin Mitchell UK       Regards,   Colin MItchell UK     --- M Fox <ophicleide16@direcway.com> wrote: > For a good 20 years I've been standing up on a > little soapbox from time to > time attempting to convince skeptics that the > wretched excesses of 1970s > organbuilding were due in part to the recording > engineers at Columbia > records.     __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? New and Improved Yahoo! Mail - 100MB free storage! http://promotions.yahoo.com/new_mail  
(back) Subject: Re: "New York Style" Hymn playing and organ design From: "Roger Brown" <roger2@rogerbrown.no-ip.org> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 22:24:39 +1000   On Thu, 15 Jul 2004 09:48 pm, Emily Adams wrote: > Since my limited skills don't extend to improvisation,   Well in my Anglican tradition, we don't generally improvise hymn = introductions - one simply plays all or part of the verse at the speed and in the style that the congregation is expected to sing.   So for Nicea, one would aim to convey the two-in-a-bar rhythm that this = tune requires if it is not be become dreadfully thumped out.   Because I am not accustomed to the Lutheran tradition it was interesting = to observe how the organ was used in the recent Danish Royal wedding. Frankly = I thought the introductions were rambling and somewhat aimless and did = little to prepare the congregation for what was actually to be sung - either in style or spirit. And that was in a context where the rest of the music was =   superb.   Some of the recorded (and published) improvisations by George Thalben-Ball =   were on the other hand object lessons - usually quite short, well thought = out and to the point.   That's how it ought to be.   -- Roger Brown robrown@melbpc.org.au roger2@rogerbrown.no-ip.org http://rogerbrown.no-ip.org  
(back) Subject: Re: hymn playing From: <Keys4bach@aol.com> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 09:04:44 EDT   there are so many good books, there are so many good ideas, there are so many bad organists, there are so few good singing congregations,   this is like opening the elec/pipe debate again.   Do your best to reflect the text but be accurate.....the words are = important.   the real answer on how to play hymns is to play them the way "I" want them =   played.............<G>   dale in Florida  
(back) Subject: Re: Fred Swann Opens OHS 2004-Buffalo From: <DarrylbytheSea@aol.com> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 09:06:32 EDT   Thanks, Malcolm, for your wonderful words of Fred and about his program. = It's amazing to me that he was the program chairman for the AGO National, hosted/introduced many of the events of the Convention, presided over the = business meeting as President, played a full concert at the Crystal Cathedral, and = now has played a nother full concert for the opening of the OHS Covention. Wow is = an understatement!   And . . . two things pop into my little, very tired and overworked mind: = he's 70 years old (maybe a litlte older, but who's counting?) and only repeated = 1 piece from his AGO program (the Rheinberger).   Again, I say, Wow! And, of course, thanks to Fred for being such a = wonderful ambassador for our instrument and profession.   Yours,   Darryl by the Sea (still frazzled and poor from the 12 days on the Left Coast)  
(back) Subject: Hymn Intros, Text Painting, and stuff... From: <RMB10@aol.com> Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 09:10:54 EDT   >And why would you assume that a varied harmonisation is appropriate to >introduce a hymn. It certainly is NOT appropriate in the tradition in = which I >work (Anglican). > >And while I am at it, I am VERY wary about text painting - unless one is =   >possessed of great discretion, the result is almost always disruptive of =   the >congregational singing.   The above quote makes me wonder if we do things so differently in the = States than in other countries. Very few times do we ever play a hymn straight through as an introduction at my church, only when it is a new hymn at = the congregation needs to get it in their ears. Otherwise, it's a short = introduction, with fanfares, or a variation on the hymn, or something to give them snippets of the melody, but NEVER is it the straight SATB version of the = tune, even when played straight through. I always will do something to it, even if = it's a soloed out melody with accompaniment or melody in octaves, or melody starting in the soprano, alto joining in, and other voice parts joining = in, until it's full chords with pedal by the last few measures. Maybe it's a touch = of Hollywood or something over here. I'm stymied by the comment about text painting...why is it wrong to text paint a hymn? If the congregation is a solid singing congregation and the = hymn is something they know, why not do it. Isn't it more beneficial to be a sensitive player than one who plays everything on 8, 4, 2 Principals and = never changes the registration, except maybe drawing the 8' Trumpet for the = final verse? I've heard people who do that on every hymn....push General 3 and = go. And if they are feeling really racy, they might push General 4 for the = final stanza of the last hymn (it brings on the IV Great Mixture.) I think = that a boring hymn player is more disruptive than one who is coloring the registration around the text of the hymn. When I'm visiting other = churches on vacation or visiting them for my job as a funeral director, there are times when I =   literally have not been able to sing a hymn because the hymn playing is = so poor. I know of a local church who has a degreed organist who can tear up literature, but when she sits down to play a service, her manner of = playing is almost as if she doesn't want to be there. Her way of not varying hymn registrations, galloping through hymns as a pace taht is almost = unsingable, and only playing the notes on the page of the hymnal, makes it so boring and = unmusical, not to mention unsingable, that she gives off the air that she doesn't = want to be doing it and that she doesn't care. However, she plays preludes and postludes that are gorgeous. She can do it when she wants to, but she = doesn't. It's not as if she doesn't have an instrument capable of carrying out an exciting hymn, she's got a stunning tracker organ with electric stop = action and a swell box that will shut down and muffle the swell like it should. The plenum is silvery and smooth, the reeds are bright but not snarly. The congregation could really be a singing church IF the organist did = something, but she pushes one piston and keeps the same stops for every verse of every hymn. = She always accompnies soloists on the 8' Swell Gedeckt. It's the same thing. = She's so locked into her "patterns" that there is no musicality that = issues forth from the bench, and this is someone with a MM in Organ Performance = from a good school and with a known organ professor. I call it laziness. So while some organists might go overboard with text painting, some go the = extreme opposite and don't change registration during a service. That's = just as bad. A good organist uses his/her brain and ears to judge what is tatesful and appropirate to the text of the hymn and also according to = what the congregation is doing. If they are outsinging the organ, it's time to add = some more organ. If the organ is drowning them out, cut it back. If the = verse of the hymn is talking about peace, reeds and mixtures seem out of place. Now this brings up another question, how many people here only play the notes on the page and how many people add other things to the hymn. I'm = not just talking about adding a few passing tones here and there. I'm talking = about really getting creative and doing things like in the John Ferguson style--anyone who has been to one of his hymn festivals will understand = what I mean. There are others who I have heard do the same kind of techniques. I've = done some of those tricks at some churches where I've played, but the = congregation has to be so solid. For example, on a hymn such as Nettleton "Come Thou Fount", the right hand might do some kind of running water arpeggio = motive up and down the Great, while the accompaniment is played on the choir; or like = in his Concertato on " A Might Fortress" the verse that speaks about "and = though this world with devils filled..." where he romps around on snarly reeds = while the congregation sings. The accompaniment doesn't lead the hymn at all, = but it definitely corresponds with the text. I have heard several people so those things and with large gatherings, it can be really effective, but = it's not for the faint of heart! Thoughts???? Monty Bennett