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Taking for granted for one moment that we generally agree on a pipe organ being the best option, and that live music which causes actual vibrations in the air is superior for accompanimental purposes to recorded music (whether from a CD or an electronic organ)...

 

... why is it that harmoniums and American organs are not regarded as the automatic second choice, being (as they indisputably are) at least the equal of the electronic in terms of maintenance, cheapness, compactness and longevity?

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... why is it that harmoniums and American organs are not regarded as the automatic second choice, being (as they indisputably are) at least the equal of the electronic in terms of maintenance, cheapness, compactness and longevity?

Because they don't provide organ enthusiasts (as opposed to organ playing musicians) with lots of sound effects and flashing lights?

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... why is it that harmoniums and American organs are not regarded as the automatic second choice, being (as they indisputably are) at least the equal of the electronic in terms of maintenance, cheapness, compactness and longevity?

 

It may have something to do with the fact that generally it is necessary for the player to supply the wind (via two pedals). It may also be because some people (me included) cannot stand the noise they make.

 

Yes, I have heard a mutual friend play Vierne on a Mustel - I still did not like it. All the stops still sounded the same to me.

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Because they don't provide organ enthusiasts (as opposed to organ playing musicians) with lots of sound effects and flashing lights?

 

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

 

 

No, but you could easily have strobe effects and Christmas lights on a harmonium, or better still, go for the obvious option of a good second-hand fair-organ.....all the flashing lights you could ever want and real art nouveau/deco to boot. A few drapes placed around the bare breasts of the carved ladies would sanctify things and make them acceptable.

 

A fair organ would be even more cost effective than a harmonium or electronic organ, because you could dispense with the organist altogether. That would save a few bob over the years.....£300,000 or so over a century.

 

The happy clappy brigade would soon warm to the obligatory strains of "In a monastery garden" by Ketelby.

 

 

MM

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There are a few harmoniums (or would they be American organs? what's the difference other than one blows, the other sucks) with electric blowers and full pedalboards which I presume were made for organists in days of yore for home practice who would have bought electronic organs except they hadn't yet been invented. I've never seen one in a church though - are there any examples of such instruments in churches? I would imagine they wouldn't be loud enough to fill anything but a small chapel which might explain their rarity. Here's one currently on sale on Ebay if someone fancies a major DIY challenge:

 

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/LARGE-REED-ORGAN-OAK...=item5644fa3e0e

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No, I don't much care for the sound either, PCND - but in terms of making music I much prefer it to just about any electronic.

 

We happen to have a II/P Rushworth job which we are storing for a customer but have installed as a temporary organ in a couple of places where the main instrument is out for cleaning and overhaul. I had never before heard one in a generous acoustic and it was more than competent to occupy the shoes of the generous 3m Bryceson and Ellis it supplanted, at least temporarily.

 

In terms of volume, most are choked right back with various flaps and sound-absorbing cloth panels and so on to make them domestically palatable. With such encumbrances removed, the noise can be fearsome at close quarters.

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Taking for granted for one moment that we generally agree on a pipe organ being the best option, and that live music which causes actual vibrations in the air is superior for accompanimental purposes to recorded music (whether from a CD or an electronic organ)...

 

... why is it that harmoniums and American organs are not regarded as the automatic second choice, being (as they indisputably are) at least the equal of the electronic in terms of maintenance, cheapness, compactness and longevity?

It astonishes me. One has total control over the attack and release of each note, an action resembling the best large old tracker organs, and quiet stops so as not to disturb the neighbours. If only the concept had been properly developed: the incredible voicing and subtly of the best Mustels (blowers) with the practicality, size and robustness of the best Holts or Rushworths (suckers). [i am taking for granted a full pedalboard and electric blower/sucker]. I would never give up my reed organ for a toaster, even tho it can sound a tad Pugwashian in the wrong repertoire (who cares when you're just learning the notes). It is the next nest thing to a small pipe organ - and with my Apollo's aged 'pallet' springs, when uncoupled it feels even closer to a temperamental mid-50s Flentrop then ever, meaning one has to stay on the keys! Staccato does NOT work, unless it is weighty and Franckian. No bad thing for beginners transferring from the piano, tempted to play Bach and Mozart as if flying a sewing machine. Carefully controlled détaché works perfectly, however, and a well set up machine speaks just as quickly as comparable pipes, down to 32' in the pedal. Ideal. Plus, 16-foot stops have so many more harmonics, one doesn't need to couple if independent voices are needed. Trios work well on the smallest 2-manual reed organ, uncoupled, tho perhaps with a convenient octave transposition on the manuals (which have an abundance of 16' stops and full C compass).

 

Sadly, I suspect that the cost of building a new solid oak or mahogany console with ivory & ebony keys would be greater than a mid-price toaster, even before one employed a free-reed voicer skilful enough (if they exist these days). I suspect one might as well commission a decent 3-stop tracker than build a reed organ anew. Expensive. Great shame. I confess to being a convert, without the back ache induced by some new house organs I could mention...

 

Ian

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It astonishes me. One has total control over the attack and release of each note, an action resembling the best large old tracker organs, and quiet stops so as not to disturb the neighbours. If only the concept had been properly developed: the incredible voicing and subtly of the best Mustels (blowers) with the practicality, size and robustness of the best Holts or Rushworths (suckers). [i am taking for granted a full pedalboard and electric blower/sucker]. I would never give up my reed organ for a toaster, even tho it can sound a tad Pugwashian in the wrong repertoire (who cares when you're just learning the notes). It is the next nest thing to a small pipe organ - and with my Apollo's aged 'pallet' springs, when uncoupled it feels even closer to a temperamental mid-50s Flentrop then ever, meaning one has to stay on the keys! Staccato does NOT work, unless it is weighty and Franckian. No bad thing for beginners transferring from the piano, tempted to play Bach and Mozart as if flying a sewing machine. Carefully controlled détaché works perfectly, however, and a well set up machine speaks just as quickly as comparable pipes, down to 32' in the pedal. Ideal. Plus, 16-foot stops have so many more harmonics, one doesn't need to couple if independent voices are needed. Trios work well on the smallest 2-manual reed organ, uncoupled, tho perhaps with a convenient octave transposition on the manuals (which have an abundance of 16' stops and full C compass).

 

Sadly, I suspect that the cost of building a new solid oak or mahogany console with ivory & ebony keys would be greater than a mid-price toaster, even before one employed a free-reed voicer skilful enough (if they exist these days). I suspect one might as well commission a decent 3-stop tracker than build a reed organ anew. Expensive. Great shame. I confess to being a convert, without the back ache induced by some new house organs I could mention...

 

Ian

 

That's the sort of thing. So, if cleaned up second-hand II/P examples with new springs were available for sub-£2000, you'd be recommending them as practice instruments?

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That's the sort of thing. So, if cleaned up second-hand II/P examples with new springs were available for sub-£2000, you'd be recommending them as practice instruments?

Yes

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That's the sort of thing. So, if cleaned up second-hand II/P examples with new springs were available for sub-£2000, you'd be recommending them as practice instruments?

 

Not for me, thanks. I should still prefer to walk to church and practise in a closed building - and then walk back home again, even in the rain.

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In which case all the more reason to follow the current Holt on Ebay and see what it fetches.

 

There's a set of reeds on there too. I'm quite tempted to buy two of the rubbish ones for 30 quid each and amalgamate into a II/P.

 

I could even make a detached console electric action version if anybody really wants one! And I can guarantee that all the reeds will be en chamade within the case.

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It may have something to do with the fact that generally it is necessary for the player to supply the wind (via two pedals). It may also be because some people (me included) cannot stand the noise they make.

 

Yes, I have heard a mutual friend play Vierne on a Mustel - I still did not like it. All the stops still sounded the same to me.

 

This would equally be true if our pipe organs only had reeds, rather than varieties of flues as well. An instrument whose method of tone production is merely of one kind is acceptable within its own role (eg a Trumpet or Clarinet), but has no intrinsic variety of tone. The same failing is seen in the reed organ.

 

CP

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Whilst I take Ian's point completely about touch and learning the notes, I'd still rather do that on a lone Stopped Diapason that a suck blow reed organ. With imagination I could get into the style and concept, but I'd soon tire of taking the lead role in 'Cesar Franck the movie'.

 

Sorry, vile noise.

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There are a few harmoniums (or would they be American organs? what's the difference other than one blows, the other sucks) with electric blowers and full pedalboards which I presume were made for organists in days of yore for home practice who would have bought electronic organs except they hadn't yet been invented. I've never seen one in a church though - are there any examples of such instruments in churches? I would imagine they wouldn't be loud enough to fill anything but a small chapel which might explain their rarity.

 

Didn't I see somewhere that FJ played one regularly in his local church after his "retirement"?

 

Ian

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This would equally be true if our pipe organs only had reeds, rather than varieties of flues as well. An instrument whose method of tone production is merely of one kind is acceptable within its own role (eg a Trumpet or Clarinet), but has no intrinsic variety of tone. The same failing is seen in the reed organ.

 

CP

 

Well, you can have the best of both worlds if you can get your hands on a Compensating Pipe Organ Company instrument. They are a free reed instrument with a rank of enclosed Stopped Diapason pipes. With one manual (divided at middle C) and pedal there is both flute and reed tone.

Manual - (Bass). 16', 8', 8', 8', 4', 4', 2', 2'.

Manual - (Treble). 16', 16', 8', 8', 8', 4,' 2'.

Pedal - 16', 16', 16'.

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This would equally be true if our pipe organs only had reeds, rather than varieties of flues as well. An instrument whose method of tone production is merely of one kind is acceptable within its own role (eg a Trumpet or Clarinet), but has no intrinsic variety of tone. The same failing is seen in the reed organ.

 

CP

 

Granted - but this is not the case.

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I can certainly see the attraction for a reed organ with a conventional layout of two manuals and pedals for practice. Not everyone has easy access to a pipe organ. When I was learning, I had to go and get the church key - assuming that the keyholder was at home. As a student, my church was several miles away and I still had to get in. It's not always easy to get practice time on local instruments, as I'm sure everyone will know. Therefore, something with a bit of character - and wind - would be well worthwhile, especially if it cost under two thousand pounds.

 

How much would it cost to build a reliable pipe organ with one stop on each department, perhaps with coupled pedals? No frills, just the basics. Or maybe one rank of pipes as a unit?

 

Is the Dr. Dukes who many years ago wrote an article in 'The Organ' called 'Two Manuals, Pedals, and a budget' the same as our fellow forumite here?

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In the 1940s my parents gave my late Grandfather's American Organ to St Mary's Tynings Lane Church in Aldridge, Staffs. I felt quite proud to be singing hymns in Sunday School accompanied by it. How long it lasted I don't know as we moved away in 1948.

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In the 1940s my parents gave my late Grandfather's American Organ to St Mary's Tynings Lane Church in Aldridge, Staffs. I felt quite proud to be singing hymns in Sunday School accompanied by it. How long it lasted I don't know as we moved away in 1948.

 

Interesting. The c.1900 Nicholson and Lord organ was thrown out of the church a few years ago and I believe was being replaced by a digital. The 4 foot Principal doesn't sound particularly special but is made of nice spotted metal and I managed to rescue it and give it a new lease of life as the facade to my home practice organ. (I have built a Hauptwerk console and conceal the speakers behind the facade of pipes.)

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Whilst I take Ian's point completely about touch and learning the notes, I'd still rather do that on a lone Stopped Diapason that a suck blow reed organ.

Oh so would I - but I'd rather spend that sort of cash on a 4x4 or a loft conversion. We were discussing the benefits of reed organs as budget home practice instruments.

 

As for those who believe there is "no intrinsic variety of tone" - it all depends on the quality of the reed organ and the breadth of your expectations. You get as much variety of tone between [reedy] 'Clarabella' and [reedy] 'Gamba' as between your Stopped Diapason and your Koppel Flute; your Portunal and your Open Flute etc, which is fine for learning the notes. But you also get an independent pedal division, 16' stops and a rather satisfying Full Swell with a wide dynamic range, and a ppp Dulciana for pre-breakfast practice :)

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Taking for granted for one moment that we generally agree on a pipe organ being the best option, and that live music which causes actual vibrations in the air is superior for accompanimental purposes to recorded music (whether from a CD or an electronic organ)...

 

... why is it that harmoniums and American organs are not regarded as the automatic second choice, being (as they indisputably are) at least the equal of the electronic in terms of maintenance, cheapness, compactness and longevity?

 

Hi

 

Speaking as an enthusiast for reed organs - (although not everyone in the reed organ fraternity will agree with me) - the reed organ, and especially the Harmonium, is a different type of instrument to a pipe organ. It was designed to be expressive - and the main way on a harmonium of providing the expression is by disconnecting the wind reservoir and manipulating the treadles to change the volume. This is a technique that takes a lot of practice! But it does allow, for example, the "grand Jeu" the 4 basic Harmonium ranks) to be played at a whisper - and with deft manipulation of the treadles, go smoothly to an ff that can, on some harmoniums, exceed 100dBA!

 

The American organ developed from the Harmonium, using a different mechanical arrangement, which does take some of the harshness out of the basic reed sound. (Later quality Harmoniums and American organs also tend to have more voicing variety than the early ones, as techniques improved) A good many of these instruments were built to a price (cheap) for the undemanding and unsophisticated amateur player, whilst a Mustel could cost more than a modest house of its period.

 

They do make adequate instruments for church service accompaniment - but only if the player is prepared to learn how to get the best out of them (just the same as any other organ really!). Many French churches used a Harmonium as the "Orgue de Choer"

 

The 2mp variants, which came a little later were aimed at the "pipe organ substitute" market - and will, with a little care and attention, outlive any electronic - but they will always sound like a reed organ. Personally, I'd rather have a good Harmonium or Suction reed organ and take advantage of the expressiveness than play a 2mp reed organ - but others differ on that point!

 

As to their suitability vs electronics (or the increasing - and I find very worrying - trend to pre-recorded accompaniments) depends mainly, IMHO, on the style of music that's needed - and the availability of a GOOD reed organ (restoration doesn't come cheap!)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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the increasing - and I find very worrying - trend to pre-recorded accompaniments

Not entirely new, though. In 1968 I recorded a fellow student playing a range of hymn accompaniments on the organ of Christ Church, Oxford, to be sent to a missionary in West Africa who had a hi-fi system in his tent church and wanted to bring the cathedral experience to his flock. This recording is now in the British Library's National Sound Archive.

 

Paul

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