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Spanish Early Swellboxes

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Hi! :)


I owed you some details about the Spanish swellboxes and their firs time built in 1659. There are the details. I enclose the Spanish text (for those who read this language) and my very very bad translation.


I apologize for two things: for the delay (I should have post this more quickly) and for my bad translation (I am ashamed of it).


Thank you very much to all you! :)



Extrated from Jesús Ángel de la Lama, S.J.: El Órgano Barroco Español, I. Naturaleza. Junta de Castilla y León (1995), p316:


Se encarga de la obra [el órgano de Tolosa de 1686] Joseph de Echevarría. El diseño, plasmado en dos memoriales firmados en 1683, es obra del organero vasco franciscano Fray Joseph de Echevarrría, de quien su homónimo es discípulo y sobrino. Fray Joseph concibe la estrutura musical del órgano de Tolosa conforme al que hiciera en San Diego de Alcalá de Henares, al que cita repetidas veces, lo mismo que al de San Francisdo de Vitoria y, por otro motivo, al de Eibar. El P.Donostia sitúa así las fechas de construcción de estos instrumentos:


“El Padre Joseph de Echevarría hizo el órgano de San Diego de Alcalá de Henares, el de Eibar (Guipuzcoa) por los años de 1659… Construyó también, en 1665, el órgano de San Francisco de Vitoria…” (DONOSTIA 1955, 121)


“Los (registros) que lleva el dicho órgano de San Diego de Alcalá son los siguientes… Síguense los registros que llevan los ECOS… Lo primero lleva dos flautados… y el otro que le corresponde en ECOS muy suspenso. Más lleva medio registro de Corneta Real y otra al símil en el ECO” (DONOSTIA 1955, 123s).


“Item más (dice en el segundo memoria) ha de llevar medio registro alto de Clarines, los cuales han de tener su eco con su ida y venida, que sólo en el convento de Vitoria lo hay por ser la primera execución” (DONOSTIA 1955, 127)



La prueba documental no puede ser más concluyente. Fray Joseph de Echevarría, en 1659, coloca en arca de Ecos dos medios registros: una flauta tapada y una Corneta; en 1662 hace lo mismo con una Corneta; en 1665 introduce en el arca de Ecos un Clarín, además de la Corneta. Estos tres medios registros tiples de Ecos son los primeros de ha historia. El organero vasco franciscano se adelantó 53 años a lo que habría Abraham Jordan en 1712.




The work [1686 Tolosa organ] is commanded to Joseph de Echevarría. The layout, which takes shape in two memorials signed in 1683, is made by the Basque Friar Joseph de Echevarría, of which his homonymous one is disciple and nephew. Friar Joseph conceives the musical structure of the organ of Tolosa as the one made for San Diego de Alcalá de Henares, mentioned several times, and also the same as San Francisco de Vitoria y, for another reason, as Eibar. F.Donostia places the dates of the works:


“F.Joseph de Echevarría built the organ of San Diego de Alcalá de Henares, and one of Eibar (Guipuzcoa) in the year of 1659… He also built, in 1665, the organ of San Francisco de Vitoria…” (DONOSTIA 1995, 121)


“The (stops) in that organ of San Diego de Alcalá are the following… The following are those in the ECHO… The first one are two Flutes… and the another one accordingly in the ECHOES. Moreover, a Real Cornet divided stop and the another accordingly in the ECHO” (DONOSTIA 1955, 123s)


“More (as it is said in the second memorial) it has a Clarines high divided stop, and the have accordingly their Echoes, and they have been built for the first time for Vitoria convent” (DONOSTIA 1955, 127)



The evidence is conclusive. F.Joseph de Echevarría, in 1659, puts two divided stops in a swellbox: a stopped flute and a Cornet; he makes the same in 1662 with a Cornet; in 1665 he puts a Clarín, and the Cornet. These three high divided stops in Echoes are the first ones of the history. The Basque organbuilder went early in 53 years to what Abraham Jordan built in 1712.



DONOSTIA, José Antonio de: “El órgano de Tolosa (Guipúzcoa), del año 1686”. In AM X (1955) 121-136

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Sir, thank you for your information. I found it most interesting.


Am I correct in thinking that there was also a link between British firms who imported sherry and port at the time? Furthermore, was there not someone related to Jordan who had such a business? I had understood that this is how the invention of the swell-box became known in Britain.

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Hi! B)


I owed you some details about the Spanish swellboxes and their firs time built in 1659. There are the details. I enclose the Spanish text (for those who read this language) and my very very bad translation.


Congratulations on an excellent translation. What type of volume control did the Sewll Box have? Was it a form of Nag's Head' device as used by Jordan or was it more sophosticated type moving towards the Venetian Shutter control?


Best wishes today from a very sunny part of Hampshire,


Frank Fowler :)

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Hi, B)


This is a not very known subject, and the mecanism is not sophisticated. There were five kinds of swellboxes:


- An upper lid, completely movable (in the modest organs, perhaps the first used)

- An upper lid, with a quarter of it completely movable (in the first half of 18th century, and rather rare)

- A wide stop, in form of a slide with holes (first half of 18th century)

- Several lids: upper, sides, front (from 1778, Jordi Bosch)

- Blinds and jalousies (19th centuty)


The organist used them by means of:


- Pedal, like the Spanish contras

- Stirrup (in shoe-shape)

- Knee button

- Mushroom button

- Tilt tablet


As I said, the actual movement of this swellbox is not known, because this subject was not included in the contracts.



Best wishes to you and to all one, from Andalucía (Spain)... a sunny land almost all the year. :P



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