June 25th. 2019
I have been working on a small chamber organ from a tiny church. It's really quite an odd instrument and the specification makes little sense. Whilst the Great organ is straightforward enough, the Swell consists of just two stops: a Keraulophone and a 4' Flute. It is a genuine Keraulophone with the classic construction and it is certainly a lot better than most of the other examples that I have come across. There is no pedal stop at all and although there is a pedal board, this merely couples to the manuals. The instrument does not exist in the NPOR list so any idea of history is difficult. However, examining the instrument leads one to certain conclusions that this instrument is not what it first seems to be. Further details can be found under the Sampled Libraries section under ANONYMOUS.
Otherwise, I have been trying out the beta version of Hauptwerk V. This is interesting and whilst I am not at liberty to divulge anything until the official release, I can see that a hell of a lot of work has gone into it and that there will be some welcome new features.
May 5th. 2019
Now that May is here, things should have started to get warmer especially after the really warm period a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the beginning of May has been somewhat cold. Since the May Carnival was getting going in the nearest town, I popped into the parish church which holds a flower festival over the bank holiday weekend.
Despite having lived down here for the last two and a half years, I had never got around to playing the instrument in the church. The organ is one of the larger Father Willis instruments constructed for churches at over 40 stops and dates from 1864, making it quite an early example. It started of life in a Congregational church and when the church closed, it was moved to its current location. Apart from electrification in 1923 and a couple of additions by Tucker of a Vox Humana and a Celeste on the swell, it remains unaltered and is thus an excellent example of what an original Father Willis sounds like.
On my visit this time the vicar and one of the assistant organists were in the church preparing for the flower festival and awaiting the arrival of the organist from Westminster Cathedral who was due to give a recital on the Friday. Therefore , I had the opportunity to spend a good half hour playing the beast and beast it is ! It's a very comprehensive spec. instrument and is unbelievably powerful. I would go so far as to say that it is quite different to many of the other Father Willis instruments that I have played over the years and retains a sheer force of personality that was the hallmark of FW. There are some lovely stops indeed and the plenum is huge. However, the Tierce mixtures are very dominant as is the rest of the upperwork and of course the reeds. The console sits directly in front of the front of the organ so unlike many other instruments, the organist tends to get his or hair parted in no uncertain terms.
The organist from Westminster Cathedral turned up and I was introduced and on the Friday I attended his recital which was well attended and went down well.
Come the Saturday with the flower festival going on, the vicar agreed that it might be nice to have some light music in the afternoon instead of the piped music so I ended up doing a three hour stint alternating between the organ and their Yamaha grand piano. apart from a few classics, most of what I played was in the filmscore / musical / light music idiom along with a bit of jazz on the piano. It went down really well and it is likely that not only will there be more similar informal events but there is also likely to be a calendar concert at some time.
The question of sampling the instrument was also raised and it would seem likely that this will occur at some juncture. I reckon that a non-cathedral / concert hall facsimile set of this instrument would go down well. Despite my observations above, the instrument is really quite thrilling even electrifying to play and listen to so it would be a welcome addition to what else is available.
April 30th. 2019
Details of the new Davis and Avery chamber organs from the late 1700's can be found on the new product pages together with trial download links.
March 9th. 2019
Having experienced a very pleasant February, it seems we are now back into "normal for the time of year weather". Having said that, we are in our own micro climate and the whole area is that much warmer than most of the other parts of the UK. There are quite a few ongoing projects apart from working on the two chamber organs but most of them seem to be in stasis at the moment. The organ world is used to long delays in things happening partly because there are so many different bodies involved in the decision making process and partly because basic ideas are formulated without the necessary requisites in place. As a typical example, a certain church in one part of the country decided that it needed a new pipe organ and set off to bring this to fruition. It took them 35 years until they could bring their original plan to completion. Therefore, a year or so is basically nothing in organ building terms - after all, the resultant instrument will often last several generations once it is finished. Likewise, the commonly held belief that electronic organs have a very short lifetime is often a mistaken. You only have to look at Ebay to see old Hammond RT3 instruments being offered for sale several decades after they were first installed and with a bit of attention, still able to carry on for many more.
February 3rd. 2019
I don't know how we managed it but we didn't really have any snow. Despite the fact that just three miles down the road there were drifts and Okehampton which is within twenty miles, suffered really dire conditions, we only had a very light dusting. Seems that we are very definitely in a micro climate here.
As can be seen from the news page, I will be releasing a facsimile instrument by Avery dating from 1790 -1792 fairly shortly. This will be followed quite quickly by another instrument by James Davis dating from the same period. The Avery is very small with just five stops three of which are split whilst the Davis is a lot larger at nine stops including a short compass reed. both are charming examples of English chamber organs and both are in almost original condition. Both have had some restoration carried out by sympathetic craftsmen organ builders but this has been restricted to repair and the introduction of electric blowing - the latter only during the last decade or so.
January 24th. 2019
Apart from sorting out the odd demo for the new Concert Series and updating some of the web pages , I have re-commenced work on a some of the smaller instruments that I have smpled over the last few years. These will include two chamber organs dating from around 1790 plus a later date single manual church organ which has a very pleasant mellow sound. There are a couple of other instruments which are a bit larger (18 or so stops) which will be worked on as well one; a Henry Jones and the other a Forster & Andrews.
Regarding the 1700's chamber instruments, I may create a two or three manual version from the two sets together with some additional pipework from the same era. The two chamber organs are both long compass down to GGG. I'm not sure as regarding temperament........ One is tuned to something approaching equal temperament whilst the other is very flat and tuned to Mean 5th. comma. I can't say that I really like these unequal temperaments although they can sound quaint. About the closest acceptable temperament pleasing to my ears is 10th. comma which is acceptably unpleasant in the "nasty" keys.
January 4th. 2019
Happy New Year to everyone.
At long last after many years of hard work, the new Concert Series can be released and I hope to be able to announce the release on the HW forum later today.
The last couple of weeks has been the seemingly interminable creation of the GUI's. This has been made simpler due to the fact that the smaller models are all based on the largest model. However, that doesn't mean that it doesn't take several hours to create each of the five screens required for each model and create the cut down specifications. However, it's now done at last - Deo gratias.
My visit up to the school was not a tremendous success.................
The journey up was in horrendous weather (traffic was held up for 3-4 hours over the Blackdown Hills) and whilst I managed to avoid that, it still took a long time on very wet roads. The next day I arrived at the school and met up with the director of music. The job that has been done so far by those concerned is very professional and whilst there is no casework as yet and the speakers haven't been placed in their final positions, one can see the potential (photos will follow). The electricians have done a very good and neat job on wiring everything up with dedicated circuits and we were all set to go. I can now understand why the technical guys at the school couldn't get things working since neither could I despite trying every possible setting. A phone call to the supplier's technical team confirmed what I suspected; both of the interface units were faulty. There fore there really wasn't much I could do apart from make an analysis of exactly what the second hand 4 manual Johannus console transmits via Midi.
All of the keyboards and drawstops work but the pistons are limited in the messages that they send and will have to be rewired and replaced by a more traditional English set-up. The Crescendo pedal also worked but the remaining three swell pedals failed to send out any message at all so these will have to be modified.
Since there was not much else that I could do, I did at least get the opportunity to sample parts of the main pipe organ in the Memorial Chapel. This also proved to be a bit of a disaster. Despite using very tall microphone stands, going up to nearly 30 feet, I was still unable to get as close to the pipes as I would have wished. The cases are very high up on each wall and the only real answer would be to get onto the passage boards which was not possible. Unfortunately, not only is the action and wind leakage noise excessive, the very generous acoustics of several seconds really muddy up everything. From the position that I was able to record in, the full spectrum of the attack and release were not very nice and it is doubtful thta I will be able to use any of the samples that were taken even in a wet set. This is about the first time that I have been totally defeated sampling a pipe organ since I can normally salvage at least something from any recording session. i think in this case it is very doubtful.
I can understand why the organist and director of music hate the machine because it really isn't very nice when one gets to know it. On a relatively small three manual there are a lot of reeds including the Great with 16, 8 and 4 ranks. These are virtually Tubas in their own right. The Contra Gamba on the Pedal and Great is a complete cheat being made up of a few bass pipes (in the case) and the rest from the second Open played in octaves. Surprisingly enough it's actually rather effective when the octaves aren't beating against themselves. The Open Wood's only raison d'etre seems to be to rattle every conceivable bit of non-stonework in the building (but that is not so unusual).
I stayed another night as originally planned and then had another horrendous journey back. Apart from missing a sign and virtually ending up in London before realising my mistake, a complete traffic jam on the M3 resulted in my being diverted past down Winchester and over the top of Southampton and Portsmouth before recovering myself back through Salisbury (yet another huge traffic jam) and getting back to the A303. It took even longer than the journey up and unfortunately, I will have to do it again once the interface units are replaced with ones that work.
All I can say is that having once again experienced the havoc of British roads away from the most distant counties (which is almost the whole country) I am just so glad that I live in Devon away from it all. We may have 8500 plus miles of lanes and roads in the county and much of those have grass growing in the middle of them but it's quiet and calm and peaceful rather than being frenetic and noisy.
It is hoped that the recording process will commence sometime in July. It's a large instrument spread out all over the place so this will take some time. Tremulant-ed stops will be sampled which means that three of the divisions will have twice the amount of samples. All in all a pretty large project which will take some time to complete.
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