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handsoff

Octave Coupler on a One Manual Tracker Organ

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I'll start by saying that my question is purely theoretical and there is no prospect of what I am asking about actually happening so we don't need to worry about the morality of a change or obtaining a faculty. It's just for my own interest.

One of the organs I play regularly is this. It has a really good strong and bright principal chorus which especially with the Fifteenth drawn is excellent for leading a congregation.  What I feel the organ is missing is a 4' flute tone to give a little more brightness to quieter music. The 4' Principal + Claribel Flute or Stopped Diapason is OK but the Principal is a bit overpowering. There is no room in the standalone case for more pipes and my question is whether an Octave coupler would, and I repeat in theory only, be possible and would it be expensive? There would be space at the treble end for a drawstop to activate such a coupler. The action is light and positive and the whole organ is well maintained.

 

Thank you

 

 

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You have two 8 foot flutes, so would you be willing to forego one of them in favour of a 4 foot flute as an alternative to an octave coupler?  The majority of the new rank could perhaps be made up from the sacrificed 8 foot one in the hands of a sufficiently skilled voicer, so that it matches the remaining 8 foot flute.  Or perhaps forego the Dulciana, although two 8 foot flutes strike me as a bit extravagant in such a small instrument and I imagine the contemplative quietness of the Dulciana is something you would not want to lose in circumstances such as during Holy Communion.  I don't know of course, not having heard or played the instrument, so these suggestions might well be ill-founded.

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Sorry, I can't comment on expense / feasibility of adding octave couplers in small organs. 

However when I was a lad I had an organ with a nearly identical stop list to play on Sunday mornings (1870s Bevington I think), and the same backbone of a good set of 8 4 2 diapasons.  It did have an octave coupler, but (critically I think) it didn't have the stop diapason treble. The claribel with its own octave was disgusting.  The principal chorus 8 4 2 with octave coupler was, shall we say, to be used sparingly.  The dulciana was useless with or without the octave coupler (except to give some temporary relief from the claribel).  In other words, the octave coupler got used rarely!  Still, I would probably have used it more if I'd had a stopped diapason.

Of course I haven't heard your instrument so I could very well be on the wrong track, but prima facie I'd be much more inclined to send the Claribel Flute and Dulciana to the scrap yard (I don't get why Victorian organ builders were so keen on them!) and replace them with a nice, gentle, warm, wooden stopped 4ft flute and a twelfth.  If the twelfth is also gentle and not too bright then you might then get some value of having the octave coupler with Diapasons 8, 4 and 2 2/3 to make something approximating a mixture chorus??  I'm dubious though.  I guess you'd also be able to make a flutes 8, 4, 2 approximation with your octave coupler.  How fat is the Open D?  It might be over-bearing with its own octave?

On balance I don't personally think the octave coupler would add that much tbh.  You'd also need to be sure the wind supply would hold up.

(ps I've been rude about my Bevington but we were good friends really!  It was the right size for the building, which was small but had a bit of reverberation, and the congregation sang really heartily which they wouldn't have done if it had been a bad organ.)

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Cross posted with Colin.

 

Also just spotted your manual compass only goes up to F3 which means that any combinations made using the octave coupler would conk out from F# at the top of the treble stave.  HTH.

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PPS With a real 4' flute you'd also get access to 8 OD + 4 Fl combination as a step down in volume from the 8+4 Principals - v useful at mp / mf, and not possible with the octave coupler option.

-------

Warning: cheeky second-glass-of-red-wine suggestion coming!

If you kept your ear to the ground regarding redundant / derelict organs in the area you might even be able to get the pipework for free!  Then you and an accomplice can just swap the pipes across in the dead of night, tune them up, and you'll have cost the church nothing. No fund-raising, no faculty, no Parish Council politics. Take care of the old pipes, and you'll have done nothing irreversible; indeed, you could possibly try different things out until you get what you feel you need. (I won't tell anyone if you don't!)

I feel like I'm about to get told off.  Ooh, my glass is empty ...

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I think handsoff is probably right with the effect he wants to achieve. I used to play this https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N07673 regularly. With a clear principal chorus, and the secondary 8+4 flutes, it was indeed quite effective, even though accompanying typically Catholic alternatim music did require a lot of playing with the right hand and feet, while the left hand was busy yanking stops in and out. But it was worth it, and I played it in exactly the way handsoff describes. Interestingly, apart from having an completely different original specification, so some considerable acquisition of second hand pipes had already occurred, it was clearly also originally mostly enclosed in a swell box, apart from the Open Diapason.

Perhaps, as the instrument is well maintained, you could ask the tuner to shuffle one of the 8' flutes around to experiment, and sacrifice the top octave for a time, perhaps later acquiring an appropriate rank from somewhere.

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1 hour ago, Colin Pykett said:

You have two 8 foot flutes, so would you be willing to forego one of them in favour of a 4 foot flute as an alternative to an octave coupler?  The majority of the new rank could perhaps be made up from the sacrificed 8 foot one in the hands of a sufficiently skilled voicer, so that it matches the remaining 8 foot flute.  Or perhaps forego the Dulciana, although two 8 foot flutes strike me as a bit extravagant in such a small instrument and I imagine the contemplative quietness of the Dulciana is something you would not want to lose in circumstances such as during Holy Communion.  I don't know of course, not having heard or played the instrument, so these suggestions might well be ill-founded.

A very interesting and, for me,  pertinent, post by handsoff and reply from Colin. I know it's all theoretical but I would be keen to take up both of Colin's ideas - swap in a 4ft flute for the Claribel, and consider what might be more useful than a Dulciana - possibly a delicate Twelfth or a Nineteenth. But I would also want to do something about the pedal organ so that it had a 30 note board with complete Bourdon. Is that physically possible in cases like this where there is only a small pedalboard? Would it have to be on electric action?? I say 'pertinent' because a local instrument is very like this, by William Hill. Tonally, it is beautiful, but it would be so much more versatile and useful for teaching and learning if it had a 'proper' pedal board. What thoughts?

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42 minutes ago, Martin Cooke said:

A very interesting and, for me,  pertinent, post by handsoff and reply from Colin. I know it's all theoretical but I would be keen to take up both of Colin's ideas - swap in a 4ft flute for the Claribel, and consider what might be more useful than a Dulciana - possibly a delicate Twelfth or a Nineteenth. But I would also want to do something about the pedal organ so that it had a 30 note board with complete Bourdon. Is that physically possible in cases like this where there is only a small pedalboard? Would it have to be on electric action?? I say 'pertinent' because a local instrument is very like this, by William Hill. Tonally, it is beautiful, but it would be so much more versatile and useful for teaching and learning if it had a 'proper' pedal board. What thoughts?

Interestingly, having played ‘village’ type instruments such as this regularly for the last 20 years or so the last thing I would probably do to a 19th Century 1 manual would be to over tinker tonally. To add full compass mutations would probably be of less use than more full compass variety of tone. I do have problems, however with odd compass or strangely aligned pedalboards. In fact one such that I visit is to all intents and purposes useless unless I want to play sustained drones etc. being so short compass and out of alignment. I mostly play manuals only there.

A

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51 minutes ago, AJJ said:

Interestingly, having played ‘village’ type instruments such as this regularly for the last 20 years or so the last thing I would probably do to a 19th Century 1 manual would be to over tinker tonally. To add full compass mutations would probably be of less use than more full compass variety of tone. I do have problems, however with odd compass or strangely aligned pedalboards. In fact one such that I visit is to all intents and purposes useless unless I want to play sustained drones etc. being so short compass and out of alignment. I mostly play manuals only there.

A

I know what you mean about tinkering and mutations. I just tend to feel Dulcianas are a bit futile and better use could possibly be made of that slide. Perhaps a smaller diapason - a typical Willis Spitzflute (basically an 8ft Gemshorn) would be better than my previous suggestions.

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Thinking a little more about converting one of the 8 foot flutes into a 4 foot one, I assume the Claribel uses full length (not stopped) pipes down to tenor C.  It would, in theory, be possible to convert it directly into an open flute of 4 foot pitch by boring nodal holes approximately half way up each pipe - in other words, convert it into a 4 foot Harmonic Flute.  Some careful regulation (adjustment of power across the rank) would almost certainly be necessary to get the desired tone as well as, more importantly, proper blend with the Stopped Diapason.  An advantage of doing things this way is that no transposition of pipes would be required, so the amount of messing about with the sound board and rack boards would be minimal or zero.  But as mentioned in my previous post, you would be well advised to put the job into the hands of an expert.  And if it didn't turn out well, the holes could be plugged and glued again if the pipes are of wood, returning the organ tonally to where it was previously and without having done much mutilation to the pipework.  If of metal, the holes could be re-covered by a simple soldering job.

Some 8 foot claribels are of harmonic construction themselves over at least part of the compass, implying that they use double-length pipes, though I'd be a little surprised if such extravagance applied here with this baby organ.  But if it is the case, then delete everything I've just said.

But I emphasise again that all this is entirely theoretical.  I haven't seen, heard or played the instrument so it's all just armchair musing on my part.

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Thank you all very much for your replies which really are fascinating and have sown the germs of some ideas which may not be entirely theoretical. I do like the Dulciana; it's not a bad example of the breed and is useful either on its own or with the Stopped Diapason for use just as Colin Pykett suggested. I should be happier to lose the Claribel Flute and do like the idea of transposing the pipes and temporarily losing the top octave with a view to replacing them later should the experiment work. There is a warehouse full of pipes somewhere in this town...

The pedalboard was a problem for me when first I played the organ after some decades of having my feet on auto-pilot suddenly going in the wrong places through Bottom C being where Bottom F should be found. It finally clicked and all is well now,  by and large. I clearly have to pick and choose the music but there is plenty around either for manuals only or with simple pedal parts not going too far north. Hymns are fine with perhaps a bit more looking down than my old teacher would have liked! There is simply nowhere to  put more Bourdon pipes. The organ does make a fine sound and is one that I much enjoy playing but do feel that the addition of a 4' Flute would be a great  boon. When next it's tuned I shall make sure I am there and have a quiet chat along the lines mentioned. The church has little money but I'd be happy to pay if it's not too much.

The other organ  I play more  regularly is in the next village and is nowhere near as pleasant. It was apparently cobbled together from odd bits and pieces and has little homogeneity. The OD and Principal sort of blend and the same goes for the SD and 4' Flute. The Piccolo does just about work as itself with the Flutes and as a Fifteenth with the Diapasons. As has been discussed here before the Larigot is a waste of space. Before Trevor Tipple retired I talked to him at some length about it and when his tuner came measurements were taken with a view to it becoming a 12th. Sadly, it wouldn't work through limited space.

The pedalboard was originally, I think,  limited compass and shoved to the right but in 1993, according to a memorial plaque, was restored and given electric action. The kick-stick swell pedal was replaced with a balanced device but it is so far to the right that it is most uncomfortable to use so the very efficient box tends to either open or closed - crescendo effects lead to leg cramps! The wind supply is inadequate and long chords on full organ do fade away.

It goes without saying that if any forum member is ever in the area and would like a play on the organs do let me know. There are 2 others in the benefice. 1) A nice 2 manual Hewins/Nicholsons which I play for weddings and funerals, found here and and a very decent Holditch I occasionally play when the village organists aren't available.

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Pleasing to hear that our armchair musings might be of some practical help!  I don't know for sure of course, but I have a hunch that claribel might be too loud at 4ft?  Suck it and see, I suppose.  Good luck!

 

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11 hours ago, sbarber49 said:

Would permission from the Diocesan Organ Advisor, and a DAC Faculty, not be needed for any changes?

Well yes, but... I know of several small (and possibly some larger...) organs where entirely reversible and non-damaging minor alterations have been carried out as,  I'm sure, do many members. Some of these have even been done by quite large tuning companies, dare I say, under the heading of maintenance...

I do take the point though that that is the correct route.

As an off-topic addendum, the church which keeps the hotch-potch organ dry has a roof covered entirely with lead. A small patch over the nave developed a leak and the then rector when asked about going through all the correct channels to have some work done said something along the lines of, "Oh don't! It'll take months, can't Bert (not his real name, words voiced by an actor) from the village do it for the price of a pint or five?" He did. Pragmatism is still alive in the C of E!

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Agreed, these are minor, reversible changes.  No cultural heritage is being irrevocably destroyed, no money is being irresponsibly wasted, no employment law s being breached, no-one's health and safety is being endangered, asset values are not being diminished, you are not compromising the building's accessibility.  I don't see the harm in this instance.

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Yes.  Unfortunately as the years go by, practicalities are being overtaken by bureaucracy!

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On 15/10/2019 at 22:25, John Robinson said:

Yes.  Unfortunately as the years go by, practicalities are being overtaken by bureaucracy!

 

And thank goodness for it too! Because,  without bureaucracy, a bit like the Roman church used to be, any Parish Priest or Vicar, would be able to do exactly as the mood took them and we all know where that can lead! Bureaucracy might be a d****d nuisance sometimes and some of those who administer it may not, always, exactly agree with our viewpoint but having it there protects the rest of us from the excesses of some of the modern clergy and of passing liturgical fads!!    

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15 hours ago, S_L said:

 

but having it there protects the rest of us from the excesses of some of the modern clergy and passing liturgical fads!!    

Such as happy-clappy 'worship groups'? 🤣

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8 hours ago, John Robinson said:

Such as happy-clappy 'worship groups'? 🤣

I'm not sure that phrase is always helpful - although I do know what you mean! It's not my thing either but I suspect that 'my thing' would not appeal to quite a number here!

I know a church, no names, that is, for want of a better phrase, 'happy-clappy'. Actually a better way of putting it would be to say that they are extremely Evangelical, only just within the boundaries of the Church of England, and what they do, I'm told, they do extremely well. In the church there was an organ. It was built for that church around the turn of the 19th/20th century. Given no Diocesan Advisor, no Diocesan bureaucracy, it would have ended up in a skip thirty years ago! Indeed that was the desire of the then incumbent. Now it has been taken out of that church and is, as I write, being rebuilt to go into another church where it will be used and valued. The DA knew of the instrument, knew of a church that was wanting and managed to marry the two! Success!

On the other hand I know, I'm sure that we can all recount, of occasions where the DA has suggested one thing and the church has stuck to its guns and gone in another direction. I'm told that, my late good friend, Raymond Sunderland, at Bridlington, in the early 1970's, stuck out against an Advisor who wanted to scrap the old Anneessans organ and put in a Baroque 'box of whistles'. Raymond eventually won his case and the Priory organ, since rebuilt again, is, I'm told a magnificent beast!

Bureaucracy, as I have said, may be a d****d nuisance sometimes. My experience is that, generally, it can be made to work to one's advantage. Rarely, although I'm sure we can all give examples, does it totally hinder! 

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I recently bumped into a couple whom I know slightly and they asked me if I was still playing the organ. I told them that I was and asked which church they attended, knowing that they had been regulars at a local establishment for years. "The Revival Church at the college", I was told, "You know, the happy-clappies. You'd hate it; bangs, twangs and whistles!" I asked if they objected to the phrase even though they had used it themselves, "No, of course not, that's what we are. It's the snowflakes who butt in and object on our behalf even though we don't know them,  like those sighted people who say blind people should be called visually impaired even though the blind person calls themself "blind"". 

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14 hours ago, handsoff said:

I recently bumped into a couple whom I know slightly and they asked me if I was still playing the organ. I told them that I was and asked which church they attended, knowing that they had been regulars at a local establishment for years. "The Revival Church at the college", I was told, "You know, the happy-clappies. You'd hate it; bangs, twangs and whistles!" I asked if they objected to the phrase even though they had used it themselves, "No, of course not, that's what we are. It's the snowflakes who butt in and object on our behalf even though we don't know them,  like those sighted people who say blind people should be called visually impaired even though the blind person calls themself "blind"". 

A rather common occurrence these days!  The 'perpetually offended'.

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20 hours ago, handsoff said:

I told them that I was and asked which church they attended, knowing that they had been regulars at a local establishment for years. "The Revival Church at the college", I was told, "You know, the happy-clappies. You'd hate it; bangs, twangs and whistles!" I asked if they objected to the phrase even though they had used it themselves, "No, of course not, that's what we are. It's the snowflakes who butt in and object on our behalf even though we don't know them,  like those sighted people who say blind people should be called visually impaired even though the blind person calls themself "blind"". 

I may be reading this incorrectly, but it comes over as a tad arrogant - or at the very least smug. (Perhaps it's the use of the word 'snowflakes', which can be liberally applied to whichever point of view you don't currently agree with.)

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