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JERRY
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What is the advantage of electro pneumatic action, as used at RAH over direct electric action. When I was an organist at Isleworth, I tried playing a pure pneumatic action organ near to our church. I could not get used to that at all.

What causes the lag on such instruments? There was nearly 1/2 a second between putting the keys down and the notes sounding.

 

Jerry

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What is the advantage of electro pneumatic action, as used at RAH over direct electric action.  When I was an organist at Isleworth, I tried playing a pure pneumatic action organ near to our church.  I could not get used to that at all.

What causes the lag on such instruments?  There was nearly 1/2 a second between putting the keys down and the notes sounding.

 

Jerry

 

Well, a whole book would be necessary to answer properly. I'll just give some hints.

 

-Sluggish pneumatic actions can be caused by:

Too narrow tubes; too long tubes with no or not enough relays.Too low pressures

in relation to the variables above.

There are excellent pneumatic actions, especially in....The UK. In Belgium too

I know of excellent examples.

 

-Direct electric actions put a heavy burden on the magnets, that must be more powerfull than in electropneumatic designs by far. So there are concerns with 1)Reliability 2)Noise.

Such systems work better with "unit" chests, where every pipe has his own valve and magnet, so that the required force is lower than in a slider-chest, whose valves have

to feed several pipes.

The best known direct electric action is the Wicks system, upon which a british firm

(Kimball?) has improved by proponing a magnet whose weight of the moving parts has been divided by three (among other improvements).

So there is hope for more developments, but maybe these systems have little interest in "classic" organ building; pre-1850 repertoire is best served with slider chests.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Schoenstein's 'electric-pneumatic' system in the USA seems to be well regarded amongst enthusiasts for the work of that company - I have not played one myself but Jack Bethards has some very persuasive ideas (both mechanically and tonally) and certainly amongst some players (students of Thomas Murray etc. especially) this action is felt to provide an effective and musical link between player and pipe.

AJJ

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The Schoenstein's system is a "classic" (of the romantic period) one.

It is an electropneumatic "Taschenlade" chest, with horizontal membranes.

An important feature, that was used by Skinner, is the "compensating chamber"

between the membrane and the foot and the pipe. It's as if a minimum of

volume must obtain between the two in order to get good musical results.

There lies one of Schoenstein's "secrets".

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Hi

 

As I see it, there's no advantage whatsoever of pneumatc or electro-pneumatic over a well-made tracker action. Pure pneumatic action, by the nature of the beast, will always cause some "lag" in response - and particularly when the console is some distance from the pipes (the only reason, except on very large organs) for not using tracker. E-P is better, but I've only played one example that seemed to have a really adequate response - that was a Wurlitzer theatre organ with the action on something like 20-30" pressure, and only a small distance between console and pipes. Direct-electric, as someone said, is problematic because of the inertia of the magnetic parts. I've read a study of the response of electric actions (www.pykett.org) and it gives food for thought.

 

Maybe I'm ultra sensitive to timing, but I much prefer the direct mechanical contact with the pipes - and the feel - of tracker action.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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there's no advantage whatsoever of pneumatc or electro-pneumatic over a well-made tracker action

(Quoting)

 

Well, that could be a bit too radical.

For pre-1850 music, this is no doubt true. For later repertoire, there are many nuances.

Other types of chests permit more subtelity, more shades than the slider chest; this is demonstrated by the Walcker society.

The quickest acting chest is the membrane's "Taschenlade". This chest shows no inertiae at all.

The "good feeling" a Schoenstein organ provides lays there. For Liszt, for instance, speed in action and repetition is more important than the feedback of a good tracker action, while for Bach or Grigny it's of course the reverse.

 

Now of course a modern builder like Mr Mander can provide tracker action that are

both sensitive and quick!

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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As I see it, there's no advantage whatsoever of pneumatc or electro-pneumatic over a well-made tracker action. Pure pneumatic action, by the nature of the beast, will always cause some "lag" in response - and particularly when the console is some distance from the pipes (the only reason, except on very large organs) for not using tracker. E-P is better, but I've only played one example that seemed to have a really adequate response - that was a Wurlitzer theatre organ with the action on something like 20-30" pressure, and only a small distance between console and pipes.

 

============

 

A Wurlitzer chest-action could not be simpler, with vertically mounted secondary "exhaust" motors, and small primaries operated from air being cut-off or supplied from a solenoid-operated disc-valve. The vertically mounted secondary pneumatic-motors are connected to the small pipe-pallets via a "spoon" which turns the movement through 90 degrees.

 

Wurlitzer actions are extremely fast, with superb repetition, and only a real speed-merchant can actually beat the response.

 

The "hair-trigger" responses are probably due to the fact that the main pneumatic "secondary" motors are JUST big enough to give the eact amount of torque required to overcome the combined resistance of the pipe-pallet and its' spring, but not so big that they are slow to re-inflate when the key is released. The fact that each pneumatic motor only operates on one pipe at a time, rather than a whole slider-chest full of pipes, is perhaps the reason for the lightning response of the whole.

 

Because the electro-pneumatics key-actions are entirely contained within the individual unit-chests without a seperate wind-supply to the action, it is totally irrelevant as to how far the console is from the pipe-chambers, and on many installations, the pipes can be forty or more feet above the console, and sometimes divided across a whole auditorium.

 

Furthermore, there is often gross over-estimation of the wind-pressures employed on theatre organs. Most Wurlitzer organ flue-pipes such as strings, flutes and the less powerful reeds speak on about 7" wg. The more powerful Diaphonic pipes and Tubas/English Horns seldom exceed 15" wg, but there are certainly higher pressures employed on some of the real monster installations in the USA.

 

So, at an educated guess, the so-called action-pressure is normally no more than 15" maximum; that being the normal top-end of the pipe wind-pressure in the unit-chests.

 

I think the heaviest pressure employed on any theatre organ is that applied to the "Bugle" rank of the St.Fillipo residence-organ in the US.....it's quite a large residence! I seem to recall it to be on 100" wg, but it may be 50" wg. It is, of course loud....very, very loud....in fact, ear-splitting!! (I'd like to guess that there are no pneumatic motors involved in that particular rank, but I don't know for certain.

 

Lastly, whilst I've never actually seen an example stripped for inspection, I believe that the thumb-pistons actuate PNEUMATIC motors which control the movement of the stop-tabs on the console rails. That is the ONE THING which can be slow to respond on a well-worn Wurlitzer. Compton used a much more elegant system of far freater reliability, which I think was entirely electro-mechanical.

 

On the subject of pneumatic-actions, I used to play a Binns organ with the charge-pneumatic system. It had excellent feel, plenty of key-pluck, good speed and very adequate speed of repetition. It was then a mere 80 years of age, and only the primary motors had been re-leathered circa.year 70!!

 

MM

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The system you describe from Wurlitzer's organs has a name: the Roosevelt chest.

Have a look here, scrolling down to the drawing showing the "sommier Roosevelt":

 

http://forum.aceboard.net/18898-3199-19242-0-sommiers.htm

 

The next drawing show an interpretation of the Roosevelt chest, in which the valve

is on the other side of the channel; this is the Kerkhoff chest.

It is incredibly quick and reliable. Several Kerkhoff organs reportedly worked

without any trouble without any maintenance at all (save tunings!) for 40 years+ periods.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Hi

 

Quoting MM:-

 

>A Wurlitzer chest-action could not be simpler,

 

But in the example I played - in Thomas Peacocke School, Rye (before the recent restoration) the relays were also electro-pneumatic (small electric action valves controlling pneumatic motors that moved the switches in the relay - all enclosed in glass-fronted cabinets) - and the response was still lightning-fast.

 

>Because the electro-pneumatics key-actions are entirely contained within the individual unit-chests without a seperate wind-supply to the action, it is totally irrelevant as to how far the console is from the pipe-chambers, and on many installations, the pipes can be forty or more feet above the console, and sometimes divided across a whole auditorium.

 

But when pipes are away from the console, the speed of sound comes into the equation - I think that's part of the reason that I don't like detached consoles - my preference for tracker action is more down to the "feel" and the immediacy of control.

 

>Furthermore, there is often gross over-estimation of the wind-pressures employed on theatre organs. Most Wurlitzer organ flue-pipes such as strings, flutes and the less powerful reeds speak on about 7" wg. The more powerful Diaphonic pipes and Tubas/English Horns seldom exceed 15" wg, but there are certainly higher pressures employed on some of the real monster installations in the USA.

 

Agreed - by at Rye the action was winded direct from the blower - which was itself rather oversized, and one of the team had measured the action wind pressure. Pipe pressure was much lower, controlled by reservoirs beneath the chests.

 

>Lastly, whilst I've never actually seen an example stripped for inspection, I believe that the thumb-pistons actuate PNEUMATIC motors which control the movement of the stop-tabs on the console rails. That is the ONE THING which can be slow to respond on a well-worn Wurlitzer. Compton used a much more elegant system of far freater reliability, which I think was entirely electro-mechanical.

 

True - at least for older Wulitzers - the Rye example was one of the first to come into the country. At that time, the combination action was out of use, because the wind-trunk to the console leaked too badly - hence we had to block ogg the console wind supply. Incidentally, the thumb pistons - although split between the manuals in the usual way - could all be set as "generals" on the setter board.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Quoting MM:-

 

>A Wurlitzer chest-action could not be simpler,

 

But in the example I played - in Thomas Peacocke School, Rye (before the recent restoration) the relays were also electro-pneumatic (small electric action valves controlling pneumatic motors that moved the switches in the relay - all enclosed in glass-fronted cabinets) - and the response was still lightning-fast.

 

=============

 

Tony is quite right. I had failed to mention the E.P. relays in the original Wurlitzer actions, which were so very clever and so very quick. The problem is that nowadays, the vast majority of "original" Wutlizer E.P.actions have been binned in favour of the various "fly-by-wire" computer controlled key/stop action systems, which eliminate the need for E.P. switching relays. That explains my error, for I don't think I have ever seen an original Wulitzer system complete!

 

I have also read somewhere, that Wurlitzer also used a primaryless chest in the earlier designs, but although they save the complexity of primary pneumatics, they create their own problems, and can be quite tricky to set-up.

 

Pierre suggests that I was describing a Roosevelt Chest, but in fact, the Wurlitzer chests were a development of the Hope-Jones patent designs, which can be seen at the following fascinating URL and which, in addition to the drawings, contains a description of the entire Wurlitzer action-mechanism:-

 

http://www.atosconvention.org/FileLib/Action.pdf

 

Perhaps the most interesting phrases in the entire article, is the suggestions that the possible repetition of notes has been estimated at about 20 times per second.

 

Of course, that's nothing as compared to the pneumatic-valves used on some Formula One racing cars, which can operate at up to 75 times per second.

 

Who said pneumatics were slow?

 

MM

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But when pipes are away from the console, the speed of sound comes into the equation - I think that's part of the reason that I don't like detached consoles - my preference for tracker action is more down to the "feel" and the immediacy of control.

 

=============

 

I didn't respond to Tony's comment above, possibly because I entirely agree with it.

 

However, it never ceases to amaze me how British and American organists especially, manage to get music from organs which are scattered far and wide.

 

I recall being about 14 years of age, and in awe of Virgil Fox....the Michael Schumacher of the organ world.....and reading such delightful sleeve-notes as "the Ethereal section is a whole city-block away."

 

Perhaps not as bad as the State Trumpet at St.John-the-Divine, New York, which is a whole Greyhound bus-ride away....talk about the next stop!

 

For years, cathedral organs have been located in strange places....inside rood-screens as well as atop them, in triforiums, scattered loosely in the side-aisles and, as at Blackburn, probably a greater height and distance away from the console than that achieved in man's first successful attempt at powered flight.

 

It is a miracle of cognitive ability that organists are able to compensate for the sonic quirks of far-flung pipework, but somehow, we do.

 

I recall a cartoon, which showed an organist seated at the console of Atlantic City, asking, "Where is the Dulciana?"

 

I suppose the real question should have been, "Precisely WHERE is the Dulciana?"

 

MM

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Thanks for that rather subversive page, MM,

 

(It seems H-J isn't seen as a devil everywhere)

 

BUT....Has H-J, or Wurlitzer,or both, got a patent or not,

this chest IS (just) another version of the Roosevelt chest.

 

Let's summarize on a three examples basis:

 

-Roosevelt's chest has the valve on the same side as the pneumatic lever

 

-Kerkhoff's has the valve on the opposite side

 

-H-J's has the valve at the top of the "Kanzelle"

 

So I have just to design a new one with the valve at the bottom in order

to get a new patent...

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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This is an interesting subject.

 

I am quite happy for a moderate-sized two-clavier instrument to be operated by mechanical action (including any combination mechanisms) but remain unconvinced by the perceived merits of controlling large instruments by mechanical action. I would be interested to know how often the tracker console is used on the Marcussen at the Bridgewater Hall (and how often the electric action console is used, too). Is it like Christchurch Priory, where the mechanical console is almost exclusively used for convenience when tuning? It is heavy and a little uncomfortable. Bath Abbey, too, I found unconvincing. The repetition is actually considerably better on my own instrument, which has a forty-year-old electro-pneumatic action which still functions exceptionally well.

 

If a mechanical action of a large instrument is heavy, or in any way unwieldy, then any possible advantages are largely offset. Apparently, I hear from a reliable source that the organ of Sherborne Abbey is still disappointingly heavy*. This, after £350,000, new soundboards, new console, new action and new chassis. It was also computer-designed. Sorry, but I do not see the point. Why not have a good electric or electro-pneumatic action? Electric assistance is, I feel, also not the answer. There arise questions of simultaneity of the couplers, for example.

 

In the case of Sherborne, this is the third attempt since 1987. Perhaps it would have been better to consider the possibilty that mechanical action is not always the most suitable solution! Certainly I believe that there is a certain amount of disingenuousness purveyed by proponents of mechanical action. Articulation (in the pipe organ sense) is perfectly possible on electric and electro-pneumatic actions. I have never seen the merit of being able to depress a key so slowly that I obtain a hissing transient preceding a settling to a determinate pitch. Apart from the fact that I do not play anything slow enough for it to be useful, I find it an un-musical sound!

 

* In respect to its action - I am not aware of any attempts to lift it from the gallery...

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Thanks for that rather subversive page, MM,

 

(It seems H-J isn't seen as a devil everywhere)

 

BUT....Has H-J, or Wurlitzer,or both, got a patent or not,

this chest IS (just) another version of the Roosevelt chest.

 

================

 

 

H-J was no devil.

 

It's an interesting thought, but Ralph Downe's favourite Diapason at Worecester (?) was the Hope-Jones one.

 

I've said this before, but the voicing of almost any Hope-Jones rank is rather good. The problem of H-J is to do with the age in which he lived, when people played nothing but transcriptions of orchestral works. The theatre organ was but a development of the orchestral organ, and when played as if it is an orchestra rather than an organ, it comes alive.

 

Most classical organists can't play a theatre organ because they think like classical organists rather than like arrangers.

 

I wonder who came up with the "Roosevelt" chest first? It must surely have been a version of the British H-J invention.

 

Although the H-J patents just trip into the 20th century (1901? 1902? or thereabouts), the actual design, if I recall correctly from memory, goes back to around 1892 (?), and the Wurlitzer version is only very slightly modified from the Hope-Jones drawings.

 

Of course, Aneesens were not far behind H-J, when they employed the Molls & (?) patented electric-action, but I believe it didn't work very well and caused a lot of problems.

 

MM

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This is an interesting subject.

 

I am quite happy for a moderate-sized two-clavier instrument to be operated by mechanical action (including any combination mechanisms) but remain unconvinced by the perceived merits of controlling large instruments by mechanical action.

 

Hi

 

As I see it, action choice depends more on the organ's position and layout, and of course, wind pressure. Tracker can work - and be very light - on a fair sized organ.

 

Last year I was able to play the St. Martin organ in Girton College cgapel, Cambridge (the stop list is on NPOR - no time to look up the ref. no. this morning). It's a moderate-sized 4-manual (probably it would be laid out as a fair-sized 3m in a normal church or concert hall - student practice for major recitals was part of the design brief. It has a very vertical disposition, suspended action, and is incredibly light and responsive, even with the couplers drawn. (To the point that, I was told, some players actually draw the couplers to increase the action weight!)

 

Admittedly, there are no octave couplers, and no high-pressure reeds, but it's still pretty versatile.

 

And I still hate detached consoles - even with non-mechanical action, I want to be able to hear what the organ's doing! And not have the "lag" due to sound propogation, if not the organ's action.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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wonder who came up with the "Roosevelt" chest first?

 

(Quote)

 

A certain Hilborne Roosevelt, in the 1870 years, inspired by the Walcker

Kegellade chest and Barker's pneumatic lever

 

(Source:Hilborne Roosevelt Organs catalogue, reprint by the organ litterature

foundation)

H-J came *slightly* later.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Hi

 

...And I still hate detached consoles - even with non-mechanical action, I want to be able to hear what the organ's doing! And not have the "lag" due to sound propogation, if not the organ's action.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

However, this is often easier with detached consoles! Whilst there are often inherent problems with regard to time-lag, there are many advantages - for example sight-lines to a conductor. The question of balance - I find generally, that it is far easier to assess balance from a detached console. Often with attached consoles, the case of the instrument overhangs the player, so one is shielded from much of the sound being produced. If there is a positive case behind, ther problem is exacerbated. (It is not always possible to open the access doors privided!) Ripon Cathedral has one of the most difficult organs with which to assess balance. The player is literally surrounded by the organ - visibility is limited (I am unable to recall if there is a monitor for the conductor) to peering through holes in the fretwork of the side-panels of the case.

 

S. Sulpice sounds much better downstairs than at the console (I know that one would not normally accompany a choir on this instrument, save for things such as the Messes Solennelles by Vierne and Langlais, for example).

 

It still does not solve the problem that several of the instuments which I mentioned do not have a mechanical action such as that at Girton. Even Bath is fairly heavy if everything is coupled through.

 

In fairness, it must be said that the superb organ at Chichester is quite comfortable, even with the Solo Sub Octave drawn.

 

However, each to his own! :blink:

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A certain Hilborne Roosevelt, in the 1870 years, inspired by the Walcker

Kegellade chest and Barker's pneumatic lever

 

(Source:Hilborne Roosevelt Organs catalogue, reprint by the organ litterature

foundation)

H-J came *slightly* later.

 

================

 

Right....I now understand. The Roosevelt design looks terribly crude to me, but then I discover that Hope-Jones made all sorts of outlandish claims about his actions operating on dry-cell batteries.

 

I guess his real contribution was in producing a RELIABLE action, using horseshoe magnets, and one which proved to have superb response and repetition.

 

Of course, he was a pioneer in logic-systems, and it would be difficult to improve on the electro-mechnical logic-circuits used in the "unit orchestra" or the later Wurlitzer organs.

 

Now I have this idea for a 1,500 psi compressed nitrogen organ-action, which I know would work.

 

Should I take my own life now, or leave it 'til later?

 

MM

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The Roosevelt design looks terribly crude to me

(Quote)

 

This could be slightly unfair.

Actually, the Roosevelt chest was a milestone in the history of the organ (from a non-baroque-only-the-rest-in-the-bin minded point of view of course).

 

This design unites the Registerkanzelle, that is, a design in wich the grooves no longer feed all pipes of the same note together, but the pipes of the same register, to the Barker pneumatic lever.

(According to Gerhard Walcker, the Registerkanzelle offers significant advantages

in romantic organ with many 8' stops)

 

During Roosevelt's debuts Walcker used the Kegellade chest, a Registerkanzelle-chest, with a tracker action that was assisted by Barker's pneumatic levers.

 

Roosevelt certainly did know this system very well -there were enough germans working with him for that!- and decided to place the Barker lever inside the chest... So simplifying greatly the system. Moreover, he had the pneumatic levers working on the exhaust way instead of Barker' charge system.

 

This chest was widely acclaimed worldwide and imitated -changing some details in order to circumvent the patents-.

So this was a great pneumatic chest.

Of course you can drive it in the context of an electropneumatic action an this is what H-J did. But of course with his Leclanché cells he couldn't go that far!

The electropneumatic systems really began to take off with the advent of the dynamo...

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Of course you can drive it in the context of an electropneumatic action an this is what H-J did. But of course with his Leclanché cells he couldn't go that far!

The electropneumatic systems really began to take off with the advent of the dynamo...

 

================

 

 

I've recently read somewhere, that H-J actions could never have worked for long using batteries, and I assume that this must have been true for other designs also.

 

However, I believe that Roosevelt had electrified things before H-J, and that is the crude system to which I was referring; not the pneumatics.

 

I don't know how original H-J was being, but the use of a metal disc and horseshoe magnet is neat and simple, even though the patents seem to conveniently leave out some of the finer details of design. (Apparently, that was quite common practice, and a deliberate attempt to mislead others)

 

On a slightly more interesting note, who invented or first made available, the "solid-state logic systems" which used transitor-switching, and who thought of, or designed the current "fly by wire" multiplex systems?

 

I know that the "Christie music transmission system" was quite early, but how close is this to current systems, and was it a "first?"

 

Please be kind, I know nothing about electricity or electrical circuits other than knowing how to change a plug, mend a fuse and catapult myself across the garage like a human cannonball, when I clean the car's ignition leads and forget to switch off.

 

MM

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Well, don't forget to open the garage's door in the first place.

 

About Roosevelt electropneumatic action, I find in the catalogue:

 

"In exceptionnal cases, when distances or akward position of main site renders such a course advisable, we have employed electricity in lieu of the ordinary action...

...One of the most successful instances is to be met with at Grace Church, New York city...We have also introduced it with equal success in the gigantic instrument built for the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden city, L.I."(1879-1883).

This organ already had a magneto, which was driven by one of the steam machines that provided the energy to act the bellows

 

The Great, Swell and Choir windchest had tracker action, while the Pedal and part of the stop action was pneumatic.

The Tower, Chapel and Echo divisions(I cite again) "both key and drawstop, is electric....Were all the wires, used in making the electric connections of this instrument, stretched out in one continuous circuit, they would extend over a distance of 21 Miles...

...The Roosevelt windchests... are used exclusively in this organ, and, besides their many indisputable advantages over the ordinary form, it is here demonstrated that they are specially adaptable to the requirements of electric and tubular action."

 

Remember: this instrument was built 1879-1883! Robert, why do you hide yourself?

 

As for the electronic components replacing the relays etc as seen in theatre organs, they didn't arise before after WW II.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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I guess his real contribution was in producing a RELIABLE action, using horseshoe magnets, and one which proved to have superb response and repetition.

 

Should I take my own life now, or leave it 'til later?

 

MM

 

Well, except that it was not reliable! H-J notoriously used rubber-cloth as a substitute for leather in the moving parts of the action; the result being that the actions lasted for a few years only (c.f. Worcester Cathedral). I am aware that the McEwan Hall, Edinburgh action lasted considerably longer. However the action used regularly to emit bright blue sparks. Te repetition and speed of the contacts was also somewhat arbitrary by the end of its life.

 

So, MM, you proboably do not need to turn your thoughts towards self-slaughter - just find an un-restored H-J, switch on and touch the keys - at the very least, you will save on barber's fees for about a year.... :P

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However, this is often easier with detached consoles! Whilst there are often inherent problems with regard to time-lag, there are many advantages - for example sight-lines to a conductor. The question of balance - I find generally, that it is far easier to assess balance from a detached console. Often with attached consoles, the case of the instrument overhangs the player, so one is shielded from much of the sound being produced. If there is a positive case behind, ther problem is exacerbated. (It is not always possible to open the access doors privided!) Ripon Cathedral has one of the most difficult organs with which to assess balance. The player is literally surrounded by the organ - visibility is limited (I am unable to recall if there is a monitor for the conductor) to peering through holes in the fretwork of the side-panels of the case.

 

<SNIP>

 

However, each to his own! :P

 

Hi

 

I personally would rather be close to the organ, rather than at a distance. For me, the advantages of immediacy far outweigh the percieved problems of balance, etc. A trusted listener (and listening to others playing the organ) can help on the balance issue. Sightlines to a conductor can be a problem. As you say, each to his own!

 

My dislike of detached consoles dates from my early days of learning the organ. The church that I used for practice (St. Giles, Kingston Buci, nr. Shoreham in Sussex) and where I ahad lessons, replace their old 1m 5 stop tracker organ with a 2m extension job by Osmonds. Pipes at the rear of the church, console at the front. The first time I played it, I found myself virtually a semi-quaver in front of what I was hearing (and it's not a large church). I've also played some horros with detached consoles since (St. Leonard's Parish Church, St. Leonards, E. Sussex springs to mind even after about 15 years, the action was so painfully sluggish) and I have never, with the exception of the Wurlitzer, found a detached console set up that I was totally happy with.

 

It's the variety of organs that makes them so interesting, though, so I suppose I shouldn't complain.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Well, quite.

 

For a year or so, I did learn on an organ which possessed (barely) a pneumatic action so sluggish that, had it been a car, one would have needed to give three weeks' notice in writing before overtaking another vehicle.

 

Now that is pointless.

 

I still maintain that there are just as many problems with mechanical action, albeit of a different nature. There was, for example, an organ somewhere in the southern hemisphere the action of which was so heavy that, upon being confronted with it, Marcel Dupré immediately changed his published programme.

 

I still find little joy in an organ (of whatever age) which leaves shoulders, wrists and fingers stiff and sore after playing, say, the final movement of Vierne Symphonie 6me.

 

But as we say, each to his own...

 

Furthermore, what about all those lovely octave couplers? All those wonderful, ethereal effects! (It is worth remembering that Coventry added a number of octave couplers in the late 1980s and Gloucester added a Sub Octave to the Swell division at the recent restoration.) :P

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I still maintain that there are just as many problems with mechanical action, albeit of a different nature. There was, for example, an organ somewhere in the southern hemisphere the action of which was so heavy that, upon being confronted with it, Marcel Dupré immediately changed his published programme.

 

 

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You don't have to quote the Southern Hemisphere when there was a notable example closer to home. It was said that the organ of York Minster, as built by Elliot & Hill, was so heavy, that the organist was obliged to have "interludes" quite soon after commencing his voluntaries....a forerunner of the EU working time directive, if ever there was one.

 

Unfortunately, organists tend to travel to Holland, Germany and elsewhere, and return home with glowing reports of tracker-action instruments. The organ of St.Lauren's, Rotterdam (which is a huge instrument by number of pipes) is a joy to play, until the "assistance" is switched on, at which point it becomes decidedly unpleasant to the touch. Of course, String and Celeste with octave and sub-octave is not an option. However, this is a glorious instrument with a generally magnificent key and pedal action, so why can't it be done back home?

 

Well, there are very good reasons why I cannot be done back home as a general rule.

 

The overwhelming majority of English churches are squat, wide and have side aisles. There isn't usually the height to re-create the sort of layout possible in the great hall-churches abroad. Lest we forget, the top of the organ-case at St.Bavo, Haarlem, is about 80ft above the floor, that at Rotterdam is probably 70ft etc etc.

 

English Cathedral music tends to be centered in the chancel, so the ideal west end position is not an option and organs have to be crammed onto rood-screens or pinned to walls. In lesser churches, organs tend to be disposed horizontally due to the lack of height. I don't suppose anyone has ever done a proper survey, but I'd like to guess that 75% of UK organs spread outwards or backwards, rather than upwards.

 

Furthermore, organists like to have a wide variety of accompaniment sounds under expression, and a good supply of climax-reeds for the big finish. That implies a certain complexity over-and-above the simpler ideals of "werkprinzip."

If, as organists, we are prepared to forego the delights (?) of Howells, Vierne and East Hope-Martin, and stick with the baroque, then we too could have highly specialised instruments as the norm. I don't think anyone really wants that....I certainly don't.....even though I have lived with one for many years. The big romantic repertoire calls for big, complex instruments....great machines.....which are a testament to the age of industry, steam and mechanical ingenuity. I believe the Barker-lever was first used on a steam-engine!

 

The music also reflects this....the great dynamic sweeps and changes, the raucous roar, the tear-jerking delicacy....the very essence of romanticism; delicate, moody, fantastic and awe-inspiring all at the same time. Romantic music is not really about the carefully argued fugue and the nuances and subtleties of phrasing and voice-leading; even though they have relevance in a good performance.

 

To this end, not only is EP action (maybe even pneumatic) desirable, it makes things possible which otherwise would not be.

 

Equally, the strictly "werkpinzip" tracker brings vitality and control to music from a very different age.

 

We must ask ourselves whether it is better to hear Bach played on a harpsichord or a Steinway, or whether it is possible to enjoy each in its' own way, and the differences that they bring to the interpretation of the music.

 

As for detached consoles, they have never been an obstacle to the professional performer, but it takes time to get used to each in its' particular environment, and get to the point that one no longer notices the slight delay.

 

Having been an assistant organist at a church which had a fine choir at the East End, and a large organ with attached console at the West End, I reckon I have learned to cope with most things and how to turn a muddle into music!!

 

MM

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