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Allen MDS-85 "re" dedicated. Lovely recital.

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  • Allen MDS-85 "re" dedicated. Lovely recital.

    Attended a recital this afternoon at a local church where a beautiful Allen MDS-85 was dedicated. The church's own organist, who is an occasional poster on this forum, and who only recently completed a degree in organ performance, played magnificently. The recital was a bittersweet occasion, as he is about to leave this church for a full-time and quite prestigious position in a neighboring city. He leaves behind a wonderful instrument that will surely help the church attract another fine musician. (I'll not identify him by name to protect his privacy.)

    This beautiful and marvelously musical organ had previously served a church in another state (I don't know the history) and was sought out last year by the organist as a replacement for a Wicks instrument that needed more work than the church could possibly underwrite. As it arrived it sounded pretty nice, and a local pipe organ builder lent his ears and helped the organist bring out the best in all the stops. I thought they did a great job. I've rarely heard a better-sounding Allen.

    There are 110 digital ranks playing through 17 audio channels. Swell and choir speakers are to the left, great and pedal to the right, the solo trumpet is in the center behind the altar, and two B-40 pedal cabinets are behind the choir loft. You see some pipes in the picture, and these are remnants of the Wicks organ, but do not play. There is a nice mechanical zimbelstern on a shelf in front of the display pipes, given in memory of a former organist-choirmaster of the church.

    The program was fairly brief, not much over 30 minutes, but included some lovely music, and something that appealed to almost any music lover. The young organist is quite a funny guy on top of being incredibly proficient, and did a dead-on impression of Diane Bish when he introduced "Sinfonia from Wir Danken Dir, Gott" by Bach, perhaps one of her best-known recital pieces.

    The program also included "Fanfare for Organ" (John Cook), "Amazing Grace" (Fred Swann), "Assurance" (John Ness Beck), "The Gift to Be Simple" (Dale Wood), and concluded with a soaring "Toccata in F Major" (Bach) that brought the audience to their feet.

    Altogether a great afternoon's music. And the church should enjoy this wonderful organ for decades to come.
    Attached Files
    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

  • #2
    Admin: I got a PM from a member saying that he could not view the pic I attached to the above post. Any idea why he could not see it? Thanks!
    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

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    • #3
      If John's review leaves any of you pining for his own MDS-85:

      http://www.dafferorgans.com/Store/ta...5/Default.aspx

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      • #4
        John,

        As you and I some others have mentioned on the forum, the Allen MDS series, especially the larger ones were musically well sorted out. In fact I would say that Allen really has not progressed much in terms of tone production since the MDS series.
        That is probably why Allen has lost marketshare to competitors, who have progressed more and have in many ways surpassed what Allen is doing, all at a lower cost as well.

        Glad to hear that a worthy instrument has found a home where it will be appreciated.

        AV

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        • #5
          Yes indeed, Arie. As I sat there listening, it was hard to believe the sound was not coming from pipes. They had the reeds down to perfection by then, beautiful solo reeds as well as that huge trumpet. And all the rest -- principals, mixtures, flutes, strings, celestes, powerful pedals. Pretty much like listening to a nice big pipe organ, except there were NO sour notes or missing notes due to a bad valve or something, no tuning issues developing as the program went on, no peculiar voicing irregularities.

          The one thing that I still don't hear in every digital is that "big organ in a big room" spaciousness. This one has the guts to do it, but it's a little constrained by the church not being all that big and only moderately live. And I think we still have a ways to go on getting speakers to disperse sound the way pipes do.
          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

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          • #6
            Oh John!! What a tease!....no video???!!!:'(

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            • #7
              The photo came through fine here!
              Rob

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              • #8
                Sorry, no video. I did in fact record a few minutes with my phone, but the quality of the recording was too poor to give any idea of the experience. The young man played extremely well. I knew he would because I've heard him play a number of times in an empty church and his technique is quite astounding. But then he's young...
                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


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                  But then he's young...
                  Now, John. You know Paul told Timothy, "Let no man despise your age." Of course, that's my interpretation of it now that I'm a bit "older.";-)

                  I'd love to have heard and played that instrument. Do you think Allen's digital ambiance (whatever they call it) would have helped?

                  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)
                  • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Not sure whether digital ambiance helps so much with the larger instruments. It definitely helps a smaller organ sound more spacious when the room is dead.

                    Digital ambiance has evolved tremendously over the years. Even in the MDS era, the "ADR-4" system was not really all that good. I suppose Allen never wanted the digital reverb to dominate and make the organ sound "swim" in the echo. But I always thought their reverb was too subtle to do much good.

                    By contrast, the reverb or "acoustic portrait" systems on current models are quite astounding when correctly set up. Same with Rodgers and their newest acoustic enhancement systems. I think the companies have realized that their organs by and large are winding up in fairly dead rooms (compared to the old highly reverberant traditional sanctuaries) and they need reverb to sweeten the sound before people hear it.

                    I have used Alesis MIDIverb4 units on several organ installations, and I think those units can really make an organ sound good, even in a small or dead room. Not that I wouldn't prefer a true live room, but good digital reverb can certainly help.

                    As to the "age" issue -- it works both ways. I can truly say that I play much better now than I did when I was young, but that's largely because I was a lazy musician for sure when I was growing up. Just took enough piano lessons to learn what I wanted to know, then I just "winged it" all the time. In recent years, I have come to value PRACTICE much more, and wow does it ever pay off! I can remember just a few years ago not being able to play certain hymns, thinking they were just too hard, and now the same hymns are easy for me. Only difference -- I practiced. I don't look forward to the day, though, when my fingers become sluggish and stiff. That will be when I really start to long for my lost youth!
                    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

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                    • #11
                      When I sampled a MDS organ I considered buying, I thought the ADR-4 sounded pretty bad. Which you'd expect for a digital reverb unit from the very early 1990s (late 80s?) that wasn't made by a specialist company like Lexicon costing 10s of thousands of dollars. The technology just wasn't there yet. Acoustic Portrait is loads better, but unless adjusted by someone with a good ear, it's still going to sound more like artificial reverb. I think there's what the french would call a "bienseance" with reverb. A question of artistic propriety, so to speak.* If you're not in a huge cathedral, then, I'm sorry, a huge cathedral type reverberation sounds rediculous. It would be like the acoustic equivalence of an Ames room.

                      So I think it would always be best for the acoustic space to have enough reverb. If not, better to use some ambience solution. Funny enough the only demerits I could give huge Johannus when I posted a review was that in a sense, it almost sounded too gorgeous for the small and padded space. I convinced myself that at times I must be hearing synthetic reverb tails. But 99.9% of people wouldn't think that way and would just think "my god, this organ sounds heavenly." But I couldn't be sure it was synthetic reverb...so it was adjusted very well indeed. At least you CAN add reverb with an electronic organ. I've know of more than one pipe organ that just sounded stunted and dull by being in a small, low-ceilinged, over padded church. It doesn't need much spatial volume to fix though, because I can also think of several small country churches I've been in with high plaster walls, little padding or carpeting, where the organ has just enough delay and echo to sound good.

                      * - and btw, not that I've listened to many Hauptwerk organs recently, but years ago I thought some of them sounded way too mushy with reverb, which then ruined the overall ensemble. Because unfortunately, even if your pipe samples are 45 minutes long per pipe, you're still not acoustically mixing them when they sum on a digital buss and are output to 2 channels.

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                      • #12
                        I agree, circa, that fake reverb will sound, well, "fake" if the sound you are hearing doesn't match up with what you see when you look around. It seems a little silly to presume that you can make that 20-seat funeral chapel sound like the nave of St. Paul's in London.

                        OTOH, a great part of the joy of organ music comes from the gloriously big and lively churches in which most of the great organs of the world are found. There simply isn't any comparison between the typical carpeted and pew-padded 300-seat Baptist church and a vast stone cathedral. So most people will never in their lives experience the organ in all its glory as we fortunate few have heard.

                        So, bringing a smidgen of that glory into the small church can be a good thing, IMHO, but only if done tastefully. After all, the entire sound of a digital organ is in reality "fake" because we're "imitating" pipes with technology. So it's only another step to imitate an environment as well by adding GOOD digital ambiance to the organ sound.

                        Unfortunately, the typical "reverb" on an organ is nearly useless for this purpose, as it just adds a little boing-boing to the sound coming out of the same speakers. A truly useful reverb system would more likely result from the placement of a number of separate speakers around the church, making sure than none of them were directing sound straight out into the room, always bouncing it off the ceiling or other hard surface before people hear it.

                        Such a system, if properly designed and installed, could give a convincing recreation of almost any acoustical space. Still, you would want to use it tastefully. I would not want to make a little dry church sound just like a vast cathedral because that would just be inappropriate. But a smidgen of extended decay might go a long way toward taking the edge off organ sound, making the sound much more pleasant in spite of the poor acoustical environment in which it lives.

                        Obviously, digital reverb on the organ does not completely solve the problem of poor congregational singing, if the room is so dead that no one can hear anyone else. But I do think people might sing better if the illusion is good enough.

                        Of course, we could clip a wireless mic on everyone as they enter, and then run all the voices through the reverb!
                        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


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                          Obviously, digital reverb on the organ does not completely solve the problem of poor congregational singing, if the room is so dead that no one can hear anyone else. But I do think people might sing better if the illusion is good enough.
                          People definitely do sing better in a church with some reverberation. Our old Sanctuary was so dead that one could not hear the person next to them sing or speak. Awful! Everyone thought they were singing a solo and so no one sang. We recognized this when we were planning to build a new facility nearby, and one of the design parameters we insisted on was that the worship space have reverberation (we asked for 3 seconds, and actually got about 2). The effect on the congregation was amazing!

                          Obviously, just adding derived reverberation to the organ sound will not convince the congregation to sing better. What would be necessary would be to provide some input from the pew sitters (or standers) into the overall sound system so that the congregants could hear some voices other than their own. It need not be input from every person (imagine how much that would cost!) but could be from directional mikes at strategic points aimed down at the congregation (so as not to be overwhelmed by the organ). Having the artificial reverb coming from various directions would greatly assist in this.

                          David

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by circa1949 View Post
                            * - and btw, not that I've listened to many Hauptwerk organs recently, but years ago I thought some of them sounded way too mushy with reverb, which then ruined the overall ensemble. Because unfortunately, even if your pipe samples are 45 minutes long per pipe, you're still not acoustically mixing them when they sum on a digital buss and are output to 2 channels.
                            Hauptwerk, of course, is not limited to two channel output, but supports up to 512 channels.

                            The better sample sets have multiple releases which provides for a better reverb experience because the tail is determined by how long the note is actually played.

                            Some of the Hauptwerk sample sets are available in surround sound versions and some of the more recent sets are sampled from two acoustical perspectives, one close up, the other in the reverberation field, with a control that mixes the two allowing the user to control where he is in the sound field.
                            -Admin

                            Allen 965
                            Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
                            Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
                            Hauptwerk 4.2

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                            • #15
                              Also VPO sample sets (including HW) can be recorded wet or dry. If the recording is relatively dry then one can tweak the reverb carefully and get pretty good results. With jOrgan you can use separate convolution reverb which actually can be quite nice if the right impulse responses are used. Not sure what options HW has in this regard. With HW and jOrgan the number of channels is mostly limited by your pocketbook. HW does have the advantage of being able to use sophisticated schemes for distributing the pipe samples amoung the various channels while jOrgan really only allows you to distribute them on a rank by rank basis for all practical purposes. Either one can sound fantastic if well designed and installed.

                              mike
                              If it is Caesar that you worship, then Caesar you shall serve.

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