MOST HIGHLY FAVOURED..... ORGAN BUILDERS
  • Let us divulge our favoured organ builders - and why.
    Is the acoustical environment good, bad; superb or non existent ?
    Tracker or Electrical action?
    Stop list if desired.
    Organ in front, to the side, or in a choir gallery?
    How many have little chamber organs in addition to their main instrument?
    Be positive, and no negative or snide remarks about subjective differences.

    Organ simulacra are not invited.
  • Shouldn't that be "Be Positif" not "Be positive?"
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    I like the reliability of Austin. I knew of one that came up and played every Sunday for over 50 years with no downtime.

    Casavants are reliable, too, but you have to work closely with them to get the voicing you want.

    Schantz will work with you and try to give you an instrument that will fit your budget.

    Trackers? I personally am not fond of them and don't like being right in the organ case.

    Ideally, located in a loft at the back of the church. However, I realize many churches are not built to accommodate that arrangement.

    Great acoustics with hard surfaces on the floor, ceiling and walls. Good luck with that one in American churches.

    A replica of the big H&H at Coventry Cathedral. I would think I had gone to heaven.

    French is good - very good.

    Funds galore for the organ fund. Good luck on that one, too. You may get one of Jackson's dreaded simulacras.
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,005
    I have found every single Taylor and Boody that I’ve come across to be an absolute gem. They are truly instruments made to the highest quality, and while they are historically informed, I don’t think they go too far down the orgelbewegung rabbit hole.

    Fisks also are very high quality. They do French (and French meets American eclectic) organs very well. Again, very high quality craftsmanship, and their consoles are very beautiful and highly functional.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    Anyone else familiar with Juget-Sinclair? I thought they were very high quality.
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 488
    I can’t recommend Parsons highly enough. The organs that come out of their shop really sing. There are no bland filler ranks; everything is voiced to perfection, laid out logically for service, and built to last. Listen to these recordings here. One instrument was an overgrown, impacted Moller, the other is full of 60s Schlicker stuff. Where other builders would’ve trashed those, Parsons was selective, kept most of the ranks, and rescaled/revoiced wisely, to the point that I wouldn’t have guessed the provenance of the pipework had I not been told. What they are doing is amazing work, and with a much shorter waitlist, lower price tag, and higher standards than many others.

    http://parsonsorgans.com/music/

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A6257ymH-C8
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    Flentrop (played two)
    Pasi (had one)
    Wilhelm (had one)
    Fisk
    Lively Fulcher (played two)
    Bigelow
    Fritts
    Taylor & Boody (played one)
    Andover (played one)
    Holtcamp

    Only in the gallery

    Live acoustic (always prefer rounded hard surface ceiling to eliminate echo and accentuate smooth reverberation)

  • I grew up on the Casavant from the 1950s at Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio and grew to love it. I have only played one other Casavant of the 2000s and heard a few on youtube which did not measure up in warmth of tone.

    I have played 2 Letourneau organs from Canada, and loved the character and power of both of them. They were also successful instruments at their respective institutions: an organ studio and a seminary chapel.

    I have played 3 Lively-Fulcher instruments and loved them. The first was a highly French set up at St Patrick's in DC. I played my senior recital on the massive instrument in the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, also in DC. Both these instruments were helped by an amazing acoustic, but they contained special character and warmth, clear flutes, and great reeds.

    I have only played one Fisk (Indiana University), and it was successfully eclectic.
    Fisk has also done great work with historical instruments, and their creations at Rischoce and Oberlin seem outstandingm though I have not heard them in person.

    I have not had the opportunity to play Andover, but it reputationally they seem to be very good, and any builder with a respect for historic pipework and methods gets high marks in my book.

    I have heard 2 Schoensteins in person; both were lovely, warm, and romantic. One was in the barrel-vaulted Chapel of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. These were fantastic choral accompaniment and service playing instruments, but were underscaled to the room, in my opinion.

    I played 2 Guilding and Wood instruments, which were both warm eclectic style instruments without any particular character.

    I studied on a german-eclectic 2 manual tracker Schudi organ, and regularly played it's Silbermann inspired cousin in the Crypt of the National Basilica. The one at the Basilica is a fantastic period instrument; of course, the room is again it's best feature.

    The most gorgeous principal choruses I have ever heard on modern instruments are those of Rosales organ builders, and instruments voiced by Manuel Rosales. Having worked for a summer as a technician at C. Bobsin Organs in San Antonio, this builder also got tremendous respect in the industry, which speaks volumes to me. I know Fisk and Rosales share a lot of work between shops, so they should maybe be considered in tandem.

    I have not had the chance to play many of the Flentrop, Taylor&Boody. or Fritts organs in the german tradition, but many look absolutely wonderful for their purpose.



    Were I in a position to be considering an organ for a church, I would be looking at Fisk, Rosales, Andover, Lively Fulcher, and Letourneau because of their reputation and proven ability to build successful instruments with individuality, and because I would want a romantic-style instrument for service playing.



  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,005
    Fisk was dealt a poor hand at IU, as I understand it, having to pick up the pieces of the failed organ project that preceded it, so I’m not sure that installation is representative of their finer work. I can’t speak with any authority, but that’s what I’ve heard through the grapevine.
  • I substituted at St Theresa's in Trumbull, CT a few weeks ago where I played a Peregallo with3 manuals and 38 ranks. It was well voiced for the church which has very live acoustics. One of the nicest instruments I've played. Pipes in back of the altar and console to the right. I like choir lofts best but this arrangement works very well in this church.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    I have disdain for organs in the sanctuary except for monastic installations. A gallery much better serves the acoustic for organ and choir and does not distract from the Alter Christus. I once had an organ that was only yards away from the altar and the pipes replaced where the high altar should have been... NuChurch.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • I agree that the back is generally better than in front. Though, if the choir is located in front, it makes sense to have the organ there too. One example could be the cathedral in Superior, WI which has the choir in a side trancept up front with the organ. I haven't been there, so I don't know how well the sound projects out to the rest of the church, I just know about it.

    In situations like the above, I think it would be best to have an smaller organ in the front to accompany the choir with a grand organ in the gallery.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743

    In situations like the above, I think it would be best to have an smaller organ in the front to accompany the choir with a grand organ in the gallery.


    Sounds like a classic French arrangement. The best!
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,005
    I'll never forget one of the first masses I attended at St. Sulpice... Daniel Roth improvising up to full organ during the offertory and then coming back down... it was quite 'impressionant' and I marveled at their liturgical organ culture. You'd never get away with that in the states. It was fascinating to hear the dialogues between the front and the back. (And, it should be mentioned, that while the choir organ at SS looks relatively petite compared to the room, it actually has a surprisingly robust sound!)
    Thanked by 1DavidOLGC
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    For decades I played at the Basilica in Baltimore which was completely rehabbed in 2005... it had a side/front gallery, and the reverb was about 4 seconds... you had to play SSSSSLLLLLOOOOOOWWWW so you didn't get mud.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    I have often shaken my head at American organists in dry rooms racing through Widor and Vierne. They could never be played that fast in French churches without turning to mush.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    Widor... highly overrated and overperformed. (running, ducking and hiding now...)

    has anyone heard the version with tea for two in the pedals?
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,005
    Francis, I once subbed on a 4m Austin that was in a huge, 1,000 seat, perfectly round room that was a parabolic concrete dome. The result was that there was a half-second delay slap back where you would hear exactly what you played but a beat or two behind, almost as loudly as what you heard in front of you from the organ. It was WILD. I tried the Widor for a laugh and could only muster a few measures before it was such a garbled mess I couldn’t even tell what I was supposed to be playing. It was one of those weird rooms where if you stood in the right spots, you could whisper to someone clear on the other side and it sounded like they were whispering straight into your ear. I’ll never forget that gig.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743

    Widor... highly overrated and overperformed. (running, ducking and hiding now...)


    Playing all that German Lutheran cacophony on clattering trackers has ruined your ears, Francis.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,395
    Just my .02
    Various builders have strengths in particular areas:
    Fritts: Tracker historically based
    Quimby: American Classic, especially concerning resoration of Aeolian Skinner.
    However I laud Casavant for being able to build anything.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Many years ago I had an LP that featured a Scandinavian Marcussen (sp?),
    It was exciting to listen to its neo-baroque tonal design featuring marvelous bell-like upper work and clear 'lower work'.
    I have never heard of one being built in the US. Are there any?

    Also many years ago I visited the Christopher Wren church in Fulton, Missouri.
    Winston Churchill had visited there and had made a very important speech there.
    The church was rebuilt, stone by stone, a XVIIth century English church in the middle of the US - an after the war gift of the UK.
    The west gallery organ, whose builder I cannot remember, was a memorable joy to play.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,069
    If you are interested in heading down a rabbit hole, check out Organ Media Foundation on YouTube.

    This organ is my favorite (for obvious reasons!): https://youtu.be/S85hRCxXgeo

    It was a wonderful collaborative project: we knew the direction we wanted to head (for a number of reasons), and Noack really helped us get there. The instrument is a tremendous success (I don't speak immodestly in that regard, just noting comments from numerous visits from the top organists in the US.)

    Our instrument is unapologetically French (and Didier & co are expert in that style for obvious reasons), but their corpus has many very wonderful styles. Happy to visit more via PM if anyone wants a more detailed recommendation.

    RE: the Juget-Sinclair question above. They are also absolutely first-rate. Their installation in Richmond will be amazing (the choir organ already is!)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    I have heard good things about the Noack. Juget-Sinclair is amazing both for quality of construction and sound.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    ah yes... forgot about Noack... also in my tops list.
  • If Organ Media Foundation doesn't satisfy your inner organ nerd, nothing will. It's amazing getting to see organs that range from 1 year to 100 years old. The channel is basically a virtual organ crawl.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • I am clearly biased, as our Cathedral is expecting delivery of a new Juget-Sinclair, 52-stop instrument in 2025. We selected them from two finalists (the other was Martin Pasi). The finalists were whittled down from a short list including Fritts, Taylor and Boody, and Richards and Fowkes. I think anyone on the short list is phenomenal. And, that list is not exhaustive - I'm not as familiar with Fisk, Noack, and others, but hear very good things about them.

    Maybe the deciding factor (for me at least) with JS was sheer beauty of tone (very subjective, but there it is). We also liked the French tradition and approach to tone, while the other builders on that list are more known for Germanic/Dutch influences.

    We already have the first delivery from JS - a 4-stop continuo instrument (twin with one built for the Richmond cathedral, which is why we got it early). It fills our 700-seat cathedral with beautiful, rich tone that is pretty astonishing coming from the small box.
  • Holtkamp has not been mentioned. I Played a 50 rank one for about 15 years some years back. It was a very satisfying one to play. Holtkamp was in the beginning of the baroque revival and does fine work. The only really fault with this instrument was a 16' posauna that sounded like a ship's horn,
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Is it just me, or is the current fashion with new organs to go in a French style? (I'm not complaining as I love French organs). I know back in the 1970 there was a lot of Germanic influence, but it seems like it is mostly French now. Is my perception off, or is this accurate?
  • By French style these days is meant Franck, Widor, etc., and their organs. When I speak of French style, I mean Titelouze, de Grigni, and Cliquot et al. There is not a word that encompasses both - because they are each exponents of totally different sound worlds.
  • I mean French romantic organs like those built by Cavaille Coll. I should have been more specific.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,005
    I rather loathe Holtkamps, if I’m being honest. I despise their consoles, and typically they are as ugly as can be. Their whole design philosophy (at least the earlier ones from the 50-70’s) is just… unfortunate imho. They are, to me, the equivalent of ugly church buildings, and every time I come across one, I just have to sigh and ask myself, “why?”.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    I rather loathe Holtkamps,


    Preach it! I hate them, too.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 876
    The Holtkamps of that era were a product of their time. Although I have only seen/heard one of their newer installations, I was impressed by it. It even had real draw knobs. I'd give them a second look if you were in the market for a new organ.

  • To Nathan's point, RE French organs, it's an interesting question. I think organ degree programs tend to favor the virtuoso repertoire of the French romantic era, which, though I love Bach, I would have to say is some of the best crowd-pleasing concert music. So I do see a lot of colleagues who get out to a church and want an organ that can play that repertoire well. Couple that with the fact that the Germanic tradition is much more heavily Lutheran (and the English tradition Anglican) and the Spanish and Italian Catholic traditions not nearly as highly-developed, in instruments or repertoire, and that puts the Catholic focus squarely on the French tradition. A church musician looking for an organ that will play chant-based repertoire and work well for liturgical improvisation is likely to lean toward the French tradition. To say nothing of the fact that the modern, living improvisation tradition is so heavily centered on France.

    Which is all a long-winded way of saying, building an ideal Bach organ may not be the best path forward for a modern Catholic church musician. The other thing, for me, is the fact that French repertoire requires particular things in terms of color (foundations that work together, reed choruses under expression, the distinctive gambe/celeste combo, etc.). Those things in particular are different from a Germanic conception, where with a good instrument there is no need to use multiple foundation stops together, and reeds are often soloistic rather than ensemble oriented. So French romantic music usually does not come off well on a Germanic instrument. On the other hand, the absolute music of Bach and the Germanic tradition can work well on a wide range of instruments.

    It also depends where you are. In our area, there are good Germanic instruments and American instruments, but no true French instruments. So a French romantic-leaning instrument is a more distinctive voice in our region.

    Having said all of that, I plan to journey to France and Germany next year with the JS team, to visit Cavaille-Coll AND Silbermann of all things, so the jury is still out on where exactly on the spectrum our instrument will fall.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    I think too many of the American "neo-Baroque" organs just sound bad. Whether they produce sounds Bach would have appreciated is a bit questionable, comparing them to German Baroque organs of his day still in existence. They tend to be a bit limited in the music they can adequately do and don't have the versatility of the French organs. In my town there are too many German Baroques and only one or two organs that have any French voicings. That seems to be the norm. I have also questioned just how much of that Lutheran music is adaptable to the Catholic mass.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    Lutheran (Bach) music is only adaptable to the postlude and prelude... IMMHO
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 488
    I think the major design factor to be considered is the acoustic in a church, or lack thereof. No matter what rep one likes best, in Europe one hears so many Silbermanns, Schnitgers, C-Cs, Cliquots, Willis, Hill, Sauer, etc. that are absolutely spellbindingly beautiful in their own special ways. But reconstruct any of those into the typical American church, and they’re not so special anymore.

    In any room that’s not as live as European churches were in the 18th century, the German [neo]-Baroque organs don’t sparkle anymore, but feel anemic on the bottom and hateful at top. The French-ish organs become downright aggressive….you can’t put fiery reeds, harmonic mixtures, and edgy foundations like that in a dry room; they need a lot of space and acoustical cushion to coalesce.

    To me, the only thing that can be successful in a dry room is something along the lines of what Skinner and Aeolian-Skinner were building from the teens into the early 50s. Listen to the recordings Virgil Fox made at Riverside Church, which was then a totally deadened space. Plenty of color there, and convincing adaptability to all styles – but designed to work without acoustical help. That takes a big bottom end, extremely careful voicing, and a controlled and blending approach to voicing the principal and reed choruses.

  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,005
    Gamba, I think this is a major contributing factor in why chant falls flat in so many American contexts. Our churches are just too dry for that style of music to really bloom in the way it was intended.