Now that our quiz is over and the winner announced I can reveal the location where much of the recording was done. Our near top secret visit to St John’s Harpenden took place later than planned on November 6th last year. The original date we reserved during the half term weekend was double booked with a group of tree surgeons who were lopping nearby trees. The thought of trying to record organ music fighting a chorus of chainsaws did not appeal to me. Especially as this was for our quiz! The thought of the comments that intrusive background noise might have generated does not bare thinking of.
St John’s was chosen because of its very fine pipe organ that had recently been restored and of its particularly good acoustic even thought it is a relatively small church.
The Envoy 35-F organ, which is identical to the model we offered as our prize, was set-up on just 4 external speakers and a sub bass. Speakers were placed near the chancel rail and pointing up into the north and south corners so a nice even reflected sound was heard in the church. A large sub bass was also placed on the floor in the chancel.
Choosing the music pieces
The selection of repertoire was also critical. Pieces had to be registered credibly so that either instrument might seem to be the one playing. Jonathan also helped with some improvisations where there would have been no well known reference points to help guide the ear.
So our objective, was to produce the best sound we could, bearing in mind the constraints (outside of our control) that all of the recordings would be listened by the quiz participants digitally, through computer speakers.
Needless to say we have not published this account until our quiz has finished so that the identity of the host church and its organ remained secret. As ever we had a really fun day enjoying not just our instrument in a fine church setting but also the fine pipe organ at St John’s played as you see from a lovely crows nest loft where every good organist should be, set as master of all he surveys! (Pictured below).
And another lovely little touch at Harpenden is this memorial tile to a past organist (pictured right). There were so many like William Freemen who gave a lifetime of service to their community. And no doubt for the early part of Williams’s time, a young lad on a handle pumping the organ as well!
There still are a good many serving in this way but it is a diminishing landscape. I was very pleased that our Quiz Winner was a young church organist, John Alexander, who may yet get a tile on his church wall in very distant future.
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.