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How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?

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  • How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?



    I'm writing from Tokyo. Our church started from a few families
    meeting in someone's house 30 years ago, and now has about 130 members,
    still meeting in the same house! Just recently we actually purchased
    our first building, another house just a few houses down the street
    from our present meeting place. Unfortunately, despite paying $1
    million in cash, we were not able to get a building that could house
    all of us along with the various church ministries, so we are now going
    to be using both houses with teleconferencing among five floors in the
    two houses. It is a kludge solution but it will work for a few more
    years until we grow to the point where we can afford to do more. At
    least we will no longer feel like we're taking a rush hour commuter
    train when we go to church on Sunday!



    About half the church
    members are children, and almost all the children are taking music
    lessons as part of their formal education, with about half doing so
    seriously (serious as in committed for life, but not necessarily as
    professionals). A few of the oldest kids are going to seminary,one is
    in a local conservatory as a voice and harpsichord major, and a few
    more kids will probably be heading into conservatory for voice and
    various instruments in a few years.



    We would like to get an organ
    as soon as it is feasible to do so, but nobody in our congregation
    plays organ. My oldest daughter, who plays the harpsichord, has played
    the organ at a friend's wedding and says it's a whole different ball of
    wax from piano, harpsichord, or electric keyboard, and that it is a
    real challenge to lead congregational singing with an organ.



    My questions are:



    1)
    How does a small congregation go about getting a pipe organ into its
    church culture for the first time? You need an organist to have an
    organ, and you need an organ to have an organist. How can we break into
    such a chicken-and-egg cycle?



    2) How do we know when an organ is
    feasible? Our main worship area still measures only 6.5 meters by
    7.5 meters by 2.5 meters --a room size more associated with residences
    than with church worship halls.(Remember, our worship services combine
    multiple rooms via teleconferencing.) Still, I note that people have
    small pipe organs in their homes.Since at some point down the road we
    will eventually be getting a larger facility, it would be nice to have
    a congregation that is already accustomed to using a pipe organ when
    that time comes.



    3) If a small pipe organ would be appropriate
    (as opposed to a piano, which is what we currently use) what kind of
    specs would be appropriate?



    We have immediate needs as well as
    needs that we are trying to anticipate for 10-20 years down the pike;
    that's why we are looking into organs even at our present stage.



    Any
    advice you could give would be greatly appreciated! Please don't
    hesitate to ask questions if you need to know more before you can make
    suggestions.



    Thanks very much!



    Chris




  • #2
    Re: How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?



    Chris,




    I may have to duck and cover after saying this, and I feel terrible even suggesting this in light of the fact that you mention "pipe" organ specifically in your question. But you might consider starting with an electronic organ. A pipe organ in a room as tiny as your worship space, with a ceiling height comparable to most people's bedroomsmight not be highly effective, IMHO. I fear that any pipe organ that will fit in there will be so limited in resources that it will not encourage much musical expansion.




    And I could be wrong, too. I can picture a little portative organ with 2 or 3 ranks sitting in a corner, and making some nice music. But it still seems to me that your situation is a classic argument in favor of a good digital, at least until you are able to get into larger quarters.




    Now, I know that several forumites have pipe organs in their homes, some in fairly cramped quarters. But with space so very limited and the need for some kind of really creative speaker setup to distribute the organ sound -- not only within yourlow-ceiling boxyworship room, but also out to those worshiping by teleconference -- I just think an electronic would be the most practical.




    Also, the acoustical situation of such a tiny worship space is such that the close-up in-your-face sound of a pipe organ might be overwhelming. And yes, I know that a pipe organ can be voiced for such a small room, and some have done this successfully. Butthen whendozens of people crowd into such a room for a service, the acoustical effect on the pipe organ would be very significant. I just don't think it would be as pleasing as it ought to be.




    You don't want to start with the cheapest thing out there, not some old junker, as you don't want to discourage the young musicians. And you want to attract a competent organist if possible. (Though it sounds like you may be more likely to grow your own.) Look at Allen and Rodgers, as both these US companies have a Japanese presence. Find a dealer who understands your unique situation and is willing to plan out a really creative, different, made-to-order audio setup that will serve this very unusual worship space as well as the remote locations. This is not stock model stuff, and requires some real out-of-the-box thinking. Good luck finding such a dealer!




    If you have that many serious musicians, there must be one or more willing to be taught classical church organ. And I'm assuming thatthe congregation will be accepting of this. It will be quite a change from using the piano alone. Best wishes and God bless!




    John




    PS-- In a way my own church was at about this same place 14 years ago, using only a piano and meeting in a tiny crowded low-ceiling temporary sanctuary. When I came in and saw the need for an organ, there was no money for one at all, all money being directed toward the need for more space. I started out with a spinet organ (though it was a good one, a Wurlitzer 4300), and kept my eyes open for any opportunity to get a better one. We've gone through several organs since then, having most recently gotten a 3 manual Rodgers given to the church. I'm not sure my experience would really translate to your situation though. You need to have a pretty good instrument right off the bat with all those prospective players.


    John
    ----------
    *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?



      If Chris wants a pipe organ, by all means he should investigate the possibility. A pipe organ in a small room has every chance of being as "effective" as a large digital organ - even moreso, as pipes will give a natural, organic, unforced sound. There is a certain charm to a small pipe organ that I'm certain the congregation will appreciate. To mix a number of metaphors, it is very "Zen". [;)]




      A well-craftedpipe organ can be visually appealing.




      A larger digital organ may play more varied repertoire, but a lot of that repertoire simplywill not besuited to a tiny space.




      Sitting a few feet away from a bank ofloudspeakers is not my idea of a worshipful experience - especially in a tiny space! [:(]




      I think it would bepremature to discuss a spec without knowing more about the liturgy, music, attendance, physical layout of the room, budget, etc. etc.




      There are many pipe organs in Tokyo. I read with great interest about St. Albans, which elected to build a pipe organfor their small space, after the failure and obsolescence of two electronic organs. They had several very interesting people advising on this process; the music director and organist have Anglo/American names - perhaps you should contact them directly, to see how they went about the process.




      http://www.saintalbans.gol.com/newsl...ter_organ.html




      http://www.saintalbans.gol.com/

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?



        Why not buy a harmonium or reed organ? It is an acoustic instrument so it won't blow your heads off in a small room. It is more compact than a pipe organ. If you can find an organist, you may be able to find a two manual and pedal harmonium. I am sure you could put a microphone inside to relay to other parts of the building.




        Another solution if you have pianists rather than organists is to buy a one manual digital instrument. Several makers provide them, some even have 'autobass' so you can get a pedal effect for hymns, so you won't need a pedalboard. These one manual instruments also have MIDI so you could put your digital keyboard through it negating the need for a separate instrument, useful if space is at a premium.




        Personally there is little point in purchasing a big digital or pipe organ if there is no-one to play it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?



          There are organists in Japan!




          Pipe organs too.




          I have had several students who were very eager to play for services or recitalswhen they returned to visit Japan.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?



            Chris,



            Welcome to the forums, first off.



            You have a very interesting situation, and to be honest, I've never heard of using two houses and teleconferencing to fit one congregation. I've heard of renting out a school auditorium (or even another church), but never two houses. Very interesting.



            First, you stated that "we" would like to get an organ. Before you would do anything, I would suggest checking once (or a few times) to be sure that the congregation really does want organ music. It's a huge investment to get organ music, and requires a good amount of money (even an electronic organ is fairly expensive for a good setup), and it would be a shame if you purchased an organ and hired an organist - only to find that people prefer the piano. I would recommend the organ for any church, but the organ isn't right for every church. (*Runs and hides*)



            Second, your daughter is smart - the organ is in fact an entirely different ball of wax than the piano or even the harpsichord. And leading a congregation can be a huge challenge. But it's not anything that is impossible to master, and with a little practice, you may have a perfectly good church organist already. Being in Tokyo, I would imagine there are plenty of organists who teach. If she's willing, have her take some lessons while you are working on getting the organ in. She wouldn't have to stay forever, just until you could find someone to replace her. That would certainly take care of the chicken/egg cycle!



            Third, I'm going to have to agree with John on this. (*Runs and hides again*). As much as I prefer the pipe organ, this is one of those instances where an electronic organ would probably be more feasible. A pipe organ would take up more space (space that it sounds like you don't have much of) and the results would be disappointing. When you get in to a real worship space (as opposed to teleconferencing), by all means install a pipe organ.



            Fourth, the best way to integrate a pipe organ into worship (in my opinion) is to slowly blend it in. For example, instead of cutting the piano out entirely, perhaps you could slowly integrate the organ in, still using the piano. That may not be practical, considering the space issues (and you may need to get rid of the piano for room), but if at all possible, that would be a good way to integrate it. In this way, it doesn't come as a sudden shock to your congregation!



            Lastly, (as I briefly already mentioned), I would just be very cautious about getting an organ in this stage. An organ is very expensive and takes up a bit of room. And if the organ is built for your current space, it may not be sufficient whenever you move into a larger worship space (and then you have to consider getting a new instrument). But if you do end up getting one, I completely understand! The organ is the most majestic instrument and I know exactly why a church would want one!



            Hopefully this helps (some). Remember, this forum is a great resource when it comes to the organ (and even music in general) and there is a wide variety of different people. If your daughter ends up taking the reigns to start the organ program, this is a great place to ask for tips to hymn playing!



            I do personally wish you all the best of luck with this, and am very curious to hear what you end up doing. Keep us posted!



            - sbd

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?



              Certainly this thread is not the place to resolve the never-ending pipes vs digital question. I can see both sides having good points here. Yes, a pipe organ is byeveryone's agreementthe preferred instrument and is the "original" of which every digital is but an inadequate copy.Asmall (read "tiny" or "microscopic") pipe organ that would fit into your existing space could have some lovely tones, and indeed a poor quality digital with speakers blaring would be awful. But a digital has the advantage of fully scalable audio. You could get a console with 50 or more stops, but you wouldn't need or want a big pile of speakers in a room smaller than most American living rooms!




              So should you get a digital organ, you would need a dealer/installer who will think creatively, not just plug it in and walk away. I can imagine a digital installation for your roomin which there are actualy no big primary speakers at all other than a subwoofer in the corner. There could be a16 to 20or more small high quality speakers mounted at the junction of the wall and ceiling, spaced out all around the perimeter of the room. The speakers should "fire" not down in to the crowd, but straight out, with the dispersion pattern largely covering the ceiling.The organ's audio could be mixed down to just two channels and generously supplied with aritificial reverb. The effect MIGHT be good. I can't say, it would require some experimenting. (This stereo signal could be transmitted to the remote locations and played through a similar speaker arrangement in those rooms.)




              But if my scheme should prove workable, you would havethe illusion of hearing an organin a bigger, livelier space, and people would enjoy the organ sound much more than they will just hearing it blasted out from asingle speaker location. The volume level would also be just about equal everywhere in the room, which would be almost impossible to attain with either a self-contained electronic or with a little pipe organ in the corner.




              But this is just one suggestion from one tech who knows nothing at all about your situation. So put that in the hopper and mix it up with plenty of other ideas!




              Best wishes.




              John


              John
              ----------
              *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

              https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?



                I have to run off to work where access to this forum is
                automatically blocked, but I wanted to just say a preliminary thanks to
                everyone who has responded so far. Being somewhat isolated (we are the
                sole church representing our denomination in Japan, and the
                denomination itself does not have a lot of experience with organs) and
                going into totally new territory with this newfangled organ critter we
                would be totally lost without people like you to at least keep us
                pointed in the right direction.



                So far I am thinking we might be
                able to use some of the larger wooden pipes as benches for the
                congregants to sit on . . . might be nice to have a seat that
                automatically massages your sore tush with low passages after a long
                sermon. [:P]



                I'm sure I'll have more questions later . . . in the meantime every learned opinion is precious and greatly appreciated.



                -- Chris

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: How does a young, small, steadily growing congregation get from here to there?

                  [quote user="Christopher Witmer"]


                  ISo far I am thinking we might be able to use some of the larger wooden pipes as benches for the congregants to sit on . . . might be nice to have a seat that automatically massages your sore tush with low passages after a long sermon. [:P]




                  .




                  -- Chris




                  [/quote]




                  That's what I call creative thinking!




                  John

                  John
                  ----------
                  *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

                  Comment

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