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Organ case roofs


SteveBarker77
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I've noticed on here the mention of roofs on organ cases either being added, removed, or altered, and I was wondering what the arguments are for and against? Is the job of the roof to help project the sound out of the front of the instrument rather than up into the ceiling space? Most organs I've come across don't have roofs, but I've noticed that a lot of newer (smaller) instruments appear to have, at least from the pictures I've seen. I'd be interested to read people's thoughts and experience on this.

 

Thanks,

 

Steve

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I've noticed on here the mention of roofs on organ cases either being added, removed, or altered, and I was wondering what the arguments are for and against? Is the job of the roof to help project the sound out of the front of the instrument rather than up into the ceiling space? Most organs I've come across don't have roofs, but I've noticed that a lot of newer (smaller) instruments appear to have, at least from the pictures I've seen. I'd be interested to read people's thoughts and experience on this.

 

Thanks,

 

Steve

 

 

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

 

 

It comes down to simple acoustic principles. With low roofs and side-aisles, organ sound will leak in all directions but not get lost, but with higher roofs and bigger spaces, the sound will become quite diffuse and lacking in clarity. Perhaps the most extreme examples are buildings such as Livepool Cathedral and York Minster....immense buildings with very high vaulting.

 

If you listen to an orchestra in a big, cathedralesque acoustic, everything will sound warm and distant, and clarity will be lost. However, the Trumpets and Trombones will dominate, because the sounds coming out of the instruments do so horizontally. Thus, what you hear is "directed sound," which reaches the listener in a direct straight line.

 

This is the principle of the organ "tone cabinet," such as found as a matter of course on old baroque organs in Germany and Holland. Instead of leaking out sideways, vertically and downwards, the sound is directed (usually from a west gallery), straight into the ears of those sitting in the nave.

 

The difference is startling. I recall hearing the superb Ahrend/Schnitger organ (17th century and modern restoration), at the Martinikerk in Groningen, the Netherlands. By way of experiment, I slid away from my seat towards the front of the nave and headed west, as the organist played the Bach "Jig" Fugue. As far aways as it was possioble to get, almost against the west wall of the church, I could hear every line of counterpoint with astonishing clarity; yet this is a big building, a very tall building and carries a big acoustic.

 

MM

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I think some of this depends on whether the organ case is viewed as a separate piece of furniture (freestanding) or to cover up the mechanisms of pipes shoehorned into a chamber.

 

Given the state of the roofs of some churches these days I have seen roofs of corrugated tin complete with drain pipes installed in organ chambers. (This was in the Hull area.) Apart from keeping out the dust you never know when the lead on the church roof is going to be pinched. Lots of money from insurance companies goes on water damage to organs that could be avoided if organs had proper cases with roofs. Builders doing church repair work also often create dust when doing roof repairs which falls through into the organ. How often is the organbuilder called in to advise when repairs or church decoration is contemplated? But I bet this sort of dusty work would not go ahead without shutting up the lid on a grand piano! Give me an organ roof every time.

 

The fashion these days seems to be for a more diffuse sound (French as against German influences?) and roofs have apparently come off instruments such as The Albert Hall, London, Chichester Cath and Gloucester Cath. Personally I think its done these days to give the organbuilders more organ cleaning work!

PJW

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The fashion these days seems to be for a more diffuse sound (French as against German influences?) and roofs have apparently come off instruments such as The Albert Hall, London, Chichester Cath and Gloucester Cath. Personally I think its done these days to give the organbuilders more organ cleaning work!

PJW

 

Chichester Cathedral, too? I would be interested to know when this took place.

 

For the record, Gloucester is definitely better with some of its roof panels removed. There appears to have been no adverse effect on the clarity of this instrument, but the sound seems to be fuller - perhaps less 'tight' (as distinct from 'focused').

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In Cologne Cathedral, the transept organ for the main part has no roof at all. In the last rebuild in 2002, the entire instrument was lifted by about 2 m, thereby gaining much power and directness, as the vaults of the side aisle could reflect the sound much better now. Additionally, the space below the chests was used for a new, much more gerenous winding system.

 

Projection seems to be the principal concern here. If you look at large North-German organs such as the revived Schnitger at St. Jakobi, Hamburg,you can see how very prominent the cornices are. They probably have a strong effect on sound projection. Not quite what you would expect from modern case architecture, though Gerhard Grenzing and case designer Simon Platt tried something quite like it here.

 

Best, Friedrich

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In Cologne Cathedral, the transept organ for the main part has no roof at all. In the last rebuild in 2002, the entire instrument was lifted by about 2 m, thereby gaining much power and directness, as the vaults of the side aisle could reflect the sound much better now. Additionally, the space below the chests was used for a new, much more gerenous winding system.

 

Best, Friedrich

 

Yes, I read about this.

 

However, didn't they retain a 'roof' (angled at about 45 degrees) above the Solowerk/Positif (oberladen)? This looks as if it would project the sound of this department directly into the chancel. The small Ruckpositiv is also in a case with a roof.

 

I find it interesting that, depite being built in the austere post-war years when certain materials were in short supply, this instrument is regarded as being of surprisingly good quality.

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