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How to revitalize an older organ

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  • How to revitalize an older organ


    I just purchased a 4 rank Wicks organ that was built in 1960. It has the following specification:

    Pedal: 16 Rohrgedackt, 8 Principal, 8 Rohrgedackt, 8 Viole Dolce, 5-1/3 Qunite, 4 Principal, 8 Fagot.

    Swell: 16 Rohrgedackt, 8 Rohrflote, 8 Viole Dolce, 4 Flute, 4 Fugara, 2-2/3 Quinte, 2 Flautino, 8 Fagot, 4 Fagot.

    Great: 8 Diapason, 8 Chimney Flute, 8 Viole Dolce, 4 Octave, 4 Dulcet, 2-2/3 Twelfth, 2-2/3 Dolce Twelfth, 2 Fifteenth, 2 Dolce Fifteenth, 8 Fagot.

    I would like to add a 3 rank mixture in the Great, and I'd like to add a Celeste in the Swell. I'd also like to add a 16' extension of the Fagot in the Pedal. Does this make sense in an organ of this size?

    The wiring is orginal, and the console is connected to the main chest and five offset chests by the biggest honkin' cable I've ever seen. The cable is hard wired into the five offset chests and the console. The main chest connects to the cable by connectors that remind me of the old setter board type pins.

    I really have no idea, but I think it would be a major deal to rewire this organ. Would I be better off going solid state? Would going solid state make it easier to add the ranks I would like to add? Would going solid state let me add a coupler or two (which would be necessary if I eliminated the string-type stops from the Great)?

    Most importantly, would anyone have any idea how much it might cost to go solid state in a small 4 rank organ?

    If I stayed with the existing wiring, would I have to eliminate something like the 2-2/3 Dolce Twelfth to add a Mixture?

    I've read several places within the forum where half-length reed pipes were discussed. Does this mean that it is possible to get a 16' reed pipe sound from a pipe that is only 8 feet in length?

    I appreciate any insight anyone might be able to give me.

  • #2
    Re: How to revitalize an older organ

    When you are talking about going solid state being cheaper ... are you planning on doing this yourself or hiring it done?

    Our church has a 2 manual + pedal, 11 rank organ. Our builder wanted 40,000 (or roughly 3600 per rank) to go solid state and wire everything up. Be prepared to spend some $$ if you hire it out.

    That's about the extent of my building expertise :O) Sorry! I have some other thoughts but I don't want to get you down the wrong path. KleinErzahler (on this forum) seems to be a very good resource on organ building/restoration. Maybe his profile has contact information. - Jim


    • #3
      Re: How to revitalize an older organ

      doing it yourself will be MUCH less expensive.

      Contact Syndyne & Peterson and just ask how difficult it is to install their systems.

      As you know I'm having a Syndyne system installed on my 2nd console which will be hard wired OVER the existing wires to my existing Reuter console. (which I'm hopeing to keep operational as it is).

      What I'm doing is not the least expensive option but I wanted to preserve the old operating system.

      When its installed (hopefully late May/early June) I'll let you know so you can come up and take a look for yourself and see if its something you could wire up yourself etc.

      Whatever system you get make sure it is expandable so that you can add future ranks etc. I know on the Syndyne I can add further ranks in the future if I desire. I'm having several blank stoptabs added for the swell, great and pedal for future additions should I decide to do so.

      These blanks will be customizable so that I can wire up the pipes to create synthetic stops in the meantime should I choose to do so (i.e. combine a Gedeckt 8' and Tierce 1 3/5' or Nazard 2 2/3' etc to create a synthetic Quintation 8' for instance).

      Another nice thing about solid state systems is that it will allow you to customize your crescendo pedal. One thing I'm doing is I'm going to have two crescendo pedals.... I don't use swell shades so the swell pedal on my 2nd console will be wired up to be a "flute only" crescendo pedal... or perhaps a pedal stop only crescendo pedal. Or I could make it a "descrescendo pedal" whereby it would reduce stops in succession instead of adding them.

      Lots of ideas to play with!


      • #4
        Re: How to revitalize an older organ

        Don't know why I didn't think of this before ... But NYC gave me this idea too. If you put in a solid state system that can handle expansion then you wouldn't have to give up your 2-2/3 (assuming you have room for more stop tabs). You'd just wire the mixture into the new solid state.

        My personal opinion on the expansions you're looking at (and this is my personal taste which is always a bit left of center! :O) ... is that I would rather have the mixture as three seperate stops. That way, for your organs size, you can use it to gradually build up or hit all three for a big bang. But others may disagree.

        I would also (personally) rather have the 8 principal extended to 16 foot over the reed. I would use the principal much more frequently than a 16' reed. Especially since the 8' reed is already there. Have you also considered a stopped Bourdon? That would keep the size down but still give you another 16' stop.

        Is there any particular reason you want to eliminate the strings? With the solid state system you should be able to keep everything ... Well, unless you are out of space for new wind chests.


        • #5
          Re: How to revitalize an older organ

          First, Thanks Jim and John for your input.

          My reason for eliminating the strings on the great is there is limited space for stop tabs. I've taken the top off of the console, and there is little (if any) room for expansion. This is an unusual console from Wicks as it looks "Holtkampy"-- it reminds me of NYCFarmBoy's second console (if you've seen the photos he has posted). To call this a low profile console would probably be most accurate. Anyway, since the stop rail is not as long as most, there just is not much place to put anything else, and there are just 27 tabs now (including tremelo).

          So my thinking was was eliminate the string on the Great, eliminate the Dolce 2-2/3 on the Great, and I would gain two stop tabs. One could be for a Mixture, and the other could be a unison coupler. I'd still have a Twelfth 2-2/3 on the Great. I'd still have the string on the Swell.

          To gain space for a Celeste on the Swell, I could drop the Fugara 4 or the Quinte 2-2/3. Or I could drop the Fagot 4. All things being equal, and I know they're not, I'd rather keep the Fagot 4.

          You wondered if I had looked into stopped Bourdon. I had not thought of it because I thought it would be too similar to the 16 Rohrgedackt that is there. I've heard a couple of small organs that had a 16' flute and a 16' reed, and they sounded pretty neat. I had not considered an extension of the Diapason only because even with mitering, I thought the pipes would take up too much space. All the pipes for this organ have been mitered to fit under an 8 foot ceiling! This is why I wondered about the half-length reeds -- are they really half length (like a stopped flute pipe)?

          If I would get another 16 footer in the Pedal, I thought I would dump the Quinte 5-1/3. From what I've read on the Forum, most people seem to think that stop is pretty worthless.

          Again, I'm pretty much shooting in the dark here. I'm not sure what makes sense, so I do appreciate the feedback.


          • #6
            Re: How to revitalize an older organ

            Well, to be perfectly honest, I've never heard a Rohrgedackt. So they may indeed be similar.

            As far as I know ... on half length reeds the resonator (part above the boot) can be half length but it will affect the sound characteristics.

            I personally would have no use for the 5 1/3 in the pedal. I would much rather have the ability to couple swell and great to the pedal. My church's organ is 11 ranks and has only the Bourdon and Lieblich Gedeckt at 16 and the Gedeckt at 8 (Bass Flute). That's plenty. Then there's couplers for Great and Swell. What about going this route to pick up tabs for the manuals?

            Pedal: 16 Rohrgedackt, 16 Fagot, Great to Pedal 8', Swell to Pedal 8', Swell to Pedal 4'

            I think (if I can still count right) that would free up three tabs for the manuals. Just a thought. Or you could add in either/both the 8' Rohrgedackt and 8' fagot which will still leave you with 1 or 2 extra tabs for your manuals. Of course, the down side is that manual tabs will be over with some of the pedal ones ...

            Do you have a picture of the console?


            • #7
              Re: How to revitalize an older organ

              another option:

              expanding the stopbox.

              to make it taller to hold more stoptabs.

              Thats what I'm having to do with mine.

              My original Holtkamp console only had space for 28 stoptabs in one row.

              I need nearly 56 or so am having it expanded to two rows of 28. (includes som extra blanks as noted).

              before & after photo (after shot is a "photoshop rendition", project has not yet started)

              I prefer the looks of the lower profile single row but I wanted all the stoptabs.


              • #8
                Re: How to revitalize an older organ

                I do have a picture of the entire organ, and I will try to post. I lack the know-how, so it may not work.

                I had not considered the coupler idea on the Pedal, but I must admit, I do like it. I think it would be a good idea to go RohrGedackt 16, Fagot 16, then couplers.

                I like the low profile of the console, so I'm not sure how I feel about expanding the stop box.

                Okay, I officially cannot add a picture - or I officially do not know how to add a picture.



                • #9
                  Re: How to revitalize an older organ

                  You said:

                  I would like to add a 3 rank mixture in the Great, and I'd like to add a Celeste in the Swell. I'd also like to add a 16' extension of the Fagot in the Pedal. Does this make sense in an organ of this size?


                  At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, I'm going to suggest you avoid adding the Mixture. I say this assuming you are installing the organ in your residence. In such a setting, what might seem like a modest or normal amount of upperwork can become altogether overwhelming, especially if such upperwork is scaled and voiced for a typical "church" setting.

                  I would much sooner suggest you save the space for another 8' stop to give you some variety. Adding a celeste is a good step in that direction. I often hear respected organists say that simple two manual schemes similar to Cavaille-Coll's Orgues de Salon prove to be the most useful over time. Often these were simple two manual affairs with nothing above 4' pitch. Reeds were also rare, and if they had them at all it was usually a Bassoon/Oboe. On the surface this may seem "unexciting" but with the right treatment, I personally would find such an organ much more musically rewarding in the residential setting, especially when compared to the alternate prospect of ranks of tonally unfinished upperwork blazing in my ears.

                  Compare the C-C Salon Organ to the many Moller Artistes which only had three stops and you see a similar philosophy: most often the complement was a conical Diapason, Flute and String. There are arguments to be made to go more in the orchestral direction, but it really depends on what you want to use the organ for. Is this a practice instrument?

                  As to the rest, there is certainly plenty of precedent for installing your own capture/control system, and in fact there are systems on the market currently that are targeted to the "home/hobby" user. With some basic knowledge of electricity, some care and attention to detail, there is no reason why you could not handle this on your own.


                  • #10
                    Re: How to revitalize an older organ

                    I actually like the original spec - my advice might be to install it as-is, and then decide if you want to make changes after youv'e lived with it for a while. Properly installing itwill be quite a bit of work anyway!

                    Actually, this spec is almost a duplicate of a Moller Artiste that I play once & a while. I find I can play almost anything on it! I think the two 2 2/3' and 2' stops onyour Great are a bit much (these don't exist on the Artiste). On the Artiste, I've often wished the 16' stop would be on the Great too.

                    Don't think you need another 16' flue. You might want to think of having he 4' Fagot in the Pedal - it is fun for playing Cantus Firmus in French baroque music!

                    I agree with skipping the mixture for a residence. It won't be pretty! Unless you live in a palace![;)]

                    5 1/3 stops can be quite useful, but in a large organ. With proper acoustics... And, provided that it is not borrowed from an 8' rank (which means it will never be in tune). And if it is not in tune, it won't do its job of sythesizing a 16' resultant tone.

                    Half-length reeds do exist, as do quarter-length. But the tone gets buzzier and more raucous when the resonater gets shorter. Again, do you really want a buzzy sound in your face?

                    One last thought - on a small unit organ, a coupler can be redundant (because everything already plays everywhere). But I understandyour wish for one - the literature calls for it...


                    • #11
                      Re: How to revitalize an older organ

                      My thanks to Mr. Odell and Soubasse32 for their recent input.

                      Since my original post, I have been in contact with Wicks. I learned the organ was originally built for a university in Tennessee (and I'm guessing as a practice organ). The organ is a model that was called "Forward Four" but had some alterations to fit in a chamber with a low ceiling. That certainly worked out well for me!

                      Wick's told me that the organ could be expanded, but it might prove tricky. Usually, in organs of this vintage, they would recommend installing new relays. That would make additions easier and also allow for the addition of couplers. But Wicks pointed out there was no reason this organ could not be playable for many years in its current state.

                      Anyway, Wicks suggested the following specification (if I got a new relay and eventually added what I wanted to add):

                      Great: 8' Diapason; 8' Chimney Flute; 8' Viole Dolce; 4' Octave; 4' Flute;
                      2' Fifteenth; Blank [for Mixture]; 8' Fagot; Swell to Great 8'; Swell to
                      Great 4'.

                      Swell: 8' Rohrflote; 8' Viole Dolce; Blank [for Viole Celeste]; 4' Flute'
                      4' Fugara; 2 2/3' Quint; 2' Flautino; 8' Fagot; Tremolo; Swell to Swell 4'.

                      Pedal: 16' Rohr Gedeckt; 8' Principal; 8' Rohrflote; 4' Principal; Blank
                      [for 16' Reed], Great to Pedal 8'; Swell to Pedal 8'.

                      I like this specification as I think it would be more flexible even if I never added the additional ranks.

                      I realize that on a small unit organ such as this Wicks, couplers are not necessary as everything is on both manuals (more or less).

                      But I do appreciate your advice, and after reading both of your posts, I believe it might be wisest, in my best interest, and more economical to install the organ as is.The exception for now is that I will not be installing the swell shades.

                      And since the organ is for my residence (which is NOT a palace!!!), I agree that a Mixture would be overkill. I agree also that I wouldn't want a reed buzzing at me, but I really do love the sound of a 16' reed in the pedal!

                      Thanks for the input!


                      • #12
                        Re: How to revitalize an older organ

                        I notice the new spec no longer includesthe4' Fagot. If this is a 73-pipe stop, then you will be missing out on the top octave.

                        In the Artiste Ilike having the 4' Clarion in the Swell (it makes up for lack of a mixture). As I mentioned before, wish I could also have a Trumpet 8 and4 in the pedal (for French stuff).

                        Just a thought...

                        PS: Oh, just noticed they left out the 16' manual stop, and there are no subcouplers- that's not good! I play lots of French stuff, so perhaps I'm biased. [:)]A 16' manual stop really gives gravity to the tone, especially when playing high in the manual compass. It can make a small organ sound big.

                        I'd be inclined to ditch those supercouplers - for the same reason a mixture might be annoying -on a unit organ thesewill really screech in the best of acoustics (which a home does not have).

                        The Artiste only has one manual coupler: Swell to Great, and that seems to be quite sufficient. It is a very round-toned instrument from 1948. It also has a full length (!) 16' Diapason! Folks are always amazed at what a little giant it is...