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Blackburn Cathedral sample set

Existing and forthcoming Hauptwerk instruments, recommendations, ...
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IainStinson

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Blackburn Cathedral sample set

PostMon Jan 10, 2022 12:40 pm

I understand from Facebook that Llannerch Organs, in a joint venture with Evensong, are bringing out a sample set of the Blackburn Cathedral organ later in the year. Have a look at https://llannerchorgans.square.site/ if you are interested.

Iain
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Charles Braund

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Re: Blackburn Cathedral sample set

PostTue Jan 11, 2022 9:56 am

Now that is definitely an instrument that will be welcome.
I had hoped one day to be able to do it myself but time and distance had made this difficult if not impossible. Regardless of all the many other worthwhile instruments that could be or have been sampled in the UK, Blackburn is the one that I would consider to be amongst the most desirable and unique.
I suppose that Blackburn was one of my "Damascene" moments. The very first time I played it was shortly after it had been built and John Bertalot the then organist, allowed me free access to the instrument many times during school term time. It was the first instrument designed along modern lines that I ever played and of course it is still one of the most visually stunning instruments in existence. There is the additional plus factor that it is "multiphonic" in that the four unique sections are in different locations (in two opposing L shapes). All consist of open display pipework and the whole instrument speaks into a superb acoustic. Without doubt, it is one of Walker's best ever instruments.
The organ was voiced by my one time late boss Dennis Thurlow when he was at Walker's and the Blackburn instrument was one main reason why I took up his offer to become his personal assistant rather than taking up a similar offer from Noel Mander.
I'm sure that Llanerch / Evensong will make a good job of it because if so, it will be really something else .

And to think that it only cost just a bit over £30,000 at the time !
Last edited by Charles Braund on Tue Jan 11, 2022 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Andrew Grahame

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Re: Blackburn Cathedral sample set

PostTue Jan 11, 2022 7:35 pm

I recall reading an account of the origin of the Walker organ at Blackburn Cathedral. Apparently the organist John Bertalot found a letter in his mail one morning containing a cheque for a very substantial sum from an anonymous donor, specifying that it be used to provide the cathedral with a new organ. The rest, as they say, is history.
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giwro

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Re: Blackburn Cathedral sample set

PostWed Jan 12, 2022 1:07 pm

Hello everyone,

We are excited to work on this project, and if the raw recordings are any indication, it will be something special! We did a small test instrument for John to try so we could determine whether to do 4 or 6 channels… just the 4 stops we did alone sounded amazing, and I believe it’s a really good sonic picture of the organ. It will take some time to get through it all, as with 3 perspectives it’s really like doing noise reduction on a 180-stop organ :shock:

It so happens that Blackburn is one of my favorite UK organs, so it’s rather a dream come true to be able to help bring it to the HW community.
Jonathan Orwig
Coon Rapids, Minnesota USA
http://www.evensongmusic.net
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smfrank

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Re: Blackburn Cathedral sample set

PostWed Jan 12, 2022 2:00 pm

There have been several comments about the high cost.
Since the distribution cost is practically nil, a much lower price might translate into many more sales, and a greater overall profit. I like to support producers and buy lots of sample sets, especially from Evensong. I have over 130 sets. But my largesse has its limits :) Just my 2 cents.
Steve
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JulianMoney-Kyrle

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Re: Blackburn Cathedral sample set

PostWed Jan 12, 2022 7:49 pm

Steve,

That is a very interesting point. I, too, have bought a lot of sample sets (only about half as many as you) but although I would be interested in this one, at that price point I don't think I am likely to buy it. I was eagerly awaiting Nancy, but when it came out it was about 50% more expensive than I expected and even with the current 15% discount I can't justify it, particularly as there are other instruments on my wish list.

Clearly the price must influence the number of sales, and when the profit per unit is multiplied by the number of units there must be a sweet spot, but I don't know how you would go about establishing where this is and therefore how to set a suitable price.

I would imagine there are some users who want a single large organ that does everything, or else a few more varied instruments to cover the types of music that they play (French Romantic, Baroque, American Classic...). For them the hardware is the main cost, even if they end up spending a couple of thousand pounds / dollars / euros on sample sets to get their ideal home organ.

Then there are others like me who are more interested in the individual sound of specific historical organs, for instance how does Schnitger compare with Silbermann, and how do North German Baroque organs compare with Central German, or how did the ideas of Cavaille-Coll develop over the course of his career, or which organ is closest to the one that the composer would have written for (early vs. late Buxtehude vs. Bruhns)? We probably end up spending more on sample sets altogether, and continue to do so, but are probably not prepared to pay so much for each of them.

I have no idea which group makes up the bulk of Hauptwerk users, or even if this is a valid way of categorising them.

Then there are some sample sets that stand out from the rest as special in terms of quality of recording, historical importance and how rewarding they are to play, and I have not regretted spending more than I usually would have. Rotterdam Main, St. Bavokerk Haarlem, St Martinikerk Groningen and Caen are examples that immediately spring to mind. But there are others, equally special but much cheaper, that every Hauptwerk user should consider, such as St. Mary-le-Bow.

I am looking forward to seeing where Blackburn Cathedral fits in.
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Andrew Grahame

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Re: Blackburn Cathedral sample set

PostWed Jan 12, 2022 11:29 pm

The cost of sample sets seems to be something of an ongoing issue. As a radio broadcaster with 20 years' experience in audio production I know just how much work goes into making a pre-recorded broadcast. I routinely find that it easily takes 3 to 4 hours to pre-produce a 1-hour broadcast, whereas I could present the same broadcast live in just 1 hour. That's not including preparation time, which is much the same regardless of whether the broadcast is live or pre-produced.

It doesn't take much for me to make the mental leap from radio production to sample set creation. Without having yet created a sample set - though I have no doubt that I have the audio production skills necessary were I to take the time to learn about sample set creation - I well imagine that the amount of work involved is huge.

I also own a large number of sample sets, and have never begrudged the amount I pay to acquire one. Having said that, I often take advantage of early-release special pricing offered by some producers. Some of the sample sets I have were quite expensive. It's my responsibility to check out the demos ahead of time before putting my money down. It's also my responsibility to decide if a particular new release has a place in my collection. I can always choose not to buy. I believe it's up to the producer to decide what they wish to charge - balancing the question of their time and production costs against the marketing factors. Were I to produce my own sample sets I know that I would have a hard time coming up with a price.

I am most interested to learn that the Blackburn organ is being sampled. I first heard of this organ back in the mid 1970's when I purchased an LP featuring Jane Parker-Smith. I seem to recall that this was the first LP recording made on this significant instrument. I wish the producers every success, and look forward to their demos in due course. The price they are quoting at this time isn't small, but when the sample set is released it will be up to me to decide whether or not the expenditure is justified from my perspective in order to obtain this sample set.
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Andrew Grahame

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Re: Blackburn Cathedral sample set

PostThu Jan 13, 2022 5:42 am

This wonderful video, with Dr John Bertalot speaking about the origin of the Walker organ at Blackburn Cathedral, can be found on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIdGJ_mJpWY
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giwro

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Re: Blackburn Cathedral sample set

PostThu Jan 13, 2022 12:54 pm

smfrank wrote:There have been several comments about the high cost.
Since the distribution cost is practically nil, a much lower price might translate into many more sales, and a greater overall profit. I like to support producers and buy lots of sample sets, especially from Evensong. I have over 130 sets. But my largesse has its limits :) Just my 2 cents.
Steve

Just to be clear, we are doing the production of the instrument, but it is sold by Llannerch, so you’d have to express your concerns about pricing to them. As such, I don’t think it’s polite for me to weigh in my opinions about pricing, probably…. At least in this specific case. :lol:

I can tell you that doing noise reduction and sample prep for 3 perspectives in a soaking wet acoustic is (as a friend of mine from Germany says) “a h*ll of work”. Noise reduction is always a delicate balance between removing unwanted sound and not doing too much damage to the sounds you want to preserve. It’s even more so with soaking wet sets, as you are given a third thing to balance damage/preservation, and that is the acoustics. Too fast of a release, you lose the reverb. Too slow? You keep the reverb and a bunch of wind noise. So… where is the sweet spot? Where/when do you choose to do a bit more damage… maybe so you can keep to a more manageable production schedule and get the product out the door so it can make revenue? When keeping track of time and resources, what is an acceptable amount of time and effort spent? How does one balance artistic integrity and making a profit?

For us, we do as little damage as we can and try to balance all of the competing factors and still make some profit. If we do our job well, it means the instrument is a really good facsimile of the real thing (but, it will never be as good as sitting in the room with the real thing, and one has to come to grips with that reality!)
Jonathan Orwig
Coon Rapids, Minnesota USA
http://www.evensongmusic.net

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