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Accompanying unbroken voices


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I may soon be in the lucky position of commissioning a new organ for a prep school. The main function will be to accompany some 200 mostly unbroken voices in congregational singing. The chapel is quite dry when full. My experence hitherto has largely been of mixed adult voices, so I was wondering if anyone had any views or experience of the sort of tonal qualities that would best suit this particular circumstance?


Space and budget would allow for about 6/7 stops, so there's not much room for manouevre on the stoplist, but I would be interested to know, for example, what style of voicing of the chorus would work best, or whether strong upperwork would be overpowering for young voices.


Many thanks for any thoughts you may have.



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It depends if you're aiming to cultivate at least a quorum of properly produced treble voices with a good head tone. At Belfast, we used to be able to work up to Great to Mixture with Full Swell coupled, box open and 32' reed on the Pedal at the end of the Gloria to Bairstow in E flat on Tuesday boys' Evensongs.


The ruling factor should be balance and loudness of individual stops in relation to the room. A chorus of moderately-voiced stops is more useful than one where everything is just that bit too loud, and that applies to the upperwork, too.


Stopped Diapason, Salicional 8, Principal 4, Nason Flute 4, Fifteenth 2, Mixture 19.22, Pedal Bourdon 16, maybe. More than double the potential if you have a good electric action and octave couplers.


I ponder sometimes as to whether a well-built extension organ voiced by an artist is the best bet. Extension organs and electric actions are let down by the number of bad ones produced by cheap firms. One could get an amazing variety of sounds out of a small Compton.

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