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Thread: Going to church in English cathedrals

  1. #21
    ppp Pianississmo O'Carolan's Avatar
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    I've always been wondering if there are any other English organists here... or is this an all-American forum?

    Quote Originally Posted by jbird604 View Post
    Bottom line of all my English Cathedral experiences -- grand as they are, if I lived here I'd surely find a smaller church to attend on a regular basis. It just doesn't seem quite right that you are going to church in what amounts to a museum of sorts, a place so famous and exalted in the public mind that you have to be herded in and out like cattle. I do understand all the concern, and the searching of bags and the strict rules about this and that, but it does detract from the spirituality of the service, at least until you get over it.

    I would seek out a church where the liturgy is done well, where the organ and organist are top tier, if not necessarily nationally known. Where there is a vicar or priest who loves people, shepherds the flock, preaches with sincerity, who has a deep concern for all of God's children in all their diversity, and all God's creatures and creation as a whole. Such a church may not exist on every corner, but I'd sure have a great time looking for one.

    But I will be happy to get back to my little church where you can sit anywhere you like, you don't have to be searched on the way in, you can linger after the service if you wish, and nobody is walking around telling people to put away their phones (I actually observed this today). Where the organ is pleasant if not astounding, the organist unassuming and competent if not exciting, where I know the hymns, where I know the pastor and admire him personally as well as professionally. Where the sustain time is less than 1 second, but sufficient to make the organ bloom and the choir resound.
    Hi, it's me again. The bag searches and things like that are quite necessary at this point in time - you do realise that the UK has just seen two terrorist attacks. Everyone is understandably a little on edge, but rest assured that as long as there isn't a nationwide scarcity of milk for our tea, everything is in order.

    If you are still in the country (three weeks you said?), come by St Asaph Cathedral. You can sit anywhere you like, you can stay after the service, and you definitely won't get searched. Everyone is very friendly, the service is bilingual. Come by the organ loft after Evensong this Sunday and say hi! You can hear my friend (the Assistant DoM) improvising on the organ here and judge for yourself.

    I know the gang at Chester Cathedral as well and have played there - brilliant organ, fabulous, crisp but resonant acoustic - but I suspect it might still be a bit large and museum-ish for you. It's quite scary after dark in the organ loft when they turn off all the lights in the Nave and there is nothing but utter blackness behind you.

  2. #22
    Moderator andyg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by O'Carolan View Post
    I've always been wondering if there are any other English organists here... or is this an all-American forum?
    Yes, there are plenty of organists on here from this country, not sure how many of them are classical/church organists though. We've certainly had a few in the past!
    It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

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  3. #23
    Moderator myorgan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andyg View Post
    Yes, there are plenty of organists on here from this country, not sure how many of them are classical/church organists though. We've certainly had a few in the past!
    Speaking of which, has anyone heard from JonathanP lately? I've wondered from time-to-time how things have worked out for him and his pipe organ.

    Welcome O'Carolan! There are others from the UK, but not all are necessarily active. I remember Wombat was from the UK as well. You never know, you might see John at church on Sunday!

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 4 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony)
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

  4. #24
    Moderator jbird604's Avatar
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    If we had another Sunday here I might take you up on the offer. Would love to attend a church just like that. But alas, we are flying out tomorrow morning. Of course we all understand the necessity of the bag searches and all the nervousness around national monuments and well-known places. And the folks in charge of security at these cathedrals can be forgiven for being a bit brusk at the moment. I just wouldn't want to deal with that every Sunday if I lived here, thus the desire to seek out a smaller and less prominent church that still has excellent music and liturgy and good clergy.

    Seven years ago this summer the church where I'd served for 17 years was under the iron fist of a hateful preacher who forced out many of the long-time members and preached a hard line that appealed to a certain crowd but sickened many of us. We had to escape, leaving behind an excellent Allen Renaissance organ that I'd only been playing for less than a year, and a pretty good choir that I'd developed over the 17 years of service. But it was spiritually dead due to the ugly spirit of the pastor.

    The very first Sunday after we left there, we attended a CBF church where there were Lectionary readings, a sermon that could've been heard in most any Anglican church, the Lord's Prayer recited, grand hymns and an excellent organ and choir. I cried all the way through that service too, out of joy that we'd found a place of such spiritual power. And now I feel much the same way at our Disciples church every Sunday.

    It's not necessarily the location or the beauty of the building that "does it" for me, it's the depth of the worship experience, immersed in music befitting the glory of God, infused with scripture, based upon the traditional acts of worship that have sustained the church for 2000 years. I found that in every church where we worshiped on this trip.
    John
    ----------
    Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
    Home: Rodgers 580 "Cheetah" organ with custom 6-channel speaker system
    Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
    Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

  5. #25
    ppp Pianississmo O'Carolan's Avatar
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    Thanks for the welcome; I guess like most of the other UK users, I'm not very active here - I've actually been lurking around for a few months now.

    Sorry to hear you can't make it this Sunday, John. The small churches and cathedrals in my area love to have visitors - and they are often so few and rare that everyone new gets celebrity treatment. They (priests and congregants alike) will swarm you before you can leave, and trust me, they can go on for hours, these types. Sometimes the organist is not exempt when they play a particularly juicy voluntary.

    If you're missing the music, BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong is broadcast every Wednesday and Sunday at 3:30-4:30pm, and if you miss the broadcast, the recordings are available on their website for a few weeks.

  6. #26
    Moderator jbird604's Avatar
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    Back at home, I've spent a little time with the Rodgers at home and the Allen at church, while the sounds of English cathedral organs are still fresh in my mind. Both digitals seem to sound better than I remembered, but I do of course notice a big difference between digitals and the real thing, and the absence of the spacious acoustics of the cathedrals leaves a big hole in the sound.

    I'm getting some thoughts on why Hauptwerk is so successful though. While Allen and Rodgers (and other digital builders) have been quite good at reproducing the precise wave shape and harmonic content of pipes, perhaps Hauptwerk is capturing something that they are overlooking. There must be subtle nuances of both tone and environment that elude digital analysis but can still be captured with the methods employed by Hauptwerk samplers.

    I do know, as do many of us, that a regular digital CAN produce remarkable sound, startlingly realistic and engaging, when installed and heard in a place with the kind of acoustical qualities that benefit organ tone. Even an old MOS organ or an analog or a fairly cheap electronic organ can produce amazing music in a very lively space. But listening to one close up, as in a home studio, or in a smallish and not too lively church such as my own, there isn't much of the ambiance that is so necessary to pretty up digital tone.

    Yet even a "dry" Hauptwerk organ heard in a home or with headphones sounds more "real" to most people, at least that's what I hear from the enthusiasts. And that could be because the sound you get from Hauptwerk has not been analyzed and deconstructed and put back together again, at least not to the extent that Allen and others have traditionally done with their digital samples. So those extremely subtle audio clues that tell the brain that it's hearing real pipes are still present in the Hauptwerk recordings but not in the purified and homogenized digital organ tones.

    Some of us have heard "off-brand" digitals (by which I mean no disrespect, but including Johannus, Viscount, Phoenix, A-G, and other fairly minor players in the US market) that we feel sound "better" than Allen or Rodgers. I know I've recently mentioned that the fairly low-end Britson organ built by Johannus that my associate tech has in his living room sounds amazingly good to me when I hear it played.

    Could it be that some of these lower-tier companies do less processing of their samples, thus, without even intending to, providing more of those subtle nuances that please our ears and our brains? I can remember way back in the late 80's when Galanti hit the US market with the first Praeludium models. I had potential Allen buyers who would tell me that they had heard one of these and were very impressed with the realism of the tone, that these organs actually had "something" that was missing from Allen. I didn't lose many sales to Galanti, because the difference in build quality was so obvious, but I did hear quite a few comments about how good they sounded.

    Anyway, this has given me something else to think about. Nice to get back to my "familiar" and comfortable instruments, though I do long for something just a bit more exciting!

    Mostly I just need to get some practice time in. It has been said that if I miss one day's practice, I can tell. If I miss two days, the critics can tell. If I miss three days, everybody can tell! I've missed three weeks practice, and I am afraid that dogs and deaf people can tell!
    John
    ----------
    Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
    Home: Rodgers 580 "Cheetah" organ with custom 6-channel speaker system
    Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
    Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

  7. #27
    mf Mezzo-Forte Roger Memphis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbird604 View Post
    ... though I do long for something just a bit more exciting!
    Welcome home, John.
    Have you played "the Wanamaker" yet? That would be a bit more exciting.
    Enjoyed your posts from afar.

    Roger Memphis
    C-3 with O-M, 145, 122RV, 2 PR-40's, PSR-36
    CV with HR-40, 2 B-40's

  8. #28
    ff Fortissimo Havoc's Avatar
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    Regarding hauptwerk: I heard a home setup a bit ago and was surprised in a few ways. But what I found problematic was the overly presence of reverb in the samples. One of the organs played is ine that I have an amateur recording of. And while I do know that such recordings capture more reverb than you would typically notice, the hauptwerk samples contained even far more reverb.

    It can certainly be that specific sample set but this was for me a real let down.

  9. #29
    Administrator Admin's Avatar
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    Certainly, the reverb is at least due in major part to the way the sample set was recorded. Other factors might include outboard reverb being added by the owner and the channel set up. Hauptwerk itself has no facility for adjusting reverb.

    I suspect, but don't know for a fact, that "wet" (reverberant) sample sets sound better through headphones or with a two channel setup. I think the reverb tails, which otherwise might be somewhat attenuated by phase cancellation when mixed down to two channels, tend to build up excessively on multi-channel systems. Anyway just a conjecture based on the fact that I've not been happy with any "wet" sets on my six channel system.

    One sample set that I really loved the sound of in the demo tracks on Contrebombarde was Hereford Cathedral. When I tried the trial version, it sounded more reverberant than I liked. There is a happy medium between bone dry and wet that some sample sets achieve, such as the free St. Anne's and Pitea School organs.

  10. #30
    ff Fortissimo Havoc's Avatar
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    There was no outboard reverb added, I asked about it. You can add reverb to bone dry samples but never remove it from too wet ones. The problem is using bad reverb. If at the same time as they sampled the pipes they did sample an impulse you could add a convolution reverb. These days processing power is cheap.

    One of the things I plan to do with my pipe organ. It is in a room that is too small to have meaningful reverb. So micing the organ, pulling it through a convolver and playing only the wet output should give a better feel in the room.

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