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'A sound one could listen to for ever and a day'

'A sound one could listen to for ever and a day' Click image to enlarge

'I have a feeling that this new Kensington Skrabl will come to be considered one of the great organs of London – a laudable achievement for all involved.'
  
So writes Paul Hale, MA, FRCO, ARCM, right, in an assessment of the instrument in Our Lady of Victories, Kensington, London.

Mr Hale, a former cathedral organist, a profes­sional organ consultant, recitalist and teacher, expresses his opinion in the April issue of Choir and Organ Magazine.

In an account of a recital in January by Olivier Latry on the French Symphonic-style organ, he poses the question: 'So, how does the organ sound?  

'There will be some whose automatic response will be “It’s too loud”. I would counter that with saying that it general it’s not organs that are loud but players. 

'That’s certainly the case with this instrument, where no one stop is particularly loud (even the chamades, which work perfectly as a Grand Chœur climax to the Grande orgue) though it certainly builds up to fill the church with sound when played almost tutti, the tutti itself being best reserved for brief climatic passages or special effects.

'The most important test of an organ is to listen to how the Great Principal chorus relates to the building. In the opening recital the (Bach) Ricercare started on full Great flue chorus (unlike his recording, where it starts on a lone 8ft Montre), a wonderfully rich, broad sound with a perfectly-balanced Fourniture at the top and a rich Bourdon at the bottom, which filled the nave at just the right dynamic level to leave room for the addition of chorus reeds.  

'This is a sound one could listen to for ever and a day. Much the same could be said of every register and every combination – the quality of voicing and tonal finishing is immaculate.

'Those expecting the rip-roaring blast of a Notre Dame (or RFH) type Pedal Bombarde will be surprised at how well the more modest Grande and Pédale reeds integrate with the flues – adding the chamades provides the ultimate glory. 

'I particularly relish the sound of the Récit, which has both the somewhat retiring nature and also the beautifully sweet voicing of César Franck’s famed small Récit at Ste-Clotilde. 

There is a maturity to this expression of the French Symphonic style, evident in the remarkable blend and in the wide range of characterful but well-integrated softer colours throughout the organ. 

'All the sounds for Vierne came over as absolutely ‘right’, and the multiplicity of choruses of all sorts used in Latry’s kaleidoscopically-registered ‘symphonic’ Bach allied themselves perfectly with this late-romantic re-imagining of his music.'

'Yes, the organ could have managed with fewer stops – but why should it? The stop-list, combined with the fine voicing and the first-class build quality, have created an organ which will enormously enhance the liturgy and music-making at Our Lady of Victories. 

'I have a feeling that this new Kensington Skrabl will come to be considered one of the great organs of London – a laudable achievement for all involved.