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  • Buying a new church organ

    Our church is currently looking to buy a new organ. The building can seat approximately 200 people (how I wish we could fill all the seats...!). Our services are traditionally conservative and we have only organ music to lead the singing, no banging of cymbals, guitars, drums or any racket making stuff - got the picture?

    We do not want nor need a pipe organ but want to step up a little over the entry level electronic version of suitable models. In our country the main suppliers are the Contents, Allens and some Johannus. Because some of the church people know that I like organs combined with the fact that my wife is the church organist, I have been kind of saddled with the task of looking around.

    What would you think might be the best options given the above available makes? :-B
    "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request... B-)

  • #2
    I don't think you could go wrong looking at the three brands you mention. If the market is similar to ours in the USA, Allen will be more expensive by a long shot, but the advantage is the long history of the company, very high build quality and standards, an overall "premium" product and high-end experience.

    The other two, Content and Johannus, don't have nearly the market in the USA as Allen, but from what I've seen from both, they are worth considering. Both coming out of Holland, they have similar appearance and features. Consoles tend to be made of thinner stock and less finished than Allen, but with reasonable care they should hold up well. In this country, Johannus offers more models over a wider price range, but I understand that Content has a full range of products as well, which you may find in your stores.

    My personal experience as a tech servicing all these brands is that all three make a good organ and should require little service and give you good value for the money. The market and prices have changed a lot in recent years, so I don't really know what you'll have to pay for a good organ from any of these companies. It may depend greatly on how elaborate you want the installation to be. A church seating 200 should be large enough to warrant a good install with some speakers in a chamber, but if your room has lively acoustics you might in fact be suitably served by a self-contained console, or by a self-contained model with some add-on speakers.

    Just a few years ago one of my client churches bought a small self-contained Johannus (Opus 27, I think) to replace an old Baldwin. The church is a smallish RC church seating maybe 200 - 300, with a high wooden ceiling, brick walls, stone floor, no pew cushions, so it is superbly lively and friendly to music. That little organ without any external speakers sounds marvelous in there. But your needs may be vastly different, especially if your church has carpet or pew cushions or a low ceiling or acoustical treatment of any kind.

    Some folks have been critical of certain Johannus models, and I have seen a handful of very large and expensive ones that seemed to have endless troubles. OTOH, my experience with the smaller Johannus models -- the self-contained ones, and the medium-size range -- has been great, with almost no issues at all. Content has been sold over here, AFAIK, only by Hammond as their "concert series" organs, and I have not known one to have any problems other than some ongoing troubles with the pedal reed switches, which I've seen in more than one of these. Perhaps they had a bad batch of those for some reason. I assume that problem has been corrected by now.

    Whatever you do, you should make sure you deal with a competent dealer who understands organ sound, who follows the "rules" of good organ installation. I have talked about this endlessly on the forum, but these bear repeating:

    #1 rule... The ORGANIST must hear the organ better than anyone else. NEVER let the console be placed in a spot where you can't hear exactly what you are playing when seated on the bench. The organist must hear ALL the channels if the organ has multiple audio channels. "Monitor" speakers or just depending on the console speakers to give the organist feedback are better than nothing, but ideally the organ should be right out in the direct radiation field of the primary speakers. I have my organ console right in the choir loft with speakers about 10' off the floor on either side, facing directly into the choir loft. My setup is not ideal because not enough sound really goes out into the nave, but at least I HEAR the organ and don't have to wonder what my playing sounds like.

    #2 rule... Everyone in the room should hear a balanced mix of all the organ stops and/or divisions. The worst way to break this rule is to have, for example, one part of the organ speaking from way over at one side of the room and another part from way over at the other side. Not that you can't have divided organ setups with swell in one chamber and great in the other. You can. But both chambers should be radiating sound in a large pattern so that even people who are sitting very close to one chamber can still hear the sound coming from the other one. It helps too if the speakers are high enough above the floor to throw their sound over the heads of standing choir members or worshipers and reach people throughout the room.

    Back in the early days of Allen digitals, when one channel contained only flutes and pedals and the other only strings, reeds, and other bright sounds, there were actually dealers who installed an organ with the flute speaker blaring directly into people's ears on one side of the church and the reeds and stuff blaring directly into their ears on the other side. Nobody in the room, except a few who were way back in the back and centrally seated, could actually hear a blend of all the stops. People hated these organs, but nobody ever seemed to know how to fix it, or else nobody really cared. I thing such setups worked to kill interest in the organ in a lot of churches!

    Be sure to keep posting about your adventure and let us know what you come up with.
    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


    • #3
      Also have a look at Viscount, an Italian brand. They are making some very advanced and very affordable instruments.

      As usual, John's advice about installation is spot-on.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
        I don't think you could go wrong looking at the three brands you mention. If the market is similar to ours in the USA, Allen will be more expensive by a long shot, but the advantage is the long history of the company, very high build quality and standards, an overall "premium" product and high-end experience.


        Be sure to keep posting about your adventure and let us know what you come up with.
        Thank you John for the very iformative message.

        Firstly our church has a very high ceiling of fibreboard, mainly for keeping the roof heat out. The pews and seating have no cushions (people go to sleep if they sit to comfortably). The floor is carpeted and the walls are facebrick. There is very little wooden furniture in the hall and acoustics are faily good.

        Secondly we are currently using a mid range Technics digital spinet with internal speakers (these are failing fast) and we have connected the organ to play through the main sound system with only two speaker boxes high up in the front, either side of the pulpit. These work OK, but have a few drawbacks, namely, the treble effect is weak, the organist cannot hear the organ properly and manipulating the organ volume level affects the level of the minister's head microphone.

        Clearly this is not a satisfactory setup as firstly the Technics would be difficult and perhaps costly to repair, if at all possible and the organ is too lightweight for our needs.

        We have experience with the local distributor of Content (they supplied our sound system) and their service centre is located nearby. Allens are reasonably readily available but their supplier is located about 1200 miles away. Johannus is available, but less so than the other two. Viscount is virtually unknown in ZA although I have not done much research so far.

        Prices are hefty - Around $15000 - 25000 for a reasonably suitable model (Johannus/Content) and orders will likely be placed from the factories in Holland. All or most candidates have 30 pedals and two manuals. For example, a 3-manual Content was recently delivered for about $22000 in Cape Town (private buyer). These amounts are presently beyond our budget but we have, as many parishes do, an organ fund which we build and expand as we can until we can afford the most suitable choice when the time comes. Our concern presently is the lifespan of the Technics, a subject of fervent prayer!!

        Nico

        - - - Updated - - -

        Originally posted by don60 View Post
        Also have a look at Viscount, an Italian brand. They are making some very advanced and very affordable instruments.

        As usual, John's advice about installation is spot-on.
        Thank you
        I shall do some searching to see what is available here.

        Nico
        "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request... B-)

        Comment


        • #5
          "Our services are traditionally conservative and we have only organ music to lead the singing, no banging of cymbals, guitars, drums or any racket making stuff - got the picture?"

          This is the picture I got; "(how I wish we could fill all the seats...!)"

          Throw the new "unchurched" generation a bone with a little mix of vetted contemporary songs....just saying

          Comment


          • #6
            Nico,

            First, welcome to the forum!

            I echo John's observations.

            I've played a lot of Allen organs over the years. They do make fine organs. Their build quality is generally recognized as being high.

            I suspect that currency exchange rates and shipping may enter into your calculations.

            My two pieces of advice are to watch out for this. Many sales reps will want to steer you to their most recent or optimum organ installations.

            Ask to visit a church that is a close match to your own facility. And try to listen to the same models of organs you are considering.

            And have your wife take some of her music to play on any instrument being considered. We have a saying in the States: "If Momma ain't happy - ain't nobody happy." She will, after all, be the one who will play the instrument selected.

            Good luck with the search.

            Bach On
            Make being happy a way of traveling, not just a destination.

            Church organ - 2 manual 12 rank Estey Pipe Organ with 12 Artisan Digital Stops
            Home organ - Allen R-230 organ (We also have 48 pipes in a facade)
            We have a Yamaha 6' 8" Grand
            Have used an older Korg T3 keyboard and MIDI for doing musical arrangements.
            I'm a Methodist organist.
            I taught high school chorus, elementary music and middle school music.
            Became a Technology Specialist.
            Retired from Education after 32 years.

            Comment


            • #7
              Nico, I hope your congregation will learn a lesson from the current organ/speaker hookup. It is never a good idea to tie the organ into the house sound system. The poor organist has no clear idea of the balance. The problems are too numerous to list here, so hope you will do some research online.

              . . . Jan

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jan Girardot View Post
                Nico, I hope your congregation will learn a lesson from the current organ/speaker hookup. It is never a good idea to tie the organ into the house sound system. The poor organist has no clear idea of the balance. The problems are too numerous to list here, so hope you will do some research online.

                . . . Jan
                Thanks Jan.
                The present hook-up was not by design but rather desperation. The internal speakers (or one of them at least) has blown, meaning it is making some awful crackling noise so we unplugged them both. Perhaps we should try and replace them as a temporary measure to disconnect the organ from the sound system. I have two 10" speakers from a digital Yamaha 210-F. Perhaps they might work.
                Nico

                - - - Updated - - -

                Originally posted by Bach-On View Post
                Nico,

                First, welcome to the forum!

                I echo John's observations.

                I've played a lot of Allen organs over the years. They do make fine organs. Their build quality is generally recognized as being high.

                I suspect that currency exchange rates and shipping may enter into your calculations.

                My two pieces of advice are to watch out for this. Many sales reps will want to steer you to their most recent or optimum organ installations.

                Ask to visit a church that is a close match to your own facility. And try to listen to the same models of organs you are considering.

                And have your wife take some of her music to play on any instrument being considered. We have a saying in the States: "If Momma ain't happy - ain't nobody happy." She will, after all, be the one who will play the instrument selected.

                Good luck with the search.

                Bach On
                All points well taken thanks. We have a number of sister churches with Allens, as well as some Content organs. All seem quite happy with them but I must add that the bulk of them are somewhat larger in membership so it is less difficult to be able to afford the "better" models. At best this effort will be a medium to longer term one - if the Technics holds out... :embarrassed:

                - - - Updated - - -

                Originally posted by Hamman View Post
                This is the picture I got; "(how I wish we could fill all the seats...!)"

                Throw the new "unchurched" generation a bone with a little mix of vetted contemporary songs....just saying
                Good point, however, about half of our congregation is below the age of 30. So from that point of view we are not doing too badly. Furthermore we are located in a rural environment where the population is less dense and churches are far apart. The main factor thus being the relative travel distance for attending church. Wifie and I have to travel about 30 miles to get to church.
                "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request... B-)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bach-On View Post
                  Nico,

                  First, welcome to the forum!

                  I echo John's observations.

                  I've played a lot of Allen organs over the years. They do make fine organs. Their build quality is generally recognized as being high.

                  I suspect that currency exchange rates and shipping may enter into your calculations.

                  My two pieces of advice are to watch out for this. Many sales reps will want to steer you to their most recent or optimum organ installations.

                  Ask to visit a church that is a close match to your own facility. And try to listen to the same models of organs you are considering.

                  And have your wife take some of her music to play on any instrument being considered. We have a saying in the States: "If Momma ain't happy - ain't nobody happy." She will, after all, be the one who will play the instrument selected.

                  Good luck with the search.

                  Bach On
                  Thank you Bach man...
                  You all make a lot of sense. On your last point though I must get in a bit of brag: My dear wife is the sweetest person on earth (to me). She is very easily pleased and will not complain even if the organ just emits hissing sounds rather than notes... That does not mean that she is insensitive to inappropriate or ineffective organ inputs. But she will never demand anything - just concerned about the enormous cost of a new instrument. Having said all that, she just literally lives for making joyfull noises unto the Lord, and that is infectious so that all just join in, infected organ or not! I'm a lucky man!! :->
                  "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request... B-)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Nico,

                    I'm glad to hear your wife has such a sweet disposition. And I do not doubt it. All the more reason to involve her in the choice. Perhaps sweet people should be pampered a bit. You may need to ask her questions to find out her thinking.

                    I've heard someone say that a quick way to motivate people to contribute to the organ fund is to let things get so bad that even the most unsophisticated can hear the problems. Some churches even stop using the organ and switch to the piano.

                    I went to play for a wedding at a church that had their small Hammond organ plugged into the PA system. They guy running the PA was wearing two hearing aids. I set the balance myself and requested that he not change it.

                    Again, good luck.

                    BO
                    Make being happy a way of traveling, not just a destination.

                    Church organ - 2 manual 12 rank Estey Pipe Organ with 12 Artisan Digital Stops
                    Home organ - Allen R-230 organ (We also have 48 pipes in a facade)
                    We have a Yamaha 6' 8" Grand
                    Have used an older Korg T3 keyboard and MIDI for doing musical arrangements.
                    I'm a Methodist organist.
                    I taught high school chorus, elementary music and middle school music.
                    Became a Technology Specialist.
                    Retired from Education after 32 years.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Bach-On View Post
                      They guy running the PA was wearing two hearing aids. I set the balance myself and requested that he not change it.

                      BO
                      I wear hearing aids for congenital low sensitivity on my hearing (sound has to be louder to reach my threshold of audibility) and a loss of hearing that's likely noise induced. My hearing aids make the frequency response flatter than I would naturally hear, so don't assume just because the PA man had hearing aids that is hearing isn't up to the job! By the way, I also have a lower than normal threshold of pain for hearing, so I'm not in any danger of setting sounds too loud!

                      It's still a good idea to have the organist involved in setting the balance!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I played clarinet in band. The trumpets and percussion section were to my left. I've also experienced diminished sensitivity to higher sounds - particularly in my left ear. I certainly wasn't making light of hearing loss.

                        I think the balance should mostly be left up to the organist.

                        BO
                        Make being happy a way of traveling, not just a destination.

                        Church organ - 2 manual 12 rank Estey Pipe Organ with 12 Artisan Digital Stops
                        Home organ - Allen R-230 organ (We also have 48 pipes in a facade)
                        We have a Yamaha 6' 8" Grand
                        Have used an older Korg T3 keyboard and MIDI for doing musical arrangements.
                        I'm a Methodist organist.
                        I taught high school chorus, elementary music and middle school music.
                        Became a Technology Specialist.
                        Retired from Education after 32 years.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bach-On View Post
                          Nico,


                          I've heard someone say that a quick way to motivate people to contribute to the organ fund is to let things get so bad that even the most unsophisticated can hear the problems. Some churches even stop using the organ and switch to the piano.


                          BO
                          I lead the singing in the service and believe me, I get my bit in regularly by apologising for the organ antics.... and praising the organist for making do with so little.. :-> Those churches switching to the piano now - that is where one sometimes picks up used organs for fixing, just what I hunt for...
                          Nico
                          "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request... B-)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Since you've had the back of the organ off to snip the speaker leads, you should have some idea of how accessible the speakers are. If they are the same size, it shouldn't be two hard to swap em out. However, I am in the same choir when it comes to letting the organ fund donators hear an occasional bit of rattle to make the collection plate equally rattle. So, let your conscience be your guide.....or not.

                            On another train of thought, a used Allen might be an excellent choice. Here in the states, they can often be had from a church going happy clappy for very little. Of course, have Momma play it before you buy it. Even with a new Allen, you said the Allen dealer is quite a ways away, so it might be an expensive proposition for yearly maintenance. But I think most local organ techs can handle the job, as even Allen only diagnose problems and replace the ailing components. There is a treasure trove of qualified techs here on the forum to help you to help you design your own installation or trouble shoot a problem should one arise.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by searchinferu View Post
                              Since you've had the back of the organ off to snip the speaker leads, you should have some idea of how accessible the speakers are. If they are the same size, it shouldn't be two hard to swap em out. However, I am in the same choir when it comes to letting the organ fund donators hear an occasional bit of rattle to make the collection plate equally rattle. So, let your conscience be your guide.....or not.

                              On another train of thought, a used Allen might be an excellent choice. Here in the states, they can often be had from a church going happy clappy for very little. Of course, have Momma play it before you buy it. Even with a new Allen, you said the Allen dealer is quite a ways away, so it might be an expensive proposition for yearly maintenance. But I think most local organ techs can handle the job, as even Allen only diagnose problems and replace the ailing components. There is a treasure trove of qualified techs here on the forum to help you to help you design your own installation or trouble shoot a problem should one arise.
                              The Technics has an external connector which can be unplugged to disconnect the internal speakers. We do that now and then when the crackle gets too loud. But I did have the back panel off. The speakers are readily accessible. They are 12" and I have two 10" speakers from a long dead Yamaha. However, I hesitate to try any repairs to this Technics which apart from the ailing speakers still works well, and that is all we have until the collecting plates have been rattled sufficiently.

                              Personally I have been rather tempted to look at used organs especially those from churches which upgraded or replaced. Unfortunately the new organ salesmen snap those up as trade-ins for next to naught to dust them off and peddle them off to other suckers for a handsome profit. It would be unwise to buy a used organ from these fellows as the organs were replaced for good reason by the previous church owners. This is why the guideline of our organ committee is to rather purchase new. Wouldn't mind getting a "trade-in" from a church for myself though... ;-).
                              "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request... B-)

                              Comment

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