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Swell pedals

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pcnd5584    0

 

This reminds me of a tour to Thuringia with the Bradford Choristers about 15 years ago, when the dates included a lunchtime concert in the Georgenkirche, Eisenach (as well as the fabulous Trost-Orgel in Walterhausen). The repertoire was proudly English, and our performance in Eisenach 'kicked off' with RVW's 'Antiphon' (Let all the world) from the Five Mystical Songs. With Francis Jackson's helpful organ arrangement in my case, what could go wrong?

 

Well, there was a bomb scare, and we ended up with either little or no time to rehearse, at least there was insufficient to get my feet underneath the claviers. With unfamilar registration aids, I chose a set up that allowed me to terrace the dynamics from one manual to the other, with a little assistance from the Schwellwerk, and the registration changes limited thereafter to pedal couplers and the bigger stops on the Positiv and Hauptwerk.

 

I was all set for the off with the swell pedal firmly pushed down when Dicky gave the signal: an amazing rasping sound of the untamed swell reeds & mixtures hit me square between the eyes. I assumed that my proximity to the organ was the cause. Not so! As the introduction built towards the climatic entry of the choir, I duly easy the swell pedal forward, in and amongst additional pedal ostinato quavers. The result was not as expected: the action of moving the swell pedal forward served to close the swell box...!!!

 

That was an interesting concert - telling yourself to do the opposite with the swell pedal from what you were normally used to doing! Starting Stanford in C with the box 'open'....

 

That is really odd. I wonder why an organ builder would do that? Presumably all the motorised vehicles in this part of the country do not have their accelerators arranged in a similar fashoin?

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Vox Humana    0

 

That is really odd. I wonder why an organ builder would do that? Presumably all the motorised vehicles in this part of the country do not have their accelerators arranged in a similar fashoin?

 

No, but the one or two rollschwellers I have encountered crescendo when rolled towards you (unlike the late, departed one at Buckfast), so maybe there was some method in that madness. Or maybe not.

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No, but the one or two rollschwellers I have encountered crescendo when rolled towards you (unlike the late, departed one at Buckfast), so maybe there was some method in that madness. Or maybe not.

 

 

That is really odd. I wonder why an organ builder would do that? Presumably all the motorised vehicles in this part of the country do not have their accelerators arranged in a similar fashoin?

 

I once had what is now a classic car, a Riley Pathfinder, in which the gear stick was mounted to the right of the driver on the floor, just inside the door. It took a bit of getting used to, but it was otherwise a fine vehicle for my tastes. Cars are not unlike infinite speed and degradation swell pedals in some respects - in both you have to press the pedal further to make it go faster, and both have a 'neutral' position and fuel gauges mounted near to the 'driver'. Were Henry Willis and/or Aubrey Thompson-Allen car enthusiasts in the 1930s I wonder? If so, did they (perhaps unconsciously) design their enthusiasms into their novel swell engine?

 

CEP

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HW III was apparently a notoriously bad driver and I don't think he was a petrol-head, because he mentioned in a letter to G. Donald Harrison, "Got a new car, a little Morris...."

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headcase    0

Didn't HWIII employ a chauffeur at one time ? I do remember being told that a certain well-known organ building figure started life at Willis's as his driver, going on to work for Walkers and latterly as tonal director at Austins for a brief period. Maybe it was hearsay.... :wacko:

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Jocularity aside, I'm not convinced there is much slack in the pipe organ business today, which seems to be having a hard time of it rather more often than firms might wish. As one example, a well known UK firm had to recapitalise itself to the tune of £300K only a few years ago, this being raised partly through banks and partly through the directors themselves. The loss arose from the failure of just a single contract, illustrating the fragility of its business position which is likely mirrored elsewhere. This info came from a publicly available press report. So if there was apparent automobile opulence on the part of the directors of this firm, at least they were prepared to plough some of it back into the business. Which means that a number of their employees are still employed today when otherwise they might not have been, and that the firm has continued to do good quality work since.

 

Which all begs a question. What has any of this got to do with the original post which kicked off this thread? Answer - very little. Don't we wander off-topic - it's fun though, and I'm as much to blame as anybody. So shortly I'll atone by trying to answer the question originally posed about swell pedal angles. Watch this space.

 

CEP

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As promised in post #33, here is my best effort at answering dhm's question about swell pedal angles which kicked off this topic. Initially I suggested (#2) he might look at Clive Sidney's excellent console drawing, without having refreshed my memory of what it contained beforehand. Chris Lord then correctly pointed out (#6) that it did not completely answer the question. I also offered in #2 to measure the operating angles of the widely used Kimber Allen electric action swell pedal.

 

I've now done this, after much ferreting around in the workshop for a suitable engineer's protractor and spirit level, and much dust having been released when I removed the knee board from one of my consoles. Results are:

 

The K-A pedal lies at 65 degrees to the vertical at 'box open' and 34 degrees to the vertical at 'box closed'. (Measurements subject to some small uncertainty owing to the general awkwardness of the situation). Within a few degrees, the 'box closed' figure is therefore not far off Clive Sidney's drawing which I think gives 50 degrees from the horizontal (NB not the vertical), though he does not show the 'box open' value as far as I can see.

 

Incidentally, K-A do not provide this information in their catalogue, at least the version on their website which I've just looked at. So whenever you need the latest info, come to the Mander forum!

 

Hope this is some help.

 

CEP

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On another tack, is there a standard distance up from the top surface of the pedalboard for a balanced swell pedal to be mounted? A local organ to me has a (I think) Rushworth and dreaper console from the 1950s, and the swell pedal is uncomfortably high - you have to lean backwards to get your foot up onto it.

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handsoff    0

The swell (actually the whole organ except the pedal Bourdon) pedal on my organ is stuck out to the right-foot end of the pedal board and is difficult to use because of the angles my joints need to pivot through to reach it. It also had too small an aperture for a normal-sized foot to get into but a few minutes with a rasp file cured that. I imagine that it was converted from a kick stick at some point in the past. The pivot rod with its large iron balance weight to the box has to be undone to allow the tuner access to the pipes such is the location of it.

 

The pedal can just be made out in the avatar to the left.

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On another tack, is there a standard distance up from the top surface of the pedalboard for a balanced swell pedal to be mounted? A local organ to me has a (I think) Rushworth and dreaper console from the 1950s, and the swell pedal is uncomfortably high - you have to lean backwards to get your foot up onto it.

 

It's in Clive Sidney's console drawing - see post #2 for the link.

 

CEP

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pwhodges    0

 

No, but the one or two rollschwellers I have encountered crescendo when rolled towards you (unlike the late, departed one at Buckfast), so maybe there was some method in that madness. Or maybe not.

 

When I was a Studio Manager at the BBC, there were a number of new control desks with quadrant or slider faders. The BBC design boffins had decided that they should be off when pushed away, and on when pulled towards the user. They were also mounted on a panel that sloped downwards away from the front. I think the theory was that the "active" knobs were close to the operator, and the dead channels were out of the way; regardless, they were very comfortable to use, and I've never found the now universal convention of pushing away to increase the setting to be as natural.

 

Paul

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Idiosyncrasies abound!

 

In this city (St. John's, Newfoundland) there are three four-manual Casavant organs, each with three divisions enclosed. At the Anglican Cathedral, from the left, the pedals are Solo, Choir, Swell, General Crescendo. At the RC Basilica, Choir, Swell, Solo, General Crescendo (one can, though, switch all boxes onto one pedal). At Cochrane Street UC, Choir, Solo, Swell, General Crescendo. The latter two organs were built within a few years of each other.

 

The only example I can think of with two trigger swell pedals off to the right is the Lewis at St. John's, Upper Norwood. I imagine there are others.

 

As handsoff surmises, his right-hand balanced swell must be a conversion from a trigger type. There are a lot around. I hope that, unlike some, his actually balances.

 

Brisbane Town Hall (5m Willis III) has/had a trigger pedal for the Swell in addition to the balanced (or was it Infinite Gradation) one, because the organist claimed to prefer it (some organists did - the trigger type gives a better sforzando). HWIII claimed it was never used. Maybe St. Paul's was similarly equipped at one time.

 

St. Bees Priory has an odd type of swell pedal, but I can't remember how it works!

 

After he resigned, J Kendrick Pyne was playing for a funeral in Manchester Cathedral, where the Hill organ had recently been fitted with a new type of swell pedal. He, apparently played with great emotion, murmuring to himself the while, "He was a great friend...damn that swell pedal!....I shall miss him very much...."

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I was all set for the off with the swell pedal firmly pushed down when Dicky gave the signal: an amazing rasping sound of the untamed swell reeds & mixtures hit me square between the eyes. I assumed that my proximity to the organ was the cause. Not so! As the introduction built towards the climatic entry of the choir, I duly easy the swell pedal forward, in and amongst additional pedal ostinato quavers. The result was not as expected: the action of moving the swell pedal forward served to close the swell box...!!!

 

That was an interesting concert - telling yourself to do the opposite with the swell pedal from what you were normally used to doing! Starting Stanford in C with the box 'open'....

 

Hmmm, after moving house I had to reconfigure my home practice organ (a hybrid of Hauptwerk and j-organ) and one of the samples is now doing just that. I vaguely recall how to program the swell pedal to reverse the reverse direction of opening having accidently done it once before in error but try as I might I just haven't been able to repeat it yet!

 

 

It's in Clive Sidney's console drawing - see post #2 for the link.

 

CEP

Rule number 1 for locating your swell pedal: please ensure there is a minimum distance between its undersurface and the top of the accidental under it (often pedal middle D sharp). Otherwise there will be a persistent cypher whenever you close the box if your shoes are any longer than the length of the swell pedal. Played a few organs with that problem in my time, highly annoying.

 

The only example I can think of with two trigger swell pedals off to the right is the Lewis at St. John's, Upper Norwood. I imagine there are others.

 

Yes indeed, Shrewsbury Abbey has an enclosed Swell and an enclosed Choir but the pedals are on the far right of the pedalboard, which leads to contortions at times. Here's a piccy:

http://npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/XMLFunctions.cgi?Fn=GetPicture&Rec_index=N01933&Number=2

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Yes, I've played at Shrewsbury and I remember those swell pedals. I would bet that they replaced trigger pedals somewhere along the line. But Norwood is the only one I can recall which still has two trigger pedals.

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handsoff    0

 

As handsoff surmises, his right-hand balanced swell must be a conversion from a trigger type. There are a lot around. I hope that, unlike some, his actually balances.

 

 

It actually works quite well with good balance and closes tightly with good graduation when opened. It's just the location that renders it difficult in practice. I think that the original kick-stick would have been more usuable as it would have been closer to the organist's right leg and foot. A couple of extra notches in the stick would have been easy to arrange.

 

The pedal organ was restored in 1993 when electric action was added but the manual to pedal coupler is still tracker which obviates a move to a central position.

 

In any event, the organ is on its last legs with sagging pipework: the metal pipes are becoming very fragile and therefore difficult to tune. There is, of course, no cash for a replacement and no prospect of any becoming available. We are a church with an average congregation numbering 14 souls and with an annual contribution to the diocese in excess of £4000 taking virtually everything coming in there isn't a lot left. Good job I don't take a salary...

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caskie    0

St. Bees Priory has an odd type of swell pedal, but I can't remember how it works!

 

 

St Bees ('Father' Willis) has what might best be described as pneumatic ratchet expression pedals for both Swell and Solo boxes. They are off to the RH side. Like a ratchet swell they are weighted to return to the top (closed) position, and one depresses the pedal to open the box. To get it to remain at any position other than closed, you have to remove your foot from the pedal very quickly: the idea is that a pneumatic 'ratchet' then 'catches' the pedal and holds it at that position. To release it, you depress v slightly and then control its inherent return upwards, just like with a mechanical ratchet. They, and the whole St Bees organ, are in a poor state of repair at present, so they sometimes fall a good bit closed before catching!

 

Rothwell used the same devices: you can see a picture of these pedals on the NPOR survey for the organ formerly in Craigiebank Church, Dundee, at http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=E00085.

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wolsey    0

 

The only example I can think of with two trigger swell pedals off to the right is the Lewis at St. John's, Upper Norwood. I imagine there are others.

 

That doesn't accord with my recollection of playing for a recording session there in January. That organ has one balanced swell pedal.

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I've just checked NPOR, which says that the balanced pedal for the Swell was added in 2000, i.e. the year after Harrisons' restored the organ, but I see it in the leaflet to which you kindly provided a link. Harrisons' also restored the specification back to something more like Lewis left it, so they may have unenclosed the Choir. Oddly, the pre-Harrison NPOR entry mentions a trigger Swell pedal but makes no mention of that for the Choir, although it records that the department was enclosed.

 

I first played the Norwood organ c.1970 while on a course for young organists at Addington. The oddity of two trigger swells was enough to make me make a special note of it, and I remember them on subsequent occasions. It's many years now since I last played there, certainly long before the Harrison restoration, so thanks for bringing me up to date.

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