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Brian Childs

Hand-operated Devices For Moving Swell Shades

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Hi

 

See my earlier post in this thread.  I understand that there's some sort of harness that makes sure the seat back does what you want it to!  (I've not seen the device, and wasn't aware of any other examples apart from the recently-restored organ at Rock).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

A harness? :rolleyes: Well, I am sure that will appeal to some organists!

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Guest Lee Blick   
Guest Lee Blick

With cutting edge digital technology available nowadays, I'm sure it could be possible to put a couple of pressure pads on the organist buttocks. To open the swell box all he/she has to do is start to lean back on the pads and to shut the box lean forward. To simulate accents with the swell box (open quickly then shuts), all the organist has to do is clench buttocks.

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I played St Paul's decades ago and, unless I'm going senile (quite possible) the swell pedals were of the ordinary variety. As far as I can recall the only time I have ever come across the infinite gradation pedals was on the old organ at Canterbury Cathedral (even longer ago). Your description is correct. If I remember correctly, so long as the swell pedal remains very slightly depressed forward the box will continue to open slowly until fully open. The further you press the pedal the faster the box opens. To stop it opening, you have to return the swell pedal to a centrally sprung position (at least I think it was sprung). To close the shutters you used your heel to move the pedal in the opposite direction. What I do remember is, it took some getting used to!

 

I suppose with these swell pedals you could engineer a slow crescendo during a double-pedal passage by engaging the pedal a tad just before you start it.

 

I think Liverpool Cathedral had/has them.

 

John

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk   
Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Only guessing, but it's gotta be Salisbury!

 

 

The truth is, while one might well expect it to be Salisbury it wasn't/isn't. He had such an unhappy time there when he was (for a few months only) Assistant Organist that I think this put him off it.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk   
Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Southwark Cathedral also had them, until the H&H restoration.

 

Graham

 

 

 

Graham is quite correct. Mind you, they were a real hazard. I clearly remember that for a long period before the H&H restoration that ther Solo box indicator was broken so you could only guess what position the shutters were from the sound - not much good when you're setting up registration for the start of a piece!

 

They (the Willis specials) had at least one useful characteristic, that was that you didn't get any stages. Even with your best elecropneumatic shutters - H&H or HN&B (when they were still building good organs) you might not hear the jumps in dynamic, but you might well hear the jumps mechanically - little pneumatic thuds as the crescendo 'happened'. With the Willis patent Speed and Gradation Pedals everything was as smooth as silk. They look like quite a bulky mechanism, to judge from the photos in Rotunda. I'm not surprised that they never caught on, but well worth a try.

 

In more than theory too, you could get a sforzando: by smartly pushing forward the box would jump immediately, probably nearly as fast as with a hitch-down ratchet pedal. These have their uses too - one sometimes has to reflect upon the fact that our present use of the swell pedal is a little anachronistic for romantic music pre- (say) 1920. Even Westminster Abbey (the Hill rebuild) seemed to have ratchets around that time. How about Cavaille-Colls too? A lot of Franck seems to me to need ratchet pedals.

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pcnd5584    0
Only guessing, but it's gotta be Salisbury!

 

No - David Halls has only been in post for a few months. Before this, several organists recorded on this instrument.

 

I would guess that it was Bristol.

 

Reasons:

 

*Brewer was appointed as Organist here, before Gloucester, but the previous incumbent (who had been dismissed) took the Dean and Chapter to court, claiming unfair dismissal - and won! Therefore, there is a link with Brewer, there. In addition, it is close to Gloucester and it is quite possible that HH knew this organ.

 

* The organ is nor dissimilar to the 1920 H&H at Gloucester (although I think that I would have preferred Bristol).

 

* As far as I know, only the incumbent organist has, since his appointment, recorded on this instrument - with the possible exception of a previous incumbent.

 

* At an RSCM course a few years ago, we fell foul of the O&M of the C at Bristol, who turfed us out of the Song School - during a rehearsal. This, despite the Song School being booked (as usual) by the RSCM. His reasons were such as to give me the impression that he was a little over-protective and perhaps slightly abraisive.

 

Just a thought!

 

Do not worry, Paul - you do not have to give away your secret!

 

(A PM will do!)

 

:)

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"A lot of Franck seems to me to need ratchet pedals."

 

(Quote)

 

Indeed!

The balanced Swell pedal at St-Clotilde was installed under

Tournemire's tenure around 1930.

Before that, it was well that "ratchet Pedal", something like

a coupler pedal you could only leave "on or off" if you did not

have the foot busy with it.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Guest Lee Blick   
Guest Lee Blick

The Fr Willis I used to play had one of them ratchet things. I used to hate using it but in time got used to it. It taught me to only use it when I really needed to which was good discipline because one often tends to hear endless crescendos and diminuendos via the modern swell pedal. Organs begin to sound like car engines in motion rather than musical instruments.

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ajt    0
They (the Willis specials) had at least one useful characteristic, that was that you didn't get any stages.  Even with your best elecropneumatic shutters - H&H or HN&B (when they were still building good organs) you might not hear the jumps in dynamic, but you might well hear the jumps mechanically - little pneumatic thuds as the crescendo 'happened'.  With the Willis patent Speed and Gradation Pedals everything was as smooth as silk.  They look like quite a bulky mechanism, to judge from the photos in Rotunda. I'm not surprised that they never caught on, but well worth a try.

 

In more than theory too, you could get a sforzando: by smartly pushing forward the box would jump immediately, probably nearly as fast as with a hitch-down ratchet pedal.

 

Yup, they are very smooth, no jump at all. I've not tried the sforzando - something to try tomorrow night, I think!

 

I'd still rather have a "normal" balanced pedal, though.

 

If anyone's interested in seeing the mechanism, I can probably take some pictures this week?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk   
Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Yup, they are very smooth, no jump at all. I've not tried the sforzando - something to try tomorrow night, I think!

 

I'd still rather have a "normal" balanced pedal, though.

 

If anyone's interested in seeing the mechanism, I can probably take some pictures this week?

 

 

Have you ever seen The Rotunda* - Henry Willis III's house magazine?

I can really recommend you try to track it down, it's fascinating. I haven't got a complete set, but thoroughly enjoy the copies I have.

 

I imagine that St.Mary's Southampton has an article to itself in there, most of the new Willis organs of the period get a good write-up. There's a lot about the Infinite Speed and Gradation pedals too.

 

*There will be a number of libraries with sets, but you may have to travel.

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ajt    0
Have you ever seen The Rotunda* - Henry Willis III's house magazine?

I can really recommend you try to track it down, it's fascinating.  I haven't got a complete set, but thoroughly enjoy the copies I have.

 

I imagine that St.Mary's Southampton has an article to itself in there, most of the new Willis organs of the period get a good write-up.  There's a lot about the Infinite Speed and Gradation pedals too.

 

*There will be a number of libraries with sets, but you may have to travel.

 

Apparently there's a set in Southampton Uni library, so I'm planning to go in and have a look. Fortunately one of the choir members also has an archive of pretty much everything concerning the building of the current organ, as she was one of the organists at the time, plus the various "The Organ" articles by Sumner, etc, that relate to it, so she might have the relevant Rotunda article too.

 

Thanks for that, though - I'm always keen to find new sources of info!

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rogbi200    0

I visited Rock yesterday without being aware of this thread, and had to confess the leather belt did have me puzzled and a little intrigued.

Photos can be seen here- https://flic.kr/p/xwwxS8 and here https://flic.kr/p/xxyzrb

There appears to be a 'traditional' ratchet pedal as well.

The front Diapason pipes are tin, including the huge (for a tiny village church) pedal OD.

I didn't get a chance to play, but as I'm still nearby, may try and investigate doing so.

Is such a system unique, or at least is this the only such system still extant?

A friend has just described it as the 'rocking chair of Rock'!

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Although I don't mind ratchet swell pedals (particularly if they have one or two notches to engage at different stages of opening), I was completely floored by those on the sublime Willis at St. Bees Priory (two of them - Swell and Solo). They look like ratchet pedals but are, apparently a special Willis type which I hadn't encountered elsewhere. I couldn't work out, during a short visit, how on earth they worked.

 

St. Paul's did indeed have Infinite Gradation swell pedals - I believe they were the first examples installed - and Henry III recorded that there were no indicators at the express wish of the organist, who didn't want his console messed up with dials.

 

At Southwark, due to the odd position of the console, one of the most arresting effects the player heard from the Swell was the crash of the shutters if one forgot about the nature of the Swell pedals.

 

The late and much lamented St. Jude's, Thornton Heath organ had no less than four Infinite Gradation pedals (Great, Swell, Choir, Chancel), as well as a General Crescendo, despite only having three manuals.

 

The Rotunda was an idea which Willis borrowed (along with console design, Pitman chests, Sylvestrinas et al) from Aeolian Skinner. Like Skinner's Stop, Open and Reed, it was only published for a few years and had ceased to exist long before the organ at St. Mary's, Southampton was put in in 1956. It makes interesting reading, not only because of HWIII's magisterial style but also because of the even more snooty writing of the editor, D. Batigan Verne. HWIII at least knew what he was talking about, whereas Verne was much less knowledgeable and, on at least one occasion, got the firm involved in a law-suit when he ridiculed a new device introduced by a provincial firm (they took offence at his reference to "the hele (sic) of the foot").

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With cutting edge digital technology available nowadays, I'm sure it could be possible to put a couple of pressure pads on the organist buttocks. To open the swell box all he/she has to do is start to lean back on the pads and to shut the box lean forward. To simulate accents with the swell box (open quickly then shuts), all the organist has to do is clench buttocks.

As this thread has now been resurrected after a period of almost ten years (!), it occurs to me that there must be several possibilities for swell box control when both hands and both feet are occupied. Whilst 'buttock control' sounds intriguing, at the risk of possible derision I have another suggestion that crossed my mind years ago.

 

On the grounds that most organists are not required to sing whilst playing, a plastic pipe (thoroughly disinfected, of course) could be provided which the organist could place in his/her mouth and control the opening/closing of the box by blowing or sucking. I'm being perfectly serious, I assure you, and the technology is certainly available to sense air pressure or vacuum.

 

On a more flippant note, I have been racking my brain thinking about which other parts of the human anatomy might be available. Best not to go there.

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Vox Humana    0

On the grounds that most organists are not required to sing whilst playing, a plastic pipe (thoroughly disinfected, of course) could be provided which the organist could place in his/her mouth and control the opening/closing of the box by blowing or sucking. I'm being perfectly serious, I assure you, and the technology is certainly available to sense air pressure or vacuum.

 

Undoubtedly we have many players who could cope with this. On the other hand, I can think of a number of organists whose honest, but not exactly trouble-free, exertions at the console would inevitably result in a quite unpredictable sequence of involuntary, violent vacillations of the swell shutters - assuming they could keep the pipe in their mouths.

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It's been done. Someone in the nineteenth century (I think it was Willis) invented a system whereby the player blew into a mouthpiece, which triggered a pneumatic device which worked the shutters. As may be gathered - it didn't catch on....

 

Manchester Cathedral organ at one time had a device whereby sitting on the stool turned on the hydraulic blower. Kendrick Pyne was quite proud of it until a] a visitor said it reminded him of the automatic flush in a railway station lavatory and b] the choristers discovered that by raising the seat and turning the lever over they could reverse the action, so that the blower went off when the player sat down and the wind ran out during the opening voluntary.

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The now retired secretary of our organists' association once told me about a Conacher instrument he had practiced on as a young man where the back-rest was connected to the swell shuttersl. I took it he was pulling my leg, because he has a wicked sense of humour. Evidently not.

 

It sounds utterly impracticable though. Presumably it would have to be sprung so as to follow when the organist leaned forward. I have visions of the shutters slamming shut as the organist reached forward to turn the page, and the Swell manual becoming almost unreachable with the box open. Or perhaps vice versa.

 

Has anyone come across such a contraption?

Yes - I've heard of this. Can't remember where though.

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At Southwark, due to the odd position of the console, one of the most arresting effects the player heard from the Swell was the crash of the shutters if one forgot about the nature of the Swell pedals.

 

 

In the original infinite speed and gradation patent there is mention of an automatic deceleration feature to prevent the shutters slamming shut as they got near to the fully-closed position, but it does not say how it might have worked. I figured out a possible mechanism but have no idea whether it, or an alternative, was ever implemented (PM me if you want to prolong this discussion privately as it is probably not of wide interest). Hope-Jones had used an electropneumatic brake much earlier which was activated when the shutter speed reached a preset level.

 

 

 

 

On the grounds that most organists are not required to sing whilst playing, a plastic pipe (thoroughly disinfected, of course) could be provided which the organist could place in his/her mouth and control the opening/closing of the box by blowing or sucking. I'm being perfectly serious, I assure you, and the technology is certainly available to sense air pressure or vacuum.

 

 

 

Breath-operated MIDI pressure controllers have been available for a long time to simulate wind instruments. It would be a simple matter to integrate these with a modern electric action.

 

CEP

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SS Peter & Paul, Oulton, Norfolk, has an organ built by Archie Chaffey of Cawston in which the shutters are controlled by a slide above the upper manual. He was an amateur enthusiast - the keys and draw-stops were second-hand but he made everything else himself, including the pipes, which have wood basses and trebles made of paper or cardboard with wooden mouths. In case you're wondering, it's a decent little job and sounds rather nice.

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A propos of nothing in particular, the organ of St Mary's Abbey Oulton has 'enclosed nuns' according to NPOR.

Hopefully not bricked up!

 

Or perhaps it is something along the lines of the central European 'nachtigall'!

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A propos of nothing in particular, the organ of St Mary's Abbey Oulton has 'enclosed nuns' according to NPOR. Not a stop I've come across, either enclosed or unenclosed.

 

That is Oulton, Staffordshire. The NPOR survey is incomplete - just listing footages of stops on each division. They are an enclosed order of nuns!

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