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  • Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



    I just attended a church organ concert on a Rodgers Opus.921 or 791. I now know why some refer to electronic organs in a derogatory manner. I was sorely disappointed. That said, however, let me be clear that it was not all the organ's fault!</P>


    A summary of observations is below:</P>
    <UL>
    <LI>Whenever the organist played, the sound guy turned up the sound system so much, all I could hear was the "hiss" of speakers coming from somewhere in the church.</LI>
    <LI>The church was a dead acoustical environment--when the note stopped, so did the sound! Because of the sound guy, any reverb the Rodgers may have had sounded contrived.</LI>
    <LI>The organ had moments of greatness:</LI>
    <UL>
    <LI>When the organist played the 16' in 5ths to sound like a 32', one could barely tell the Resultant from a genuine 32'.</LI>
    <LI>The Chimes were as realistic as I've heard from any electronic reproduction technique--even digital pianos.</LI>
    <LI>For a moment, when I heard the 16' Posaune being played in 5ths, I thought there might have been a 32' reed! Alas, they were heard only once only once during the "concert."</LI>[/list]
    <LI>The organist (a former college piano teacher) had fewer moments of greatness:</LI>
    <UL>
    <LI>It seems that one foot with toes was all he could manage. However, miraculously when there was a pedal solo, the line was legato? Hmmm. I wonder how that happened?</LI>
    <LI>It's obvious he's used to a larger church as there were great breaks between block chords in several pieces. I suppose that was to allow the dead sound to die away even further! In his church, there are over 1,000 members (not sure how many attend).</LI>
    <LI>Registration-wise, I heard the reeds only once or twice as a chorus, and mixtures once or twice more than that.</LI>
    <LI>When he played with the piano for hymns, it was primarily 8' and 4' flues. There may have been a lonely 2' there somewhere, but I couldn't hear it! There was just a mumbled rumble behind the piano somewhere.</LI>
    <LI>Celesting strings are nice--but c'mon, now! Every **** piece?!!!</LI>
    <LI>The Krummhorn (or Cromorne) solo was OK, but could have used tremulant to soften it up. The plain, directsound was a bit forceful for the accompanying registration he chose.</LI>
    <LI>He actually used an 8', 2-2/3', and 1-3/5' for a solo--and it was nice, even though it lasted only a few measures.</LI>[/list]
    <LI>I felt like I was at a theatre organ concert, yet we lost the theatre. There were no trems to complete the theatre sound, no vibrato. Just tubby sounds with strings! "Gos-" without the "-pel!"</LI>
    <LI>If it were a cathedral he was trying to imitate, I seem to have lost the mixtures, chorus reeds, and chiff.</LI>[/list]


    Reminds me of an Allen Protége dedication I heard in the Winter by one of the Allen concert organists. Is this the way organs are being played in churches now-a-days? If so, I can certainly understand why people prefer pipe over electronic, or prefer not to have an organ at all!</P>


    All in all, while it certainly wasn't the organ's fault, I do wish I could have heard more possibilities on the organ with good registrations. However, from what I heard, I definitely question its capabilities.</P>


    I know I've probably stepped on someone's toes here, but hopefully, you understand that's not the intent. It's just that I've been to two organ "concerts" lately which, in my estimation, weren't. If that is what church goers have to listen to, I don't wonder why people choose not to go.</P>


    In another thread I asked people to help me understand why the organ "professor" would not accept anything other than a pipe organ, nor would he recommend it. I think I understand better now.</P>


    Again, I do not intend to offend. Perhaps it's my disappointment that the piano and theory professor I'd looked up to all these years fell off his pedestal.</P>


    Michael</P>
    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

  • #2
    Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



    Michael,</P>


    Sad report, and unfortunately what you relate is terribly common these days. Bad organs in bad acoustic settings being badly played -- what about that would make churches want to have one, or make people want to hear one?</P>


    The worst offender in the case you report, and probably in most of the sad situations I see and hear on a regular basis is the ACOUSTIC ENVIRONMENT. The blame for all these "dead" churches falls on architects, contractors, church committees who know nothing at all about acoustics, so-called "acoustic experts" who advise churches to coat every surface in the room with absorbent material because "the sound system will take care of it" -- there is plenty of blame to go around and all these folks are due a portion of it.</P>


    I think our biggest problem in church construction today is the widespread belief that people go to church for a "show" or "performance" rather than to participate in corporate worship. Since the buildings are being created to satisfy "performers" who are there to "entertain" the crowd, the model they have in mind is the TV studio or Branson- or Vegas-style music hall. That's why you see huge sound systems, video lighting, stadium seating or fan-shaped rooms. It's all about the "show."</P>


    Money talks and so do numbers. The "churches" (and I use the term loosely) that are prospering and bursting at the seams today are the ones who have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the "showtime religion" concept. Until this unfortunate fad runs it course, there will be far too few church buildings constructed with acoustics friendly to the organ, the choir, and congregational singing, all of which fall totally flat in a dead space.</P>


    We who know better must continually try to get the message out, but it's tough and our successes are few. I did just last year persuade a local pastor to use hard-surface tiles on the ceiling of his new church instead of the usual "acoustical" tile. Fortunately, I was the building committee chairman several years back when my own church built a new sanctuary and I led the committee with a rather firm hand to build a sanctuary that is friendly to organ and choral music. Other than these two, every other church that's been built in this area in the past 10 years is just a gussied-up TV studio. Sad.</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


    • #3
      Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



      John, you failed to mention one of the primary driving forces for the "dead" spaces--the Senior Pastor. Churches that are principally dedicated to preaching want dead acoustics to make the preacher's utterances crystal clear. Nothing else matters in those environments. Many of them have big enough congregations (think thousands) that they can hear themselves even with horrible acoustics.</P>


      Our former Sanctuary was so dead that people in the pews could not even hear the person next to them reading or singing--everyone felt they were doing it alone and participation suffered greatly. I was on both the Worship Committee and Organ Selection Committee when we were planning to build and move to a new facility, and I really lobbied hard for a more reverberant worship space. I talked up the idea that "corporate worship" is the worship of the Body of Christ and they needed to hear each other when they did it; without the experience of doing it together they could get just as much out of the service by watching it on TV. I read several books on the subject (all of which agreed with my--our--beliefs) and distributed selected quotes from them to the other committee members. I really pounded on the subject any chance I had. I did get the Senior Pastor and the staff convinced and the upshot was that we hired one of the premier acoustical firms (not "sound system" people!) to work with the architects and the organ builder to come up with a reverberant space. We asked for a 3-second reverberation time, fully expecting it to be impractical, but when the new Sanctuary is empty we have a decent 2- to 2 1/2-second reverberation, and it is smooth as silk. We currently seat 1300 in the congregation (several hundred more on big days by adding chairs) and 100 in the choir loft. Right now the space under the balcony is walled off from the Sanctuary and is being used as the Music Director and Organist office and robing room; when that wall is removed and the additional space is open to the Sanctuary I expect the reverberation time to increase slightly.</P>


      Did it have an effect when we moved to the new facility? Absolutely! The new organ (Klais) sounds marvelous, the choir can be heard, instrumental music carries very well, and the congregation speaks and sings much more boldly. The change is startling, particularly to the congregants, who had no idea what a difference a reverberant space would make to their worship experience. Having served in many churches all over this country and in several others, I did know firsthand what to expect. Lest you think I'm blowing my own horn too much, I hasten to add that I was not alone in pushing for a "live" environment in our new Sanctuary--there were a great many others who also proclaimed the need; our Senior Pastor on board at the start needed some persuasion, I think (not hard to do), but the one who followed him while the project got under way already was on our side (Praise the Lord!).</P>


      A reverberant space is essential for good corporate worship. I suppose it can be overdone, but it hasn't happened very often in this country.</P>


      David</P>

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique

        [quote user="jbird604"]


        </p>

        I think our biggest problem in church construction today is the widespread belief that people go to church for a "show" or "performance" rather than to participate in corporate worship. Since the buildings are being created to satisfy "performers" who are there to "entertain" the crowd, the model they have in mind is the TV studio or Branson- or Vegas-style music hall. 
        </p>

        [/quote]</p>

        A friend paid a visit to one of these (very) large churches in the DFW area ... one with .COM as the end of its name.  He referred to it as "worshiptainment", sort of a broadway show version of religion.  I don't know for a fact because it isn't the kind of place I'd ever visit, but suspect that this organization doesn't cotton much to the organ -- it wouldn't be fitting with the pop-rock-broadway-chorus-big-band-aren't-we-just-so-cool worship style. </p>

        But I do agree with the comments that the acoustic environment can be the worst offender -- especially for a relatively dead and lifeless digital instrument.</p>

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



          I love David's comment: "I talked up the idea that "corporate worship" is the worship of the Body of Christ and they needed to hear each other when they did it; without the experience of doing it together they could get just as much out of the service by watching it on TV."</P>


          Of course it's just fine if all they do is watch it on TV, as long as they keep sending in those checks (or calling in their credit card numbers). Somebody has to pay the electric bill for the TV transmitters.</P>


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


          • #6
            Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



            My thanks to each of you on this thread for calling attention to the enervating properties of a dead acoustic. It's hard to "speak to each other with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" when you can't hear each other!</p>

            Thanks also for adding the term worshiptainment to my vocabulary. What a great term for some folks' approach to Sunday morning!</p>

            All the best,</p>

            DR</p>

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



              [quote user="Grant_Youngman"]A friend paid a visit to one of these (very) large churches in the DFW area ... one with .COM as the end of its name. He referred to it as "worshiptainment", sort of a broadway show version of religion. I don't know for a fact because it isn't the kind of place I'd ever visit, but suspect that this organization doesn't cotton much to the organ -- it wouldn't be fitting with the pop-rock-broadway-chorus-big-band-aren't-we-just-so-cool worship style.[/quote]</P>


              Well, I hope this is not a criticism of my church--we are a large church in the DFW area and do have a ".com" on our URL. If he visited last Sunday he might have gotten that impression because it was a special day--the children had just had a week of music instruction and the service last Sunday was their presentation of a musical about Noah and the Ark and pretty much was the whole service. There even was a large prop in place for the Ark. We allow our youth and children a few Sundays each year to express themselves in worship in this way, and the congregation does enjoy it. Most Sundays we have a much more traditional service with organ Prelude and Postlude, choir anthems, hymns, scripture readings, Gloria Patri,Offertory, Doxology, and the inevitable sermon. Our Senior Pastor carefully expressed that last Sunday's presentation was not the usual service and that he hoped any first-time visitors would come back again to see what our normal service was like. I suspect that we were not the target of the complaint, however, as it should have been obvious that it was a special, atypical Sunday.</P>


              David</P>

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



                Michael,</p>

                Your reaction to these concerts on electronic organs, is pretty much my reaction as well.</p>

                Increasingly, I am coming to the conclusion that there are many shortcomings in electronic organ installs. Here are just a few of my observations,</p>

                1) more often than not, electronic organs are put in rooms of mediocre to poor acoustics</p>

                2) to overcome this, quite often, on electronic organs, the fake reverb is dialed up,as the sound is so lifeless</p>

                3) most digital organs have FAR TOO FEW audio channels. This means signal jamming, and a flattening out of the ensemble. The number of digi organs installed out there with more than 10 discrete audio channels is rather few. Only very few have more than 15 or 16 audio channels. And my guess the number installed per year in North America with more than 24 audio channels, you can count on the fingers of your hands. Also, limited number of audio channels produces much greater intermodulation distortion, and focused sound, which you just do not get with pipes.</p>

                4) since most organs these days are of the sampling variety, samples are too short, not enough of them, and sampling rate too low. On top of that samples are too processed, so they sound too smooth or filtered. Sampling systems also use anti-aliasing filters, but that increases limitations in the high frequencies, which means a lose of presence of the tone in the room.
                </p>

                5) most audio equipment put on digi organs, is just not of sufficient high quality, especially when it comes to reproducing high frequencies. So the harmonics of the tone just are not produced either at the amplifier or more likely at the speaker.</p>

                6) electronic organs for the most part are designed, so they can be marketed and sold by dealers. Most models have more to do with a marketing scheme than building fine organs. Witness some organ companies with 2 or 3 or even more lines of organs.</p>

                7) electronic organs, in a large number of cases are sold out of the back of music stores, or piano stores. Most of these kinds of folks have very little interest in organs, other than to make some extra bucks. Results show</p>

                8) elaborating on point number 7, the organs are installed with little creativity, with minimum audio, and very little voicing. There seem very few "voicers" of digi organs that know much about pipe organs and associated literature.
                </p>

                9) whatever vitues, most digi organs have, they may do sufficient service for worship, they have such a tonal design that is generic or non-descript that they generally do not do organ literature very well- especially when it comes to big concert repertiore. Seems to me that most digi organs have trouble sounding decent with more than half a dozen stops pulled per division at any time. Once past that, the sound gets very flat, and you just add noise to the mix.</p>

                Just last week, I worked on a 20 or so rank pipe organ. It had only 1 unit chorus reed. But this organ had a far greater tonal pallete than a 4 manual Rodgers I heard last fall that had over 70 stops, a 64' stop, a XII rank Mixture, etc, etc, etc,. Even Hector Olivera, who played the Rodgers, could not defeat the obvious limitations of the instrument that night. And it was in a relatively live room.
                </p>

                Since part of what I do for a living, is servicing organs, I have seen a lot of what is out there. I still maintain that adherence to sound principals of organ building, even from analog days, produced credible sounds, that are as good or better than what some of latest digi organs put out, if they are not hooked up to good audio and voiced properly.</p>

                Just my thoughts.</p>

                AV
                </p>

                </p>

                </p>

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique

                  [quote user="davidecasteel"]

                  Well, I hope this is not a criticism of my church--we are a large church in the DFW area and do have a ".com" on our URL.  
                  </p>

                  [/quote]</p>

                   </p>

                  David ... I don't think so.  Not the same place you've indicated before was your church in the area, I don't think.  This one doesn't have ".com" just in its URL but in the name of the place ....  But since I've never actually been there, any comments were strictly hearsay in any case and may or may not reflect what goes on inside the building -- which looks a bit more like a silicon wafer/chip factory than a traditional church, but who am I to cast a stone :) </p>

                   </p>

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



                    Arie wrote: "I still maintain that adherence to sound principals of organ building,
                    even from analog days, produced credible sounds, that are as good or
                    better than what some of latest digi organs put out, if they are not
                    hooked up to good audio and voiced properly"
                    </p>

                    This is something I have noticed. When I watched a number of youtube videos of e-organs (not the best for sound I admit) there is one thing that that bugs me. Instruments that don't fit the room.</p>

                    You see a small chapel or church and then you hear a registration that sounds like a 25-40 rank pipe organ. The organ company can throw in a bunch of stops that are overkill for a small organ. Rather than design an instrument with an appropriate sound system to replicate a small instrument successfully they dump 32' stops, bombards, enchamades, and other "goodies" and run them through a crappy internal sound system.</p>

                    I like to get my money's worth, but a small chapel that seats 75-150 people would not have a 40 rank pipe organ, it would probably have a 4-10 rank instrument. Why not design smaller, appropriate specs,for different size churches and put the effort into the sound system? A responsible pipe organ builder would not try to cram Wanamaker's organ into a 225 seat auditorium, yet Walker built a 5 manual 335 rank (equivalent) instrument into a 225 seat chapel. The audience leaves with bleeding ears, but loving every minute of it...</p>

                    Jeff</p>

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique

                      Totally agree with you Jeff. I think digital organs lose credibility when they throw in everything including the kitchen sink where you wouldn't expect such a large instrument compared to the size of the building. They are no longer musical instruments but expensive noise machines.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



                        . . . but a small chapel that seats 75-150 people would not have a 40 rank pipe organ . . .</P>


                        If it were my chapel, it would indeed have a 40-rank pipe organ; but properly scaled and voiced for the room. My 9-voice, 11-rank residence pipe organ is in an average 300-square-foot room and sounds just fine.</P>

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique

                          [quote user="MenchenStimme"]


                          . . . but a small chapel that seats 75-150 people would not have a 40 rank pipe organ . . .</P>


                          If it were my chapel, it would indeed have a 40-rank pipe organ; but properly scaled and voiced for the room. My 9-voice, 11-rank residence pipe organ is in an average 300-square-foot room and sounds just fine.</P>


                          [/quote]MS, your comments mesh perfectly with those I heard from a number of fine organists when we were researching our new instrument. Even our builder cautioned against the "bigger is better" thinking by pointing out that in a properly reverberant acoustic, even a very modest instrument (he mentioned 10-15 stops) can fill a large space with sound if the pipes are scaled and voiced properly. We did get an instrument that was considerably larger than that because of the wide variety of music we planned to have it handle and I think it turned out well. Its original specification was somewhat truncated in the initial build due to the rise of the Euro with repect to the Dollar, but that is soon to be rectified--the follow-on build is in contract mode now. (Much as I would like to know the details, I am not privy to them and dare not push too hard.)</P>


                          It is nice to know that my church was not the one referenced by Grant--I am sure of it because it definitely looks like a church, not a silicon wafer/chip factory--our Worship Committee was very adamant about that when the new facility was being planned. (You cannot imagine the horrible monstrosity originally posited by our first architectural firm--half-circle arena style, fairly low ceiling, fully carpeted, and everything lumped together into a single structure that had no external appearance of a church. We dropped that firm and engaged another one, and we have been ecstatic with the results. It looks like a church both inside and outside, and the interior acoustics are quite nice.) We specifically told the architects that we did not want anything like the "Baptidome", a large church that seats 7,500 and looks like a sports arena. (I've never been inside, but I'm told it does actually look more like a church in there.) Hereis our church just after the outside was completed.</P>


                          </P>


                          and this one is from after we moved in:</P>


                          </P>


                          and this is the interior:</P>


                          </P>


                          Darn! I've sort of hijacked a thread again. (You should never have let me learn how to post a photo directly, I guess. [H])</P>


                          David</P>

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique

                            [quote user="hillgreen2"]


                            This is something I have noticed. When I watched a number of youtube videos of e-organs (not the best for sound I admit) there is one thing that that bugs me. Instruments that don't fit the room.</P>


                            You see a small chapel or church and then you hear a registration that sounds like a 25-40 rank pipe organ. The organ company can throw in a bunch of stops that are overkill for a small organ. Rather than design an instrument with an appropriate sound system to replicate a small instrument successfully they dump 32' stops, bombards, enchamades, and other "goodies" and run them through a crappy internal sound system.</P>


                            I like to get my money's worth, but a small chapel that seats 75-150 people would not have a 40 rank pipe organ, it would probably have a 4-10 rank instrument. Why not design smaller, appropriate specs,for different size churches and put the effort into the sound system? A responsible pipe organ builder would not try to cram Wanamaker's organ into a 225 seat auditorium, yet Walker built a 5 manual 335 rank (equivalent) instrument into a 225 seat chapel. The audience leaves with bleeding ears, but loving every minute of it...</P>


                            Jeff</P>


                            [/quote]</P>


                            I disagree. Larger organs have more variety and tone colors. They don't have to be played at tutti all the time. If I could get the sound of a Wanamaker organ in my church, I would do it in a minute. Not the volume of that organ, but the sounds available, esp. the strings.</P>

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Rodgers Church Organ Concert Critique



                              What is equally annoying is a pipe organ which is really too small for the room it is in. Take for example a certain episcopal church in the Cleveland area, this church has a fairly new building (c.1991-92ish), which replaces the original building (not by the choice of the church, someone else made the choice for them with a match). The church has a small pipe organ of 10 stops over two manuals with couplers for the pedals (translation, there is no pedal division, but the stops may be coupled down to the pedals)

                              The stop list (with incomplete couplers) is as follows</p>

                              I
                              8 Gedeckt
                              4 Praestant
                              2 Blockflote
                              1 1/3 Quintflote
                              1 1/3 Mixtur
                              I to Ped
                              I to II
                              II
                              8 Quintade
                              4 Offenflote
                              1 1/3 Terz
                              1 Principal
                              8 Regal
                              II to Ped
                              Zimbelstern (hitchdown coupler)

                              Although the room isn't huge, it is big enough for an organ of more generous resources, not three manuals big, but a more reasonably sized organ would be nice (just my opinion)

                              The space has a reasonable amount of reverberation, but, the organ is just too small to truly handle a service, I've been there once since the new building and it was a couple of years ago to get my baptismal certificate (long, convoluted story) because this is the congregation where I was baptized. The point is that the instrument is somewhat inapproriate for the space (but it is at least a real set of pipes).
                              </p>

                              </p>

                              Comment

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