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Thread: Casavant organs

  1. #1
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Casavant organs

    Ok, I`m venturing into an area I know very little about, but I was just wondering if anyone has played a Casavant organ? Or listened to one? And if so, what were your thoughts about it?

    Here is a picture (and info) from wikipedia of the one at Notre-Dame basilica in Montreal- ain`t it purdy? More importantly, sounds pretty awesome imo as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casavant_Fr%C3%A8res
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  2. #2
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Hello Ms. Rojo,

    I have played the lovely Casavant at the Basilica Notre-Dame du Cap:

    http://www.casavant.ca/new_temp/angl...ges/2679-a.jpg

    It and the humongous Casavant in Forth Wort, Texas are my two favorite instruments made by Casavant. Here's a couple of pictures and tech. info about that instrument:

    http://www.casavant.ca/new_temp/angl.../PDFs/3750.pdf

    They are of generally high quality and of sound voicing and scaling techniques. A goodly number of their instruments were made during the tenure of Mr. Phelps. During that time, many of them were, ahem, what I would call *shriek-boxes*.

    It was a time when the *orgelbewegung* craze swept through many organ building firms where once one had a good and solid romantic tradition, which was unceremoniously cast aside in favor of organs that would best mimic the instruments of Bach's time. Needless to say, it was a disaster - why throw away something that works?!?

    I'm not knocking those who have a concept of Baroque/Classical organ building tradition and are able to successfully build in that genre. My concern is when an established tradition in organ building is suddenly abandoned by builder x in order to adapt to the latest craze. Builders seem to have now settled down and again taken up the tradition that they know best and proceed from there to refine their instruments and technical knowhow.

    I have probably ruffled some feathers now with this post and so have therefore donned my fire-proof Nomex suit - Flame away those who must

    Anyhoo, I hope that I have helped you somewhat Ms. Rojo. Organ Building and Organ Playing is a high art, if not the highest art granted by the Almighty.

    Cheers,

    Giovanni

  3. #3
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Hi Ms. Rojo,

    Here's a short sound file of my favorite instrument as pictured as represented by my screen avatar:

    http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/c...rovisation.mp3

    It is a magnificent *Machine* - not the largest instrument ever built but the best.

    Here's a website of this most magnificent *machine*:

    http://www.stsulpice.com/index.html

    Cheers,

    Giovanni
    Last edited by giovannimusica; Jun-19-2006 at 08:51.

  4. #4
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Hi gio, you feather-ruffler, you!

    Thanks for all that; that excerpt does indeed sound impressive. Nice pics too. Good to hear your opinions.

    I recently learned that the organ in the church in the neighborhood where I grew up is a Casavant as well (Montreal West Presbyterian Church) but unfortunately they don`t seem to have a website, and I couldn`t find any info on the net about it. I`ve never played it (nor any organ for that matter) but it sounds pretty good. One thing I do know is that the organ is indeed a magnificent instrument!
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  5. #5
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Hello RoJo,

    Methinks you can find out about the instrument at the Church in the neighborhood where you grew up by emailing the Casavant firm. They are quite friendly and very helpful in regards to inquiries about their oeuvre.

    Cheers,

    Giovanni

  6. #6
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Thanks gio; actually it was just so I could post some links or pics here. I don`t really have any specific questions about it. Now, if I had a digital camera...
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  7. #7
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    I agree with Giovanni that the earlier Casavants tended to be very nice. There is a fabulous one in Montreal at the church of St. John the Baptist. I was always a great admirer of Bernard Lagace, an organist from Montreal, and I had a few lessons with him years ago (in Montreal.) His wife recorded at St. John the Baptist years ago and the record was gorgeous! I heard the organ in person, but not demonstrated well.

    I also agree that many Casavants in the "NEO" Baroque style were not too attractive. However, organs that scream like that are not even close to what a real German Baroque organ sounds like. That being said, I learned early organ technique on a Casavant tracker in Scranton, Pennsylvania. This one was designed by Brunzema, and it is a very successful and beautiful example in German Baroque style. It does not scream at all and is quite beautiful in character. But I would say that except for a few instruments like this, organs in Baroque style were not Casavant's forte. I have played one large Casavant in a more modern ecclectic style which I liked. I also might tell you that I worked for a few years with someone who at one time voiced organs for Casavant, and now works for Fisk, so I have seen a number of Casavants in the Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York areas. There's a gorgeous Casavant in Queens, NY designed and voiced in French Romantic style--not a very large instrument, but very nicely voiced.
    Last edited by Thomas Dressler; Jul-10-2006 at 06:00.

  8. #8
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Thanks for your input, Thomas. I`m trying to remember whether I`ve been to that church. In any case, there is a discography link on this site that I`m going to check out shortly, for fun. Hooray internet.

    http://www.uquebec.ca/musique/orgues...baptistem.html

    It`s odd- there seem to be tons of Casavants in existance, but very few posts about them here. Well, there`s one now! (Well, two, actually. I did a search and there`s one other post where Casavant was mentioned.)

    Is it safe to say that while some organs may sound similar, each one has it`s own distinct sound? And if so, is that due to a certain extent from the acoustics of the environment? Or more from the actual construction- pipes etc. (As you can tell, I`m fairly ignorant on the topic.)

    Funny, I remember as a child being pretty scared by the sound of the organ. Luckily that`s not the case now.
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  9. #9
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Ok, I don`t want to waste ppl`s time, organ sound is obviously a large subject, (started reading some of the threads here) so I`ll read up on this matter before asking any more questions that make me appear to be a complete noob on the subject.
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  10. #10
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Hello Ms. RoJo,

    Please don't feel that you're a noob in regards to your questions about Pipe Organs. All organists have been there before when they first expressed interest about the Czar of instruments. Remember, you have MIMF colleagues like Thom Dressler, Fredrik Magle, myself and a few others who would be more than happy to help you in regards to the instrument.

    Also, since you have disciplined yourself in the art of piano playing, you won't have such a tough time in your quest to learn how to play the organ - yes, you'll be learning how to coordinate your feet and hands when playing - thats when the real fun begins.

    Seriously, I got such a great kick out of learning to play the pedalboard. At that point I envisioned myself as both conductor and player of every instrument in the Orchestra. Its great fun, I tell ya. Don't let anyone discourage or disparage you.

    Cheers,

    Giovanni

  11. #11
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Hiya gio,

    Tbh, I was really just bringing up the topic out of interest from a listening standpoint. I can`t actually envisage learning how to play the organ any time soon, I have my hands pretty much full keeping up my piano playing. Seriously, there are so many piano works I`d like to learn; I`ve got a huge stack of stuff...

    Well, maybe someday; I`d like to at least see what it`s like to play the organ. But then, I`m pretty sure I would get hooked...

    Thanks for your words of encouragement, gio
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  12. #12
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Hey Rojo, you don't look like a noob at all--those are good questions.

    I don't have a lot of time right now--getting ready to go play for the Organ Historical Society convention in upstate NY next week. (I'll be about half of the way to Montreal!) I won't be able to get on a computer, I think, until later in the week, but I'll just say a few quick things now.

    Yes, all organs are different. Even if they were designed exactly the same way, they would sound different in different rooms. A good instrument is designed with a particular tonal concept (loosely, German and French and Italian Baroque instruments all are different, as are German, French, American Romantic instruments, etc) and then the designed is refined and customized to work in that particular room. There are many considerations that go into designing a good pipe organ and it is a fascinating subject. Perhaps after next week I could go into more details on this. But major tonal differences come from the size and shape of the pipes, the material they're made from, the way the pipe mouths are designed and constructed, the wind pressure, the type of winding system (modern or old fashioned hand pumped--big differences), and somewhat by the type of action and windchest design. All of these things need to be decided upon and carefully worked out before any construction begins.

    Gotta run, but I hope this whets your appetite!

  13. #13
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Again Brother Thomas Dressler makes eminent sense about what goes into building the Czar of Instruments. Thank you for being such an excellent resource-person on MIMF.

    Cheers,

    Giovanni

  14. #14
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    My goodness, those are a lot of factors! How in the heck do they manage to get the thing to sound the way they want it to? I assume they do a huge amount of technical preparation beforehand. When I was at uni I had a few classes that were somewhat related to this subject- acoustics, and physics of sound etc. I guess I`ve always been more interested in the music itself, but it`s interesting to know a little about how instruments are made, and what happens to the sound; after all, one can`t have one without the other!

    Thanks for your info, Thomas!
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  15. #15
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Hello Ms. RoJo,

    Here' are two books which will guide you through what goes into building the Czar of Instruments:

    http://ohscatalog.stores.yahoo.net/audartofor.html

    McGill Uni Library has it - your local public library can fish it up for you.

    Enjoy reading it...


    Cheers,

    Giovanni

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