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  • cool but useless stops

    Since we have a "favorite stops and combinations" thread, I thought it might be interesting to go the other way, but with a twist. There are a lot of stops on organs that are interesting and unique, but not very useful. I'll start by stirring the pot with controversy with my list:

    1. Erzahlers. Love how they sound by themselves, but that's about all they're good for, at least for me. Too loud to fill the role of a proper flute celeste, too bland to substitute for strings. Neither fish nor fowl. Not very useful in ensemble- they neither add much richness and broadness nor much weight. If you as an organbuilder have already given me a broad pair of Swell strings, a keener, quieter pair of choir strings, and a good Flauto Dolce and celeste, then yes, go ahead and throw in the Erzahlers, but if I don't already have strings in the choir and a flute celeste somewhere, these are not a useful substitute.

    2. Antique 16' manual reed doubles. Dulzians, Ranketts, and Regals. Interesting for about 16 bars of solo work, but annoying after that. There's nothing they don't do as solo voices that a good Krummhorn doesn't do better. They don't blend with chorus reeds and sound like someone kicked over a bees' nest in the ensemble. Not very useful as pedal borrows, either. If space and funds are limited, at least figure out how to squeeze in a half-length bassoon.

    3. Stopped 16' manual flue doubles. Some builders love Quintatens and Lieblich Gedackts, but I'm not sure why, beyond cost savings. Quintatens get run over by full ensembles and are too weak to provide true richness as a full organ double, and are too unique-sounding to blend with anything less. Useless for romantic work. Lieblich Gedackts add muddiness without richness to mp and mf ensembles, and also get run over by full ensembles, unless they're regulated too loud to work in anything less full, and even there, there's more mud than grandeur. Give me a Violone or Principal or a Gemshorn any day (and if there's not enough space, Haskell pipes sound wonderful as Violones and Gemshorns). A 16' Flauto Dolce is a wonderful quiet double in the swell, if there's one present at 8' to borrow from. I get the utility of a Lieblich Gedackt as an expressive quiet 16' stop in the pedal, but that's about it.

    What's on your list?

  • #2
    Our Erzahler and Erzahler Celeste are voiced more like a Dulciana and the pipes are constructed like Gemshorn pipes (i.e., conical). It can be useful as the softest voice(s) on the organ since our Swell Viola and Celeste are relatively loud(er) and our Positiv Gemshorn is more like a soft Principal.

    Our 16' Schalmei Regal can be very useful as a soft solo stop when played at 8' with the Unison Off and Choir 4 couplers. I have never tried it in an antique baroque ensemble.

    We have a total of four 16' stopped flutes on the organ and they help in their own various ways. But your points about such stops are still well taken. (We also have an octave of 12 stopped 10-2/3 pipes to play with the 16' Bourdon for the 32' Untersatz.)

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    • #3
      I thought the primary function of an Erzahler was to "bind" the sounds of disparate ranks together into a useful sound, not to be used alone. (In fact, my initial instruction was that an Erzahler should NOT be played alone.)

      David

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      • #4
        You are probably right, David. Perhaps ours should have been renamed Dulciana?

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        • #5
          1. My home organ setup is Hauptwerk, and I am using a Casavant sample set. The organ is from the time when Lawrence Phelps was the head of Casavant. The Choir Erzahler is almost repulsive, and, even with a Celeste which was added digital by the creator of the sample set, it stil is not good. I have substituted a String Celeste from another organ. There are several other stops on this organ that likewise are not to my liking, but the Erzahler is at the top of the list.
          2. I basically agree with the comments about the stopped Doubles. I despise the sound of the average Quintaton-a Violone would be much better. I think the reasons for the stopped ranks are cost and space. I will admit, however, that a stopped Double on the Swell does make a nice softer rank for the Pedal when it is duplexed down to the Pedal. But to use a 16' Quintaton on the Great-no way.
          3. " If space and funds are limited, at least figure out how to squeeze in a half-length bassoon." Michaelhoddy, you are a man after my own heart.
          Mike

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

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Menschenstimme View Post
            You are probably right, David. Perhaps ours should have been renamed Dulciana?
            MS, I find it very flattering for you to confirm something I have written. Thank you very much--I do appreciate it.

            Our church organ does not have an Erzahler at all, but there is an 8' Dulciana in the Choir. That is the softest rank in the instrument and was the very first one finished by the Voicer ready to play. I just happened to be present when he finished that task (I was photographically documenting the installation) and he really surprised me. He turned to me and said: "David, can you play?" Well, I can make sounds, but I don't really call it "playing". So I replied: "I can play a hymn." And he set up for that stop to sound and told me to play a hymn over and over while he walked all around the Sanctuary, both on the main floor and the balcony, to determine how well that softest stop would carry throughout the space. (The hymn I chose was FINLANDIA, and he asked me to play it in several different octaves.) He was smiling ear to ear when he returned--apparently the stop was voiced to his satisfaction and he was absolutely profuse in his admiration of the acoustics of our Sanctuary; he said that the sound was uniform in every part, even in the far corners, and had enough reverberation to sound well. (We have about 2 seconds, maybe a little more.) I felt very humbled to have been the very first member of the church to actually play on our new organ! By all rights, that honor should have gone to our Organist, but this was in the evening after she had gone home, and the Voicer did not want to wait until the next morning--he had 2 more stops scheduled to be voiced that evening.

            I was interested to note the inclusion of the 16' Dulzian as one of the despised stops. We have one in our Choir Division and I believe it gets usage. It is sometimes combined with another stop (not sure which one) to emulate a Vox Humana--a stop our instrument does not have. Its pipes are very odd-looking: little wooden parallopipeds with holes in them; they make a kind of "zizzy" sound and are not very loud.

            I suspect that the perception of some stops as being ugly is more a result of how they are designed and voiced for a given instrument, not so much a property of the class as a whole. I have no doubt that even a Stopped Flute could be made to sound ugly if badly designed and voiced or the wrong level was produced. Probably almost every organist would have at least one stop of their instrument they did not like very much. One of my Organist friends once told me that there was no more opinionated group of people than organists; I believe she may have been correct.

            David

            Comment


            • #7
              And to wit, my list is purposely designed to be controversial. You are absolutely correct about organists being opinionated!

              Also, I want to make a distinction between stops or examples of stops that sound bad or are poorly-voiced, and stops which sound fine and are just of limited utility in general use. The second type is what I'm referring to.
              Last edited by michaelhoddy; 06-01-2011, 05:16 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by davidecasteel View Post
                I thought the primary function of an Erzahler was to "bind" the sounds of disparate ranks together into a useful sound, not to be used alone. (In fact, my initial instruction was that an Erzahler should NOT be played alone.) David
                David,

                You introduce an important point!!

                When I started my organ lessons on a Conn ~ Hammond, something like an Erzahler was hardly on the list of considerations.

                Your Erzahler is probably the equivalent of my Unda Maris; a somewhat unenchanting lack-luster stop.

                And occasionaly you learn something REALLY useful on this Forum. For me, it was the concept of uniting an otherwise less-than-wonderful Unda Maris, with other Choir voices. Used as intended, and something I was never taught, opens up a whole new and wonderful world of registration.
                Last edited by Clarion; 06-01-2011, 05:40 AM.
                2008: Phoenix III/44

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by davidecasteel View Post
                  I suspect that the perception of some stops as being ugly is more a result of how they are designed and voiced for a given instrument, not so much a property of the class as a whole. I have no doubt that even a Stopped Flute could be made to sound ugly if badly designed and voiced or the wrong level was produced.
                  No kidding! I have four stopped flutes. I love two and don't love two. One is a Doppelflute, pretty big, sweet but not too sweet. One is a Stopped Diapason, so syrupy that I can rarely find a use for it. It gives me a stomach ache, like eating too much chocolate. One is a Flute d'Amour, which is clear and lovely. One is a Stopped Diapason from another instrument, and it's the clearest and most pleasing of all.

                  So much for the "Gedeckt class" standing for anything consistent!

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                  • #10
                    Well, if you want a stop that is totally useless for anything musically, and useful only for making someone look like a dummy, there is the old Fuchschwanz/Noli Me Tangere (ie a "fox tail" connected to a stop knob/handle) but it only works with some sort of draw knob, and even then, it really is a joke stop.

                    For me, playing as little as I do, I would say what makes a stop useless depends more on the instrument in question, the space it occupies and the voicing.

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                    • #11
                      Austin, our "Texas" stop would also qualify, I guess: it plays a brassy rendition of "The Eyes of Texas" when pulled (after about a 6 second delay).

                      David

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                      • #12
                        I like Regals. They're great for historic stuff. I do agree that a Krummhorn can be more useful for most stuff. It's also one of my favorite reeds. Maybe I 'm just a weirdo and go for that historic stuff.

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                        • #13
                          I would have to say that the 8' Cor Anglais in the Great on my Allen 505-B is practically useless. There is nothing soft enough on the Swell to accompany it as a solo stop. On the other hand, I've managed to use the 8' Aeoline card on 2 alterables in the Swell, and achieved somewhat satisfactory results, but even with the box open, the ensemble can barely be heard (single expression--not divided on that organ). What WERE they thinking? [:(]
                          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

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                          • #14
                            On our Chapel pipe organ, we have a 8' Labial Oboe by Estey.

                            I would classify that until "useless" rather than cool. It's a very strong bitey string. I would like to change the name to "Oboe Gamba" and have it in line with the swell 8' flues.

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                            • #15
                              Aeoline

                              I play a Walcker-1925, 42 stops. The Aeoline is heard only by the player, and add almost nothing to any other stops. Why such stops for a big cathedral?

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