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"instruction Books"

Pierre Lauwers

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In the "Neo-classical design" thread, someone expressed the wish the designers of "reformed" organs had left an instruction book behind, so fast going their tonal ideas

in the purgatory -like all styles-.


Save quite seldom exceptions, this never happens. Why?


Any style is conceived as an end in itself; each generation needs to believe the

history ends with.....Them!

To leave an instruction book behind us would be to acknowledge we are just

mortal human beigns, whose time on this Earth is strictly limited; and that what

we believe to be "true" is no "Truth" at all, just a fashion more within an endless

flow of rapidly changing tastes.

In 1980 I attended meetings with "Very Important Persons" who made extremely serious statments, based upon the vastness of their undisputed knowledge:


"The Neo-baroque organ is here to stay. Forever. The romantic mistake won't come back ever.

The organ is an instrument whose evolution is finished. To try to invent new designs is a mistake. The guys who want to lose their time with such a fancy would do better bothering with electronics".


(This is no belgian joke, but simply a.....Quote!)


This was only twenty-six years ago. Yesterday!

And now such "Truths" are quickly vanishing.


The acknowledgment all styles, from whatever period, are worthwhile and deserve

to be preserved is something new.


Of course all historians ever dreamt "to find the Holy Graal", that is, an old book, preferably unique, explaining all about the very style which is fashionable in their time.

This is why "L'art du facteur d'orgues" from Dom Bédos de Celles was considered a Bible.

But this book was only an instant picture of a dedicate area (Southern France) in a limited period (Late-Baroque, pre-Romantic), in a time when the fashion evoluted exactly as fast as it does today.

(Still believing "we moderns are going faster", Ladies and Gentlemen? Sorry, but this

is completely false).

And so we had thousands of pre-romantic french Mixtures, intended for sheer brillancy, not polyphony at all, loudly voiced, and installed in little organs in order to play Couperin's and Grigny's "Pleins-jeux", while Couperin's and Grigny's organs dated from the 17th century, not the late 18th, and were completely different, with different wind-pressures, different pipe materials, not to mention the immensely complex matter of the temperament!


We would make the same mistake today if we intended to build the "ultimate romantic organ" after only......Audsley (or Cavaillé-Coll!).


Now the romantic style is coming back. Maybe I had a little advance, I liked them 20 years ago already; but why do I like them?

Because I am the owner of a "Truth"?

Or rather simply because I live in an epoch whose taste about organs is changing?

And are romantic organs any "better" than any other?


So in order to understand the ancient styles better, without having to resort to "fast-food after a book" reciples, let's go for a little exercise, do you agree?


On the next post I shall give the Specification of a strange organ, something rather awkward, and we shall try to find how to use it.


Pierre Lauwers.

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GREAT ORGAN ( 11 stops)


Open Diapason 8'

Open Diapason (II) 8'

Stopped Diapason 8'

Principal 4'

Twelfth 2 2/3'

Fifteenth 2'


Mixture 2 ranks

Cornet to mid C, 4 ranks

Trumpet 8'

Small Trumpet 4'


CHOIR ORGAN (6 stops)


Stopped Diapason 8'

Dulciana 8' (from FF)

Principal 4'

Flute 4'

Fifteenth 2'

Bassoon 8'


SWELL ORGAN ( 7 stops)


Open Diapason 8'

Stopped Diapason 8'

Dulciana 8'

Principal Dulciana 4'

Cornet 3 ranks

Trumpet 8'

Hautboy 8'


Pedals "up to C"


The whole organ was enclosed in a Swellbox, the Swell organ being enclosed in a second box inside the larger one.


Now let's investigate togheter: how does work such a thing? How do we need to

register there?



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"Music is in the ears of the beholder". Sit at the instrument and if you can't perform a particular piece of music to your satisfaction, find something that you can.


Paper specifications give a very limited view of what's actually what.



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Now let's investigate togheter: how does work such a thing? How do we need to register there?

Last year a member of our organists' association presented me with a volume of organ music he had been given amongst a pile of old "village organist" type music. He thought I might be interested to have it because it looked quite old - though there was no date on the title page. To cut a long story short, it turned out to be what appears to be a first edition of Francis Linley's A Practical Introduction to the Organ, published (it would seem) in the 1790s. At least it says nothing about being a second or subsequent edition.


Linley gives a specification of what he describes as a 'complete organ' (which is not too dissimilar to Pierre's specification), along with advice on registration. I'd post facsimiles of the relevant pages, but there doesn't seem to be any way of doing that on this forum. So, instead, here is an extract of an article I wrote for our association's magazine last year. I've edited it slightly to make the extract stand alone, but I've done it rather hurridly, so bear with me if the prose bumps a bit.



Linley was born in Doncaster in 1770 or 1771. Blind from birth, he was taught the organ by Edward Miller, the organist of Doncaster parish church. In his early twenties he moved to London as organist of St James’s Chapel, Pentonville, and in December 1795 he purchased the music publishing business of John Bland in Holborn. After the failure of the business in 1797 he went to America, but returned to his birthplace in 1799, where he died the following year, aged 29.


Linley’s book, A Practical Introduction to the Organ, bears no date. It is usually dated c.1800, but the title-page states that it is ‘Printed & Sold by J. Bland, No 45 High Holborn’, so one would assume that he actually published it sometime during the 1790s. It went through several subsequent editions, at least some (if not all) of them posthumously.


The book is in five parts. The first is an introduction; the other four consist of music: preludes, voluntaries, ‘full pieces and fugees’ [sic] and psalms [i.e. hymn tunes]’.


Linley’s introduction offers an interesting insight into registration at the turn of the eighteenth century. He begins by giving the specification of what he calls ‘a compleat organ’ and then goes on to describe each stop individually. The specification of Linley’s ‘complete organ’ is as follows:


Great Organ

Open Diapason 8

Stop Diapason 8

Principal 4

Twelfth 2 2/3

Fifteenth 2

Sesquialtra (17.19.22) III

Mixture (29.36) II

Trumpet 8

Clarion 4

Cornet (from mid C) III, IV or V


Choir Organ

Stop Diapason 8

Dulciana 8

Principal 4

Flute 4

Fifteenth 2

Cremona 8

Vox Humana 8

Bassoon 8


The Swell

Open Diapason 8

Stop Diapason 8

Principal 4

Cornet III, IV or V

Trumpet 8

Hautboy 8


Linley consistently refers to the Open and Stop Diapasons together as ‘the two Diapasons’ and explains that the [Great Organ] Diapasons are the grand foundation of the instrument, and consequently ‘must never be omitted, as without them, no other stop (excepting the Flute,) can have a proper effect’.


The Cornet ‘must never be us[e]d in the full Organ. It is only proper to be used in conjunction with the Diapasons, in giving out psalm tunes, voluntaries, symphonies of anthems, &c’.


The Cremona, Vox Humana and Bassoon ‘are seldom used but as fancy stops in voluntaries, their Basses, particularly the Cremona and Vox Humana being extremely rough and unpleasant’.


Then comes a section on ‘The Blending of the Stops’. His advice about the Choir Dulciana and Stop Diapason is not entirely clear, but he appears to mean that, while the two are often drawn together as the Choir Organ equivalent of ‘the two diapasons’, the Dulciana can also be used alone in delicate music, or as a solo stop with the 4′ Flute, accompanied on the Swell.


He states that diapason movements should be played legato: 'For the diapasons the style ought always to be grave, gliding the notes and chords into each other, with holding notes in some one or more of the parts.'


More of Linley's advice: 'When the Principal is added to the Diapasons, the style may be more lively, and the execution a degree more brilliant. It is also proper to keep the hands lower, as the bass is rendered more distinct. The Twelfth and Fifteenth, (being calculated for full pieces only), are never used singly; their tones being too shrill, unless qualified by the Diapasons and Principal. For the Trumpet the style should be majestically grave and martial. ... The Diapasons in the Great Organ should always be drawn with it, and its bass may be played on the Stop Diapason and Dulciana in the Choir Organ. ... N.B. The Trumpet bass should be but seldom, if ever used, excepting in the full Organ. The Clarion is never made use of, but in full pieces. The Cornet requires lively and brilliant music, without double notes or chords, on account of its harshness; and is frequently accompanied by a moving bass on the Stop Diapason and Dulciana in the Choir Organ. The bass may be played on the same set of keys, provided it is kept below middle C ... Where there is no Cornet the Sesquialtra may be used as a substitute. For the Dulciana alone a tender soothing style is proper, as rapid execution is by no means adapted to the sweetness and delicacy peculiar to this stop.'


And more: 'When a Trumpet piece is played on the Great Organ, its proper echo on the Swell is the Diapasons and Trumpet: as also the Cornet, in the Great Organ, should be echoed by the Swell Diapasons and Cornet. ... To the above mixture of stops, may be added the Hautboy at pleasure, but never the Principal, without both the reeds, as the predominance of the Octaves destroys the effect, particularly in sostenuto passages.'


It is clear from the way he writes that Linley regarded the Stopped Diapason as indeed a diapason, though he can hardly have been unaware of its flute tone. He advises that the Swell Principal should be used only in the Full Swell. A few decades later, S. S. Wesley would not have agreed.

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I should add that Linley's music is basically English Baroque, but with some Haydnesque tones (Haydn being all the rage in London at the time). He doesn't write any Cornet voluntaries. These were going out of fashion and Linley is quite disparaging about their suitability for church use.

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Many thanks Vox Humana,


That is the kind of material we need, no doubt.


Baroque it is, the music and the organ, up to the very last moment before

the romantic area began; all stays decidedly baroque, but with innovations

aplenty that "prepare for" something else.


If you hear a Jordi Bosch organ, for example, you will say immediately

"this is a baroque organ". But its action, bellows, soundboards, and even

its pipes are nearly Cavaillé-Coll's.

Same with Gabler, Holzhey, Isnard, Dom Bédos.....


About the Stopped Diapason: Are we that sure they were flutey?


About the Mixtures: Does Linley say something more? We know he did not

use the Cornet in the full organ. Which use did he make of the Sesquialtera

and Mixture? (Save the Sesquialtera may be used as a Cornet substitute)


The belgian baroque organ had Sesquialteras. They were of Principal scale.

This stop disturbed our advisors, because it was not described by Dom Bédos, having been dropped in France since the 17th century.....And so they ever said "How this stop was used we do not know"!

The answer may well lie somewhere on old papers your side of the Channel.



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...Linley gives a specification of what he describes as a 'complete organ' (which is not too dissimilar to Pierre's specification), along with advice on registration. I'd post facsimiles of the relevant pages, but there doesn't seem to be any way of doing that on this forum. ...


Try scanning them and then saving as word documents (or a rich-text file) and then cutting and pasting on to a post here - that should work.

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Well, there are about six pages and you may have to put up with reading about the "ftop diapafon", but I'll try it when I have time.


Vox Humana, I would be very grateful for this.

In french too there are old books where "S" are written"f" (etc),

and in german all old writings are in gothic.

This is something normal and we have to do with it.



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