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innate

Big organs in small cases?

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This is a general question but prompted by a specific example. I played this organ http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=A00714 in the City of London today. Old case positioned over the West door. Swell box (painted to match the wall and ceiling) can just be seen protruding above the case at the rear. The spec is a 35-stop 3-manual and pedal organ with apparently 6 independent 16' stops (I’m assuming the 32' has no pipes of its own although NPOR doesn’t say) in a case that’s not much larger than the 8-stop Norman & Beard tracker I grew up with. Access for tuning must be extremely precarious.

 

I remember seeing photos of the insides of 3- or 4-hundred-year-old European organs and marvelling at how compactly the pipes had been fitted onto the chests. I gather there can be problems if this isn’t done extremely carefully.

 

My question is: have internal designs changed in recent years for practical and Health & Safety reasons? Could a new organ be manufactured with the same space-saving as was used in older organs?

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My question is: have internal designs changed in recent years for practical and Health & Safety reasons? Could a new organ be manufactured with the same space-saving as was used in older organs?

 

First part of the question: As far as I can say, no, they haven’t. It is still up to the builder, consultant and buyer and their mutual relationship to determine specifics such as the use of space in any case, be it new or existing. At some point, the builder might point out that for many reasons he would rather have more space than still more ranks to fit in, and hopefully the consultant will go along with that.

 

As to secure access, I am not sure if there are regulations, but I suspect there are – here a builder might be able to tell more.

 

Second part of the question: Yes and no. Chest layout can of course be done in major or minor thirds, which considerably helps saving space and provides access to some extent without having to resort to walkboards. What usually can’t be done is space saving in the lower range: Where old builders and buyers were completely comfortable with a short or broken bottom octave (starting CDEFGA or CDE, respectively), we expect the full chromatic range throughout, with two to four more large pipes per rank to accommodate. On the chest, they easily account for up to a meter in width. To cope with that, builders in the 19th century set-off large bass pipes, or placed them in or behind the facade, or shared them between ranks (Schulze did this to a large extent, combining Gambas, Salicionals and Diapasons, Hohl Flutes and Stopped Diapasons in the bottom octaves of manual 16- and 8-foot ranks).

 

I often marvel at cases and the respective stoplists, wondering where it all goes. And I admire builders such as Lynn Dobson, who apparently were able to convince their customers not to demand more organ than space will accomodate. Lynn Dobson’s collection of designs, many quite original but with their own internal logic, rarely leaves one wondering how they “did it”.

 

The late Stephen Bicknell wrote several wonderful pieces for Piporg-L on this subject, just to give subscribers an idea of the space needed for an organ of just moderate size. One particularly concise one can be found in the list archives here. He faced the problem on several occasions, and used to be quite self-critical, relating to, among others, an organ built by our hosts which he designed. And his rant concerning St Lawrence Jewry, with its catching bottom-line, is quite legendary among older Piporg-Lers.

 

Best wishes

Friedrich

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An organ of my acquaintance,detached console,pipework in distant west gallery, has an inoperative swell engine. As this leaves the shutters open all the time, it is not too bothersome. It does make for a somewhat restricted variety of sound level. The machine in question is electro-pneumatic and probably would not have many stages. In a fit of charitable thinking I was considering making a donation towards improving the situation. Any one got any ideas of a likely cost ? I imagine the console end of things is OK and the fault is possibly in failed magnets or pneumatuc motors.Is there someone dealing in parts or specialising in repairing swell engines? The tuner was not able to help in this instance.Thank you in advance to anybody who could give me some ideas.

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Just a quick note to say thanks to Sprondel for a helpful and informative post. I was not aware of Lynn Dobson's casework portfolio (other than Merton Coll Ox) and it is very varied. I have also struggled in vain in the past to find the two very fine and famous Stephen Bicknell rants you've linked, so have bookmarked them now!

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