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Organist’s space: events, organ travels and player stories

Hymn of the Month 2017 | Behind the Scenes

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The 2017 series was recorded at the lovely medieval church of St Mary’s Chalgrove. I chose this church partly because it is close to our base in Bicester but also because it is of a fairly typical size of the parish church in which we install our organs and especially as it has some of the most important surviving medieval wall paintings of any church in the UK.

Another significant factor was the recent total restoration of the building which included a brand new heating system so although we were there in late November we were going to be warm!

microphones_640Ironically the heating system, a series of near invisible radiant panels in the roof had to be switched off. They began to creek and click as the process of heating up caused them to expand and the resulting small movements in them caused irritating high pitched noise. But ever professional we carried on a little colder than desired.

At St Mary’s we have installed an organ based on the smallest of our ‘Physical Modelling’ instruments, the Envoy 23-S. However at St Mary’s this has been built into a custom console to match the new choir stalls. It plays on 4 speakers high in the nave, concealed behind and above the heater panels and also on 4 speakers delivering identical sound high in the chancel. A separate bass speaker is in a cupboard on the nave floor. Listen to the January Hymn on Vimeo HERE

view-into-the-chancel_640The pictures you see with this account show the organ and microphone set up we used on the day. This went well with occasional interruptions for low flying aircraft as the church sits under the RAF Brize Norton flight path. For the most part these were pretty distant noise issues as we heard the bass rumble of large aircraft but on one occasion we did think that a spitfire was very low overhead and with remembrance day not far off wondered if we should record the Walford-Davies RAF march past.

setting-up-2We will publish a new hymn each month and in response to customer requests this series goes into greater detail on issues of accompaniment and matching the playing to the words so we have included more verses than in last years series. These are played by our regular organist Jonathan Kingston who also introduces each hymn, some of which chosen as their texts are represented in the wall paintings.

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I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Viscount Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.