Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Well it does to the people who post here... dispassionate and reasoned debate, with a good deal of humour thrown in for good measure.

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Southern Comfort
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by Southern Comfort » Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:08 am

JW wrote:
Fri Jul 28, 2017 9:34 pm
I don't know if members of this group are aware but Martin Cross, the East London organ builder, passed away unexpectedly a month ago. May he rest in peace.

Martin was going to restore our organ.
That's sad. Martin was a good man, in the best sense of the word.

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by organist » Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:21 am

Yes Martin is indeed a sad loss. He did come and look at the organ I used to play to see whether the tuning could be changed to equal temperament but nothing came of it in the end! The general situation is dismal. Those churches retaining pipe organs are in many cases using digitals or piano. Not many young people learning these days. I suspect many do not take up the piano because of other opportunities.

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by dmu3tem » Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:45 pm

Concerning the survival - let alone revival - of Pipe Organs, the key point is that organists have to show creative imagination in their use during modern services today. Only then can the horrendous expense of restoring such instruments be justified. In particular they should:

[1] Explore the possibilities of combining organs with other instruments - as well as voices. Many organists I know simply have not thought about how this can be done.
[2] Think how they can make optimum use of digital and other electronic organs and keyboards. For example instead of regarding them as inferior equivalents of Pipe Organs they should regard them as distinct instruments in their own right with their own method of sound production.
[3] They should look at manuals only options rather than persistently depend on pedal boards (effective though they can be). In turn this means that, in the long run, the design of organs needs reconsideration. Here are some limited possibilities:
: The ability to move the instrument easily about a building so that it can be more flexibly used alongside other instruments and voices - so we should look at chamber organs with only a few stops. About 10 years ago I saw a very good modern example brought along to the Monastic Musicicans summer school at Ditchingham.
: Altering the registration so that, on a two manual organ, the swell keyboard has as powerful a combination of stops as the Great, which can then be equipped with a 16ft stop providing a more agile bass than that available using a pedal board.
: Rebalancing the available combinations of stops so that registrations are not 'top heavy'.
[4] Moving away from a 'surround sound' approach to registration, especially by doubling up stops and the deployment of Mixtures (which should anyway be regarded as colours rather than harmonic combinations). Lean and clean sounds should be the order of the day, especially when organs are used in combination with other melodic instruments. Such approaches anyway have the merit of giving congregations a much clearer idea about what tune they are being asked to sing. With 'surround sounds' I notice that many allegedly unmusical people select another note from the chord they are being offered instead of the melody note.
[5] Take a more pro-active role rearranging music - especially modern hymns - to make optimum use of the capabilities of the organ that is available. I do this with virtually every hymn I now play; and as a result have about 100 arrangements (in various states of scruffiness) available in two ring binders. Apart from anything else this enables the less competent players (like myself) to perform the music more efficiently and with fewer mistakes and hesitations.
I am sure there are many other ideas people could think of. In fact I remember that about two years ago Alan Smith invited people to send in specifications for their idea of an 'ideal organ' for possible publication in Music and Liturgy.

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by nazard » Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:41 pm

Thomas, although I largely agree with what you write, I am not happy about your idea of putting a 16' stop on the great. Our venerable parish toaster, a Viscount, has a 16' Bourdon on the great, and it is a pain in the unmentionable. The problem is that poor organists like to draw it because it muddies their sound and so makes it more difficult to identify their mistakes. The problem is that in the resulting muddle of sound it is difficult to identify anything, even the tune. I think that the lack of organists in the coming generation is largely due to the lack of capable organists in the present generation. The children have grown up with the idea that the organ is a dreary instrument, which is commonly a valid observation.

The inability to pedal with any virtuosity seems rare. Most parish organists seem to be incapable of even the tiny pedal runs in "Cwm Rhondda" and other hymns. My teacher set me the Short Eight as my first organ pieces. It took a few years, but by the time I had finished with them I was comfortable with the pedals. I commend their study to all parish organists.

One day, if I am spared for long enough, I may get to the end of the Pedal Exercitum...

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by JW » Thu Nov 30, 2017 7:22 pm

I very rarely draw the 16 ft manual stops on our organ as they do muddy the sound. However, I am also very aware that they could provide additional bass where an organist is unable to play the pedals.

I would encourage anyone who doesn't play the pedals to have organ lessons, so that your congregation can enjoy the proper sound of the organ. Pedals may not be compulsory but they add an awful lot. And age is no barrier to having lessons. There are plenty of organ teachers out there!

It's up to all of us to make sure that the organ doesn't die out.

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by dmu3tem » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:24 am

Sorry, perhaps I should clarify what I meant about the use of a Bourdon 16 on the keyboard of an organ:

[1] I did not mean its use in a four-part hymn. As you say, it muddies the sound.

[2] What I envisaged was its use for a rapidly moving bass line accompaniment (for example for a baroque figured bass) to a 'melody' line executed by the right hand on the swell keyboard. In turn this necessitates a redesign of many older Pipe Organs (such as the 1877 Lewis that I play at Gisburn) so that the available stops for this upper line are sufficiently powerful to balance with the bass line.

[3] I have used such approaches not just with two part settings but also with briskly moving hymns such as 'This Is The Day' where the right hand executes the melody in 2-3 block chord parts. This gives a lighter, more rapidly moving and rhythmical feel than what you get if the bass figuration has to be executed on the pedal board, even with a 'vamp' type accompaniment. In such circumstances if the right hand Swell is doubled using 4ft or even 2ft stops a bourdon 16ft and 8ft on the left hand Great prevents the whole texture becoming 'top heavy'.

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