February 14th. 2018
As you will see from the News page, Ratcliffe College is now complete and ready for release. It's taken much longer than originally expected as I have already stated over the last few months but it's now complete.
In the meantime, after our initial contact about eight years ago we are set to sample a large English cathedral organ of about 80 stops over the next few months. As is often the case, the console is situated in the most unfavourable position to hear what the organ really sounds like to the normal listener especially since one of the divisions speaks out into the body of the cathedral a considerable distance from the player. The console is on a gallery directly below and to the side of the main divisions and the organ speaks out over the head of the player whilst the ancilliary division is around a corner. Therefore, it is planned to create three different sets: The first will be from the Choir perspective, the second from in front of the rood screen and the third from a typical congregational listeners point of reference. We will be working very closely with the director of music and organist to ensure that the perspectives are an accurate facsimile of what the instrument sounds like from the various areas. This will be especially valuable for visiting organists to gain a valuable perspective as to what the instrument actually sounds like to everyone else apart from the player.
As regards the instrument itself (it isn't a Willis for a start) although it is fairly well known, it is like many of our regional cathedrals which have fine instruments but don't quite have the "fame" or kudos of the London cathedrals and some other cities. It is surprising as to how many cathedrals there are in the UK and equally how few are really well known for their organs. Cathedrals such as St David's, Brecon, St Asaph and Bangor in Wales or Carlisle, Wells, Winchester and Gloucester etc. in England somehow don't elicit the same excitement as others. Even the brand new instruments in Bury St. Edmund's, Llandaff Worcester and Edinburgh (H&H, Nicholson, Tickell and Rieger) along with the slightly older instruments in Liverpool Metropolitan and Blackburn aren't organs that immediately spring to mind. Everyone waxes lyrical about Liverpool Anglican (mainly on account of its size) but the poor Catholic Metropolitan (Paddy's Wigwam) which has a very fine four manual Walker hardly gets a mention. Smaller and lesser instruments such as Clifton with its Rieger are almost unknown and haven't a chance it seems. Sad but true.
January 31st. 2018
It's been a fairly fraught month with quite a lot going on in normal non-organ life. I have continued fine regulating Ratcliffe which has continued to be somewhat of a pain but I'm pretty much there now and should be able to get some audio demos out in the next week. I'm afraid that the Pedal Split feature is going to have to be left out for the moment having spent the last couple of days trying to get it up and running. It shouldn't be a problem but it is. I have followed the HW instructions to the letter but can't seem to get it to work properly. I can certainly get the bottom octave playing on its own whilst allowing the upper octave and a half to not play except for what is coupled down to it but I can't seem to get the full pedal stops back to normal when the Pedal Split stop is disengaged ie: the Pedal Split is permanent no matter what I do. It's just not worth the hassle for such a seldom used feature. I suppose that I will have to find a way to do it because there is a certain cathedral organ that I am due to sample at some time which has the same stop.
For the time being I have decided not to provide a wet version of the set because there are just too many permutations in positioning and type / length of reverberation. If some users come up with their own settings that are similar to mine then I might consider releasing a set based on a common opinion. It's not going to be a particularly expensive set in the first place and whilst it is a decent sounding organ overall, it's nothing spectacular in comparison to many other more famous instruments. The instrument is a bit of a compromise in the first place and there is rather too much extension for my liking. Having said that, there are some really fine stops which I think that I can definitely use elsewhere in the larger Concert Series. As a facsimile instrument in its own right, it is a valid addition to the available Hauptwerk libraries
As a result of playing for a large funeral recently, I have been booked to play for a wedding in a few months. Nothing special about that but the instrument and the church are interesting. The village was one of the "home" villages of my family dating back to the pre 1400's and the church has one or two memorials to some of my ancestors. When we were looking around for a house down here, there was a farm on the market in the same village which we were beaten to. Until about a century ago it had been in family ownership for nigh on 400 years. As it happens, the house we eventually got is much nicer and not quite so remote but it might have been nice otherwise and it was certainly a lovely property in itself. Anyway I digress..........the church in which the wedding is being held also contains a rather interesting organ of some historical significance having been built by Avery in 1792. It was restored in recent years by the late William Drake and whilst small, I reckon it's going to turn out to be quite a gem and definitely worth sampling. Hopefully it will take its place alongside the 1790 Davis that I have already sampled and which is yet another historical instrument (as yet unreleased) from the Georgian period.
Meanwhile the weather has been pretty foul all month. No snow but plenty of continuous rain and wind. The bottom of the garden is like a marsh and very muddy which the dog enjoys but ends up being clarted from head to toe which means a regular bath and the accompanying mess that entails.
The Public School installation is nearing completion now and we are just waiting for the last few bits of equipment to arrive and the pipe front to go in before I go up to do the final setting up. Fingers crossed, it's going to be quite something when finished. It's taken nearly two years from the original enquiry and visit to get this far but churches, institutions and even private customers can take a very long time from start to finish and time flies by without everyone realising it. I suppose I must be grateful for the fact that it's not taking as long as a well known instrument in Norfolk which took 35 years to get installed. It would seem to be a characteristic of the restoration of organs that whilst they still work, they soldier on or in cases where they don't work, the question of their future puts them very much on a back burner. After all, if you have a leaking roof it would be idiotic to spend out on a brand new or rebuilt instrument until the roof problem has been sorted as many have found out to their cost. Priorities !
January 5th. 2018
Instigating a Great Reeds on Choir was slightly more time consuming than expected since many hours were spent trying to work out what bit of code was wrong and thus causing loading errors. However, I worked it out finally and the transfer coupler is up and running as it should be. Working out the Split Pedal stop has proved to be more of a problem. It works fine with independent pedal stops but not with those that are extensions or duplex stops. I'm sure that I could work it out given time but I'm not sure whether it is that important a feature to warrant so much effort given the fact that it will take many, many hours to instigate correctly. It's only possible use is in self arranged transcriptions or extemporisations since I doubt whether there is any music out there that necessitates this feature therefore I may give it a miss. The Pedal Split if I haven't explained it before, allows the bottom octave of pedals to play the pedal stops as normal but the top one and a half octaves only play stops that are coupled to them from the manuals. This allows a bass to be played in the bottom octave and frees up the top octave and a half for additional chordal or melody playing.
All of the graphics except the double horizontal screens are finished and the horizontal screens will not take too much time to complete.
Whilst we haven't had any snow so far this winter apart from a couple of flakes, we have certainly had a lot of rain and the winds have been somewhat blustery over the last few days. Fortunately, we are surrounded by woodland on all sides so the trees tend to moderate any gales considerably (though not the rain). Although it has dropped down to zero a few times in the last month, most days are relatively balmy in comparison to the rest of the country and we still have roses coming out in bloom ! However, once past Bristol, things are pretty dicey according to the news.
January 3rd. 2018
Ratcliffe is almost complete Deo Gratias and I hope to have it released later this month.
It's taken 16 months from the initial sample recordings to get this far and I'll be glad when it's finished. Much of the time taken has been in getting rid of unwelcome noise which in parts was excessive. Most particular was a single leaking chest magnet on the Bourdon chest which I couldn't silence when I made the recordings and ultimately proved to be very annoying. In addition, some of the pipework was not at its best thanks to the summer heat and various slow or faulty speaking pipes had to be corrected to bring them onto prompt speech.
I am in two minds as to whether to duplicate the Split Pedal feature found in the real instrument though I suppose I really should. It will require an interesting work around but should be quite simple to duplicate.
December 25th. 2017
We wish a Happy and Peaceful Christmas to all of our friends and customers.
Hopefully, Ratcliffe will be finished fairly shortly and whilst there were quite a few issues that needed to be sorted out, the new results are very much improved on what they were. Although the changes are quite subtle, it is surprising as to just how much difference they make to the set which is now a lot tighter and more in line with our normal instruments. The trouble with facsimile instruments is that it is very tempting to replace any not so good ranks with better ones from elsewhere. Whilst this makes for a better instrument all round, it doesn't represent the original instrument in real life.
December 17th. 2017
It's been busy over the past couple of weeks including a large visit from family. This was followed this last weekend by the Christmas carol services in two churches (different days). Neither organ is very powerful, one being a Hele and one a Father Willis but they produce a pleasant enough sound - just about capable of supporting a congregation. The Hele has only six stops over two manuals whilst the Willis is slightly bigger with ten stops. Unfortunately both instruments suffer from cold and damp so there are usually a few whistles and hanging notes but I managed to get through both services without mishap and any really noticeable ciphers. Fortunately, I had taken the precaution of checking out the smaller Hele earlier in the day and was able to stop most of the main ciphers by replacing a couple of buttons on the trackers where they had lost their grip.
Amongst other things that came to light as a result of playing was been the discovery of a set of handbells which are kept in the safe in one of the churches. These could make an interesting small sample set providing I can find someone who knows exactly how they should be rung. It's probably not anything different to what one would expect in order to sound them but one never knows....... There may be some special techniques. The tower bells of both churches may also repay some attention at some juncture.
My planned release of Ratcliffe has been slightly delayed with the discovery of a "couple" of problems. Nothing too complex but they need to be sorted out before the set can be released. The Forster and Andrews is pretty much complete as is the Henry Jones and the Prosser. Although they are small sets, they still need just as much care and application as the larger sets; in some ways perhaps more since there are so few stops. Everything tends to stand out much more than when they are part of a much larger specification and can "disappear" in many combinations
We escaped the snow completely although it has not stopped raining for the past few days. However, it has meant that I have been able to concentrate more on sorting out samples than when the weather is better. Unfortunately, there is always so much to do in terms of maintenance and general care that there are never enough hours in the day.
November 23rd. 2017
I can't believe that it's seven years since my father passed away and nearly two years since my mother did. My aunt of course, passed away at the beginning of this year aged 99.
The Remembrance Day service went well although having to play a rather unpleasant toaster in the first church was not a fantastic experience. Next on the books is the Carol service - perhaps two with one being in another local church - if they don't clash on dates.
Work has slowed down considerably in the garden because it has been rather wet but they did come to fit the new gates last week which look very nice. The previous ones were destroyed by one of the local delivery lorries. Since we haven't really got a greenhouse to speak of at the moment (the existing one is small and not very practical) at least we don't have to concern ourselves with starting of seedlings and so on. Both of us have enough to be getting on with at the moment.
November 3rd. 2017
I played for the Harvest Festival service in the local village church with the small Father Willis and I am due to play for Remembrance Sunday in a week or so followed by a Christmas Carol service in December. They tend to use CD's for most services and they certainly can't afford to pay for an organist since there are church repairs that need doing and for which they are collecting. I don't mind playing the occasional service for special occasions and doing it free of charge as a contribution to the local community but I certainly wouldn't wish to commit myself to a regular post even if it was paid.
As I have said before, there aren't enough hours in the day and time flies past so quickly that one wonders what has happened to it. We have now been here for nearly a year (short of a couple of weeks) and looking back, a hell of a lot has been done in terms of the garden and property - even though the garden does look a little bit of a mess at the moment. Things are gradually coming together and the basic infrastructure is now in place.
I am still working on sample sets and several are in the final stages of completion with two already out for Beta testing. Trouble is that the Beta testers have busy lives as well and are limited as to how much time they can spend checking out sets for any problems that there might be. As regards the 125 stop instrument from which a whole new range of sets will be created, this is progressing slowly but steadily but it's not easy. A lot of it is down to sorting out what the best ranks are and which ones to choose within each division. They are all acceptable ranks but it's quite a task to decide which one of a dozen or so Diapasons goes with which Principal and Fifteenth etc. or which one of a dozen Trumpets blends best with other reed stops in a chorus as well as with the chosen flue stops and their choruses.
11th. September 2017
At long last the organ studio is up and running (see the news page for a photo). It's taken a little longer than expected for a number of reasons but I feel that the results are worthwhile.
Living in Devon, we are subject to what is known as "Devon Time". Certainly time is on a different scale here and it rushes by in a flash. Of course, we are always very busy and the property take sup more than its fair share of the hours available. It's hard to believe that we have been here for nearly a year and although the time has flown, I feel that much has been achieved and several fairly major projects have been completed or are nearing completion. Two out of five walls are pretty much finished apart from the stone facing and many of the plants that we brought with us have now found a permanent home. Unfortunately, there are also a whole lot of additional plants including trees and shrubs that make it look like we have just as many (if not more) than we had when we arrived. However, they WILL all get homed.
Both of the most local pubs have had changes of ownership in the last few months. One we are not particularly impressed with and it remains to be seen what the nearest one's new incumbents are like since they have only just moved in this week.
I am due to play for the Harvest service in October (on the small Father Willis) so I will have to sort out a couple of hymns that I am not overly familiar with. The last Harvest service I played for was about 30 years ago ! The local vicaress is somewhat typical of the quaint existence down here. Of American extraction and having completed university, she started of as a Catholic nun before converting to being an Anglican and taking holy orders. As it happens, she is also a fine violinist and majored in organ at university. Nothing particularly unusual in any of that but in addition to being the local incumbent, she doubles as a cowgirl.
Driving along the winding country lanes just up the road from the house, it is not unusual to see a woman dressed in relatively skimpy clothing (depending on the weather), herding cows for the nearest farm. That's our local vicar ! It could only happen in England.
3rd. August 2017
I finally succumbed yesterday and we drove over to a farm in the middle of nowhere to have a look at getting a dog. We chose an absolutely gorgeous English springer spaniel and having driven over to Holsworthy (yes, of the Wesley Bells organ piece fame) to purchase the necessary accoutrements required, he returned home with us and settled in as if he had always been here. I have had dogs in the past though not for some years due to circumstances and I have also bred my own (more by accident than by design). We all know that puppies are completely adorable o matter what the breed in general but this one is just so gorgeous. It's the first dog that I have ever had that hasn't screamed the place down overnight and so far he has almost been as good as gold and settled straight in as if he had been here always. However, his first task was to commandeer her indoors' blanket and then take an inordinate interest in undoing my shoelaces at every opportunity.
The carpet man comes later today to measure up for the mezzanine floor in the organ studio and then I should be able to start moving the equipment across to its designated resting place. The acoustics aren't completely dead with about 1/4 of a second at present though no doubt, this will change once the upper carpet is in and there are a couple of nice rugs on the tiled floor. The studio is certainly looking very nice and photos will eventually follow here or on the news page (as will no doubt, photos of the master of the house !).
24th. July 2017
One step closer to completion of our own organ studio with the woodwork now completed for the mezzanine floor and speaker platform. As you will see from the News page, other projects are coming to fruition as well and one of them is a major installation.
During the fine weather, half a dozen different projects elsewhere in the property have been underway which includes the remodelling of the water and bog garden. The natural stream on the border of the property has been cleared and cut back and many shrubs and trees planted. One wall has been built in the water garden which will include a 5' waterfall and cascades and the several natural springs have been re-routed and collected to form this. Although work is ongoing (another two walls have to be built) and parts are a bit of a mess, things are beginning to look very beautiful with a wide variety of plants and shrubs including many mature specimens. One of the walls will be for the rose garden whilst the other is to hold back a considerable bank that is in danger of slip sliding down the garden if things aren't done fairly soon.
We have a wide variety of wildlife in and around the grounds and these include frogs, toads and hundreds of newts, deer, a fox or two, badgers, squirrels but fortunately no rabbits. The insect life is also varied with several types of butterfly and moths plus all the usual suspects. Fortunately, bats keep the mosquitos and midges to a minimum but there are a fair few giant hornets flying about from time to time. Birdlife ranges from the common garden birds which are very tame to three varieties of owl, woodpeckers, various members of the Corvus family and a couple of raptors.
All in all, it's really rather idyllic and very peaceful and quiet (apart from the wildlife of course).
Unfortunately, our super fast broadband has been delayed until the beginning of August due to technical problems but we do have the new modem so it shouldn't be long now.
2nd. July 2017
Well, so much for wishful thinking....The organ studio is still not quite completed although it is getting closer. I have finally got to the stage where the banister is ready to fit though it still needs a finishing coat of some sort of polish or wax. Then it's just a matter of doing the final painting of the remaining bits that need doing followed by a complete clean up and things should be complete.
The trouble is that even though the house and gardens etc. aren't huge when compared to some, they are still quite a handful for both of us and many of the tasks that need to be done can only be done by myself. Both were in relatively good order when we moved in but the gardens had been allowed to go rather too wild and being in a micro climate, plants etc. are on steroids here. It takes about three hours alone to water the garden for instance although this should now improve from now on since I have fitted three timed automatic systems to do the job. Unfortunately, because we are somewhat isolated from the nearest towns, it is not possible to just pop out to the corner shop for a pint of milk etc. and a proper supermarket shop is something like 20 miles away. Thus merely going shopping will take up several hours in a day and none of the online supermarkets will deliver as far out as we are - not that I would wish to avail myself of this facility in the first place. Answering emails etc. can take a considerable number of hours in a week and then there are the normal day to day tasks that need to be done. In short, I just haven't got enough hours in each day to do everything that I need to do and of course I only have one pair of hands. It doesn't seem like much has been done but in reality, an awful lot has actually been done. However, the ground is difficult to work (think "War Horse") and a spade doesn't really cut the mustard. Most of the gardening is done with a mattock and once through the rocks, it's really claggy, solid clay which is "quarried" locally as a very valid product which is sent to be used in Stoke on Trent - most probably sanitary ware.
Having said that, I soldier on (along with everything else) with samples. The College organ has taken much longer than expected because I have had to go through pretty much all of the stops once again from scratch and apply a subtle noise reduction. The instrument as it stood was quite playable but the cumulative noise was rather too excessive for my tastes. Most people would probably not have bothered but it has made a difference to the overall sound of the whole set and I am now beginning to be more pleased with the results. There are very few stops that I am not happy with which would not be my choice for a non facsimile instrument. However, the College organ is what it is for better or worse and the one or two stops that could be improved upon will remain since changing them would not reflect the existing instrument accurately. I'm really not sure whether I will produce a wet set since there are so many possibilities available through convolution using the dry samples. Likewise, I must question as to whether surround is worth instigating. It can be done but I feel that for the most part it is a bit of a gimmick and the amount of customers able to take advantage of surround is relatively few. I'll have to see.
Otherwise, I haven't been out trying any local instruments in the last couple of months. I did get the invitation to play the wonderful Father Willis several miles away one afternoon but unfortunately, we had family with young kids getting fractious on the day in question which made it necessary to postpone this for the time being. However, the vicar did say that he would show me where the key was so I can access it easily when I eventually get round to going and playing the thing.
Our internet and phone has been appalling for the last month - in fact pretty much unusable if they were on at all. There seems to have been an underground fault in the lines which still remains to be sorted out properly. However, we now have an installation date for super fast broadband (at long last) and it is expected to be up and running in just under three weeks. Hip, hip hooray !
6th April 2017
As can be seen from the News page, the studio is nearing completion and the College set is getting close to completion. It has taken a rather long time to create because there were some issues with background wind leaks. It is quite a strange instrument in that not only does it sound different in various positions in the building but at one point, merely taking two steps in a certain direction changes the positioning of the organ for the listener from one direction to another due to the parabolic apse.
When were deciding to buy the house, one of the most important considerations was whether there was internet access. We were told that it was somewhat slow but that the area had been earmarked for upgrading to super fast broadband within the next year. Confirmation of this was the fact that there were coils of fibre optic cable hanging from some telephone poles ready to be put in. The existing internet connection is pretty much useless for anything apart from checking emails and small downloads and at times it has been frustrating because it can be very slow indeed.
A couple of days ago there was an Openreach van playing about with the telephone pole outside our property so I enquired as to the progress. They were indeed sorting out the stringing along of the new fibre optic ready for splicing by the next team and I was told by the "foreman" that we could hope to have super fast within the next couple of months. This is excellent news and means that I will be able to upload and download stuff at speeds that are unlike I have ever experienced before anywhere. Can't wait until it's up and running.
26th March 2017
Much of the last month has been spent working on the organ studio and it has taken me rather longer than I had originally thought it would. Having said that, I'm still actually pretty much on schedule which is quite surprising. The planned studio is indeed beginning to look very nice and the plasterer came on Friday and did an excellent job. In the past I would have plastered it myself but I just don't have the time these days and someone who is doing it every day is so much faster than I could ever be. The plastering done now and the remaining jobs are the fitting of the banister to the gallery and painting / repainting the whole. once that is all done I can move the organ in and set up the speakers etc. I cannot believe that it is over 18 months since I was last able to play the instrument because during that time, the instrument has sat in semi storage until we could find a permanent place to live.
Having been invited to stand in as organist in one of the local churches with the retirement of the existing organist, I popped in the other day to see exactly what the instrument was like. There were ciphers on both the Swell and the Great and a hissing toe hole on the Great Stopped Diapason. Investigation showed that the trackers to the swell were caught up with themselves and the great action run required a bit of easing (this will no doubt correct itself as the weather gets warmer). The hissing toe hole proved to be a completely missing pipe rather than one that was unseated. The instrument is now playable at any rate without having to use wedges to silence the ciphering notes having sorted out the minor problems. It isn't any great shakes even though it's a Father Willis in original unaltered condition tonally and it's rather small. I suppose it could be described as a clever design but at first sight it looks a bit strange in the specification. The Open is a decent stop, the Stopped is passable though nothing fantastic and the Dulciana suffers from what Dulcianas often suffer from. The Principal is quite unlike the Open and so is the Fifteenth which tends towards flutiness but as a chorus, they make a fairly pleasant mellow blend which is not shrill or overpowering. The Stopped and Fifteenth together produce a nice effect and having heard the 8+4+2 Principals together one might almost imagine that the 15th, was an entirely different stop when played with the 8' flute. The Swell has a Violin Diapason and Salicional but no 8' Flute and both are useful with the Salicional being fairly stringy. the sole 4' is a Flauto Traverso which is pleasant enough and there is a full compass and pleasant enough Oboe. The Pedal makes do with a fairly well balanced Bourdon 16'. All in all, the instrument produces a warm and mellow sound and is certainly not unpleasant.
I had to go up to Scotland last week in order to collect some of my recently deceased aunt's belongings - mainly family items including historic letters of Marque from George III. The journey both ways by car was really pretty awful thanks to road works and lack of signposts but I made it there and back. However, I certainly won't be returning to that side of Hibernia ever again. It's a good thing I travelled up when I did because many of the roads I drove on then were under several inches of snow just a week later.
15th February 2017
The window /door installers arrived on Monday and finished today. They have made a superb job of everything and the former garage building looks really quite posh. Regarding the internals, I removed the first joist from the mezzanine and found that rather than being a separately installed floor from a later date than the roof, that the roof trusses are actually the floor joists as well. This means that my original idea of opening up the space apart from a small gallery at one end has had to have a rethink. It would be possible to open up the area but in order to retain roof integrity, either new cross members at a higher level would have to be introduced which would spoil the appearance or large front to back beams would have to be tied in to the apex walls to spread the weight of the roof. The alternative will be to reduce the amount of opened up space considerably and tie the compromised trusses together similar to creating a space for a very large trapdoor or staircase. This will still let in a lot of extra light and give a feeling of spaciousness. In many ways this will work out better because there will be the benefit of the gallery but additional space will be available on the remaining mezzanine floor area for storage. Indeed it would be possible to install a fairly sizeable pipe organ up there if so desired. The other benefit is that it makes the converted garage available for a number of other purposes such as holiday accommodation or a games room etc. when the property comes to be sold in the future.
3rd. February 2017
We travelled up to Bristol airport on Monday the 30th. and caught the short flight to Edinburgh without any real problems apart from the rigmarole of security that is essential these days. There was a bit of a problem with the rental car on our arrival but this was sorted out and we managed the drive up to Montrose in fairly good time despite the fog. The next day was pretty much as foul as it can get in terms of wind and rain and being the East coast of Scotland, it's rarely pleasant at any time of year. The requiem mass itself was well attended despite the awful weather but the "organ" was a rather dated home organ of unpleasant tone. The final committal at the crematorium suffered from an equally unpleasant sounding toaster (even though it was by a reputable make) and the lady organist was appalling. You would think that she might have got more notes right in a well known hymn which she probably has to play on a daily basis. We returned to Montrose for the "wake" which was held in a local hotel. We returned to Devon without problems last night. No doubt I will have to return up there again at some time in the future once probate has been sorted out and we will have to go to the Isle of Skye just underneath the Cuillins to distribute the ashes as per my aunt's wishes at some juncture as well.
Today was spent taking down the ceiling in the planned organ studio before they come to fit the new doors and windows later this month and was pretty straight forward. I just have to remove the mezzanine joists to open up the whole room, fit some new down lights into the gallery, insulate and board the ceiling, do some "make good" plastering. Thenceforward the whole thing should be complete and ready for the installation of the organ and speaker system itself. I'm sure that it is going to be really quite something when finished.
18th. January 2017
The end of an era has taken place. My ancient aunt who as my closest living relative was due to hit 100 in July this year and was determined to reach it, has not made it. Although she has been away with the fairies for quite a number of years, she has continued to live in her own home with live in carers. Sunday morning, I received a phone call from her step niece in Scotland telling me that she wasn't particularly well and that she wasn't likely to be able to carry on much longer. It was doubtful that she would actually hit the century. This was followed by another phone call about an hour later telling me that she had passed away peacefully.
Maureen will be absolutely furious that she was denied reaching 100 but she has indeed had a very good innings. Those that knew her will remember an outrageously eccentric battleaxe with a heart of gold who swore like a trooper, could hold her liquor, was game for anything and lived her life to the fullest extent possible. She was tremendous fun and she formed a big part of my life until she moved to Scotland over a decade ago. She was still delivering parcels for me at age 80 and she went on her first potholing trip in Yorkshire at the age of 75 as well as going gliding. We travelled the Continent many times and had many adventures both here and abroad. She spoke fluent French and German and was a master chef in her younger days. Many of my culinary skills were passed down from her as she had been taught by a top finishing school in Geneva. It is amazing to think that she would have been the result of war leave from the first world war. During WW II she was a police officer in Glasgow and she was married to a leading Procurator Fiscal (similar to a Chief Constable). He left her a merry widow nearly 35 years ago !
When the Stone of Scone (on which all monarchs of the England are crowned) was stolen from Westminster Abbey, it ended up in Arbroath. When it was recovered, the only safe place for it was in her own home before it was duly returned back down to the Abbey (my uncle being the procurator fiscal for the area at the time). She was a legendary skier and water skier being amongst the earliest people to indulge in such sports. Indeed she could be said to have introduced water skiing to Scotland with her husband. Right up until she moved down to be with me in Derbyshire some years ago, she used to take a daily swim in the Firth of Forth including Christmas Day no matter what the weather. Even after she had moved away from being next to the seaside, she would dive into the sea wherever there was sea at hand. If she didn't have a swimming costume at the time, she just went au naturel regardless. She stood for Parliament in one of the roughest areas of Scotland and was heavily involved in the Inner Wheel for many years where she was National and later, International Chairman. She was also a very able yachtswoman sailing with the likes of Uffa Fox and her cousin around the Western Isles of Scotland. In addition to the sailing, skiing and potholing she was a keen mountaineer in her younger days. She made friends all over the world including the USA and Australia and particularly in France though most of those friends will have preceded her through the pearly gates by a good many years.
A most remarkable woman indeed. Requiescent in Pace.
Obviously we will be going to the funeral and the easiest and quickest way is to fly. However, I really do think that we are beginning to live in a Police State. With the general unrest in the World today it has become the norm to expect heightened security even with internal flights from small airports. It now seems that one has to carry two separate forms of ID such as a passport and one other. Hiring a car at the other end is really mind boggling. Obviously, a full licence is required which goes without saying but in addition to that, one now has to obtain a time limited DVLA code number, bring two proofs of address, a passport and lay down a huge deposit which cannot be paid by cash or debit card even though full extra insurance has been taken out. At least the hotel has proved to be a bit easier to arrange.
I know that Nicola Sturgeon would love all of us sassenachs to have to cross guarded border posts to get into Scotland but this is getting ridiculous. One must hope that the time and date of the funeral doesn't coincide with some horrendous weather bomb because at this time of year Scotland can be dire especially on the East coast.
2nd. January 2017
Happy New Year to all and sundry.
The weather since Christmas has been a day on and a day off in terms of sun and rain so we have managed pretty much every other day to start taming the garden. Unfortunately, it's quite essential because we don't want to be sorting out stuff when it all takes off in spring and it really will. The main problem lies in some stuff called Chinese Bramble which is a most excellent and attractive ground cover but must be kept tamed otherwise it takes over completely. Thank the Lord that it's not bindweed or some of the other dictatorial plants which are normally just messy. At least this stuff is really attractive. One of the local garden experts remarked that it had to be kept under control but equally, she told us "get rid of it completely at your peril" because it stabilises the slopes and retains moisture. As we have cleared, we have found plants and bulbs that have been smothered which should now have a chance to grow properly. We have also had to clean various sets of steps down into the garden because they were rather slippery and dangerous.
We did go out to the local town on New Year's Eve but it wasn't very inspiring. Lots of people in fancy dress but mostly of the younger generation and not really our scene. It would seem that the bigger events are further afield so we might give them a go next year. We ended up in our more local pub which was welcoming and friendly before coming home relatively early.
Now that Christmas and New Year are over I will be able to knuckle down and start some serious work.
24th. December 2016
It seems quite ridiculous that we were able to do some work in the garden today which included a fair bit of clearance and pruning. It wasn't particularly warm but it wasn't really that cold either. I reckon that come the spring, things are going to get out of hand pretty quickly so it was worth spending time thinning things out before everything goes mad. Believe it or not there are primroses already flowering and we also have a honeysuckle which is still in flower - all very unusual. We have escaped the first named storms which seem to have given the North a battering and the weather remains mild enough to be able to sit outside and have a coffee in the morning albeit wearing a coat.
Have also discovered that there is an Avery in a relatively local church which by all reports is pretty much unaltered. Avery was quite a character who had a reputation that was far from good. He died in a debtors prison and was known for his drunkeness and other character aspects which might be frowned upon. However, when he did manage to build organs, they were sufficiently good to merit approbation by some quite distinguished clients including several cathedrals where he produced substantial instruments. However, much of his surviving work is to be found in a number of remaining smaller chamber organs rather than any sizeable instrument.
Although the typical village church in England generally has a fairly mundane sort of instrument of Victorian provenance built by the local area organ builders in most cases, it is also in these smaller churches that some truly unspoiled gems can be found. To some extent it's probably like many other parts of Europe where the larger churches and cathedrals receive a make-over every several decades or so for better or worse but the smaller places of worship retain instruments that provide a valuable record of what has gone before. In most cases this is because there hasn't been any money to work on the organ thus, the instruments have been left as they are and the only work carried out has been small repairs and occasional tunings.
1st. December 2016
The unpacking and sorting seems to be never ending. Well I suppose that's what happens when one's own stuff is added to that of parents and packed away for several years. Surprisingly little has been damaged in the many moves of the last few years but it is sad that I now have four wardrobes which won't go into the new house - no flat packs here, they are just too big to go up the stairs. Finally we are beginning to see the wood for the trees so to speak and we were so lucky to find a house that required so little doing to it. The house is really warm and with the recent snap of really cold weather, we are so glad that we are not at the previous house because it was an icebox.
Although I haven't had much time to do anything else, I did pop into the nearest church and discovered a small Father Willis in unspoilt condition and of course there is an exceptional Father Willis in the nearest town. Further afield are one or two instrumnets that could be interesting but for the most part, the NPOR shows that local instruments range from the odd Casson Positive, several Vowles and a number of Heles.
20th. November 2016
The final moving out was completed and by the 9th. everything had been cleared from the old house except for a few boxes of cleaning materials etc. which I went and picked up last Tuesday. Things are currently in a bit of disarray but we are beginning to see the wood for the trees. Fortunately, there is a considerable amount of exterior storage including the large garage which has meant things are a little easier.
The garage is going to make a very fine organ studio once the necessary alterations have been made so that it is suitable (including some form of heating). The whole place is really quite idyllic although it is rather isolated. Despite there being snow elsewhere in the country, we were able to sit out and have coffee on the terrace in about 16-18 degrees of warm sun earlier this week and it would seem that the property is in a bit of a micro climate. Nearby villages have very little to offer in terms of shops so our nearest town is about 5 miles away. Larger towns are considerably more distant but they do have pretty much everything that would want in terms of different supermarkets and other facilities.
It is likely to be another week or so before I can re-start work on sample sets so I think that it is unlikely that I will have the School organ out before Christmas as I had hoped.
7th. November 2016
Yet another full day carefully packing up the rented van with belongings. We definitely have far too much stuff and whilst my spatial aptitude is excellent, it still takes a long time to pack up a van in a really efficient manner. Originally I thought that I might get away with three van loads plus a couple of carloads but it seems likely that there will be a fourth part van load in addition to the removals lorry which is removing the large and heavy stuff including the organ that we cannot manage between the two of us. Although the moving of all of the smaller items and boxes has taken a lot of time and effort as well as saving thousands of pounds, it would still have been a huge job if we had got the removals company to do everything.
Once we have completed this move, I will really have to be quite ruthless as to what is kept and what is disposed of. These days everything tends to be very minimalist and five years ago the Antiques Roadshow man told us that all of these little bits and pieces collected over generations are of now interest to people today. I'm afraid I am from a generation that likes all of these little bits and pieces because the majority represent something from my life and to some extent, that of my parents and grandparents etc.
I have got rid of a considerable amount of stuff since I had to go down and sort out my parents old house six years ago but we have also accumulated many additions over the past six years and we probably have more stuff now than we did then because we have replaced old and worn out furniture etc. with new. Thank God we don't live in a castle or a stately home !
5th. November 2016 Later
It proved to be a wearying day. I set of with a very heavy van and arrived as arranged at the house to meet the estate agent and get given the keys. Everything was in order with copious notes left by the former owner as to what was what and where was where, what switches did what, a list of useful addresses and contacts and a very nice and thoughtful "welcome" card. This is how things should be. Both the estate agents and the seller have been absolutely fantastic and apart from the small delays by solicitors in getting everything finalised, it's been great.
Unfortunately, whilst the lower gates to the property are fairly large, the main gates were designed for the horse drawn carriages of a century or more ago and unfortunately they were a little too tight to allow for the van to pass through without the possibility of damage. When I had the motor-home I had to get in and out of some tight places but these gates were quite excessively tight and I didn't want to risk damaging the van. Therefore I had to park outside the gates which meant having to carry everything down the drive to the garage or into the house. I was also on my own since "her indoors" had remained in Somerset to sort out our current place. So apart from it taking a lot longer than expected it was also hard going. It took 4 1/2 hours to unload the van whereas it should have taken half that time.
There is still a fair amount of hard work to go to finish getting moved in but when you stand on the terrace and look out over the glorious garden, it's all going to be worth it.
5th. November 2016
And so finally the completion went ahead without any hiccoughs; yesterday the 4th. I hired a van on the 2nd. and loaded up about 85% of the plants, travelling down on the 3rd. Met up with the vendor at the house after a fairly easy run down. Very kindly, the vendor plus his father (at 84) and next door lady neighbour joined us to make short work of unloading the van. I think they were quite surprised at just how many plants there were and even more surprised when told that the contents of the van weren't all of them. The house seemed to have been cleared of pretty much everything in readiness for the completion on the 4th. and looked very clean and tidy.
Yesterday, the whole day was spent loading the hired van with boxes of books, the organ speakers (lots of them) and dozens of small, medium and large boxes, rugs etc. I did this single handed and took my time planning carefully but I still cannot quite believe how I managed to get in what I did. The van was full from top to bottom and a considerable proportion of our trappings will be winging their way down to Devon later today. All that remains are a few remaining boxes from the house plus the contents from the garage, the remaining plants and various garden tools and normal tools. Hopefully one van load should do it but I may have to do a final part load. The artworks, computers and various suitcases of clothes and household linen will go by car -possibly in two journeys - we will see.
Then all that remains is to hand back the property and a final inspection by the landlords and that will be it. We do not intend to be repeating the experience again for the forseeable future.
30th. October 2016.
Whilst we have been gradually re-packing things up in anticipation of our forthcoming move, much has remained packed up for the last several years because we knew that we would be moving again sooner or later. That doesn't mean that there isn't a considerable amount of planning and co-ordination to be undertaken to make this more permanent move as smooth as possible. We aren't going a vast distance from where we are but it's still a lot further than just a few miles down the road as has been the case in the last several moves. Despite the fact that we live in a very small country and to other people, our distances between one place and another are what many others would consider to be quite local, it still takes a long time to get from some places to others even though the distance might be quite small. A lot of it is down to too much traffic and bad infrastructure in many parts of the country. Deo Gratias we are not moving three or four hundred miles away or overseas.
We are saving a small fortune on the removals company by hiring our own van to take all of the small itsy-bitsy things which take up a lot of space unless packed very carefully and take ages to load and unload. It's a fair bit of work and effort but done gently in easy stages, it is quite manageable. As mentioned previously, we have a lot of plants in pots which have been moved from house to house and of course they have got bigger and bigger over the years. Once they have done this last move, they are definitely going in the ground to stay and I'm sure they will be very happy for it. We start the big move next Thursday and hopefully we should be completely moved in a week later when the carriers have brought the really heavy stuff including the organ. I suppose it will take quite a while to unpack everything and decide what must be thrown, sold or given away to charity and we certainly do have far too much stuff. Some of it has never been unpacked or sorted since it was first packed up ten years ago when I sold up in Derbyshire. I have gone through the problem of getting shot of stuff prematurely before only to find that I have had to replace it a few months later so these days, I tend to be a little bit of a hoarder - just in case. I always regret getting rid of my huge collection of organ specification brochures from the world's organ builders because some of them would be quite valuable today as well as being of great interest.
I do not anticipate moving out from the new house for at least a decade and it may be the last place that we ever live in if we can retain our faculties and mobility into old age. The world has changed and plans that I might have had in my youth or even in latter years have changed accordingly. I always thought that I might eventually settle in Lancashire or Yorkshire but it's really too cold up there and my caving days are now really over. Any ideas of settling in Spain have rather gone out of the window as a result of Brexit and the uncertainty of Europe as a whole and we are in the fortunate position of being able to settle in a part of England that should continue to remain pretty much unchanged within our lifetime. Of course, places do change but there are still many parts of the UK that are still much as they were several decades ago and they are unlikely to change much for the next few decades.
I sometimes look at street views on Google maps of where I have lived and it is quite surprising what has changed and what hasn't. Some places are completely unrecognisable with absolutely no reference point as to what they used to be like whilst others are almost identical to what they were when I was a kid and some cases, what they were like in old black and white photo's from 100 years ago.
25th. October 2016
Finally, the contracts have been exchanged today. It has taken far longer than it should because of all the new regulations that have come into force over the last few years. It is a salient lesson to anyone wishing to sell a house today (and probably into the future even after Brexit) that they are going to have to provide unbelievable amounts of paperwork and certification 75% of which is completely unnecessary. Anyway, it's done now and all we have to do is undertake the physical task of moving everything out of our current accommodation. That in itself is quite a job because we have a lot of stuff. The organ is less of a problem this time around because it now has a custom built "shoe" with very strong castors meaning that to a greater or lesser extent, two people can move it fairly easily instead of the previous 4-6 people. We hope to have moved in completely before the end of the second week in November. Doubtless we will have the usual problem of establishing telephone and internet connection - it shouldn't be so much of a problem and if it goes smoothly one wonders why this shouldn't be the case every time. However, we have had at least one bad experience in this respect so are prepared for the worst. It's mostly down to people not doing their job properly or efficiently together with a fair degree of completely unnecessary red tape. In the event of us having any problems in this respect, an announcement will be made on the main News page.
16th. October 2016
It looks like the contracts should be exchanged early next week at long last. There were just some small matters that hadn't been sorted out between the solicitors and the seller had been unable to book removals etc. We seem to be looking to the first week of November to complete and move in; slightly later than we had originally hoped for but at least it will be before Christmas. We are really looking forward to settling into a new area and home where we won't be paying out large amounts of rent and having the constant uncertainty of being in a property that is not our own.
As regards the college organ; the reeds are complete including the 32' and it's now a case of working through the flues. All stops are working but the loops and releases along with balancing and regulation have yet to be done on many. I thought that the Tuba was going to be a complete failure since it was very bad but I have managed to coax a pretty good one out of the material that I had. I am waiting to go and sample another college Tuba which is a lot better - it is certainly a hell of a lot more powerful. Thus I will have both a Tuba Mirabilis and a lesser powered variety available for the other major project that is being worked upon.
The intention is to release the college organ as a facsimile instrument in both wet and dry versions however, there are several stops which are sufficiently special to be included in the magnum opus which will follow. This M.O. will form the basis of a new series of wet and dry libraries.
4th. October 2016
We had expected that contracts would have been exchanged sometime this week with a completion date set shortly thereafter. All the searches and reports were returned and showed that there was nothing likely to stop or delay the purchase going ahead. However, as might be expected with these things, it isn't as simple as that and we are unlikely to obtain a completion before the first week of November. With any luck we should be fully moved into our new home sometime during November which is rather later than sometime in October as we had hoped.
Looking on the bright side, one excellent aspect of the property is that apart from moving our own furniture and belongings in, there is nothing that needs doing to the property itself once we get down there. All too often when one moves into a new home, the first jobs to be done are changing the wall paper or painting rooms and a myriad of other adjustments. Some of these can take years to complete as well as often costing a fortune. It is rare to find a house that pretty much needs nothing changing though I dare say in years to come we will think of something. Even the garden is about as perfect as it could get and apart from routine maintenance, the only things that need doing are adding extra plants. We already have these for the most part having carried a considerable part of our garden with us through our several moves during the last five years. I'm sure that the plants will be very happy to be settled in a permanent environment rather than being confined to pots and containers and carted around the country.
I suppose the only thing that does require doing in the foreseeable future is a little modification to the excellent garage in order to make it suitable as an organ room. This would seem to amount to little more than replacing the conventional garage door with a more aesthetic set of patio doors / French windows and providing some form of heating for the winter months. The garage even has its own wash room including loo and shower and there is an existing staircase to the mezzanine floor which means that it might be possible to create a musicians gallery for speakers. However, these things are considerations for the future at the moment.
All in all, things are looking pretty positive despite the slight set-backs but it does mean that my work on any sample sets and installations is going to be slightly curtailed during that period.
28th. September 2016
It seems like it's taking forever for the various procedures to be completed for the house purchase but I am assured by the solicitors that things are progressing according to plan. I suppose that we should have things finalised sometime in the next week or so and then we have the great task of moving everything down to Devon. Fortunately it's not somewhere like Yorkshire and the distance is not too great and only takes about two and a half hours to drive. However, there is a considerable amount of stuff that has to be moved and some of it is not only large but very heavy. However, we have already moved four times in the last five years so we are getting used to it.
In the meantime we are slightly in stasis so I have been continuing to work away at the school samples. Although there was some wind and action noise, I have managed to avoid having to apply noise reduction in most of the stops thus retaining the correct attacks. It's not sounding too bad at the moment even though I haven't done the finished looping and releases and hopefully once I have tidied things up a bit and got rid of or corrected the odd really bad note, it will make a pleasant enough sample set. So far it does sound quite natural and as mentioned previously, there are one or two really nice stops. It isn't a great instrument in comparison to other more famous ones but it does make a decent enough sound when all is said and done, helped enormously by the really excellent acoustics of the building in which it is situated.
15th. September 2016
I drove down into Dorset today having picked up organist and author; David Rogers, in order to go and see the sizeable modern British organ mentioned previously. There are of course two sizeable modern organs in the area and in both cases the organists / advisers have their own pipe organs in their homes as well. The instrument in question today was built a few decades ago and represents to some extent, the post organ reform movement in Britain after it had matured slightly and got rid of some (but not all) of the excesses of that period. Avowedly werk-prinzip in terms of construction and sound it is an interesting instrument. Obviously, clarity of presentation is very evident and playing it requires a strong discipline of technique and some getting used to. I must admit that although there is a string stop and a celeste on the "Swell" they really do not fit in and it gives weight and reason to the lack of these in many German instruments. There is always the temptation to provide ostensibly romantic stops just so as to fulfil some sort of Multum in Parvo correctness. It may be desirable to include such stops in a classical instrument which has already leaned towards a more Anglicized approach to voicing and in these cases they may work but it is surprising just how intrusive and unecessary their existence is in a correctly designed instrument of this type. I suppose it can be likened to sticking in a Tibia on a Schnitger organ - it just doesn't work. What is undoubtedly missing is a pedal Open 16' since the whole organ must be supported by a single Bourdon doing the job for everything from the quietest stops to full organ. Of course there are several other stops in the division but it does lack that extra foundation. As for the rest, obviously it's sparkly and typically classical in sound: It is what it is designed to be and produces a full sound in a generous acoustic. It is certainly not the cup of tea for the average English organist used to Victorian turgidity and I think that it would struggle for much of the Anglican musical tradition just as instruments such as Gloucester do. As I said above; it is of it's time and fulfills it's purpose exactly as it was meant to do. Interesting object lesson learned - I was aware of much written above but it has never been so forcibly demonstrated to me before. Otherwise, action was light and responsive and the large wooden drawstops not unmanageable. I found myself not using pistons much at all nor the swell pedal.
The two manual house organ was in a similar vein (totally unenclosed) though somewhat smaller and of course, it presented a very up close and personal alternative to the instrument in the church. There were a few problems with a cipher and occasional sticking note as a result of the unseasonably warm and humid weather. As an instrument designed for really serious practice and study, it cannot be faulted and I am sure that in close contact with it on a regular basis, it would prove to be very satisfying indeed. Once again, considerable discipline of technique is required because you just can't get away with sloppy playing especially when every nuance of the pipes speech and how you control it through the keyboard is speaking directly in your face only a couple of feet away.
What was also of great interest is that our host who kindly allowed us access to see both instruments has a considerable amount of other interesting stuff. Having been involved in the background of some significant developments in the digital organ world and computers, it is not surprising that he had one or two rarities ! The most notable of these was pretty much the last ever Fairlight ever built and previously owned by Peter Gabriel of Genesis. There were also a couple of very rare and once outrageously expensive Hi-fi speakers, a Kurzweil and a software based model /facsimile of the Digital Synclavier. This last comment is a bit contradictory since of course, the Synclavier was a software based synthesizer in the first place as was the Fairlight. I seem to remember that the original price was several hundred thousand dollars for the Synclavier and not an awful lot less for the Fairlight.
Access to either of the two pipe organs or indeed the Fairlight will not be a problem and it is just a matter of finding the opportunity and time to undertake the initial sample recordings
9th September. 2016
Well it seems that everything is progressing on the house front and we may even be able to move in early October if there are no hiccups. We are both really looking forward to being in our own place where we can do what we want, make alterations, paint the walls a different colour, add an extension or a new kitchen etc. Of course, the house we are buying is pretty much perfect already so this becomes slightly academic but it makes a big difference to know that one can do something whether one wants to or not without constantly having to check with a landlord.
17th. August 2016
Finally we have found the house that we want to live in. I went to view it at the end of last week and we returned on Monday for a second viewing. It's really quite idyllic and it is very much what our old house might have been had my parents been a bit more adventurous. Whilst we might not have quite the same size of river running through the garden at least we wont get flooded. There is a small stream at the bottom of the garden but certainly nothing that will ever be a cause for concern since it is a good 30 to 40' below the house. The house itself isn't quite as large as we might have wished for but it is more than adequate and although Victorian, has been extended and refurbished and modernised to the highest standards. Unlike most houses, there is really nothing that one would want to change in terms of decoration or things such as tiling or flooring. As such it is ready to move into without any further work. There is also a decent sized stone built two floor garage which with the replacement of the door with a patio style door will make an excellent organ room. There would even be room for a fairly decent sized pipe organ if it was so desired - though with HW there is no need. The sizeable gardens are really something quite special having been professionally landscaped at considerable cost some years ago. They have now matured and are laid out in such a way that they seem to be very much larger than they really are. To top it all there is a superb terrace to sit out on in the warmer days. Everything is facing South and West and it seems to have its own micro-climate and the fact that there is a semi mature banana plant growing outdoors by the pond would intimate that it isn't a frost pocket either.
The only things against it are the fact that there are no local pubs or shops in the local villages and it is a few miles from the nearest town, so no popping out round the corner for a pint of milk when one runs out. I'm sure we will manage with a bit of careful planning and preparation. Our offer has been accepted and all that is required now is for the various searches and other solicitors tasks to be carried out. With any luck we should be able to move in before the start of autumn. It will be so nice to finally have one's own house and garden without the constant uncertainty as to when a tenancy might or might not be renewed.
12th August 2016
We have been back and forth into Devon looking at properties and coming back rather disappointed. Most of what we have seen is just not suitable because of size, surrounding problems or the condition of the property. We did find a very nice house - albeit towards the top end of the budget only to find that the whole roof (14 separate sections) needed replacing, all of the external rendering needed to be replaced and the majority of the internal plasterwork needed to be replaced since it had blown thanks to the roof problems. in the end, it would have been too much of a problem as well as adding considerably to the overall end price but otherwise, it was perfect !
I really don't know how people used to manage in the old days before the internet where all that was available was a simple brochure with a black and white photo.
Haven't really been looking out for organs otherwise but I did pop into a little village church in one of the places that we were viewing. There was little mention on the NPOR of any instrument but there was a single manual pipe organ in evidence. Further inspection showed this to be a Henry Willis "Scudamore" . Just a couple of Diapason ranks with a Dulciana unit tacked on the back. Whilst still tracker, the action has been piggy-backed with electrification to control the tacked on Dulciana unit which is extended to create some additional pitches. There was no pedal stop or even a pedalboard but the Open (stopped bass from tenor C) and Principal had a nice mellow warmth. The Dulciana was rather less successful. I suppose it would just about accompany a hymn or two but despite the maker's reputation the instrument's possibilities are otherwise very strictly limited.
1st. August 2016
Since my last update, we have had quite a busy time. We spent a few days in Anglesey and North Wales looking at properties - sadly without much success. On our way back we did stop at Ludlow and had a look in the church with its fine Schwarbrick case and sizeable specification containing considerable amounts of Snetzler pipe work. I didn't have time to arrange to play it. The church itself as well as the town is of course very interesting. Arthur (the early deceased brother of Henry VIII) is buried there and the castle figured considerably in our medieval history. The town with it's middle ages streets and many old buildings is a delight and rarely forms any part of the "today we are in Stratford upon Avon so it must be Tuesday" sightseeing itinerary which is a great pity. We returned via the Wye valley, stopping at Tintern (one of Henry VIII's criminal destructions) and thus returned home. Otherwise the month seems to have flashed by in a whirl without an awful lot else seeming to happen though things have been very busy nonetheless.
1st. July 2016
We are currently in "lock-down" as a result of the R.N.A.S. air-show that is taking place tomorrow (Saturday). All roads are closed except to residents who must also have a pass. Not even pedestrians are allowed to walk on the roads and whereas in previous years it would seem, things weren't so strict, as a result of the accident at Shoreham last year, things have been tightened up severely. I must confess that I don't have a particular interest in aeroplanes as such but one cannot fail to be ever so slightly in awe of them when at close quarters.
I did take some photographs of this afternoon's dress rehearsal from our back garden and I have uploaded them below for anyone interested. The first two are of a couple of French jets and the next five of some propeller jobs. I don't know how I managed to get both the house martin and the jet in the same picture but it's certainly different. Hopefully I will get some better pictures tomorrow. Just click on any photo to enlarge it as usual.
These last two photographs show what happened to the house we are currently living in when things go wrong as they did in the 1960's when a plane missed the runway. However, it was not during an air-show but merely during the day to day operation of the air field.
Meanwhile, we have been down to Devon to look at properties though nothing really appealed and it looks like we may have to look further afield. I did get to see a rather fine Father Willis which I didn't have time to get to play. However, it sounds very good on the various recordings that have been made of it. I have however, managed to record the Forster and Andrews which will serve as a useful reference point for future libraries and exhibits a markedly different tonal character to Willis, Hill etc. F & A were of course very much influenced by the work of Schulze though they did develop their own character.
27th. May 2016
Another month has slipped past almost without us knowing it. I continue to work through various samples from here and there and there are several instruments in playable condition. The Davis 1790 was finished months ago though it hasn't been released yet. The Mid 1800's Jones has been Beta tested and just needs a couple of tweaks. The 12 stop Vowles is playable though needs some balancing and there is a second much smaller Vowles that also needs balancing. I'm not quite sure what I can do with the small one time chamber organ - it has some nice stops but the leaking collar round the blower produced an objectionable whistling hiss that has proved difficult to get rid of. Finally just yesterday, I managed to play the Forster and Andrews mentioned some weeks ago. Despite having been rebuilt and restored only four years ago, it does suffer from a distinct capacity of wind when anything more than a few stops are engaged. The reeds were out of tune and this was made even worse by the sag from the insufficient wind supply. Otherwise, it's really a delightful instrument with lovely stops throughout (apart from a rather unpleasant Pedal Bourdon). This last was a later replacement for what was a single Open 16' stop so it would seem. I can't say I like the Swell Cornopean much either - it seems to be trying to be a both a solo reed as well as a chorus reed and unfortunately succeeds in being neither. Otherwise as a whole, the instrument is definitely worth adding to the sample pot. Fortunately, although it could be included, the wind supply issue can be corrected through HW and the results could be very good.
In the interim, I have been acting as consultant to a well known public school who are in the process of installing a large HW instrument. They already have a secondhand four manual drawstop toaster console which will handle the playing side of things (it will more than likely be replaced at some juncture) and they are building a werk-prinzip style pipe fronted case which will go in their concert room. With 48 channels of amplification and speakers, it will be quite an installation. More details will follow as things progress.
25th. April 2016
We moved out on the 13th. and 14th. and the removals company was fantastic; quite costly but well worth it. It was supposed to take three days but they managed to do it in a day and a half thanks to doubling up on the vans. Unlike out previous move where we had to wait nearly a month, the internet and phone were all up and working on our arrival and the speed is so much better here. Despite the fact that we are next door to an air base, it's considerably quieter and we will certainly not miss the constant roar of the A303 main road which was very intrusive. There are less helicopters and planes flying over us here than there were at all of our last three properties. For the moment we are still in Somerset but it proved impossible to find a suitable property to rent further into the West Country given the time restraints that we had to do so.
We are so glad to be out of the last place and away from all of the problems that were part and parcel of the property. We certainly could not have continued living there. This new place is of course only for a relatively short period before we find the right house to buy but out of all the places we have been over the last five years or so, this would seem to be the nicest. Obviously, whilst the move was going on, I have not been able to do any work as such on the libraries. I will have the organ up and running here (I never even connected it up at the last place) and there are a couple of projects on the cards which can now be given my full attention.
No doubt we will be moving once again before the year is out but this time, it will be into our own house where we won't be under the constant threat of being in a temporary abode.
31st March 2016
Now that everything has gone through with the new temporary house, we are set to move mid April. It will be such a relief to get out of our current home. It might have been fine apart from the fact that pretty much nothing worked that was supposed to: The nearby A303 has proved to be horrendously noisy in winter, we have been constantly buzzed by low flying helicopters and prop jobs which seem to take delight in flying as close to the ground as possible on a daily basis along with dozens of other problems which we could do nothing about.
One thing is for certain it's put us off anything that champions itself as being "eco" and we definitely do not want an open plan arrangement where kitchen overlaps into dining, overlaps into living room. I suppose that we have to look on the whole experience as having been valuable because we might have ended up buying a house that featured "eco" stuff and modern open plan design only to find out that we hated it.
The new temporary abode is the exact opposite of what we are in currently in that it is at least a couple of hundred years old. It's warm and homely in a nice little village and with distinct living areas. Of course it's not ideal because it isn't quite big enough for all of our belongings but it's certainly an improvement over what we are currently in. We aren't going to be there for much more than six months before we are ready to buy a house so any disadvantages can be borne since the six months is going to pass by very quickly and it will be spring, summer, early autumn.
25th. March 2016
Seems like everything has all gone through now for the house (despite the ineptitude of the estate agent) so we should be moving in the next couple of weeks. Fortunately, as mentioned some months back, we never really unpacked in our current place and we will not be unpacking properly in the new place so moves aren't quite as bad as they might be. It's still a lot of hassle due to the logistics of moving a lot of belongings hither and thither. Once we find the right house to buy then I can start looking at really permanent arrangements.
A lot of things are and have been on hold thanks to our ongoing situation of the past five years or so and it will be nice to get properly organised once more. It might also be nice to actually be able to take a proper holiday somewhere...........That's of course if it still possible to visit any other country. Maybe we should choose Antartica.
22nd. March 2016
After a lot of wasted time driving up and down the South West of England viewing properties that were entirely unsuitable or that we missed out on, it seems that we won't be moving so far from where we are at the moment. Not really where we want to live eventually but for the interim period before we find the house we wish to buy and settle into, it will have to do.
In traveling around I have found one or two interesting instruments to sample for the archive or as self standing organs. There is a very small but rather nice Vowles down the road where every stop is really individual. It has an Open Diapason bass that doesn't rattle and the blower and action are also pretty quiet. There is a also a very nice Forster and Andrews nearby. The F&A is noted as having particularly fine Diapasons in the N.P.O.R. I tried it out on a visit this afternoon and indeed the Diapasons are very nice. For some reason none of the pedal stops were working although the couplers were. I reckon that the pedal has been converted to electric action (there was a wire leading into one of the pallet boxes) and I probably just didn't find the rectifier switch. The pedal drawstops were far too light for mechanical or pneumatic action which would tend to confirm my suspicions. From what I could see, it looks like the Mixture on the Great is new. There was a nice Gedeckt on the Swell and apart from the aforementioned Diapasons, the Oboe had quite a lot of desirable character. Unlike many instruments, the bass octave of the Oboe didn't bubble and squeak either. Not so sure about the Cornopean which is a bit slow throughout but it didn't seem like a bad stop and I can always correct slow speech to a greater or lesser extent. Quite a weird swell box which was in a reverse L shape with the basses on the c# side as opposed to being a standard cube or cottage type design.
If we do happen to finalise on the temporary house, it will give me at least six months where I can kill a few other birds with the same stone. There is a nice Tickell down the road and there are two instruments from a Continental builder which are interesting. I haven't played the smaller one but the larger is pretty impressive with over 40 brand new stops. The smaller one seems to be a hybrid new / old rebuild. Apart from that, there is a delightful small Hill (according to the N.P.O.R.) and a largish Collins which may be accessible in the vicinity. Both Tickell and Collins have died in the last year sadly. I knew both - Peter Collins from when he was at Harpenden and Kenneth Tickell when I was regularly visiting the old GDB / H. K. ten-Bruggencate / Alfred E Davies / Aeolian workshops in Northampton some years ago. There is also a smallish Wurlitzer (probably and F) which might be on the cards.
15th. March 2016
Unfortunately, the house we had thought that we would be taking fell through or rather, we decided not to proceed because things just didn't add up. Thus we have continued looking but with little success so far and time is running out. It is unbelievable the sort of money some people expect to get for dirty, damp and "not enough room to swing a cat" properties. Contrary to this is that when one does find a property that is at a sensible price, the immediate question that has to be asked is "what's wrong with it" ?
It's unfortunate that we are having to continue renting for the next several months but that's the way it has to be. I am itching to get my own place where I can set up some form of workshop for the experimental prototypes which are still on paper because I haven't been able to accommodate the tools needed to build them. Whilst I can easily get the basic raw units built by pretty much any local joiner or carpenter, it would just add to the enormous amount of chattels that I already have and which require moving and storing in the interim. The last several years have just seemed like a continuous nomadic, uncertain existence with no real base to establish permanency.
Thankfully, it's not going to last forever and we can see the wood for the trees but it is nonetheless a bit frustrating.
2nd. March 2016
Having viewed several completely unsuitable properties - too small, bad access, next to a major road or some other negative reason, we have finally found an acceptable property today. It isn't 100% ideal as a permanent home but for the relatively short time that we will be living in it, it's fine. Stunning views, very quiet, not too off the beaten track and at least it will give us some idea of whether we will want to settle down here in the area more permanently. It was a pretty foul day weather wise so at least we have probably seen things at their worst and we will probably find the area delightful when the weather gets better.
I even managed to pop in to a sizeable church in the course of the day in between visiting a couple of different properties in the area. Impressive large church with a sizeable Harrison and Harrison in unspoiled condition. The organist happened to be in the church sorting out some hymn books and thus, I was able to grab half an hour or so on the beast. It certainly makes a big noise and is fairly complete right down to a 32' reed and 32' Double Open Wood. Tuba was a bit uneven and overall tuning of the whole instrument left a little to be desired but the church was very cold and it probably comes right when the heating is turned on for Sunday services. Some of the quieter stops and combinations were rather nice and one or two solo stops had decent character. The only aspect of the instrument that I didn't find pleasant was the IV Harmonics (17:19:21b:22). The introduction of the Septieme seems to work fine in Iberian instruments but for some reason, I have never felt entirely comfortable Flat 21st in British organs unless there are sufficient alternative quint mixtures provided. Fortunately, they aren't too common and for better or worse, most of them have been remodeled to the more acceptable quint mixture in subsequent rebuilds - they are very much of their time.
22nd. February 2016
We had been expecting it sooner or later since we had been told that our property had been sold within the first week of moving in back in September (as a matter of fact it hadn't). However, we have been told that our lease is now at an end so we have to find somewhere else to live for the next several months until we can find a suitable house to buy. Fortunately as a result of never having felt settled here, we left much unpacked so the move shouldn't be as horrendous as it was back in August / September last year. With my mother passing away back in Novemeber, we no longer have to be close on hand anymore so in essence, we can go anywhere we want within reason. However, in the real world, we are really quite limited. With the uncertainty of the EU and Referendum, it might not be the wisest decision to emigrate to Continental Europe at the moment and much of the British Isles is not a sensible option either with the recent floods, storms, general regional climate, accessibility and so on; we are in fact, quite limited in our choices. We will have to see.
In the interim, The Jones is complete and I have posted a few photos below................
The two pictures to the left show the Great Organ pipes followed by the case and the two right hand pictures show the Swell Organ pipes. As can be seen, the Great Rohrflute is anything but and the two Swell reeds are spotted metal, the Cornopean having harmonic trebles.
When I have a little more time, I'll release the Jones officially and upload some demos.
17th. February 2016
So far, the response to the Beta versions of the Henry Jones library have been very favourable. Apart from a couple of stops not being to particular tastes - ie: Strings too mellow or similar, the general consensus of opinion in that this new set transcends anything that has been achieved previously in terms of fidelity to real pipes. As has already been mentioned, the Jones is a facsimile instrument and is as it is. What it does provide are several very usable stops and choruses that can be combined with those from other instruments where in places, they have better stops to choose from. As a typical example, the Great "Rohrflute" is very definitely not anything like its namesake, however, the mid and treble sections of the stop make an excellent Orchestral Flute. Thus as a Great flute stop it leaves much to be desired as part of the limited resources of the Jones instrument but it would make an ideal solo flute on a larger four manual instrument.
3rd. February 2016
The older news pages have now been archived.
Progress continues on the first of the facsimile instruments which we hope will be released before the end of February.
The instrument is an 1886 Henry Jones two manual with 19 speaking stops and the specification is set out below. It isn't in the very best of condition partly because it is not used for regular services where a sizeable commercial digital instrument serves and partly because it hasn't had any work carried out on it for many years. 99% of it still works but the pedal pneumatics are a bit dodgy in places with the odd note silent. Most of the manual stops are pretty good but the pedal stops are quite poor. The Open Wood 16' causes much vibration and rattling as is often the case but it has been possible to salvage a usable stop. Obviously, the instrument lacks a proper pedal department by today's standards and there is a distinct lack of upperwork. The sole mixture in the instrument is a two rank Quint / Sesquialtera which was a later addition and isn't ideal. What is really missing is a proper Quint Mixture on the Swell. There are some very pleasant aspects of the instrument with one or two stops and choruses of a distinct quality and character. It produces a fairly good plenum but obviously lacks upperwork. The Sub-octave coupler on the Swell does add gravitas but the provision of an octave coupler as well might have helped produce a better end result. The action is tracker to the manuals and pneumatic to the pedal. Touch is acceptable but becomes quite ponderous when the Swell is coupled to the Great and the Sub-octave coupler is engaged. The original instrument has had only one particular alteration carried out several decades ago, being the replacement of a Great Clarinet with the current Trumpet.
Open Diapason 8', Rohrflute 8', Dulciana 8', Principal 4', Harmonic Flute 4', Fifteenth 2', Mixture II Rks (19:22 - 12:17), Trumpet 8'
Pleasant basic diapason chorus up to the 2'. The Rohrflute is anything but and is stopped up until middle C whereupon it becomes a fine Open Flute (wood) of some orchestral character. The Dulciana speaks quite well and is quite usable and the Trumpet is very acceptable. Sadly the Mixture clashes a bit with the Tierce rank. All of the pipework is metal except for the 8' Rohrflute.
Open Diapason 8', Lieblich Gedackt 8', Salicional 8', Vox Angelica 8', Gemshorn 4', Piccolo 2', Oboe 8', Cornopean 8'
Quite a stringy Open Diapason and Gemshorn, The Strings are moderate and the Celeste rank a little slow. The Lieblich Gedackt is quite pleasant. The Piccolo ranges from fluty in the bass to Principal like in the treble It is fairly effective in a number of different combinations. The Oboe is really quite a nice stop though a bit shaky in the bass and the Cornopean is not too thick. Once again, all of the pipework is metal (most of it slotted) except for the 8' Gedackt and the bass octave of the Piccolo which are wood. Both of the reeds are spotted metal throughout.
Open Diapason 16', Bourdon 16', Violoncello 8'
The Open Wood is pretty firm though tends to cause sympathetic vibrations throughout the instrument. The Bourdon is just about effective in the church but does not sample well since it is buried - probably the worst stop on the organ. The Violoncello is quite odd in that the bass octave is quite stringy but the rest is fairly fluty. Yet again, not the nicest of stops. All the pedal stops are of wood.
Standard inter manual / pedal couplers plus Sub-octave to Swell. Fairly innocuous Tremulant to the Swell.
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