• Notions of what is “needed” in a liturgical instrument may well require some rethinking by some organists.

    The Italian, Spanish and Portuguese schools of polyphony managed perfectly well without reeds, sell boxes, banks of strings and pistons for centuries.

    Italian organs didn’t gain independent pedal divisions and second manuals until the nineteenth century.

    English organs only gained pedalboards after late interaction with Germany.

    Nota bene: the establishment of the vast repertoire of the Graduale, as well as Palestrina’s prodigious output, did NOT require a swell box.

    In short, I stand by the principles I articulated in an earlier thread for what makes an organ successful. Small instruments of artistic integrity are infinitely preferable to larger experiments.

    Apropos of the Moller Artiste, I support the remarks above - assuming that the scales and wind pressures are in proportion to the cubic meterage of the building, they do contain all that is required - noting also the vast gulf between what is always required and what is so often desired.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 495
    10 years, two organ degrees, multiple jobs and hard knocks later…

    1) I have yet to hear a hybrid which sounded better in its default configuration (pipes+digital) than what I could get by just cutting out the pipe stops and replacing them with their digital alternates (for example, a Rodgers hybrid in which the Great Principal 8 stopknob defaulted to a coughing, uneven pipe rank, but a perfectly tolerable digital “Diapason” could be selected via the Voice Palette). This has held true for hybrid organs from a variety of builders and periods and price points, across the country, installed by a whole rogue’s gallery of techs. I have remained hopeful that someone will have squared the circle, so I do approach each organ with an open mind and ears, try it out, and still always end up killing the pipes and playing straight digital (and getting innocent PIP compliments that “the organ has never sounded so good!”)

    Only one hybrid came close to deceiving me, a monstrous big thing built with insurance money in a gargantuan, bathtubby acoustic with a Jacuzzi font. It was a Rodgers console controlling a mix of pipes and samples from Rodgers and Walker, mostly at the other end of the building from the console. The organist was formerly a [pipe] organbuilder and voicer, and he left no stone unturned getting it just to his taste. In that room and with the water noise, it was difficult to tell which end was up, to the credit of all involved, but I was hired to accompany a choral concert and wound up playing all-digital, just to have everything under reliable expression, rather than deal with a mix of exposed and enclosed pipes and digital stops running at different volume levels.

    2) I learned a real appreciation for small organs, and organs which on paper should not “work” or be useful for a Big Boy Music Program. This audio here is a small organ from 1872, 8 straight ranks, 1 manual and pedal, leading approx 300 enthusiastic people in a hymn on Holy Thursday (after which there was the introit and the Gloria and it was promptly shut down….) https://voca.ro/18xViJuV46w0 This was recorded with an iphone set up in the gallery by the “big” organ (itself only II/30); this small organ is in the northeast side of the church, from where the choir sang that night. It’s not a massive sound, but it was coherent and alive and beautiful, and indeed enough to keep everyone together and inspire them to sing. I would rather play and listen to that organ than the same plus three more digital divisions representing sounds that don't comport with the pipework and could not logically exist in the space.

    3) I spent 4 years playing digital organs every Sunday, from Rodgers and Allen and Hauptwerk. I learned what they can do and how to make them sound their best, and how to get to work without complaining about the tools on hand. I think a lot of organists never learn to put down their disappointment in the lack of a pipe organ, and don’t know or don’t want to know the simple tricks of playing a toaster and making it sound less miserable. That makes nobody happy and does nothing to make the PIPs inclined to like organ music.

    4) I became a father. My toddler is small, and while she can’t go put a new roof on my house or change my brakes or convincingly sing Brunnhilde’s battle cry, her voice and her presence are beautiful and to be treasured. The way she is now is wonderful; making some sort of bionic robot outfit in order to have a family member who can do those other things right now would be insanity.

    To sum up, I would rather have either a small, honest, and beautiful pipe organ for a church, or a 100% electronic organ if there’s just not room for pipes alone. Hybrids are just throwing good money after bad. If the electronics have to be there and will be the core of the instrument, may as well spend all the money on better electronics and maybe a few dummy pipes to stick in front, rather than $50k worth of inadequate pipework and $30k worth of bare-bones electronics.


  • >> To sum up, I would rather have either a small, honest, and beautiful pipe organ for a church, or a 100% electronic organ if there’s just not room for pipes alone. Hybrids are just throwing good money after bad. If the electronics have to be there and will be the core of the instrument, may as well spend all the money on better electronics and maybe a few dummy pipes to stick in front, rather than $50k worth of inadequate pipework and $30k worth of bare-bones electronics.



    I confess this is rather my fear as well. We only have 14’ of height (at the center of the vault), a relatively small footprint, and the loft will have to be reinforced, hvac moved, etc. Etc… so pipework will pose many challenges.

    I once found a letter in our archives written by the pastor who built this church, specifically encouraging the building committee to keep the ceiling height low to decrease HVAC costs… That is certainly lovely in theory, but it definitely shot us in the foot where accommodating a pipe organ was concerned. The ceiling in the loft is also very low over the head of the choir which is not great.

    I was initially very much against the idea of a hybrid because I personally would’ve rather just used our entire budget to get a very nice Walker. I am definitely sympathetic to the idea of ‘one or the other’, although as I said above, I happen to find small instruments to be frustrating to live with long term even if they are lovely. Even if this whole project pans out according to plan, we will be living digital only for at least two years if not longer. The instrument will have ample time to prove it stripes (or lack thereof) in the meantime.

    On the bright side, the finance council has agreed to pursue getting a higher quality digital instrument even if it’s not one of the most expensive builders. They’ve agreed to a real console with moving draw knobs etc. In short: they’ve agreed to more than the bare minimum, even if we can’t go hog-wild with the best of the best. So in that respect I am grateful.
  • As an aside, has anyone heard/experienced Keinle resonators? I'm very intrigued by them.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,156
    For liturgical purposes it seems this satisfied the needs of King's College Cambridge for 9 months. https://www.skrabl.co.uk/news-item.asp?NID=17
  • While I would love to just smile and nod, I think we can both agree that their situation is exceptional in every way:

    1. Reverberant room
    2. Temporary and not permanent
    3. Chamber-scaled both physically and in terms of voicing
    4. Cannot support a large congregation [that is untrained]. It's essentially only good for small voluntaries and giving pitches.
    5. The church is fitted with exceptionally well-trained choristers that are standard-bearers, and not the norm, and who can therefore sing well even a cappella, let alone without a large organ behind them. (it is these who will truly carry congregational singing during this time, not the organ)
    6. Limited repertoire would work on such an instrument, including the rather notable exclusion of the english [post-renaissance] choral repertoire, which is half of their raison d'etre. Obviously polyphony would do well with such an instrument.

    So yes, for chamber/concert use, and as a temporary stop-gap, sure. But as a permanent installation in a 400 seat church with, for all intents and purposes, a dry acoustic once filled with bodies? Methinks not.

    (Don't get me wrong... I would loooooove to have a little gem like that here, but not as the primary daily driver for service work.)
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,156
    "on loan during the rebuild of the famous Harrison organ. It handled congregational accompaniment and was broadcast several times during the interregnum." Of course that is what Skrabl's rep says, I don't know the chapel's view on support for the congregation. I don't know that they have much active congregation (as opposed to passive audiences). Choral Evensong will be very popular but it only has one (optional) congregational hymn.
  • Simply playing at the same time as people are singing can justify the claim "congregational accompaniment" lol. Doesn't mean there was any measure of support or leading going on. The fact of the matter is, there is simply no way an instrument that was intimately voiced to be in a small room with a face mere inches from the pipes is going to have any sort of authoritative command in a room that seats hundreds and has a 4 story tall ceiling. Them's basic physics, folks.