Anyone ever recorded Liverpool Cathedral organ?

Discussion in 'Live Sound' started by John Stafford, Jul 9, 2006.

  1. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Oct 1, 2004
    Hi all!
    Haven't been around for a while but have been missing discussions!

    OK, so here's what's happening. I have to record that famously MASSIVE organ in August, but there's a problem -no chance for a proper run through!

    For various reasons I will be using an AKG C426 in Blumlein.

    It's an unusual situation I know, and that's why I'd like to hear from someone who is familiar with that environment so I can at least have some sort of starting point. So far I'm trying to work from floor plans! One way or another it will be a case of hoping for the best. It's not a critical gig, but there is a little professional pride at stake:)

    Next time I'll have a proper run through and will probably use a pair of omnis as well.

    BTW does anyone here ever record organ in Blumlein instead of with omnis? Just curious, but I know I'm not alone in using the C426 for this purpose.

  2. TeddyBullard

    TeddyBullard Guest

    The 426 is such a great mic! I own one too, and have recorded pipe organ on the blumlein setting more than once.I do quite a bit of pipe organ here in Germany. I normally add a pair of cards or omnis to the mix for ambience in addition to the 426. I will see if I can dig up some samples for you.
    in the meantime, <<<those guys ONLY record in blumlein, straight to 2 track. Their recordings are quite remarkable. They have a couple of organ CDs for sale. <<John Eargle discusses some of his pipe organ recordings.

  3. larsfarm

    larsfarm Active Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Home Page:
    I have no info on Liverpool cathedral or its instruments.
    Yes, samples comparing AB and Blumlein.

    I had an AB pair of omnis up. As it happened I had tracks and mics left so on a whim I set up a blumlein pair on the AB bar and thus got a direct comparison between AB and Blumlein. I had the AB where I thought they should be (that day) and the Blumlein just followed, but perhaps working from geometry and Williams sterephonic zoom the Blumlein is where it should be.

    As can be seen from the pictures this is very far from a cathedral in size. This goes both for room and instrument. The instrument is MUCH smaller than yours. The largest pipes are 16' (down to about 30Hz). This is one of the last orgelbewegung instruments rebuilt in the late sixties. Somewhat screechy and not really equipped with what Bach would have called great "lungs". So, it is definitely something very different from Liverpool cathedral and a "MASSIVE organ".

    Still, perhaps the comparison between omni and blumlein could be of interest.

    Samples here (for a while (58MB 8 wav 44/16)):


    As you can see from the pictures I use a large boom. This is IKEA index for curtains $5... risky. With the blumlein I added a string to help hold te load. It started to look like a sailing boat... I wish I could afford the Ambient jumbo booms... (only about 200 times more expensive for 3 times the length)

    best regards
  4. 0VU

    0VU Active Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    If you mean Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, I've recorded it many times - for about 10 years I used to record two big Christmas concerts per year there. If you mean the Metropolitan (Catholic) Cathedral (aka Paddy's Wigwam), I've only done a couple of things there. The Catholic Cathedral is easier as it's much smaller - both the building and the instrument.

    Assuming it's the Anglican Cathedral, this is one of the biggest religious buildings in the world and the organ is suitably large (the largest in the UK give or take the refitted Royal Albert Hall Organ). Both the building and organ are considerably larger than the vast majority of churches and organs you'll find around the world. There are larger buildings and larger organs but as a combination there's not much to touch it. We're talking about 9700-odd pipes (with the largest being 64') spread across 140-odd stops over 5 manuals. The Tuba Magna and Trompette Militaire are quite unbelievably loud. The Tuba is on 50" of pressure (I'm not sure about the Trompette) and delivers an spl that has to be felt to be believed! Some sources claim it to be the loudest organ stop in the world but I'm not sure. St Paul's Cathedral also has a very loud stop which iirr (and it's a vague memory!) is on a higher pressure but I don't know about the spl it produces.

    The full spec and some pics of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Organ is available at

    Mere pictures don't do the place justice; it is much bigger than it looks in print! The main organ speaks from the North and South Choir (about 40-50' up to the bottom of the visible case), the North and South Transcepts (aka the Central Space), and the Corona Gallery, over 100' up the inside of the tower. The results you get will very much depend upon which parts of the instrument are being played and what stops the orgainst chooses.

    The whole sound of the thing in the Cathedral is so impressive that even in the absence of a full soundcheck/balance session, it should be possible fairly quickly to find somewhere that'll give a good result even if it compromises/misses some aspects of the sound.

    Whilst it's quite possible to get a passable recording using a single mic in Blumlein - a C426 is ideal for this - ime you'll miss capturing the full LF content of the instrument and it'll be hard to convey the sheer scale of the building and instrument. The size of the building and the dispersion of the organ is somewhat against you in getting a balanced sound from the entire instrument in one single point. It can be done, and simple mic techniques do seem to work best on this thing but it'll take a lot of luck to hit the sweet spot first time, without quite a bit of experimentation, and the C426 will roll off the very bottom of the tone. This isn't necessarlily a problem as the real bottom of the instrument is infasonic anyway and the effect that dominates when using these extreme LF pipes is more the modulation of the overall sound in the audible band by the high level infrasonic energy, together with the "clicky" harmonic overtones/growl of these pipes, rather than the fundamentals produced by the LF pipes themselves. I used to work for a label which recorded everything in Blumlein with a C24 (or a pair of C414EBs), including some well respected organ discs - no-one ever complained about them lacking LF, indeed some reviewers singled them out for positive comment on the LF extension.

    There are wire rope mic slings installed for the main organ (N+S Choir/Transcepts) but these were set up for broadcasts and imo are not in the best position for getting the whole organ in a solo/recital mode - though they are ok for capturing it in a typical "Service" or choir accompaniment role. They give good coverage of the main organ, though from too close a position resulting in a lot of out of phase information but are shadowed by walls from hearing the transcept cases clearly. In some ways this is perhaps a good thing as these are positioned at about 90-100 degrees left and right of the mics which would produce even more uncomfortable phase issues were the sound from these cases clearer and more in level with the North and Sound Choir cases. You generally hear the Corona Organ when it's used - it's not built for subtlety and organists usually know this and save it for the appropriate moment!

    The slings are also not used much any more as they're rather worn (or were the last time I saw them) and all but impossible to raise/lower without the old and twisted wire ropes hopping out of the top pulleys thereby jamming them. When this happens, you need a member of cathedral maintenance staff to accompany you on the 5 minute walk/climb to the pulley, a good head for heights to climb up the ladders above the organ cases to look over the ballustrades and some luck in order to clear the jams. The last time I tried to use them, I had an assistant on each side, near the pulleys and we still gave up after an hour of trying to raise them to the right level.

    If you want to put the mic on a stand, you'll probably be looking at something at least 40-50' tall - preferably taller - if you want to get to the optimum height for a balanced blend. You'll get an immediately impressive, "massive organ" sound from lots of places, even quite low down, but if you can get to the kind of heights where the small, sparkly stuff happens it's much more interesting and less bass heavy. A lot of the small stuff is audible from lower down but it loses a lot of brightness. Arguably, that's how it's designed to be heard but it can easily get lost altogether if the organst isn't sympathetic to/aware of it. I'm lucky in that I'm almost always working with the Cathedral Organist/Assistant Organist, who know the instrument better than anyone else, can really get the best out of it and compensate in their selection of stops to optimise the results in the differing recording/live performance solo/accompaniment roles.

    The dynamic range can be enormous. In a carol concert, I've had in excess of 110db from the organ between accompaniment of a chamber choir and leading a massed choirs/audience carol; recitals can go wider.

    One notable feature/problem acoustically is that the building is so big that it takes a lot to get the acoustic going. Very quiet stuff can sound almost free field, with very little support/scale/image location from early reflections and little or no main body of reverb. Once you cross the level threshold at which the main space of the building goes into reverberation, the acoustic space has a big delay on early reflections so that they more or less arrive simultaneously with the main reverb, and a huge decay time. This can appear from nowhere, giving a strange effect which, to the uninitiated, can sound implausible - as if someone has switched on a huge reverb preset on their Lexicon.

    I should just be clear that my main experience of this organ has been in recording it as part of a larger performance, with various combinations of choir(s), soloists, instrumental ensembles, and congregation/eudience participation; in every concert however, there was at least a couple of solo organ items. My miking of the instrument was intended to cover both the solo and accompaniment items. I'd expect recording a solo recital would be even more demanding. Finding one position in which to place a single mic/pair/array is probably the best option - lots of spaced mics covering the different departments gives some interesting phase anomalies due to the distances between the various parts of the organ. Finding the sweet spot will take time, and I'd this position to vary quite widely according to the programme material and how it uses the different parts of the organ.

    I hope some of that is helpful. have to cook dinner now but I'll have a look later for some of my notes and see whether there's anything relevant to add. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask and I'll do what I can to help :)
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Distinguished Moderator Resource Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Home Page:
    Wow! What a reply! Ask, and ye shall receive - but only on RO!
  6. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Oct 1, 2004
    Thank you all very much indeed -I don't even need to know where to begin!

    What I like about the C426 is that I just mount the thing, and hope my talents are sufficient to make the most of the venue. Now that you mention Waterlily, I remember reading about their minimalist philosophy. The link to the Eargle article is very much appreciated.

    It is very thoughtful of you to link to these samples. It's always fascinating to hear other people's work. I love the curtain rail! I recently came across a telescopic pole for holding up a washing line -anyone who live in a country where there's an Argos might want to check it out!

    I can't say how much I appreciate your response. This is EXACTLY what I am looking for. BTW it is the anglican cathedral. I've never recorded an environment, but I took part in a service in John the Divine (choir member) in New York and the reverb as I remember it has some of the qualities you describe.

    Not having the opportunity to set up properly, my one fear is the dynamic range of the thing, and deciding how far back to put the mic. Get too close and I have 30v peaks; too far away and everything starts to swim. I just hope I don't get my calculations wrong!

    Again, thank you for the detailed information about the Cathedral which will be invaluable for me while making my preparations.

  7. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    OVU, that has to "Rank" as possibly the most informative, useful and complete answer to a post I've ever seen here.

    What a wonderful, thorough description you've done. I feel like I've been there in person. If we had a hall of fame around here, this post should go in it. Worth its weight in gold, absolutely.

    And I apologize for the bad pun. :twisted:

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