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Mark Taylor

Pedal-board Dimensions

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I am thinking of buying an electronic for home practice and would appreciate any advice on offer.

 

I am particularly interested in peoples’ views on pedal-board dimensions. Recently, I played an Allen organ at my local church and found the pedal-board very awkward because of the lack of height of the “black” notes. This makes me wonder how much variation there is between different manufacturers.

 

In a post on 29 May ajt commented on an unusually narrow pedal-board on a Wyvern. Do all Wyverns have narrow pedal-boards?

 

Clearly, I will try a few instruments out before I buy, but I’d like to be forewarned about what to look for.

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I don't know, but I would imagine the Allen pedalboard was AGO standard.

 

I think the pedalboard on my old Wyvern is RCO standard. It feels like it anyway.

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I don't know, but I would imagine the Allen pedalboard was AGO standard.

 

I think the pedalboard on my old Wyvern is RCO standard. It feels like it anyway.

 

Way back in 1967 The Incorporated Society of Organ Builders published reccomended standard dimensions for organ consoles (I still have them) which included a radiating and concave pedalboard.

 

These were generally adopted by many of the then major organ building companies and were often called the RCO standards as the Hill Norman & Beard console of the then RCO organ was built to these dimensions.

 

As we travelled abroad and played some of the ancient Continental organs, `enlightenment' ;) came upon us with the need for straight pedalboards and peculiar mechanical actions requiring peculiar measurements etc. I seem to remember the RCO then became politically correct by stating that there were no longer any recognised RCO standard measurements and it was a general `free for all' (my words not theirs).

 

FF

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My church, in Cheltenham, had a brand new, custom built Wyvern organ installed in February this year, and a very fine instrument it is too.

 

The pedal board certainly feels "standard", its very comfortable to play, and has C-G compass.

 

A photo of the console, and the spec. can be found on my choir website www.stmarysmusic.org.uk/. Very happy to welcome visitors who'd like to try it out.

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I don't know, but I would imagine the Allen pedalboard was AGO standard.

 

It hadn’t occurred to me that it might be AGO standard since I’ve never seen one before. All I can say is, I expect I could get used to it, but it felt very strange.

 

 

My church, in Cheltenham, had a brand new, custom built Wyvern organ installed in February this year, and a very fine instrument it is too.

 

I am impressed with Wyvern specifications. Their web site lays some emphasis on the essentially British characteristics or their organs and, in my view, the example at St. Mary's, Charlton Kings looks a near perfect example.

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I am impressed with Wyvern specifications.  Their web site lays some emphasis on the essentially British characteristics or their organs and, in my view, the example at St. Mary's, Charlton Kings looks a near perfect example.

As I've said before, we're absolutely delighted with our Wyvern, the sound quality is fabulous (and the price very reasonable - we paid around 30K including installation & VAT). Several times I've had people come up to me when I'm practicing to ask where the pipes are - even though they're staring at the clearly visible battery of loudspeakers!

 

As you're based in Surrey, give Paul Wren a call at Wyvern and ask to try the organ in Chobham parish church. Its a smaller and gentler 3-manual than ours but gives a good impression of what's on offer.

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As we travelled abroad and played some of the ancient Continental organs, `enlightenment'  :blink:  came upon us with the need for straight pedalboards and peculiar mechanical actions requiring peculiar measurements etc. I seem to remember the RCO then became politically correct by stating that there were no longer any recognised RCO standard measurements and it was a general `free for all' (my words not theirs).

FF

 

It would seem that change happens in both directions. As "Vox Humana" will recall from a choir tour a couple of years ago, we came across two Klais organs in Aachen, Germany (including the cathedral) that had radiating/cancave pedalboards. There are also, apparently, "BDO-Standard" dimensions for R/C pedalboards (BDO being the German equivalent of the ISOB).

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Indeed (but would you believe it was six years ago!) The curvatures were quite a lot shallower than the old RCO standard, but it didn't take long to get used to them.

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Indeed (but would you believe it was six years ago!) The curvatures were quite a lot shallower than the old RCO standard, but it didn't take long to get used to them.

 

 

Years ago, when in Leicester, I was in charge of arranging the recitals at the Church of St James the Greater. We had one famous visiting organist from Harrlem. He came straight to us, having given a recital the night before on the Royal Festival Hall where they had fitted the `straight’ pedal board for him.

 

He sat down at the St.James console, which had a “R.C.O.” pedalboard, for which I apologised. His feet then flew over the pedals faster and more accurately that I could manage fingers on the manuals. I said to him, “Albert, how do you manage”, he turned, smiled, and said “Ze pedals are zere, I just play zem”. I have never complained about playing peculiar pedal boards since!

 

FF :blink:

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Guest Andrew Butler
Indeed (but would you believe it was six years ago!) The curvatures were quite a lot shallower than the old RCO standard, but it didn't take long to get used to them.

 

We're back on the Female Organists" tack then? :lol:

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We're back on the Female Organists" tack then?  :lol:
I have no idea why - and it's completely off topic - but for some totally illogical and inexplicable reason this brought to mind the group recorder lessons we were forced to undergo at the RCM with dear old Freda Dinn. She was quite clueless as to how to relate to budding young adults and spoke to us all as if we were primary school kids. It culminated one day when, having demonstrated how to play some scale or other, she issued the priceless command, "All together now: finger up with me". She remained seraphically oblivious to the gale of laughter that followed.

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Guest Lee Blick

Wyvern have improved a lot over recent years. I went down to their showrooms in Surrey earlier in the year and I was impressed by the quality of their instruments.

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Well, I have my new Wyvern 'toaster', and yes, the pedals are rather narrow. A friend of mine who is a real organist found it almost impossible to play in shoes. I have resorted to v.thick socks or a pair of very thin soled trainers (with some furniture polish on the soles to lessen the friction of the rubber)! However I have found that you can adjust with time, and as I don't play anywhere else, it suits me fine.

I must also thank Paul and Annette at Wyverns in Surrey for being so helpful to an organ nut like me!

Cheers,

Oliver Horn.

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Well, I have my new Wyvern 'toaster', and yes, the pedals are rather narrow.

I'm bemused by this talk of narrow pedal boards on Wyverns. During the investigation of manufacturers for our new organ I tried the Wyverns in Hook Parish Church and Chobham Parish Church, and we also visited the showrooms. At no time did I encounter anything non-standard in the pedal board department. As I've said already, our Wyvern, installed in February, is very comfortable to play. I played the Bach D major this morning - not a piece I ever attempt on "dodgy" pedal boards!

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I'm bemused by this talk of narrow pedal boards on Wyverns. During the investigation of manufacturers for our new organ I tried the Wyverns in Hook Parish Church and Chobham Parish Church, and we also visited the showrooms. At no time did I encounter anything non-standard in the pedal board department. As I've said already, our Wyvern, installed in February, is very comfortable to play. I played the Bach D major this morning - not a piece I ever attempt on "dodgy" pedal boards!

 

Maybe the distinction here is between the two types of Wyvern instruments. Their custom instruments use Phoenix electronics and consoles made in Devon by Renatus. I believe these use Kimber Allen pedal boards, which I guess are standard RCO dimensions.

 

The other, less expensive, instruments are manufactured in Holland - I think the sample data may be to Wyvern specification, but not the hardware. Maybe these instruments are the ones with narrow pedalboards?

 

JJK

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Aren't the ISOB/RCO a range of dimensions - I remember they have a certain overlap with the BDO dimensions. THe BDO dimesions have recommendations for straight pedalboards - ISOB don't.

 

One thing that always gets overlooked in pedalboard discussions is the overhang and drop from the keyboard to the pedalboard, which I think is vital to get right. Too little and the organ is uncomfortable to play and feels like it was designed for dwarves; too much and it feels like it was designed for Frankenstein.

 

I've visited the Wyvern showroom a few times over the past 2-3 years. Can't say I've really noticed much about their pedalboards except one or two were very comfortable. I think their new technology (Phoenix?) is a huge improvement and note with a wry smile how the salesmen poo-poo their old digital technology in an effort to sell the new stuff. I feel these chaps would sell their own mothers and daughters if it would sell them more organs. HOwever, I really want to start thumping them when they try to make out that their electronic simulation - sorry, pipeless - organs are in the same league as musical instruments as the real McCoy. Get real, guys and show some respect for the things you're trying to imitate. Last time I was there they had a real Yamaha Grand piano in the corner. If I had had the space I'd have bought the piano but found I wasn't prepared to spend half the money they were asking for the piano on an electronic imitation organ.

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"Maybe the distinction here is between the two types of Wyvern instruments. Their custom instruments use Phoenix electronics and consoles made in Devon by Renatus. I believe these use Kimber Allen pedal boards, which I guess are standard RCO dimensions.

 

The other, less expensive, instruments are manufactured in Holland - I think the sample data may be to Wyvern specification, but not the hardware. Maybe these instruments are the ones with narrow pedalboards?"

 

 

Yes, the less expensive (budget) organs are made by the Dutch firm Elpro. They have almost identical models under the Content brand. The voicing on the Wyvern is more English than the Content. They had a Content and the Sonata back to back in the showroom, I played both and bought the Wyvern.

Instrument aside, my (limited) playing is improving and I am really enjoying trying to learn to play, not just tootle like I used to. So, money well spent for me!

Regards,

Oliver Horn.

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HOwever, I really want to start thumping them when they try to make out that their electronic simulation - sorry, pipeless - organs are in the same league as musical instruments as the real McCoy. Get real, guys and show some respect for the things you're trying to imitate.

I'm sorry but I think there's an awful lot of ill-informed predjudice being voiced in this discussion and this is a prime examle.

 

I've had the good fortune to play and hear most of the significant organs in my town, Cheltenham, which include two 4-manual instruments and a 3-M Rushworth & D. in the Town Hall which I'm very fond of, with the exception of the 3-manual H&H in the college chapel which I haven't experienced. I've also recent experience of having played the 'real' organs in the cathedrals of Hereford, Worcester, Gloucester, Birmingham, Exeter, Wells, the abbeys of Bath, Tewkesbury and Romsey, major churches including St. Mary Redcliffe and St. Mary's Warwick.

 

All opinions are of course subjective, but I must re-iterate that to my ears our new Wyvern Phoenix organ at St. Mary's Charlton Kings is easily the best recital instrument in Cheltenham. The flutes are unsurpassed in the town. The reeds are commanding. Few of the cathedral and abbey organs I've listed above could match the flutes on this instrument.

 

When you talk about the real McCoy this is just meaningless. If the real McCoy is an ailing two-manual squeze box with no ranks above 4' pitch even an Allen would be better (and that's saying something).

 

Experience the best of the latest digital before you pass judgement, and dont assume that thats the most expensive!

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Sorry, but just to add..

 

I'm a passionate supporter of the pipe organ. Regular readers will know how outspoken I've been on the subject of Worcester Cathedral organ for example. But I don't think it does the cause of the pipe organ, or pipe organ builders, any good to bury one's head in the sand and to ignore the very real challenge presented by the digital alternative.

 

My present church took the decision to sell off a 3-M Hill organ (now altered by Percy Daniel's with their customary taste in the chapel of Dean Close School) back in 1965. This was replaced by a 3-M compton electronic instrument subsequently upgraded by Makin around 20 years later. As this instrument approached the end of its working life we were presented with a three way choice between:-

 

- a new, custom build digital instrument in the price backet £25K - £60k

- a new pipe organ in the price bracket £400K+

- a "second user" organ from a redundant church

 

I'm not an overly religious person, but I couldn't begin to justify the cost of a new pipe organ for our local church when put in the context of global poverty and starvation.

 

If there is the odd parish/cathedral/foundation willing to support the notion of throwing millions of pounds on an organ in the name of "art" then we organists must count ourselves fortunate to have our private passion so indulged. But it would be a foolish organist that would expect this to be the norm in the years to come.

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- a new pipe organ in the price bracket £400K+

 

 

I'm not an overly religious person, but I couldn't begin to justify the cost of a new pipe organ for our local church when put in the context of global poverty and starvation.

 

 

There is no way you can justify *any* Western expenditure, whether on the armed forces, clergy salaries, hymn books, candles, cancer drugs, air-conditioning or children's toys when put in the context of global poverty and starvation.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
There is no way you can justify *any* Western expenditure, whether on the armed forces, clergy salaries,  hymn books, candles, cancer drugs, air-conditioning or children's toys when put in the context of global poverty and starvation.

 

 

Difficult or not, this is the sort of thing I've got to do any day now! My argument (in order to raise £500,000 for the restoration of the F&A/Compton at HTH) goes along the following lines:

 

1. The present instrument has come down to us through the generosity and faith of those who have gone before

2. They provided for future worshippers, and we should do the same. Only the best is supposed (after all) to be good enough for God

3. The present instrument has gone many years with minimal expenditure. if the job is properly done, we should be able to expect a further long period - costed out over this time, a large outlay now is not so large.

4. Any money spent on a church, on its furnishing or fabric is a statement that we believe that this church will still be in use for many more years. Mere patching or substituting something cheap is a statement that the church may not last us out (!) so we had better not invest too much!

 

With church music I believe that we have a very powerful answer to anyone who say 'what about the starving?'. Yes, I absolutely agree that as individuals we should remember that we (in our little country) are (in relative terms) born lucky and living in a way that the majority of the world's population cannot dream of. However, the church stands there (speaking to many people at difficult times in their lives) to prove that materialism isn't everything. That there is more to our passage through this world than 'me first, me second and me last'. It's a good thing that there are churches still visible and charity workers who still plug away at a sometimes thankless task.... what would life be like without these?

 

Good music in church quite often moves people more than the spoken word. The fact that unknown minor composers can leave us works which just simply and sincerely sung can make people cry, or haul them out of hum-drum existence is a glorious thing! Don't be embarrassed that this is part of your calling.

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Difficult or not, this is the sort of thing I've got to do any day now!  My argument (in order to raise £500,000 for the restoration of the F&A/Compton at HTH) goes along the following lines:

 

***detailed rationale snipped***

 

Good music in church quite often moves people more than the spoken word.  The fact that unknown minor composers can leave us works which just simply and sincerely sung can make people cry, or haul them out of hum-drum existence is a glorious thing!  Don't be embarrassed that this is part of your calling.

 

Well said! My point was not that we shouldn't put serious amounts of money towards church music, but that there is no inherent difference between church music and any other kind of expense from either a logical or a Christian point of view; why single out organs as underserving?

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I'm sorry but I think there's an awful lot of ill-informed predjudice being voiced in this discussion and this is a prime examle.

 

I've had the good fortune to play and hear most of the significant organs in my town, Cheltenham, which include two 4-manual instruments and a 3-M Rushworth & D. in the Town Hall which I'm very fond of, with the exception of the 3-manual H&H in the college chapel which I haven't experienced.  I've also recent experience of having played the 'real' organs in the cathedrals of Hereford, Worcester, Gloucester, Birmingham, Exeter, Wells, the abbeys of Bath, Tewkesbury and Romsey, major churches including St. Mary Redcliffe and St. Mary's Warwick.

 

All opinions are of course subjective, but I must re-iterate that to my ears our new Wyvern Phoenix organ at St. Mary's Charlton Kings is easily the best recital instrument in Cheltenham. The flutes are unsurpassed in the town. The reeds are commanding. Few of the cathedral and abbey organs I've listed above could match the flutes on this instrument.

 

When you talk about the real McCoy this is just meaningless. If the real McCoy is an ailing two-manual squeze box with no ranks above 4' pitch even an Allen would be better (and that's saying something).

 

Experience the best of the latest digital before you pass judgement, and dont assume that thats the most expensive!

Hi Neil

 

I think you've rather missed the point I was making. The point I was making that the arrogance and attitude of the salesman trying to make inroads replacing real pipe organs, of good quality and a viable future, really angered me.

 

I would agree that electronic simulation is, in some cases, more attractive that a poor quality, compromised "real Mccoy". I certainly think there is a place for them and I wish them no malice as they go about their business so long as it does no damage to our heritage of fine pipe organs and the craft that builds and maintains them, of which I am a strong and heart-felt supporter. In fact, I believe in some ways, the electronic simulation market could help and be an assest to the pipe organ industry.

 

I am glad for you that your church now has obtained a good organ which will serve the church well for many years. It is certainly an achievement, of which you and your church must be very proud. I am sure if I am in the Cheltenham area, I will try to pop in and have a look and listen. Having seen the latest Wvyerns, I am sure it is very good.

 

But when you talk about the comparisons of sound quality, I have played the latest and greatest by Wyvern, Copeman Hart, Makin, etc. While many have left me impressed (I ended up quite enjoying the tempory Makin in Sherborne Abbey), I have yet to hear an electronic which can match the quality of sound or flutes from say, Romsey Abbey or St Mary Redcliffe.

 

In a few weeks time, I will have the opportunity to compare the flutes of our tempory electronic against the flutes of our pipe organ when it comes into service. A lot of people (myself included) felt that the sound of the tempory electronic in our church was better than our old pipe organ when it first arrived but the sound now feels rather plasticky and "electric" when looking at the new instrument taking shape. Beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.

 

On the flip side of the success at Cheltenham, if you want to hear a few truly awful, fairly modern, digital Wyvern installations, I know a few good places.

 

So I would appreciate it if you do not start calling shots about ill-informed prejudice.

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I'm not an overly religious person, but I couldn't begin to justify the cost of a new pipe organ for our local church when put in the context of global poverty and starvation.

 

 

In which case, we might just as well all sell our homes, cars and other trappings of Western society and donate all the money to the poor and starving.

 

I am not suggesting that we do nothing to alleviate the suffereings of others - rather that we can do both: give to the poor and be responsible stewards of our resources.

 

The description of the building of the Temple in the Old Testament leaves one with the distinct impression that God wanted the best. There were poor and suffering then, too. Yet God still directed the builders to use gold, precious woods, etc.

 

It is worth remembering that in some cases, the money we give to the poor (including financial aid from Western governments) is mis-appropriated by despotic dictators, who use it to finance the purchase of weapons or to fund their own life-styles.

 

Personally, if the old organ really was beyond redemption, I would have actively investigated the possibility of salvaging a worthy redundant organ. Not infrequently, these can be obtained for surprisingly small cost; in addition, there are still a number of good organ builders around who could have moved it, re-erected it and restored it for a reasonable price - possibly little more than that of a new toaster. The pipe organ may well last rather longer, too.

 

I have played a number of electronic substitutes, including some which were apparently 'top-of-the-range'. I found them unsatisfying and felt that the sound quickly became wearisome - especially when played loudly. I have never heard any electronic with flutes (let alone reeds) which even approached the superb quality of those on my 'own' beautifully-voiced church organ.

 

As I have written before, electronic organs do not 'move the air' - this is an important factor when considering the aural effectiveness of electronic substitutes. I have found that, due to this, when played loudly, all I can hear is a wall of 'dead' sound - sheer noise. This was even true of the Rodgers temporary installation in the Quire of Gloucester Cathedral. Full organ became unpleasant very quickly. I find it difficult to imagine how it would be possible for the manufacturers of toasters to overcome this problem.

 

One further point. Whilst I have played on several pipe organs with awkward or nasty consoles, it seems to me that electronic substitutes (even quite expesive examples) have uniformly 'plastic' consoles - often encased in cheap veneer. Allen were in the past one of the worst culprits for this. One of the better ones was the Makin at Christchurch Priory - but then, this was something of a 'special' case, it being at the time, a 'flagship' of the Makin firm.

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