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Rodgers Alexandria 820

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  • Rodgers Alexandria 820

    Could someone give me some more information (or a good place to find it) on the portable pipe augmentation that was an option for Rodgers Alexandria 820. For example, was there one rank, two, etc. What were the ranks 8 foot, 4 foot, diapason, flute?

    Thanks for all your help!

  • #2
    yes i can help, i own the organ and have a picture of the pipes but do not own them my self, the pipes were a 1' stifflote, a 2' wald flote i believe, a 2' octave, a 4' flute, a 4' principal, and a 8' rohrflute.


    • #3
      The brochure is available on the Rodgers web site at:

      It indicates that the package was 2 ranks, 73 notes each of 8' Principal TC and an 8' Spitzflöte TC. so they were complete through 4 and 2 ft, and the bottom 8' octaves were extended with electronics. I'm sure that other options were available if a customer had wanted to do more.

      Other standard 2-rank packages could be married to this console, and those were typically either principal and holzgedackt or principal and metal gedackt. I've purchased a used set of principal and metal gedackt, and from the seller's picture it looks like the bottom notes of the gedact are stopped, some of the middle notes are rohr'ed, and the top notes look tapered. But the image quality isn't good enough for me to say for certain.


      • #4
        If you are looking to acquire pipes, there is a 4-rank package on ebay right now at: http://www.--------/itm/Four-Ranks-o...item2c93aa5f5f

        Starting bid of $2,000.


        • #5
          Not to throw any cold water on the idea, but a dose of reality ... I have worked on several organs with more or less this complement of Rodgers pipes from the 80's and in many cases these are not the greatest pipes. I seem to recall that Rodgers used Rufatti pipes at one time, and they were probably pretty good. But by the 80's they were building their own (!) and the results were not nearly as good.

          Not that it was a bad idea. Four TC ranks (as described in the ebay ad) with four tone colors -- principal, gemshorn, and two varieties of flute -- there have been pipe organs built with less variety than that (I speak of course of tiny cheap unit organs). And Rodgers used these four ranks quite effectively, duplexing and unifying around the organ so that you'd get some surprising variations on the different divisions, as a particular rank was keyed at a certain pitch level, with or without chiff applied, etc.

          These pipes were capable of some pretty high sound levels too. In some installations they are so loud that the organists routinely use the ancillary (electronic) stops except for the biggest registrations, even in a good-size church. And the electronic notes used to provide the lowest octave of the 8' stops are surprisingly decent. So what's not to love?

          Well, even without the obvious drawbacks of all this duplexing and unification, and lack of expression, there is the issue of tuning. Rodgers provided no automatic tuning of the oscillators back then, just a knob on the console. So it was necessary to tinker with the tuning of the console all the time as the temperature and humidity fluctuated in the room. Sometimes the pitch of the pipes will change quite drastically over the course of a one-hour service as the presence of warm, breathing human beings changes the atmosphere.

          But perhaps worse -- and I suspect this problem is almost universal with the Rodgers-built pipes of that era -- some of these pipes simply will not stay in tune for very long no matter how stable the temp and humidity. The stoppers and tuning slides are not well made nor properly fitted, or else they have seriously deteriorated. I can't tell you how many of these pipe units we've gone out and tuned, spending a lot of time on just two or four ranks, only to have the church report a month later that they're already so sour they can't be played.

          But people still seem to tolerate them. Of the four hybrid Rodgers organs we service most frequently, we've only been able to talk one of them into permanently disabling the pipes. In order to convince them of the need to do this, we had to thoroughly re-voice the electronic portion of the organ (an big 890) so that it could play almost as loud as the pipes by itself. In another church, we re-voiced the electronics to match the pipes, but they still wanted to keep the pipes alive, though they have to switch to ancillary most of the time due to tuning issues.

          So... to make a long story short .... don't pay a lot of money for these pipes and expect them to work a miracle on your Rodgers. They might be fun to play around with, and the huge loud sound may be exciting, but prepare yourself for a lot of on-going work.
          *** 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!


          • #6
            Rodgers had various sources of pipes from different periods of time--I know of these:

            Their own shop (including, I think at some point, the Van Doren pipe factory)

            Probably it depends upon who built the pipes as to how well they were made and hold tuning. And, of course, the sound level would depend upon the pipe scales and designs.

            I played a 205 hybrid at a dealers showroom, and the pipes were quite nice--since that organ was somewhat of a stock cabinet organ, it was probably voiced gently for smaller spaces. I am in the process of acquiring 2 ranks (principal and metal gedackt) for my home 760 console, and these were built by Laukhuff, and expect they'll work find in my home--the temperature doesn't drift much, and Laukhuff being a major supply house probably can't risk their reputation by building sub-standard pipework.

            Still there seems to be a lot of variability in what Rodgers was supplying.


            • #7

              You may be lucky and get hold of some decent pipes, but as you say, there is a lot of variability in what they sold over time. In a home setting, you will at least be able to work on them when you need to, and not be worried that they'll be out of tune or ciphering or having other issues in the middle of a service.

              The 205 literature seems to indicate it was built with smaller spaces in mind, and they may well have voiced the pipes rather softly. I hope so, with so many high-pitched pipes right in your face when you sit on the bench! That disposition is a good example of how far one can stretch four TC ranks. I assume the reeds and celestes, as well as all notes below TC are electronic.

              The organs we regularly service with Rodgers pipes -- one 890, one 925, one 870, one 840 -- were all built in the mid-80's, I believe, and I think at that period Rodgers was surely building their own pipes. Among these four organs, none of the pipes are in very good shape. As I said above, we convinced one church to let us disable the pipes because they wouldn't stay tuned overnight. And the other three are really just about as bad.

              I must admit that part of the trouble is where the installers put the pipes back then. In every case but one, they apparently thought no one would ever need to tune the pipes, since they put them up so high off the floor in such precarious locations that one needs a large scaffold or a power lift of some kind to even get to them. We've tuned some of them standing on tall ladders, and believe me, one doesn't do his best work 20 feet off the ground on a wobbly ladder! But seriously, some of the stoppers are so loose they will start to creep down as soon as you let go. And the pipes are so darned inaccessible, and it would cost so much money for the church to set up scaffolding and have them professionally repaired, they're just not worth it.

              Several years ago I read a rather scathing piece about the pipes that Rodgers built and sold during that period of time. Can't recall the source or the writer, but he indicated (and I think he was involved in some way, with a dealer perhaps) that the pipes would sometimes come to the dealers in pretty bad shape, voicing-wise, and that the poorly trained pipe installers on staff at some dealerships would proceed to "voice" the pipes with pliers, screwdrivers, hammers, chainsaws, and whatever else they had at hand, with rather poor results. Not sure how much of the article was tongue-in-cheek, but I know the guy was saying that he thought they put out a lot of junk back in those days.

              Well, to be fair, I was selling the "other" brand of organ during the same time period, and needless to say our company did not have a high opinion of those pipes. So maybe I'm a little brainwashed. But I sure haven't been impressed with the ones I've seen up close.
              *** 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!



              • #8
                I read somewhere that Rodgers would send pipe installers if the dealer would pay, and some dealers didn't pay in order to save money, so sometimes the pipes didn't get voiced--not the best option, in the end! I think people who thought most of the pipes were "a lot of junk" were probably exposed to installations with inadequate attention to the voicing and installation, plus, I'm sure, some of the pipes were built better than others.

                And, you know, if you take 2 unit ranks and try to fill a large church with sound, good results aren't very likely--I think that's where Allen's marketing materials of the time got it right. But, 2 unit ranks at low volume in a house have a much better chance.

                The 205 had just 49 notes for each rank, so it carried from 8'TC up through the top of the 4' rank. Above & below, electronic extensions.

                I'll post info when I receive the pipes and get them going--the chest they are on is only about 3' high at the racking board, so with 4' as the longest pipe, I will definitely be able to tune them without a ladder (except maybe for the bottom half octave of the principal rank).

                I don't think that Rodgers built their own pipes for very long. I think the economics of running a pipe shop just didn't work out--and, I suspect, Rodgers was not doing well financially until Roland bought them.

                Note that in my OP, it should read "Van Zoeren" instead of "Van Doren".

                Incidentally, the 760 (and its brother the 755) had some refinements that were not in the earlier models of similar vintage: the 760 & 755 had 2 separate keyers for the Swell 4' principal and Great 4' octave independent of the normal swell and great principal keyers, allowing for separate voicing and volume for those 2 stops. They also provided 8 levels of chiff instead of just 4--something I always felt was needed, as in the earlier models (like the 770), the chiff on the swell flute was either too much or too little.


                • #9

                  I've noticed that on a few Rodgers analogs, the separate volume control for the 4' principal. Nice touch. Too many Rodgers analogs I've played had a 4' principal that was overbearing, dominated the 8' even. It's certainly nice to be able to set the proper relationship between the 8' and 4'.

                  Your mention of Van Zoeren got me thinking. That post I read some years back mentioned Van Zoeren, and the person who wrote the post had come in sometime after Van Zoeren at Rodgers. He told about the complete lack of understanding among the CBS-appointed management at Rodgers, who, he thought, may not have even realized that the pipes had to speak, that they were primarily just decorative.

                  CBS had no interest in having pipes voiced for each installation, ordering him to do "one size fits all" voicing on every set, though many pipes got shipped out with nothing more than being put on speech, without regard to scaling or leveling, to those dealers who claimed they could "do their own voicing." This is where, he said, the pliers, crowbars, screwdrivers, chainsaws, and other fine tools of the trade got used on the pipes. He said that there were times when a dealer completely ruined the pipes and Rodgers would have to replace them and send real pipe installers from the factory to salvage a job.

                  The guy went on to say that the slick brochures claiming Rodgers was using "Aeolian-Skinner" scales or "Bach's wind pressure" or other toney-sounding stuff was pure nonsense. I'd guess they had some folks in the organization who sincerely wanted to be selling great pipes, but these were over-ruled by the bean counters in the end.

                  Honestly, I've heard some of those little pipe units that were very pleasant, and I think I'd enjoy having some in my house if I had room for them, and if they weren't too loud. They are real pipes, after all, and there is a charm to them that is undeniable. And if they're not 20' off the floor, one could keep them tuned and playing without risking life and limb.

                  Hope to hear about your experience once you get them playing.
                  *** 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!



                  • #10

                    In doing research on Rodgers pipes, I think I've come across the same posts. I think it might have been on the piporg-l list or something like that!

                    I'll keep you posted!


                    • #11
                      Any update on these pipes? Quality and voicing?

                      I too have 820 with 2 ranks of pipes, how can I check who was manufacturer? Do pipes have some kind of signature on them?


                      • #12
                        I know of no signatures on pipe, unless the manufacturer stamped his name on one of them--I'd check middle C or the lowest note available.

                        Send me a PM for more information.