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"Fix swell"... what does it mean?


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I've noticed the term "fix swell" in a number of Whitlock's organ works. I don't think I've seen this phrase anywhere else. What does it mean? Is it something that relates specifically to Whitlock's love of Compton organs?

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I've heard the term used previously, but I don't think it's particularly Compton related. I suspect that it merely means "fix swell box open" but I can't be certain.

The only possible Compton connection may relate to organs with an enclosed Great division, because most new Compton organs were fully enclosed.

Fixing the Great box open, gives the more usual balance between an unenclosed Great and an enclosed Swell.

Would I find the use of the term  in the Plymouth Suite?

I have a copy of that somewhere.

 

Edited by MusoMusing
extra word removed
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2 hours ago, headcase said:

It's a hang-over from the era of trigger or kickstick Swell Pedals.  

H.

 

That makes sense; especially with the word 'fix' rather than 'open'.....with one exception.  "My" first organ was a fine (very early) 3-manual by Harrison & Harrison, which had been enlarged from two manuals to include a new Choir Organ, placed ABOVE the Swell manual. As if this wasn't quirky enough, the Swell had a trigger pedal, and the Choir had a  Swell pedal, which made accompaniment fall into the Fred Astaire category.

I wish someone HAD fixed the swell,  but at least it had tracker-action to the manuals and pneumatic action to the pedal organ.

Sadly not more, since they demolished the church.

 

MM

 

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I had absolutely no idea just what controversy surrounded the introduction of balanced Swell Pedals, but the following piece of religious nonsense had me squealing in delight.

==========================
 

Regarding the current interesting debate on the merits or otherwise of the trigger swell, may I quote the Revd Ezekiel Bracebridge, himself an organist of no mean ability from his "Reflections from a country manse" published by the Stepforth Press 1912. he writes;

"There can be no more pestilential and vexatious innovation to the King of Instruments than the new-fangled so-called balanced swell pedal. Instead of the noble and inspiring crescendi and decrescendi of old sounds that draw the souls to higher regions we now have fandangle effusions of ariel crescendi of a debilitating nature whose effect is to fill the heads of the "weaker sex" with lewd and lascivious thoughts and draw their souls to lower regions. The sooner these emissaries of Satan are banished from our sacred edifices the sooner we can turn our thoughts back to higher regions"

==============================

Well, now we know why the rear stalls of the cinema were dens of iniquity!

MM   :)

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When I was at the RCM I heard one of the organ tutors there - I think it was Richard Latham of st Paul's, Knightsbridge - say that one advantage of the trigger swell was that you could do sforzandi with them, which you couldn't with a balanced swell pedal.  Why one would ever want to do one with a swell pedal and what percentage of attempts ended with an audible thud I didn't like to ask.

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11 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

When I was at the RCM I heard one of the organ tutors there - I think it was Richard Latham of st Paul's, Knightsbridge - say that one advantage of the trigger swell was that you could do sforzandi with them, which you couldn't with a balanced swell pedal.  Why one would ever want to do one with a swell pedal and what percentage of attempts ended with an audible thud I didn't like to ask.

Yes - I've often wondered about that; and knowing my luck, and some of the crates I've had to play, there would probably be a crash as the linkage broke or the shutters fell off!

Edited by Andrew Butler
Typo
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Robert Hope-Jones incorporated sforzando pedals in many of his organs from his very first one at St John's Birkenhead (c. 1890).  This had two - one brought on the heavy reeds (Tuba, Clarion and Ophicleide on 250 mm wg) and the other brought on full swell plus couplers to great and choir, and it also threw open the swell shutters.  They looked like the ordinary projecting iron combination pedals of the day.  Would such devices have actually been musically useful, for instance in works such as Elgar's Organ Sonata, or were they just gimmicks?

The Birkenhead organ also had a novel type of swell pedal.  At first sight it appeared to be just an ordinary balanced type of swell shoe, but it had two modes of operation.  The system is best described by H-J himself, taken from the lecture he gave in 1891 to the College of Organists (the forerunner of the RCO):

"The swell pedal, which I prefer to make self-closing, is returned to its position by a
spiral spring only, so that its movement is not in any way impeded by the inertia of the
swell shutters and connecting mechanism. On this account it responds more readily
to the organist's wishes. By the employment of varying electrical resistances there is
no difficulty in securing simultaneous and synchronous movement of the pedal and the
shutters, and this may readily be managed through a single wire.  [It was in fact an early type of servo-mechanism - CEP].  The swell pedal,
though self-closing, will remain in any position if the slightest pressure tending to
move it towards the left be exerted. A touch in the opposite direction will liberate and
allow it to close. The pedal cannot remain in a middle position, but will spring either
right or left. Its sideway [sic] movement is very slight. A stop-key may be provided,
with those governing the registers on the swell organ, which will open the swell box
without the necessity of touching the pedal. Such a stop-key must however be
automatically thrown out of action as soon as the foot touches the pedal. In this
manner the swell shutters are always amenable to the pedal, though it is possible for
the organist, when sweeping his finger along to bring out full swell , to open the box also, should he desire to do so".

[The Birkenhead organ had such a stop key - CEP]

 

 

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On 01/02/2020 at 23:06, MusoMusing said:

"There can be no more pestilential and vexatious innovation to the King of Instruments than the new-fangled so-called balanced swell pedal."
 

Replace "balanced"  with "infinite speed and gradation" and I would be in total agreement with the original author.  

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