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English Virtual Organ by Sonus Paradisi

Existing and forthcoming Hauptwerk instruments, recommendations, ...

Re: English Virtual Organ by Sonus Paradisi

Postby IainStinson » Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:40 am

The St Afra organ is not of course a “pure” Hill instrument. Its core is an instrument from the William Hill & Sons firm when it was probably being run by one of his sons, Thomas. William Hill died in 1870 – before the St Paul’s / Trinity Methodist /St Afra organ was built.

Like many instruments, this organ has been extended, moved (perhaps further than some), refurbished and updated over its 144 year life. Each intervention will have inevitably left its mark on the instrument.

Is the Albert Hall organ in London a Father Willis organ? A number of builders have had their hand on that instrument (including Harrison, Mander and other generations of the Willis family). What about the Hill at Peterborough Cathedral (Hill & Sons, Hill Norman & Beard and Harrison & Harrison (several times))?

In the case of the the St Afra organ, there is no suggestion that any of the organ builders drastically changed the wind pressure, re-pitched or carried out major revoicing of the Hill work. Little of the Hill pipework would appear to have been lost or moved around within the instrument - only the Choir Dulciana and Great Sesquialtra appear to have been lost. Can we still call the St Afra a Hill organ? Well, because it appears than the core of the two main divisions are probably much the same as when the organ was originally built, then yes I think we can.

Sample set producers would find it quite difficult to find historic or just old instruments which were really unchanged. I acknowledge that in the last thirty years work has perhaps been carried out in ways which are more aware of preserving the original instrument than was the case in earlier times.

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Re: English Virtual Organ by Sonus Paradisi

Postby Andrew Grahame » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:22 am

Agreed. My particular concern was that details of pipe origins and changes over the years were not readily apparent. The info from the NPOR answers that question.

The degree to which instruments can and have been altered over time can vary. Some would argue, for example, that little remains of the 1929 Hill Norman & Beard organ at the Melbourne Town Hall. Most of the pipework from that instrument is still there, but none of its mechanism, and the additions by Schantz dramatically increased the instrument's size. The two consoles are marked to indicate at the stop knobs which stops are original, so a player has the option of not using the additions if desired. This instrument, in its present form, has recently been sampled for Hauptwerk - but many feel these days that it is more Schantz than HN&B.

I recall the first LP released by Christopher Dearnley on the organ at St Pauls' Cathedral London following the rebuild of the late 1970's. There the builder had no choice but to discard all remaining original chests and actions because of the ruinous drying effects from years of central heating. Only the pipes remain of the 1872 Fr Willis, plus many additions and entirely new mechanisms. In this LP he made a point of using just the 1872 stops for one of the tracks - acknowledging the instrument's origin as closely as could be done.

I would imagine that the vast majority of historic instruments which to date have been sampled for Hauptwerk contain some degree of pipework from later eras. Newer instruments (eg: Poblet from OAM) have been recorded intact since no alterations have been made since new. Finding an older instrument without alteration is far harder. Other sample sets (eg: Arlesheim, also from OAM) were captured in their present state, complete with additions from previous work - all duly noted in the attendant documentation. The convention in organ restoration these days is to establish a realistic point in the organ's past to which it can be restored - not necessarily going right back to the very first build. Sometimes this may lead to the removal of some additions and reversal of changes - yet in other instances some changes could be kept. For example, at Sydney Town Hall only the orchestral reeds on the Solo manual were enclosed - these days all of the Solo except for the 3 tubas is inside the box. This change took place quite early in the organ's lifetime, and the restoration of 1972-82 kept it this way. However other alterations, including the swapping of various ranks between departments, were reversed in order to recreate as closely as possible the original stoplist.

My concern was not with the fact that the SP Hill instrument is a rebuild, but that details of additions and changes were initially not readily apparent.

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Re: English Virtual Organ by Sonus Paradisi

Postby Andrew Grahame » Wed Aug 22, 2018 8:36 am

Having said all that ....

It's a pleasant sample set. It's possibly the closest so far in my collection to what I could call a "familiar" sound. I grew up here on the east coast of New South Wales hearing and playing many 19th-century English tracker action organs. I held church appointments on two such instruments - one by an unknown builder and another by J.W. Walker of London (1866). I've been fortunate in hearing and playing quite a few Hill organs, many of which are either unaltered (or close to it) since they were installed, or which have been meticulously restored. My very first experience of tuning an organ pipe was with the Great Trumpet 8 on the 1892 Hill organ at Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney in May 1976. I was holding keys for the tuner, then his apprentice took over at the console so I could go inside the organ and watch the tuning process at closer quarters. I watched as the tuner took care of the Choir Clarinet, then the Swell reeds. When he turned around on the passage board to start work on the Trumpet he handed the tuning knife to me and invited me to have a go in the middle octaves. He had to finish off the highest and lowest octaves, but I actually managed fairly well with the rest - and I was hooked!

Nearly every sample set I possess represents a style, period or country which is removed from the sounds I grew up on. This instrument fills a gap in my collection, and I can see myself returning to it from time to time when I need that feel of familiarity. I don't know if it's for everyone. My thoughts have already been privately sourced by one person, and my suggestion (bearing in mind several factors specific to that person) was to pass on it. If in doubt, there are plenty of demo audio tracks, plus a demo ODF.

Thank you, Jiri, for creating yet another high quality sample set!

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Re: English Virtual Organ by Sonus Paradisi

Postby Mouter » Sat Sep 29, 2018 12:50 am

We also have a great Hill organ in St Georges Cathedral Cape Town. It was a gift in 1902 of a benefactor who bought the organ from St Margaret in Westminster when it was replaced on request of the famous Lemare.
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