Back to Top ▲

Geraint Jones



It is asking for trouble to mention the words "Baroque Organ" in almost any company nowadays; the danger to-night would seem to be very nearly a threat to world peace. But as usual the majority of the protagonists have no idea what all the fuss is about, and my purpose in talking to you to-night is much more to try and set the whole matter in proper perspective rather than to talk exhaustively or exhaustingly on the Baroque Organ. There are excellent introductions to the subject of the Baroque Organ to be found in the little book recently published under the names of Cecil Clutton and Colonel Dixon, not to mention Dr. Sumner's well-documented article in last July's issue of The Organ. But neither these nor any other sources of information can tell anything to anyone who hasn't an intimate knowledge of the music that was written for these instruments, and, equally important, who has never heard one. Gramophone records are at best an inadequate substitute for the real thing, but I think they are much more valuable than any words of mine, and it is to the records that I would like you to pay such attention as you can manage after a day's work.

A performer on any instrument ought to make a very comprehensive study of the repertory at his disposal. If he is a pianist this presents no great problem. The bulk of his repertoire has been written during the last 150 years.
Haydn, Michael Haydn composer
Johann Michael Haydn
1737 - 1806
Click Icon
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
1756 - 1791
Composed over 600 works
Click Icon
Ludwig van Beethoven
1770 - 1827
German composer and pianist.
Click Icon
Franz Peter Schubert
1797 - 1828
Schubert's output consists of over 600 secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music, all before he died at age 31.Click Icon
Schumann,Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann
1810 - 1856
Click Icon
Frédéric Chopin
1810 - 1849
Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era,
Click Icon
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
German composer of the early Romantic period.
1809 - 1847
Click Icon
Franz Liszt
1811 - 1886
Hungarian virtuoso pianist and composer.
Click Icon
- these names are the backbone of his library, as indeed they are of the repertoire of most instruments. But what did these same composers write for the organ? Virtually nothing. Haydn, Mozart, Schumann, a bare handful of music ; Mendelssohn, a few sonatas which simply cannot be compared with the orchestral music by which he is best remembered; Liszt, a few works which some people like and others loathe. The rest, nothing. Otherwise the last 150 years has given the organ repertoire a few works by
César Franck,
César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck
1822 - 1890
Composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher.
Click Icon
about which musicians have mixed feelings, and a large literature by
Josef Rheinberger
1839 - 1901
Organist and composer, born in Liechtenstein and resident for most of his life in Germany.
Click Icon
Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian
1873 - 1916
Click Icon
whose organ music would undoubtedly have fallen into the same neglect as the rest of their works if only the greater composers had been more obliging. So that leaving aside all question of quality, the quantity of organ music written by composers of any repute in this period is negligible. If we come right down to the present, we face the grim fact that apart from Poulenc and Hindemith there is scarcely a single composer of international fame who has written for the organ, and it is only with the greatest difficulty that non-organist musicians can be persuaded to take the organ seriously at all.

Now this is a very serious matter for organists and organ builders. An instrument for which nobody wants to write music is doomed. So is the performer on an instrument to which the musical public will not come to listen. Towards the end of the last century and for the first twenty years of this century the organist solved the problem of his repertoire by making and playing transcriptions of other music, unless he fancied himself as a composer. As most people never had a chance to hear an orchestra they came to his recitals, thereby giving him a solution of the twin problems of repertoire and audience. And in the same way as the piano manufacturers had altered their pianos to accommodate them to the new demands of Liszt and Chopin, so organ builders made new and altered existing instruments. But there was one vitally important difference-that the new organ repertoire was not really organ music at all. Organists of a generation or so earlier than my own are still playing this same music to dwindling rows of old people, apparently oblivious of the fact that with the advent of the B.B.C., orchestras are now practically a domestic fixture, and the old solution to the organist's problem now only makes him look ridiculous.

The fundamental truth is that this solution ignores the essential characteristics and style of the instrument. This is always fatal. Listen to what Sir
Hubert Parry
Hubert Parry
1848 - 1914
English composer, teacher and historian of music
Click Icon
has to say in his admirable book Style in Musical Art:

"Differences in style are the outcome of the instinct for adaptation. In art the most perfect style is that which is most perfectly adapted to all the conditions of presentment. Many different factors minister to its development. The influences which are most obvious are the properties of material. If a work has to be executed in stone, the particular qualities of the material necessitate a style of art different from that of works executed in iron. The result of trying to imitate in one kind of material effects which can be produced in another, which has quite different properties, is either stupid or false in proportion to the dexterity of the worker. There is a technique of life also, as well as of art, and the style of every section of society varies in accordance with its conditions; and the outcome of attempts to adopt a style belonging to one branch of society in a branch of society whose conditions of life are altogether different is a familiar form of what is called vulgarity. When we come to apply these considerations to music we find circumstances of the same nature. All music must in the nature of things be written to be performed by instruments or voices; and they all have their special idiosyncrasies. Organs have their special aptitudes and their special inaptitudes; and the music which is written for them, if it is to attain to any degree of artistic perfection, must be based upon a recognition of that fact."

Now there is only one branch of the organ repertoire which non-organist musicians regard as holding its own with that of any other instrument, and exhibiting a real individual instrumental style. This is the music of Bach and his contemporaries and predecessors. But in no case is the appropriateness of the particular instrument so important as it is with this music. Bach's style depends more on clarity of texture than on any other single factor. He thought of music in contrapuntal lines rather than in harmonic masses, and even in moments of climax every part is distinct and the texture has vitality. Bach's scoring for orchestra is quite different from that of later composers, precisely because their music does not depend for its effect only on the clarity with which interweaved melodies can be heard. Bach's orchestration is masterly because it achieves that clarity. His skill in writing for keyboard instruments is equally apparent when we hear his music on the instruments for which it was written. The complaint of the modern musician who loves his Bach but cannot understand why he wrote for the organ is invariably that he can never hear the movement of the parts when Bach is played on the modern organ. Here is just an example of what I mean-quoted from The Gramophone of August, 1950

"The past quarter has brought us a number of considerable works by Bach in forms which seem to me to call for comment. Chiefly, it is a case of Bach versus the modern organ. Ever since the invention of that hideous Minotaur, the great 19th century organ, executants like Rheinberger and Widor, intoxicated (it would seem) by the sheer weight of sound at their command, have poured out organ music in comparison with which Tchaikovsky's Finales are mere tinkling cymbals. That is all very well for those who like it, but when it comes to registering Bach in the same manner, we must protest that a serious misconception has taken place."

Now making all due allowance for the treatment of the modern organ by the particular performers in question, why do nearly all musicians talk of the organ in these terms? The very same critic that I have just quoted praised my first recordings of Bach at Steinkirchen primarily because he could follow every note of every part. And so with the other critics and other musicians who can be brought to listen to the organ. There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind that the reason for this attitude is very much more due to the instrument than to any merits in the performance. I hope for the rest of this evening to make this clear beyond doubt to anyone who can bring an impartial ear to bear on the matter.

The organ developed into a complete instrument very early in Germany. Organs of three manuals and pedals with 50 or 60 stops including Pedal departments from 32 ft. stops to Mixtures are found as far back as 1600. On each manual the stops were divided into two sections--narrow scaled stops described as male and wide scale described as female. The male stops comprised the main open chorus of unisons or quints, the female the corresponding numbers of the flute family; there were also reeds of both families. The power of every rank, Gedeckt, Principal (our Diapason) or reed, was practically identical, as indeed was the power of each individual chorus rank. The female family was essentially colouring material, and a great variety of sounds could be obtained from different combinations of these mutations. The organ built by Compenius for the Castle Chapel at
Frederiksborg Frederiksborg organ
Click to hear Carol Williams at the organ
in Denmark in 1616 is a good specimen of the early Baroque Organ. This has two manuals with the characteristic family flue groups on each manual and pedal. There are in addition a 16 ft. reed on what we should call the Great, 8 ft. and 4 ft. reeds on the Positiv, and 16 ft. and 4 ft. reeds on the Pedal.

The greatest builders of the late 17th and early i8th centuries-that is, of Bach's lifetime-were Arp Schnitger (1648-1718) and Gottfried Silbermann (1683-1753). Silbermann's organs are now mostly in the Russian zone of Germany. Schnitger worked mainly around Hamburg, which is still accessible. During the last two years I have been able to play on a number of these organs, and have done a great deal of recording on one of them. My remaining illustrations of the Baroque Organ will all be examples of his work. The organ, at Steinkirchen, a small village some 25 miles from Hamburg, is not one of Schnitger's largest organs, but it is a remarkably complete Baroque specification, and is one of the finest Baroque Organs left in Germany.

Schnitger began work on it in 1685 (the year Bach was born), and the church records disclose that he spent a whole year in the church voicing it. It was not finished till 1687. Cecil Clutton has a very comprehensive article on it in the January, 1951, issue of The Organ, so I shall not describe it in great detail. The Church is not large: about 100ft. long by some 40ft. wide, and approximately 50ft. high. It is reasonably resonant, but with not a trace of echo. The organ has two manuals and 28 stops, and is situated in a gallery at the west end. The Brustwerk, or second manual, is situated just in front of the organist's head; the Hauptwerk, or Great, is immediately above the Brustwerk; and the Pedal Organ is in two separate towers on either side. The old console and tracker action are still in use, and despite the fact that the compass of the pedals is only from C to D two octaves and two notes above, the straight pedal board is much wider than a modern English two-and-a-half octave pedal board, and I spent very many desperate hours learning how to make the necessary excursions required to reach its extremities. The stops stretch for a couple of yards on either side of the keyboard and are of immense size. Some come out straight, others describe an arc, and some have to he hooked down, or else they immediately go off again. Their names are painted in large white letters over each stop in a manner which makes it very difficult to remember whether to pull out the stop above or below the name. Virtually all stop changes have to be carried out by an assistant on each side. The specification is as follows:--

*Quintadena 16 †Gedact 8Principal 16
Principal 8 Rohrflöte 4Octav8
*Rohrflöte 8 ‡Quinta 22/3Octav4
*Octav 4 Spitzflote 2†Nachthorn2
*Nassat 22/3Octav2RauschpfeiffeII
*Octav 2 Tertzian II†MixturIV-V
Gemshorn 2 Scharff 111-VPosaune 16
Sesquialter II *Krumphorn 8Trompet 8
'Mixtur IV-V1Brustventil †Cornet2
†CimbelIII Pedalventil
Trompet 8 Manual compass 4 octaves CC-C3 (no CC# DD#
Tremuland FF# GG#) Pedal compass 2 octaves CCC-D
Werk ventil (no CCC# DDD#) 28 speaking stops ; 3 ventils
Manualkoppel 34 drawstops in all. All pipework on 21/2 in wind
§ Cimbelsternpressure. Tracker action throughout Pitch,
nearly one semitone sharp
*Stops partly by Dirk Hoyer, 1540.
†Stops by
Rudolf Von Beckerath
Rudolf Von Beckerath
1907 - 1976
German Organ Builder
Click Icon
, 1948.
‡Probably added in 1772.
§Two pairs of small bells, a major and minor third apart, attached to a wheel rotated by wind. At the same time, two golden stars in the case revolve. It is a charming effect and blends beautifully with a Christmas chorale prelude, at which season it was intended to be used. You will observe that the organ is little more nor less than three very complete flue choruses, in which the ranks are of equal power. The Brustwerk is only a little softer than the Hauptwerk, but slightly different in quality. On three-manual instruments the extra manual usually provides another chorus and more soft mutations, and there is a greater variety of reed stops of the regal or vox humana class. The pedal organ is so wonderfully matched for power that the player can draw any similar combination of stops on the two manuals and pedal, and the balance is exact. Perhaps most significant is the total absence of any nicking throughout the instrument. This gives a start to the note which corresponds exactly to the attack that you hear when someone plays the flute, or to the sound of the bow on the string, which gives drive and vitality to string playing. It certainly imparts to the sound of the organ a vitality that is entirely lacking in the actual speech of the modern instrument. It is this absence of bite which is entirely responsible for the over-fast organ playing one now hears, and for the ineffectiveness of all slow music of the Baroque period when played on the modern organ. The precise degree of difference it makes can be gauged from the fact that prior to my first visit to Steinkirchen 1 had always taken iz minutes to play the Bach Passacaglia. Yet my Steinkirchen recording lasts for 75 seconds under 15 minutes and has a much greater feeling of movement than any of my quicker performances. The Steinkirchen organ has a larger variety of colours than can be found on many modern instruments several times its size. Being unboxed, its stops of the female family have a clarity both in solo and accompaniment that is very bard to reproduce on modern instruments, and which has an expressiveness all its own, which the very gently vibrating tremulant enhances quite magically.

So much for the Baroque Organ as a part of history. The task of the modern organ builder, if the organ is ever again to become an instrument of real musical significance, is to build a synthesis of the Baroque and the Romantic. In this connection most remarkable work has been done in America by
G. Donald Harrison.
George Donald Harrison
1889 - 1956
Responsible for the design of some of the finest and largest pipe organs in the United States.
Click Icon
This is even more important in the long run, I think, than the Baroque revival movements in France and Germany. I am unfortunately not competent to speak of the organs built by the Hoitkamp firm in America, as I have so far been unable to play on them, a deficiency I hope to remedy later this year.

I think the trouble with our present instruments has been that organ builders, being naturally great craftsmen, have tended to think of the instrument first and the music afterwards-and not always even then. To many the classical organ literature is a completely closed book, and many later composers' mere names. The things that have been thought of are the excellence of the full swell or the strings or the Tubas. These are very desirable things, but are the trimmings of the complete organ. The result is that nearly all modern organs are a medley of remarkable sounds, in many cases excellent in themselves, but devoid of any specific musical purpose. So that it is impossible to give a completely satisfactory performance of hardly any music. Consider just one example-the
Albert Hall organ.
It has many superlative sounds. Yet for all its vast size, the disparity in the relative dynamics of its various flue choruses renders it impossible to give an adequate performance of any major work by Bach, leaving aside entirely the question of the colours of those choruses: neither is there any real balance between the pedal and manual flue choruses. Indeed, in view of the extraordinary disparity in their sizes, no pedal organ, however large, could hope to be adequate for this purpose. Moreover, this organ is entirely devoid of any solo mutations, which, however fine the quality of the reeds, remain the only entirely characteristic source of colour on the organ.

Compare this instrument with G. Donald Harrison's astounding new organ at the
Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City.
Æolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Massachusetts, was engaged in 1945 to rebuild the Tabernacle organ. Except for the case with its ten original speaking façade pipes, two additional ranks of Ridges’s original pipework, and a modest number of pipes from previous rebuilds, the organ was entirely new. The instrument was completed at the close of 1948, under direct supervision of Æolian-Skinner’s president and tonal director, G. Donald Harrison, and was dedicated in January of the following year.
Click Icon
I spent hours at this instrument, and it is my considered opinion that it is quite the most remarkable organ in existence. It has magnificent flue choruses of every kind; Great, Positiv, Swell, Choir, Bombarde and Pedal are all interrelated with a specific purpose in mind. There is even an antiphonal flue chorus. The variety of reed tone is no less remarkable. The Swell family extends from 32 ft. to 4 ft. pitch including a quint Trompet of 51/3 ft. The Pedal has such a variety of registers that it is able to provide an independent bass for any manual combination in the organ. In addition to a very comprehensive Solo Organ, there is an unenclosed Bombarde Organ which has both a flue and reed chorus which crown the instrument with a blaze of transparent tone that I have never heard anywhere else. If I also add that among its many flutes, strings and soft reed registers there are not two stops alike, it gives only the slightest impression of an overwhelming achievement. This organ is an illustration of what a great artist can achieve when the music is all-important and money no object. Of all the hundreds of large and small organs designed and built by Mr. Harrison in the last twenty years, the many I have seen and played are instruments that could only be created by someone who knew and understood thoroughly the organ repertoire-classical, romantic, and modern. Such a builder begins with his Baroque Great, Positiv and Pedal, and works outwards from here, taking in the romantic accessories and welding them into a consistent whole. Concluding a booklet describing a few characteristic instruments, Donald Harrison writes : "The concepts of their creation are inevitably tied together by one precious thread-a regard for the music." To this there is nothing I can add, except to record the fact that great instruments of any kind have never been built unless this was the first and last thought of their makers-and they never will!


THE PRESIDENT: We have listened to a remarkable lecture on a subject about which there has been much confusion, and Mr. Geraint Jones' contribution and erudition has been of great value. I hope organ builders are becoming less insular and are realising that in going back and critically examining the works of the masters of the past, much can be learned about the correct tonality and the balance as between the departments of the organ.

We should not merely copy, but need to understand and, in adopting, in a suitable and sympathetic way, blend with modern English organ tone. We should better appreciate that interpretation is influenced by the resources available as well by the art of the player.

REGINALD WALKER: I had an opportunity to study this trend when visiting the U.S.A. in 1937. Then the outstanding examples were in large resonant churches, with organs in open gallery positions, and one questioned how this treatment would work out for normal congregational service playing in ordinary English Parish Church conditions; certainly the normal English Swell Organ would be needed, besides the large scaled, tapered tin metal and chimneyed pipes on very low wind, which appeared to be the stock-in-trade of those advanced designers. To understand it and blend it into our English tradition is surely the way we should go.

A Visitor: As an old organist, and familiar with Lübeck and many instruments in Holland, I cannot voice the enthusiasm that some express for these old styles and called" Baroque." The glossary of such terms gives its means as " a rough pearl." Do we need " rough pearls " when we have the examples of the great and refined works of our master builders to live up to?

HERBERT NORMAN: The glossary may define "Baroque" as a "rough pearl," but I believe the accepted architectural meaning is more appropriate, for there, the classical outline and structure of pillar and arch is retained but is freely decorated and made excitingly interesting. In the best examples of the incorporation of these good things in the modern organ, that is exactly what is happening. A little study of any good example of this early work will bring with it the realisation of the annihilating effect of the common swell box on subtle tone colours and particularly those qualities that achieve musical tonal cohesion. I have enjoyed our distinguished speaker's contribution to this important subject and believe it will have set going a train of thought and interest that must have an appreciable and significant effect on future organ design in this country.

Response :- HENRY WILLIS,President Incorporated Society of Organ Builders

Following the informative talk given by Mr. Geraint Jones on this subject I give my own view.

The position is, as I see it, as follows.

After the 1914-1918 War there was a strong movement in Germany to return to organs of what was called the Baroque type (but a misnomer as the period to which reversion was indicated was the 16th and 17th centuries.) This so-called Baroque revival in Germany, which I studied and contacted closely, was very far from being a true revival. All sorts of exaggeration took place, chiefly by the direction of State appointed "experts," with lamentable results.

At the same time a similar revival, but on quite distinct lines, commenced in France, largely due to the influence of Schweitzer, the ideal being" back to Cliquot" (17th century and therefore also pre-Baroque). This French movement was fostered by the organisation known as" Les Amis de l'Orgue," (The Friends of the Organ) whose chief aim seems to be the " back to Methuselah."

The argument of the French and German schools is that later developments have destroyed the purity, clarity of tone, and the tonal balance of the earlier 16th and 17th instruments, so much so that the works of Bach and the pre-Bach period cannot be rendered properly on modern instruments, the criticisms being directed against the unbalanced provision and use of heavy pressure reeds, foundational Diapasons, strident Mixtures, and so forth.

Unfortunately there is much that is cogent in the arguments of these reactionaries.

Following the superb developments of
Cavaillé-Coll Cavaillé-Coll
4th Feb 1811 – 13th Oct 1899
French organ builder.
Click Icon
in France and here in the 19th century, there began a period in England, in the late 1880's, in favour of ponderous Diapasons, smooth heavy pressure chorus reeds, diminution of upper work, etc., which culminated in the '90's with the designs carried out by
Hope-Jones.Robert Hope Jones
Robert Hope Jones
9th Feb 1859 – 13th Sep 1914
Developed the 'Unit Orchestra (Wurlitzer)'Click Icon
This dreadful period had a bad effect on most English Organ Builders and Organists, and this effect has not disappeared but has, indeed, become to some extent standardised: together with this has been the influence of manual extension accepted, and indeed endorsed, by nine organists out of ten; " a moderate and reasonable use does no harm and renders an organ more flexible, expressive and effective ", etc.

"Effect "is, in most quarters, the key-word to-day--the method employed mattering little.

You will find to-day a very close similarity in the productions of some well-known English Organ Builders which in effect might all come out of the same box. In August, 1950, I attended recitals on four notable instruments in the North Midlands; these organs, each based on older instruments of an earlier period, all sounded as brothers working up to the same climax with well-nigh identical effect, full organ being capped by smooth chorus reeds and tubas.

No wonder, then, that a strong reaction is showing itself, especially among the younger school who appreciate the need for clarity and free harmonic developments together with a real ensemble. Hence research and interest in organs of the 16th and 17th century, German-Silbermann, Snitzger, etc., French-Cliquot and his period, because these enthusiasts do not appreciate that a middle course exists.

Many years ago, following extensive and intensive travel, chiefly in France and Germany, I realised that we had forgotten many of the beautiful ensembles and uses presented by the older instruments and endeavoured to reintroduce, as a beginning, the flute mutations and other characteristic stops of the best examples of 15th, 16th and 17th centuries: this movement met with much opposition from organists in consultation, and efforts-chiefly in the direction of the revival of the Positif as a homogeneous ensemble in place of the so-called Victorian Choir Organ-were only too frequently not acceptable. Flute mutations I was able to introduce, and I well remember the interest aroused in that connection by the rebuild of Farm Street Church Organ, Mayfair, in 1926.

All "progressive" organ builders now introduce mutations in their design for choir organs, but often utilising not only incorrect tonalities, but even worse-extended units from which mutations are derived! Hence in so many quarters choir mutations are frowned upon as well-nigh useless toys or else condemned as having value only in synthesis-as if the only use for mutations was to build up synthetic Clarinets, Orchestral Oboes, Cor Anglais, and Mixtures! Nothing could be further from the truth.

The purist tends, therefore, to think that there is no alternative but a complete reversion to 17th century technique in scaling, voicing, and wind pressures including either complete non-enclosure or, grudgingly, that of the swell organ only.

An article appeared in the Sunday Times some months ago enthusiastically in favour of the "Baroque revival," and I subscribe to certain of the opinions expressed in the article.

"…. In England . . . . substituted a lack-lustre heaviness or metallic shrillness for the silver clarity ", etc. A mistaken idea that increased wind pressures and the multiplication of unison sounding stops would better enable it to support the singing of a large congregation overlooked " etc.-in most cases only too true.

But the mistake that protagonists of the Baroque revival overlook is that the complete reversion they so earnestly desire would throw to the winds the developments that took place in, chiefly, France and England in the 19th century.

Heavier pressures, for example, have their uses, used with discretion and in accordance with the requirements of great concert halls, churches and cathedrals. Large instruments can well, and with value, incorporate the beautiful solo voices developed in the past hundred years which is so patronisingly referred to as the CC romantic period."

As I have been endeavouring to preach for the past thirty years, the best features of all periods should be brought together and used correctly in the modern organ. The extreme Baroque " fans do not consider this possible, or, it seems, desirable: "all or nothing" is the cry of these earnest people who apparently have no desire to hear or to appreciate any organ music of the post-Bach period (except perhaps some of the wilder effusions of ultra-modern Austrian, Czech, Swedish, Dutch, Belgium, and selected French composers).

In 1948 an article appeared in The Organ extolling the merits of the old Cliquot organ at St. Merri, Paris, as restored and enlarged. I went over to hear it and have never been more disappointed in my life. Many mild tonalities of real charm capped by chorus reeds of excruciating harshness-but all being on low pressure and ideal, therefore, in the ears of reactionaries both in France and over here.

Low wind pressure is a fetish among our Baroque friends who, having little or no practical knowledge, are not aware that the effective wind pressure of a pipe is that when the wind is about to pass through the flue and not the pressure entering the pipe-foot which is an expansion and reducing chamber.

Another chimera is the "no nicking" cult-just as if some marvellous tonality was achieved by reticence in the manner named: "nicking" is an invaluable aid to the voicer enabling him to use the edge-tones of the languard and lower lip in exact proportion to the tonal characteristic of the pipe and stop he is handling-to under-nick or not to nick at all is inviting the presence of undesirable chipping and lisping in speech, also irregularity in tonal production from one pipe to another-this can be noted in many modern productions in the Baroque style giving an effect that cannot be considered to be acceptable to the critical ear.

It is true that the use of very low wind-pressure reduces the necessity for nicking to a minimum and with appropriate treatment of the upper-lip can be absent-but the leading French and German organ builders of the so-called Baroque period knew this and worked in an appropriate manner.

To conclude, what we want in this country are not instruments capable only of rendering organ music of the Bach and pre-Bach era, but that of every period, and to that end we should-indeed must-include the charm of early periods with the developments of later days, all used in correct perspective and balance-it can be done.

Even the "back to Baroque" clan do not advocate discarding the perfection obtained by modern mechanisms and systems of control-so why, logically, should they shudder at the correct conservative and reserved use of modern tonal developments used in the right way?

From evil good may come, and if the arguments of our Baroque friends induce English organists and organ builders to think, then the art of organ building will rise to greater heights than ever before.

A late addition to the journal from W. A. F.
BRODIE, William Auld Fergusson Brodie
Director of Hill, Norman & Beard
Victoria, Australia.
, F.I.S.O.B. (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) in July 1952

You may be able perhaps to grant space for the views of an Antipodean organ builder on a very vexed subject.

I feel that Mr. Jones and those whose remarks are published in the last journal missed a highly important point. It is probably true to say that ninety-five organs cut of a hundred are built for churches, and if that is so we are compelled to examine their function in that light. It seems to me axiomatic that the prime purpose of the church organ is the leading and accompaniment of public worship. To this might be added the embellishment of the service by means of opening and closing voluntaries, offertories and occasional improvisations.

Organ recitals do seem to be out of public favour, but I doubt if the solution is that propounded by the lecturer. There are many organists who are a delight to listen to at any time, but there are, alas, a large number who are not. The public therefore prefer other forms of music making where skill and virtuosity are more or less equal to that heard on the radio or gramophone record. in this country performers like
Marcel Dupré Marcel Dupré organist
Marcel Jean Jules Dupré
3rd May 1886 – 30th May 1971
A pupil of Alexandre Guilmant & Louis Vierne
. and Dr. Thalben Ball did very well. That the average organist does not do so well can hardly be blamed on Max Reger or Widor, on Willis, Walker or Hill Norman and Beard.

We have all heard Bach played superlatively well on the modern organ, although I grant that the true flavour of the period could better be recaptured on eighteenth century pipework. But is it the organ builder's duty to design only in terms of Bach and his predecessors? Must we ignore, for example,
Vaughan Williams'
Ralph Vaughan Williams
1872 - 1958
English composer. His works include operas, ballets, chamber music, secular and religious vocal pieces and orchestral compositions including nine symphonies
Click Icon
Te Deum You Tube
The National Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate The Diamond Jubilee Of Her Majesty The Queen St Paul's Cathedral, Tuesday 5th June 2012

Click Icon
and other great works and services that demand more than two inch pressure and voicing that in my view is often primitive and obsolete? If an organist (such a one as quoted in the extract from The Gramophone) registers Bach wrongly on a modern organ then he makes poor use of the pipework at his command. In the quotation is not "registering" the operative word?

The organs we build are, in the main, dedicated to public worship. All else depends entirely on the financial state of the church body concerned, and if the utilitarian specification is first provided then we can add Bombarde sections and Baroque sections. That Mr. Jones acknowledges the power of finance is borne out in his description of Donald Harrison's work at Salt Lake City. I quote: "This organ is an illustration of what a great artist can achieve when the music is all important and money no object " (my italics).

Undoubtedly, as Mr. Willis suggests in other words, the plum pudding school is largely to blame for the reaction which had to come sooner or later, but to suggest that one school of craftsmanship and one period in history had the whole truth and nothing but the truth is perhaps putting too fine a point on it.

There is still much to learn. The alternative is stagnation. The Baroque revival will certainly contribute its quota of ideas to the organ of the future, but most organ builders and, I imagine, organists will agree that well informed eclecticism guided by the highest artistic principles is a pretty fair ideal to follow. The names and examples of Schnitger and Silbermann will continue to take their rightful place alongside those of other great artists of the past including some eminent Victorians-no more and no less. I am personally most grateful to Mr. Geraint Jones for the skill and obvious enthusiasm with which he presented his case. We can learn from it even if we do not go all the way with him.

Extract from :- Journal of the Incorporated Society of Organ Builders.