Author Topic: Wond'rous Machine : the curious history of the organ in England ROMAN TIMES  (Read 1933 times)

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Martin Renshaw

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We all think we know something about the history of the organ in England - after all, there are plenty of books about this.  The only problem is that all these books are written from a 'north side of the Channel' view.  But you only have to go across the water, take a look at what has gone on there, and then your perspective changes radically.  From over there, the history of the organ in England looks very different, rather picaresque and definitely more amusing.  Over the next 20 episodes, all very short and written originally for audiences in France and Spain and using the latest scholarship (some of it my own - you'll have to work out which), let us take a look at more than 2000 years over the next few days.  Hold on tight - here we go ...

1. The Romans almost certainly introduced organs to Britain, to be used in the amphitheatres of the major cities.  So, while the gladiators fought and the chariots raced, several bellows-slaves sweated while two or more players manipulated key-sliders in an organ whose high-pressure wind sounded a multitude of copper pipes.  This organ was described by Vitruvius in the 10th century, but Audenís poetic description (c1942) in his Ode to St Cecilia, who was allegedly martyred to the sound of an organ and became consequently the perhaps rather unwilling patroness of musicians, captures the essence :
    And by oceanís margin this innocent virgin
        Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer,
        And notes tremendous from her great engine
        Thundered out on the Roman air.
However, the organ perhaps known to Cecilia and since associated with her had no ecclesiastical connections whatever until long after the Western church became the official Roman religion.

(c) Martin Renshaw
« Last Edit: February 01, 2013, 03:02:04 PM by organforumadmin »

revtonynewnham

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Re: Wond'rous Machine : the curious history of the organ in England
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2013, 11:03:49 AM »
Hi

Thanks for this Martin.  As the series progresses it should be useful info if I ever repeat my talk on the English Classical Organ that I prepared for the Bradford Organists' Association.  I certainly came across some links between France & England - the Dallam connection of course, but interestingly an assertion than English ornament practice is broadly similar to the French.  (Not sure what source I got that from off-hand).  Certainly, the English organ building traditions weren't, IMHO, quite as insular as sometimes implied - I suspect that the "Early English" style derived more from musical considerations.  I await future parts with anticipation.

Every Blessing

Tony

David Pinnegar

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Re: Wond'rous Machine : the curious history of the organ in England
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2013, 03:00:46 PM »
Hi!

Thanks for joining the forum and what promises to be a series of gems with this research.

The description of
Quote
bellows-slaves sweated while two or more players manipulated key-sliders in an organ whose high-pressure wind sounded a multitude of copper pipes.
reminds me of a wonderful illustration I recall as a child from an organ-tutor book which had a bit of history at the front and some diagrams of a section through an organ action, which were pretty incomprehensible but certainly fascinated.

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar, BSc ARCS

Pierre Lauwers

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Quite interesting !!!

I often wondered about some similarities of the early british organ
and the italian one (through Burgundy ?).
But I wait upon the next posts.

Best wishes,
Pierre

 


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