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  • Dedication Interruptus - Computer Freeze - Rodgers Combination

    <P mce_keep="true">Last evening, at the invitation of a friend, I attended an organ dedication at the local Lutheran Church.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">The recently installed "combination" organ is made up of a small two-manual Rodgers "Masterpiece Signature Series 229" combined with 4 ranks of pipes- two extended [85 pipe] 8' ranks and two 4' ranks; one of each open and one of each stopped. 292 pipes in all. It replaces a fully-featured Yamaha Clavinova.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">The pipes sit on top of a large case which contains everything not in the console [blower, winding system, pipe chest, speakers, etc]. The main speakers are located out of sight behind the pipes and face upward. The two bass speakers are located at floor level on each side of the case, facing the walls. The pipes are professional looking, with the stopped ones having rings of red felt at the edges of the stoppers. All in all, an impressive looking installation.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">This can be seen at www.lolssi.org by going to the bottom of the home page. Note that this instrument is described as a "new pipe organ"; which description led me and others to be somewhat surprised when we arrived and realized that description was not accurate.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">The dedication was titled "A Hymn Festival" and was conducted, in addition to the Pastor, by David and Susan Cherwien, who were flown in from Minneapolis for the occasion, and who apparently brought the "Festival" with them. The Cherwiens are both excellent musicians. There were perhaps 100 people in attendance.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">The organ sound and the Dedication Service itself[which lasted over an hour and twenty minutes] were both somewhat disappointing; but that is a subject for another time.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">Approximately 2/3 of the way through the service, as Mr Cherwien was playing the introduction for a hymn, in mid phrase, the organ simply ceased to play. Nothing. However the music rack light was still on, indicating that the organ was receiving power. Since the console is over to the side with the organist facing the room, all could see Mr. Cherwien, with a slightly puzzled/concerned look on his face, looking down and doing something to restart it. When a few minutes had passed and Mr. Cherwiens's efforts were not producing results, a Mr.Freeman from the Jacksonville area, who had actually sold and installed this instrument and had said a few words about it at the beginning of the service, joined him and a few minutes later it came back to life. The remainder of the Dedication was without incident.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">Afterward Mr Freeman explained to me that a "software glitch" had caused the computer to freeze and that Mr. Cherwien had not allowed enough time before trying to restart [reboot] the organ.He went on to say that "all digital organs,and those pipe organs with digitalkeying,unexpectedly stop from time to time". [He also stated that he had heard of a very large Allen that had recently come to an unexpected stop.]</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">Do they? Do these modern digital computer-controlled instruments just freeze and stop unexpectedly from time to time? News to me.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">I was responsible for the installation of a Renaissance 330 [with pipes] eleven years ago and there have been no abrupt, unexpected stopsas yet.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">I have played many other digital instruments with never an unexpected halt or the tale of one.</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">There was a reason this organ stopped sounding, howeverMr Freeman seemed unconcerned and disinclined to find out what that reason was. In his opinion sudden stops were a fact of life; deal with it! [Good thing I wasn't paying for this organ!] </P>
    <P mce_keep="true">On a more global note, will any of these instruments be playing 50 years from now? 100 years from now? Tracker organs will be. ElectroPneumatic organs with traditional relays and keying will be; in many cases long after their makers have gone out of business. </P>
    <P mce_keep="true">Do we care?</P>
    <P mce_keep="true">Rick Powers</P>

  • #2
    Re: Dedication Interruptus - Computer Freeze - Rodgers Combination



    This reminds me of a rumor concerning the dedication of the new Moeller organ at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Mark, Minneapolis back in the mid-60's. It was claimed that Moeller technicians were in the chambers chasing ciphers during the concert.</P>

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Dedication Interruptus - Computer Freeze - Rodgers Combination



      Please forgive me for not addressing the topic of the post, but I would like to comment on Mr. David Cherwien and his FANTASTIC ability on the organ. I was fortunate to hear him and the National Lutheran Choir perform a couple of years ago in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Mr. Cherwien's ability on the 80-rank Aeolian-Skinner organ was awesome, and is something I will never forget.</P>


      The hymn festival included OLD HUNDREDTH (All People That on Earth Do Dwell), LEONI (The God of Abraham Praise), GENEVAN (Sing, Sing a New Song to the Lord God), HYFRYDOL, EVENTIDE, and many others. The congregation was heavily involved, and it was truly awesome how everyone was brought together for an unforgettable experience. Mr. Cherwien's improvisation ability and command of the organ were spectacular.
      </P>

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Dedication Interruptus - Computer Freeze - Rodgers Combination



        Rick,</p>

        You ask, "Do these modern digital computer-controlled instruments just freeze and stop unexpectedly from time to time? News to me."</p>

        It is certainly possible. It could be buggy software or it could be the power supply. The reason I say power supply is that many organ companies use little switching supplies which when there is a power dip can miss a cycle or two on the output, causing the computer clock to momentarily go wonky and causing a freeze up. Nothing is perfect in this life, especially when it comes to computers.</p>

        You ask "On a more global note, will any of these instruments be playing 50 years from now? 100 years from now?"</p>

        The odd one may go 50 years, pretty much none will function at the century mark. Majority of electronic organs are replaced before they are 35 years old - most because at the end it is more expensive to service them than what they are worth. </p>

        AV
        </p>

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Dedication Interruptus - Computer Freeze - Rodgers Combination

          Dear"alsmith"


          You wrote:</P>


          Forgive me for not addressing the topic of the post, but I would like to comment on Mr. David Cherwien and his FANTASTIC ability on the organ. I was fortunate to hear him and the National Lutheran Choir perform a couple of years ago in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Mr. Cherwien's ability on the 80-rank Aeolian-Skinner organ was awesome, and is something I will never forget.</P>


          The hymn festival included OLD HUNDREDTH (All People That on Earth Do Dwell), LEONI (The God of Abraham Praise), GENEVAN (Sing, Sing a New Song to the Lord God), HYFRYDOL, EVENTIDE, and many others. The congregation was heavily involved, and it was truly awesome how everyone was brought together for an unforgettable experience. Mr. Cherwien's improvisation ability and command of the organ were spectacular.
          </P>


          I totally agree with your evaluation. He is a superb organist and improvisor.</P>


          The reasons I found his "Hymn Festival" somewhat disappointing were these:</P>


          1) Except for two or three [out of eight], the hymns he selected [none of the ones you mentioned] were not hymns normally sung at this church; several members of the choir [who were not assembled as a choir, but scattered throughout the congregation] reported that to me. This was not an unrelated "concert", it was a festival to celebrate a specific new organ at a specific church.</P>


          2) While technically spectacular,his introductions were generally overly long and sometimes thematically and sonically foreign to the musical setting of the hymn [a bouncy, flutey introduction to How Firm A Foundation, for example]. Also, in my opinion, his verse interludes were too many and often too long. I am influenced by my belief that hymns are the "people's music", not an opportunity for the organist to show off, and interludes should be limited. In some cases he put long interludes between each verse of a hymn.</P>


          3) It is a reasonably small room, and he often overpowered the singing with a great"wall" of sound. </P>


          Rick Powers</P>
          <P mce_keep="true"></P>

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Dedication Interruptus - Computer Freeze - Rodgers Combination



            Rick,</P>


            While it must be alarming to think that an organ can simply halt without warningin the middle of a service or program, the installer's non-chalant attitude might in fact be somewhat justified.</P>


            My partner and Ihave helped install several of the new Masterpiece organs and there is a bit of a learning curve for organists regarding proper procedures for shutting down/re-startingone of theseorgans.</P>


            It's possible that an AC power glitch disrupted the organ, and that would not be news, as AC powercan beirregularin just about any part of the country. A good defense against this is a very-high-capacity UPS device connected to the console. It's not necessary to have UPS on the blower or other peripherals, of course, but the console needs to be protected from erratic AC voltage swings.</P>


            Today's digitals are rather elaborate computer systems, and are just naturally more vulnerable to dirty AC power than older electronicmodels or even pipe organs, which are far less likely to be affected by brief power glitches.</P>


            What happened next is also easily explained. When a Rodgers Masterpiece is abruptly shut down, as this one may have been by an AC glitch, it is vital to wait 30 seconds before attempting to restart it. Otherwise, the computer may believe the operator is trying to force a "cold start" -- which is a lengthy from-scratch bootup that would normally only be necessary if the system configuration had been changed. It sounds to me like that is precisely what happened, and theorganist had to wait for the organ to go through that several minutes of coldreboot.</P>


            I hope that the installer will explain this to the local organist (and to a visiting organist next time lest this happen again!) so such an embarrassing event won't happen.</P>


            The problem is that we all know how hard it is to be patient when 100 people are sitting out there thinking that we just broke their new organ! No doubt the organist simply did what most of us would do when the organ suddenly went off -- he tried to turn it back on immediately, and that was a mistake!</P>


            While I don't know thatother digital organs require sucha wait before restarting, I'd say that all digital instruments have certain "quirks" that one should be fully aware of when dealing with them.</P>


            However, I think the unfortunate incident you described would not have happened if the installer had put a proper UPS on the console, preventing the shut-down that triggered the whole episode.</P>


            OTOH, if there already is a UPS on the console, the dealer needs to try to find out what else could have caused the abrupt shut-down. If there is a defective power supply, for example, it should be replaced at no cost to the church, and I'm sure Rodgers would provide the needed replacement under warranty.</P>


            John</P>
            <P mce_keep="true"></P>
            John
            ----------
            *** 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!

            https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Dedication Interruptus - Computer Freeze - Rodgers Combination



              Dear John,</P>


              Thank you for your complete, cogent explanation of what probably happened at the dedication.</P>


              I have been away - from the Forum - for awhile and just read it. I will pass your reply on to the organist and the Pastor.</P>


              The basic question still bothers me though. What are we doing to the long term reliability of new and re-consoled organs by equipping them with essentially un-time-tested electronics and software that might or might not be supported/understood 50 years from now?</P>


              The 1914 E. M. Skinner organ at St. JamesEpiscopal Church in New London CT I played, had a 1952, 4-manual, electro-pneumatic Moller console with its own air supply from the blower; big, solid, totally reliable, comfortable, very well built. But the plastic Moeller used to make the stop knobs and coupler tablets was unstable and, over time, began to yellow, "morph" and crack. [Ireplaced it all during my tenure.] Many Moellers of that era experienced the same problem. Clearly Moeller would not have used that particular plastic if they had known how it would look 40 years later. How about the multitude of capacitor failures in electronic equipment? Carry these analogies to currently produced electronics and you can see why I am troubled - not for me, because I am probably too "long-in-the-tooth" to seethese instruments terminally fail, but for my children and grandchildren's generations.</P>


              I don't lose any sleep over this, butthe picture of world-wide organ failures is not a pretty one.</P>


              Best Wishes,</P>


              Rick</P>
              <P mce_keep="true"></P>

              Comment


              • #8
                Well, AC in much of North America is subject to the odd sag and glitch, so these manufacturers should account for that. A linear power supply with large capacitors would probably be immune to that and cost...what...$50 more but they just can't spare that I guess. It's not like there isn't room in the console and linear power supplies are still available as ready built commercial parts. Switching power supplies are very sensitive. I tried to use one as the auxiliary power supply in an amp I was building but a minor short circuit that a linear supply would have easily survived, killed it.

                "Majority of electronic organs are replaced before they are 35 years old - most because at the end it is more expensive to service them than what they are worth." This is an interesting statement. I read the Markham ON church report and they make a convincing case for a pipe organ being a better long term purchase. To me though, the problem with digital organs is really the propriety nature of their equipment. If, for example, the Marshall & Ogletree company granted its purchase a lifetime license to the software, even if, in 30 years the company is gone, upgrading could just mean recompiling the code on the latest version of Linux (which will always be around, probably) and replacing the hardware. Which by that point will be cheaper because of the inevitable advance of computer technology. Since the Op. 1 is said to take 2000 lbs of servers now, in 30 years it will probably need 2 lbs of server! There will always be computer audio equipment to input/output multiple channels. Then you're left with the console failing, which would happen to any pipe organ with a sophisticated computer controlled console as well.
                But this basically can't happen. Allen or Rodgers or M&O (or hauptwerk) can't "open source" their organs for fear of competitors copying their code. Which is slightly ironic because it's all probably rather similar and is being reverse engineered, to some degree, by the open source community. (J-organ etc.)

                Comment


                • #9
                  And those switching power suppliers are very much "the thing" now. I guess I will keep my older Astron regulated supply on my residence organ.

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