About a year ago now I learnt that Miller’s Music of Cambridge had provided a Cadet Compact 31 which was installed in the rooms of the senior organ scholar. I was aware that many college organ scholars often had a piano in their rooms and had wondered why none (to my knowledge) at either Oxford or Cambridge had ever provided a digital practice platform.
Clearly both Oxford and Cambridge have a relative abundance of fine pipe organs but even so College Chapels are often busy with other events and clearly can not be used at anti-social times when organ music, however well played, will be disturbing the sleep of students in nearby rooms.
So a practice instrument heard on head phones must surely be something to explore. Especially now as simulated tracker keyboards are readily available and the sound is so much more credible than instruments from years gone by.
Practice organ for senior organ scholar
You can imagine then my delight to learn that King’s College had taken the step to provide a practice instrument to the senior organ scholar. Perhaps having just had their world famous pipe organ restored the college was keen to ensure it would not wear out too soon and so reduce the time it was available for practice.
Can there be a better known organ case in the country or perhaps the world? I have to say for me it represents a pinnacle in organ case design and for that reason we have used a picture of it in our literature for many years.
My only concern at this move was the colleges choice of instrument, no doubt driven by price. So I decided that we would offer to upgrade from the Cadet model to the Envoy 23-S which uses our best sound platform.
After all this instrument would now be used regularly by organists that on past experience go on to hold some of the highest profile church positions in the UK and the World. Notable amongst past King’s College Organ Scholars are:
- Thomas Trotter International Concert Organist
- David Briggs International Concert Organist
- David Goode Composer Recitalist and Teacher
- Robert Quinney Director of Music Peterborough Cathedral now at New College Oxford.
- Ashley Grote Director of Music Norwich Cathedral
- Daniel Hyde St John’s 5th Avenue and shortly to take over from Stephen Cleobury.
Two plus one practice organ for the Scholars
The process was rather drawn out and, in the end, actually resulted in the purchase of a second instrument by the College almost a year later. An Envoy 23-S which was just recently delivered as you see to the senior organ scholar’s rooms. So now we have two organs at King’s. The junior scholars have a Cadet and will graduate to the Envoy as they move up through the ranks. How appropriate!
Having done my degree at Oxford you will understand I naturally have a dark blue bias. That said I have to acknowledge that Cambridge has the far more charismatic Central Campus setting. The city has an altogether more University focused feel to it which you either do or do not like.
Especially so with the river Cam meandering past so many colleges creating a rather magnificent landscape. Also the Oxford ‘star’ college Chapel, Christ Church, magnificent as it is does not really compare with the jaw dropping splendour of King’s College Chapel. And neither by the way does its organ!
Do you think I might now try and wangle myself half an hour on the refurbished King’s chapel organ? Well you do not need me to tell you what the answer to that one is!
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.