|Interview with Richard Bond, President|
How does an organbuilder develop a tonal philosophy?
I suppose there are several different routes. Some people perhaps hear a single instrument that appeals to them, others may adopt a tonal style of whomever they learned the craft from. Some become fascinated with a national or historical period style. In my own case, the process has been a slow development over many years, with new elements being added from time to time, and occasionally, old elements dropped.
Well, a process of development must start someplace, so where did you begin?
I started out as a serviceman in the Los Angeles area, and as such, was exposed to many different types and styles of instruments. This was in the 60s, and I knew right away that I didnt care for the thick and tubby instruments of the 1920s and 30s that abounded in LA at that time. "Baroque" instruments typified by Schlicker and Casavant seemed fresh and clear by comparison, and so I adopted elements of this style when I began voicing pipes in my early 20s. Gradually, however, I became less enamored with the general fuzz and sizzle of this voicing style, and began searching for a better tonal model.
Was there one instrument that gave you a new vision?
Actually, there were five. In 1966, while still a college student, I saw the Cavaille-Coll at Ste. Clothilde in Paris. This convinced me that a romantic organ need not be thick and tubby. In 1971, I made a trip with two close friends to Washington State to see the Metzler/Wilhelm organ recently installed at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Medina, the Flentrop organ at St. Marks Cathedral in Seattle, and the Beckerath organ at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Mercer Island. On the way home, we stopped to see a smaller Flentrop at All Saints Episcopal in Palo Alto, CA. These four instruments taught me that it was possible that "Baroque" instruments need not wheeze and sizzle, and could have full, round sounds. Since that time, I have sought to build an instrument that combined elements from these two styles, so that one could play a wide variety of music successfully.
These are all European instruments; hasnt anyone in this country built anything you like?
Yes, in 1983, I was lucky enough to play the E. and G.G. Hook instruments at Immaculate Conception Church, and Holy Cross Cathedral , both in Boston, First Unitarian in Jamaica Plain, and the Simmons organ at Most Holy Redeemer Church in East Boston. Here are four instruments that have clear and grand choruses, yet also the soft and pretty stops of the romantic period, and no hint of tubbiness. I played all sorts of literature on these, and felt perfectly at home. The only lack I felt was independent mutations.
Which if your 33 new instruments best embody your present tonal thinking?
Our 44 rank instrument at St. Stephens Episcopal Church is our largest to date. It draws heavily on the French style, both baroque and romantic, but also has terraced Principal choruses without the slotting characteristic of Cavaille-Coll. This feature allows a better rendition of contrapuntal music. You might say that St. Stephens is mostly typical of our work, but speaks with a French accent. Our 35 rank instrument at Holy Rosary Church in Portland actually contains 15 ranks of 19th century pipework, and what I wanted to achieve there was something reminiscent of the great Hook organs previously mentioned.
Where do you go from here?
I always try to be open minded and receptive to new ideas. Also, I try to always keep my ears open, and listen non-judgmentally. We have come a long way since we started, but I continue to strive to perfect the synthesis of tonal styles into one eclectic instrument. And, in the process, I find myself doing things I wouldnt have dreamed of 20 years ago. For example, when we rebuilt the 1904 Murray Harris organ for St. Marys Cathedral in Portland, I put new leather on the lips of the First Open, and voiced a Vox Humana for the first time. Twenty years ago, I probably would have replaced the First Open with a Mixture, and the Vox with a Sesquialtera, or something like that.