New Organ Console -- Costs, Complications, Recommendations??
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 778
    I'm beginning work at a new church in July. I am very familiar with this place and even served as interim director for a summer nearly a decade ago. Beautiful church, awesome liturgy, great clergy and community, expansive choir loft, but...

    in 2014, they refurbished their old organ (it needed it), but sadly, as part of this process, were given an "enhanced" "vintage Austin console" of four manuals to replace the old three-manual console.

    This is not all bad. A major plus to this console is that it talks to the pipes via Bluetooth, and so can literally be wheeled around the gallery at will. My poor memory. It is a very compact cable.

    The downsides to this console, however, are that it is an absolutely enormous inefficient use of space, and seeing / directing over it (or even having your small children turn pages for you) are flatly impossible. Also things are in weird places and you don't have the couplers you want.

    image

    I would be interested in proposing a lower-profile console (and likely reorganizing the stoplist into three divisions / three manuals, rather than four). I guess I've never been in or around just a console replacement / refurbishment. I have some questions:

    (1) What is the cost of a project like this?
    (2) Does the Bluetooth thing make it easier or harder to interface the new console with the organ (I am interested in keeping this feature, as it is super cool). Solid State system
    (3) There is a one-manual slave console downstairs (used for Vespers) that coordinates with the combination action upstairs and plays whatever is on the Great. How hard will that be to bring into line with the new console?

    Attached is the current spec followed by what I would propose (draft 1 of that, anyway). Should be Sw. to Ch. 16,8,4 in the couplers list as well.

    Those of you with knowledge -- opine! Let me know what you think, or what to think.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 419
    Nihil –

    Without knowing more about the organ (what's the control system? How is it all wired up in the chambers? Who would build the new console?) I don't know the answer to 1, 2, and 3. I do think a smaller console is quite convenient. Look at what Pasi did at Collegeville....still a four-manual console with a whole bunch of new things added, but very low-profile and with quite good sightlines
    https://pipeorgandatabase.org/static/organ_images/64212/72529a2a-63c1-47c8-b5ad-233196398c18_St_Johns_Abbey_HK_collegeville_Chris_Stroh_021520.jpg

    I am biased, being 6'4", but I would be loath to lose a 4th manual. I've never liked homeless/floating divisions; they’re a bad compromise and it’s a real pain to have to rearrange the couplers on the fly, hit the unison off on the destination keyboard, and play. I think if you eliminate all stops/controls above Manual IV and put the music rack directly above the keys, you would be at least as low-profile as conventional 3m consoles with coupler rail and/or stops above the keys.

    Was the Solo made out of ranks that used to be part of the other divisions? Seeing the trumpet there instead of in the swell, and the big flute that might belong on a 20s Great makes me wonder. If so, it would be more convenient to me if the original disposition was restored, rather than having to borrow or couple them back to where they once belonged.

    And is the Choir in the same box as the Solo? If not, it would be wonderful to put their expression on separate shoes.
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 778
    Hi Gamba,

    The Solo was built out of the other divisions, or, in terms of the new stops that were added, at least should have (in my opinion) been built into them.

    There were ranks added, and cabinetry would have to be rebuilt (again) to accommodate those changes.

    I'm not sure if the Solo is in a separate enclosure from the Choir. They have the same shoe. If they are separate, I could effect that change immediately -- I have no use for a Grand Crescendo Pedal.
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 778
    Control system is Solid State.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,610
    I looked into a new console from one of the big three companies in 2015 and they wanted over $100K for a new console. I had the 60 year old Schantz console rebuilt for $45K. Have you talked to the Clearing House to see if they have any serviceable consoles that could be refitted/rebuilt for your use? Also, some of the Allen and Rodgers consoles can be used for pipes without getting into the digital voices.

    All this is assuming that money is an object and funds are limited.
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    Repurposing old consoles can really be a wonderful option. I’ve seen it done many times. Even salvaging woodwork alone is half the battle, as the amount of time and craftsmanship required to build a professional-grade console is extremely high, which is why some firms like RA Colby specialize in it.

    Many different pipe organ builders sell consoles from organs they’ve dismantled or restored, so there are many to be had if you start yahoogling. Visit individual builders’ sites; there’s some nice stuff out there. Common prices range 2-10k.

    I know of one organ restoration that cost 200k and half the budget was just for a new console, so I second the opinion that attempting to repurpose another is a great option if you can find one that is approximately what you’re looking for.

    A lot of modern consoles could really be fitted to any organ with electric actions and stop controls. Professional organ builders will know how to translate the data coming from the console to controller boards in the organ.
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    Also, start haunting eBay. You’d be amazed what pops up if you wait long enough. I’ve seen realllllly nice pipe organ consoles sell for a pittance since they require rewiring. A few years ago Virgil Fox’s 5 manual console sold for only 27k, if memory serves. Making a console like that from scratch would take months and cost $$$$
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  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 986
    I echo Gamba's comments about the disposition and the console; in addition, some of the duplexed choices seem odd to me (why would you want a second open diapason on the Great Organ, especially if it's not scaled to match the remainder of the principal chorus?) My preference is for zero duplexing except on the Pedal, and if the Solo division is indeed conceived as a tonally distinct unit, I would keep it as such on the console. (It seems unusual to me to have a separate Solo division on such a small organ, but American organ-building has always mystified me.)
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    I wouldn’t shy away from judicious unification at all. It can make for a substantially more flexible instrument. Is it perfect? No. Is it more flexible and preferable to “straight” stop lists? Usually.

    What you don’t want to do is duplex 16 + 8 + 4 + 2 2/3 + 2 + 1 1/3 from the same flute rank. I’ve played an organ like this (no joke) but that doesn’t seem what you’re going for here.
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 778
    I echo Gamba's comments about the disposition and the console; in addition, some of the duplexed choices seem odd to me (why would you want a second open diapason on the Great Organ, especially if it's not scaled to match the remainder of the principal chorus?) My preference is for zero duplexing except on the Pedal, and if the Solo division is indeed conceived as a tonally distinct unit, I would keep it as such on the console. (It seems unusual to me to have a separate Solo division on such a small organ, but American organ-building has always mystified me.)


    This organ was originally built with a first and second open diapason on the Great, and the current "solo" diapason is the old second open diapason. The first diapason vanished some time ago, but what is on the great now is pipework of a similar vintage, probably smaller scale.

    Which I suppose brings us to the larger point: the solo division is not really a tonally distinct unit, or a separate division (it is where the great used to be in the case, with the present great having been relocated to above the swell...), but essentially steals pipes that should be on other divisions and makes them unavailable to the player on those divisions unless he or she is willing to put forth great effort.

    Hence why this is really a 3-manual organ. My floating "solo" is not entirely identical to the present solo, but includes stops that I think it would be useful to be able to make available on other divisions from time to time, so you don't lose that functionality entirely.

    The present solo organ does not super-or-sub couple, nor does the Great. Likely because there were only so many tabs / pistons on the console they decided to "refurbish" for this instrument, so functionality was lost.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    I think you are perfectly justified in wanting to have judicious borrowing. This is very common practice and there's nothing egregious here. One nice bonus with a floating solo division is that, even if you're pulling from pipes in other chambers, ultimately you can create a combined sound that those respective pipes couldn't otherwise offer in a standard configuration (think soloing out a line with the big principal, harmonic flute, and string which are divvied up in separate divisions). There's also nothing wrong with having more than one principal on the great. Just because a second diapason is there doesn't mean it will be used all the time. I highly doubt you'll be registering a Bach work with two diapasons in one division. Reger? sure, why not?

    A few things have come to mind in regards to your proposed stop list:
    • I would include a Gt/Ch manual transfer both for comfort and french romantic rep
    • Salicionals II and Dulcianas II seem unusual for a great division. I guess it doesn't hurt to have the option since you're just borrowing from the Sw & Ch, but those did jump out to my eye as atypical.
    • I'm very surprised you don't have the cor anglais in the solo division
    • [This is atypical, but I'm a big fan of having a 2' flute in the pedal division, so you can put on some ethereal strings and then solo out the melody with your feet. Take it or leave it. I'd at least add one of the the 4' flutes.]
    • are the concert flute inthe Ch and the Major flute in the Solo the same thing? (if so, why the change in nomenclature?)
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 778
    I think you are perfectly justified in wanting to have judicious borrowing. This is very common practice and there's nothing egregious here. One nice bonus with a floating solo division is that, even if you're pulling from pipes in other chambers, ultimately you can create a combined sound that those respective pipes couldn't otherwise offer in a standard configuration (think soloing out a line with the big principal, harmonic flute, and string which are divvied up in separate divisions). There's also nothing wrong with having more than one principal on the great. Just because a second diapason is there doesn't mean it will be used all the time. I highly doubt you'll be registering a Bach work with two diapasons in one division. Reger? sure, why not?


    Exactly. In fact, the second open is often used as a contrasting alternative to the first open on these older organs. It's an option I'd love to have (although having a flute and string that can be drawn together on the Great is a kind of simulation of that option, depending on the voicing).

    A few things have come to mind in regards to your proposed stop list:
    • I would include a Gt/Ch manual transfer both for comfort and french romantic rep


    Forgot this! That is what drafts is for. Yes, important.

    • Salicionals II and Dulcianas II seem unusual for a great division. I guess it doesn't hurt to have the option since you're just borrowing from the Sw & Ch, but those did jump out to my eye as atypical.


    What is neat about this is that it allows the strings to be used against the other stops on their own native divisions, e.g. the softer flutes of the swell or choir. Amazing for softer improvisations. I use it for literature sometimes, too. It also allows the soft strings of the entire organ to be drawn in one place with drawknobs, no coupling. I have this feature on my present instrument and wouldn't be without it.

    The Kilgen at St. Patrick's in NYC has the entire string organ available as a separate floating division. Envy is not a nice word, but...

    • I'm very surprised you don't have the cor anglais in the solo division


    I am, too! Thanks.

    • [This is atypical, but I'm a big fan of having a 2' flute in the pedal division, so you can put on some ethereal strings and then solo out the melody with your feet. Take it or leave it. I'd at least add one of the the 4' flutes.]


    The omission of a higher flute in the pedal is something I noticed after I hit "post." The suggestion of a 2' flute is neat, and something I've never had before.

    • are the concert flute in the Ch and the Major flute in the Solo the same thing? (if so, why the change in nomenclature?)


    They are not, actually!
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 778
    P.S. - BTW, my memory is faulty. The wireless connection is to the slave console downstairs. The upstairs console is highly portable, but connected via ethernet.
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 986
    I wouldn’t shy away from judicious unification at all. It can make for a substantially more flexible instrument. Is it perfect? No. Is it more flexible and preferable to “straight” stop lists? Usually.

    I see this on so many American instruments, but it always leads to me tripping over myself when trying to register. A well-built instrument, even one with as few as thirty ranks, has no need for duplexing on the manual divisions, and certainly no need for unification.

    It's worth considering that none of the great French or German instruments featured duplexing or unification and were no poorer for their omission. It is the American/British obsession with stoplists and the unlimited freedom afforded by electric action to pursue poor ideas that enabled their abuse.
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 778
    I'm not sure where you get this idea that I'm going overboard with duplexing -- the only thing I've really done is to make the "Solo" stops, which should not be a separate division, accessible on the various other manuals of the organ, and allowing freer access to the soft strings of the organ. Otherwise, pretty much everything is free of unification on the specification I put forward.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    And: not all unification is an abuse, nor is it all poorly done. And if unification is that egregious, I hope those people never use super and sub couplers.
    Thanked by 2NihilNominis MarkS
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 419
    Nihil

    All that makes sense, and I like your thinking. Seems you will really be making the best of a somewhat-compromised situation.

    If I can add a few more thoughts:

    – Why stop at 100 memory levels? Nowadays with computer memory as cheap as it is, I can’t remember the last newish organ I played with <256 levels. It is so convenient to be able to keep a veritable library of music permanently set up, so when you repeat it or want to give a recital, the prep time is nil. <br />
    – If you’re starting from scratch, I’d really rather have >6 divisionals per manual. 8 or 10 give a much smoother buildup, and maybe space for a solo combination or two.

    – I have seen a few new organs with a GoTo piston, which lets you jump directly to another memory level. That is superbly handy; say your home base for serviceplaying is level 1 and the postlude is set up on level 358. You just finish up the last thing in the liturgy, hit GoTo and then generals 3, 5, and 8, and you’re there.

    – All Pistons Next is wonderful for the truly slothful, or for visitors or nervous students. It causes all pistons but the cancel and previous pistons to advance to the next general.

    Oh and I remembered St. Clement’s, Philly, as another example of a beautiful low-profile 4m console, also I think the only other besides Wanamaker’s to have the wonderful expression slides beneath the keys. https://youtu.be/mN2iEHBkwU4
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    I second Gamba about adding next pistons (+) and a toe stud. This is becoming fairly standard on modern organs and they make longer services and recitals so much easier.
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