• PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Do any of you have experience with so-called "hybrid" organs? Who are the best builders? I've heard that Rogers/Ruffatti are superior, but a friend who represents Johannes claims (obviously) that the Rogers technology is years outdated.

    Our church may be looking at purchasing a new organ. The reality is that because of space limitations (the church wasn't built with a pipe organ in mind) and monetary limitations an all pipe instrument just won't be possible. But I'd at least like to put something with pipes in rather than go the all digital route.

    Who do you think are the best in this area and why?
  • Pipe organs are always possible spacewise if there's a strong, unwavering commitment to it.
    At one church where I was D/M, we installed a new pipe organ whose footprint (minus the pedals) was about the size of a large office desk.
    It can be done.
    Thanked by 1BJJ1978
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    While pipe organ will probably always be the ultimate in the church organ, this is the 21st century. I have personal experience with hybrid organs, and am a proponent. A number of digital organ companies have had, for a number of years, the capability of driving coils on pipe organ chests. I've never been impressed with the Rogers/Ruffatti combination. Frankly, those are two large, established companies that had a sizable budget for advertising. I don't even think they are still in a partnership. Allen Organs lets their franchisees deal with whatever pipe organ interests will work with them, and that mostly counts out most of the good pipe organ builders in the USA.

    My best experiences are with the Johannus models. Honestly, I currently act on a consulting basis with a pipe organ builder who specializes in hybrid organs with Johannus. This is probably not the venue to get into the nitty-gritty details of all the possibilities, or the subjective, political fall-out! Just send me a private email, and I'll connect you with people who can help with your project.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    What is your present instrument?
    I have not heard enough hybrids to begin to form any opinion.

    Here is my situation ...

    1952 parish formed and church (seats 350) built with loft having 14-foot apex.
    Probably the thought was "more than sufficient for one Bourdon and a few 8-foot ranks" organ,
    which was never acquired. Other area churches similarly constructed;
    their instruments where extant are Schoenstein and Moller versions of above, all rarely/never used now.

    1994 parish installed Wicks pipes (17) with Peterson EMP guts and Walker Technical digitals (12).
    Swell: Celeste 8
    Great: Fourniture III, Trumpet 8
    Antiphonal/Choir: Spitz 8, Celeste 8, Clarinet 8, Chimes, Harp
    Pedal: Subbass 16, Fagotto 16, Principal 16, Schalmei 4
    Speaker size and placement successful.

    2002 hired.
    Sw Nazard (add 1-12, 50-61)
    Sw Tierce (add 1-12, 50-61)
    Sw Basson (add 1-12)
    Ped Resultant (make digital)
  • When an representative of any organ company talks negatively about a competitor...it's time to turn and run and find someone who is ethical to talk with.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    noel: I agree. I try not to speak ill of any organ builder - pipe, digital, or combo. I have worked with many. I have played on quite a few. I have also played on many pipe organs, of various types by various builders, and I even play on a Yamaha Clavinova on a regular basis here. I have my preferences - some based on technical (objective) criteria, some on more subjective feelings. I will play for Mass on anything but a piano!

    It is sometimes difficult to wear both hats - organist and organbuilder!

    Adding digital stops to an existing organ is a bit different than starting over. The voices you desire are easily created digitally, but you may be stuck with some type of expansion of your existing system. Wicks chests are very well built and reliable. Peterson also makes good products. I've worked with them all. If something more comprehensive is desired, then the Wicks chests and pipes would certainly be usable with any contemporary digital/hybrid console/system - even any future such product.

    Further discussion of options and preferences might not be so fruitful on a Forum, unless we're chatting in generalities.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473

    I agree with you in principle; however, the church seats over 800 people - think of a medium/small medium cathedral. In order to support congregational singing of that whole church, you would need a good number of ranks - more than 5 or 6. The space just will not accomadate that - at least with out SIGNIFICANT (expensive) renovations. That is absolultely out of the question.

    Right now they are thinking digital. If I can steer them at least towards "part pipe" that would be a victory in itself.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    Paix: I think you and your parish are on the right track, especially for your particular situation. My email is available on this Forum if you would like to discuss any particular ideas or aspects.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    Paix: "purchasing a new organ"
    New would imply that you have an old one. Details?
    Paix is still silent.

    I (eft) provided info about the Wicks hybrid in my parish as a datapoint, and here is more:
    Church seats 350. Swell and Great in loft. Antiphonal/Choir and console near sanctuary.
    Not all the pipework in one place? Correct!
    The arrangement works well (choir accompaniment, concert continuo, etc).
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    EFT: The current situation is that we have a Johannes digital organ which we did not even pay for. It is one of those "showpiece" arrangements. For a variety of reasons that I can't get into here, the parish may be terminating this arrangement and opting to purchase something.

    I have been somewhat impressed by the sound of the current organ - but I also have serious reservations about it. The console doesn't appear to be extremely well constructed. There are minute electrical issues apparant to me - will they later become not so minute? Time could tell.

    So we are researching from scratch - and all I can see so far is that it is all opinion. One person comes along and says "Allen is the best, hands down!" The next says "But Johannes uses the latest technology." Still a third, "But Virgil Fox played Rogers'".

    So I am somewhat at a loss of what to make of it all.

    I personally played an Allen before. Honestly, it's a tossup for me between the Allen and Johannes. Not a ton of difference to me.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Every organist should semi-annually contact the local dealers/builders and ask what you should hear of their recent work.

    There are definite technical advantages with Rodgers over Allen and definitely over Johannus....but only if your local representative has the ability to correctly design and voice installations. So all the technical reasons for the superiority of Rodgers over the others are totally wasted if the dealer does not understand how the technical issues act to create the sound that the organ is capable of. To really understand the technology issues, do a patent search. The patents clearly outline the reasons for the design of the tonal generation system and they protect the developer from others using that technology.

    Any company that claims technical superiority is making baseless claims...unless you are able to see the patents.

    Fox enjoyed having Rodgers provide an organ for him, but eventually had a falling out and he bought an Allen. He, like Diane Bish wouls play anything people paid him to play. Like Carlo Curley, who would not play Rodgers until the last few years, and now will.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,697
    I am a purist. Digital organs are a cop out and are a poor excuse for such an important part of the liturgy. Get a real instrument. Plan long term to raise the money fo the real thing. It will last 10 to 20 times longer than a digital and you will WANT to play it because it is a real instrument.
  • I second Francis. 'Digital organ', like 'electronic organ' is an oxymoron. An instrument is either an organ or it isn't. If it isn't it is in the same category as plastic 'flowers'. Two ranks of reality is better than a hundred of anyone's tuned buzzers.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    I'm sorry to disagree with both Francis and my old friend Jackson. The PIPE organ is all but dead, mainly due to the best being far too expensive, and the proliferation of really bad organs that just happen to have all pipes. This is the 21st century. Tracker organs especially are 17th century technology, which a few builders updated with some minor 20 century tweaks.

    I will agree that the Church in general needs to pay more attention, and more money, to its music program. But that should come primarily in the form of hiring good musicians with the clear intention of keeping them. An organ, pipe or digital, can only provide music when played upon by a musician.
  • Saying that the pipe organ is all but dead is very similar to saying that live choirs [as opposed to playing recordings] are all but dead.
    It's like saying that real materials such as stone, marble, brass, or hardwood are all but dead, with the implication that plastic or formica are all that's reasonably needed.
    The future of pipe organs, like the futures of choirs, polyphony, and the chant itself, relies on dedication, imagination, artistry, and sacrifice.
    To the extent that these are living and true realities in our liturgy and its allied music-making, there will be new and excellent pipe organs.
    We must not sell ourselves and our Church short, literally or figuratively.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    It's not selling short to utilize available technology. My point is that technology (the musical instrument) is not the only component.

    There will always be some organ builders out there building stunning pipe organs.

    My hybrid philosophy is that a solid (preferably beautiful) Principal chorus and a secondary Flute chorus is key to leading congregational singing. These pipes should be in a case to help focus the sound, not just exposed, in the open some where. String, Celestes, color-flutes and mutations, and especially reeds function just as well as digital stops, especially those stops traditionally enclosed in expression boxes. Also most all of the bass sounds are more efficiently produced digitally. This is a "best of both world" concept - and I do mean best. All the cutting edge digital technology will not make cheaply constructed and poorly voiced pipes work any better. Not will a handful of cheap digital voices added to a moderately nice pipe organ really enhance the overall instrument.

    So long as the digital organ representatives simply deliver and plug in their instruments, and the best pipe organ builders shun any digital integration, the result is, by definition, NOT the best of both worlds.

    Good hybrid organs should be an option for churches not so financially blessed - that's my point. As long as the "top" musicians in the Church and in secular academia shun all digital advances, this subjective bias towards pure pipe organs will continue. And the largest part of the resulting purchase of pipe organs will continue to include the poorest quality pipe organs sold to unwitting churches by unscrupulous "pipe" organ builders.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • Hybrid organs tend to do one of two things:

    1. Proof that pipes are definitely superior and digitals disappointing
    2. Proof that digital can be indistinguishable from pipes...and then the money spent on the pipes was wasted!
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • DBP's observations are evidence of great integrity and acumen. (And I must disagree with my old friend, Steve.) The specious assertion that digital or electronic instruments are somehow '21st century' and that an organ is a relic of the past (when most organs were bad anyway) is neither honest nor morally cogent. That organs are 21st century instruments is a fact evidenced by the continued construction of fine examples of the organbuilder's art. It is a hideous affront and a shameless theft of human dignity to suggest that craftsmanship, that is, the fashioning of pipes and other objects of art by human hands in wood, metal, marble or whatever, is somehow not 21st century. What do people who think like that take us for? What manner of undiscerning cretins do they wish to turn us into? Technology? The 21st century is not entitled to a monopoly on this word. It applies to the marvels of human pro-creativity throughout the ages!
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    What we really need are singing cyborgs: after a little surgery and the implantation of suitable digital signal processing and amplification equipment, humans could sing in harmony with themselves. Presto - a single cantor could do everything. The solution to all our problems.
    Thanked by 1bhcordova
  • a hideous affront, manner of undiscerning cretins, a shameless theft of human dignity, specious assertion?

    I must say that I resemble that remark.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,169
    As an old computer guy, I get skeptical when someone proclaims that Brand A has "the latest technology". In the field of electronic gizmos, "newer" can be accompanied by "less reliable, less proven, more prone to failure, more idiosyncratic, less maintainable", etc.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    I've avoided weighing in for fear of offending some on this board, Noel in particular, for whom I have great respect. Also, I must at the outset confess that at my most recent job we had a Rodgers 960D, which after considerable work both with the on-board "voice palette" options and by bringing in the local technician with the software necessary to make "voicing adjustments" to the existing samples, it was a very pleasant instrument to play. In fact, Barry Rose (of St. Paul's London fame, directed the Men and Boys for the wedding of Diana and Charles, and a fantastic organist and choir trainer) was in town working with several choirs, my boys' and girls' choir included, and when he first arrived he began playing the organ. He smiled and said, "very nice."

    For those familiar with this make and model of organ, the "Festival Trumpet" as it existed was harsh, loud, and ear-splitting. With work we beat back the upper harmonics and goosed the volume as high as it would go. The result? A Tuba Mirabilis. Not what the manufacturer intended, but it made the stop completely useful for both hymn-playing and literature, which it was not before. We continued to work on balancing the Great Diapason chorus and reeds and the Swell and Pedal reed choruses. The technician said it was great fun to work with an organist who cared what the instrument sounded like. With the work done I was able to play the English literature (Howells, etc.,) and French Romantic literature with great satisfaction.

    Having said all of that, I still have my prejudices regarding digital simulators versus pipe organs as well as hybrids. There are several things to consider. First of all, there is artistic value. Organ building is a high art, and quite frankly to my ears nothing beats the sound of a real pipe organ with wind being blown through the pipes. It is entirely impossible for a digitally simulated instrument to duplicate the physics of a vibrating column of air and its acoustic and physical behavior in a room. Sound waves from a speaker, to my knowledge, do not effect the air space in the room in quite the same way. The exception that I make is the use of Walker digital systems to fill out 32' ranks of flues and reeds. Having heard these I think they work well underneath an otherwise fully-pipe instrument. However, I don't think that hybrids work well, primarily because the techniques of "voicing" a digital rank as against a real pipe are so different, and the response of the room and behavior of the winded pipes are so radically different from their digital, speakered counterparts.

    But aside from this, there is a financial angle to consider. If you take the cost of a new, carefully restored or renovated instrument (which is otherwise of high quality) versus the cost of digital instrument, and amortize it over the life of each instrument and also do a cost/benefit analysis of each, one finds that it is in the long run much more responsible in terms of stewardship for the congregation or parish to opt for a pipe instrument as against a digital, computer-based instrument. Think about it. The minute you turn an electronic device on, it begins to deteriorate. How many of us have a computer that is more than say 5 years old that is still fully useable? Between the deterioration and the rapidity of advances and changes in technology, the practical life expectancy of a digital instrument is at best 20 years. There are pipe organs (some renovated or updated in minor ways) that are still fully playable that are 100 years old or more!

    I hope that I've provided food for thought that does not offend. I realize that there are practicalities that must always be considered when making these choices. I would like to encourage people to look away from financial consideration and look at a bigger picture with respect to this issue.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    If you go completely digital, you remove the organ pipe's analogy to the human voice. It becomes just another timbre. The mechanics are an important part of this analogy, which, IIRC, the Church uses in its justification of organ as an instrument fit for sacred use. Yes, "hybrid" preserves the analogy. To an extent.

    Just sayin'.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    Yes, Pes, to an extent - that of leading the breathing congregation with breathing pipes. That is the goal of my hybrid model.

    And David said, similar to some of my statements, that the question is the "quality" of both the basic technology and the human utilization of the full extent of that technology. The same qualitative analogy needs to be applied to the pure pipe organ, since there are more than plenty of horrid pipe organs out the - 4th go-around rebuilds as well as brand new.

    We can all post objectively and subjectively all we want. Each individual circumstance needs a balance of thought applied before completion of the project.
  • This really is an issue that inflames people due to the emotional aspects, the fact that the person playing it rarely has to pay for it, the fact that others judge people by the instrument that they play...

    I have always considered the Aeolian Skinner pipe organs to be outstanding. About 10 years ago a survey went out to organists asking what they were playing, and what they wish they were playing. The majority wished they were playing A/S, which did not surprise anyone. The surprise came when all but a few who were playing A/S organs said they wished they were playing an instrument by another builder.

    This is not a discussion that can be "won" but can be one of discovery and thought. There are massive misconceptions rampant, some mentioned already here that have caused many in the industry to literally give up and go into some other field, tired of having to deal with arguments that are totally unfounded.

    I love David's "The technician said it was great fun to work with an organist who cared what the instrument sounded like. With the work done I was able to play the English literature (Howells, etc.,) and French Romantic literature with great satisfaction." because there are too many dealers of all brands who will not permit the tech people to do the voicing necessary...or even gain the experience in how to do it.

    One would assume that this would be priority 1 with all companies. But it's not.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • Here's an example of the bizarre thinking when it comes to organs. Ahlborn/Galanti is a...lesser builder. So here is a church with a job open and here are the instruments:

    The repertoire is integrated, including traditional, contemporary, and classical music. Steinway Concert Grand and Ahlborn-Galanti Chronicler II.

  • It's astonishing the number of parishes that seem to be inordinately proud of having a grand piano, but have no organ. One somehow memorable job description for a Catholic music director was one advertised in The American Organist several years ago: after listing all the people this musician had to be expert at relating to, the ad closed by stating 'ablility to read music helpful'.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,697

    "If it isn't it is in the same category as plastic 'flowers'."

    Well put. Digital organs are like plastic flowers. They fool you only for a moment until you try to smell them, or worse, live with them day by day. BTW... I have never purchased plastic flowers for my wife. Would you?! So what is this about buying plastic flowers for our Dear Mother Church!? God Forbid!!!!

    I have the latest three manual Quantum here. It is about two years old or so. I have played many organs in my lifetime since I lived almost my entire life in Baltimore where many old organs reside. I have played many electronic wannabees too. In fact, I owned a Hammond C3 for years, and I just inherited another one last week.

    I had a small Jardine tracker in a quaint chapel that was well over 150 years old and it was far more satisfying and beautiful than any digital organ. (Even with the clacking of the trackers and the heavy action and the flat pedalboard.) There just is no comparison.

    Don't let money be an excuse for not planning and struggling and convincing and waiting and collaborating with the many that will be involved. It will be worth every bit of the effort.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,472
    My experience with hybrids is that there are tuning problems. when you have an all-pipe organ, all the pipes go up or dowm together, so the organ generally can stay in tune with itself. However, the digital ranks do not. On some organs there is a tuning adjustment, but it never (to my ears works quite well) However, I certainly agree with David, when you have a digital, they can certainly be voiced well.
    I think the cost factor is way over stated, and a lot of false info comes form digital companies. A second hand/rebuilt organ is really not that much more expensive than the digital ones.
    Case in point: My church put in 53 rank rebuilt A-Skinner instrument. Down the street, a church put in a hybrid digital/pipe instrument of 100 voices. The cost was about the same. What would you rather have?
    Thanked by 1Casavant Organist
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,472
    Another point: PaixGioaAmour: have you had an actual pipe organ designer come and look at your space? A creative designer can sometimes see ways of doing things that we can't.
  • Ralph BednarzRalph Bednarz
    Posts: 489
    I would not hesitate using the Johannus organ , or any other digital organ as they maintain pitch well and have some flexibility in sound presentation. I have found all digital organs are unable to achieve both a good individual stop's sound and the full ensemble sound as well as a pipe organ without unifications. Yet I currently use a Johannus which has two sets or patches of samples for every stop. We also had an excellent installation and a budget to allow for some last minute modifications to improve the speaker system. Vierne, Franck, Dupres are suited for this organ' s large stop list: a larger scaled organ will be very useful in a large building where you use a wide variety of musical styles. Yet I would be content with a small well maintained pipe organ if our chant repertoire was larger.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    Just as in home stereo equipment, the speakers are a key component. I think Johannus might be the only digital organ that can divide its stops by multiple speakers, i.e. C-side notes to one speaker, and C#-side notes to another. Then these pairs of speakers can be placed (also a key component) so as to help mix the sounds before leaving the case/chamber. Sub-woofers should be placed on a concrete floor. Except for special stops, like a solo Trumpet, all speakers should be facing the rear of their enclosure, or at slight angles. The absolute worst placement of speakers is on a simple shelf speaking directly into the room.
  • This is addressed to the original poster....

    Some people may not realize this, but a lot of "real" pipe organ companies do in fact employ digital voices in some of their "mostly all pipe" instruments. Many of the big organ builders do use digital voices (Peterson or Walker) for some of their instruments...especially with the big 32' stops. Having been an organ building apprentice with the Buzard Organ Builders, I can tell you that organs that are pipe and digital can work. At Buzard, the only time that a digital voice was used, was usually for some of the 32' stops. A lot of churches/chapels simply do not have the space for the huge amount of space needed for some of the bigger stops, especially in the pedal division....so I see no harm with employing digital voices to give the organ some power, especially in the pedal division. You really can't play a wide-breath of literature on a Jardine or a little Hooks and Hastings...it just doesn't work and it just doesn't sound that great.

    As far as companies that really do well with "hybrid" organs...I have found that Cornel Zimmer Organ builders do an excellent job with this type of technology. They are a small company that really have honed their craft. Their woodworking is excellent as well as their pipe making. If anyone goes to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC...they should check out the Cornel Zimmer organ at Mepkin Abbey, which is always used for the many concerts during Spoleto. The instrument there is based on the great French Romantic organs...so Vierne, Langlais and the like sound heavenly on the Zimmer at Mepkin.

    Also, if you want to go with a more 'pure' approach in acquiring an organ, you should check out the website at Organ Clearinghouse. Sometimes you can find a really nice used Casavant organ on there at a steal of a deal.

    Happy organ searching!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,697
    I played all kinds of literature on the Jardine. Granted you don't have the tubby sound of a French Romantic on it, but it still sounds wonderful if you understand how to use organ registration. And the main purpose of the organ is not for playing grand scale organ music, it is for serving the liturgy.
  • Francis,

    I am well aware what the organ's main purpose is for...thank you.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,605
    This discussion is getting a little...pusillus...

    And David, you are right about that reed.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,697

    I do not know what that term means, but I was simply making two points in defense of smaller instruments without all the strings and reeds. It was not directed at Magnus, but was simply clarifying that organ repertoire should not be a critical deciding factor in the purchase of an instrument.

    Obviously Magnus knows the primary importance of the church organ, however, many of my good friends and colleagues who are professional organists are mainly concerned about virtuosic repertoire and the music of the liturgy is secondary. I am simply saying that a liturgical organist sees it the other way around.

    An organ with Principals an Flutes and a reed or two with couplers is quite enough to support liturgical music. In fact, the small Jardine that I once played had wonderful string stops. IMHO size is not a significant consideration in suitability unless the space is large and truly requires more instrument.
  • Very true, Francis. Couldn't agree more. :-)
  • Thanks to decades of consulting work by Dr. John Rowntree, organist of Douai Abbey, many Catholic churches in Great Britain have small but highly effective pipe organs. Almost all are compact mechanical-action instruments designed to accompany congregational singing (including antiphonal and responsorial music). Most take up less floor space than would the console of an electronic or electric-action instrument, yet are large enough for some pretty substantial churches.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Thank you to all who responded. You have all provided some great food for thought, which was what I was seeking.

    I am currently guiding my parish's staff towards deliberations on these issues.
  • pipesnposaune
    Posts: 113
    I would love to know anyone's thoughts on Walker Digital Organs. I hear they are giving pipes a run for their money......
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    A run for their money, or a run for yours? They are good, but pretty expensive. Just be sure to check all your options.

    Again, I would settle for playing a digital organ, but would prefer the basics of a really good pipe organ, and the digital voices simply enhance those basics.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,605
    Just happened to come across a book that might be of interest to some...

  • If your parish is considering on acquiring an organ...please be sure to check out the used pipe organs on the Organ Clearing House website. I have seen some REALLY nice all-pipe organs on there being offered for what you would pay for a high-end digital organ. It's worth the look! Some of them will probably require a good cleaning and maybe a restoration...but still...you'll have a pipe organ that will last for a very long time.

    There is a VERY nice tracker-organ (Visser-Rowland) being offered on the front page...the owner has lowered the asking price on it!

    Good luck!
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,605
    Our parish was given a lovely small tracker that was, unfortunately, much too small. [well, given for $7,000] Then we were given a large tracker Hutchings which turned out to be 29' wide (beautiful casework) with the donor telling the pastor that it would cost only $50,000 to have it installed. We were referred to a very fine builder by him who, coincidentally, knew the organ, having maintained it up near Boston while he was an apprentice.

    He had to revise the estimate to $250,000 to install it, which, based upon the number of ranks, was still a great savings over a new instrument. But since it was tracker, the structure of the instrument would not fit into our 28' wide loft without some very tricky engineering, and worst of all, it would totally obscure the rose window just installed that details the life of our patron saint.

    Architect is a big fan of Aeolian Skinner so the chambers are laid out for enclosed divisions and space for an exposed Great surrounding the Rose Window....only 7' clear space on either side for towers...

    So, if anyone needs a 29' wide tracker, there is one floating around looking for a home. Make absolutely sure, when purchasing a pipe organ, that the parish is fully aware of the costs of tuning and maintenance. Trackers do require very little maintenance and are a favorite of mine (second instrument I got to practice on was a Jardine) but electric action instruments do require rebuilding periodically....unless you go for a totally electric action, which some feel adversely affects the sound of the pipes. Some builders have experimented with routing of the airways to incur turbulence to more closely approximate the turbulence found in electropneumatic instruments using electric action.

    The price of used pipe organs decreases per rank....the larger, the less each rank tends to cost because there are fewer and fewer churches built with spare room for pipes. [the price of buildings is based upon dollars per square foot. In churches it has also become how many people can be seated for how many dollars] But the real expense is in rebuilding, if required, installation and revoicing and rescaling of pipework to make it work in a different room than the one it was built for.
  • Lawrence
    Posts: 123
    I have not taken the time to read all the comments here, but I do play a hybrid instrument and thought I'd let you know some of the things that I've noticed.

    1. There is phasing in the speech between the pipes and the fake sounds. Those who know more about this stuff than I do and whom I trust tell me that there is no way to fix this. It is not all that noticeable in a chorale situation, but if you crank it into high gear for a fast fugue, you're going to be begging for mercy. It is utterly distracting.

    2. Unless the organ is comprised of mostly real pipes, there will be tone color problems. Real tone color can only come from real pipes. Electronic stops all blend together. I will never forget the day that I played Messiaen's Apparition de l'Eglise Eternelle and then played it back on the midi. I went downstairs to listen to it and immediately noticed that I could have gotten the same effects by pulling out an oboe and a string and using the swell pedal. There was no appreciable difference in tone color between stop changes until the high mixtures came on. This monotony can be felt in hymn-playing, too.

    3. In working with digital organs, I have noticed that the independence of the voices is completely lost. Many fugues just start to sound like a mush of sound. I have experienced this in my own playing and have heard it in concert, even at one of the most infamous digital organs known to man.

    I remember listening once to an episode of pipe dreams which featured a new pipe organ at a Catholic cathedral somewhere in Ohio; I can't remember where exactly. The organist made a great point: The Church uses, indeed requires, real candles and real flowers. And there is the Real Presence. The organist went on to say that this requirement for authenticity even has implications for the decisions we make about the organs we build. This is a worthy point, and the fact that most modern ears are accustomed to synthetic sound should not really be an invitation to cut corners. Where there is dedication, things can happen. Think of what our organs would be if half the effort were devoted to them that is devoted to the local Catholic school basketball league...

    Finally, some may consider certain criticisms of synthetic organs to be overly-particular and too focused on what arsty-fartsy types obsess about. If we are to expect music to be treated seriously, however, then we must treat our art with the respect it deserves and uphold its integrity at all times. Which part of the Pieta should we hack off in order to save space? None? Then neither should we install inferior instruments.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    What do you think of the importance of profound music?

    And then be sure to listen to the entire broadcast, of course!
  • I had all but forgotten this experience - perhaps because it was a rather incidental one. Several years ago I was invited to play at a church which had a four manual hybrid 'organ' by Allen utilising an appreciable number of ranks from an original instrument in addition to a quite generous array of 'digital' stops. There was a certain irony here in that the presence of pipes supposedly puts such instruments more into the category of real organs. The effect, however, was that the difference between the sound of the pipes and that of the 'digital' stops was like that between night and day. These two categories of sound did not at all blend well with one another, were not in tune together, and were so distinct from each other tonally as to be all but laughable. The size and stop list of this organ easily put it into the premier status of this particular firm's products, but the results were anything but premier. There is also a four manual 'digital' instrument with everything on it by this firm at Houston's new Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, which, despite being an architectural disappointment, does have very fine acoustics. It sounds like the organ substitute it is. It will be a wonderful day when the real organ by Martin Pasi is installed!
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,605

    Is there no one on this list who actually likes playing digitals and is not embarrassed to admit it? And who welcomes the expansion of a stoplist that digital stops can offer?

    Here's the challenge. I challenge anyone on the list who is an organist to state that they have never ever played a note on anything but a real, fire breathing pipe organ.

    There was a huge controversy in the Diapason created on letters to the editor by Lawrence Phelps and David Hurd. Hurd claimed that there was no reason to have electronic organs as he had a pipe organ in his apartment in NYC on which he could play the entire organ literature faithfully.

    Faithfully is the interesting word. Months went by (before digital communication) and finally Hurd's letter came out with his home pipe organ stop list. I recall it was 3 ranks of pipes. What a joke. You could play the literature, but not faithfully.

    Should we have fake organs? No, let's get rid of them and printed books right along with them. God never intended to replace monks and nuns slaving over manuscripts with the printed page. What a travesty! We should only sing chant from hand-copied pages.

    Let's stop innoculating our kids, too. Let them grow up suffering from polio, pox, the plague just like the early Christians.


    e·lit·ism or é·lit·ism (ĭ-lē'tĭz'əm, ā-lē'-)
    The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.

    The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.

    Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.


    So, come on. People who have NEVER played anything that wasn't a pure pipe organ, step forward.
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  • francis
    Posts: 10,697
    O come on, Noel. Digitally engraved music versus a hand copied score doesn't at all affect the performance of a piece. I just don't see how you can make the comparison. I am playing one of the latest (larger) Allen digitals. Three things are apparent and destroy the integrity of the musical acoustic. Badly placed speakers, a living room architecture and the inability for the existing speaker system to match the volume of air that is properly moved by pipes. The foundational organ just isn't there. The sound is harsh and offends not only my ears but the ears of the PIPs, and they are quite vocal about it.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,605
    Francis, You have outlined the exact prescription for a bad installation...or a pipe or digital.

    The amount of air argument though fails because any digital can move the same volume of air as a pipe. BUT you are absolutely right in the sense that a pipe organ can move air in more varied patterns than a digital especially if the digital is hampered by ANY restrictions on speaker placement, just as a pipe organ would be in any circumstance.

    But if the digital organ designer is given a free hand and is involved in the design or redesign of the room where the organ will be, then it has a much better chance of working well in the room. Just as a pipe organ will do so given this circumstance.

    Digitals sometimes sound better than pipes just because the ability to tonally finish them on site in the room is much more affordable and possible. That comes as a shock to some people, but many pipe organs just do not match the room they are in...for a variety of reasons, almost all financial.

    I have heard MANY harsh sounding digitals. That can be solved by insisting on them voicing it to the way you want it. If the local people can't do it, reputable firms bring in factory people to help them...I played a harsh one recently and the solution the dealer planned to implement was to add deflecting baffles over the speakers to route the harsh sound away from the choir....instead of getting the organ properly voiced.

    The failure of pipe/digitals is rarely because of the digital being inferior, but due to the inability of the people designing the installation to insist on space and speaker placement that will work, having people on staff who know how to make it work and to voice it to the degree to which it does not draw attention to itself, but becomes part of the sound of the overall organ. Pipes CAN sound better than digitals...but many digitals can sound much, much better than they do.
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