• SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,006
    I have been talking to some people in the parish (OK, mainly choir people, so they're not exactly unbiased!) about the state of the current organ.

    What we currently have is an Allen MDS 45 (1989 model, installed in 1990), and it has been acting up recently (loud humming noises, most of the swell stops fade away into a fuzzy nothingness while playing, etc.), I have asked 'the guy' about these things, and he says "Oh, that's the *something in electronic/computer/thingy-jargon-that-might-as-well-be-in-Turkish* (alternator?), we can't do anything about it until it fails completely". I can assure you that those are NOT reassuring words! At any rate, these people (the choir people, not the Allen people) and I got to talking about organs and how organs from the eighteenth century are still perfectly playable, and how digital organs often only last for about 20-30 years, and we've had ours about 25 years, which means its time has basically come...

    What we would like to see about looking into is an orphan organ from organ clearing house. But, I have a problem, and I blush to admit it: The number of real organs that I have had the opportunity to play are relatively limited, and limited to actual service playing. I have played instruments by Cassavant Freres, Aeolian-Skinner, EM Skinner, Fiske, and Beckerath. Most churches that I have played at have had digitals, or pianos, or, in one case, a reed organ. I have never touched a Moller, or a Hook-and-Hastings, or anything else.

    So, are there any builders who are notorious for bad instruments, either tonally or mechanically, or both, that I should stay away from? And, conversely, are there any builders we should ardently pursue, who are known for reliable instruments? Preferably, I would like an organ with a lot of color: I play an awful lot of French Music, from Jehan Titelouze to Daniel Roth, so I needs me some mutations and good solo reeds. And the quire rrrrrepertoire is verrrrry English, so a "German Baroque" screamer won't do!

    I am familiar with the two principal firms who build all-digital organs: Allen and Rodgers, and I know what their instruments are like. I am merely asking for help finding pipe-organ builders - I wan't to cover all of my bases.

    Thanks for your help. And apologies for my lack of knowledge.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,373
    I'm going to message you on Facebook.
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,373
    The bottom line is that a pipe organ is a real car... you might only be able to get a used Honda Civic, but it's an actual vehicle. Putting in another digital is just getting a joystick and a driving video game.

    I still drive my college Honda Civic, and I'm super comfortable in it.*

    * - this is not an analogy to pipe organs, but an actual description of the car I drive.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    All those you mentioned were/are reliable builders including Schantz and others not mentioned. I don't think the Organ Clearing House is going to push junk off on you. Those folks are pretty reputable.

    I just had the console rebuilt on the parish 1953 Schantz, and it is good for another 40 years before it may need releathering - we got 50 years on the last set of leathers and that was with organists who did not go to any lengths to care for the instrument.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 833
    Any of the builders on APOBA have fine reputations. I am in favor of using local builders - find one in your area. You can save travel costs for the company that way.
    BTW the prices on organ clearing house are just for the organ, not including the installation, which would vary greatly.
    Thanked by 1sergeantedward
  • No reputable builder of these fake and simulacrum organs has a technician who refuses to fix an organ. A problem as you have described is repairable. Call the main office of the organ builder (not the local dealer) and ask them for an evaluation.

    "Oh, that's the *something i electronic/computer/thingy-jargon-that-might-as-well-be-in-Turkish* (alternator?), we can't do anything about it until it fails completely"

    Is not something that a reputable organ service person says. The only non-repairable problems are in digital organs are ones that are intermittent that must be experienced to be detectable. This tech has identified the problem (not intermittent) and is unwilling to fix it. Get a real tech.

    Be careful - anyone that repeats this kind of statement is risking running into the problem of being accused of wanting to buy a new organ when the church finds out that the organ IS repairable. And that is NOT a position you want to find yourself in. The choir will support you because they like you. Others in the church will work against you and finding out that your organ is fixable WILL damaged your reputation.

    There is nothing in a digital computer organ that you have to wait till it fails to fix it. Like I said, get a real tech.

    As far as Organ Clearing House...John Bishop will steer you towards quality instruments. They also are able to remove and reinstall these organs - giving you the choice of them or a local person to do this work for you.

    Anyone that tells you not to buy a "_________" organ has to immediately be written off the list of trusted advisors in your mind.

    This is, by the way, the last time I will participate in a discussion where anyone uses the words fake and simulacrum or any other derogatory term to describe organs. If you truly hate these organs you are being a hypocrite by taking money for playing them.
  • doneill
    Posts: 141
    Yes, there are builders to stay away from, and some excellent ones. I won't name any on a public forum, but you are welcome to send me a private message if you want. There might be a bit of disconnect between your desires for French sounds and an English-style accompanying organ. French reeds are pretty fiery. What you might want is more Germanic or English reeds. They might not sound exactly like a French organ, but you can still play the rep. When you say "German Baroque screamer," you are probably referring to the American neo-baroque instruments of the 50's-60's. Real German baroque organs don't sound like that, and any voicer worth his/her salt will not let an organ scream, regardless of the character. German and English reeds actually have some similarity, in that they are chorus sounds meant to blend - thus they are great for service playing and accompanying. If I know where you are located, I might have some more specific recommendations.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    This is, by the way, the last time I will participate in a discussion where anyone uses the words fake and simulacrum or any other derogatory term to describe organs. If you truly hate these organs you are being a hypocrite by taking money for playing them.


    I have to agree, although definitely having a preference for pipe instruments. I am also fortunate enough to have one to play on Sunday. A real organist will play the organ a church has whether pipe or digital - as long as the instrument is in good condition and playable. Sometimes you just have to work with what you've got, even if you are longing for something better.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 833
    Well Charles, some of us have turned down recitals on these instruments.
    But i don't want to beat a dead horse.
    Tho there are some dead Allens i would like to beat.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    There are congregations that actually could afford pipe instruments, but some parishes struggle with finances and are lucky to get any kind of instrument. I have played in both the halls of the rich (Protestants) on the million dollar instruments as well as, on the Rodgers, Allens and even worse. My parish is the only Catholic parish in town that has kept its pipe instrument. However, if you take the job and salary knowing there is only an electronic, you don't have valid reasons to complain. When I worked for a church that had a Baldwin, however, it was hard to keep from complaining. LOL.
  • ...or any other derogatory term to describe organs.


    Um, I've, uh, yet to observe anyone on this forum using any derogatory term to describe organs. (Except, maybe, 'Baroque screamer'.)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    anyone uses the words fake and simulacrum or any other derogatory term to describe organs.


    I think this is what he means. "Baroque screamer?" Yep, I have definitely heard a few of those and every one of them was built in the sixties. Must have been something in the water at the time. LOL.
  • To the OP: I sincerely hope that you get your pipe organ.

    I love the sound and 'feel' of a pipe organ. I've been lucky enough to play what seemed to me to be good instruments only a few times. Mostly, I have played various digital instruments, all the way 'down' to a MIDI keyboard through an iPad (running Jeux d'Orgues, which actually sounds far better, to my ear, than many low-end purpose-built digital instruments).

    As far as what one puts in a parish (or any) church, as far as what is 'real' and what is not, as far as what might be valued or not, as far as I'm concerned, a lot depends on one's means, the available alternatives, and other circumstances. When a former parish went from the iPad playing sampled organ sounds to cheap, plasticky, (but 'real') guitars, it was a step down in musical quality, among other things.

    Take a trip around rural South Carolina (or any comparable, or worse-off, place) and you will find parishes in which a pipe organ is, well, a pipe dream -- they struggle to pay the utility bills. Those that choose a cheap digital solution such as a sampled organ are, as far as I'm concerned, far better off, musically, than those that choose (and this example is not made-up, alas) an accordion.
  • Um, what is an accordion?
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,846
    Jim Fixx was approaching the end of a long run along the Charles. As he naturally wound down his momentum he again afforded himself the time-honored and honed imaginings of the sights, sounds, scents, feel and taste of Boston Outside in each, every and all of her seasons and climes. Glorious. He relished the peal of the bells of First Church. That brought other pleasant recollections.
    3000 miles away, Jules labored heavily on the Nordic Track as the last, simulated ascending grade taxed his lungs, his legs, his heart, everything. The sun was just dawning over the crest of Mount San Antonio, and that somehow coincided with the tracks on his Walkman, it was playing “Also sprach Zarathustra” as he pushed himself to the finish the programmed routine.
    Most odd, how they both took their last breaths as they were intently listening to the simple but indescribable bits of sonic perfection (to them) of their respective, final auditions. Their last cognitive moment, before they drifted into a blissful altered state of consciousness, was adorned with their own conception of that last waltz.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,006
    Two things:

    Firstly, Noel: I am very sorry for upsetting you, or anyone else, it was not my intention. I understand that digital instruments are often the only thing that a parish can afford, and are better than nothing. I am editing the thread title, etc., to remove the offending language.

    Secondly, as far as 'Baroque screamer' goes, yes, I was referring to the American neo-Baroque instruments. I have heard several of the surviving authentic Baroque organs in Germany (via recording, of course), and they are lovely instruments, with some really warm voices. But I don't think that the Georgenkirche is ready to part with their Silbermann yet.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    A builder who will not be named once remarked that the Baroque screamer he installed locally would have a rounder and smoother tone after some years of use. Maybe if I heard some of those neo-Baroque-ies in another 400 years, I might think more highly of them.

    I am happy for you, Salieri, and am wishing you every success in getting your new instrument.
  • doneill
    Posts: 141
    No, small chance of acquiring a Silbermann, but there are some very fine builders building lovely organs with warm voicing in the historic Germanic style.
  • Um, what is an accordion?

    ;-)

    You'll want to remain in a state of innocence on this matter.
    Thanked by 2bonniebede tomjaw
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    Um, what is an accordion?


    It is the instrument they give you when your soul arrives in Hell. According to an old "Far Side" cartoon, souls arriving in Heaven get harps.

    Enjoy, Jackson! LOL.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDFFUIGoBUc
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Earl_Grey
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,006
    image
  • i won't mention a custom in dublin here of 'tradoration' for st Patricks day , then.
  • Sorry, "non-digital" does not cut it. Unless you only want a tracker.

    The vast majority of pipe organs built today use digital circuitry. And, many add additional stops that play from digital circuitry. Even the most restrictive pipe organ builder association permits them for 32' stop and a limited number of other stops.

    Here is what this small group of pipe builders has agreed to:
    APOBA policy

    And, you'll find no such mention of any policy against digital stops in this much larger group:

    AIO Policy


    The real core matter is simple.

    Are you choosing an organ by the materials it is built from or how it sounds when you play it?

    There are well-designed digitally-sound produced organs out that there exceed the musical potential of many pipe organs you will find in the average church.

    Buying a pipe organ, in some people's minds, allays the fear that they, down deep, do not know enough about organs to make the decision between pipes and digital-sourced organs. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. But it's true.

    Take a priest along who knows nothing about music and some people from the church who know nothing. Insist the person presenting the organ not talk at all about the organ, but only play it and let you or your organist play the same music on it at each church.

    Let the person presenting the organ set the stops for you or your organist so that you hear the organ at its best.

    Each person has a sheet of paper with simple questions the layman can answer about how it sounds to them.

    If we do not respect organ builders of all kinds, we are setting ourselves and our church up to be taken advantage of.

    If we are not willing to listen to all kinds of organs, we can end up buying a pipe organ that will cause people to look at the ad for the organist job and skipping to the next one, thinking, "Oh, one of those. Never enough ranks, DE chests, poorly voiced but cheap, typical organ for a Catholic church."

    I'm not here to tell you to buy a digital organ. I'm here to tell you to keep your ears and mind open.

    If it were not for open-minded people, we'd all still be singing H&H.

    Or, to put it simply, "get your ears out of your @#$."


    If you refuse to listen to an organ because of the way it makes it sound, you have fallen into the trap set for you by an organ sales people who do not want you thinking on your own.
  • Scrolling through Facebook this just appeared. Coincidence, I suppose. "What you are complaining about," says the priest, "you're the one that had to have a pipe organ."

    image
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,006
    And that image, Noel, is why I started this. And why I am not asking questions about pipe-free organs, or whatever is the PC terminology at present.

    I have added this sentence to the original post (and renamed the thread--again):

    I am familiar with the two principal firms who build all-digital organs: Allen and Rodgers, and I know what their instruments are like. I am merely asking for help finding pipe-organ builders - I wan't to cover all of my bases.


    In fact, a few months ago I played a new Allen installation in a local church. I thought it was quite good.

    In addition to covering my bases: I don't want to paint myself into a corner by permitting us to get either a lousy digital organ or a lousy pipe organ simply because it's the cheapest thing.

    But I will do as you say, and get my ears out of my ass. (Maybe I should look into a 64' Contra Trombone?)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    But I will do as you say, and get my ears out of my ass. (Maybe I should look into a 64' Contra Trombone?)


    On 100'' of wind. That will put an end to sleeping through the homily. ;-)
  • Rodgers is not just a builder of all-digital organs, but a builder of digital, digital/pipe hybrid and also pure pipe organs.

    There are few, if any other builders, that have successful installations in use of all three types of organs.

    See # 17.

    155 Pipe Ranks and 10,412 Pipes.

    It does, admittedly, use 4 digital stops, but all within the strict limitations of APOBA. (Which was, I am sure, not why those stops were chosen but because it made sense.)

    Note that dg is digital, pf is prepared for.

    At that point Rodgers had purchased the Aeolian Skinner library of pipe scaling documents and built a number of all pipe instruments. But no trackers.

    They have not built a pure pipe organ recently but do supply pipe builders with equipment.
    Thanked by 1Steve Collins
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,258
    Rodgers is not a builder of all-digital organs


    Yes they are. They are just not the builder of all digital organs (because Allen builds some of them), nor are they a builder of only digital organs.

    But some of their organs are all-digital.
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    When I bought my home Rodgers they offered 6 ranks of pipes to attach to it. The pipes cost more than the digital organ. Even if I had wanted to spend the money, I didn't have the space. I have heard Rodgers pipe and pipe/hybrid instruments. They sounded pretty nice to me. That company has the technology to build anything they want to build.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,318
    Holy speedy reedy. Give that guy a pipe organ! Love the click of the trackers and the flexible winding.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    flexible winding


    Is that a new term for "wheeze?" LOL
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 3,460
    flexible winding

    Is that a new term for "wheeze?" LOL

    Or, is it a new term for "flatulate a happy tune?"
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,006
    I don't know if anyone will find thing interesting, but here it is:

    We've looked into pipe and digital options:

    For me, musicially, A***n and Rogers were out of the question: I dislike their instruments. (And this is not an anti-digital assessment -- I mean it in the same way that some organists dislike certain builders of pipe-organs.)

    We looked into options for used pipes, and with the work that will be needed to prepare the building, it would be far, far too expensive (we're talking well over $500,000); and there are concerns that the fabric of the building might not take the weight of a pipe-organ.

    The option that seems the most promising is commissioning an Opus organ from Marshall & Ogletree. It seems the best solution, both in terms of money spent, and space available.

    I have spoken with some people who play M&O instruments, and the revues are positive. I have played their instruments and have been quite impressed. I know that the purists here won't be happy, but, as Joseph II said, "There it is".

    Any thoughts?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    If your building will not support the weight of a pipe organ, and extensive building modification is beyond your means, digital may be your only option. M&O builds some of the best of the digitals, but I think their prices get into refurbished pipe instrument territory. However, you did say the building is a problem. Sometimes you have to make the best choice of the options you have.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,006
    Our only real options as far as the building is concerned were to get a three-rank continuo organ or a digital. If you want, I'll PM you the proposed stop-list.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    There is a new, multi-million dollar church in the burbs with a loft that can never support the weight of a pipe organ. They have an Allen, or as you say, "A***n," LOL. To get a pipe instrument they would have to move the choir to the front and install an instrument there. This was a genuine case of failing to communicate with the architects, but little can be done about it after-the-fact.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 943
    I can't believe M&O would be cheaper than a pipe organ. They are extraordinarily expensive for an electronic substitute! A lot of the success of an electronic depends on how involved in "voicing" you want to get. Even the most rudimentary Allens now allow you to "voice" every stop for balance, etc. It's impressive for what it is.

    Did you have a structural engineer do a study? This is very important if you did not. The most famous (recent) case of this cropping up is for Christ the King CC in Dallas. Their gallery could basically only support a couple tons. So, Juget-Sinclair figured out a way to cantilever the whole thing off the wall. It's incredible structurally and musically, all the more so because they had to work with the constraints of mechanical action. The story is fascinating. Price is high, but then this is a huge instrument. Their small instruments are priced very reasonably considering they are built from scratch! https://www.agohq.org/november-2015-tao-feature-article/

    In any case, you really NEED to have a study done. You might end up being surprised, and there are lots of perfectly decent pipe organs out there looking for homes. Sure beats something that, in the end, is throwaway technology.
  • M&O certainly seems an interesting option.
    Volume/floor space issues are generally not very negotiable in churches, that is a real constraint unless you install pipes in some very non-traditional manner.
    Weight really shouldn't be a permanent constraint, a clever architect or engineer, with a competent builder, should be able to figure out a way of supporting any organ that would reasonably be installed in a church, barring a constraint like protected historical status that prevents structural modification, but there will obviously be costs that may make it an unreasonable choice.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,318
    do a study... you won't want to live with a hasty decision on something so important.
  • I'm staying out of this.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 408
    Weight really shouldn't be a permanent constraint, a clever architect or engineer, with a competent builder, should be able to figure out a way of supporting any organ that would reasonably be installed in a church


    Don't let an architect do this study. It's not their 'ball of wax'. Only use a competent structural engineer. It's what they do for a living.
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 408
    Um, what is an accordion?


    It's one of those folding doors they use to partition off a meeting room space.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,006
    I should also mention that the choir loft is one of the smallest I've seen. It's only 14 feet wide and 16 feet deep. And space is at a premium.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,075
    None of us have seen your building, at least I haven't. It could have stone walls or just as easily, curtain walls that can't support much of anything. You know your place best. I have to admit, that is a really small loft. Seems to me, you would have to hang the organ from the ceiling to have room for instrument and choir.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,373
    I was always told by everyone that the loft at the Cathedral was not structurally built to hold a pipe organ. People insisted one of my predecessors (several directors removed) did a study and found that it couldn't hold the weight. But nobody has copies of this study and when I tried to contact the former DM I received no reply.

    So I had a study done and they said go ahead and put a pipe organ in, you'll be fine. But still to this day people talk about how they heard the loft wasn't safe for a pipe organ....

    So I would just consider your options... usually where there's a will, there's a way... creative people can come up with creative solutions to things like small lofts, etc.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,318
    matthewj

    is it possible that they did not WANT a pipe organ and skewed the results?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,006
    None of us have seen your building, at least I haven't.

    We shall have to remedy that.

    I should mention that all Forumites have an open invitation to the Parish, which includes at least Tea, if not dinner.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Jahaza
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,373

    matthewj

    is it possible that they did not WANT a pipe organ and skewed the results?


    No, they clearly wanted one. My guess is that they just got some bad advice "off the record" rather than hiring someone to come in and look.
  • 14' x 16', that does not give much room to play with, wouldn't take many pipes at all to eat up much of that space, on the other hand you can fit more speakers than you will ever need or want.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,318
    look at Roland... it cost about 15k to put in a c-330 and it simulates (yes MJO, a simulacrum) a european tracker. You could buy it and have it installed in about three weeks from today and it would be a perfect temporary solution until you figure out your long-term plan. google roland c 330.

    another review

    http://organlessons.blogspot.com/2010/07/review-roland-c-330-classic-organ.html?m=1
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,006
    And that 14x16 space also needs to fit the choir, too.

    Thanks for the info, Francis. I will look into that.