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  • organ voicing question

    Hi! I have a question about organ voicing—but a little background: I am starting a new job as organist at a church in a different city. The organ is a 3-manual 50-rank Reuter from the 60s:


    Ch: 8.8.8.4.4.2 2/3.2.1 3/5.III. 8
    Gt: 8.8.8.4.4.2.IV.8.4
    Sw: 16.8.8.8cel.4.4.2.IV.16.8.8.4
    Ped: 32.16.16.16.8.8.8.4.4.2.1.III.16.8.4
    inter-manual and intra-manual couplers at 16/8/4



    This size of the church is I guess what I would call medium large--built in the 2nd half of the 19th c. The shape appears to be a perfect square, with high rounded ceilings with ‘flourishes’, and balconies on either side. The space is carpeted, and the acoustic seemed nice when I was there—not too wet or dry—and know that local classical groups like to present concerts in the space because of the acoustics. The organ is at the front of the church, behind the alter but facing the congregation (i.e. along the front wall), in a balcony that sits about 10 feet above with non-speaking facade pipes in front of all divisions. The Gt sits unenclosed in an alcove that is open all the way to the ceiling, with the Sw and Ch enclosed and placed on either side. The console sits about 10 feet in front of the organ on the ground level (just behind the lectern/altar area).

    When I went for the audition and played the organ (got to spend a few hours with it), I felt like I was having problems getting sound out of it. It seemed that the principal chorus w/ mixture on the Gt was producing only a mp sound at best, and that I needed to use both sub and super couplers to get a true F sound or more. When I used the all-stops-on button, I felt like I was barely hitting a FF dynamic. This was in an empty church—imagine that the sound would be further deadened by having the congregation there.

    And then some curious thing about the shutters: the swell and choir boxes had metallic shutters which opened on 3 sides, so that it would seem to me that the sound wouldn't be focused out into the space when the box was open (and instead flooding the sides and the 'gt alcove').

    I should also say that I know that I haven’t had a lot of experience with it yet, and I'm sure that it does sound different in the space--and know that the console placement might not be ideal for gauging volume. And I haven't had a lot of experience playing organs in rooms of this shape and size. But just preliminarily: does it sound like the organ might be under voiced for the space? What would be my options for correcting this? And do you think that disabling the side shutters on the SW/CH boxes would potentially be helpful? Or having a case built for the GT?

    I know that replacement is a potential solution, but I'd rather focus on less costly and simpler ones for now. (def don't want to bring that up on my first day!)

    Thanks so much for any help or advice!


  • #2
    My first thought would be for you to have someone else play the organ while you moved around in the congregational space to experience the sound as they would. The person playing need not be an accomplished organist, just someone who can control the instrument and play a few hymns (with pedals). Until you have a good idea of what actually is happening in the worship space you can't make any decisions about potential changes. (And as a new organist, you probably ought not to be proposing changes at this time at all....)

    David

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    • #3
      Where are you located? Maybe one of us is close enough to come and hear the instrument, play it while you listen, and give you some ideas.

      From the description you gave, it sounds like you are not hearing the organ very well, especially the Great Principal Chorus. The sound is going right over you. I have a similar problem at my church, with the console being off to one side of the platform, down on the main floor. At least once a year I have someone play the organ while I walk around the sanctuary, and the difference in sound is just amazing! The same could very well be true in your case.

      Definitely do not propose that the church replace the instrument-you don't want to make enemies right off!
      Mike

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

      Comment


      • #4
        To echo and amplify previous responses, whoa, whoa, and whoa again!

        You're new to the facility, you haven't heard the instrument out in the hall, and you haven't heard it in the hall with the hall full of people. Stop there!

        I would first listen to the instrument, as suggested, while someone else qualified plays it--and be absolutely aware of the registrations in use during this experiment. Walk all areas of the room as you listen, because the organ will sound far different in different spots. Then listen when the room is full, or at the very least, appoint a trusted, well-trained, musically sensible deputy to listen for you.

        Speak with directors and members of the performing ensembles who enjoy the room as a performance space. What is their impression of the instrument? Have they performed with it? Have they attended recitals or Sunday services?

        Who else among the community's best musicians have heard this organ? What are their opinions? Many people in the community will have opinions about the organ.

        Equally important--or more so--what does the congregation think of the organ? Too much noise? Not enough? It is their organ, after all, not yours.

        You are soliciting advice for extreme alterations to this organ, if not total replacement. With all due respect, no single organist should be going down that road unilaterally, and certainly not without full consultation with everyone that could possibly be involved, and consultation with organbuilder(s) as well, for they are the ones who keep situations such as these centered in functional reality. And certainly it is far, far too early to be suggesting such radical surgery based upon one person's impressions from the console. And who among us in cyberorgana can possibly offer a meaningful solution to a sonic situation we will never hear?

        I'm making a strong statement here, and I apologize if it rankles anyone, but too often one organist gets free rein with an instrument and frankly, ruins it. I attend a church that is fortunate to have an 80+ rank instrument by one of the oldest and most respected builders in North America. It was glorious. Past tense. It is now ponderous, turgid, and monotonous. This is because funds became available and the new organist was able to have the entire complement of flues revoiced to his liking. He and his pet voicer spent weeks draining the color and life from the instrument.

        Such a shame. Only one person likes it better than before. I'm not kidding. At the re-inaugural recital, I didn't hear anyone say they thought it sounded well.

        If you find that many people, musicians and congregants alike, are disappointed with the instrument, and perhaps find that it's a narrowly-scaled neo-Baroque organ that's just too thin for the room, then it will be time to logically approach remedies, but again in concert with a builder or at least a good technician who can offer solid direction. Reuter's still out there, too. They can tell you what they built, which could answer some questions, should they need answering.

        Comment


        • #5
          How about it, Buxtehizzle? You've received excellent advice from a couple of the more venerated (old) members of the Forum, and a newbie with the same advice. From your moniker, I get a tilt toward the Baroque. Have you tried their suggestions yet? I'd be very curious to hear your perceptions once you've taken their advice to hear the organ from the sanctuary instead of the bench.

          That brings up another interesting point (not to derail this discussion). I wonder how many organists' efforts are hampered because they have never heard the organ from where the congregation sits, therefore, they're registering based on what they hear under, behind, or off to the side of the pipes--wherever the console is placed? That the biggest handicap I have when playing in either of my churches, or in various performing venues where I temporarily install my own organs. Often, I can find no one who has the expertise to play the instrument as it should be played, so I never actually "hear" the organ before I perform. It's like playing by radar. If I'm lucky, my wife is with me, and I can settle for her playing a block chord with one foot on the pedals.:-P

          Perhaps the best situation I've encountered is in the First Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama where the organ is placed just behind the pulpit with the choir between the organist and the pipes. Perfect placement for hearing the entire blend (photos below). Someone was really thinking when they came up with that installation!

          Michael
          Attached Files
          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

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by myorgan View Post
            Perhaps the best situation I've encountered is in the First Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama where the organ is placed just behind the pulpit with the choir between the organist and the pipes. Perfect placement for hearing the entire blend (photos below). Someone was really thinking when they came up with that installation!

            Michael
            I have tried to get my church to return to a setup similar to that. The console in our church was originally positioned at the front of the choir loft, but in one of several remodelings, it was put off to the side of the podium, on the ground floor, probably because the church at that time had separate organist and choir director positions, and also because the pulpit was moved to one side, with a lay reader lectern on the other. Terrible positioning for hearing the organ, and we now have to use a Clavinova right in front of the choir rail (with extension speakers hidden among the organ show pipes!) so that I can both direct and accompany the choir.
            Mike

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

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by m&m's View Post
              The console in our church was originally positioned at the front of the choir loft, (. . . .) and we now have to use a Clavinova right in front of the choir rail (with extension speakers hidden among the organ show pipes!) so that I can both direct and accompany the choir.
              What a terrible situation. A quality instrument sidelined due to practical concerns. I can't question it because most in the congregation would pick up on the lack of proper coordination far sooner than they might notice a bit less "pipeyness" in the accompaniment.
              Roland Atelier AT-90s, AT-80s, AT-70, 30, and 15. Roland VR-760 combo
              Yamaha S-90, Kurzweil PC-3x, Casio Privia PX-330, Roland E-80, G-70, BK-5, Leslie 760, 820
              Moved on:
              Allen 3MT/Hauptwerk, Technics GA1, Yamaha HX1, AR80, numerous Hammonds, including 2 M's, an L, 2 A-100's, XP-2, XM-1/1c, & an XK-3. Roland Atelier AT-30, 60r, 80, & 20r(2 units), and a slew of Leslies (147, 142, 760, 900, 330).
              Korg Triton Le-61, Casio Privia PX-310 & 110, and Kurzweils: PC-2x, SP-88, Pro-III, K1000

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              • #8
                I'll echo others who are saying leave it alone until you can get a good idea of what it sounds like in the room. One thing I will add however; disabling expression shades is a bad idea. As someone who does an awful lot of tuning, I find that expression boxes with shades on more then one side are a godsend - not so much for sound but for keeping the divisions in tune with each other. This configuration allows airflow between divisions keeping the temperatures the same. This eliminates the need to "tune the couplers."

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