Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Organ in the movie "Sweeney Todd"

This comes from the PIPORG-L list. Those who have already seen the movie Sweeney Todd commented about the organ played in the film. As it turns out, the organist was Andy Richards, and the listserv member had written Mr. Richards an email, asking about the organ he played.

Mr. Richards very kindly supplied this response:

Thanks so much for your kind email - and I'm so glad that you liked the movie - it was a labour of love for all of us involved with it. I went to Rugby School in my teens (Rugby is a large and famous 450-year-old public school in the UK - I believe that you call them private schools in the US) and so when the Music Producer, Mike Higham, (with whom I've worked closely on the picture) said that he wanted to use a real Cathedral Organ on the score, I suggested that the Rugby School Chapel Organ might be perfect, since I'd studied on it many years ago and knew how wonderful it sounded.

The Organ, in my time, was a large Walker 4-manual electro-pneumatic action beast, but in 2001 it was rebuilt, with funds left by a charity, by Kenneth Jones and Associates. Many of the old pipes remain, but the console was moved closer to the body of the Organ and the action was changed to being tracker action. It is still a 4 manual organ but has has 32' reeds added to the pedals which really helped to give alot more 'ooph' to the score and it is employed throughout the movie. Also, during the rebuild, the reeds and mixture pipes were moved to the front of the organ, outside the main case, to give the sound of the organ more clarity and volume, much needed when playing with a large congregation. Apart from myself, Mike Higham and a sound recording team being there, Tim Burton also came along to witness the recording. We all had a great day out!

I hope that this helps with your question Joe, and I'll pass on your remarks to the rest of the music team involved with Sweeney.

Below, I've added some info about Kenneth Jones, should you wish for more detail.

Kind regards

Andy Richards

Organ Builder Profile:
Kenneth Jones & Associates

Kenneth Jones and Associates design and handcraft unique pipe organs. Each instrument is custom designed architecturally, musically and technically, for its particular location and musical requirements.

The founder of the firm and its chief executive is Kenneth Jones, who was born in Longford, Ireland, in 1936, was educated in Dublin and holds degrees in engineering and in arts. He practised as an engineer in West Africa for seven years and started organbuilding there in 1961, having studied the craft in theory since his schooldays.

Kenneth Jones' executive co-director is Trevor Crowe who holds degrees in music and in engineering. The firm of Kenneth Jones Pipe Organs Ltd. (the corporate name) has a staff of fourteen.

Several members of the team are practising musicians, organists and singers and this contributes to the artistic dimension in every hand-crafted organ which comes from Bray. Kenneth Jones himself has been a frequent performer (harpsichord, organ, piano-accompaniment) on radio and television and, for some years, was principal conductor of the Dublin Orchestral players.

The work of the firm can be found in cathedrals and churches of all denominations, in major institutions including Trinity College Dublin, University College of Dublin, St. Patrick's College Maynooth, the Royal College of Music London, the University of Cambridge, the College of Music Dublin, and in many private homes.

In addition to their work in Ireland, Kenneth Jones and Associates have been commissioned to design and build instruments for other countries, notably the United States, with representatives in several areas. Installations in the United States now comprise a significant part of the firm's work, and considerable experience has been built up from as far south as Florida to as far north as Alaska.

Since he started organ building with his own firm over twenty-seven years ago, Kenneth Jones has been responsible for an Opus list of over 120 organs. Over 80 of these organs have been new (of all sizes up to four manuals) and the others include major rebuildings and historic restorations.

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