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To tilt or not to tilt


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I'm curious. Across the pond I read that many organs of three or more manuals tilt the upper manuals, in some cases at 2 degrees, and even negatively tilt the choir downwards so the Great is the only level manual - is that an AGO standard?

 

Conversely over here I see many four manual consoles that appear "flat", all four manuals level wih one another. Aesthetically I prefer the appearance, but does it impair playing? What is considered standard or current good practice for three or four manual consoles with British builders, or Continental firms? Does spacing between manuals affect whether you tilt or not?

 

Contrabombarde

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The copy I have of the AGO spec (from Wicks Pipe Organ Company) says "Manuals may slope toward Great or be level", and has an illustration with three sloping manuals.

 

The BDO 1972 spec shows a five manual console with strongly sloping manuals, and says that consoles with three or more manuals have sloping manuals.

 

An image I have labelled "British Organ Console Dimensions - Recommended Standard 1967" shows three level manuals with the note "manuals may be inclined".

 

An image I have of an elegantly hand-drawn 3-manual console layout simply labelled "H N & B" and undated (here) shows a three-decker with sloping manuals with no comment. The image is not precise, but appears to show the Choir flat, the Great very slightly inclined, and the Swell much more inclined.

 

Paul

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The copy I have of the AGO spec (from Wicks Pipe Organ Company) says "Manuals may slope toward Great or be level", and has an illustration with three sloping manuals.

 

The BDO 1972 spec shows a five manual console with strongly sloping manuals, and says that consoles with three or more manuals have sloping manuals.

 

An image I have labelled "British Organ Console Dimensions - Recommended Standard 1967" shows three level manuals with the note "manuals may be inclined".

 

An image I have of an elegantly hand-drawn 3-manual console layout simply labelled "H N & B" and undated (here) shows a three-decker with sloping manuals with no comment. The image is not precise, but appears to show the Choir flat, the Great very slightly inclined, and the Swell much more inclined.

 

Paul

I also have this image, in 'The Modern British Organ' by messrs Norman, father and son. The drawing looks very much like the work of Norman senior, who was an architect, and shows HNB's standard console dimensions. He had the most beautiful italic handwriting, and some of HNB's specification handouts were fascimile copies of his work. It's some time ago now, but I'm pretty sure that when I worked in their console shop they did indeed incline the upper manuals slightly, and very comfortable they were too. Happy days.

 

Regards to all

 

John

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I'm curious. Across the pond I read that many organs of three or more manuals tilt the upper manuals, in some cases at 2 degrees, and even negatively tilt the choir downwards so the Great is the only level manual - is that an AGO standard?

 

Conversely over here I see many four manual consoles that appear "flat", all four manuals level wih one another. Aesthetically I prefer the appearance, but does it impair playing? What is considered standard or current good practice for three or four manual consoles with British builders, or Continental firms? Does spacing between manuals affect whether you tilt or not?

 

Contrabombarde

 

Hi

 

Assuming the relation to the pedals is right, I find no difficulty with a flat 4 manual console (nor 3m - although I have come across the odd example where the swell was a long way away because the pedals weren't in the correct relationship to the manuals). I've also had no problem mwith angled upper manuals - and I certainly think it's necessary on 5m (and above!) consoles. However, there are other factors, specifically the amount of overhand and the space between manuals. For example, the organ in Ruthin Collegiate Church, originally designed by Kendrick Pyne (IIRC) as a concert organ has narrower than normal inter-manual spacing - reputedly to make "thumbing down" easier, but in so doing, precluding the use of conventional thumb pistons. I find that a very comfortable console.

 

It seems to me that whatever standards are laid down at various times, organ builders (or their clients) have a tendancy to modify them to fit particular circumstances.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I'm curious. Across the pond I read that many organs of three or more manuals tilt the upper manuals, in some cases at 2 degrees, and even negatively tilt the choir downwards so the Great is the only level manual - is that an AGO standard?

 

Conversely over here I see many four manual consoles that appear "flat", all four manuals level wih one another. Aesthetically I prefer the appearance, but does it impair playing? What is considered standard or current good practice for three or four manual consoles with British builders, or Continental firms? Does spacing between manuals affect whether you tilt or not?

 

Contrabombarde

 

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

 

I'm not quite sure whether the idea of inclined manuals originated in America or not, but it is very likely, considering the sheer scale of some of the organs/consoles quite common after the turn of the last century. Nevertheless, Ernest Skinner eschewed the idea on even his largest instruments. It would appear that tilted or inclined manuals are quite rare in Germany, and even a console like that at Passau doesn't have them.

 

I used to play a Hill, Norman & Beard 3-manula horseshoe console, which is probably the most comfortable I have ever known, with superb ergonomics. (A similar console existed until before the recent re-build at Leeds RC Cathedral).

 

Having spent time in America, as well as played numerous theatre organs, I personally like the ergonmics of tilted keyboards, which mean that the wrists are always working at exactly the same angle when playing on different manuals. The larger the console, the more the benefit.

 

Other than H, N & B in the UK, John Compton (as might be expected), was at the cutting edge of innovation, and regularly used tilted manuals on both straight and cinema organs.

 

Here are a few links on YouTube to various console arrangements:-

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.atos.org/Pages/Journal/RegalLon...deonLondon.html

 

http://www.zyworld.com/ivorbuckingham/ChurchConsoles.htm

 

fox riverside

 

 

(With apologies for poor sound quality, but taking delight in a rather punchy performance from Passau, by 13 year old English boy, George Warren) (Do I notice a certain well-known organist to his right?)

 

MM

 

PS: I've just noticed that Passau does indeed have a slight angling of the keyboards.

 

PPS: Did everyone raise their eyebrows on hearing the Willan played on a Wurltizer?

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One might need to make a distinction here between electric and mechanical action organs. In instruments of more than two manuals with electric action it is normal to have some degree of slope. This is slightly more difficult in mechanical action organs, but by no means impossible and many mechanical action organs do have sloping keys. We generally keep the manuals level for up to three manuals and occasionally even four manuals when mechanical action is employed, but not always. Electric action instruments always have some degree of tilt if they have more than two manuals.

 

To the best of my knowledge no organist has ever made any comment to us one way or the other. None has asked why we sloped the keys and none has suggested we should have where we haven't.

 

John

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I've just had another look at the Wannamaker organ again, and the degree of tilt on the upper manuals seems very large. Is it, or are the photos just a bit deceptive. What's the most tilt anyone has come across?

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I've just had another look at the Wannamaker organ again, and the degree of tilt on the upper manuals seems very large. Is it, or are the photos just a bit deceptive. What's the most tilt anyone has come across?

 

 

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

 

The most tilt I have come across is.....wait for it....the Wanamaker organ!

 

That top manual is, at a guess, at a forty-five degree angle; inclined that way to make it reachable by those who do not have arms like an Orangutang. The point is, you can only lean so far before other parts of the anatomy start to play the bottom manual, and organising the manuals in an ergonomic sweep is the only option. Not only is it more comfortable, it permits the wrist to remain at the right (low) angle, and I know that I struggled a bit on the organ of the Mother Church, Christ Scientists, Boston, Mass. I seem to recal that all the manuals (five of them), are at an identical angle, and possibly even perfecty level.

 

 

There is a further link showing a six-manual American console from a better camera angle, which show just how much tilt these monster organs have.

 

 

 

In the UK, I think Wakefield Cathedral has the most tilt I've come across, but I'm sure there are others, such as the Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square etc.

 

I think I'm right in stating that the 7-manual Midmer Losh at Atlantic City, has the top manual situated vertically, or as close as makes no difference. It's not an organ I have seen or played in the States, and when I was there, I don't think it was even working.

 

Of course, the study of ergonomics was really a war-time, military thing; the idea being to make complex aircraft controls reachable and logical, and in terms of logic, organ-builders were probably there first.

 

There were a couple of ergonomic icons from the 1960's; the first being the Triumph 2000 motor-car, in which the controls and instruments were the first to feature "wrap around" design. The second,(quickly followed by a third), was the 1955 organ at the Festival Hall, where the stops are arced in a "wrap around" formation, as with the later organ at Coventry Cathedral.

 

I really do like ergonomically designed consoles, which make a fairly complex task a little easier.

 

As for AGO pedal-boards, I'll give them a thumbs down.

 

The number of times the Bach D-major ended with a tonic 7th, and the number of time the Gigout Scherzo ended with a deliciously scrunchy and very wrong bottom FFF; I lost count.

 

MM

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No one has mentioned Atlantic City yet? Looks really steep!! :lol: And how would you fancy your turning pages, let alone look at a score!! :D:o

 

 

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

 

The second link I provided was to the Atlantic City organ.

 

The music desk, incidentally, is fully adjustable for height and reach so far as I know. I think it is just possible to make out the cantilever brackets in the photograph.

 

MM

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Although Passau appears not to have tilted manuals at first glance, I would say that some tilt can be seen on a couple of photos of the 5-manual Eisenbarth console. There are of course tilted manuals on the only two 6-manual consoles in Germany (Mainz Cathedral, Waldsassen Basilica). Tilting manuals also appears to be quite common on the larger Klais consoles as well as those by other German organ builders (see for instance this link that I've come across by chance).

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Thank you to all those who have responded so far - lots to think about and some very interesting pictures, especially of the Comptons. I thought that four manual mechanical organs would be more likely to remain flat. Aesthetically I prefer the visual appearance of flat manuals though a slant is probably a comfort factor, as is the vertical and horizontal distance between manuals. Clearly with six manuals you really need a slant, though really how much repertoire really demands more than four?

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Thank you to all those who have responded so far - lots to think about and some very interesting pictures, especially of the Comptons. I thought that four manual mechanical organs would be more likely to remain flat. Aesthetically I prefer the visual appearance of flat manuals though a slant is probably a comfort factor, as is the vertical and horizontal distance between manuals. Clearly with six manuals you really need a slant, though really how much repertoire really demands more than four?

The argument about repertoire is probably valid but fails to take into account particular installations in particular large buildings. I have absolutely no experience of playing organs with different divisions at, for example, opposite ends of a cathedral but I can imagine that getting ones head around multi-divisional organs is probably easier with more manuals particularly if antiphonal effects are being used.

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I don't know enough about them to comment, but can anyone tell me if theatre organs also tilt the higher up you go?

 

It's some time since I last sat at a Wurlitzer console, but I'm pretty sure they do, especially on the bigger consoles.

 

Regards to all

 

John

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Although Passau appears not to have tilted manuals at first glance, I would say that some tilt can be seen on a couple of photos of the 5-manual Eisenbarth console.

 

The four manual mechanical action console definitely has tilted keyboards if the cross-sectional diagram in the Schnell & Steiner publication is anything to go by.

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I don't know enough about them to comment, but can anyone tell me if theatre organs also tilt the higher up you go?

 

 

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

 

They certainly do, as do all theatre organs I've ever played.

 

MM

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The argument about repertoire is probably valid but fails to take into account particular installations in particular large buildings. I have absolutely no experience of playing organs with different divisions at, for example, opposite ends of a cathedral but I can imagine that getting ones head around multi-divisional organs is probably easier with more manuals particularly if antiphonal effects are being used.

 

 

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

 

It's not NECESSARILY a spatial thing so much as a logic thing.

 

The Wanamaker is not a 6 manual division organ (excluding the pedals). In fact, it has the following divisions:-

 

 

Choir

 

Great

 

Swell

 

Solo

 

Ethereal

 

Stentor

 

 

(The Stentor division was never installed but at present contains one unenclosed Tuba rank (25").

The manual is also capable of playing the Great Diapason Magna, Orchestral French Horns,

Ethereal Clear Flute, String Nazard Gambas and String Celli independently from other stops

in their home divisions. This arrangement allows these voices to be used as solo stops or for

special effects while the remainder of the home division is employed for other purposes.)

 

 

THE ADDITIONAL DIVISIONS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING

 

 

 

Echo

 

(Floating)

 

Orchestral

 

(Floating)

 

Vox Humana Chorus

 

(Floating)

 

String

 

(Floating)

 

Percussion

 

(Floating)

 

 

SO YOU SEE, THERE ARE A FURTHER FIVE "FLOATING" DIVISIONS, MAKING A TOTAL OF FIVE, PLUS FIVE FLOATING, PLUS ONE WITH BUT A SINGLE BIG TUBA RANK (THE STENTOR DIVISION)....A TOTAL OF 11 MANUAL DIVISIONS IN FACT.

 

SO THE 6TH MANUAL ACTUALLY SERVES AS A SPECIAL DIVISION FOR THE TUBA FANFARES, AN ENSEMBLE MANUAL FOR CERTAIN COMBINATIONS OF REGISTERS FROM OTHER DIVISIONS, AND AS A COUPLER MANUAL TO BRING INTO USE ANY OF THE FLOATING DIVISIONS SEPARATELY.

 

IT'S ALL TERRIBLY COMPLICATED, I'M AFRAID.

 

MM

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

 

It's not NECESSARILY a spatial thing so much as a logic thing.

 

The Wanamaker is not a 6 manual division organ (excluding the pedals). In fact, it has the following divisions:-

 

 

Choir

 

Great

 

Swell

 

Solo

 

Ethereal

 

Stentor

 

 

(The Stentor division was never installed but at present contains one unenclosed Tuba rank (25").

The manual is also capable of playing the Great Diapason Magna, Orchestral French Horns,

Ethereal Clear Flute, String Nazard Gambas and String Celli independently from other stops

in their home divisions. This arrangement allows these voices to be used as solo stops or for

special effects while the remainder of the home division is employed for other purposes.)

 

 

THE ADDITIONAL DIVISIONS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING

 

 

 

Echo

 

(Floating)

 

Orchestral

 

(Floating)

 

Vox Humana Chorus

 

(Floating)

 

String

 

(Floating)

 

Percussion

 

(Floating)

 

 

SO YOU SEE, THERE ARE A FURTHER FIVE "FLOATING" DIVISIONS, MAKING A TOTAL OF FIVE, PLUS FIVE FLOATING, PLUS ONE WITH BUT A SINGLE BIG TUBA RANK (THE STENTOR DIVISION)....A TOTAL OF 11 MANUAL DIVISIONS IN FACT.

 

SO THE 6TH MANUAL ACTUALLY SERVES AS A SPECIAL DIVISION FOR THE TUBA FANFARES, AN ENSEMBLE MANUAL FOR CERTAIN COMBINATIONS OF REGISTERS FROM OTHER DIVISIONS, AND AS A COUPLER MANUAL TO BRING INTO USE ANY OF THE FLOATING DIVISIONS SEPARATELY.

 

IT'S ALL TERRIBLY COMPLICATED, I'M AFRAID.

 

MM

 

Hi

 

Liverpool Cathedral organ also has a significantly larger number of divisions than manuals!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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