Viscount Organs http://viscountorgans.net The UK's leading Digital Church Organ specialist Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:35:29 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Sheffield Hickleton Mission Partnership – The Centenary Project http://viscountorgans.net/the-centenary-project/ http://viscountorgans.net/the-centenary-project/#respond Mon, 20 Feb 2017 06:00:50 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8848 Early in January 2017 I received a request for help with a Sheffield based programme aimed at engaging with youngsters in the poorer areas of the City by way of establishing youth choirs. This initiative is being led by Chris Bishop, the Youth Ministry Co-ordinator and will be based in up to 4 churches in the Sheffield Diocese.

Chris owns a Cantorum VI which is a very good small accompaniment instrument but as it is attached to a pedal board and in his attic it is not overly easy for him to use in other venues. He obviously enjoys the Cantorum as you can see in his video of the instrument below.

Chris needed a Cantorum V which being lighter is much more portable and asked if we would loan one out for the project. As luck would have it we had just taken back in part exchange a Cantorum II, its predecessor instrument, so we were delighted to give this instrument to Chris as a small contribution to the programme he will establish in Sheffield.

One of those occasions when we are only to pleased to be able to make a small contribution to the wellbeing of music and in this particular case also to a deserving cause run by a young man of vision and purpose.

More about the project:

The Centenary Project seeks to equip the local church to effectively engage, grow and disciple a new generation of young people, children and families. In March 2014, Bishop’s Council agreed to commit £1,000,000 from its historical reserves to fund and support an increase in the work with children, families and young people in order to serve the common good, nurture faith and grow disciples. The funding will be primarily aimed at the most deprived parishes within the diocese.

Find out more about the programme here.

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A visit to explore the Wurlitzer Organ http://viscountorgans.net/a-visit-to-explore-the-wurlitzer-organ/ http://viscountorgans.net/a-visit-to-explore-the-wurlitzer-organ/#respond Fri, 10 Feb 2017 11:30:11 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8836 On Saturday January 7th the RCO in conjunction with the Organ Club, arranged for a full day visit to the Troxy Cinema in Commercial Road East London to explore the Wurlitzer Organ installed there in 2015. What a day out it proved to be!

Unfortunately I did not get there until the lunch break so I missed the short concert and the guided tour of the organ rank by rank and the tour of the pipe chambers and I very much regret that as they must have been fascinating.

Cinema (2)My late arrival was in part due to the difficulty of getting to the venue which does not lend itself to easy underground or bus connections and in part due to the Theatre Organ not being high on my list of attractions. What a mistake to make.

There was something here for all musicians and I must especially single out the presenter for the day Richard Hills. He is clearly a very gifted player of both classical and lighter music but he is also a wonderful presenter and teacher. He really brought the day to life.

Wurlitzer 3So what was so special?

Well for a start it was well attended. Well over 100 people there for an organ event is so unusual. And an average age below 65 was very encouraging. The Troxy is a classic Art Deco venue that has been beautifully restored with heating and so it was a very comfortable location to meet people and chat about our common interest.

Audience (2)We were also joined by 3 top class performers. As well as Richard Hills, Donald MacKenzie a specialist in silent film accompaniment, and Simon Gledhill who blends a career in the City with a concert life. So all the ingredients were there for a very special day by organ standards indeed.Percy and Quentin

By the end of the afternoon I was really sad that I did not have time to stay on for the evening concert at the Troxy at 7.30 given by Simon or indeed the silent film programme to be presented on the Sunday by Donald.

When the next of these events is on I will ensure I arrive on time.

And just as an aside if we were to develop a really top class ‘Physis’ based cinema organ I would really like to know how many of you might be interested in buying one for use at home? If you could email us at enquiries@viscountorgans.net to let us know I would be really grateful.

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Basilica san Frediano, Lucca http://viscountorgans.net/basilica-san-frediano-lucca/ http://viscountorgans.net/basilica-san-frediano-lucca/#respond Sat, 04 Feb 2017 05:00:27 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8328 Lucca is a Tuscan city that is a must on any visit to Italy. Close to Pisa it no doubt lives in the shadow of that far better know tourist Mecca. Lucca may not have a leaning tower but in my opinion it has a great deal more to offer the visitor looking to pass time and soak up Italian history and culture.

I have lost count of my visits to Lucca over the last 10 years. It is a medieval walled city and if you should ever visit you will understand why the walls never yielded to any attack. They are simply colossal. A city of this age is inevitably a permanent building site and so I have often found many of the churches there (of which there must be over 50) closed.

One of the more spectacular of these is the Basilica San Frediano dating from the early 12th century. It has a most spectacular mosaic west front and so I have often been drawn to visit it but never before this last trip found the doors open. Or was it perhaps I have had to pay Euro 3 to gain entrance and so passed on by. Whatever this time I put hand in pocket and paid up to have a look around.

nave_640As you see this is a very large and mostly uncluttered space which has a great acoustic. The fine west end organ is so typical of Italian instruments made at the beginning of the 17th century. To our eye the visual appearance of these early instruments does not promise a great sound, unlike the larger organs cases we see that are packed from side to side with pipes that promise thunder and weight just as soon as the blower is switched on.

organs-distance_640

organ-close-up_640But you would be mistaken; the pipes are there but just not in evidence on the outside. Unfortunately I do not know if this organ iswest-end-mosaic still in daily use. Much nearer the altar there is an Alborn Galanti electronic organ played through very small speakers, made by another side of the Galanti family that split from the main Viscount business many years ago.

So I did not hear either organ but will make a point next time back in Lucca to find out more about the instrument and report back to you on it in greater detail.

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[Hymn of the Month] Tell Out, My Soul http://viscountorgans.net/tell-out-my-soul/ http://viscountorgans.net/tell-out-my-soul/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 11:30:52 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8759 This month’s hymn, “Tell Out, My Soul”, is a Christian hymn paraphrasing the Magnificat written by Timothy Dudley-Smith (1926 – ) in 1962. In the early days this hymn was paired to a tune by Michael Baughen but it was later paired and greatly enhanced by the sweeping music of Walter Greatorex’s (1877 – 1949) grand tune, Woodlands. The tune’s title refers to one of the schoolhouses at Gresham’s School, Norfolk, where Greatorex was director of music.Timothy Dudley-Smith

Timothy Dudley-Smith is an English hymn writer and now retired bishop of the Church of England. Born in Manchester, United Kingdom, he was educated at Tonbridge School and Pembroke College, Cambridge before he studied theology at Ridley Hall. Dudley-Smith is a prolific writer of texts for hymns and a member and honorary vice-president of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland. In 2003, he was appointed an OBE “for services to hymnody”.

Walter Greatorex was an English composer and musician. Born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and educated at Derby School and St John’s College, Cambridge. In 1900, he was appointed an assistant music master at Uppingham School. In 1911, he became Director of Music at Gresham’s School where he remained for the rest of his working life.Walter Greatorex In 1919 he composed his most famous work, Woodlands, which was used for the hymn Lift up Your Hearts and for Tell Out My Soul. The Woodlands hymn tune appears in the music of almost all the Public School Hymnals published during the last 100 years.

At Gresham Greatorex was known as ‘Gog’ or ‘Greatoxe’, and among those he taught at the school were Benjamin Britten, Sir Lennox Berkeley and W. H. Auden. Auden wrote of him that Albert Schweizer played the organ no better than Walter Greatorex. That sentiment might not have been shared by Britten who wrote some not so flattering things about Greatorex in his diaries and letters at the school. The distrust on Britten’s part and challenging relationship between the two is reported to originate from some disparaging remarks by Greatorex on Britten’s liking for Stravinsky.

This is played on a custom built Envoy 23-S, which is a very popular church instrument.

More About Jonathan Kingston’s Musical Background

Jonathan KingstonJonathan studied the organ with Professor Ian Tracey and Ian Wells of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, home to one of the largest pipe organs in the world. He was appointed Organ Scholar, and subsequently Sub-Organist to Bradford Cathedral before securing positions as Assistant Director and Director of Music at two leading independent schools. He is currently Associate Director of Music at the Ordinariate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Piccadilly.

 

 

Jonathan’s Work With Viscount

Jonathan works with us as our very own in house organist – he covers several areas from sales, demonstrations, voicing of instruments and performing. His playing features on the current promotional DVD material for Viscount, and he would be very pleased to hear from any churches or individuals requiring an engaging and lively recitalist. If you would like to connect with Jonathan directly, please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@jonkingston) or by email on jonkingston@hotmail.co.uk.

More About the Organ Being Played In This Demonstration

Jonathan plays this piece on an instrument based on our  Envoy 23-S. A ‘Physical Modelling’ based instrument with 23 stops in a real wood veneer cabinet. It  has a huge internal library allowing the user to create 4 totally individual voice pallets from classic English through Baroque and Romantic. It benefits from a full compliment of divisional thumb pistons and additional toe pistons. The standard 23-S organ has a 30 note pedal board while the instrument in the film has a 32 note board. For more information have a look at the specifications here.

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Organ Recital at St Peter’s Church, Caversham http://viscountorgans.net/organ-recital-at-st-peters-church-caversham/ http://viscountorgans.net/organ-recital-at-st-peters-church-caversham/#respond Mon, 23 Jan 2017 07:30:31 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8875 An Organ Recital by Christopher Cipkin will take place on 18 February 2017 at 4pm in St Peter’s Church, Caversham. This is a great opportunity to hear a recital on the wonderful new Regent Classic organ installed in 2016. You can read more about the installation here.

Christopher Cipkin, past organist at Reading Minster, Reading University and Wesley Methodist Church, presents a selection of music inspired by the Town Hall organ tradition. The recital will feature a selection of pieces arranged specifically for the organ and designed to demonstrate the skills of the organist and the capabilities of the organ.

The programme will include pieces by Mozart, Handel, Sullivan, Best and Elgar. Refreshments will be available during the interval.

Tickets are £5 and can be purchased from Mary Tucker 07999 023825 or Parish Office 0118 947 1703. Address to venue: St Peter’s Church, The Warren, Caversham RG4 7AQ.

 

About Christopher Cipkin

Chris_Cipkin_RoundChristopher Cipkin began his musical career as a boy chorister of Leeds Parish Church. His career as an academic librarian brought him to work at the University of Reading between 1997 and 2013 where he was also an organist, playing for most graduation ceremonies and accompanying many concerts.

Christopher gives solo recitals throughout the UK, including Reading Town Hall and many other venues in the Berkshire area. He has studied under several eminent British organists, including Michael Harris, James Lancelot, and Timothy Byram-Wigfield, and he has also studied choral conducting with leading Dutch director, JanJoost van Elberg.

Read more about Christopher on the St Peter’s Caversham event page.

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Hymn of the Month 2017 | Behind the Scenes http://viscountorgans.net/hymn-of-the-month-2017-behind-the-scenes/ http://viscountorgans.net/hymn-of-the-month-2017-behind-the-scenes/#respond Sat, 21 Jan 2017 05:00:59 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8319 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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The Move to Vimeo http://viscountorgans.net/the-move-to-vimeo/ http://viscountorgans.net/the-move-to-vimeo/#respond Tue, 17 Jan 2017 11:05:36 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8822 In the last weeks before Christmas I have been listening to the previews of Hymn of the Month and the Regent Classic Tutorial videos. To speed up the process of review the files are sometimes ‘compressed’ by the various delivery systems in differing ways and I have been conscious for the first time of how this data reduction can degrade the quality of the reproduction I am listening to.

I have as well recently upgraded the speaker system attached to my PC and use an active set of speakers made by Logitech. They cost about £35.00 but really do deliver a good quality sound.

Logitech PC speakersAs we strive for and achieve, especially with ‘Physis’-based organs, an ever improving digital recreation of a pipe organ this experience spurred me on to ensure that as far as possible we lose very little of the original recorded quality in what ends up at your end of the internet connection.

As a result we have moved a lot of our previously published material to Vimeo where as I understand it the bit rates are allowed to be considerably higher than on YouTube. All future internet published video material will now be delivered on Vimeo.

If there is, as no doubt there will be, a better way of ensuring that these reach you with as little data reduction as possible before you listen to them then we will work out how to do that as well.

Being able to hear this does partly depend on what speakers or headphones you finally listen with. Take my tip and spoil yourself with a good set of speakers or headphones to add to your PC! You’ll then be able to hear our organs in all their glory.

If you’d like to watch our first edition of our hymn of the month for 2017 on Vimeo, click here to read the blog and watch the video.

Do tell us what you think!

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Recital St Mary Witney Saturday 28th January at 7pm http://viscountorgans.net/recital-st-mary-witney-saturday-28th-january-at-7pm/ http://viscountorgans.net/recital-st-mary-witney-saturday-28th-january-at-7pm/#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2017 07:30:51 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8749 An Organ Recital given by Francis Rumsey will take place on Saturday 28th January 2017 at 7pm in aid of the St Mary’s roof restoration fund.

Francis Rumsey is the organist at St Mary Witney. As well as an accomplished player Francis is an audio engineer and former professor who will illustrate the programme with interesting information about the pieces and their composers.

The programme will consist of both traditional organ pieces and transcriptions covering a variety of tuneful styles. For further programme details read below and for a story of the organ restoration carried out a couple of years ago CLICK HERE.

Raise the roof St Mary

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[Hymn of the Month] We Three Kings http://viscountorgans.net/we-three-kings/ http://viscountorgans.net/we-three-kings/#respond Mon, 09 Jan 2017 14:28:45 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8400 The first tune of this year’s Hymn of the Month series is the famous hymn “We Three Kings”. It is also commonly known as “We Three Kings of Orient Are” or “The Quest of the Magi”, and is a Christmas carol written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. (1820 – 1891). Hopkins wrote the words and music to the hymn as part of a Christmas pageant in New York for his nieces and nephews. It is suggested to have been written in 1857 but did not appear in print until his Carols, Hymns and Songs in 1863.

Hopkins was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,john_henry_hopkins_jr the son of John Henry Hopkins, an Episcopal bishop from Dublin. Young John Henry graduated from the University of Vermont in 1839. He started his professional career working as a reporter in New York City while also studying law. However, it seemed that he soon settled on a different career path when he enrolled at General Theological Seminary in New York City. He graduated in 1850 and the very same year he was ordained a deacon. In 1853 he founded the publication Church Journal and served as its editor until 1868. It was during this period that he wrote “We Three Kings” (1857). He was ordained a priest in 1872 and later became rector of Trinity Church. He died at a friend’s home near Hudson, New York, August 14, 1891.

It could be said that John Henry Hopkins Jr. was a bit of a one-hit-wonder as he is really most famous for writing this Christmas carol. However, it is worth a mention that he was a man of many talents and also wrote other carols, hymns and songs. His most important musical publication was his collection, Carols, Hymns and Songs (1863-1887). In addition to being a composer he was also a writer and poet, and edited numerous articles and books.

This hymn is most appropriate for Epiphany, and may be one of the first songs to come to mind about the story of the magi in Matthew 2. There are five stanzas and a refrain. The opening stanza is about the journey of the Magi to Bethlehem. The next three stanzas elaborate on the meaning of each of the 3 gifts, while the final stanza is a celebration that Christ has come. Many versions of this song have been composed and it remains a popular Christmas carol around the world.

This is played on a custom built Envoy 23-S, which is a very popular church instrument.

More About Jonathan Kingston’s Musical Background

Jonathan KingstonJonathan studied the organ with Professor Ian Tracey and Ian Wells of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, home to one of the largest pipe organs in the world. He was appointed Organ Scholar, and subsequently Sub-Organist to Bradford Cathedral before securing positions as Assistant Director and Director of Music at two leading independent schools. He is currently Associate Director of Music at the Ordinariate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Piccadilly.

Jonathan’s Work With Viscount

Jonathan works with us as our very own inhouse organist – he covers several areas from sales, demonstrations, voicing of instruments and performing. His playing features on the current promotional DVD material for Viscount, and he would be very pleased to hear from any churches or individuals requiring an engaging and lively recitalist. If you would like to connect with Jonathan directly, please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@jonkingston) or by email on jonkingston@hotmail.co.uk.

More About the Organ Being Played In This Demonstration

Jonathan plays this piece on an instrument based on our  Envoy 23-S. A ‘Physical Modelling’ based instrument with 23 stops in a real wood veneer cabinet. It  has a huge internal library allowing the user to create 4 totally individual voice pallets from classic English through Baroque and Romantic. It benefits from a full compliment of divisional thumb pistons and additional toe pistons. The standard 23-S organ has a 30 note pedal board while the instrument in the film has a 32 note board. For more information have a look at the specifications here.

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RCO Academy: “The Conservatoire Experience” http://viscountorgans.net/rco-academy-the-conservatoire-experience-11-feb-17/ http://viscountorgans.net/rco-academy-the-conservatoire-experience-11-feb-17/#respond Mon, 09 Jan 2017 10:22:26 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8698 This will be of interest to all teenage organists! This is a one-day programme on 11 February 2017 to pursue their organ playing through higher education.

The British Conservatoires – The Royal Academy of Music, The Royal College of Music, Trinity College of Music, Birmingham Conservatoire, the Royal Northern College of Music, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – set the standard for organists to develop their performing skills to the highest levels as part of a degree course. All feature teachers who are at the top of their game in the competitive world of professional music-making, coupled with fabulous facilities and opportunities.

You will be hosted by Henry Fairs (Head of Organ, Birmingham Conservatoire) with help from Daniel Moult (Birmingham’s Associate Head of Organ) and James Parsons  (RCO Academy and visiting tutor at Birmingham) at the Birmingham Conservatoire. You enjoy:

  • hands-on tuition through classes taught by Henry, Dan and James
  • recitals by Birmingham Conservatoire organ students; AND the chance to meet and chat to them
  • hearing the latest about Birmingham’s brand-new, state-of-the-art conservatoire building and its organ facilities (opening September 2017)

Here’s a virtual tour of the conservatoire building:


You can read more by going to the RCO website here (where you can book online).

During the programme, you will also have the opportunity to play:

Pricing for the day is £40 for RCO Student members and £45 for all other full time students. (More information here).

Image credit: Taken from Birmingham Town Hall website.

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Our Range of Organ Speakers http://viscountorgans.net/organ-speakers/ http://viscountorgans.net/organ-speakers/#respond Sat, 07 Jan 2017 05:00:32 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8297 With our organ audio management recently extended to be able to spread the stops over 28 independent audio channels plus bass we have extraordinary flexibility to manage sound delivery in your church or concert hall and so we have invested in developing speaker cabinets acoustically tuned to optimise the sound for individual stop families.

speakers-4As you see from the pictures within this blog these speaker cabinets are multi directional in the HF range projecting sound in two planes at 90 degrees to each other. This is of great assistance where the speaker enclosure is of limited size as even then the listener is hearing direct and indirect sound, which combines to give a more credible and pleasing effect. The multi-directional feature of the loudspeaker enables audio energy to be radiated in a more diffused fashion, improving the blend between the loudspeakers and building acoustic, thereby delivering a more natural tonal character of the organ

speaker-view-of-drivers-with-dimensions_640

Multi Purpose Speaker with Dimension

Additionally the cabinets have been tuned to be most sympathetic to the sound of the organ voice they seek to reproduce. Reeds need greater power across a wide range of frequencies especially as pitch rises, so a loudspeaker has been developed to emulate the “en-chamade” effect and directionality of these bold stops by the use of a controlled dispersion high frequency drive unit. String tones on the other hand require subtle clarity at much lower power levels resulting in a model of loudspeaker with wide dispersion and smooth overall response.speaker-box_320

With 28 channels available and the ability to send any stop to any one or more of the 28 channels we are now more able to select speaker cabinets to match the voices they will handle and so establish the most realistic yet voicing of any digital pipe organ.

If you are considering a digital organ for your church or concert hall and want the very best result possible you really have to explore a Viscount Physical Modelling instrument, matched now with an unrivaled range of specialist speakers to deliver the full excitement of instruments only previously achieved with real pipes.

To view all our organ speaker options click on THIS LINK

 

 

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Organ Hire for Bury St Edmunds Organ Day http://viscountorgans.net/organ-hire-st-edmundsbury-cathedral/ http://viscountorgans.net/organ-hire-st-edmundsbury-cathedral/#respond Mon, 12 Dec 2016 04:36:58 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8025 As ever, we do enjoy a challenge and generally it comes in the direction of SOS organ hires. We received a call from James Thomas the Director of Music at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. He was up against it and at very short notice needed to hire an organ for an event in the choir school which was happening within 3 days (on Saturday…his call came in on the Wednesday before).

Teaching session

Dr Gordon Stewart in a teaching session with our organ in place

It seems that confirmation of arrangements made with another company had got overlooked and the organ that was thought to be hired was no longer available. We were pleased to be able to help on this occasion and ensure that the choir school went ahead as planned. James was relieved and the attendees were none the wiser.

Organ hire seems to be a growing part of our activity and we currently have seven instruments out for the most part covering pipe organ rebuilds. These recently include:-

  • Manchester Cathedral
  • St Mary’s Ware
  • St Brides Fleet Street
  • Llandaff Cathedral
  • St Mary’s Findon
  • Dean Close School
  • St Peter – ad -Vincula Coggeshall
  • St Paul’s Brighton
  • St Leonard’s Hastings
  • Holy Saviour Church Tynemouth
  • St Mary’s Reigate

We also provide instruments for weddings funerals and concerts where pipe organs are not available or just not up to the particular service repertoire that has been requested.

This emergency request was one we just had to fulfil. We are desperately short of organists in the UK and any opportunity to encourage more musicians onto the bench needs support. This course was being given by the well known organist Dr Gordon Stewart who you see in the picture above.

So by Friday lunchtime we had our 2 manual Envoy 35-F installed in the choir school and the event could proceed. As you see it was a wonderful sunny afternoon. The sun shines on the righteous who in this case were also church musicians!

The sun shines in

The sun shines in

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Diary of a page turner | The Willis at Oxford Town Hall http://viscountorgans.net/diary-of-a-page-turner-the-willis-at-oxford-town-hall/ http://viscountorgans.net/diary-of-a-page-turner-the-willis-at-oxford-town-hall/#respond Sat, 10 Dec 2016 05:00:25 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8281 This post is part of a series where I share some of my world travels, which my love for organs has taken me. I help friends, associates and fellow organ lovers with projects that mean I get to see new and old organs in gorgeous settings and really experiment with this instrument.

Those of you who have read my earlier blogs in this series will recall that they all have been for CD recordings. On this occasion I was turning and registering for a live concert which is altogether a more pressured challenge, especially at the Oxford Town Hall organ where one needs the additional skill of a tightrope walker.

The Willis Organ

The Willis built in 1897 has 4 manuals but just a single thumb piston which after about 3 seconds of holding in pneumatically brings out Great to Pedal. So it is of no practical use at all! The organist can get at 8 combination pedal levers (4 Swell and 4 Great) that are of some help but as the swell shutter ‘lever’ is so awkward, requiring a toe to be got under it to move it up to close the box, it takes full concentration to do that. As pulling up with the right foot is not a comfortable movement whilst trying to push down with the left the use of these levers is fraught with challenge. This a really good example of an instrument that could benefit from the addition of modern playing aids. Yes of course it would ‘change the experience’ but it would make life at the console for the unassisted organist a joy, and the page turner would not mind either!

willis-organ-4-manuals And so at this organ much of the registration is left to the page turner, but here is the additional difficulty. The organ bench is just 6 inches away from the terrace edge with a drop of about 2 ft down to the next level so moving from side to side requires a crab like gate to ensure you do not fall backwards into thin air. It must be a strange sight to the audience as the assistant shuffles from left to right, sometimes at speed, trying to adjust the stops and turn the pages as well. Happily it went quite well and only on one occasion did some loose papers fly off the music desk as all this pantomime was in progress.

willis-pedal-board-and-setter-leverswillis-organ-left-and-right-jambsConcert Time

I was there to help Francis Rumsey get through the lunchtime concert which is part of a monthly series the town hall put on. I was there many years ago to page turn and today there still remains a rather quaint flavour to these concerts. The seating is set up against a series of trestle tables (picture below) where the audience is expected, as many indeed do, to eat their picnic lunches. A great urn of coffee sits on a trolley at the rear of the ballroom where a selection of biscuits is also provided all of which is included in the £5 entrance fee. Were it not for the refreshments one might think the room was set up as an overflow for the examination schools and any minute a cohort of gowned students would appear to sit a demanding test paper.

oxford-town-hall_640I imagine these concerts have gone on in this same way for many decades, genteel respectful quiet attendance broken only by the occasional clink of a spoon stirring the coffee or a knife cutting a home made sandwich with a 5 minute interval at half time to refresh the coffee cups. So typically Oxford!

attentive-audience_640The Programme

The programmes for these events err on the lighter side of the repertoire and Francis’s selection fitted this and the magnificent organ well. This is a delightful Willis with magnificent fiery reeds that were his signature and a Tuba (although the stop head says Tromba) on the Solo that would part your hair.

Francis started with a charming Handel Organ Concerto, No 2 in B flat, a light hearted dancing piece exploiting the contrast of flutes and principals available on all 3 main manuals. No registration work there for the page turner, so a nice gentle warm up for both musician and assistant.

Next an arrangement of the Tchaikovsky Polonaise from Eugene Onegin got feet tapping and introduced the audience of about 50 or so to the Willis reeds and brought my crab like side shuffle into play.

Next I was introduced to a new piece, the Introduction and Passacaglia by Alcock. By a strange twist of fate his great grand daughter lives in Witney and she was present in the audience.

alcock-scoreA short interval followed and the concert continued with the Mozart Fantasia in F minor, in places horribly difficult as it was written for a mechanical clock that clearly had at least 3 hands as at times 15 fingers are needed to play all the notes. The conclusion was one of my favourites the finale from Guilmant’s first organ sonata which is a real corker of a piece. Guilmant’s organ output is immense and happily much of it is not too difficult. I use it a lot pre and post services as it even works well on the rather poor single manual instruments in the churches where I play on Sundays, when I can’t think of an excuse to pass the joy of trying to get a good tune out of the rather old and badly maintained village pipe organs at my disposal. But that is another story that I can bore you on at length in a future blog.

By the way you may have seen Francis delivering our You Tube films that explain all the features on the Viscount Physis organs. If you have not yet had a look you can find them here.

Francis is a man of precision and the concert concluded at about 2 minutes to one o’clock. Perfect timing and so off to the White Horse on the Broad for a well earned pie and a pint!

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[Hymn of the Month] God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen http://viscountorgans.net/god-rest-ye-merry-gentlemen/ http://viscountorgans.net/god-rest-ye-merry-gentlemen/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2016 18:18:43 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8104 Our final tune in this year’s series is befittingly the old English traditional Christmas carol “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”. The composer is unknown but there are records of it being sung within the Christian Church since the 15th century. The hymn was first put into print in 1760 but made available to a wider audience when William B. Sandy included a version of it in his publication Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833). It has since been added to various hymnals and carol books.

“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is written with an upbeat melody and speaking of the birth of Jesus in joyful terms. During the 15th century most religious songs were quite sombre and dark and offered little inspiration or joy so this song may have shocked church leaders but it certainly inspired the people. Crossing the ocean to both Europe and America, the carol later became a favourite throughout the Christian world and it is still sung in much the same way as it was hundreds of years ago.Christmas flora with gold bauble decorations, holly, ivy and winter greenery.

In many respects, this is a deeply misunderstood carol. Part of the problem is punctuation, and part of the problem is the use of archaic words, specifically “rest” and “merry”. The word Rest means to keep or make and the adjective Merry had a wider meaning of prosperous, pleasant or joyful in early modern English. The sentence could possibly be rewritten as “God give you peace, gentlemen” or “God grant you joy, gentle ones”.

The song was famously referred to in Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. In the below paragraph from the classic book, Ebenezer Scrooge chases away a Christmas caroller as he tries to sing the song in front of his house; “…at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’ Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost”. With this we leave you to hopefully have a slightly less adventurous Christmas than Scrooge and may it instead be Joyful, Peaceful and bring you lots of Happiness!

This is played on our Envoy 35-F , which is a very popular church instrument.

More About Jonathan Kingston’s Musical Background

Jonathan KingstonJonathan studied the organ with Professor Ian Tracey and Ian Wells of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, home to one of the largest pipe organs in the world. He was appointed Organ Scholar, and subsequently Sub-Organist to Bradford Cathedral before securing positions as Assistant Director and Director of Music at two leading independent schools. He is currently Associate Director of Music at the Ordinariate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Piccadilly.

Jonathan’s Work With Viscount

Jonathan works with us as our very own inhouse organist – he covers several areas from sales, demonstrations, voicing of instruments and performing. His playing features on the current promotional DVD material for Viscount, and he would be very pleased to hear from any churches or individuals requiring an engaging and lively recitalist. If you would like to connect with Jonathan directly, please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@jonkingston) or by email on jonkingston@hotmail.co.uk.

More About the Organ Being Played In This Demonstration

Jonathan plays this piece on our very own Envoy 35-F A ‘Physical Modelling’ based instrument with 35 stops in a real wood veneer cabinet. It  has a huge internal library allowing the user to create 4 totally individual voice pallets from classic English through Baroque and Romantic.   It benefits from a full compliment of divisional thumb pistons and additional toe pistons. This organ also has a full 32 note pedal. For more information have a look at its specifications here.

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Three Organs of York http://viscountorgans.net/three-organs-of-york/ http://viscountorgans.net/three-organs-of-york/#respond Mon, 28 Nov 2016 14:04:39 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8143 Towards the end of September we were making another DVD in Selby Abbey and staying near York so it was too good an opportunity to pass by visiting some of the very fine churches in the city. Also never having played York Minster it seemed an ideal time to see if we could have some time on the Minster organ and to my very great delight a private hour was available after prayer on Monday evening.

York Minster

The anticipation of being allowed to play on such a large instrument in a huge acoustic is impossible to exaggerate. A very special privilege indeed. Arriving at the west door as instructed at 5.30pm you will imagine my dismay to find it firmly shut and no amount of knocking caught anybodies attention. So a smart sprint round to the south side with heart racing was rewarded with the signs of a door through which people were leaving and which it was possible to slip in. Great relief all round.

 

A few minutes later we were met by assistant organist Jeremy and guided up the stairs to the loft console. I had been advised that playing the organ was more interesting from the nave console and so after a few minutes experiencing the full drama of the loft console, contemplating the many great and good that had made the very same climb, an offer to explore the instrument from the nave was taken up.

David Mason, York Minster

York Minster Loft Jamb

The nave console duplicates exactly the loft console and sits on a massive plinth that is initially a little disconcerting as it moves very gently from side to side. The first challenge is just where to begin exploring such a large array of voices and with time limited I expect most would do what I did and rely on the pistons as set. With of course a detailed listen to the three tubas available! Imagine that luxury, with the big tuba on a scale that might suit a small cruise liner as its fog horn. The Cocker Tuba tune could have been written for it! With all this an hour passes very quickly!

York Minster, Nave console

The other abiding memory will be the acoustic. As an average player I was delighted how the building helps cover up the lack of legato touch and slips that I will inevitably make. I initially felt more accomplished but you soon realise that putting the musicality into performance in the space requires infinitely better technique than at first is apparent. What a great evening out. Thank you all for the opportunity to experience the wonderful Minster and its Organ.

Our next two visits were arranged by Maxamillion Elliot who was turning the pages for our DVD recording. Max is researching the organ makers of York in the 17 and 18 hundreds, apparently a time where there were over 40 different organ builders in the city. He is also the organist at St Olaves which boasts the next largest organ in York after the Minster and which we visited next. The current St Olave’s dates from the 1460 rebuilding of an earlier church on the site.

St Olave's Church

St Olave's Church Organ

This too is a Walker instrument from 1907 so very much the same era as the core of the Minster organ. Max is a very enthusiastic organist and while St Olave’s instrument is in good condition there are plans to improve and extend the versatility the instrument brings to the choral works performed at St Olave’s. As you see this is a nice 3 manual instrument with versatility improved with some sub/super octave couplers allowing some stops to be used at different pitch with the unison off feature.

Our final visit was to All Saints North Street which is renowned for its medieval glass windows. These are truly magnificent as is much of the church woodwork some of which was sadly lost in a fire that damaged the east end of the south aisle. You can see a wooden angel badly blackened by fire in the roof structure where the fire was finally stopped before taking the full extent of the south aisle.

All Saints Church

The organ here is a sweet 2 manual freestanding tracker instrument at the rear of the church recently built by Principal Pipe Organs of York. It speaks well into the building and is perhaps a little unusual as it is fitted with a cymbelstern.

Image of York, courtesy of: davidionut / 123RF Stock Photo

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[Hymn of the Month] Thaxted by Gustav Holst http://viscountorgans.net/thaxted-gustav-holst/ http://viscountorgans.net/thaxted-gustav-holst/#respond Tue, 01 Nov 2016 10:15:03 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8084 This month’s hymn tune, Thaxted, is taken from the middle section of “Jupiter”, one of the seven movements in the orchestral suite “The Planets” by Gustav Theodore Holst (1874 –1934). Holst adapted the theme from Jupiter to suit the patriotic poem “I Vow to Thee, my Country”, by Cecil Spring-Rice (1859–1918), which honours the soldiers who died during World War I. The hymn tune was named after Thaxted the English village in Essex, where Holst resided for a large portion of his later life.

Gustav Holst ComposerHolst was an English composer and teacher born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. With at least one professional musician in each of the previous three generations on his father’s side, some might say he was destined to follow the same path. Holst was educated at Cheltenham Grammar School between 1886 and 1891 and it was also around this time he started composing piano pieces, organ voluntaries, songs and anthems. After spending a few months in Oxford studying he was accepted into Royal College of Music and moved to London. Unable to support himself by his compositions he played the trombone professionally. Later he became a teacher and was a pioneer in music education for women at St Paul’s Girls’ School, where he taught from 1905 until his death in 1934.

Holst’s distinctive style was the product of many influences, Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss being most crucial early in his development. He is really best known for The Planets but also composed a large number of other works across a range of genres. From its premiere to the present day, this suite has been ever popular and influential as well as widely performed in different settings. For example, the music has frequently been used for sporting events as an instrumental or as a song with alternative lyrics, for example the Rugby World Cup anthem “World in Union” first sung in 1991 by Kiri te Kanawa.

Thaxted was also a favourite hymn with Princess Diana and was sung at her wedding and sadly also later at her funeral.

This is played on our Envoy 35-F , which is a very popular church instrument.

 

 

More About Jonathan Kingston’s Musical Background

Jonathan KingstonJonathan studied the organ with Professor Ian Tracey and Ian Wells of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, home to one of the largest pipe organs in the world. He was appointed Organ Scholar, and subsequently Sub-Organist to Bradford Cathedral before securing positions as Assistant Director and Director of Music at two leading independent schools. He is currently Associate Director of Music at the Ordinariate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Piccadilly.

Jonathan’s Work With Viscount

Jonathan works with us as our very own inhouse organist – he covers several areas from sales, demonstrations, voicing of instruments and performing. His playing features on the current promotional DVD material for Viscount, and he would be very pleased to hear from any churches or individuals requiring an engaging and lively recitalist. If you would like to connect with Jonathan directly, please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@jonkingston) or by email on jonkingston@hotmail.co.uk.

More About the Organ Being Played In This Demonstration

Jonathan plays this piece on our very own Envoy 35-F A ‘Physical Modelling’ based instrument with 35 stops in a real wood veneer cabinet. It  has a huge internal library allowing the user to create 4 totally individual voice pallets from classic English through Baroque and Romantic.   It benefits from a full compliment of divisional thumb pistons and additional toe pistons. This organ also has a full 32 note pedal. For more information have a look at its specifications here.

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My turn on the newly restored Willis Pipe Organ http://viscountorgans.net/my-turn-on-the-newly-restored-willis-pipe-organ/ http://viscountorgans.net/my-turn-on-the-newly-restored-willis-pipe-organ/#respond Thu, 27 Oct 2016 08:21:45 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8126 I had great fun playing the newly restored Willis organ at St Mary & St Giles in Stony Stratford in September this year.

The organ has just had a £250,000 major overhaul by F H Browne & Sons which included adding 4 stops that had been prepared for, but never made, and also replacing a 16 ft Waldhorn that had been stolen in 1962 when the organ was in St Georges Church in Edinburgh for whom it was originally made. The restoration work also included the manufacture of 2 new pipe cases, the organ sitting in chambers on the north and south side of the west end with console on the gallery in between.

Willis Organ JambsIt is a great credit to the local community that such a huge sum was raised to restore the organ with a substantial part of the funding coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Part of HLF grant aid often depends upon the community benefit that will be derived from the project. I am really pleased in this case to see that this will come from use of the pipe organ as part of a general musicals education programme, but with a specific mission to bring the pipe organ to the attention of youngsters and also make it available for anybody to play (subject to reasonable care).

So here is a sadly all too rare location where the doors are wide open to players in great contrast to the attitude I so often met as a youngster (a long time ago now!) which was – KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OUR ORGAN! To take advantage of this lovely instrument you can book a visit at visits@musicforallsmsg.org. Donations of £5.00 per hour are requested which is a tiny amount to contribute for the use of such a comprehensive and historic instrument.

Willis Organ Rocker Tabs

Willis was known for the fiery style of his reeds and this instrument is no exception to that tradition. So if you are interested in playing, or want to use the instrument for teaching, or just curious as to what makes a fine organ, the Willis at St Giles is a good place to start the journey.

There is also a festival once a year so keep an eye out for that in September 2017. To keep in touch with events at St Giles visit www.musicforallsmsg.org.

Willis Organ Spec

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Lyle Kirk Greenock Sunday October 23rd at 3.00pm http://viscountorgans.net/lyle-kirk-greenock-sunday-october-23rd-at-3-00pm/ http://viscountorgans.net/lyle-kirk-greenock-sunday-october-23rd-at-3-00pm/#respond Tue, 18 Oct 2016 09:36:19 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8120 Regent Classic jpeg 1Local musician John Bell is giving another recital on our custom built 3 manual Regent installed by Soundtech Classical Organs of Irvine in Lyle Kirk.
John will present a jaunty programme of music including Lefebure-Wely Sortie in E flat and Penguins Playtime by Ogden. John will also play the great Bacha D minor Toccata and Fugue plus other works by Camidge, June Nixon and Noel Rawsthorne.

 

Our instrument has been installed in the pipe organ case which required removal of the pipe organ keyboards. Otherwise the instrument remains intact and we hope in years to come the church may find the energy and money to see  the instrument restored. Meanwhile a very fine player who was struggling against overwhelming problems with the pipe organ can once again contribute properly to the worship and musical life of the church.

Please do go and support John. You will be delighted by his playing and our instrument will do a very good job as well!

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[Hymn of the Month] Darwall’s 148th by John Darwall http://viscountorgans.net/darwall148-john-darwall/ http://viscountorgans.net/darwall148-john-darwall/#respond Mon, 03 Oct 2016 15:42:00 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=8077 Darwall’s 148th or simply Darwall as it is sometimes known is the tune featured this month. The is an especially confident and optimistic tune with the resounding ascent of the final line, was composed by Reverend John Darwall (1731–1789). It was first published as a setting for Psalm 148 in Aaron William’s New Universal Psalmodist (1770) with only soprano and bass parts.

Mystery silhouette of John DarwallDarwall was an English clergyman, composer and poet born in the little village of Haughton in Staffordshire. He first attended Manchester Grammar School, and then at age 14 he was accepted to Brasenose College at Oxford University, where he graduated in 1756. First he became a curate and then later appointed Vicar of St. Matthew’s Parish in Walsall, where he lived the rest of his life until he died in December 1789.

Darwall wrote many of the tunes for the New Version of the Psalms of David by Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady (or Tate and Brady as they commonly referred to). However, he is really best known for his setting of Psalm 148, which is most often sung to the words “Rejoice the Lord is King” (Charles Wesley) or “Ye holy angels bright” (Richard Baxter). Otherwise an accomplished amateur musician, he also wrote hymns and poetry regularly published in “The Gentleman’s Magazine” – which was a modern (for its time) monthly digest of news and commentary on any topic that educated the public.

It appears that there is no known portrait image of Darwall hence the use of a silhouette in this post. Perhaps you know of one? If you do please let us know so we can fill this gap of historical information.

This is played on our Envoy 35-F , which is a very popular church instrument.

 

 

More About Jonathan Kingston’s Musical Background

Jonathan KingstonJonathan studied the organ with Professor Ian Tracey and Ian Wells of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, home to one of the largest pipe organs in the world. He was appointed Organ Scholar, and subsequently Sub-Organist to Bradford Cathedral before securing positions as Assistant Director and Director of Music at two leading independent schools. He is currently Associate Director of Music at the Ordinariate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Piccadilly.

Jonathan’s Work With Viscount

Jonathan works with us as our very own inhouse organist – he covers several areas from sales, demonstrations, voicing of instruments and performing. His playing features on the current promotional DVD material for Viscount, and he would be very pleased to hear from any churches or individuals requiring an engaging and lively recitalist. If you would like to connect with Jonathan directly, please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@jonkingston) or by email on jonkingston@hotmail.co.uk.

More About the Organ Being Played In This Demonstration

Jonathan plays this piece on our very own Envoy 35-F A ‘Physical Modelling’ based instrument with 35 stops in a real wood veneer cabinet. It  has a huge internal library allowing the user to create 4 totally individual voice pallets from classic English through Baroque and Romantic.   It benefits from a full compliment of divisional thumb pistons and additional toe pistons. This organ also has a full 32 note pedal. For more information have a look at its specifications here.

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Hidden Heroes of the Organ World http://viscountorgans.net/hidden-heroes-of-the-organ-world/ http://viscountorgans.net/hidden-heroes-of-the-organ-world/#respond Mon, 03 Oct 2016 14:32:11 +0000 http://viscountorgans.net/?p=7996 Recently, while I was setting up a blog post on the Regent Classic web site to promote the 6 recitals that Joseph Nolan will play for us this year, I remembered that I must get them listed on www.organrecitals.com and this got me thinking.

Management of web sites as they grow gets ever more time consuming and complex. Keeping them up to date is a burden and people expect a real time platform to be just that in a way that printed publications are forgiven. So the sheer enormity of the task that faces Stephen Smith, who runs the site, suddenly came home to me. And this is a job that he does at his own expense and for no commercial reward.

There are in many walks of life very generous and quiet individuals who just get on with a task because it needs to be done and they are totally absorbed by the interest they serve. Stephen is one such person.

No one can doubt that the world of organ music needs its champions to draw attention to the fabulous instruments we have, the musicians that play them and the music written for them. Past names such as Carlo Curley and Virgil Fox come to mind as perhaps today a little controversially does Cameron Carpenter. (He is pictured below, from his Instagram account, showing some youngsters his dazzling custom organ.)

With Michael last night in Newport News! Everyone’s invited to see the organ when there’s time, but especially the young ones.

A photo posted by Cameron Carpenter (@cameronorganist) on

The front of house heroes are easy to list but what of the back stage crew? Raising the profile of the art, be it playing, restoring teaching or building has never been more important and I am sure there are more people like Stephen out there getting quietly on with a valuable job who deserve our thanks and recognition.

So I thought for starters you should know a little more about Stephen and the web site.

The birth of Organrecitals.com

The list of concerts now known as organrecitals.com dates back to 2002 when it started life as ophicleide.org

It started as a list of recitals Stephen wanted to go to. Computers were commonplace by then and it seemed logical to keep his list online, rather than in a paper diary – which he was prone to lose. It meant he could look at the list when away from home and, also, people could see what recitals he was thinking of going to. Quite quickly some organists took exception to their concerts not being on the list! Stephen therefore started including all the concerts he was told about and secretly marked the ones that he intended to go to. He still uses that secret mark today. By 2004, he had received a number of complaints saying it was difficult to spell “ophicleide” and, as a result, the site became organrecitals.com

The format of entries – venue details on the left, organist info on the right, and a picture of the venue in the middle – was established early on, as was the colour-coding for days.

Organrecital.com

Snapshot of the page listing for Organists

Organrecitals.com

Snapshot of recital listings

Coloured bands denoting recitals starting the morning, at lunchtime, etc. came later. Other features have come and gone, e.g. links to CDs were ditched because he was spending too much time adding new ones and checking for/deleting out-of-date ones.

The day to day running

Running the site is mainly a one-man show but about twice-a-year when he gets stumped by something-or-other he calls upon my technical adviser, Stephen Walmsley, whose programming experience he acknowledges is light years ahead. Stephen W showed him how to automate the site in 2005. Until that point, he had been creating the content longhand, as it were and, frankly, it was driving him to distraction. It now takes mere seconds to list a recital and have it displayed on all of the appropriate pages (instead of having to write it for each of those pages). Setting things up for a venue that hasn’t previously appeared on the site takes about half-an-hour – but once it’s done, it doesn’t need to be done again.

Some interesting numbers

Here are some fascinating number facts for you which Stephen has been formally recording since April 2005:

  • almost 1,700 venues have been listed on the site
  • 3,000-plus organists have been featured performers
  • 39,000 recitals have been played
  • 4,000 concerts per year are listed
  • and around 1.5 million of its pages are viewed annually.

The site, quite understandably, is now “part of the organ establishment” and thanks to the energy and skill Stephen has put into this project, (just because he wanted to), many people have a fountain of information at their finger tips. So perhaps the next challenge will be to add in the rest of the world when Stephen can find a few more spare hours.

What else does Stephen get up to?

Stephen is also well-known as the author of two comprehensive books, totalling more than 600 pages, about the seven-manual Atlantic City Convention Hall organ. He has also penned dozens of articles on that subject for various organ journals and is the instrument’s Honorary Curator In Perpetuity.

Do you know anybody who also quietly does do much for the organ world and deserves a huge thank you? And we do thank you Stephen – for all that you do!

Who else do you know that adds so much of their time to contribute to the Organ World and rarely gets the recognition? Comment below, drop me an email or message me on Facebook.

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