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Hand-operated Devices For Moving Swell Shades


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#41 Vox Humana

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Posted 26 August 2015 - 11:59 PM

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.

 

Undoubtedly we have many players who could cope with this. On the other hand, I can think of a number of organists whose honest, but not exactly trouble-free, exertions at the console would inevitably result in a quite unpredictable sequence of involuntary, violent vacillations of the swell shutters - assuming they could keep the pipe in their mouths.



#42 David Drinkell

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 01:47 AM

It's been done.  Someone in the nineteenth century (I think it was Willis) invented a system whereby the player blew into a mouthpiece, which triggered a pneumatic device which worked the shutters.  As may be gathered - it didn't catch on....

 

Manchester Cathedral organ at one time had a device whereby sitting on the stool turned on the hydraulic blower.  Kendrick Pyne was quite proud of it until a] a visitor said it reminded him of the automatic flush in a railway station lavatory and b] the choristers discovered that by raising the seat and turning the lever over they could reverse the action, so that the blower went off when the player sat down and the wind ran out during the opening voluntary.



#43 Andrew Butler

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 06:20 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?

Yes - I've heard of this.  Can't remember where though.



#44 Andrew Butler

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 06:23 AM

http://www.npor.org.....html?RI=E00594 - This has manually operated shutters to the GREAT to adjust sound in the gallery....



#45 Andrew Butler

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 06:40 AM

I'm sure there is a village organ somewhere in Norfolk with shutters operated by hand lever.....



#46 Colin Pykett

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 08:29 AM


 

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.

 

 

In the original infinite speed and gradation patent there is mention  of an automatic deceleration feature to prevent the shutters slamming shut as they got near to the fully-closed position, but it does not say how it might have worked.  I figured out a possible mechanism but have no idea whether it, or an alternative, was ever implemented (PM me if you want to prolong this discussion privately as it is probably not of wide interest).  Hope-Jones had used an electropneumatic brake much earlier which was activated when the shutter speed reached a preset level.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Breath-operated MIDI pressure controllers have been available for a long time to simulate wind instruments.  It would be a simple matter to integrate these with a modern electric action.

 

CEP


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#47 David Drinkell

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 12:10 PM

SS Peter & Paul, Oulton, Norfolk, has an organ built by Archie Chaffey of Cawston in which the shutters are controlled by a slide above the upper manual.  He was an amateur enthusiast - the keys and draw-stops were second-hand but he made everything else himself, including the pipes, which have wood basses and trebles made of paper or cardboard with wooden mouths.  In case you're wondering, it's a decent little job and sounds rather nice.



#48 Jon Dods

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 07:36 PM

A propos of nothing in particular, the organ of St Mary's Abbey Oulton has 'enclosed nuns' according to NPOR. Not a stop I've come across, either enclosed or unenclosed.



#49 John Robinson

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 09:27 PM

A propos of nothing in particular, the organ of St Mary's Abbey Oulton has 'enclosed nuns' according to NPOR.

Hopefully not bricked up!

 

Or perhaps it is something along the lines of the central European 'nachtigall'!



#50 Andrew Butler

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 09:38 AM

A propos of nothing in particular, the organ of St Mary's Abbey Oulton has 'enclosed nuns' according to NPOR. Not a stop I've come across, either enclosed or unenclosed.

 

That is Oulton, Staffordshire. The NPOR survey is incomplete - just listing footages of stops on each division.  They are an enclosed order of nuns!



#51 dave the pipe

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 02:11 PM

Yes - I've heard of this.  Can't remember where though.

Check out the Gray and Davison organ of 1881 in the Parish Church in the village of Rock in Northumberland. The player is strapped into a harness connected to the back rest of the bench. Swelling is achieved by leaning back and forth. There is also a ratchet lever to the right of the player's feet as an alternative.  Interesting spec. too. See NPOR.



#52 David Drinkell

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 03:08 PM

"They are an enclosed order of nuns"

 

Doesn't the Wanamaker Organ in America have a similar division, installed specifically for the performance of Lefebure-Wely's  Andante in F?  On lesser instruments, resort must be made to Vox Humana, strings and Tremulant.



#53 Barry Oakley

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Posted 29 August 2015 - 07:59 AM

I live near Oulton Abbey, Staffordshire, and will try and get a specification list to submit to the NPOR. The abbey, a fine building, is the work of Pugin the younger and is only open daily at Mass times. In its heyday the abbey had a complement of around 40 Benedictine nuns in its enclosure. Now there are only two with a resident chaplain.



#54 Colin Pykett

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Posted 29 August 2015 - 08:15 AM

"They are an enclosed order of nuns"

 

Doesn't the Wanamaker Organ in America have a similar division, installed specifically for the performance of Lefebure-Wely's  Andante in F?  On lesser instruments, resort must be made to Vox Humana, strings and Tremulant.

 

I always fancy that the Pastorale movement of Guilmant's first sonata evokes something similar.  The tum-te-tumming of rustic yokels outside a church conjured up by the dialogue between the quiet solo reeds, contrasting with an order of nuns (enclosed in a swell box or otherwise) singing distantly inside the building, imitated as David suggests (and indeed called for explicitly by the composer).  Like Jon Dods though (#48), I have yet to come across a stop called 'order of nuns', even though I'd be the first to admit to the limited confines of my education.

 

CEP


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#55 Colin Harvey

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Posted 29 August 2015 - 01:59 PM

Bringing the topic back to its original subject, the Wanamaker organ has brass strips below the keyboards for operating the swell shutters.

 

Wanamaker Organ Console Photo



#56 David Drinkell

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Posted 29 August 2015 - 02:59 PM

Yes -the Guilmant is a lovely movement.  Trust me to have thought of a vulgar alternative first.....  The whole Sonata is a fine piece, especially the first movement with its Grand Old Duke of York pedal solo.



#57 Denis O'Connor

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 11:03 AM

As the swell control topic seems to have been comprehensively covered,may I ask the members for any views on the use of composite substitutes for timber in the construction of windchests? I should imagine that a generation has passed since their use by some builders in this country. Is there any evidence to support their use or has time demonstrated that they are manifestly unreliable? Thank you.



#58 Colin Pykett

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 01:38 PM

It depends on what you mean by "composite substitutes" and "windchests".  Properly treated and finished marine ply is not too prone to warping with age and not too sensitive to humidity changes, moisture and even liquid water resulting from things like leaking roofs.  MDF does not warp if kept reasonably dry but it is sensitive to moisture, indeed it could be said to be hygroscopic.  As it is little more than thick cardboard it swells and develops an uneven, sometimes 'pimply' surface when exposed to too much moisture (and certainly to liquid water) which is far removed from the pristine flatness it exhibits when new and fresh.  It slowly turns into extremely fine sawdust when subjected to movement such as rubbing from adjacent components such as sliders.

 

As to windchests, these disadvantages are more serious in the case of slider chests where changes in the frictional characteristics and dimensions of the components are less easily tolerated than in the case of unit chests, where there are no moving parts made of these materials and the only function of the chest is to form a box to contain the wind.

 

Having said all this, perhaps this revised topic ought to be continued somewhere else?

 

CEP


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#59 David Drinkell

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 01:43 PM

Maurice Grant used a composite called Tabopan for his soundboards to avoid problems associated with the contraction and expansion of timber.  They were very well made, cased in hardboard, and were not cheap.  MF-G was a fine designer and a stickler for quality workmanship.  I've never heard that his soundboards were unsatisfactory.  The only instruments of his of which I had much experience were the two 'Model' jobs at Queen's University, Belfast and the Convent at Lurgan (identical in construction, but different in sound because - I was told - the former was finished by Hendrik ten Bruggencate and the latter by Chris Gordon-Wells).  I think these had soundboards imported from a German supplier so probably don't count here, but I never knew either organ to give trouble.



#60 MusingMuso

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 10:30 PM

No-one has mentoned the crescendo at the beginning of the Reubke Sonata on the 94th Psalm, where there is a crescendo while both feet are occupied.

Going back year and years, I vaguely recall the late Stephen Bicknell mentioning a device on certain German instruments, where a hitch down pedal kept the swell box shut, but a weight closed the box when the hitch down pedal was moved. I seem to recall that the speed of the opening was controlled by a knob, which presumably controlled some sort of friction clutch.

Don't quote me, but it sound plausible.

 

 

MM






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