Mark Blatchly

Wyvern Pastorale 226
The Wyvern Pastorale 226 is a stunning musical instrument – one of the most satisfying organs I have ever played… and the list of those that I have found wholly satisfying is not a long one.
Even the greatest pipe organ is probably at its best in only one school of repertoire; with its amazingly complete 26-stop specification, and its 34 historical tunings (which change its character entirely), the Wyvern Pastorale 226 is a miracle of organ design – and its nature, being so readily switchable, makes it versatile but without the element of compromise that dogs so many eclectic pipe organs. I have played very good recent electronic organs, but have quickly got bored. The Wyvern Pastorale 226 commands and retains my respect; every session on it is a treat. It feels properly real − with its cunning use of wind slump, wind noise, tuning imperfections, directional speech, and the other irregularities that characterise ‘real’ organs. As with all tightly designed pipe organs, the Wyvern Pastorale 226 tutti is everything minus the undulating ranks: each stop makes a difference in whichever combination is selected, and each stop blends with any other. If you don’t like the way it’s voiced, you can change it a fair bit too – though I have found this to be mostly unnecessary. There are two specifications – the English and the Continental: I use only the latter, and thus spend my days in virtual versions of Poitiers, Leipzig & Paris. This is no fool’s paradise: the Wyvern Pastorale 226 is not perfect, but it is REAL – and in so many ways it offers an organ-playing sensation that is close to ideal.
Few British organists play regularly on an instrument designed principally for organ literature. This seems like an extraordinary statement, but it is not. Most (in fact, nearly all) British pipe organs were designed to accompany hymns, psalms & anthems; these instruments also major in the conservative ‘modern’ British school (Harwood, Stanford, Howells, Elgar, Ireland, Bairstow & Vaughan Williams etc) whose solo music makes only modest advances from the conservative textures & ideas of Anglican choral accompaniment: nice & euphonious − but not massively interesting. When these hymn-machines get round to playing Bach, Couperin, Brahms, Franck, Vierne & Dupré it is customary for the player (and his audience) to marvel politely at how convincingly the registrations can be fudged: “it sounds like a cornet… like some French foundations… like organo pleno… etc” – and with certain schools of repertoire (French Classical, for eg) the excuse-making is particularly painful. The sad fact is that most British organists work all their lives to master the greats of the repertoire, and never actually play them on organs built for the purpose. In fine − unless we are playing at Gloucester, Christ Church Oxford, Coventry, Westminster Cathedral, Hexham and the like – we all have to make do.
Buying an electronic organ, rather than a pipe organ, is another sort of making do. Yes, there are no pipes – but even if you have room for an extremely small pipe organ in your house, the tutti of the Wyvern Pastorale 226 (complete with 32’ reed and scintillating mixture-work) will scupper your pipe-purism.
The Wyvern Pastorale 226 is built by people who love pipe organs, and who understand what an organist passionate about the great music written for the instrument will want. At present I am particularly enjoying the Couperin masses, Daquin & de Grigny on it; none of this stuff ever made any sense to me until I played it in historical tunings. French & German Romantic music goes very well on it too. It sings, crackles, fizzes & bites; every sound is musically satisfying, and encourages further practice. Actually, the first thing I did (having switched to Werchmeister III) was hack through all the Bach chorale preludes I had never previously bothered with; like the Couperin & co, this music came freshly to life.
All organists are in search of the perfect instrument, but mostly we have to keep the ideal in our heads. The Wyvern Pastorale 226 is a different animal from the great organs in the locations listed above – but it emulates nearly all their cardinal virtues. Of how many British pipe organs can you say that?