Organ cases, Mean Tone and the BBC
Sir, I was pleased to receive last Augusts Journal. Yes, page 12 does illustrate the South organ case at Salisbury Cathedral, over which no one in particular would enthuse. Father Willis was dead-nuts against em! After all, money expended on a beautiful case (as were so many prevalent in the 1700s), could be better expended on more organ pipes, and so, more profit! Did he, I wonder, have Models A, B and C to proffer, up his sleeve?
When his highest in the land so just perfect for egress of sound namely, Truro, but of only forty-five stops, was much enhanced tonally, after many a battle, by J. L. Pearsons glorious architecture, who also saw that Willis placed ranks to their best advantage, Pearson having studied acoustics.
Since Father Willis time, especially so in the 1900s, with Walker and Mander in particular and more recent organ builders too, an instruments visual aspects have been considered as of equal importance to the specification and use!
Next time youre by Trafalgar Square, pop into St. Martin-in-the-fields (no apostrophe S, as with all those in the City of London, where its forty-seven churches are such, viz. St. Bride, Fleet St., St. Stephen Walbrook (but it is Pauls Cathedral!), and walk up to the chancel, turn about looking west, and your jaw will drop with a mighty crash a superb modern Walker, with a just dazzling ultra-modern case!
There are pros and cons with Brian Wigglesworths letter Sooty delights of the 1950s. I wonder if hes read Ralph Downes Baroque Tricks, Positif Press? He should! It gives a more catholic outlook. When Wolfgang Stockmeier recorded Das Orgelwerk Johann Sebastian Bach, (20 CDs), he used over a dozen instruments, and they were all solely by Orgelbau Matthias Kreienbrink of Osnabrueck, which was founded in 1790, and still extant; was Stockmeier trying to send a message?
I find them extraordinarily attractive tonally, save where theres this wretched mean temperament, so disliked by J.S.Bach, hence his Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, the 48 Preludes and Fugues! Theres a delightful anecdote that has come down to us from J.N. Forkel, that whenever Bach observed his friend Gottfried Silbermann among his select circle of auditors, he used to say to him, in perfect good humour: You tune the organ in the manner you please, and I play the organ in the key I please, and thereupon used to strike off a Fantasia in A-flat major; the contest invariably ending in Silbermanns retiring to avoid his own wolf.
But Im not urging that our organs should emulate continental ones, theirs in particular, but that we can become, if not careful, as in Victorian and Edwardian times, far too insular. When The Organ Club twenty of us in 1957 ventured to Holland and the next year to Denmark and Sweden, our leader Josh Knott, who had arranged everything of both, had to battle with the Clubs Committee to go out under their auspices; five now remain. One of the questions he met with was: Why, arent our organs good enough? Not that any recordings were then were available in our shops.
We were to hear
and play such famous ones as those in
The BBC is particularly insular and unhelpful. As a gesture of good will, in 1949, Geraint Jones was dispatched by the British Council to record works of Bach, Haydn and Liszt on three famous organs, at Steinkirchen (1686), Ottobeuren (1766), and at Amorbach Abbey (1783). Over the years any relays to us were rare, minimal, and very far between! Due to the kindness of Catherine Ennis, pupil of Geraint Jones before he died in 1998, a CD was made of these 1949 recorded works.
An eye for detail
Sir, I greatly enjoyed reading the August 2003 Journal, especially the Notes from a small observer and, as always, the profile of one of our members.
However, when Barbara Childs was at The Magdalen College Club was she not working unsocial hours rather than anti-social hours and our January meeting was held on the 18th January and not the 16th? Also, did one of our members say to Sir Edward I voted for you in 1970 and in 1973, or did the later date get altered somewhere in the publication process?
I suppose it could be argued that part of the enjoyment is spotting the errors deliberate or otherwise!
Editor: We must thank David for his comments and eagle-eyed observations. However, we can confirm the 1973 date was accuratly reported although the General Election was indeed in 1974. Sir Edward was obviously far too polite to correct our member. Although Davids letter did contain one spelling mistake here corrected he will certainly be asked to join our future proof reading team.
At the Presidents Dinner my ears pricked up when William McVicker said he started his organ playing at Bessies O Barn. After I spoke to him, and his delightful wife, it turns out I was at school with his Mum! Wasnt it wonderful that his Vicar, teacher and parents gave him such a good start.
On the 16th November we had a splendid dedication of the renovated Father Willis Organ at the Faversham almshouses, all the local dignitaries came and were impressed. The organ rang out and showed what a gem it is! St. Mary of Charity Choir led the Service under their Musical Director Steve Sivyer.
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