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Clairons/Clarions breaking back

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DHM    0

I recently discovered that the 4ft Clairon on the Bovenwerk of the 1973 Marcussen at the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam breaks back an octave at F4, and I was told that "most clairons do this". Really? Not in the English-speaking organ world, surely?

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headcase    0

I recently discovered that the 4ft Clairon on the Bovenwerk of the 1973 Marcussen at the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam breaks back an octave at F4, and I was told that "most clairons do this". Really? Not in the English-speaking organ world, surely?

Yea, verily...e'en at Tonbridge School, where I believe English is spoken. The Great Clarion 4ft breaks back, doubling the Trompete 8ft. The Swell Clairon 4ft ascends with flue pipes.

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DHM    0

And the Tonbridge School organ is of course another Marcussen.
I wonder if it's a peculiarly Marcussen thing - or is it really normal practice in mainland Europe?

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It would be difficult, though not impossible, to carry a 4 foot reed up to the top note because of the excessively small pipes. So, as others have said above, they usually break back an octave at some point while still using reed pipes, or they continue at 4 foot pitch using loudly voiced flues. Both options have long been normal practice (for instance they were mentioned by Audsley in 1905 and Hopkins & Rimbault in 1870), so does your question just concern the breakpoint at which the change occurs? Often the top octave consists of the modified pipes but I guess different organ builders equally often choose alternative breakpoints. Or maybe I've missed something and you are asking an entirely different question, in which case, apologies.

 

CEP

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DHM    0

Colin and others: Thank you. My education is obviously sadly lacking.

Of course I knew that mixtures always broke back at various points, but it had simply never occurred to me that 4ft reeds might do the same.

Is this, in fact, a standard practice of which I was hitherto unaware?

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Clarabella    0

You are not alone. I must confess that I had never realised that 4 ft reeds do not go to the top without breaking back or turning into flues. I really must learn more about organ design and construction!

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So what's the smallest reed pipe that can easily be made (ie how many notes above top C of an 8 foot stop that would be 3 inches long for an open flue)?

 

And a related question - what's the smallest open pipe that can be made? Top C of a five octave keyboard at 2 foot pitch would be 3/4 inch speaking length, and mixtures and mutations higher than 2 foot pitch would normally break at this point. Are any flues made even shorter? Could you have a double length harmonic 1 foot top C that would be 3/4 inch speaking length with a hole halfway up?

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Vox Humana    0

This is interesting. I have long known about 4' reeds having flue pipes for the extreme trebles, but I confess I had no idea that the stops might actually break back instead.

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We really need an organ builder to respond to some of these questions, but another approach is to consider how we perceive the sounds of reed pipes. At medium pitches, say middle C on an 8 foot stop, their tone colour results from a retinue of strong harmonics whose strengths are comparable to that of the fundamental frequency up to the seventh harmonic or so, after which they begin to fall away. This is why the addition of a tierce or seventeenth to a flue chorus adds a reedy piquancy to the sound because it lifts the overall strength of the fifth harmonic in the ensemble, and if the flat 21st is also added this augments the seventh harmonic as well and makes the sound even reedier.

 

But top C of a 4 foot stop has a fundamental frequency around 4200 Hz, thus the seventh harmonic is at nearly 30 kHz which is way beyond the range of human hearing even for babies! Even the second harmonic at 8400 Hz will be almost inaudible to many adults in their 60s and beyond. Therefore there is no point in making reed pipes as small as this, regardless of how difficult it might be in a practical sense. Even if they were made, they would not sound any different to flue pipes simply because the upper harmonics which are characteristic of reed tones would not be perceived towards the top of the keyboard.

 

CEP

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innate    0

Yes, very high notes are much harder to identify (as flute, reed, brass, string) from their timbre alone; attack and envelope are much more important up there.

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Speaking only of Willis reeds, which I know best, Father Willis took his 8ft chorus reeds to A58, or G56 depending on the manual compass, the Clarions usually breaking to flue pipes at F#43. I do not recall a Father Willis chorus reed (on 3” or 3.5”wg) carried to C61. Willis Tubas were and are harmonic from F#19, with reeds carried to the top note, even C61, the pressure of at least 12.5”, usually 15” sometimes 20”wg and more being necessary to generate sufficient power from the tongue.

 

From the time that Willis stopped making their own shallots after the Great War, the sets were 61 note for 8ft reeds and 49 notes for Clarions. The sets were used complete for pressures above, I think, 6”. For lower pressures the upper shallots discarded in favour of flues, usually from G#57, G#45 for Clarions. In April 1941, the Willis works were destroyed by enemy action and the firm’s considerable stock of shallots of all kinds were lost. In 1947, a large number of new sets were ordered from W P Williams & Co with pre-war configuration to replace the lost stock. Five years later the majority of the sets from the order were still outstanding, but the market (for Willis) had become clearer. The outstanding order was cancelled and a reduced order was substituted, with the range of the 8ft chorus sets reduced to F54, F42 for Clarion sets. The reduction of the shallot compass of chorus reeds was, I believe, because the soft brass with which Father Willis worked, some stock of which remained when the factory was destroyed, was no longer available in acceptable quality. It was difficult to get the power from half-hard brass tongues in the higher reaches with pressures under 4.5”, particularly on pitman chests when the curve has to be reduced to make the speech quick.

 

Some many years ago I saw in a church in Antwerp a 2-manual Merklin organ with a Clairon 4ft on the enclosed division that broke at C25 to an 8ft pitched Cornet, I think of three ranks, but may be more. The idea appealed to me (as a non-player), but I was never able to persuade any organist to endorse my enthusiasm.

 

I have seen (but not recently) organists strike out Clarions from proposals on the grounds that:

 

1. they are the first to go out of tune

2. they can be simulated with the Swell octave coupler

3. a Swell Flute 4ft or 2nd Mixture is more useful.

 

On the question of the audible quality of treble pipes, the frailties of our hearing do not prevent the upper partials being generated from properly constructed and well-voiced pipes in accordance with Nature. The participation of these partials in the resulting difference and summation tones adds to the richness of the treble effect for those who can hear it. No organ builder with his heart in the business can bear to see some “it’ll do” rubbish pipe flopping in a large rack board hole where a recalcitrant reed treble has been removed.

 

If I have retained anyone’s attention to this point I should like to seek assistance on the unrelated matter of Father Willis non-stretto (no overhang) Keys and Willis short compass Swells in a separate thread.

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justinf    0

Wow, what a fascinating post, Bruce! You kept my attention.

 

I never realized 4' Clarions might break back and will have to keep an eye (or an ear) out for this. I always assumed reed ranks transitioned to flue pipes. Possibly the "Clairon-Doublette 2'" at St. Sernin cemented in my head the idea that high pitched reeds transition to flues, as night follows day.

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Mark Fownes    0

Wow, what a fascinating post, Bruce! You kept my attention.

 

I never realized 4' Clarions might break back and will have to keep an eye (or an ear) out for this. I always assumed reed ranks transitioned to flue pipes. Possibly the "Clairon-Doublette 2'" at St. Sernin cemented in my head the idea the incorrect idea that high pitched reeds transition to flues, as night follows day.

 

I rather fear that I have not adequately explained that (Willis) Clarions, where they broke from reeds to flues, continued at 4ft pitch and did not break back to 8ft.

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I rather fear that I have not adequately explained that (Willis) Clarions, where they broke from reeds to flues, continued at 4ft pitch and did not break back to 8ft.

 

I'm not sure that I fully understand the implication of the use of the past tense in this statement - it isn't a matter of 'did' but 'do', as we still do exactly the same at Henry Willis & Sons and nothing has changed. There are earlier Willis reeds which we have had through in the past that have (to the top of 61-note compass) 17 Flue trebles, but also others with 11 Flue Trebles.

 

In the case of the new Tubas (Contra Tuba16ft, Tuba 8ft, Clarion 4ft) which we made, voiced and supplied for the organ at Trondheim Cathedral three years ago, the Clarion has 11 flue trebles (from C#50 i.e. the last reed being c49 as Bruce says). The Tuba 8ft is Harmonic from F#19 and the Clarion is Harmonic from F#7.

 

I have never seen any Clarion that 'breaks back' an octave (rather than 'break' to flues) and fail to see the point really - if it simply doubles the 8ft at that point why bother?

 

David Wyld

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The Cavaille-Coll organ in the Philharmonie in Haarlem has 2 4' Clairons. 

The organ was originally Cavaille-Coll's atelier organ, and was sold to the Paleis van Volksvlijt in Amsterdam in 1875. Then, the clairons were both reeds right to the top (C - g3). After a period of storage the organ was installed in Haarlem in 1924 - avoiding the fate of some other CC organs, as the Paleis van Volksvlijt burned down in 1929.

In 1965 the organ was restored by Vermeulen, during which the action was electrified and the top octves of the clairons replaced with labial pipes. However, during a further restoration in 2004-6 these changes were reversed, the mechanical action reinstated and the clairons restored again to reeds throughout the range.

Perhaps someone can explain why 4' reeds might be treated differently in different situations.

http://www.orgelnieuws.nl/cavaille-coll-haarlem-gerestaureerd in Dutch but will be OK via Google translate

 

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