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Advice on Putting Together Cathedral Organ Recital?


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Okay, second time around... first post vaporized as my browser blinked off into the digital underworld...

 

I have recorded a few symphony orchestra sessions, and now I want to tackle my ultimate challenge, recording a pipe organ.

 

I think I need to find a cathedral whose management is open to the idea of recording, plus an organist of some skill level to handle Bach Preludes and Fugues and even a Tocatta.

 

Obviously, the interested parties would have to be free of contracts and union restrictions, and free to record. The project would be solely a voluntary one, with all interested parties receiving a copy of the recording--most likely video and audio together. Someone with a desire to record for their own fulfillment, if you will.

 

What's a good way to go about seeking to put together this combination of cathedral + organist for a recital that I can record?

Best Regards,

 

Mark A. Weiss, P.E.

www.ampexperts.com

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Originally posted by Mark Weiss:

...I think I need to find a cathedral whose management is open to the idea ...

Don't you mean a church?

 

I'd look for the organ I liked (the building comes with it) and work from there. It seems Catholic churches have invested in pipe organs.

 

I'm not sure that the players are unionized in a church. They might be members of the Pipe Organ Guild, though.

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Hi Mark,

 

We've recorded various organs in eight different churches (mostly in Europe) and have a little experience in setting this up.

 

Find a cathedral whose management is open to the idea of recording can be a challenge. Many cathedrals still being used for worship do not permit recordings for commercial purposes (especially in the US). In Europe many cathedrals are being used for other purposes such as recording and performance.

 

In New York, Paul Winter used to record at St. John's (one of the largest Gothic Cathedrals in the world) so it seems management may be frienedly towards recording. Some cathedrals, like St. Johns, have artist-in-residence programs and encourage performance and recordings.

 

Gary Garritan

 

Originally posted by Mark Weiss:

Okay, second time around... first post vaporized as my browser blinked off into the digital underworld...

 

I have recorded a few symphony orchestra sessions, and now I want to tackle my ultimate challenge, recording a pipe organ.

 

I think I need to find a cathedral whose management is open to the idea of recording, plus an organist of some skill level to handle Bach Preludes and Fugues and even a Tocatta.

 

Obviously, the interested parties would have to be free of contracts and union restrictions, and free to record. The project would be solely a voluntary one, with all interested parties receiving a copy of the recording--most likely video and audio together. Someone with a desire to record for their own fulfillment, if you will.

 

What's a good way to go about seeking to put together this combination of cathedral + organist for a recital that I can record?

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Every pipe organ I've heard has been in a church and many have been paid performances. All happened in the US. They are out there.

 

The only exception are pipe organs I've heard in theaters and ballparks. These were called Theater Organs, but were pretty much the same except 64' pipes weren't always in the theaters.

 

I sure would like to hear a 128' someday.

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Thanks for all the various input ideas.

 

I did some searching, and found a cathedral in Hartford, CT that has an Austin organ with 32' principal and bombarde stops. The organ has been played by the great Berj Zamkochian, and it has been recorded. I've written an e-mail to one of their music directors and await a reply.

 

I'll continue scouring for churches with formidable organs and keep asking and see if one comes forward.

 

I was just out recording fireworks today. Going to a different fireworks display tomorrow night.

Best Regards,

 

Mark A. Weiss, P.E.

www.ampexperts.com

-

 

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if the purpose is to record for a release, make sure the organ had a revision, and is in proper condition, i.e. tuning wise etc.

 

Membran is recording right now a Organ repertoire with one of the world leading organist. This is done in surround, and the 3D impression of the recording are fabulous...

 

http://www.membran.net/db_php_eng/index.php

 

.

-Peace, Love, and Potahhhhto
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Since I doubt that we'd have the clout to get release rights, this would be more experimental. So I'm looking for a staff that's interested in riding the bleeding edge and owning limited edition DVD/SACDs of the performance.

I'm not familiar with the business end of starting a record label and mass distributing.

 

I may try several setups, including a Decca Tree for the organ recording.

Best Regards,

 

Mark A. Weiss, P.E.

www.ampexperts.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just got back from the Cathedral in Hartford, CT where I heard the Austin organ demonstrated for me by the assistant music director.

 

We talked about numerous possibilities, including orchestrating unconventional renditions and adapting them to the organ (ie, a piece normally played by an orchestra, adapted to organ).

 

I also spoke to the organist, who lit up when I mentioned the great Bavo Organ in the Netherlands, and my experience with it by proxy of having bought the Post Organ Toolkit samples for my Kurzweil. The organist at this church has played the Bavo organ! He's been around the world and all over Europe, performing.

He gave me a copy of a recording that someone had made for the fortieth year dedication of the church (it was built in 1962) and I am listening to Widor's Symphonie V. He is darned good! He's got the sense of passion in his performance, so I have no issues with the performance or the cathedral acoustics.

The issues that the assistant music director raised were that, depending on the season, the stained glass windows rattle when the 32' stops are played. I noted this too during the demonstration. His solution to mask this was to add some 16' and 8' mix to enrich the harmonic overtones and cover some of the rattling. It was not too bad, actually.

My overall impression is that the organ wasn't as loud as I had expected. The 32' pedals, even full out, didn't cause my heart to stop, or cause difficulty breathing, the way I would listen to organ on my own custom sound system. So I have some rethinking to do about how I adjust my playback system for organ music. Perhaps fourteen 18" woofers is way overkill for reproducing 16Hz. :)

 

At any rate, the assistant music director explained to me that this organ is not so much suited to Baroque as to modern and French impressionist music, because of the way the voicing works. He explained that in contrast to a mechanical organ of Bach's era, this Austin, built in 1962, uses electro magnetic switching (solenoids) to actuate the valves that let air into the pipes. The mechanical organs could actually, through the way the organist presses the keys, vary the flow of air and affect the way each pipe 'speaks'. The more modern electro-actuated organs have no such controlability, and are more like a MIDI keyboard that has no velocity sensing.

The tone of the organ is quite nice though a bit darker than most that I've heard. I think it's possibly due to the immense size of this cathedral (108' ceiling, 298' length of the gallery) that the higher frequencies are being absorbed.

 

After the demo, we talked about the prospect of a commercial release. He liked the idea. And he invited me to come again when they have a full symphony orchestra and a 300-person choir performing. The Altar is large enough to encompass a full symphonic orchestra. And we talked about the prospect of expanding beyond just making organ recordings, to doing other types of music involving orchestral performances.

The possibilities make me feel giddy!

Everyone was friendly and seemed delighted that someone was taking an interest in making a serious recording.

I did have my expectations rather high, especially after he told me that the 32' pedal is loud enough to overload the Neumann U-87s that they have flown from the gallery. My experience with it was that at floor level the 32' stops were quite tame. Perhaps I have to get my mics way up there to get the sound.

Working a venue this size with 8 mics is going to involve a mammoth amount of cable! Especially if I get fancy and decide to mount some extra mics up in the catwalk at the 108' level! Just getting around this cathedral requires a degree of physical agility--many flights of stairs just to get to the choir loft where the organ controls are.

They asked to see examples of my work, and fortunately, I have just completed a symphony concert 3 weeks ago, and pressed the rough evaluation DVD for the client. With the client's permission, I will forward a copy to the Church for review.

This is looking very promising. Great cathedral, great organist, and a top-notch organ to record. It sounds rather like the one in Toulouse, France, but darker in tone. If I can figure out where the 32' tones reinforce, I'll have a winning combination. The recording they made 3 years ago seems to dominate around 60hz and there is barely any 16hz fundamental to be found on it. I hope that I can do better. Perhaps I'll bring an oscilloscope and attach it to the output of my MotU 896 and have the organist play the lowest of the 32' pedals while I move a mic around and look for the highest ratio of fundamental. I know that all acoustic spaces have areas where they reinforce the lowest notes.

 

As for the business end of it, I wonder if there is a way to have CD/DVD sales royalties split and paid to engineer and performer directly by the distributor? This would be to eliminate any question as to whether the proceeds were being accurately distributed and reported. Any thoughts on this?

Best Regards,

 

Mark A. Weiss, P.E.

www.ampexperts.com

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Originally posted by Mark Weiss:

We talked about numerous possibilities, including orchestrating unconventional renditions and adapting them to the organ (ie, a piece normally played by an orchestra, adapted to organ)

See Bart Simpson's arrangement of "Innagaddadavida". Should go over well.

 

I'm surprised no one's made a crack about trying to 'organ'ize this project.

I've upped my standards; now, up yours.
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First thing you do is get Aaron Miller to play. He is to organ what Alan Holdsworth is to fusion or Stanley Clarke is to bass... He is also one of the nicest, most humble person on the planet. You can read a bit about him here... http://home.att.net/~penlorenz/miller.html . While he was studying at the Eastman School of Music when he was 17, he was our church organist. How we got a world-class (and world champion in improvisational jazz on the organ) organist, I'll never know. He was a gift... Boggs
Check out my Rock Beach Guitars page showing guitars I have built and repaired... http://www.rockbeachguitars.com
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Thanks for the comments thus far.

 

Aaron Miller sounds interesting, but I wish I could hear examples of his work. Ohio is not too far; I wonder if he would work on 'spec'--that is, take payment out of CD / DVD sales?

 

The organist at this cathedral is also a world-class organist who's toured all over Europe, South and North America. I have heard his performance and have no reservations about using his talent for this recording.

 

Of course, this is one of the great organs in the eastern US, and the great Berj Zamkochian has performed on this very organ!

 

In short, there has to be a compelling reason to import an organist who is not well-known with a long track history. And of course there is the cost associated. I bring no funding, only my skills as a recording engineer to this project. Of course I seem to be also doing the people management to get the ball rolling.

 

If we do release commercially, we're going to need a means of ensuring that everyone is aware of record sales and that payments to all entitled parties are being made as prescribed. Any ideas on making this arrangement work in practice would be helpful!

Best Regards,

 

Mark A. Weiss, P.E.

www.ampexperts.com

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