Taylor & Boody at Virginia Theological Seminary
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
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  • An excellent advertisement!
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,852
    I often wonder when Episcopal churches install non-English type instruments instead of organs that play the great English collection of choral literature well. I didn't say it was a bad instrument, just seemingly an odd match to that denomination.
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  • Valid observation, Charles.

    English styled instruments are wonderful for liturgy and choral work. Indeed, it is excruciating trying to play English choral literature and hymnody on, say, a Fisk (which I have done). Still and all, I should rather (myself) (if it had to be either or) rather do that than to try the likes of de Grigny, Titelouze, etc., on an English organ. I do think, though, that one can get both aestheses in one well designed instrument. An organ without a full swell and a great built on 16' pitch is, to me, not a complete instrument. Nor, I hasten swiftly to add, do I suggest that if one cannot afford such a complete instrument that he or she should, then, do without - far from it: smaller instruments do have their own beauties.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,852
    An organ without a full swell and a great built on 16' pitch is, to me, not a complete instrument


    Agreed. In our recent console rebuild, I noted that there were no 16' stops on the manuals. They were all pedal stops. I had the technicians make at least one playable on the manuals. It has made playing some of the French literature that was never written for pedals much more practical to play.
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  • doneill
    Posts: 161
    (1) I doubt that Virginia seminary does much choral music that requires that "English" sound you are e taking about.
    (2) the 19th-20th c. Anglican choral/organ tradition is not representative of the entire history of the Anglican tradition, some of which would be more at home on this organ than on many so-called English organs.
    (3) Who's to say it does not have some English inspiration? For goodness sake, the Great principal is called an Open Diapason. T&B doesn't just build north German style organs. Witness their large Willis-inspired organ with two enclosed divisions and orchestral solo stops at Grace Church in New York.
  • doneill
    Posts: 161
    Regarding Fisk: their new organ at the cathedral in Raleigh will be Willis-inspired, so saying it's challenging to play Anglican choral music on "a Fisk" is a generalization not fair to Fisk. I don't doubt that the specific organ was a challenge, but it's the style, not the builder.
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  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,066
    Plain and simple, Episcopal churches nowadays play a lot more than just the great English literature.

    I've toured the T & B factory and become acquainted with several of the instruments, although not as much in the past dozen years since moving from Virginia. I agree with doneill about the variety of building styles.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,852
    I am a fan of Schoenstein because I like the American Classic style they often build. They have a good one in Nashville at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. However, I heard one of their instruments that is more French Romantic. I think it is true that builders can build to different styles, and some often do. As an organist/conductor, I would find it frustrating to conduct from a mechanical action instrument. I need to look the choir squarely in the eyes, not look at an organ case.

    2) the 19th-20th c. Anglican choral/organ tradition is not representative of the entire history of the Anglican tradition, some of which would be more at home on this organ than on many so-called English organs.


    It is not the entire history, but it is some of the finest of the Anglican tradition.

    Now if I could just have a copy of the big H&H at Coventry...
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  • I regret (truly regret) to say that the abbot and I have stumbled over a disagreement.
    I never met a schoenstein that I didn't want to show the door.

    Nor do I consider their instruments true standard bearers of the English style.

    Too, as some above have intimated, the English style is a thing of 'when'! Can you just imagine what use Tomkins, Byrd, or Purcell would have had for an 'English styled' organ?

    And, I do agree with others above that given builders often build in different styles.

    One thing that one can count on, though, is that every single stop in a Fisk or Pasi (to name but two of a breed) will be an excruciatingly lovely work of art, a tonal delight.

    Not so, those of schoenstein's ilk with their crass 'diapasons' which have all the beauty of fog horns, and stops that say one thing identifying pipes that are nothing of the sort. (The only positive thing about schoenstein is a negative positive, namely, that there are worse builders than they. - and, one must admit, the craftsmanship of their awful organs is enviable.)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,852
    Yes, I am a die hard fan of the English romantic organs.


    So am I. But I also like the French. I suspect that is why I am so fond of the Harrison & Harrison at Coventry. It is an English instrument with some French fire. It seems to do both literatures well. I heard some German Baroque played on it and that wasn't bad, either.

    Not so, those of schoenstein's ilk. (The only positive thing about schoenstein is a negative positive, namely, that there are worse builders than they.)


    Schoenstein, like many builders will build with your input. I think the reason instruments of all brands, that many of us know too well, don't sound so great is because either the building acoustics were not right, or the organist was fuzzy and imprecise on what he wanted built. If you have an instrument built, you need to be there listening attentively during onsite tonal finishing. If what you hear is not exactly what you wanted, speak up and get it changed.

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  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    I think the reason instruments of all brands, that many of us know too well, don't sound so great is because either the building acoustics were not right, or the organist was fuzzy and imprecise on what he wanted built.


    In general, I find this to be true. However, there are always builders whose aesthetic is strong enough that they can not or do not make major modifications to their sound. This is especially true after the organ has been scaled, pipes made, and chests constructed and erected in the shop.

    This is one of the reasons that picking an organ builder can be quite difficult. The ends of the spectrum are:
    1. Pick the builder because you have heard and played more than one of their instruments and you know you love them (and that they are fit for your building). In this case, you can suggest corrections and smallish adjustments to the voicing and expect a reasonably collaborative response from the builder. These builders can be prickly and inflexible - but they are often the real artists.
    2. Pick a builder because you are convinced that they are so tonally flexible that they can give you what YOU want. You are then committed more work during the design, construction and installation process than most organists have time for and/or interest in. These builders, left to their own devices, sometimes become bland and inoffensive. In extreme cases the instrument may lack personality.

    Of course, there are many gradations in between these two positions. My experience is that Charles W is correct when he says many builders will build with your input.

    Sometimes they go off the deep end though. I remember one large organ project (which never was built, unfortunately) where I interviewed builders who represented a wide range of willingness to accommodate my ideas. One builder's representative was distressing. His repeated response when queried about his firm's tonal palette was "You want Baroque, we'll give you Baroque. You want Romantic, we'll give you Romantic." Sigh.
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  • Abbot Jonathan -
    I've not heard it. But I'm quite sure that it does what they would likely like.
    I am, though, quite familiar with two large schoensteins in Houston; one at St Thomas' Episcopal, and the other at St Martin's Episcopal (there is a smaller one of about twenty ranks at St Basil's Chapel, UST). I heard what was one of Gerre Hancock's last recitals on St Martin's instrument. This, of course, is not schoenstein's fault, but this otherwise fine recital was marred by his playing of the large Bruhns e-minor praeludium on all six-hundred and thirty-seven ranks, tubby raspy diapasons, loud stentorian tubas and all. It is astonishing, really, that even the most respected organists disregard the very scholarship which they must surely possess just to dazzle awe-struck audiences with all means available regardless of what they are playing. Our esteemed GH is/was not the only one of his calibre to do this sort of thing.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,852
    six-hundred and thirty-seven ranks


    Oh, come on! What I read says the organ has 36 ranks, and some sophisticated engineering was required to overcome acoustic issues in the building. The Wanamaker doesn't even have 637 ranks. Me thinks you are pulling legs again. LOL.
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  • doneill
    Posts: 161
    The organ at the Mormon Tabernacle is NOT a Schoenstein. It is primarily from G. Donald Harrison's time at Aeolian Skinner, and is his masterpiece, as far as I am concerned. Schoenstein was responsible for its latest renovation, and did add some stops, notably an enormous hooded trumpet that overpowers the rest of the organ. They also did some voicing and tamed down some of the mixtures, so they did leave their mark. What you may be thinking of is the gigantic Schoenstein in the LDS Conference Center across the street. I've played it, and don't care for it much, although part of that has to do with the fact that the space is acoustically miserable for anything but amplified sound (the choir is miked when they sing in there).

    Furthermore, Schoenstein's style generally would not be called American classic; they are more reminiscent of the orchestral style.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,852
    That Mormon Tabernacle Organ has some Kimball strings left in it, IIRC. I would call some of the Schoensteins I have heard as more of a blending between symphonic and American classic. There's the rub in trying to define styles among builders. All of them can tweak instruments to produce unique or individual voicings.
  • doneill
    Posts: 161
    Yes, it does retain a bit of the previous Kimball and Austin organs, and even a few (3, I think?) ranks from the original Joseph Ridges organ, but it's primarily Harrison. There used to be a webpage that detailed what ranks were what, but I can't find it.
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,852
    I do like the "orchestral style" however and especially E. M. Skinner's work, Roosevelts, Hook & Hastings, etc. I don't mean to offend, that's just my preference since I use to be a professional orchestral musician.


    I like those, and much, much more. I also like the Harrison Skinners. The only organs I have really detested were some American builders attempts at creating German Baroque instruments. They were often awful.

    Add Canadian builders of Baroque reproductions to that list, as well.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 985
    this otherwise fine recital was marred by his playing of the large Bruhns e-minor praeludium on all six-hundred and thirty-seven ranks, tubby raspy diapasons, loud stentorian tubas and all. It is astonishing, really, that even the most respected organists disregard the very scholarship which they must surely possess just to dazzle awe-struck audiences with all means available regardless of what they are playing. Our esteemed GH is/was not the only one of his calibre to do this sort of thing.


    MJO, I can speak from experience (having studied that piece with Gerre) that he didn't care to observe performance practice with it. He studied it first with Doty at UT when he was very young, in the typical orchestral style that would have been popular back then (and remember, Doty had antecedents in Dupre and Reger). Gerre had an attachment to playing it that way, as many of us do with things we worked on "early on". He was always trying to get me to do all kinds of crazy things with it! Otherwise, he was very attentive to performance practice for someone of his generation, and in all styles, too.
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