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#1 DHM

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 11:19 PM

Is there an RCO (and/or AGO) standard for the angles (from the vertical) of swell pedals when fully open and closed?

#2 Colin Pykett

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 08:08 AM

The organ builder Clive Sidney drew up a detailed and beautifully-executed diagram of a complete console which he kindly sent me some years ago as a PDF file.  I have also seen it crop up on the web elsewhere from time to time.  However I would not feel able to send you my copy without his permission, so maybe you might contact him yourself at:

 

http://www.tuningand...le-clive-sidney

 

This is not his company website, which I think exists separately though I couldn't instantly find it just now, but the link given enables you to send him a message.

 

It shows 50 degrees as the angular separation between the box open and box closed positions, plus other dimensions.

 

As to the status of the so-called 'RCO standard' I'm tempted to ask "what's that then"?  There's apparently nothing on their current website about it, nor has there been for years whenever I've looked.  This is unlike the status of the AGO one, which was on their site recently when I checked.  One well-known organ builder once told me that the dimensions of the mid-20th century HN&B console at Kensington Gore became a sort of de-facto standard subsequently, but he didn't take much notice of it!

 

Maybe our host or other organ builder members would be able to comment somewhat more helpfully.  It's a good question, if only because it keeps cropping up all the time.

 

But if you remain stuck, I have some commercial swell pedals by Kimber Allen which I always use when building (electric action or digital) consoles, and I could give you the operating dimensions and angles of these if you like.  Whether they conform to any standard I could not say, but they are of course very widely used in the craft.

 

CEP


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#3 innate

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 08:33 AM

The operating dimensions and angles of a swell pedal could only be “standard” if taken in conjunction with the position of the pedal relative to the pedal-board and the lowest manual. There’s a beautiful new organ in Central London whose only defect for me is the position of the swell pedal, whereby my knee collides with the underneath of the manuals before the box is fully open.



#4 mf2701

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 08:41 AM

There’s a beautiful new organ in Central London whose only defect for me is the position of the swell pedal, whereby my knee collides with the underneath of the manuals before the box is fully open.

Where?

 

MF



#5 innate

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 09:31 AM

Swiss Church, Endell Street, Covent Garden. Spaeth organ. Beautifully positioned in a “West” gallery. I think the Swell Pedal is positioned somewhat to the right of centre, which is another slight issue …



#6 Chris Lord

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 10:14 AM


 

It shows 50 degrees as the angular separation between the box open and box closed positions, plus other dimensions.

 

 

I have what is probably the same document, but I read the angle as 50 degrees above horizontal when box is closed and my copy of the AGO specification I read as 41 degrees from vertical but with no indication of box position, however I am no expert in reading technical drawings...



#7 Colin Pykett

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 10:41 AM

Chris might well be right (#6).  I have 50 degs in my head for some reason but have not recently looked at Clive Sidney's drawing.  Sorry if I have confused things.  It will obviously be best to peruse the real thing, which I haven't the time to do this morning.

 

Innate also said:

 

 

The operating dimensions and angles of a swell pedal could only be “standard” if taken in conjunction with the position of the pedal relative to the pedal-board and the lowest manual. There’s a beautiful new organ in Central London whose only defect for me is the position of the swell pedal, whereby my knee collides with the underneath of the manuals before the box is fully open.

 

Very true.  However Mr Sidney's useful drawing is of the whole console as well as of just the swell pedal.

 

I once experienced the opposite problem - instead of my knees hitting the keybench, the pedal depressed one of the 'sharp' pedal keys when you closed it fully!  Fancy leaving an organ in that state ...  (it wasn't the work of what one could call a top-flight builder).

 

CEP


"You can never know everything about something. But you can always know something about everything" - Amit Kumar

 

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#8 Vox Humana

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 05:19 PM

There’s a beautiful new organ in Central London whose only defect for me is the position of the swell pedal, whereby my knee collides with the underneath of the manuals before the box is fully open.

 

The Foghorn suffers from this problem (and it has three swell pedals), but I think the problem there is that the Choir manual is set too low. That wasn't the only problem with that console. When it first arrived the stop jambs were so far away from the manual ends that the assistant organist complained that one needed the arms of a gibbon to reach the stops. Rushworth & Dreaper did eventually improve this problem, but very reluctantly and not without a lot of argument.

 

I can't help with the angle question, but, as to swell pedals not being central, isn't it usual to have them offset very slightly to the right? IANAOB, but I did check out some photos, from which it seems that, when there are only one or two swell pedals, it is fairly usual to align the right-hand edge of the right-hand swell pedal with the left-hand edge of the middle F sharp so that the pedal itself is over the E and F. This position certainly feels comfortable to me, while still allowing operation with either foot. When there are three swell pedals I think it is the practice now to place the middle one in the afore-mentioned position, but I stand to be corrected.

 

The most ergonomic and comfortable consoles I have ever played are Harrison and Harrison ones of the 1960s, such as Coventry Cathedral, St George's, Windsor and a couple of others. Stops easy to see and reach, all manuals at a very comfortable height, piston placing perfect, pedalboard recess and positioning perfect - and of course the swell pedals. However, I seem to remember reading on here that H&H have lost the measurements. A shame if so.



#9 DHM

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 06:04 PM

As regards placement of swell pedals, I have always assumed that the English norm was to have them placed centrally (however many there are), and that having them offset to the right was a continental European thing.

But I'm happy to stand corrected by those who know better.



#10 Vox Humana

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 06:33 PM

As regards placement of swell pedals, I have always assumed that the English norm was to have them placed centrally (however many there are)

 

This photo of the Salisbury Cathedral Willis demonstrates what I meant. I have no idea from this how the pedalboard aligns with the manuals; it doesn't look like it's either on the Es or the Ds, but it's hard to tell. But the right-hand swell pedal is nevertheless over the middle E and F. For what it's worth, Audsley, in The Art of Organ Building quotes a chamber organ scheme of W. T. Best's, where the Great is "Inclosed in a swell: the pedal of which must be in the center of the pedal-board, above the 'E and F' keys." I suppose it makes sense to place it where the careless heel is less likely to catch one of the sharps.

Organ%20console_1.jpg



#11 Contrabombarde

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 08:37 PM

I don't know if it represents a "standard" but Peterson organ supplies in the US publish detailed technical images of their swell pedal's movement range, showing a movement from 41 degrees to the vertical when shut, to 63 degrees to the vertical when open:

 

http://www.petersone.../EXPRESSION.PDF



#12 mf2701

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:26 AM

Swiss Church, Endell Street, Covent Garden. Spaeth organ. Beautifully positioned in a “West” gallery. I think the Swell Pedal is positioned somewhat to the right of centre, which is another slight issue …

That's interesting because the predecessor of this organ was a 2-man Hunter, and Hunter was idiosyncratic with Swell pedals; often to the treble end and always ankle stretching in the open position. Plus ça change...

 

MF



#13 pcnd5584

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 04:14 PM

 

The Foghorn suffers from this problem (and it has three swell pedals), but I think the problem there is that the Choir manual is set too low. That wasn't the only problem with that console. When it first arrived the stop jambs were so far away from the manual ends that the assistant organist complained that one needed the arms of a gibbon to reach the stops. Rushworth & Dreaper did eventually improve this problem, but very reluctantly and not without a lot of argument.

 

I can't help with the angle question, but, as to swell pedals not being central, isn't it usual to have them offset very slightly to the right? IANAOB, but I did check out some photos, from which it seems that, when there are only one or two swell pedals, it is fairly usual to align the right-hand edge of the right-hand swell pedal with the left-hand edge of the middle F sharp so that the pedal itself is over the E and F. This position certainly feels comfortable to me, while still allowing operation with either foot. When there are three swell pedals I think it is the practice now to place the middle one in the afore-mentioned position, but I stand to be corrected.

 

The most ergonomic and comfortable consoles I have ever played are Harrison and Harrison ones of the 1960s, such as Coventry Cathedral, St George's, Windsor and a couple of others. Stops easy to see and reach, all manuals at a very comfortable height, piston placing perfect, pedalboard recess and positioning perfect - and of course the swell pedals. However, I seem to remember reading on here that H&H have lost the measurements. A shame if so.

 

 

Absolutely, Vox. The two instruments which you list above also possess the most comfortable pedal-boards which I have ever played - ours here is awful. UI suspect that there is a layout error somewhere in the middle of the board.

 

With regard to H&H losing their console dimensions - I understand that the new console at Saint David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire looks right - but feels wrong. However, I would be interested to learn if anyone has played Cirencester Parish Church, or Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral - and whether these consoles feel like older H&H models.

 

Regarding the foghorn: by the time that I first played this behemoth (late 1970s), the console felt reasonably comfortable - which was more than could be said for my ears, when JB was demonstrating it....


Pierre Cochereau rocked, man


#14 pcnd5584

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 04:18 PM

 

This photo of the Salisbury Cathedral Willis demonstrates what I meant. I have no idea from this how the pedalboard aligns with the manuals; it doesn't look like it's either on the Es or the Ds, but it's hard to tell. But the right-hand swell pedal is nevertheless over the middle E and F. For what it's worth, Audsley, in The Art of Organ Building quotes a chamber organ scheme of W. T. Best's, where the Great is "Inclosed in a swell: the pedal of which must be in the center of the pedal-board, above the 'E and F' keys." I suppose it makes sense to place it where the careless heel is less likely to catch one of the sharps.

 

 

Having played this instrument on many occasions, I can state that this console is quite comfortable in every respect. Even the combination pedals are easy to find. I have never had any trouble locating the Swell (or Solo) expression pedal - although I am glad that they replaced the HWIII 'Infinite speed and gradation' mechanism. (I am sure that, if he sees this post, David Drinkell will write that he likes this - but I encountered it on one instrument and preferred conventional balanced pedals.)

 

I am also glad that H&H have gradually removed all of the ebony finish on the jambs, key-slips and key-cheeks. This loft is not particularly well-lit, and it used to be a bit like playing inside a bag.


Pierre Cochereau rocked, man


#15 Vox Humana

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 05:23 PM

The two instruments which you list above also possess the most comfortable pedal-boards which I have ever played...

 

I agree. I have no idea what it was - an extra degree or two of concavity, perhaps, and/or the extent to which the board was recessed beneath the manuals? - but they just felt so right. 



#16 David Drinkell

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 07:17 AM

I've played a few organs with Willis Infinite Gradation swell pedals - Canterbury, Southwark, Salisbury, All Souls' Langham Place, St. Jude's Thornton Heath and Liverpool come to mind.  Of these, I think only Liverpool still has them (the Thornton Heath organ went to Japan, I believe, after Carlo Curley bought it to save it from being scrapped).  I remember reading somewhere that "the incumbent organists prefer them".  I didn't find them a problem, but I wouldn't go nearly so far as to admit I preferred them!  Willis claimed that they gave a more precise control than other types of swell engine, and possibly they were less susceptible to the woes that can beset whiffle-trees and the like (most notably several stages operating at once, with a consequent "whoof" of crescendo - you can hear this happen on the two recordings Belfast Cathedral Choir made for Guild Music).

 

The oddest swell pedal I've met is at Coalisland Parish Church in Northern Ireland, where you press the heel down to open the box and the toe to close it.



#17 Colin Pykett

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 08:06 AM

I've played some organs with the infinite speed and degradation system too - St Andrew's Kingsbury comes to mind (it might have lost it by now).   However I believe those at Liverpool have been upgraded with fancier console indicators, using LED displays to replace the previous ones (which were car dashboard fuel gauges in some organs; bargraph-type displays using small incandescent lamps in others).

 

I saw little point in it and still think it was a solution looking for a problem.  It's possibly not well known, but the system (at least as originally implemented) did not have a continuously variable range of speeds - only 5 or 6 discrete speeds were available, the figure depending on whether you were opening or closing the box.

 

However I've always been intrigued as to how it worked from a gadgety point of view, and it's only recently that I sussed it out together with an engineer who is also a member of this forum (though there were still some loose ends which we've just left hanging for now). So if anyone is into heavy bedtime reading, maybe try this .....

 

http://www.pykett.or...ndgradation.htm

 

CEP


"You can never know everything about something. But you can always know something about everything" - Amit Kumar

 

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#18 David Drinkell

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 06:30 PM

That's interesting.  Sumner (or was it Norman?) said that the Willis system was "virtually stepless" but I couldn't work out how that could be true.  With any control, like the whiffle-tree, that uses trains of small motors to open the shutters, there's bound to be some degree of steps in the operation, the smoothness depending on how many stages are in the motor.  Eight is not enough and I believe some used thirty-two.  Willis III reckoned that his system could move the shutters slower than would be possible with a foot operating a conventional balanced pedal.  I know that it could certainly move very fast if one wasn't careful.  When I first played at Southwark ("John" Warrell was very kind to a strange teenager and let me come in when I wanted), I reckoned that one of the loudest noises heard at the extremely badly-sited console was the swell shutters crashing shut when one forgot about the Infinite Gradation pedals....

 

One firm, for a joke, had a cartoon ad in Musical Opinion illustrating an "Infinite Potation" swell system work by a series of bottles and jugs.  Could it have been our hosts?

 

Although I admire Henry Willis IIII very much, I wouldn't say he was infallible.  Only he would have said that.....



#19 Andrew Butler

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 08:12 PM

The oddest swell pedal I've met is at Coalisland Parish Church in Northern Ireland, where you press the heel down to open the box and the toe to close it.

 

Reminds me of when Peter Collins added a Trombone (among other things) to the Willis at St George's, Benenden, Kent a few years ago.  I played for a wedding there at the end of the week the Trombone was connected, but no one told me that the drawstop had been temporarily connected the wrong way round (out for off, in for on) Not sure why this would have been - an organ builder might be able to hazard a guess...??) but the catastrophic result when I started playing beforehand can be imagined!



#20 caskie

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 01:30 PM

All three Infinite Speed and Gradation pedals have been restored and retained at the McEwan Hall, Edinburgh (1897 Hope-Jones; 1953 Willis; 1980 Rushworth & Dreaper; 2014 Forth Pipe Organs) during the major restoration of that instrument last year - http://www.npor.org.....html?RI=C01272.  Prior to the restoration, the shutter positions were indicated by Smith fuel gauges (complete with E and F!) but these have been replaced by horizontal white LED strips.






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