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'Amp-ing' the organ


bwv572

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Has anyone applied amplification to an organ?

 

In our church the organ is at the west end and fills the main part of the church quite effectively. However, by the time its sound reaches the choir, it is quite indistinct and lags slightly. Supporting the choir effectively can mean the organ has to be unnecessarily loud with the congregation in between. So I hit on the idea of putting a microphone near the pipes and bringing the sound up to the choir with some well-placed speakers. Of course, we'll need some expert help to do it properly (or not at all!) because we don't want to make the whole thing too loud or destroy the balance and sound of the instrument.

 

I wondered if anyone has experience of this sort of thing?

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Has anyone applied amplification to an organ?

 

In our church the organ is at the west end and fills the main part of the church quite effectively. However, by the time its sound reaches the choir, the it is quite indistinct and lags slightly. Supporting the choir effectively can mean the organ has to be unnecessarily loud with the congregation in between. So I hit on the idea of putting a microphone near the pipes and bringing the sound up to the choir with some well-placed speakers. Of course, we'll need some expert help to do it properly (or not at all!) because we don't want to make the whole thing too loud or destroy the balance and sound of the instrument.

 

Sounds a bit of a nightmare to me!

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Has anyone applied amplification to an organ?

 

In our church the organ is at the west end and fills the main part of the church quite effectively. However, by the time its sound reaches the choir, the it is quite indistinct and lags slightly. Supporting the choir effectively can mean the organ has to be unnecessarily loud with the congregation in between. So I hit on the idea of putting a microphone near the pipes and bringing the sound up to the choir with some well-placed speakers. Of course, we'll need some expert help to do it properly (or not at all!) because we don't want to make the whole thing too loud or destroy the balance and sound of the instrument.

 

I wondered if anyone has experience of this sort of thing?

 

 

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

 

 

You hit on a problem which has plagued certain English churches ever since, I suppose, the Oxford Movement and the desire to have surpliced choirs in the sanctuary as "part of the theatre," so to speak. Organs, which once often stood freely or in a west-end gallery position, were suddenly thrust under low arches in side-aisles, and the congregation were "led" by the sound of choirs; often very ineffectively, where the chancel arch was considerably lower/smaller than the nave profile.

 

I always think that the best solution to the problem was that at Leeds PC, where the organ sits to one side like a festering carbuncle of hideous design, but which is brilliantly effective both as a choral accompaniment instrument and as general accompaniment instrument.

 

I used to regularly help out with the singing at a church where the (Harrison) organ was built into the tower space, with the console at the chancel steps. That worked quite well, due to the position of the console, and the fact that it isn't a massive church. (Christ Church, Skipton, N Yorks....H & H 1911....first Harrison EP action) The important thing is, in this situation, the sound from the organ more or less co-incided with the sound from the choir, but the congregation heard progressively "quicker" sound from the organ, and "slower" sound from the choir, dependent upon where they sat.

 

However, a chancel console controlling a west-end instrument can be a real nightmare, because not only does the organ sound remote from the choir, it tends to drive the congregational singing BEFORE the choir is heard. (The same applies even when the organist sits in a gallery with the organ, and the choir is in the chancel).

 

There are no easy ways around it, and at Grimsby PC for instance, the main organ is west-end, and drives everything along.....everyone just singing as best they can. For choral accompaniment, a Chancel Organ is installed separately, but at large services, this is inadequate for congregational accompaniment.

 

Amplification can help in these tricky situations, BUT, with an important attention to detail. I'm no expert, but I'm fairly certain that professional church PA systems have a delay built in, to co-incide with the speed of the sound travelling from the sound source. (It prevents those awful multiple "echoes" you sometimes hear at sporting events). I think this requires the services of a professional sound engineer, and not just a couple of microphones pointing at the organ, an amplifier and couple of speakers hung in the chancel.

 

The perfect musical solution is to move the choir; either to the west-end, or as a compromise, to a side position within the nave. I know of situations where that works well, but of course, a certain aesthetic is lost from the chancel area.

 

I suspect that there are no easy or ideal solutions to the problem, but I wish you well.

 

MM

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

 

 

You hit on a problem which has plagued certain English churches ever since, I suppose, the Oxford Movement and the desire to have surpliced choirs in the sanctuary as "part of the theatre," so to speak. Organs, which once often stood freely or in a west-end gallery position, were suddenly thrust under low arches in side-aisles, and the congregation were "led" by the sound of choirs; often very ineffectively, where the chancel arch was considerably lower/smaller than the nave profile.

 

I always think that the best solution to the problem was that at Leeds PC, where the organ sits to one side like a festering carbuncle of hideous design, but which is brilliantly effective both as a choral accompaniment instrument and as general accompaniment instrument.

 

I used to regularly help out with the singing at a church where the (Harrison) organ was built into the tower space, with the console at the chancel steps. That worked quite well, due to the position of the console, and the fact that it isn't a massive church. (Christ Church, Skipton, N Yorks....H & H 1911....first Harrison EP action) The important thing is, in this situation, the sound from the organ more or less co-incided with the sound from the choir, but the congregation heard progressively "quicker" sound from the organ, and "slower" sound from the choir, dependent upon where they sat.

 

However, a chancel console controlling a west-end instrument can be a real nightmare, because not only does the organ sound remote from the choir, it tends to drive the congregational singing BEFORE the choir is heard. (The same applies even when the organist sits in a gallery with the organ, and the choir is in the chancel).

 

There are no easy ways around it, and at Grimsby PC for instance, the main organ is west-end, and drives everything along.....everyone just singing as best they can. For choral accompaniment, a Chancel Organ is installed separately, but at large services, this is inadequate for congregational accompaniment.

 

Amplification can help in these tricky situations, BUT, with an important attention to detail. I'm no expert, but I'm fairly certain that professional church PA systems have a delay built in, to co-incide with the speed of the sound travelling from the sound source. (It prevents those awful multiple "echoes" you sometimes hear at sporting events). I think this requires the services of a professional sound engineer, and not just a couple of microphones pointing at the organ, an amplifier and couple of speakers hung in the chancel.

 

The perfect musical solution is to move the choir; either to the west-end, or as a compromise, to a side position within the nave. I know of situations where that works well, but of course, a certain aesthetic is lost from the chancel area.

 

I suspect that there are no easy or ideal solutions to the problem, but I wish you well.

 

MM

 

 

The RC Cathedral at Salford was always a challenge for an organ, and once had a Compton that was totally obscured, so that no direct sound reached the building. Instead, it was relayed to the corners of the church by microphones and speakers! The Makin they have now does the same thing, with switchable divisions in various areas.

 

CP

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Has anyone applied amplification to an organ?

 

In our church the organ is at the west end and fills the main part of the church quite effectively. However, by the time its sound reaches the choir, it is quite indistinct and lags slightly. Supporting the choir effectively can mean the organ has to be unnecessarily loud with the congregation in between. So I hit on the idea of putting a microphone near the pipes and bringing the sound up to the choir with some well-placed speakers. Of course, we'll need some expert help to do it properly (or not at all!) because we don't want to make the whole thing too loud or destroy the balance and sound of the instrument.

 

I wondered if anyone has experience of this sort of thing?

 

Hi

 

I know of a couple of small churches where this has been done, using the existing sound system - not a good idea! The dynamic & frequency range of the organ is too great. I also used a mic to feed an organ tucked into a chancel chamber (Rye Parish church) into the Nave when we used the building for a Sussex Baptist association event (having discovered that, with a large congregation singing, even full organ was nigh on inaudible half-way back) - on that occasion we had a large PA system in for a youth event in the evening, so volume & dynamics weren't an issue. It worked toledably well.

 

In your situation though, it seems to me that the problem is more that the choir can't hear the organ properly unless the organ is too loud? I would look at some of the foldback speakers used by bands for similar purposes. The congregation will still hear enough organ direct. Try one of the live sound specialists such as Wigwam - they have experience in classical music as well as other genres! (There are other companies as well - but I know Wigwam have wide experience - and having originas (at least) as a Christian company, do a lot of work for churches of various denominations).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Has anyone applied amplification to an organ?

 

In our church the organ is at the west end and fills the main part of the church quite effectively. However, by the time its sound reaches the choir, it is quite indistinct and lags slightly. Supporting the choir effectively can mean the organ has to be unnecessarily loud with the congregation in between. So I hit on the idea of putting a microphone near the pipes and bringing the sound up to the choir with some well-placed speakers. Of course, we'll need some expert help to do it properly (or not at all!) because we don't want to make the whole thing too loud or destroy the balance and sound of the instrument.

 

I wondered if anyone has experience of this sort of thing?

 

 

We have exactly the same issues at our church. The organ is West end, and divided North and South on platforms with console below. The choir is at the East end of the Church behind the high altar. Lovely for unaccompanied music but not good for organ and choir only as (a) the organ lags and is indistinct and (:lol: the congregation sitting in the middle do not have a good aural experience.

We are looking at the following alternatives:

 

1. A digital solution for the chancel (console and speakers) but with a second set of speakers at the west end for hymns. If we went for this, I must add our fine pipe organ would not become redundant!

2. Moving the pipe organ to the South chapel (speaking into the chancel and west).

3. Moving the choir to the West end, under the organ (decani and cantoris layout). This third option is actually going back to the original layout and design of the church! The choir moved East 10 years ago as part of a minor reordering.

 

Whenever we sing anything accompanied which is either florid or more complex than the average block-chord stuff we currently move to the west end to ensure balance and ensemble.

 

Good luck!

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Has anyone applied amplification to an organ?

 

In our church the organ is at the west end and fills the main part of the church quite effectively. However, by the time its sound reaches the choir, it is quite indistinct and lags slightly. Supporting the choir effectively can mean the organ has to be unnecessarily loud with the congregation in between. So I hit on the idea of putting a microphone near the pipes and bringing the sound up to the choir with some well-placed speakers. Of course, we'll need some expert help to do it properly (or not at all!) because we don't want to make the whole thing too loud or destroy the balance and sound of the instrument.

 

I wondered if anyone has experience of this sort of thing?

 

You only need small loudspeakers and modest volume to relay pitch and pulse to the choir - not huge full-range monsters. I believe one Oxford college about to acquire a new (and somewhat remote) west end organ is contemplating an arrangement with a high-quality microphone close to the organ and loudspeakers discreetly hidden within the quire stalls.

 

JS

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I am sure that Dartford PC had a mic on the choir organ to a speaker in the chancel, to aid pitch etc for the choir...I only went there once about 25 years ago so they probably don't have it now.

I also believe that the BBC have done it in SofP...The service at Cound, Shropshire a few weeks back was in the village church, I was seated in the chancel so cannot confirm it actually happened, but they said that for the recording there would be some supporting organ sound from monitors at the west end to help support the congregation as the organ was a little instrument in the chancel.

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Chaps,

 

Thanks for your responses. You're right that having the console with the choir and the pipes down the back is the worst of all worlds. Even though our church is not particularly large, it's still long enough (and endowed with a prominent chancel arch) that the congregation gets the sound before (and at greater attack) than either me or the choir. Worse, the proximity of the choir means I hear nothing in balance.

I had concluded that any solution like this would have to be fully independent from the main PA system, particularly as I don't want the sound of the organ compromised in the nave. We'll get a sound specialist in and see what happens. Could be interesting.

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Has anyone applied amplification to an organ?

 

In our church the organ is at the west end and fills the main part of the church quite effectively. However, by the time its sound reaches the choir, it is quite indistinct and lags slightly. Supporting the choir effectively can mean the organ has to be unnecessarily loud with the congregation in between. So I hit on the idea of putting a microphone near the pipes and bringing the sound up to the choir with some well-placed speakers. Of course, we'll need some expert help to do it properly (or not at all!) because we don't want to make the whole thing too loud or destroy the balance and sound of the instrument.

 

I wondered if anyone has experience of this sort of thing?

 

For large services I occasionally run a bog standard Maplin microphone into the main PA system. Our big Harrison is very remote from the nave (one regular contributor here has described it as having its own postcode) but overwhelming in the choir - the exact opposite of your situation. All you need is a little bit of sound there - loss of frequencies etc doesn't really matter. It's rather like using the nave organ at somewhere like Sherborne - all you need is the Stopped Diapason to provide enough 3D for the congregation to have confidence.

 

Why not recover a little redundant 1 manual and put it on a platform? Something with 4 or 5 stops needn't be very space consuming.

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