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Thread: Registration issues - informed opinions please

  1. #1
    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
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    Registration issues - informed opinions please

    I would like to hear if anyone has any informed, professional, sensible suggestions/opinions as to when and, more importantly, why it would be necessary to use every single 8' rank (excluding reeds) on every manual of the organ, with all manuals coupled, for accompanying congregational hymns.

    Our cathedral director of music has issued an edict (no doubt in response to my carefully reasoned arguement as to why I and thousands of other church organists find 8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8,4,2 registrations somewhat inept for accompanying) insisting that we must use all 8ft ranks (INCLUDING Celestes!) so that the males of the congregation can hear it "in their range." Yes, I'm possibly overreacting but I've been doing this for over 20 years and it grates on me being told to do things in a completely opposite way and furthermore, in a manner that experience and history demonstrates simply does not work.

    Discussions please (for those who can be bothered )
    Music is made to transform the states of the soul, for an hour or an instant (J. Alain)

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hi Soubasse,

    I had a pastor years ago who insisted that I transpose every hymn down a 5th so that he could sing them. I refused, which didn't settle to well. Things got worse until one day he and I had a casual chat about this ... I concluded, "tell you what ... we're both highly educated people in our own fields ... I don't tell you how to preach, you don't tell me how to play the organ!" Problem solved.

    As you know, using Celeste's in a full ensemble is a complete no-no. Issuing "edicts" to the organist limiting you on registrations is also a huge no-no. Actually, it's the higher pitches that enable people in the congregation to "hear" their notes ... whenever my choir is starting to sing flat during an anthem, I add a light 4' or 2' to the mix, and that brings them right back on pitch. Same is true for congregations, which you already know.

    I have to ask ... is this "director" paying your salary, or is the church/diocese? I'm wondering what would happen during the service if you ignored his edict?

    Hopefully there is a higher authority that you can go to ... possibly the Australian equivalent of the American Guild of Organists ... (The Australian Organists Guild?) can be of help here, too.
    Kh ~~.
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  3. #3
    Commodore con Forza
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    Does that music director play the organ? If not, I'd tell him to go fry fish.

    Depending on the organ in question, using "all the 8s" could either be not much or break everybody's eardrums, especially with manuals coupled.

    Using celestes on full organ? Give me a break. Maybe they would be drowned out.

    Transposing down a fifth to please one individual? That's quite a drop. I've seen some newer hymnals that do lower the key by a bit, but not a fifth. (I saw one in which "Draw Me Nearer" was lowered from A-flat to G, but that's only a half-tone.)

    All in all, if the church staff doesn't give the organist room to maneuver on his/her own, ask the objectors to get up there and play BWV 565. That should shut them up.

  4. #4
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
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    I go by the old rule" to many 8' make for mud :" as one teacher of mine used to say as well as lending to going flat.. Lars is so right adding the 4',2' etc lets the ear hear the pitch clearer.. kinda like play a single note verses playing an octive... you hear the octive sound clearer. I personaly like 8'foundations,4',2' and a mixture.. which gives fullness as well as give sufficient overtones to let the congregation feel free to sing. Just my opinion.
    Last edited by wljmrbill; Jun-16-2010 at 00:29.
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
    - Jean Langlais

    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.

    Bill

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    Rear Admiral Appassionata (Ret) Ghekorg7 (Ret)'s Avatar
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    Hallo Soubasse !
    I'm 100% with you on this.
    Although I never played with church choirs and accompanied congregational hymns(Orthodox Church...), I did with other style choirs, many many singers and small backing vocals personnel , live and in the studio, for years.
    The resolution is the same. All had the same tendency of "in their range" thing. Whatever keyboard I used(piano/hammond/synthesizers) allways the "in Head" person and individual singers wanted me to set a sound/a patch/a layer closely to an 8' stop of a pipe organ : playin' in the middle and closely to what they sang. let say strings : in middle cello/low viola range, Hammond : not loud please get 8/4 and 50% of 2 2/3.., Pad ; the darkest possible, piano : middle c (8') to bass...

    This was wrong of course, breakin' basic harmonisation/orchestration rules
    and the result was a "foggy" outcome so the listener couldn't understand the voices ect. Also that gave sound engineers hard times to assemble the mess, often not succiding to....

    So, "I break left" and started to add high frequencies to my sounds , reaching 1' (bells to string/horn section and a 2' flute), or playin' one or two octaves higher and suddently all went smooth, singers/chorus in tune, master mix OK.

    I had help, in my hardest times, from an Irish engineer named McNamara. He was 100% on my side and as the "in Head" person wanted him exclusively, he submitted to my side.
    Maybe you must find a crazy Irishman to back you up ?!!

    Tell you what? Make copy of all these posts here from your friends, we are all profies anyway, and show them to the "in Head" person of yours, to make him see he's completely wrong and you know exactly, precisely and perfectly what you're doin' with your Organ

    I hope I helped a little in your nerve breakin' situation..
    Cheers to you
    Panos
    *It's like a fight with women, which always ends in .... bed.*
    F.Kafka, Aphorisms.

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    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soubasse View Post
    Discussions please (for those who can be bothered )
    Soubasse - obviously your cathedral music director is a dullard. Have you considered looking for another posting?

    I play hymns for the college from time to time and I use only three stops on my College organ: Great Open Diapason 8' Principal 4' and Super Octave 2' and Octave Quint 2-2/3. Pedal Open Bass 16' and Bass Flute 8'

    I set the swell to something gentler, Geigen Principal 8' and Geigen Principal 4' plus the oboe and have it fully open.

    Sometimes for the second to last verse I turn off the 2' and the qunit if I can snatch at them quickly enough without spooking myself and loosing my place.

    Because my organ has no presets, except for some dodgy ones operated by the left foot, I keep it pretty simple.

    See here for my work place organ (a little gem) http://sydneyorgan.com/PLC.html
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  7. #7
    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
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    Gentlemen (and anyone who perhaps isn't because I'm starting to feel less than gentlemanly), I thank you all for your responses so far, because I thought I must have been going mad or just being too oversensitive. I have of course, complained about this person before on this forum (yes, a little risky I'm aware but I do really need some feedback from international folk in order to make a point) and what is really getting on my nerves is that fact that he is clearly not prepared to listen to anybody else outside of himself and his own very limited field of experience.

    I have been playing at this building for over 20 years and I like to think that just on that fact alone, I would be qualified enough to know what works here. But no, someone else thinks they know far better. I've always used - as any sensible organist would - a standard plenum for hymns, reducing slightly during inner verses and coming back to plenum (sometimes with soft 16s and reeds) for the final verse, unless the text suggests otherwise (eg, final verse of "Dear Lord and Father of mankind" - no good blasting away with full organ on the lines "O still small voice of calm" !!).
    wljmrbill, you also made exactly the same point I did when I wrote to him last week in regard to the higher pitched ranks aiding in keeping the pitch up.

    Krummhorn, in answer to your question, this individual is working under the guise of a businessn that is independent of the diocese and as such receives funds from the parish which he then passes onto us as our "pay" (after we issue an invoice each week). He has also been somewhat tardy in honouring payments, and my suspicion is that he lets the money sit in a high interest for as long as possible to generate the extra interest before he passes it onto us.

    I have resolved to finally write a letter addressing these issues to a higher authority. I'm not 100% convinced it will yield much, but I think it's important that some of these folk need to be made aware that their musicians are singularly displeased with the way things are going and that, from a broader point of view, the cathedral itself is in danger of becoming a laughing stock (from a mucial point of view).

    EDIT: CT64, you posted before I'd finished, yes I have looked for other posts but sadly in a city ... village the size of Adelaide, all the decent ones are taken and the incumbents are not letting go of them in a hurry. I am playing a smaller church once every 1 - 2 months. It's a smaller instrument but it's a major relief to (a) play real pipes and (b) be able to use whichever stops I damn well like! I'm actually playing there this Sunday which will be a welcome escape from this rubbish for a bit, and since this Sunday (June 20) is the 70th anniversary of the death of Jehan Alain, I'll be joyously blazing away with Litanies for the postlude - even better!)
    Last edited by Soubasse; Jun-16-2010 at 01:37.
    Music is made to transform the states of the soul, for an hour or an instant (J. Alain)

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
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    CT64... What a delightful instrument. Great looking installation. Is that a fasade or voiced pipes. Beautiful chapel. You are very lucky to have access to this instrument. Thanks for link.
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
    - Jean Langlais

    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.

    Bill

  9. #9
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wljmrbill View Post
    CT64... What a delightful instrument. Great looking installation. Is that a fasade or voiced pipes. Beautiful chapel. You are very lucky to have access to this instrument. Thanks for link.
    If you look http://www.magle.dk/music-forums/110...ipe-organ.html you'll find my College organ played, sadly the recording doesn't show off the beautiful gentle stops.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soubasse View Post
    . . . Krummhorn, in answer to your question, this individual is working under the guise of a businessn that is independent of the diocese and as such receives funds from the parish which he then passes onto us as our "pay" (after we issue an invoice each week). He has also been somewhat tardy in honouring payments, and my suspicion is that he lets the money sit in a high interest for as long as possible to generate the extra interest before he passes it onto us.
    Hoo boy! What a horrid predicament that has to be ... and to be late on payments, to boot.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soubasse
    I have resolved to finally write a letter addressing these issues to a higher authority. I'm not 100% convinced it will yield much, but I think it's important that some of these folk need to be made aware that their musicians are singularly displeased with the way things are going and that, from a broader point of view, the cathedral itself is in danger of becoming a laughing stock (from a mucial point of view).
    Good luck with that ... I hope you will share any outcome with us here, that is if you hear anything back. Your 20 years at this location should certainly speak for itself ... you've apparently been doing alright until this cretin showed up.
    Kh ~~.
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    Amateur musicians practice until they get it right ...
    Pro
    fessional musicians practice until they can't get it wrong ...


  11. #11
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    yeah - I second Lars' comment, Soubasse - good luck, and if all fails call in an exorcist.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Rear Admiral Appassionata (Ret) Ghekorg7 (Ret)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contratrombone64 View Post
    yeah - I second Lars' comment, Soubasse - good luck, and if all fails call in an exorcist.
    .....witch must be from Ireland !

    You gonna win this, anyway, Soubasse.
    *It's like a fight with women, which always ends in .... bed.*
    F.Kafka, Aphorisms.

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    Captain of Water Music jvhldb's Avatar
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    We had a similar problem in our church last year when our organist was told the congregation can't sing because she is playing to loud (after using the same registrations for 3+ years???). 6 Months later, with half the congregation still attending sevices at another church in town she was given her licence back to play as loud as she likes and the pews are starting to fill again on Sundays.

    Fotunatately as student I was spared the trouble she had. I simply told them I can't cope with the sound delay in the church unless the organ drowns out the delay from the the floor. The funny thing was that when I played with every stop pulled I couldn't hear the organ anymore, the congregation was simply singing to loud, but the Powers That Be never seem to notice the differance.
    Johan van Heerden

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    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghekorg7 View Post
    You gonna win this, anyway, Soubasse.

    Bumping this thread basically to respond to this post.

    I've lost. The individual in question has dissmissed me. 22+ years of loyal, unswerving and professional service to this cathedral, and now I'm thrown out like trash.
    Music is made to transform the states of the soul, for an hour or an instant (J. Alain)

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    Captain of Water Music
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    Too bad some (poorly) "informed" individuals can get their stupid ideas through only because they have the money or power to. The reasoning presented above is simply outrageous.

    Blindly adding 8' stops will never achieve that the males hear the hymn in their range better. The male voice is one octave lower than the female so playing the hymn "solo style" in the tenor with suitable registrations (many times reeds work well) will be much more effective.

    Different ways of playing the hymns, lifting the hymn melody out on different manuals with different settings are anyway, in my opinion, much better ways of creating changes in the sound output than registration changes on only one manual. Alternating solo in the soprano and tenor works best for a simple dialogue effect that gives nice variation, yet a clear melody against the accompaniment.

    I feel for you in such a situation! Best advice is to use your talents where they are appreciated and look for other opportunities.

    Kind regards

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