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Pierre Lauwers

The English Dulciana

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Hello,

 

It seems -after the infos I could gather- this stop to have been introduced in England by Johannes (John) Snetzler. It could have been the "Dolcan" or "Dolce" from southern Germany. (an inverted conical soft stop). It would then have been taken over by Samuel Green, who develloped his own version, which was rather a narrow-scaled Open Diapason. The stop would have continued for some times under this form, while later the americans built it as a stringy stop.

 

There were even Dulciana choruses ( Dulciana 8'- 4'- Dulcet 2' -Dulciana mixture). I could only find data in Audsley's, but about a Dulciana Cornet with Tierce ranks. It is also mentioned by Bonavia-Hunt and Wegdwood, who wrote "A mixture stop of quiet silvery tone, tough scarcely of Dulciana scaled pipes. A very great aquisition to an organ of moderate size. The Dulciana mixture is generally enclosed in a Swell box. St Mark, Leeds (Binns); York Minster (Walker);Echo organ, Norwich Cathedral, VI ranks (Norman & Beard-a most effective stop). (From "Dictionary of Organ stops", J.I. Wedgwood, Winthrop-Rogers Ltd, second edition, 1907).

 

My questions are:

-Do we still have intact Dulciana stops by Samuel Green?

-Would this stop make sense in a modern organ?

-Would any Dulciana mixture do as a secondary Diapason chorus or would it be a mere fancy?

 

Best wishes to all,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Dear Pierre,

 

Sorry, but in my experience over the years the Dulciana is the most useless stop ever invented. Its sole claim to any purpose is that it is often the only stop on which to accompany the Swell oboe. I really don't understand why it ever became as ubiquitous as it did. Miserable things - I really hate them!

 

Stewart Taylor

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Thanks for your input, Stewartt,

 

As you mention it, a stop that has been built for so long could well have been used for a bit more than accompanying the Swell Oboe. But beyond this aspect, it could be that it made deal of an organ structure we don't understand any more ( why bother with a "softer something else?").

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Hmm. I don't think the Dulciana is quite as useless as Stewart Taylor is suggesting, although there are rather a lot of insipid ones around it has to be admitted. There are occasions when a softer version of an Open Diapason can be useful and a good one will still work with the rest of the chorus giving a lighter and somewhat brighter tone than when using the Open Diapason.

 

To clear up one point, it does not have any relation to the Dolce as it is always a parallel sided stop and not an inverted conical one. There are a number of original ones left to see and hear.

 

John Pike Mander

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Just a couple of thoughts on the English Dulciana. Although it was originally (I believe) introduced as a solo or colour stop, and in fact displaced the 4-foot flute on English chamber organs, the reason it became established and lasted for so long is that it is really very useful.

 

Although taken on its own I agree that "insipid" is probably the best description, when used in combination with the other 8-foot registers on a given manual it opens up endless new colouring possibilities. Most importantly, on the Great of a 2-manual organ, alone or with the 8-foot stopped flute, it creates a virtual Choir for accompanying or contrasting with the Swell. In other words, the addition of a single stop adds the illusion of a third level of sound.

 

Ideally, I suppose, the Great should have four 8-foot stops: Open and Stopped Diapasons, Harmonic Flute and Dulciana. If this has to be cut down to three, as in most early 20th-century Casavants, then a Melodia often stands in for both the Stopped Diapason and the Flute.

 

Benjamin Waterhouse

Quebec

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I feel somewhat guilty about slagging off this stop now having been ticked off by JPM but, honestly folks, I've played hundreds of English organs and the Dulcianas are nearly always a bitter disappointment - I'm sure when they're good they're useful, but I've never heard a good one. A much more useful stop I've encountered in a few modern organs is is a Viola, which makes a very useful bridge between the stopped and open diapasons - I suppose that's just a bigger Dulciana, is it?

 

There are things that one can use Dulcianas for apart from accompanying the Swell oboe - sometimes the Dulciana can add a rather yummy quality to the Swell Celestes or make interesting combinations with the Great 4ft flute.

 

That said, I'm still not convinced. On a small Great it amazes me that builders have in the past chosen a Dulciana rather than a 4ft flute, which is so much more useful.

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The Dulciana is an interesting stop. I used to think them as a useless stop and maybe I still do, but I remember asking if a village organist if he found it a useful stop. His answer was YES! Of course it shut me up and the organ builder I was helping at the time laughed at me. In England at one time it was the 'done thing' to have a Dulciana, its job was (perhaps) accompany a swell reed or something, rather then use the ‘fat’ Claribel . I think we all must respect this. I recall one organ builder saying that it's best to cut them down and make good use of them. I think English organ builders are perhaps making their Salicional's bigger and now the 'English' Dulciana being replaced by a Gamba perhaps in the 'French' style. People's tastes are now changing!!...

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I'd have to agree with stewartt. There are a great many english organs with an 8' dulciana on the great which to my mind serves no purpose whatsoever. These stops are usually no louder than a swell salicional and I fail to see how they could possibly be viewed as small diapasons as the tone is so thin. Perhaps a gemshorn at 8' would be more useful but this, in my experience, is very rare.

 

The Klais in Bath Abbey would certainly benefit from a small diapason or gemshorn on the great - having had the priviledge of accompanying choral evensong on this instrument I would not agree that the gamba ideally fits this purpose.

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A great Gamba has another purpose; it is not a solo stop, rather a means to bind the 8' flues together, in order to avoid mudiness. Hence its frequent windiness and loudness. In late-romantic german organs, you may sometimes fing solo gambas, but then there is another, louder one. Of course in this case you have no less than six 8' flues on this department.

 

According to the infos I could gather, here follow some hypothesis:

 

1)- The genuine Dulciana is a late-baroque stop, intended for little, sweetly voiced organs.

 

2)- It has been a craze in romantic organs, where it had another role, as a "soft stop".

 

3)- As a soft stop, there was no need to build it as a "diminutive Diapason" for longer. It became more stringy, closer to a Salicional.

 

4)-However, according to the incredible number of "Dulciana Mixtures" that were build, I feel many people wanted to stick to the "Diapason" version. It was then used as a secondary, "soft Diapason chorus".

 

And this later point gets my attention, because we are here in front of an apparent contradiction, namely, something from the "Abschwäschungsprinzip" ("Weakening principle") that's the basis of the romantic organ, but schemed like a classic chorus. But also the 18th-century use deserves interest. As Mr Mander said, the Dulciana might be interesting within a classical chorus, while enriching the tonal palette of an organ built along classic principles.

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Interesting discussion. I learned to play on an instrument with a Choir 8' Dulciana, and found it useful as a soft accompaniment to the Swell Oboe, either alone or with the Leiblich Gedacht. It was also the custom for the Organist to play softly during the Communion, and for this he used the Dulciana with box closed - VERY soft! I would have prefered a Picollo though, as this Choir had nothing above 4'. With regard to the use of these things on the Great, I recall my Organ Tutor Book mentioned that a Dulciana was sometimes placed on the Great of a 2 manual organ 'for use with the flutes as a pseudo-choir organ'. I had such an arrangement on one instrument I played, and am totally unconvinced!

One reply mentioned the Viola. I once worked for Walkers as a tuner's boy, and helped with some Organs built by Spurden Rutt. He often used a Viola, which was voiced as a keen and, to my ears, far too loud, string stop. He even extended it to 16, 8, 4 and 2 foot pitch sometimes - horrible!

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I have to say that I would agree with Stewartt - but would go further and say that I prefer to accompany the Swell Oboe with a softish flute - personally, I think that a Dulciana is too similar in timbre to differentiate from an oboe. Actually, I don't think I explained that very well, so I hope people know what I mean. Certainly, I had no compunction about substituting the Dulciana (only used in carelessness) on my church organ for a really interesting Gamba, which I use in literally every service.

 

I also agree with nfortin - I too, have played the odd service at Bath and although I think that it is a superb instrument, the GO Gamba just sounds like a small diapason, surely it should have some string tone?

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I have to say from my experience, the Dulciana in any form is the most useless stop in the whole organ, perhaps apart from the tubby Bourdons seen and heard everywhere today....

 

I have a actual Dulciana rank in my possesion, some may cry to hear this, but it is being re-voiced in my organ to function as a celeste for the Salicional...

 

If we were to look hard enough, we would definitely see that the first diminuative of the Diapason of unison tone should definitely be sufficient large to being second in power. If your main Diapason is going to be a 42-46 scale, for goodness sake don't make the Dulciana a 56!!!! For a 42-46 regular Diapason, the best solution would be to make the Dulciana according to the 48-50 range, and if it's still to loud, place it on a seperate windchest with a lower pressure, for just one stop, it's not that hard. Then, and only then, would the Dulciana be fully appreciated and used.....

 

The main thing that characterizes the almost inaudible Dulciana of these days, is that back when it was invented, the Great Organ division often had atleast 2 Diapasons, often more. The second Diapason obviously had to be quieter than the first, and in most cases due to inferior voicing, the second was made much too quiet in comparison to the first. The Dulciana was then meant to be even quieter than the second, which led it to no use, since the primary goal of the Great Division is in leading the congregation in singing in church organs. The need for a quiet stop (as quiet as this was) was certainly not that apparent, if one needed to accompany a small group or a choir, they would go to the Swell or Choir if you had one and use a Soft Flute/Principal chorus.......

 

~Alex

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As I wrote previously, it is well possible the Dulciana might have been a perfect second Diapason.....In a Samuel Green's late baroque, gently voiced organ. This was the beginning of the "soft stops", but the differences between stops were quite limited compared to the modern organ. And of course a Dulciana on a modern Great, next to 2 or 3 big Diapasons can be a little hidden:):):)

 

Maybe it would be interesting to view the Dulciana as the basis of a secondary Diapason chorus, say, on the third manual (in strength, so next to the Swell organ)

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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I would like now to continue this thread with another aspect of the Dulciana. The late baroque stop was made essentially in 8' and sometimes 4'. In late romantic organs, one finds very often -in english-speaking countries only- a Dulciana chorus on the choir organ (expressive) with sometimes 16', then 8', 4', 2' (Dulcet) and a Dulciana mixture. The composition of the latter may vary, but it seems to have rarely included a tierce rank.

There were also "Dulciana cornets" to be find, it seems. The only trace I have of this one is Audsley's writings, where he gives a composition without tierce for this stop(!) The Dulciana choruses I heard were amazing, soft and silvery, and were used to accompany the voices in choral music; I did not hear them with solistic organ music.

I'd appreciate any comments from people who know these stops better.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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I play on a one manual 1870s Vowles organ in a small village church - Unenclosed Open Diapason, enclosed Claribel Flute, Viola da Gamba, Dulciana, 4' Principal & Flute, Fifteenth and Oboe plus Pedal Bourdon 16 and coupler. To accompany a service is fine, to play serious organ music demands imagination. With some thought however, a large array of possibilities can be found for interesting combinations of sounds using octave transposition etc. and different positions of the trigger swell pedal. In this 'village organ' context the Dulciana (the softest stop with the Viola almost like a 2nd Diapason - enclosed and more 'stringy') is of great value - I had thought of getting it tuned as a celeste but to be quite honest it is better as it is. The Victorian builders seemed to know what they were doing in this context as far as service playing in concerned - as far as organ music goes it is up to me to use what is available to best advantage. Apart from perhaps adding a Mixture to cope with the more lusty congregational singing if I had the choice (and money available) I would probably leave the rest (including the Dulciana) as it is

Cheers

AJ

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Thanks for these sensible comments.

 

Of course such instruments were above all intended, and designed, to accompany singers. This is exactly the same with contemporary belgian organs. Tough limited in scale, your organ could convince you it is worthwile. I do not know it, but for this reason I suspect it could be more valuable than local people think -something I encountered quite often-

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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It may be of interest to some that we have just completed a new organ for a 1717 Meeting House on Cape Cod which has a Dulciana. The complete specification of this modest instrument is:

 

Great Organ

 

Open Diapason 8

Chimney Flute 8

Dulciana 8

Principal 4

Twelfth 2 2/3

Fifteenth 2

Mixture IV 1 1/3

Trumpet 8

Cromorne 8

 

 

Swell Organ

 

Salicional 8

Stopped Diapason 8

Celeste (TC) 8

Principal 4

Open Flute 4

Nazard 2 2/3

Block Flute 2

Tierce 1 3/5

Hautbois 8

 

Pedal Organ

 

Bourdon 16

Principal 8 (fr. Gt.)

Octave 4

Trombone 16

Trumpet 8 (fr. Gt.)

 

The Dulciana turned out to be a useful stop in the organ. It is much more a small Open Diapason than a string and can be used either on its own or in combination with the Chimney Flute as a more gentle foundation to the rest of the Great even when the Mixture and Trumpet are used. In addition, when used in various combinations with the Cromorne, it makes a good lighter Great Chorus in contrast to the normal Great Chorus up to Mixture and Trumpet. The Dulciana also works well with the Open Diapason to make a fuller 8ft Fonds effect. Having a Cromorne on the Great is a must unusual step in an instrument of this size, but its purpose became evident in some of the classical French repertoire when used in combination with the stops on the Swell Organ. The Salicional is not too stringy either and works well with the Stopped Diapason to make an Open Diapason effect in the Swell. The Celeste on the other hand is much keener and gives a good edge when combined with the Salicional.

 

I think there is a purpose in the Dulciana on an organ even of this modest size and of course it is invaluable when accompanying the choir.

 

John Pike Mander

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Hi folks

 

If you're ever in Wiltshire, go to Westbury and see Stephen Cooke's rebuild of the Bevington - it got assed around with in the 1960's (and had pedal stops operated by light switches!!!) but he has retrackered it and done lots of very sound things, including tuning the Choir Dulciana sharp which makes a terrific celeste when coupled to the swell. (Actually, the whole thing is wonderful beyond what words can say so you should definitely try and see it - the individual ranks of the Sesquialtera are selectable by very clever switches.)

 

There are lots of people who militantly hate Dulcianas and I can see the logic of that, but isn't it such an integral part of English organ tone that it should be kept?

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There are lots of people who militantly hate Dulcianas and I can see the logic of that, but isn't it such an integral part of English organ tone that it should be kept?

 

Well, as long as there is near to no one in Europe who knows what a Dulciana is, to the point this name was given to string stops, I may assume the "haters" are english. Then they may be somewhat...masochists. When I have organists at home, if I make them listen to some recordings with such oddity, they say they want it. Nobody is a prophet in his own country! I'm happy Mr Mander builds this stop in his true form today.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers

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Oh, don't get me wrong - but I was having a look at some Grant Degens and Bradbeer stuff the other day - there is an instrument in Gloucestershire where they whipped off a Dulciana and put on a Twelfth, the only fraction on the instrument and a very, very, very desirable addition. Some nutter has, in the last couple of years, turned it back into a Dulciana. Seems a bit silly to me.

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www.williamdrake.co.uk - if you look at the scheme for Lincoln College, Oxford, you will be pleased to note it has a Dulciana on the Swell. Seems quite a sensible thing to do bearing in mind the tinyness of the building.

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Guest Leathered-Lips
Dear Pierre,

 

Sorry, but in my experience over the years the Dulciana is the most useless stop ever invented. Its sole claim to any purpose is that it is often the only stop on which to accompany the Swell oboe. I really don't understand why it ever became as ubiquitous as it did.  Miserable things - I really hate them!

 

Stewart Taylor

 

I really hate them to. Best have it tuned as an Unda Maris, might be better use. A friend has suggested that the stop knob might be more use for me to hook my handbag on.

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I really hate them to. Best have it tuned as an Unda Maris, might be better use. A friend has suggested that the stop knob might be more use for me to hook my handbag on.

 

I understand you may prefer a Diapason phonon instead.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Guest Leathered-Lips
I understand you may prefer a Diapason phonon instead.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

Well of course...more tone. A typical dulciana (with the exception of some of the earlier Samuel Green style ones), seems pretty useless it has the Unda Maris to go with it.

 

Best stop for holding the handbag.

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