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Hand-operated Devices For Moving Swell Shades


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#21 Colin Harvey

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 10:24 AM

I have these "delightful" pedals on my organ.

They take a lot of getting used to, I assure you!

Basically, as others have said, they are centre pivoted and sprung, such that they have no actual position information to give you (i.e. you can't tell where the shutters are based on the pedal position, because it always returns to centre).

We have 2 Smith's gauges (old Morris Minor fuel guages), which indicate the position of the choir and swell boxes. They can just be seen under the left hand stop jamb in this picture - http://www.laudachoi...ry/large-2.html

How far you push the pedal determines how quickly the shutters move. It is very easy, once accustomed to them to do a very slow crescendo...

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i remember playing this organ over the summer. Those Swell pedals are definitely an acquired skill. I remember spending a good 5 minutes trying to get the choir box 1/2 open (according to the dial) before playing some piece of music. It was surprisingly difficult. Not exactly intuitive and they caught me unawares a few times....

#22 Tony Newnham

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 10:43 AM

The now retired secretary of our organists' association once told me about a Conacher instrument he had practiced on as a young man where the back-rest was connected to the swell shuttersl.  I took it he was pulling my leg, because he has a wicked sense of humour.  Evidently not.

It sounds utterly impracticable though.  Presumably it would have to be sprung so as to follow when the organist leaned forward.  I have visions of the shutters slamming shut as the organist reached forward to turn the page, and the Swell manual becoming almost unreachable with the box open.  Or perhaps vice versa.

Has anyone come across such a contraption?

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Hi

See my earlier post in this thread. I understand that there's some sort of harness that makes sure the seat back does what you want it to! (I've not seen the device, and wasn't aware of any other examples apart from the recently-restored organ at Rock).

Every Blessing

Tony

#23 ajt

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 10:50 AM

i remember playing this organ over the summer. Those Swell pedals are defiantely an acquired skill. I remember spending a good 5 minutes trying to get the choir box 1/2 open (according to the dial) before playing some piece of music. It was surprisingly difficult. Not exactly intuitive and they caught me unawares a few times....

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Well, it does help that the gauge for the swell shutters is now mostly working again - it now goes from 1/2 to fully open in a big jump, but it's better than not moving at all. I'm planning to swap the two guages over, so that the swell is the better working one.

I'm not having much luck sourcing a new guage from Smiths though :rolleyes:

#24 Guest_Nigel ALLCOAT_*

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 10:57 AM

There are a few instruments in Germany (for instance, St Sebald in Nurnberg) that I have encountered where there are sliding rods either side of the keyboards which allow the assistant/registrant to operate swell boxes and/also General Crescendo devices. These are not in the first instance created to accommodate legless organists, but to facilitate the correct performance of more avant-garde organ works by using a console coterie of contemporary music enthusiasts. Can't music be fun!

#25 Nick Bennett

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 01:37 PM

Something I've always wondered about this type of swell pedal - if you push the pedal to its fullest extent in one direction or the other and hold it there, do the shutters open/close with a bang? Or is the mechanism sophisticated enough to slow the motion down as the limit of travel approaches?

#26 Nick Bennett

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 01:46 PM

Hi

See my earlier post in this thread.  I understand that there's some sort of harness that makes sure the seat back does what you want it to!  (I've not seen the device, and wasn't aware of any other examples apart from the recently-restored organ at Rock).

Every Blessing

Tony

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A harness? :rolleyes: Well, I am sure that will appeal to some organists!

#27 Guest_Lee Blick_*

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 02:34 PM

With cutting edge digital technology available nowadays, I'm sure it could be possible to put a couple of pressure pads on the organist buttocks. To open the swell box all he/she has to do is start to lean back on the pads and to shut the box lean forward. To simulate accents with the swell box (open quickly then shuts), all the organist has to do is clench buttocks.

#28 John Robinson

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 05:20 PM

I played St Paul's decades ago and, unless I'm going senile (quite possible) the swell pedals were of the ordinary variety. As far as I can recall the only time I have ever come across the infinite gradation pedals was on the old organ at Canterbury Cathedral (even longer ago). Your description is correct. If I remember correctly, so long as the swell pedal remains very slightly depressed forward the box will continue to open slowly until fully open. The further you press the pedal the faster the box opens. To stop it opening, you have to return the swell pedal to a centrally sprung position (at least I think it was sprung). To close the shutters you used your heel to move the pedal in the opposite direction. What I do remember is, it took some getting used to!

I suppose with these swell pedals you could engineer a slow crescendo during a double-pedal passage by engaging the pedal a tad just before you start it.

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I think Liverpool Cathedral had/has them.

John

#29 Graham Powell

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 06:14 PM

I think Liverpool Cathedral had/has them.

John

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Southwark Cathedral also had them, until the H&H restoration.

Graham

#30 Guest_paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk_*

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 08:58 PM

Only guessing, but it's gotta be Salisbury!

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The truth is, while one might well expect it to be Salisbury it wasn't/isn't. He had such an unhappy time there when he was (for a few months only) Assistant Organist that I think this put him off it.

#31 Guest_paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk_*

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 09:13 PM

Southwark Cathedral also had them, until the H&H restoration.

Graham

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Graham is quite correct. Mind you, they were a real hazard. I clearly remember that for a long period before the H&H restoration that ther Solo box indicator was broken so you could only guess what position the shutters were from the sound - not much good when you're setting up registration for the start of a piece!

They (the Willis specials) had at least one useful characteristic, that was that you didn't get any stages. Even with your best elecropneumatic shutters - H&H or HN&B (when they were still building good organs) you might not hear the jumps in dynamic, but you might well hear the jumps mechanically - little pneumatic thuds as the crescendo 'happened'. With the Willis patent Speed and Gradation Pedals everything was as smooth as silk. They look like quite a bulky mechanism, to judge from the photos in Rotunda. I'm not surprised that they never caught on, but well worth a try.

In more than theory too, you could get a sforzando: by smartly pushing forward the box would jump immediately, probably nearly as fast as with a hitch-down ratchet pedal. These have their uses too - one sometimes has to reflect upon the fact that our present use of the swell pedal is a little anachronistic for romantic music pre- (say) 1920. Even Westminster Abbey (the Hill rebuild) seemed to have ratchets around that time. How about Cavaille-Colls too? A lot of Franck seems to me to need ratchet pedals.

#32 pcnd5584

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 09:15 PM

Only guessing, but it's gotta be Salisbury!

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No - David Halls has only been in post for a few months. Before this, several organists recorded on this instrument.

I would guess that it was Bristol.

Reasons:

*Brewer was appointed as Organist here, before Gloucester, but the previous incumbent (who had been dismissed) took the Dean and Chapter to court, claiming unfair dismissal - and won! Therefore, there is a link with Brewer, there. In addition, it is close to Gloucester and it is quite possible that HH knew this organ.

* The organ is nor dissimilar to the 1920 H&H at Gloucester (although I think that I would have preferred Bristol).

* As far as I know, only the incumbent organist has, since his appointment, recorded on this instrument - with the possible exception of a previous incumbent.

* At an RSCM course a few years ago, we fell foul of the O&M of the C at Bristol, who turfed us out of the Song School - during a rehearsal. This, despite the Song School being booked (as usual) by the RSCM. His reasons were such as to give me the impression that he was a little over-protective and perhaps slightly abraisive.

Just a thought!

Do not worry, Paul - you do not have to give away your secret!

(A PM will do!)

:)
Pierre Cochereau rocked, man


#33 Pierre Lauwers

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 10:03 PM

"A lot of Franck seems to me to need ratchet pedals."

(Quote)

Indeed!
The balanced Swell pedal at St-Clotilde was installed under
Tournemire's tenure around 1930.
Before that, it was well that "ratchet Pedal", something like
a coupler pedal you could only leave "on or off" if you did not
have the foot busy with it.

Best wishes,
Pierre

#34 Guest_Lee Blick_*

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 10:49 PM

The Fr Willis I used to play had one of them ratchet things. I used to hate using it but in time got used to it. It taught me to only use it when I really needed to which was good discipline because one often tends to hear endless crescendos and diminuendos via the modern swell pedal. Organs begin to sound like car engines in motion rather than musical instruments.

#35 ajt

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 11:05 PM

They (the Willis specials) had at least one useful characteristic, that was that you didn't get any stages.  Even with your best elecropneumatic shutters - H&H or HN&B (when they were still building good organs) you might not hear the jumps in dynamic, but you might well hear the jumps mechanically - little pneumatic thuds as the crescendo 'happened'.  With the Willis patent Speed and Gradation Pedals everything was as smooth as silk.  They look like quite a bulky mechanism, to judge from the photos in Rotunda. I'm not surprised that they never caught on, but well worth a try.

In more than theory too, you could get a sforzando: by smartly pushing forward the box would jump immediately, probably nearly as fast as with a hitch-down ratchet pedal.

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Yup, they are very smooth, no jump at all. I've not tried the sforzando - something to try tomorrow night, I think!

I'd still rather have a "normal" balanced pedal, though.

If anyone's interested in seeing the mechanism, I can probably take some pictures this week?

#36 Guest_paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk_*

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Posted 01 February 2006 - 09:06 AM

Yup, they are very smooth, no jump at all. I've not tried the sforzando - something to try tomorrow night, I think!

I'd still rather have a "normal" balanced pedal, though.

If anyone's interested in seeing the mechanism, I can probably take some pictures this week?

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Have you ever seen The Rotunda* - Henry Willis III's house magazine?
I can really recommend you try to track it down, it's fascinating. I haven't got a complete set, but thoroughly enjoy the copies I have.

I imagine that St.Mary's Southampton has an article to itself in there, most of the new Willis organs of the period get a good write-up. There's a lot about the Infinite Speed and Gradation pedals too.

*There will be a number of libraries with sets, but you may have to travel.

#37 ajt

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Posted 01 February 2006 - 09:12 AM

Have you ever seen The Rotunda* - Henry Willis III's house magazine?
I can really recommend you try to track it down, it's fascinating.  I haven't got a complete set, but thoroughly enjoy the copies I have.

I imagine that St.Mary's Southampton has an article to itself in there, most of the new Willis organs of the period get a good write-up.  There's a lot about the Infinite Speed and Gradation pedals too.

*There will be a number of libraries with sets, but you may have to travel.

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Apparently there's a set in Southampton Uni library, so I'm planning to go in and have a look. Fortunately one of the choir members also has an archive of pretty much everything concerning the building of the current organ, as she was one of the organists at the time, plus the various "The Organ" articles by Sumner, etc, that relate to it, so she might have the relevant Rotunda article too.

Thanks for that, though - I'm always keen to find new sources of info!

#38 rogbi200

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Posted 26 August 2015 - 07:46 AM

I visited Rock yesterday without being aware of this thread, and had to confess the leather belt did have me puzzled and a little intrigued.
Photos can be seen here- https://flic.kr/p/xwwxS8 and here https://flic.kr/p/xxyzrb
There appears to be a 'traditional' ratchet pedal as well.
The front Diapason pipes are tin, including the huge (for a tiny village church) pedal OD.
I didn't get a chance to play, but as I'm still nearby, may try and investigate doing so.
Is such a system unique, or at least is this the only such system still extant?
A friend has just described it as the 'rocking chair of Rock'!

#39 David Drinkell

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Posted 26 August 2015 - 01:44 PM

Although I don't mind ratchet swell pedals (particularly if they have one or two notches to engage at different stages of opening), I was completely floored by those on the sublime Willis at St. Bees Priory (two of them - Swell and Solo).  They look like ratchet pedals but are, apparently a special Willis type which I hadn't encountered elsewhere.  I couldn't work out, during a short visit, how on earth they worked.

 

St. Paul's did indeed have Infinite Gradation swell pedals - I believe they were the first examples installed - and Henry III recorded that there were no indicators at the express wish of the organist, who didn't want his console messed up with dials.

 

At Southwark, due to the odd position of the console, one of the most arresting effects the player heard from the Swell was the crash of the shutters if one forgot about the nature of the Swell pedals.

 

The late and much lamented St. Jude's, Thornton Heath organ had no less than four Infinite Gradation pedals (Great, Swell, Choir, Chancel), as well as a General Crescendo, despite only having three manuals.

 

The Rotunda was an idea which Willis borrowed (along with console design, Pitman chests, Sylvestrinas et al) from Aeolian Skinner.  Like Skinner's Stop, Open and Reed, it was only published for a few years and had ceased to exist long before the organ at St. Mary's, Southampton was put in in 1956.  It makes interesting reading, not only because of HWIII's magisterial style but also because of the even more snooty writing of the editor, D. Batigan Verne.  HWIII at least knew what he was talking about, whereas Verne was much less knowledgeable and, on at least one occasion, got the firm involved in a law-suit when he ridiculed a new device introduced by a provincial firm (they took offence at his reference to "the hele (sic) of the foot").



#40 John Robinson

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Posted 26 August 2015 - 10:19 PM

With cutting edge digital technology available nowadays, I'm sure it could be possible to put a couple of pressure pads on the organist buttocks. To open the swell box all he/she has to do is start to lean back on the pads and to shut the box lean forward. To simulate accents with the swell box (open quickly then shuts), all the organist has to do is clench buttocks.

As this thread has now been resurrected after a period of almost ten years (!), it occurs to me that there must be several possibilities for swell box control when both hands and both feet are occupied.  Whilst 'buttock control' sounds intriguing, at the risk of possible derision I have another suggestion that crossed my mind years ago.

 

On the grounds that most organists are not required to sing whilst playing, a plastic pipe (thoroughly disinfected, of course) could be provided which the organist could place in his/her mouth and control the opening/closing of the box by blowing or sucking.  I'm being perfectly serious, I assure you, and the technology is certainly available to sense air pressure or vacuum.

 

On a more flippant note, I have been racking my brain thinking about which other parts of the human anatomy might be available.  Best not to go there.






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