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Colin Harvey
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With the declining number of organists, many smaller churches can no longer rely on having someone to play the organ on Sunday mornings. This is a major problem to many churches and they have to find alternatives for music during services. I was wondering whether there is a more effective method of accompanying congregations and providing music instead of relying on CDs and electric "hymn machines".

 

I've seen a few organ tuners sporting electrical devices which fit over the keys, with a remote control for depressing the desired key while they're upstairs tuning. I was wondering whether these devices could be adapted to play hymns by being linked up to a more advanced control and user interface device.

 

Just imagine it - an electrical device would fit over a manual of an organ and there would be some kind of interface for people to select music to play on it - like hymns and voluntaries. Somebody could sit by the organ, select the next hymn to be played, number of verses. When the hymn is announced, all they would need to do is press "play" and operate the stops. Similarly, there could be a number of pieces of music in the system's library for voluntaries before and after the service.

 

When an organist turns up, it would be a simple job just to lift the device off the keys and the organ could be played normally.

 

I think this idea would be vastly superior to CDs and electric player organs. Firstly, it's controlling a real musical instrument and while electric imitations are very good, you just can't beat a column of air vibrating in a pipe. It would be a vastly superior solution aesthetically to electronic or reproduced sound.

 

Secondly, you're still using your organ - a valuable asset in the church - and it's not sitting folornly in the corner unused, questioning people to wonder what it's future is. So it's still possible to keep an interest in the organ... who knows, the person operating the player equipment may be tempted to try playing the keys himself one day....

 

It could be something that is used as an "assistant organist" - so when the organist is on holiday or there's a gap in the organist's rota. So the organ is still be used and appreciated.

 

Of course, it would sound a little inflexible. There wouldn't be that sensitivity and "give and take" or sense of line that's apparent when a real organist is playing. but it could be quite a bit better than some organists I've heard - at least there would be a consistent tempo and the right notes would be there...

 

In some ways, it's not a new idea at all. The Victorians had "finger and barell" organs and later there were mechanical player barrels that fitted over the keyboards of organs.

 

I was just wondering where you could get these devices from and whether they could be used for this type of work. Some work would be needed to develop a control unit and user interface and some churches could be a lot better off muscially.

 

What do people think?

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Guest Barry Oakley
With the declining number of organists, many smaller churches can no longer rely on having someone to play the organ on Sunday mornings. This is a major problem to many churches and they have to find alternatives for music during services. I was wondering whether there is a more effective method of accompanying congregations and providing music instead of relying on CDs and electric "hymn machines".

 

I've seen a few organ tuners sporting electrical devices which fit over the keys, with a remote control for depressing the desired key while they're upstairs tuning. I was wondering whether these devices could be adapted to play hymns by being linked up to a more advanced control and user interface device.

 

Just imagine it - an electrical device would fit over a manual of an organ and there would be some kind of interface for people to select music to play on it - like hymns and voluntaries. Somebody could sit by the organ, select the next hymn to be played, number of verses. When the hymn is announced, all they would need to do is press "play" and operate the stops. Similarly, there could be a number of pieces of music in the system's library for voluntaries before and after the service.

 

When an organist turns up, it would be a simple job just to lift the device off the keys and the organ could be played normally.

 

I think this idea would be vastly superior to CDs and electric player organs. Firstly, it's controlling a real musical instrument and while electric imitations are very good, you just can't beat a column of air vibrating in a pipe. It would be a vastly superior solution aesthetically to electronic or reproduced sound.

 

Secondly, you're still using your organ - a valuable asset in the church - and it's not sitting folornly in the corner unused, questioning people to wonder what it's future is. So it's still possible to keep an interest in the organ... who knows, the person operating the player equipment may be tempted to try playing the keys himself one day....

 

It could be something that is used as an "assistant organist" - so when the organist is on holiday or there's a gap in the organist's rota. So the organ is still be used and appreciated.

 

Of course, it would sound a little inflexible. There wouldn't be that sensitivity and "give and take" or sense of line that's apparent when a real organist is playing. but it could be quite a bit better than some organists I've heard - at least there would be a consistent tempo and the right notes would be there...

 

In some ways, it's not a new idea at all. The Victorians had "finger and barell" organs and later there were mechanical player barrels that fitted over the keyboards of organs.

 

I was just wondering where you could get these devices from and whether they could be used for this type of work. Some work would be needed to develop a control unit and user interface and some churches could be a lot better off muscially.

 

What do people think?

 

Does not the answer lie in a midi system? Using the system a skilled organist is still required to record key depressions and stop selections on to a 1.44mb floppy disc, allowing the music to be played back in real time at any time.

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Midi playback is easy to do with modern switching systems & more frequently being incorporated. I have heard confession from a player who, feeling under the weather, set the instrument to playback a previous performance of the Widor Toccata at the end of a wedding. Stop control not always available though. I gather you can also feed a score into Sibelius or one of those programmes & send it to minidisc as midi, then command the organ to play it. My understanding of these things only grows when I actually see it happen. I have discovered the possibility of recording Crimond at the local crematorium and just setting it off every 25 minutes (in Gb, in quarter comma meantone - another benefit of electronics), which enables me to get more Sudoku done.

 

With the speeds wireless networking can achieve I have often considered the possibility of setting up remote access to an electric/ep instrument. A PC at either end running next to no processes could quite happily receive information during the sermon, then be set to play at the right time. Then, I could be organist of ten churches, and play all their services simultaenously from a laptop in front of the fire, or perhaps in the lounge bar when the pubs are open Sunday mornings. Marvellous!

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With the declining number of organists, many smaller churches can no longer rely on having someone to play the organ on Sunday mornings. This is a major problem to many churches and they have to find alternatives for music during services. I was wondering whether there is a more effective method of accompanying congregations and providing music instead of relying on CDs and electric "hymn machines".

 

I've seen a few organ tuners sporting electrical devices which fit over the keys, with a remote control for depressing the desired key while they're upstairs tuning. I was wondering whether these devices could be adapted to play hymns by being linked up to a more advanced control and user interface device.

 

Just imagine it - an electrical device would fit over a manual of an organ and there would be some kind of interface for people to select music to play on it - like hymns and voluntaries. Somebody could sit by the organ, select the next hymn to be played, number of verses. When the hymn is announced, all they would need to do is press "play" and operate the stops. Similarly, there could be a number of pieces of music in the system's library for voluntaries before and after the service.

 

When an organist turns up, it would be a simple job just to lift the device off the keys and the organ could be played normally.

 

I think this idea would be vastly superior to CDs and electric player organs. Firstly, it's controlling a real musical instrument and while electric imitations are very good, you just can't beat a column of air vibrating in a pipe. It would be a vastly superior solution aesthetically to electronic or reproduced sound.

 

Secondly, you're still using your organ - a valuable asset in the church - and it's not sitting folornly in the corner unused, questioning people to wonder what it's future is. So it's still possible to keep an interest in the organ... who knows, the person operating the player equipment may be tempted to try playing the keys himself one day....

 

It could be something that is used as an "assistant organist" - so when the organist is on holiday or there's a gap in the organist's rota. So the organ is still be used and appreciated.

 

Of course, it would sound a little inflexible. There wouldn't be that sensitivity and "give and take" or sense of line that's apparent when a real organist is playing. but it could be quite a bit better than some organists I've heard - at least there would be a consistent tempo and the right notes would be there...

 

In some ways, it's not a new idea at all. The Victorians had "finger and barell" organs and later there were mechanical player barrels that fitted over the keyboards of organs.

 

I was just wondering where you could get these devices from and whether they could be used for this type of work. Some work would be needed to develop a control unit and user interface and some churches could be a lot better off muscially.

 

What do people think?

 

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

 

 

Well I've personally been looking-forward to the day when I can stop at home and play the church-organ; happy to read the morning paper, drink freshly brewed coffee and be warm as toast while others shiver.

 

The computer age enables this, but thus far, no-one has come up with the goods.

 

I guess I'll just have to stay at home and the people at church will have to do without an organist.

 

Of course, by working such lines of communication effectively, one could be organist of a dozen churches at the same time. I would recommend my thesis on how to be a millionaire organist without leaving the house!

 

MM

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What do people think?

Unless Colin is having a laugh, I think this is a deplorable suggestion. Start going down this particular road and you will end up with the machines taking over the organ loft.

 

Fast forward 50 years, and you would find real, flesh and blood, organists had been consigned to oblivion, only finding an outlet for their talents on discussion boards such as this, where they would still be banging on about that time in the late noughties when Worcester Cathedral had the bravery/temerity (delete as appropriate) to chuck out the old organ and start afresh.

 

No! No!! No!!!

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No! No!! No!!!

 

Nice link - clever, that - let's talk about Worcester! Or shall we talk about London? Let me know, so I can wear the appropriate anorak.

 

Fact is, there won't be organists in 50 years time. There is already a crisis. So, heads out of sands, then, and let's talk about what happens if we DON'T discuss this rather insightful question, & play a full part in the development & application of technology in our working lives.

 

Hmm. Well, there doesn't appear to be a great shortage of drummists, guitarers or tambourinists, so perhaps they ARE the natural inheritors after all. Best chuck out those dreadful old "hymn-books", then.

 

So, as the last generation for whom the words "Choral Evensong" are likely to be in any widespread way relevant, how shall we play this - "no! no!! no!!!", or supporting a realistic application of existing technologies to maintain the standard of music in smaller parishes?

 

Or, put another way, what's more important - the repertoire of organ music, hymns, choral works, one of the central defining characteristics of religious worship in the last few hundred years, or our egos?

 

Many would have it that machines took over the organ loft long ago. This was probably said at the introduction of the electric blower, the balanced swell pedal, electric action, pistons etc etc etc - midi, and the ability to play back or play remotely, are just the next stage in development - and in my opinion critical ones if many churches are going to retain organ music.

 

All the more critical, then, that the technology be developed to work with the pipe organ, rather than become synonymous with the Digital Pipeless. This can only happen if we make it.

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Start going down this particular road and you will end up with the machines taking over the organ loft.

 

Fast forward 50 years, and you would find real, flesh and blood, organists had been consigned to oblivion, only finding an outlet for their talents on discussion boards such as this,

 

Yes, SKYNET will have taken over the world. We will have Terminator T-Xs sitting on our organ benches - vicars certainly won't f**k with them, not will the (machine) tenors sing too loudly or the (android) basses sing flat and 2 beats behind. Hasta la vista, baby, and after playing Reger Introducktion, Passacaglia and Fugue note perfect, they will simply announce "I'll be bachhhk" before putting on their dark glasses and strutting off out, chain gun slung over each shoulder.

 

The fact is, as David says, there are a lot of unoccupied organ benches on Sunday mornings where their lack of presence is felt. The reason for this is not the ascendancy of the mechanical organist but problems with church attendance and often church leadership and the declining number of organists.

 

This wouldn't replace organists - it would just be there where no organist is available. Clearly, a real organist would be far superior - and it would keep real pipe organs playing rather than replacing them with toasters - which is far worse and an even worse forecast than either option for the Worcester organs.

 

I think we might already have a terminatrix on the organ bench at a Cathedral close by, though.

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It's not only organists who are in short supply - there aren't that many clergy around, either, these days. Why not replace both with technology? Project the service on to a screen, play the hymns either through speakers or, if you really insist, on an actual organ via a midi interface. The computer could play the service at the appropriate time automatically, and the few remaining clergy based in the Canterbudy Media Centre, would record sermons etc. and download them to the churches' computers across the internet. All you would need would be somebody to unlock the church beforehand and lock it up afterwards. And even that can be automated, come to think of it. Everybody has bank cards these days, so the collection could be taken by having everyone insert their cards into a machine and key in how much they would like to give. With some simple technology at the door, the computer would be able to tell how many people there were in the building and adjust the dynamics of the organ accordingly.

 

The Church of England is ideally suited to this sort of automation, as the services are basically the same each week, and nobody believes in God anyway.

 

Certain churches could be designated as Church Heritage Sites, where schoolchildren and wrinklies would go to see how services used to be conducted in times gone by - rather similar to the way you can see how candles used to be made at Blists Hill Museum.

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It's not only organists who are in short supply - there aren't that many clergy around, either, these days. Why not replace both with technology? Project the service on to a screen, play the hymns either through speakers or, if you really insist, on an actual organ via a midi interface.

 

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

 

The "Fall and Rise" of the cinema organ once more.

 

Splendid idea!

 

I could be encouraged back to church, dressed as "The abomimable Dr.Phibes."

 

MM

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It's not only organists who are in short supply - there aren't that many clergy around, either, these days. Why not replace both with technology? Project the service on to a screen, play the hymns either through speakers or, if you really insist, on an actual organ via a midi interface.

 

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

 

The "Fall and Rise" of the cinema organ once more.

 

Splendid idea!

 

I could be encouraged back to church, dressed as "The abomimable Dr.Phibes."

 

MM

 

Hi

 

The shortage of clergy can (and should) be addressed by increasing lay participation - and anyway - I'm not ready to be replace by a machine just yet!

 

:lol:

 

As for the use of recordings or MIDI, I've attended 2 Anglican churches recently (both in very difficult areas of Bradford) that have gone down this road - it's far from ideal, and in one - a generally thriving Evangelical parish - the MIDI backing tracks were nigh on inaudible - and the introductions were so unclear that it was a leap of faith to start singing - hopeless. The other church - a more middle-of-the road parish at least had stuff with reasonable introductions - even an organ for the traditional hymns (admittedly a recording of an electronic) - and adequate volume to keep the congregation together. Better than the other church, but still far from ideal. If I'm invited back there to preach, I'll suggest that I play the organ as well!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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  • 3 months later...
With the declining number of organists, many smaller churches can no longer rely on having someone to play the organ on Sunday mornings. This is a major problem to many churches and they have to find alternatives for music during services. I was wondering whether there is a more effective method of accompanying congregations and providing music instead of relying on CDs and electric "hymn machines".

 

I've seen a few organ tuners sporting electrical devices which fit over the keys, with a remote control for depressing the desired key while they're upstairs tuning. I was wondering whether these devices could be adapted to play hymns by being linked up to a more advanced control and user interface device.

 

Just imagine it - an electrical device would fit over a manual of an organ and there would be some kind of interface for people to select music to play on it - like hymns and voluntaries. Somebody could sit by the organ, select the next hymn to be played, number of verses. When the hymn is announced, all they would need to do is press "play" and operate the stops. Similarly, there could be a number of pieces of music in the system's library for voluntaries before and after the service.

 

When an organist turns up, it would be a simple job just to lift the device off the keys and the organ could be played normally.

 

I think this idea would be vastly superior to CDs and electric player organs. Firstly, it's controlling a real musical instrument and while electric imitations are very good, you just can't beat a column of air vibrating in a pipe. It would be a vastly superior solution aesthetically to electronic or reproduced sound.

 

Secondly, you're still using your organ - a valuable asset in the church - and it's not sitting folornly in the corner unused, questioning people to wonder what it's future is. So it's still possible to keep an interest in the organ... who knows, the person operating the player equipment may be tempted to try playing the keys himself one day....

 

It could be something that is used as an "assistant organist" - so when the organist is on holiday or there's a gap in the organist's rota. So the organ is still be used and appreciated.

 

Of course, it would sound a little inflexible. There wouldn't be that sensitivity and "give and take" or sense of line that's apparent when a real organist is playing. but it could be quite a bit better than some organists I've heard - at least there would be a consistent tempo and the right notes would be there...

 

In some ways, it's not a new idea at all. The Victorians had "finger and barell" organs and later there were mechanical player barrels that fitted over the keyboards of organs.

 

I was just wondering where you could get these devices from and whether they could be used for this type of work. Some work would be needed to develop a control unit and user interface and some churches could be a lot better off muscially.

 

What do people think?

 

The big drawback is getting the music and the congregation (often a wayward lot) to keep together. If you have an upbeat hymn and a drummer they can pull a congregation along. If you have to sing "Rock of Ages" you have problems.

 

The old church barrel organ happily coped with the situation, provided the wind feeders were not connected to the barrel handle. Used by a skillfull controller I have heard a psalm successfully pointed on such an instrument.

 

Frank Fowler

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The big drawback is getting the music and the congregation (often a wayward lot) to keep together. If you have an upbeat hymn and a drummer they can pull a congregation along. If you have to sing "Rock of Ages" you have problems.

 

 

Frank Fowler

 

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

 

 

Not at all Frank!

 

The trick is, "Tango" rhythm for the first three verses and "Bossa Nova" for the last!!

 

 

:unsure:

 

MM

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  • 1 month later...

I can see no reason why the connection between the console and the wind chests cannot be digital via a fibre optic link. I know that to many the introduction of a computer to a pipe organ is akin to selling your soul to the devil, but there could be many benefits. Relevant to this discussion is that anything played at the console could be recorded and played back at a later date. Yes, a real life organist would always be better, but as already mentioned, they are in short supply these days. There are many recordings of fine Cathedral organists from yesteryear, but imagine how much better it would be to hear their actual recital on its original instrument? :D

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or wireless... RF, laser, etc.  Why not??  Maybe mental telepathy will be next!

 

Don't joke - I had to play a wedding recently by telepathy - the choir was so far away and out of sight/sound that they might as well not have been there at all as far as I was concerned! At one point a churchwarden had to come round and tell me that we weren't actually performing together - my reply was that someone aught to tell the conductor to keep with me then as there was no way I could keep with them!

 

AJJ

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and after playing Reger Introducktion, Passacaglia and Fugue note perfect, they will simply announce "I'll be bachhhk" before putting on their dark glasses and strutting off out, chain gun slung over each shoulder.
Omigod, an army of John Scott Whiteleys!

 

One question. These MIDI interfaces can operate stops, but can they also operate swell box shutters? The disc drive on my home electronic can't, which is a bit of a drawback when it comes to Romantic music (or, looking at it another way, an advantage, because you can sit there listening to your performance and producing all sorts of subtleties with the swell box that you couldn't possibly do while playing!)

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One question. These MIDI interfaces can operate stops, but can they also operate swell box shutters?

 

I don’t know enough about MIDI interfaces but I suspect the answer is no. Any organ with a detached console (with swell shutters and action operated electrically) could be modified so that all console inputs are passed digitally. With that done the ability to “record” every note, stop drawn and ‘box position is easy. So yes, swell box shutters can be operated remotely via a digital interface.

:D

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Guest Barry Oakley
Omigod, an army of John Scott Whiteleys!

 

One question. These MIDI interfaces can operate stops, but can they also operate swell box shutters? The disc drive on my home electronic can't, which is a bit of a drawback when it comes to Romantic music (or, looking at it another way, an advantage, because you can sit there listening to your performance and producing all sorts of subtleties with the swell box that you couldn't possibly do while playing!)

 

Providing the appropriate transmission system is installed, MIDI systems can emulate all the deft manipulations of expresion and general crescendo pedals as though it were real time.

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A few years ago, our local 'look north' ran a story about somone in Lincolnshire, who had found a clever way around the timing problems normally associated with MIDI for church hymns.

 

Basically, he had soldered together a chord sequencer, which read the midi information from disk, but only changed the chord output when an 'advance' button was pressed. I have no idea whether it was commercialised. I do know (from an electrical engineering point of view) that anything to do with MIDI is sub-trivial, and so it's possible that units like these could be made very cheaply.

 

Assuming that the church in question already possessed a disk reader and an organ with a MIDI input (big assumption....but some do), and assuming a production run of say 2000, I think these units could be made for barely £20 (production cost) each.

 

The idea was that any layperson with a sense of rhythm would be able to control the flow of the hymn 'live', without needing keyboard skills.

 

Of course, stepping through the Widor would probably induce vibration white finger.

DWL.

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The idea was that any layperson with a sense of rhythm would be able to control the flow of the hymn 'live', without needing keyboard skills.

 

Of course, stepping through the Widor would probably induce vibration white finger.

DWL.

 

So there's hope for me yet :D

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I’m not sure if my previous posts quite put across what I meant. If you look at any organ with electric or electro-pneumatic action, then the output from the keyboard is in effect 61 bit parallel data (number of notes on many keyboards). The keys make a switch (various types) so the output is either 0 volts or supply voltage depending if the key is depressed or not.

 

Parallel data transmission is rarely used these days. It is expensive (due to the number of cores required) and suffers from voltage drop and capacitive effects. Changing parallel data to serial data is easily accomplished. As soon as the data is in that format it can be readily modified (octave/ sub-octave couplers etc) and saved for later transmission.

 

The medium through which this is transmitted is irrelevant, anything with a large enough bandwidth will suffice. Amongst others, fibre optics and RF would do.

 

At the organ the data is converted back to parallel, amplified, and used to operate the pallet solenoids.

 

For the organist at the console there is no difference to how the instrument is played or to its feel, yet as a tool to play music the organ would be greatly enhanced.

 

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is mainly used to control synthesisers, not real instruments. :D

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I believe the Bridgewater Hall Marcussen uses a fibre-optic link cable for the remote console, which I seem to remember was one cause of a pre-concert failure not long after installation !

 

No doubt someone can verify...

 

H

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