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Mander Organs
Brian Childs

Hand-operated Devices For Moving Swell Shades

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

Check out the Gray and Davison organ of 1881 in the Parish Church in the village of Rock in Northumberland. The player is strapped into a harness connected to the back rest of the bench. Swelling is achieved by leaning back and forth. There is also a ratchet lever to the right of the player's feet as an alternative. Interesting spec. too. See NPOR.

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"They are an enclosed order of nuns"

 

Doesn't the Wanamaker Organ in America have a similar division, installed specifically for the performance of Lefebure-Wely's Andante in F? On lesser instruments, resort must be made to Vox Humana, strings and Tremulant.

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I live near Oulton Abbey, Staffordshire, and will try and get a specification list to submit to the NPOR. The abbey, a fine building, is the work of Pugin the younger and is only open daily at Mass times. In its heyday the abbey had a complement of around 40 Benedictine nuns in its enclosure. Now there are only two with a resident chaplain.

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"They are an enclosed order of nuns"

 

Doesn't the Wanamaker Organ in America have a similar division, installed specifically for the performance of Lefebure-Wely's Andante in F? On lesser instruments, resort must be made to Vox Humana, strings and Tremulant.

 

I always fancy that the Pastorale movement of Guilmant's first sonata evokes something similar. The tum-te-tumming of rustic yokels outside a church conjured up by the dialogue between the quiet solo reeds, contrasting with an order of nuns (enclosed in a swell box or otherwise) singing distantly inside the building, imitated as David suggests (and indeed called for explicitly by the composer). Like Jon Dods though (#48), I have yet to come across a stop called 'order of nuns', even though I'd be the first to admit to the limited confines of my education.

 

CEP

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Yes -the Guilmant is a lovely movement. Trust me to have thought of a vulgar alternative first..... The whole Sonata is a fine piece, especially the first movement with its Grand Old Duke of York pedal solo.

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As the swell control topic seems to have been comprehensively covered,may I ask the members for any views on the use of composite substitutes for timber in the construction of windchests? I should imagine that a generation has passed since their use by some builders in this country. Is there any evidence to support their use or has time demonstrated that they are manifestly unreliable? Thank you.

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It depends on what you mean by "composite substitutes" and "windchests". Properly treated and finished marine ply is not too prone to warping with age and not too sensitive to humidity changes, moisture and even liquid water resulting from things like leaking roofs. MDF does not warp if kept reasonably dry but it is sensitive to moisture, indeed it could be said to be hygroscopic. As it is little more than thick cardboard it swells and develops an uneven, sometimes 'pimply' surface when exposed to too much moisture (and certainly to liquid water) which is far removed from the pristine flatness it exhibits when new and fresh. It slowly turns into extremely fine sawdust when subjected to movement such as rubbing from adjacent components such as sliders.

 

As to windchests, these disadvantages are more serious in the case of slider chests where changes in the frictional characteristics and dimensions of the components are less easily tolerated than in the case of unit chests, where there are no moving parts made of these materials and the only function of the chest is to form a box to contain the wind.

 

Having said all this, perhaps this revised topic ought to be continued somewhere else?

 

CEP

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Maurice Grant used a composite called Tabopan for his soundboards to avoid problems associated with the contraction and expansion of timber. They were very well made, cased in hardboard, and were not cheap. MF-G was a fine designer and a stickler for quality workmanship. I've never heard that his soundboards were unsatisfactory. The only instruments of his of which I had much experience were the two 'Model' jobs at Queen's University, Belfast and the Convent at Lurgan (identical in construction, but different in sound because - I was told - the former was finished by Hendrik ten Bruggencate and the latter by Chris Gordon-Wells). I think these had soundboards imported from a German supplier so probably don't count here, but I never knew either organ to give trouble.

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No-one has mentoned the crescendo at the beginning of the Reubke Sonata on the 94th Psalm, where there is a crescendo while both feet are occupied.

Going back year and years, I vaguely recall the late Stephen Bicknell mentioning a device on certain German instruments, where a hitch down pedal kept the swell box shut, but a weight closed the box when the hitch down pedal was moved. I seem to recall that the speed of the opening was controlled by a knob, which presumably controlled some sort of friction clutch.

Don't quote me, but it sound plausible.

 

 

MM

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Anyway, if we just have roll-player attachments installed, it frees the hands up for all sorts of other things.

What fun we could have in the happy-clappy age! :)

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No-one has mentoned the crescendo at the beginning of the Reubke Sonata on the 94th Psalm, where there is a crescendo while both feet are occupied.

MM

 

That's a very good point, and it identifies a rationale for some of the unusual devices mentioned in this thread, especially those in which the swell shutters can be moved by parts of the anatomy other than the feet or hands. There are countless other instances where such a facility would be useful. Sometimes I have wondered whether these inconvenient hairpins were merely inserted by the editor or publisher simply because they looked nice. But now I realise that these works were intended to be performed on instruments equipped with gadgets such as those described here.

 

(Sorry MM, I'm not trying to score a cheap point! Like you, I do wonder how we are expected to render crescendi and diminuendi in cases such as that you described).

 

CEP

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No-one has mentoned the crescendo at the beginning of the Reubke Sonata on the 94th Psalm, where there is a crescendo while both feet are occupied.

 

Going back year and years, I vaguely recall the late Stephen Bicknell mentioning a device on certain German instruments, where a hitch down pedal kept the swell box shut, but a weight closed the box when the hitch down pedal was moved. I seem to recall that the speed of the opening was controlled by a knob, which presumably controlled some sort of friction clutch.

 

Don't quote me, but it sound plausible.

 

 

MM

Well, Merseburg cathedral does have a draw-stop which opens the swell (labelled "crescendo"). On the other hand, it induces a crescendo from pianissimo to perhaps mezzo-piano at best, as there is really nothing much in the box, so that I do believe that a good part of that famous crescendo was achieved by the (four) registrants who went about their duties there. Ladegast built a pneumatic crescendo - which added the stops of the organ at a fixed speed at the touch of a pedal (Schwerin, Vienna Musikverein) or a button in the key-cheek (Tallin - then "Reval") - for the first time in Schwerin in 1871, but as Reubke died in 1858 this is not particularly relevant.

For those who read German the following description might be interesting:

Weit bequemer und ohne die schon oft sehr beschäftigten Füße dazu nöthig zu haben, läßt sich das Crescendo und Decrescendo so bewirken:

k) Niederdrücken der Tritte 1-7 und Ankoppeln der Manuale durch Schieber 2 und 7. [= Öffnen aller Sperrventile, Koppeln III/I und II/I]

l) Anziehen der Stimmen 33 und 47 [= III. Man. Flauto dolce 8', Pedal Gedackt 16']

m) Spielen im ersten Manual. Durch einen Fingerdruck auf Schieber 5 wird sofort das Crescendo beginnen und ein Druck auf 6 dasselbe hemmen.

n) Mit einem Druck auf 4 beginnt das Decrescendo und 3 hemmt dasselbe.

Zu beobachten ist hierbei, daß, wenn 4 wirken soll, ein Druck auf 6, und wenn 5 wirken soll, ein Druck auf 3 vorausgegangen sein muß. [d.h. vor dem Beginn des Decrescendos muß das Crescendo gestoppt sein, und vor Beginn des Crescendos muß das Decrescendo gestoppt sein]

Ein Nichtbeachten oder falsches Behandeln hat keine anderen Folgen als ein Versagen der Wirkung; überhaupt machen die hier angebrachten bisher ungewöhnlichen Einrichtungen den eigentlichen Orgel-Mechanismus keineswegs complicirter, sondern sind etwas für sich Bestehendes.

This comes from Ladegast's own set of registration instructions for the organ in Reval. The full text can be found here:

http://www.walcker-stiftung.de/Downloads/Registrierungsanweisungen/Registrierung_Ladegast_Reval_1879.pdf

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Anyway, if we just have roll-player attachments installed, it frees the hands up for all sorts of other things.

 

What fun we could have in the happy-clappy age! :)

 

 

 

Indeed. I'm visiting Blenheim Palace shortly and have asked them if I can play the Willis organ (still complete with roll player I presume) in the Long Library. It's in a bit of a parlous state and they are seeking an awful lot of money to fix it. However, small pieces of publicity like this can only help their cause. So I'll let you know ... (Look, no hands).

 

CEP

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Indeed. I'm visiting Blenheim Palace shortly and have asked them if I can play the Willis organ (still complete with roll player I presume) in the Long Library. It's in a bit of a parlous state and they are seeking an awful lot of money to fix it. However, small pieces of publicity like this can only help their cause. So I'll let you know ... (Look, no hands).

 

CEP

 

Well, I've been to Blenheim Palace but could not play the Willis organ because the Long Library is absolutely full of scaffolding - a veritable forest of the stuff - to do with an art exhibition they are laying on. Not only could I not play the organ, but it could not even be seen because of the density of the scaffolding. It's not my business, but it would seem to be an appalling safety hazard to me. I can't imagine what would happen if a fire broke out in there. It would be next to impossible to get fire crews and their gear in I should have thought. In that eventuality nobody would ever play that organ again ...

 

Sorry to have led the thread away from devices for operating swell shades, but thought this might be of interest.

 

CEP

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