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Relocating An Historic Pipe Organ--Good or Bad Idea?

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  • Relocating An Historic Pipe Organ--Good or Bad Idea?

    So, is it appropriate to relocate an historic organ if the results do not do the organ (or the space) justice?

    I attended an AGO recital/concert today with two organists (+ other instruments) I have known for years. The organ is an historic Hook & Hastings from the 1800s, and has 2 manuals with more stops than pedals (that's all I'll say about that). The organ was relocated from a church where they had converted to another worship style, and this church heard about the relocation and secured its purchase and installation.

    Below are my observations from today:
    • The organ must have been installed initially in a larger church than this, because most of the stops were overpowering. I was trying to figure out if the organ was that bad in its original location, had an incredibly small stoplist, or if it was just a poor voicing job in its new location. I had never heard the instrument, nor had knowledge of its stoplist before today.
    • The 8' and most of the 4' ensemble (Dulciana, Viole, etc.) sounded quite luscious, but not quite soft enough. The instrumentalist (one of our Symphony musicians) had to work to be heard over the softest stops.
    • The Mixtures/Reeds (except one single Reed), and Mutations were quite shrill, brash, and/or overpowering when in use.
    • The only way for a pedal line to be clarified was to add the 16' Pedal Reed, and that ruined the ensemble for my tastes--there were at least 3-4 other Pedal stops that could be used, as well as the manual couplers. (Really--Bach's St. Anne Fugue without pedal couplers)?
    • The contrast between the 8' Swell and 8' Great Flutes was exquisite, and sounded quite nice. Even the 4' Harmonic Flute used as a solo was quite nice.

    Overall, the organists could have played with quite a bit more articulation because the organ is in a semi-live space, but one of the organists plays at the church, and I suspect that organist is used to playing mostly legato for services. The other organist did not play as well, but I understood that organist's lack of articulation because (s)he plays on an underpowered 3-manual Möller in a live church, but because it is underpowered, the organist needs to play legato to avoid awkward spaces.

    So, am I being a pipe organ snob, expecting a transplant to be well-unified (it certainly has enough stops for that), or are my expectations realistic? Perhaps I've been spoiled with the organs I regularly use, where all the stops are well-blended.

    What do y'all think?

    Michael
    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
    What's the point in relocating an organ that is deficient, poorly voiced, or in appropriately voiced for the new space?

    No, I don't think you are being a snob.

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    • #3
      Michael,

      I have to agree with Toodles on this. I do not think you are a snob either. Hook organs are special to me but not when they are transplanted to another building. Very few transplants work out very well in my opinion. That instrument was built with the original building as the starting point. One has to be very good at voicing and finishing to even hope to keep it faithful to what the original builder wanted. Sounds like the new location should have looked around more before deciding on this one. Again, just my opinion.

      Michael 2

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      • #4
        I would advise any church who wants to have an existing organ installed in their location to work with a competent builder. I have had experience with three such cases and all were very successful. There are builders who specialize in this sort of work and also have a great deal of experience with 19th and early 20th century American builders. Not everyone who hangs out a shingle as organ builder is up to the job.
        Bill

        My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by voet View Post
          Not everyone who hangs out a shingle as organ builder is up to the job.
          AMEN!!! There are 2-3 "builders" in our location who have been "rebuilding" and/or "updating" historic organs so their name can get on the nameplate. Some of the changes are downright sinful (IMHO), but it seems to be the order of the day. In fact, one organists in the area refuses to play any electronic substitute, but will regularly champion one of these other organs in their altered states.

          I really wanted to like the organ--especially because I saw it as an upgrade from an analog electronic organ on its last legs. I also wanted to like it because it was an historic Hook & Hastings tracker, and both of the Hook & Hastings trackers I've played (one for a period of years) were quite nice. I guess it wasn't meant to be.:'(

          Michael
          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
            Now that the organ has been saved, maybe someone better at working with this type of instrument will finish the job. There is still hope for it.

            Michael

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Pipeorganbuilder View Post
              ...maybe someone better at working with this type of instrument will finish the job. There is still hope for it.
              I certainly hope so. Unfortunately, the person who help locate the organ holds a great amount of sway, and I'm not sure the church is ready to accept more money needs to be spent. Time will tell. I do know organs can be voiced to be louder (i.e. cut up, wind pressure, and toe holes), but I've never heard of a pipe organ being voiced that much softer--I suppose it might be possible (see ¶ below).

              I did some research on the source church, and indeed, it was approximately 1-1/2 to 2 times larger than the current church. Unfortunately, the old church was turned into $1m+ condos. What a waste! I guess it's good the organ was salvaged after all.

              Michael
              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


              • #8
                Originally posted by myorgan View Post
                They had converted to another worship style
                This is the Crux of the problem! What kind of worship style necessitates the removal of a historic organ? I don't think it's the worship style, I think they were just itching to get rid of something old. I hope I'm wrong when I surmise that they also abandoned their old God.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Is it wrong to relocate a historic organ? No. Not if leaving it where it is will result in its destruction or neglect.

                  The problem you describe is a result of the pipework not being regulated for the new space. Some call this voicing but that is something different. Not all organs can be toned down for a smaller space. Some pipes will simply not work right if you bring them down too much. Reeds, for example may become unstable and some notes may start to sound "funny" like they are trying to play two notes at once. The scrolls will need to be rolled closed and if they have been rolled open too far, or "ripped" this will also result in trouble and a very frustrated service person.

                  Comment

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