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Brian Sharp and the Riha Orchestra

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  • Brian Sharp and the Riha Orchestra

    Back in the late 1970s early 80s, when I discovered my interest in electronic organs, Brian Sharp (RIP) was recognised as one who had probably done more than any other to promote the orchestral style of playing. I was lucky enough to see him live in concert on several occasions. I have just been fortunate to separately source three cassette tapes making up the set Organ Fiesta: Brian Sharp and the Riha Orchestra. Whilst Brian's place in the world of electronic organs is acknowledged, I am not so sure about the Riha. The 3-manual Orchestra is, not surprisingly, quite a bit different from today's orchestral instruments but how was it rated at the time and what was the competition? Are there any known survivors?

    I know andyg worked closely with Brian and he will hopefully be able to offer comments but I would like the views of anyone who goes that far back 😏.

    For anyone interested, the tapes are on YouTube - search for "Brian Sharp Organ Fiesta" and they should pop up.
    Previous: Elka Crescendo 303, Technics G7, Yamaha EL-90
    Current: Yamaha AR-100

  • #2
    There was a saying going around at the time (Not sure if it was started by a magazine or radio show) with words to the effect of: If it sounds more like an Orchestra than an organ, then it is probably Brian Sharp on the Rhia Orchestra. (Characteristic sound was similar to Eminent/Solina organs (But a bit richer) with similar reliability)

    Bill

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    • #3
      A web search turned up this interesting thread from 2016 where AndyG weighed in on the RiHa Orchestra:

      https://organforum.com/forums/forum/...mond-tone-nice
      Larry is my name; Allen is an organ brand. Allen RMWTHEA.3 with RMI Electra-Piano; Allen 423-C+Gyro; Britson Opus OEM38; Saville Series IV Opus 209; Steinway AR Duo-Art, Mills Violano Virtuoso with MIDI; Hammond 9812H with roll player; Gulbransen Rialto; Roland E-200; Mason&Hamlin AR Ampico piano, Allen ADC-5300-D with MIDI.

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      • #4
        I don't remember the saying quoted by abacus but perhaps it says it all. Was that as good as it got back then? Don't follow the Eminent/Solina reliability comment: good or bad?
        I wonder why I didn't find the thread Larry has come up with. Wilma Grobben mentioned there is not my style at all.
        Thank you both.
        Previous: Elka Crescendo 303, Technics G7, Yamaha EL-90
        Current: Yamaha AR-100

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        • #5
          The Orchestra, as I said back then, was a great sounding organ in the right hands (like Brian's) and with a decent leslie on the end. It wasn't the most reliable of instruments, perhaps there was just too much in it. The strings were smooth, a la Eminent. Brian didn't like too much phasing on his strings, I preferred a little more animation and I'm sure I've tweaked the occasional Kawai before he played it in concert!

          I think Bill's quote about Brian and the Orchestra may have come from the RiHa camp itself! I can't recall it per se but there were many similar things said about B# and his orchestral sounds.

          Eminent/Solina reliability? Probably better than the Orchestra!
          It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

          New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

          Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
          Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
          Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
          Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks Andy.

            What other instruments of the time were recognised for their orchestral qualities? I have a 1986 tape of Brian on the Yamaha FX20 (introduced 1983), Orchestral Keyboards (completely different from his CD of the same name), and an undated tape of him on the HS8 (1987), Music All The Way, but both of these are several years after the Riha Orchestra which appears to have been around in 1978.

            Presumably we were then at the beginning of orchestral instrument development.
            Previous: Elka Crescendo 303, Technics G7, Yamaha EL-90
            Current: Yamaha AR-100

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            • #7
              This Brian Sharp tribute website has a list of his recordings http://www.spanglefish.com/briansharp/index.asp

              Comment


              • RogerM
                RogerM commented
                Editing a comment
                It mentions a few but, unless I'm missing something, there's a lot which aren't mentioned.

            • #8
              Originally posted by RogerM View Post
              What other instruments of the time were recognised for their orchestral qualities?
              For all the talk then and now about Riha and Eminent strings, those on the Wersi W-series took some beating, especially the double strings of the Galaxy.

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              • andyg
                andyg commented
                Editing a comment
                The famous Double Strings, yes, but the standard Wersi strings on the W and Helios never did much for me, partly because they were mono, not stereo, IIRC. The phasing just didn't sound right. Put them in the right hands - KW, FL, CP, AZ et al and they could indeed sound special but those guys were able to make anything sound good!

              • RogerM
                RogerM commented
                Editing a comment
                AZ - Ady Zehnpfennig? Never heard of him until now.

            • #9
              Real orchestral sounding instruments came around the early to mid-80s with the launch of various digital organs and then from the late 80s when things really jumped up as sampled sounds became the norm.
              The downside with digital (Or sampled instruments) was that you could no longer blend voices together to make a new voice like you could in the analogue era, but instead had to think of the individual orchestral instruments and how they work together. (This is how it is today)

              Bill

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              • #10
                Originally posted by abacus View Post
                The downside with digital (Or sampled instruments) was that you could no longer blend voices together to make a new voice like you could in the analogue era, but instead had to think of the individual orchestral instruments and how they work together. (This is how it is today)
                So as you would if composing for a group of musicians, such as an orchestra or band. That's how it was in Beethoven's day too 😊. What goes around comes around.
                Previous: Elka Crescendo 303, Technics G7, Yamaha EL-90
                Current: Yamaha AR-100

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                • #11
                  Originally posted by abacus View Post
                  Real orchestral sounding instruments came around the early to mid-80s with the launch of various digital organs and then from the late 80s when things really jumped up as sampled sounds became the norm.
                  The downside with digital (Or sampled instruments) was that you could no longer blend voices together to make a new voice like you could in the analogue era, but instead had to think of the individual orchestral instruments and how they work together. (This is how it is today)

                  Bill
                  And probably, this is where organ/keyboard players might have failed back then and even nowadays: thinking in an orchestral manner. Plus, playing the voice similar to how the real instrument would be played.

                  I have to say, what caught my attention some years ago and lured me back into home organ playing (and for that reason I got attached to the brand name anew) was the WERSI range of OAS/OAX instruments when played in orchestral style.

                  Now, I am more interested in actual organ sounds than all the other fluff (I guess there is now a reason to have a closer look at Böhms and their RealOrgan emulation), but it's great that today's instruments can sound any way the organist envisions.



                  Comment


                  • #12
                    Yes, it's a very different world when you step from older analogue models from all makes to the digital models where you do indeed have to think orchestrally to get the best results.
                    It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

                    New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

                    Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
                    Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
                    Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
                    Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      There are a few exceptions though... The Technics GA3 - albeit purely digital & sampled - offers both It‘s possible to play it the orchestral style. But since it also offers „separated tabs“ with pure analoge organ sounds (e.g. the typical analog strings with phasing, clarinet, trumpet, kinura, diapason, flutes/tibia...) that you can mix it is also possible to play it 70ties style.
                      Playing Hammond Aurora Classic, Technics GA3, Roland G800 & AT500.

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        Both andyg and auronoxe have referred to phasing on the strings of analogue organs. Doubtless I should know but I'm afraid I'm not with this. Can someone please explain what phasing is? Thank you.

                        [Edit after reading this in Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaser_(effect) Link not working properly - Yes, you did mean ... ... !]
                        If it's the creation of a series of peaks and troughs in the frequency spectrum to create a sweeping effect, then I'm with B# and not much in favour. Doesn't sound very natural to me.
                        Last edited by RogerM; 06-15-2020, 02:02 PM.
                        Previous: Elka Crescendo 303, Technics G7, Yamaha EL-90
                        Current: Yamaha AR-100

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                        • #15
                          The typical string effect of the analog organs was created by shifting the phase of the sound resp. delaying the signal and adding this to the original signal. Sometimes it is also called „Celeste“ effect. This simulates the fact that e.g. 5 violins being played at the same time also are „out of phase“ and slightly „out of tune“ to each other - which creates the natural „Strings“ sound. So it in fact phasing was the technical copy of the natural string sound effect - as good as possible at that time.
                          Playing Hammond Aurora Classic, Technics GA3, Roland G800 & AT500.

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