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  • Best placement for an organ



    Hi All,</P>


    I'm a believer that the rear gallery position is the best placement for an organ and the choir.</P>


    To quote: serving as a support for the rest of the congregation, rather than singing to an "audience"
    </FONT>http://www.artsreformation.com/a001/...the-choir.html</P>


    I've read the articles by Lawrence Phelps on this matter, but I'd like to find some other texts that made a good case for this argument.</FONT></P>


    I'm also curious, How do you folks feel about this?</P>

  • #2
    Re: Best placement for an organ



    The vast majority of the churches Iknow have the choir and organ in the chancel area. For some denominations, this works very well. The idea of moving the choir and organ to the rear gallery in these places would be met with outright hostility (if it were even physically possible).</P>


    I take exception to the intransigent tone of the article - the author seems to take a dogmatic approach which refutes all other viewpoints. In the United States there are many faiths and traditions to be considered, and it seems some degree of flexibility is necessary. </P>


    Quoting Scriptural references can be a slippery slope, since neither does the Bible say that organs must be placed free-standing in a rear gallery. [:)]</P>


    I don't buy the author's argument that any organ placed at the front of the church will be more costly to maintain (due to temperature and humidity issues), or that roof leaks are easier to detect in a rear gallery! [:D]</P>


    ...Nor do I believe a rear gallery is invariably 'best' from an acoustical standpoint. Some people are extremely annoyed by hearing music floating over their heads or from behind. It doesn't bother me, but I've met many such people over the years.</P>


    Having said all of that, I would be happy with either situation. I have a special fondness forEuropean churches and cathedrals, many of which have instruments in the rear gallery.</P>

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Best placement for an organ



      From a traditional standpoint, I prefer the organ and choir in a rear gallery. It also should make the organ more secure. One advantage I see with having the organ on the main floor is that this should allow more height for large stops. Our church only has about a 40-foot ceiling, with the organ in the rear gallery which has about a 20-foot ceiling. We were lucky to get a Prinzipal 16 and half-length Kontraposaune 32 up there. We also have a full-length Posaune 16 and Basson 16, but they are mitered. Our Unterzatz 32 is a resultant (with 12 independent 10-2/3 pipes) and we also have 3 16-foot stopped flutes (i.e., the pipes are physically 8-foot pipes).</P>


      We also have a chancel console and I do worry about it being bumped, etc. One time the bench was borrowed without permission for some unknown purpose. Fortunately, it survived unharmed. SIGH!</P>

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Best placement for an organ



        [quote user="MenchenStimme"]One advantage I see with having the organ on the main floor is that this should allow more height for large stops.[/quote]That's a very good point. Many churches in my area have a very tiny rear gallery, if they have one at all.</P>


        Another consideration - churches in my area are typically rented out to choral groups; it is an excellent source of revenue. Every conductor I've ever worked with, automatically crosses off any church with a rear gallery installation - period. The few times I've had to do performances from the rear gallery, accompanyinga choir at the front -it wasa nightmare. [:(]</P>


        In Europe it is a totally different expectation - audiences don't seem to mind when a choir is 'invisible'.</P>


        Of course these aresimply practical considerations, outside of the liturgical framework of the article.</P>

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Best placement for an organ



          Every conductor I've ever worked with, automatically crosses off any church with a rear gallery installation - period.
          </P>

          Quite a bit narrow minded and telling about their abilities I'm afraid. Not being able to use 80-90% of the organs here...</P>

          audiences don't seem to mind when a choir is 'invisible'.
          </P>

          I prefer them to be inaudible.</P>

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Best placement for an organ



            [quote user="bcollins"] I'm a believer that the rear gallery position is the best placement for an organ and the choir.[/quote]</P>


            From another perspective: What a terribly awful idea!! [:S]</P>
            2008: Phoenix III/44

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Best placement for an organ

              [quote user="Clarion"]


              [quote user="bcollins"] I'm a believer that the rear gallery position is the best placement for an organ and the choir.[/quote]</P>


              From another perspective: What a terribly awful idea!! [:S]</P>


              [/quote]</P>


              Totally agreed. The choir helps to lead the service; therefore it should be in a position to do this, and a rear gallery position does not help. Also, as an organist, </P>


              I find it a whole lot easier to blend in with the service when I can see the "action", for instance, coordinating with communion or weddings. In the church</P>


              for which I am Minister of Music, the console is at the side of the chancel area, so that I can see everything that is going on.</P>
              Mike

              My home organ is a Theatre III with an MDS II MIDI Expander.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Best placement for an organ

                [quote user="Havoc"]


                Every conductor I've ever worked with, automatically crosses off any church with a rear gallery installation - period.
                </P>


                Quite a bit narrow minded and telling about their abilities I'm afraid. Not being able to use 80-90% of the organs here...[/quote]...which brings to mind much unpleasantness when I've performed withsuch directorsin Europe. [:|]</P>

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Best placement for an organ



                  I'm not an organist, music director, or clergyman so my comments reflect only my experiences and beliefs as a choir member and parishioner. First of all, I have served in church choirs for 62 years, since I was 9 years old. I have sung in many different choir settings: balcony (gallery) lofts and those in the Chancel area. Some Chancels had seating in pews parallel to the main axis of the church, on both sides facing each other; others had seating more or less parallel withand behind the altar/communion table (perpendicular to the main axis). I have never sung in a choir location that was off to one side of the Nave, however.</P>


                  From a strictly logistical point of view as a choir member, the rear gallery/balcony placement is ideal, because it is possible to go and come from that position without in any way disturbing the service being conducted below or distracting attention from it. Squirming in the seats, hand fanning (many ladies do it in the summer), and other motions are not visible to the congregation and do not draw attention from the action in the Chancel. The choir likes the ability to relax a little, the director likes the flexibility of being able to let choir members go and come (which permits "sharing" singers among multiple services), and the clergy like the elimination of distractions.</P>


                  From a liturgical point of view, removal of the choir from the position in front behind the altar/table focuses the congregation on what is happening in the service, and they like that. Many churches do not consider music to be the (or "a") principal part of the reason people are in church and they don't want the choir to be a prominent part. I don't agree with this view, but I understand it. Many RC churches barely tolerate music; it is only in recent decades that there was any music at all in many RC masses (so I am told). There is a 10,000 member RC church here in Dallas that can only field a dozen singers in its choir and about 5 or 6 ringers for handbells. By comparison, my UMC has about 6,000 members, fields an adultchoir of 125 singers and several youth and children's choirs, and has 6 handbell choirs and 3 sets of bells. Churches vary greatly in the interest in and emphasis on music, and placement of the choir and organ is greatly influenced by these views.</P>


                  Personally, I am pretty "high church" Methodist and strongly lean toward the liturgical style. My preference is for the choir and organ to be in the balcony, for both liturgical and logistical reasons. Balcony placement of the organ allows the builder free rein in designing a beautiful enclosure for the instrument without the worry that it will overwhelm the Chancel area and focus the congregation's attention on it instead of the worship service conducted there. As our builder put it: "We do not worship the organ and it should not be the focus of attention." The church I serve, in its former facility, had the choir and organ in the balcony. The acoustics of that space were abominable and the music definitely suffered from it. When we formulated the desires for the new facility (we will have 3 years there this month), the congregation was very strong in their push to have the organ and choir up front, in the Chancel. And so we are. I know there are those who say that congregational support for the hymns is better with the choir in front, but I don't know why that should be. Most congregants are far enough away from the choir that they cannot read their lips, and the sound itself will be little different whether it comes from the front or the rear in a properly-designed church. Reverberation (hopefully, there is some) will muddy up the sound for some congregants, no matter where the choir is located. It is, of course, possible to remedy that by careful use of a sound system, but usually those systems are horribly designed and little help (if not a detriment). If a good system is available, then the placement of the choir is moot. The congregations want the choir up front really simply because they want to see them. I think this element is problematical. In our new church we have a choir seating area that can easily accommodate 150 singers, and for big productions (like an oratorio or special concert) we often have 100-120 singers in place, along with a small orchestra, all in the Chancel area. However, for more mundane occasions, such as normal worship services, we will field only 40-60 singers (if we're lucky) and it looks kind of weak to have that few people in that big space. At present, our adult choir sings at the last 2 services, 0945 and 1100, and it is difficult to have enough singers to look good at the 1100 service, even though the choir leaves before the sermon most of the time.</P>


                  In our former facility, with the choir and organ in the balcony, we had singers who were primary for the 0945 service and other who were for the 1100 service; some of the 0945 singers would stay over and sing the anthem in the 1100 service and then leave, unnoticed by the congregation. This situation enabled us to field a reasonable number of singers for both services without asking anyone to attend 2 complete services (and listen to the sermon twice). With the choir up front, this practice has been deemed unacceptable, both because it is more distracting to have just half the choir leave while others stay (seating problems) and because the number left in the loft would be so small as to be embarrassing. So the entire choir leaves before the sermon and the service does without choir support for the last hymn and the closing. To me, this is an unacceptable arrangement and I am not happy with it, but that is the current practice. Our director says that until he can insure having at least 40 singers present for the entire service he will not change methodology. He believes that once we build our choir membership to about 175 singers it will be possible to split it into two Sunday sections, one for each service, without anyone having to sing for two complete services. We are still short of that goal.</P>


                  When I was serving on the Organ Selection Committee, I read a number of books on the subject of organs in worship and placement of the instrument. All of them indicated that the principal organ should be on one of the narrow ends of a rectangular space, looking down the long axis. They did not give a preference as to which end, except to note the usual thinking about it not related to musical matters. I think their advice is good, but a lot more goes into the decision than just how it will sound.</P>


                  David</P>

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Best placement for an organ



                    Hi David,</P>


                    I always enjoy your words of wisdom. I have been an RC "forever" and agree with your post completely. Even with our Schantz III/72, our choir participation is indeed minimal. I regret to make the broad generalizationthat Catholics overall tend to be less "cultured" than our "high church" Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian brethren in the same demographic (geographical) area.</P>

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Best placement for an organ



                      MS, thanks for your kind words. I also enjoy reading your posts. I'm not sure what I dispense is really "wisdom" but it is heartfelt expression of some of my experiences, hopefully interlarded with a little logic. (I've got 2 engineering degrees, after all, and 30 years experience as a computer programmer--one would think that logic would be something I could do. [H])</P>


                      David</P>

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If I may throw in a variation on a theme..... any opinions out there on outside vs. inside walls re electronics? I see piano pundits are still saying inside walls only, at least in older homes where insulation is often iffy. Wondering if it's also true of home electronic organs. My house is about 60 years old and space is limited. Indeed the only alternative to the bass side of the instrument being along an outside wall is putting its back right in front of a fireplace that's unused and has never been fully blocked off but remains dry in any weather.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Something worth considering in some churches with the organ in the rear gallery. If the church has a long and deep chancel, as many large European churches have, an organ in the gallery is actually closer to the people. If your chancel area is shallow and the congregation is not much closer to the either front or back wall, organ placement shouldn't really matter as far as supporting the congregation's singing. Note the position of some English organs on the rood screen, between the nave and the choir - this position puts the organ close to both singing spaces.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Our big Klais main organ is in an alcove behind the Chancel area that is enclosed by 3 outside walls, with a large round stained glass window above it all. I think there is a clear window on the inside providing some temperature protection for the organ, however. The much smaller Antiphonal/Solo division is located on an inside wall (the one separating the Nave from the Narthex). I'm not the Organist, so don't have experience with how the placement of the instrument affects its ability to stay in tune. So far, water leaks have not been an issue, AFAIK.

                            David

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              In our Church, the organ is off to the side of the chancel and alter, at the front of the nave. There are just a few benches parrallel to the axis of the nave in front of the organ for a small choir (perhaps 10 - 12 seats).

                              Being off to the side and below the alter is a good compromise, as I can clearly see the congregation (by way of a mirror slightly larger than a car rear view mirror). Thus the organ is present, but subordinate, the choir (if there was one) can lead the congregation, the sound is excellent, and the space works for small concerts or weddings, etc.

                              “There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.”
                              “What I have achieved by industry and practice, anyone else with tolerable natural gift and ability can also achieve.”
                              Johann Sebastian Bach

                              (at Home) Conn 645 Theater Deluxe
                              (at Church) 1836 E. & G.G. Hook Bros, Opus 26

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