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Obstacles to having a good organ of your own

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    Obstacles to having a good organ of your own

    A recurring theme on this forum concerns folks who are in need of a suitable home organ or a starter organ for a small church or a low-cost replacement for one that's become un-repairable. This topic often draws me into the discussion as I feel inclined to offer advice on both the wisdom of obtaining a given organ and on the possibility of fixing what's wrong with it after it comes home. A quick perusal of the forum might turn up several such threads over the past few weeks, some of them still active.

    In one way, this is a good time in history for seeking out a used organ, with a sort of glut on the market -- the deeply disturbing trend away from the use of the organ in church provoking churches all around to give away fairly modern organs, the tumble in prices for used organs even on dealer floors, elderly organists passing away and leaving a sometimes pretty good organ for the heirs to get rid of. And the fairly small number of people who actually want one of these in their home or need one for a church. Supply is high, demand is low, prices are or should be quite low.

    But even with that, there are obstacles that the average person faces in getting a free or nearly-free organ and making a working instrument out of it. Since it's better for a person to know about these obstacles than not to know, I thought I'd share a few random thoughts and see if others want to throw in some more.

    (1) Even with the glut on the market, it may be hard to find one that is really ideal for your purposes. Organs vary tremendously in vast numbers of ways. It may not be wise to grab up the first one that shows up on craigslist in your town.

    (2) You may find just what you're looking for, and it may be cheap or free, but it may have expensive problems that you only discover after you get it home.

    (3) It's not always just plain and obvious how to connect up the parts, how to wire the speakers, where to put them.

    (4) After you get it all fixed and hooked up and in place, you probably will still face a steep learning curve getting it voiced correctly.

    (5) Even figuring out how to "operate" some organs can be frustrating. Some have elaborate menu systems for configuring this and that, some have secret codes or magical keystrokes or piston presses that must be performed to give access to certain features. Even just figuring out how to register a given type of tone, how to save a registration on a piston, which manual to put your hands on ... there are so many things that can befuddle even a somewhat experienced and competent organist when faced with a different instrument.

    Given the shocking decline in appreciation for the organ in church and the generations of people now alive who have never even heard a good organ properly sounding in a beautiful worship space or concert hall, I would love to see the glut on the used market turn into a new proliferation of organs in homes and public places and a new level of love for this great instrument. But considering the obstacles, this revolution may not come cheap!

    The GOOD NEWS is that this forum DOES provide a lot of help for the organ seeker, even in the face of all the obstacles I listed above, and many others I'm not even thinking of. We can only do what we can do, but we must keep up the good work!
    John
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    *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

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