New Bigelow Tracker Organ Installation
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,285
    Mike Bigelow just sent me a disk of the inaugural concert on this magnificent organ. If you email him, he might send you a copy too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNQt0_epl70
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,076
    Where is this?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,285
    oops... sorry!

    St Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Salt Lake City, Utah
    Thanked by 1irishtenor
  • Odd that I’ve never thought of it before, but seeing this film on a Catholic website made me wonder how many organs with a rückpositiv are there in American Catholic churches. (For non-organists that is a division of pipes located on the ledge of a loft behind the organist’s bench.) They are common in Episcopal and Lutheran churches, but I don’t recall one, at least here in New England, in a Catholic church. Know of any?
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Randolph, yes!

    In fact - in a very peculiar oddity of organ building, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland, OH has what might be termed a "Ruck-Great" which sits in the position that the ruckpositive should sit. The other two divisions in the organ are the swell and choir (along with pedal of course). These two are enclosed and under expression, while the great was built on the rail of the loft! The organ in question is a Holtkamp, circa 1950's.

    Off the top of my head, I'm aware that the old St. Philomena, now part of Communion of Saints parish in Cleveland Hts., OH has a ruckpositive also.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,079
    Sounds nice. Never heard of the organ builder, however.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,285
    I thought I would see what Paul Fritts is up to... this is in motion for the Basilica in Indiana.

    http://www.frittsorgan.com/opus_pages/galleries/opus_37/photo_gallery.html
  • Mount Calvary Church (Roman Catholic, Anglican Use) in Baltimore has a rückpositiv (Fisk, 1961), but it was an Episcopalian congregation when it was installed. Saint Alphonsus Church in Baltimore still has in place the front of the rückpositiv of its 1843 Mathias Schwab (Cincinnati) organ. (The rest of the instrument is long gone.) The landmark Holtkamp at Saint Philomena is from 1936--possibly the first 'organ reform' rückpositiv in the country.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    So, in light of our other discussion in the tracker thread, what would we cal Paul Fritts? An american classic builder, a builder whose instruments are suited for Bach and Buxtehude, or in the line of Caville-Coll, or what?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,307
    PGA- I was just thinking what this thread really needed what was a combative display of organ geekery.
    image
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,083
    My experience of Fritts is that he is influenced by North German/Flemish trends but not very much 19th century French concerns. He does not build "copies" of period instruments and is very much his own person.

    My .02
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,083
    I want to be in touch with this builder as we are about 3 years from building a new building with an organ. I like what I heard and saw.
  • doneill
    Posts: 176
    I have played this instrument - it's a joy to play as well as to hear. Bigelow also did nice work rebuilding the Holtkamp that was formerly at St. Mark's, moving it to St. Ambrose Catholic church in Salt Lake. Their workshop is in American Fork, Utah, just south of Salt Lake. website: http://www.bigeloworgans.com/home.aspx
    If anybody who is coming to the Colloquium would like to visit this instrument, I would be glad to help arrange it.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,285
    Kevin:

    Which builder? Fritts or Bigelow? (I would love to have one from either)
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,083
    Bigelow.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,285
    Kevin. Great! Tell Mike I said hello.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 802
    There was a small local (Toledo) builder who has several trackers in the area (can't remember the name off hand). I know for sure of one Catholic church that has a RP but I don't think they maintain it well. I played a funeral there a few years ago and many stops didn't work. At least two other trackers by the same builder are still in service in Catholic Parishes. There are a few Holtcamps in the area, though none with a RP. Though most parishes have a Roders around here.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    One of my favorites is Reynolds from Marion, IN. I've met with the builder, and he comes out and does repair work for our old Wicks at St. Mary's in Muncie. He does fantastic work, and I've played the organ they built at St. Lawrence, also in Muncie. He only builds all-pipe: no digital.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,192
    Earl Grey: The builder is Pilzecker, the organ is at Gesu Church. There is a similar instrument at St. Jude, Detroit, but I don't know what condition it's in.

    Casavant has an organ at St. Louis King of France in St. Paul, MN that has a "positif de dos".
    Thanked by 2Gavin Earl_Grey
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The organ at St. Jude is in somewhat rough condition, but is playable and many in the Archdiocese are seeking funds for its restoration. That, and a few others in Michigan, were examples that popped into my head of ruckpositifs in Catholic churches. I never considered it odd at all.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Here is another:

    http://database.organsociety.org/SingleOrganDetails.php?OrganID=19312

    A very fine organ. It inspired me early on in my church music career!
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,285
    Adam said:

    PGA- I was just thinking what this thread really needed what was a combative display of organ geekery.


    You might want to be combative just for the sake of being so, but your ears will tell the truth in the end if you are willing to listen to them.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,285
    I had the honor and pleasure of playing one of the Wilhelms at St. Mark's on the Hill in Baltimore when I was an interim for them in the early 90s. What an instrument it was!

    http://database.organsociety.org/SingleOrganDetails.php?OrganID=223

    http://database.organsociety.org/photos/MD/Pikesville.StMark.1984KarlWilhel.20130216.112358.jpg
  • redsox1
    Posts: 192
    Our Lady of the Angels in Worcester, MA has a three-manual and pedal mechanical action J.W. Walker from 1984, with a split case, detached console, and ruckpositiv. It was quite a feat of engineering. The instrument is a bit underwhelming in the space, however, it was greatly improved by the voicing efforts of Mark Lively and Paul Fulcher. Electric assist was also added to help reduce the weight of the action when coupling the Swell to the Great.
  • redsox1
    Posts: 192
    Gavin,

    I heard the St. Jude organ back in 1986 when the AGO National Young Artist Competition was held there. I heard the late Michael Farris, the eventual winner, play the Final from Vierne VI. I was in high school at the time and was completely blown away. I remember good things about the organ and the acoustical environment was stunning. I really need to leave the "Bloomfield bubble" and get into Detroit to see some of these instruments.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,307
    You might want to be combative just for the sake of being so, but your ears will tell the truth in the end if you are willing to listen to them.


    I doubt it. I trust that other people know what they are talking about, but my knowledge of organ music is.... limited, to say the least.

    And while I have an intellectual appreciation for historically "authentic" or "informed" performance practice, I'm just as likely to prefer Bach's Harpsichord music on a modern piano as I am likely to enjoy a semiologically accurate rendition of Gregorian chant.

    That is - I talk a big game, but I'm really a cultural philistine at heart, and I just like things, or don't like things.

    I find the discussions of organ geekery sociologically fascinating, and somewhat humorous. But I have nothing useful to add.
  • I find the discussions of organ geekery sociologically fascinating, and somewhat humorous.

    So true, Adam!

    But, as is said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

    We pipe organ geeks enjoy friendly (though sometimes heated) debates on topics such as mechanical vs. electric action, electro-pneumatic vs. direct electric, unification vs. straight ranks, nicked vs. un-nicked pipes, encasement vs. pipes-in-the-open, low wind pressures vs. higher wind pressures, expressive divisions vs. unenclosed pipes, etc. etc. And, of course, digital organs vs. pipe organs!

    It’s all fun, in a geeky kind of way!
  • Fr Jim Chepponis is SO right...
    I might point out (ahem!) that when refering to 'pipe organs', all one needs to say is 'organ'!
    When refering to 'digital "organs"', one should more properly (and honestly!) say 'digital organ simulacrum', which is more polite than the more frank 'tuned buzzers'.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,307
    'digital organ simulacrum'

    Ranks include:
    dir/
    sljk5nltgnp98wlk4j5hljgnp98w948y5.wav
    ldiuhl45uhopg89yp987p349ph5ljihkjghliuh.wav
    lsiu4h5liuhp0034700g03lk5jlgl898yg5.wav
    .
    .
    .
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    I prefer the time honored title of "appliance" or maybe "synthesizer designed to emulate an organ."
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,285
    I prefer, "computer-hooked-to-keyboard-manual-with-recording-of-individual-pipes-from-a-pipe-organ-initiated-from-striking-a-key"
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 802
    @David. Yes. That's the one. There's at least three Pilzeckers in local Catholic Churches, but only one RP I'm aware of in the Diocese. I was actually baptized at that church, but I'm told it was during the "folk mass" so I'm not sure how much organ music I was exposed to as an infant. Last I heard, they were installing an Allen at Gesu, but I've not been there in several years. I'm quite happy with the Allen at my parish, but that's comparing it to the old Baldwin we replaced. Still, I'd prefer the real thing, but I don't have the checkbook to back up my musical preferences.
  • We are in the process of building an organ with a Ruckpositiv by A. David Moore http://www.adavidmooreorgans.com/. --Fr. Doug Halsema, stpaulcatholic.net
  • You know, you can really shove 'digital organ simulacrum', which is more polite than the more frank 'tuned buzzers'. up your own simulacrum.

    No one is making fun of the huge number of really crappy pipe organs there are in the US, especially in Catholic churches where the low bidder was often given pride of place.

    The digital organs have and will continue to replace really crappy pipe organs. Anyone that cries about that is guilty of putting emotions before the need for effective, responsive organs of any kind.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,079
    I have heard some digital organ installations that sounded pretty good, when the building cooperated. I have also heard some digital/pipe instruments that sounded a bit better. But I have heard some genuinely wretched pipe organs, too. Many factors go into a successful installation besides the instrument.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • I was the person who initiated the restoration of the "landmark" Holtkamp at St. Philomena, with its Rückpositiv of 10 ranks. When I arrived in '75, 85% of it was unplayable. By 1979, I rededicated it with the Bach Passacaglia; 3 Allein Gott(s), 662-664; Alain Intermezzo, and finally, the complete Six Fugues on BACH by Schumann, Op. 60. Final chest restoration done after I left in 1987 to move to NYC.
    We had the Latin Mass there, with complete melismatic chants (incl. 17 minute Tracts in Lent!), polyphonic masses from Obrecht to Lennox Berkeley, Stravinsky, and everything in between. On Sun. afternoons 6 or 7 men sang Latin Vespers and Benediction.

    The organ was a sweet, soft sounding organ of 43 ranks, even at full organ. The wind was "unstable" long before that part of contemporary organ building was again in fashion. One had to be careful in playing it, lest the organ make a fool of you.
    All in all, a remarkable place to work and make *real* music!
    david dunkle
  • mahrt
    Posts: 508
    I sang at St. Philomena's 1969-71. I am delighted to hear about the improvement, both in the organ and the liturgy.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • When I left St. Philomena, the choir and its huge library moved to Immaculate Conception, nearer to downtown, and the liturgy was and is now the Tridentine Rite. A member of the choir became the conductor; another member still is.
    The recording the choir made in 1978 of chant and Renaissance polyphony (recorded by The Cleveland Orchestra recording people was digitized in '09 by Bruce Gigax, the audio director for Cleve. Orch. broadcasts), and is available on youtube under the owner Urban VIII (meaning myself).
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    Back to the rückpositiv question. How about the RP on the Flentrop at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. At 15 stops it is larger than most pipe organs in American Catholic churches - and it sounds great!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,079
    I am glad you like the Flentrop, since I have generally considered it to be an ugly organ in an ugly building. I suspect our tastes in instruments and organ music are likely quite different, and there is nothing wrong with that. One can look at that building and just imagine how it appeared before the "reformers" did a number on it.
  • From Bigelow to the reformers. I certainly don't mind that the discussion has changed directions, but I was not expecting it.
    I have never seen the large Flentrop in Chicago, but I know first hand the destructive force of the clergy/bishops, post Paul VI missal. A certain bishop destroyed the exquisite monastic choir stalls, high altar/sanctuary in Cleveland's cathedral. The revised front of the church was "reconsecrated" with a certain Catholic composer's commissioned Missa "The Promised Land". Upon seeing/hearing this travesty, I immediately dubbed the new Mass "The Waste Land", a term not unfamiliar to people who know 20th c. poetry!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,079
    I suspect the ghost of Proulx is hiding in the loft in Chicago still flinging discordant chords into the universe. LOL.

    I have never seen the large Flentrop in Chicago, but I know first hand the destructive force of the clergy/bishops, post Paul VI missal.


    My take on that, and ymmv, is that the bishops went into Vatican II as Catholics, and returned as Calvinists.

    Bigelow, I haven't heard. There are not any instruments in this area by that firm.
  • You flatter those bishops. Would that it were that simple. Darker forces than Calvinism were/are at work!
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,079
    I tend to agree on those darker forces. When I look at the altered churches, they seem architecturally more in line with Calvinism - plain, utilitarian, and ugly as hell.
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    Charles,
    Actually Holy Name was never a very distinguished building from an architectural standpoint. They are very proud of the renovated space, but I agree that it is not
    beautiful.

    The Flentrop was compromised by the lack of acoustic in the renovated building. Even considering the carpet (now replaced by terrazzo), the loose tongue and groove ceiling was the major sound absorber. Ironically, the ceiling was and is the cathedral's most beautiful feature. The case is very deep - there are no offsets and even the full length 32 is in the case. Proulx worked tirelessly before the organ was installed to get the clergy to replace the carpet and make other acoustical fixes. Their failure to do so both contributed to the organ's major flaw (lack of impact) and to Proulx's leaving the position. The reason the positive sounds so good is that it is in a shallower case. The rest of the organ seemed to speak in a muffled voice, constrained by the dead room and the incredibly voluminous case. I suspect that now, with the new floor and the rebuilt ceiling (after a fire a few years ago) that the organ is much more balanced.

    Regarding style, I am surprised to hear that you think it is ugly. The major criticism I have always heard was that it had too little impact in the building. I found it to be incredibly coherent and vocal, but flawed in its balances between divisions for the reasons above.
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,079
    I heard the organ before the fire, not after. Keep in mind that I am a fan of great French and English instruments. Dutch and German, not so much unless they are South German - and I don't like Bach, either. In light of that, it really isn't surprising that I don't like the Flentrop.
  • Our Lady of Angels on Cleveland's west side may fit into this discussion if memory serves me correctly.
  • Drs. Dunkle and Mahrt,
    Thank you for the history. Apparently All Souls was the 40th anniversary of the re-establishment of polyphony at St. Philomena and the beginning of that unbroken tradition (apparently there were several years of chant-only between the Mahrt and Dunkle ages?) This was commemorated with Victora a4, which I gather was the original piece. This was all before my time (I joined my high school choir in MI at about the time Dr. Mahrt was in Cleveland). But the keeping of such local histories is very important.
  • And thank you David for the youtubes; I've put the Lassus Justorum on my own schola's page. The problem that we have (both at the Mac and at St. Sebastian where I am) is a lack of personnel; we do what we can with a handful or two of voices, but you had a real choir.
  • Amazing responses to the Bigelow/RP in RC churches question.
    Thank you, Jeffrey for the remarks.
    The first polyphonic mass was one on a part. In a room seating 900, you can imagine how weak it must have sounded. Beautiful room, but small acoustic. One needed 9-12-16 people at all times to make real music. Usually we had around 12-14 people; enough to do all the Renaissance Masses incl. double choir stuff, and the chant of course.
    I used to put ads in the local paper, and found some incredibly talented people that way.
    The choir always had a large number of Protestants, agnostics and Jewish people in its roster. Why not? Those people can sing English/Continental polyphony as well as anyone; probably better!
    We also attracted, for no apparent reason, people to the choir who were associated with the psychiatric profession. Did I attract them, or did the choir attract them? I do not know.
    Amazing choir in the 70s and 80s!
    They could, and did, sing anything, even 12-tone music.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • I hadn't thought of papers, but then, who reads them anymore? I need to explore better online options. I've done some flyers in music schools, with a little bit of interest. I don't have a cootie about non-Catholics; I was one once, and am no longer, so it could happen to somebody else as well. The current congregation is tapped out; there's one good singer, former member, who quit because she's doing what Catholic women do when they get married And we've been a victim of our success: "You sing such long high notes; I could never do that." Neither could the current members, when I started.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW