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Swell Shutters


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In many German organs from the early-romantic era, you find exactly that: Horizontal shutters controlled by a hitch pedal.

 

...and there is the Mühleisen system, in which horizontal shutters turn as well as fold, so that two neighbouring shutters form a V-shaped unit when the box is open. By this method, the front of the box can be opened wider than possible with individual shutters, and projection problems with uniformly opening shutters are prevented.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

Horizontal/hitch - of course they do usually come together. Pierre's suggestion was that horizontal shutters belong exclusively to hitch pedals and are therefore no good for anything else. This must be news to certainly 95% of small 1/2/3 manual parish jobs in this bit of the UK at least, which have horizontal shutters and balanced pedals!

 

I have seen a symmetrical folding door front - St Peter Mancroft, Norwich - they were worked by a "balanced" pedal but required whole body weight to get them moving. I gather there are plans to change them when the organ is cleaned.

 

I like the idea of the V-shape system but would hate to have to service one that gets stuck...

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When I first joined 'the trade' I was assured by the man I worked with that the best swell boxes had solid wood, vertical shutters, with double beveled edges. He disliked horizontal shutters because they could drop dust on the reeds. In some circumstances they may be inappropriate, as others have said, but that was his opinion, and I wasn't going to argue - not with him!

Wurlitzer swell fronts had a number (8?) of vertical shutters, moving independently, but unlike other fronts I have seen (and made!) they were of differing widths, and opened in two stages, giving 16 stages of crescendo altogether with 8 shutters. The narrowest opened first. I don't much like cinema organs, but if my memory is correct the crescendo was OK. It's a long time ago now, though, and I am happy to bow to those with more recent experience!

 

Regards to all

 

John

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  • 4 weeks later...
Apart from Liverpool and my place, what other large organs have still got ISG's? Westminster?

 

The McEwan Hall (University of Edinburgh) (see NPOR link) here in Edinburgh still has its ISG pedals. The IV/62 organ was built by Hope-Jones in 1897, rebuilt by Willis in 1953 (when the current console with ISG pedals to Choir, Swell and Solo was fitted) and overhauled by Rushworth & Dreaper in 1980.

 

The ISG mechanism works perfectly on the Choir (probably due to minimal use) but is tired and needing overhaul on the Swell. It won't shut any faster than a crawl, and it will only open at either a creep or 100mph! All part of the fun, however! Once you get the hang of it it's very useful. I think it would be a great pity to lose them - they seem to be part and parcel of the 1953 console, with all its coupler gadgetry.

 

Andrew Caskie

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The McEwan Hall (University of Edinburgh) (see NPOR link) here in Edinburgh still has its ISG pedals.  The IV/62 organ was built by Hope-Jones in 1897, rebuilt by Willis in 1953 (when the current console with ISG pedals to Choir, Swell and Solo was fitted) and overhauled by Rushworth & Dreaper in 1980.

 

The ISG mechanism works perfectly on the Choir (probably due to minimal use) but is tired and needing overhaul on the Swell.  It won't shut any faster than a crawl, and it will only open at either a creep or 100mph!  All part of the fun, however!  Once you get the hang of it it's very useful.  I think it would be a great pity to lose them - they seem to be part and parcel of the 1953 console, with all its coupler gadgetry.

 

Andrew Caskie

 

Excellent - I wasn't aware of this. I agree - if I ever get the money to get my place rebuilt, the ISG's are definitely staying.

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Guest Roffensis

 

Sadly I think that might be it.

 

Westminster lost them at some stage (Harrison rebuild?). I did wonder about St George's Hall - however NPOR lists them as balanced (but I note that they are switchable to different pedals, as ISG's are). I'm a bit surprised if they were converted away from ISG, given that the Cathedral organist has been the curator in recent years. Anyone know the facts?

 

JJK

 

 

SGH is not ISG.

 

R

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Westminster lost them at some stage (Harrison rebuild?). I did wonder about St George's Hall - however NPOR lists them as balanced (but I note that they are switchable to different pedals, as ISG's are).JJK

 

This is not exclusive to ISGs - it is also possible with conventional balanced pedals, if they are not mechanically linked - as in the R&D four-clavier instrument at St. Andrew's, Plymouth.

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This is not exclusive to ISGs - it is also possible with conventional balanced pedals, if they are not mechanically linked - as in the R&D four-clavier instrument at St. Andrew's, Plymouth.

 

I was tempted to post something purely so my name could entirely dominate the index page, but that would be just sad. Instead, I'll point out that it's harder with balanced pedals - certainly harder to use - because as a rule the contacts determining shutter position are attached to the pedal. Therefore, when you operate the switch, the shutters will instantly bang to the position of the receiving pedal. The joy of ISG's is that this doesn't happen but you can, for instance, set things up so the choir is half open and the swell fully open, in order to make the two divisions balance, then make them go up and down in tandem.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I was tempted to post something purely so my name could entirely dominate the index page, but that would be just sad.  Instead, I'll point out that it's harder with balanced pedals - certainly harder to use - because as a rule the contacts determining shutter position are attached to the pedal.  Therefore, when you operate the switch, the shutters will instantly bang to the position of the receiving pedal.  The joy of ISG's is that this doesn't happen but you can, for instance, set things up so the choir is half open and the swell fully open, in order to make the two divisions balance, then make them go up and down in tandem.

 

 

This might be the case when your ISGs are working perfectly, but how often is this the case? At Liverpool recently, pedals that were theoretically allocatable proved to be otherwise, and proceeded to sulk and do unexpected things until the switchplate positions were put back to the previous status quo.

 

This is a case of splendid engineering and a clever idea not being (in the final analysis) nearly so easy to use and maintain as a simple lever.

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This might be the case when your ISGs are working perfectly, but how often is this the case? At Liverpool recently, pedals that were theoretically allocatable proved to be otherwise, and proceeded to sulk and do unexpected things until the switchplate positions were put back to the previous status quo.

 

 

Paul - do you think that this was possibly due to the switchplate controlling the ISGs having been left 'in-position' for a considerable time and so the contacts simply got used to being where they were? I know that this is not particularly technical, but I have observed old electro-mechanical piston-setting mechanisms behaving in a similar way.

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You can now the gauges work again... They literally are Morris Minor gauges, too - Smiths fuel gauges with a slightly different face plate, I believe.

 

But yes, you don't intuitively know where the shutters are, but, of course, once you get used to an instrument, you can a) tell by the tone :) just "know".

 

Perhaps David Wyld can explain how they work? I've never really understood the engineering side of it.

 

Very long slow controlled crescendi are easy with it. A big bang is easy with it, but probably not as easy as with a balanced pedal. Open a bit - play - open a bit more - play, etc, is much easier with it than the balanced variety - just give it a quick kick when you get chance, and it'll open a bit at a time.

 

I played Liverpool many years ago, the choir console gauges had a series of green and red lights instead of the needle - perhaps it made it easier to see on this vast console...I found the pedals easy to get used to - indeed easier than controlling a heavy mechanical pedal. (Incidentally, I am sure that the Gen Cres pedal had a number indicator...1-39 and when it reached 40 it just flashed... FO at you :)

 

We recently had a new swell shutter front and engine installed. We removed the old horizontal shutters, using a one shutter at a time system (its an old R&D!) and put in vertical ones. These are hollow and are supposedly designed to minimise leakage - which they do. What has impressed me most is the new engine, it is an electric Peterson style machine (I think!) there are stages as in the more traditional wiffle tree system, but as it has been carefully set up (its computer controlled) the stages are totally un detectable.

I believe Canterbury had a similar system put on to their swell a few years ago too.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I played Liverpool many years ago, the choir console gauges had a series of green and red lights instead of the needle - perhaps it made it easier to see on this vast console...I found the pedals easy to get used to - indeed easier than controlling a heavy mechanical pedal. (Incidentally, I am sure that the Gen Cres pedal had a number indicator...1-39 and when it reached 40 it just flashed... FO at you :)

 

We recently had a new swell shutter front and engine installed. We removed the old horizontal shutters, using a one shutter at a time system (its an old R&D!) and put in vertical ones. These are hollow and are supposedly designed to minimise leakage - which they do. What has impressed me most is the new engine, it is an electric Peterson style machine (I think!) there are stages as in the more traditional wiffle tree system, but as it has been carefully set up (its computer controlled) the stages are totally un detectable.

I believe Canterbury had a similar system put on to their swell a few years ago too.

 

 

Do tell - which organ is this?

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This might be the case when your ISGs are working perfectly, but how often is this the case? At Liverpool recently, pedals that were theoretically allocatable proved to be otherwise, and proceeded to sulk and do unexpected things until the switchplate positions were put back to the previous status quo.

 

This is a case of splendid engineering and a clever idea not being (in the final analysis) nearly so easy to use and maintain as a simple lever.

 

Surprisingly, given the lack of major maintenance on my beast, the ISG's are working fine - noisy, but fine. The switch plate works fine - I used it only this morning to put both Sw and Ch on the same pedal.

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Surprisingly, given the lack of major maintenance on my beast, the ISG's are working fine - noisy, but fine. The switch plate works fine - I used it only this morning to put both Sw and Ch on the same pedal.

 

 

Adrian, when you do this, what does the other pedal do?

 

:)

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Oh.

 

Thanks.

 

:) Basically you have 2 two-position switches. The top one controls the swell shutters, the bottom the choir shutters. The two positions are which pedal each set of shutters is assigned to.

 

So it's:

 

Sw

L or R

Ch

L or R

 

Which means that if you have, say, both Sw & Ch set to the right hand pedal, then you can't allocate any function to the other pedal.

 

As the pedals are quite firmly sprung, for a long, slow and controlled crescendo across both divisions, it's much easier to put both sets of shutters on one pedal than it is to operate both pedals at the same time.

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