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    Getting to church and finding the organ has a problem

    This morning I was on the "other end" of it. As an organ tech, I've received many a call on Sunday afternoon, sometimes even on Sunday morning, as somebody's organ has a problem when they turn it on for the service. This morning I was that person...

    Turned on the Allen at church and noticed right away that the expression bar graph for the great was not moving. Yep, sure enough, no expression on the great, just full on all the time. Fortunately, the swell still had expression as usual. I'm guessing the expression lamp has burned out in the great shoe, but I won't have time to check it out until later in the week.

    So how do YOU handle it when you get to church and discover a serious problem with the organ? Panic? Move to the piano? Leave out something you were planning to play? Or just carry on and trust that no one else will notice?

    At first I was thinking, well this won't bother me much. I play most of the time, especially on the hymns, with the expression wide open anyway. And I can always regulate the volume by hand registration. But of course it's not that simple, and there were some hair-raising moments.

    For one thing, I had to accompany our resident flutist, who is an accomplished professional player, for a special piece, and my intent had been to do some artistic expressive work. Yes, the swell stops were still expressible, but I'm not accustomed to having to depend on that division alone. Besides, in my church the swell speakers are across the chancel from the console and I've come to depend more on the great division, which speaks from all around me on the bench. So I was a little nervous, and it showed in my playing. She was kind enough not to comment, but it must have disturbed her when I fluffed more than one note at critical points in the piece.

    Even at the end of the service. After the final hymn, my usual practice is to play another stanza through with expression closed as the people visit and disperse, in lieu of a formal postlude. But without expression, even with reduced registration, I still felt I was blaring through the exciting sounds of friendly interaction among the members.

    What would you have done?
    John
    ----------
    Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
    Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
    Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
    Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

    #2
    Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
    So how do YOU handle it when you get to church and discover a serious problem with the organ? Panic? Move to the piano? Leave out something you were planning to play? Or just carry on and trust that no one else will notice?
    [snip]
    What would you have done?
    John,

    The simple answer is, "Yes." Faced with what you were this AM, I would have no choice but to go the way you did. However, this AM it wouldn't have been an issue because I only played the piano this AM because I'm dealing with a health issue that precludes me playing the organ. Hopefully, it'll be resolved in a couple of seeks, and I'll be able to return to the organ then. Good job, under the circumstances.

    Because of my health issues, I had no music planned, and we sang pieces people requested. As a result, I actually had a request to have another "hymn sing" this AM. Hopefully, I'll be able to have it sometime soon!

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

    Comment


    • jbird604
      jbird604 commented
      Editing a comment
      Sounds like you took lemons and made lemonade! Good job!

    #3
    If it's just a minor problem, I work around it. If the organ is unusable, I will drive home and get my portable organ aka accordion. I can do this because I live in the next village, just a few minutes away. If nothing else helps, we will sing unaccompanied, but I haven't had this situation yet.

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      #4
      Years ago I played a service in a church that had an Allen organ with two channels. When I arrived before the service, I discovered that the two channels were wildly out of tune. I don't mean celesting, more like playing in two keys at once. I set up two pistons, one had stops that played only in channel one and the other piston usedd stops that only played in channel two. While not ideal, it got me through the service.
      Bill

      My home organ: Content M5800

      Comment


      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        Sometimes you just do what you have to do!

      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        WOW! I'm impressed! Great recovery for a service. It's amazing what we do sometimes to pull of a service.

        Michael

      • Larrytow
        Larrytow commented
        Editing a comment
        That was a very inventive solution ! Of course, most organists ( who have no idea about how the organ works ) would never have been able to figure out the issue, much less work around it.

      #5
      At least the problem wasn't something truly catastrophic, and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to fix it this afternoon in short order. Not as simple as it would be on some models, as the expression pedals on this organ are protected on the back by a wire cage that must be removed, and the great expression pedal's lamp socket can't be removed without loosening the screws that hold the pedal unit in place. So I'll be there an hour or so at best.

      Many years ago, I arrived at church one Sunday to find that there were no F# notes anywhere on the organ. It was an old Wurlitzer with the 12 individual master oscillators, and the F# board had quit working during the week for some reason. Needless to say, it was a little distressing to have all those notes dead. I played it anyway, but one of the hymns was in the key of D and the F# was sorely missed!

      The worst malfunction situation I can recall is the time 3 or 4 years ago I arrived at church on Palm Sunday morning to find the organ dead as a doornail. Not a peep out of it. Some of you who have followed my travails may recall that the MDS-45's cage went completely down when battery acid damage from years ago eventually ate through a critical trace on the backplane board. It took me weeks of troubleshooting and many hours of grueling work to get the cage fixed. That's why I'm always warning people about ADC or MDS cages that have or had the USAV board inside, since they were shipped with batteries on the board, and so many of those batteries leaked and damaged boards, sockets, and even backplanes before owners discovered the problem.

      That year, I had to scramble to have an organ for Easter Sunday, and managed by attaching my Content 220 MIDI box to the Allen. It played just fine, but the Content box was so old that it did not respond to the MIDI expression data from the Allen, so I played for weeks without expression of any kind!
      John
      ----------
      Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
      Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
      Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
      Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

      Comment


        #6
        Subbing at a Christian Science church with a III/54 Aeolian-Skinner the organ would not turn on. (Later found to be a loss of the three phase wiring to the seven hp blower due to a storm.) We moved to the reading room, with a Yamaha spinet. They were appreciative.

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