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Mander Organs
John Erskine

Console Light

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I’m almost sure I’ve read recommendations about console lights somewhere on this Forum. Did I dream it? Sorry if I’m being half-blind or three-quarters stupid, but I’ve searched without success.


I’m finding it more difficult than I’d thought to find a source of supply for something really suitable – small enough, neat enough, but with enough power and width to the light to illuminate properly. The problem is much increased by the fact that it’s an historically important organ, and the case is eighteenth-century mahogany, including the music desk and all the console and its surrounds. So finding a suitably conservationist method of fixing is a headache.


If anyone has any ideas, or can simply suggest a suitable maker’s name or possible source of supply, I’d be most grateful. I’d be interested to know what types of light for our purpose other people have found the best.


John Erskine

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The instrument I play was restored last year and as part of this has had a really decent solution for lighting installed. Ghastly domestic attachments were removed and a strip of LED lights installed above the music desk, discretely hidden behind a strip of wood. Granted, the organ is a 1 manual with stops in a row a row the keyboard but the whole effect is very effective and much better than the previous large strip light and trailing wires. A similar strip is attached under the keyboard so I now have illuminated pedal regions too - for the first time in 16 plus years. Both are activated from a nice brass effect switch - a twin with the one that turns on the blower.

 

A

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PM sent to Steve - the LED strips are rather like those available in IKEA etc. In my case the console is compact so the strip mounted at head height in the console opening illuminates keys, music and stops very effectively. The second strip mounted under the keys provides just enough light for the pedals and composition levers etc. The wiring etc. is not readily visible so all is good and smart!

 

A

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Look in the Laukhuff catalogue. There is a very neat brass strip light which is wide and gives a very clear light from LEDs. Has been used by H&H, amongst others, at Westminster Central

Hall and St Albans.

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Similar recent fittings are at Hampton Court and St George's, Hanover Square. Laukhuff lights are very expensive though.

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Thank you for that information. (I've also had a number of recommendations about the American firm Ektralamp - similarly described as good but expensive.)

 

JE

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LED strips and power supplies are available at an electrical distribution website, tlc-direct. I fitted two strips of 45 degree angles over the music desk and a double flat strip under the manuals, The desk lights don't shine in my eyes like the old filament strip and the pedal strip is shadowless, wherever my knees are... there's also a neat up/down dimmer. Only snag is that when you turn the power off to the whole thing it forgets the brightness level. First world problems.

You can hide anything with a strip of brass or polished oak...

 

Ian CK

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The console at Whitchurch is projecting rather than "en fenetre". There is nowhere to easily hide a light, so there is an inoffensive brass one that takes a 221mm striplight. It was fitted with a clear 30W incandescent lamp which gave inadequate light and also a lot of glare from the filament. When it blew a couple of weeks ago, I tried a 60W opal replacement which was hopeless - no glare but even less light.

 

A bit of research turned up an LED replacement on ebay:

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/290986206495?_trksid=p2059210.m2749.l2649&var=590163268509&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

 

The difference is remarkable - there's now plenty of light on the music even with the church lights off and no glare. Power consumption is 7W and if the advertised lamp life is correct, it will outlast me.

 

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I do believe that LEDs are the future of lighting, or will be when prices come down a bit.

 

The topic of console lights (or lights on the console) has got me thinking about the Compton consoles with luminous stop heads. They used small tungsten bulbs with a long, thin spindle-like conductor that went deep into the stop unit. There can’t be many of these consoles around now – Downside, Derby Cathedral and Holy Trinity, Hull – and I wonder how these places go on for replacement bulbs. Are they relying on salvaged bulbs from redundant Compton jambs (like Hull City Hall) or is there still a ready supply available from an enterprising manufacturer?

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Roger Taylor, who builds organs down here in Somerset was at one point looking after the Downside Compton and last time I played it (some years ago now) all of the lights seemed ok. The only problem was that in sunlight it is sometimes difficult to spot which stops were on or off.

 

A

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I've always thought that organ builders who use 'luminous touches' of whatever sort (and that includes most of the - ahem - other sort of organ) are not very heedful of the needs of the visually challenged.

 

CEP

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The topic of console lights (or lights on the console) has got me thinking about the Compton consoles with luminous stop heads. They used small tungsten bulbs with a long, thin spindle-like conductor that went deep into the stop unit. There can’t be many of these consoles around now – Downside, Derby Cathedral and Holy Trinity, Hull – and I wonder how these places go on for replacement bulbs. Are they relying on salvaged bulbs from redundant Compton jambs (like Hull City Hall) or is there still a ready supply available from an enterprising manufacturer?

 

I've always thought that organ builders who use 'luminous touches' of whatever sort (and that includes most of the - ahem - other sort of organ) are not very heedful of the needs of the visually challenged.

 

CEP

I know what you mean. This was a problem in the early days of the Compton console at Holy Trinity, Hull (soon to be renamed Hull Minster). It was overcome by creating a template and cutting a brown paper disc(s) that is then inserted behind the actual stop head. This successfully creates a reddish/brown glow that contrasts with white light or daylight. Something like 130 discs were required for the full compliment of stops and I guess that Downside would require a similar number.

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I've always thought that organ builders who use 'luminous touches' of whatever sort (and that includes most of the - ahem - other sort of organ) are not very heedful of the needs of the visually challenged.

 

CEP

It never seemed to be a problem for David Liddle when he played the Hull City Hall organ with its former Compton stop heads.

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The secret for blind organists is to set the registration for an entire programme on pistons. I know that David Aprahamian Liddle makes full notes about the layout and tonal quality of every instrument he plays before registering any piece so that setting pistons is a fairly straightforward matter; every combination can be checked by listening and adjusted if necessary. Obviously a sequencer or stepper is ideal, but a good supply of adjustable pistons is all that's required. The story told in Alfred Hollins' autobiography about sensing the temperature of a lighted stop knob simply doesn't work at speed because it takes too long for the brain to process small variations in temperature.

 

David uses registrants to assist with stop changing when playing on large instruments without modern playing aids. Additional rehearsal time is necessary and the whole business is obviously more challenging. It can be done very successfully, as his complete performances of Widor 7 and Widor 8 on the Father Willis organ at St Dominic's Priory show.

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.... There can’t be many of these consoles around now – Downside, Derby Cathedral and Holy Trinity, Hull – and I wonder how these places go on for replacement bulbs.

 

Also, St Mary Magdalene Church, Paddington

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CEF (& other companies) have an increasing range of LED strip lighting. These are great if you have an "en fenetre" console as they have the advantage of being very low profile and so are easy to conceal, they are also light enough to be stuck to a surface with certainty they won't fall off thus negating the need for drilling and screwing into fine woodwork. Finally as the LEDs themselves are low voltage, they usually have a separate transformer which can be hidden away somewhere convenient with only a thin low voltage cable neeed to connect them up.

 

Because the LED lights use a number of small light sources you get a very even distribution of light across the area you are lighting and the various size options would allow you you to get the whole width of the music desk illuminated.

 

D.

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Also, St Mary Magdalene Church, Paddington

 

And at Saint Luke's Church, Chelsea. (Although I note that this console has been moved from the east end of the south gallery, to the west end of the north gallery.)

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