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  • Hhow many pipe organ manufacturers will be able to stay in business?

    With low sales of pipe organs to institutional buyers, how many companies or manufacturers will able to stay in business just maintaining existing pipe organs? Will the companies remaining, in the future, be able to attract qualified future generations of people to the industry, so they can be trained and become high quality experienced employees or craft people?

  • #2
    APOBA is an industry association--Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America. They list 30 members, 5 of those being suppliers rather than organ builders. There are, of course, more builders than there are members, since not all pipe organ builders in the Americas are members.

    It doesn't directly answer your question, but then none of us has an accurate crystal ball.

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    • #3
      Thank you for the information.

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      • #4
        I think premium pipe organs will continue to sell because 1. There are churches who plan to be around a long time...there will always be a way to get air into the pipes, but when a digi maker goes south, parts will be non-existent. Right now one can convert a deceased electronic organ to a virtual organ, but a century from now---who knows? 2. tradition- in my area of the country, many Lutheran churches prefer a pipe organ and 3. status- like the wealthy NYC church which had a world-famous digital organ, and now that they've seen other (less) wealthy NYC churches get a new pipe organ, they decided to replace said organ with -2- new pipe organs, for millions of $.
        My church couldn't raise thousands, let alone millions, without many bake sales, so there's no danger of having our Allen (which I am happy with) replaced with a pipe organ! :-)
        R, Bill

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        • #5
          These are all things inquiring minds want to know, but there are of course a lot of things that we can't predict. In my area, which is the capitol city of the small state of Arkansas, we have one very active pipe organ company (Nichols & Simpson) which has a national reputation for building extraordinary instruments, and they stay busy all the time. In fact they have a very long waiting list and a backlog all the time. So I don't think they're in danger of folding up, and if I were younger and free I'd be interested in pursuing a career with them without fear of the future.

          As to digital vs. pipe -- I think digital organs passed the point where the "sound" is indistinguishable from real pipes quite a few years ago. Digital sampling and rendering have been mature technologies for some time. It's not even hard any more to capture the sound of any pipe organ anywhere with extreme accuracy and reproduce it somewhere else (i.e., Hauptwerk). BUT.......

          Digital organ installations are nearly always hampered by the same limitations that pipeless organs have always faced -- the sound coming out of speakers, no matter how many of them, doesn't interface with the room in the same manner as the sound emanating from pipes. Very large and elaborate digital organs have been built with dozens of audio channels and dozens of high quality speakers. The "rotary woofer" concept has enabled speakers to have low frequency performance that goes down to zero Hertz, so low that even the largest organ pipes cannot move as much air. So the technical abilities are there, but that doesn't seem to be sufficient to totally fool real organ experts.

          Now I've heard and played many truly wonderful digital organs, including a large Walker here that has a large number of audio channels with speakers spread out and splayed about to provide a very nice distribution of the sound. And some large Allens with a dozen or more channels, some of them in lovely acoustic settings. And even some smaller organs I've played have been very nice. Many of the better digitals sound so good and do their job so well that I'd be more than happy to play such an organ all the time (as in fact I do, with Allen organs at home and at church now).

          I have told a story before about how I was actually fooled one time into thinking that a simple HAMMOND C-3 was a pipe organ! In fairness to myself, it was in a lovely reverberant church with the speakers up in a dome, and the organist wasn't playing anything elaborate, just hymns and very soft service music. And I was still quite the organ novice at that time. But the lesson from this is that the ROOM is a vital component, and a lively room goes a long way toward making a digital organ successful, and making it sound like "real pipes."

          But then when I get the chance to hear one of the magnificent pipe organs in a big cathedral or very large church somewhere, I know right away that there is a "difference" that may not be easily analyzed, but a difference it is. It's a combination of the enormous number of individual tone sources, each one speaking in a 360 degree pattern, without the subtle distortion, compression, and tonal artifacts of even the best speakers. This makes me confident that digitals will never completely replace all pipe organs everywhere.

          But when you think about it, electronics have almost fully supplanted pipe organs in smaller churches, and this is something that has happened only in recent decades. A hundred years ago your local First Baptist Church in a town of any size at all probably had a pipe organ of some kind. Possibly a small one, probably quite unremarkable, maybe even a mail order pipe organ from Sears & Roebuck. But it was a pipe organ. Today that same church will have a decent digital organ, which makes much more sense to many people when there isn't a half a million dollars available to purchase even the most rudimentary pipe organ, while a respectable digital might be had for under $50K if the church is not too large.

          The pipe organ business is already a "boutique" industry, with mass producers pretty much a thing of the past. Digital builders may move toward that model as well, which isn't all that hard any more with the availability of Hauptwerk and other VPO software with which a dedicated amateur can build up a fine organ. The big international firms like Allen, Johannus, and Viscount have deep pockets and very wide markets that should help them live through any downturns in sales. So the industry isn't going to disappear, but change, yes.
          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

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          • beel m
            beel m commented
            Editing a comment
            John, I was thinking about your third paragraph. Although many new pipe organs are happily not entombed, how about those that are (which includes the two biggest)? If all the sound is coming from behind a grille, would it matter if the sound is coming from speakers or pipes (located behind those grilles??

        • #6
          Thank you Moderator for the very well written reply. I am far from a professional church organist. The Catholic church I play at was once an army chapel in World War 2. Almost everything in the choir loft was donated. The most generous donation was a Hammond C2 organ and powered Hammond amplified speaker. It was donated, new, in 1952 by an organist. The upright piano was donated , used, about eight years ago. With my limited budget, I donated a keyboard configuration, with a MIDI pedal board-sound supplied by upper keyboard, emulating a organ setup. (October 2015 year.) The keyboards were used Ensoniq keyboards. An Ensoniq ASR10 keyboard, and an Ensoniq MR Rack sound module-provides sounds to the upper keyboard-the Ensoniq ASR10 Keyboard. Lower keyboard-Ensoniq EPS keyboard. Sounds to the Ensoniq EPS keyboard come from an Ensoniq ASR Rack module. Sounds are stored in a couple of hard drives. Finally there is a mixer, two volume pedals, and two Harbinger two way powered amplified speakers. Each one has a 15 inch woofer. I built a keyboard stand out of wood to hold the two Ensoniq keyboard. Not "state of the art"-but I had a limited donation budget. After some initial complaints on sound quality, I did some updates-single guitar amp replaced by two harbinger powered amplified two way speaker system (2015 year), the addition of the Ensoniq MR RACK(early 2016 year) , and the addition of the Ensoniq ASR rack, (December 2015 year). and tone adjustments to the Harbinger speakers. At a funeral in 2018, at the funeral luncheon, someone ask me if I had a pipe organ up in the choir loft. I said,," no", just a couple of keyboards. This Catholic parish has two churches. The other church has a pipe organ. I have played on that pipe organ. Both I and the violinist agreed that the pipe organ sounds better. Catholic Church- Saint Gabriel Parish-Dundee and Ida, Michigan, USA. The Ida, MI church has the pipe organ.

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          • #7
            One of our most respected organ builders already has so much restoration work to do that he has to expand in orde to build new organs. He recently moved to a new and larger workshop.

            That is one of the reasons those old organs stay working: they can be repaired by craftsmen with hand tools and simple primary materials like wood, glue, leather, paper, brass wire etc. And those tools and methods have been very well described for centuries. Also one craftsman can form his successor, just like this has been done for centuries. The hardest is the voicer because there art and craft come together. I might be able to become an organ builder (building the mechanical stuff) but I'll never be a voicer. You need someone with more than feeling for materials.

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            • #8
              Daryl,

              Thanks for the interesting account of the keyboard setup in your church. It's quite a compliment that someone thought there was a pipe organ up there! (Though, of course, many of the people out there are not very aware of what a pipe organ sounds like anyway.) I'd assume that you have managed to get quite a respectable sound out of that equipment. The Harbinger amplified speakers are quite good. I have one of those myself that I sometimes use with a keyboard.

              Are you wanting to get a "real" digital organ to replace the keyboards and stuff?

              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


              • #9
                Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                Daryl,

                Thanks for the interesting account of the keyboard setup in your church. It's quite a compliment that someone thought there was a pipe organ up there! (Though, of course, many of the people out there are not very aware of what a pipe organ sounds like anyway.) I'd assume that you have managed to get quite a respectable sound out of that equipment. The Harbinger amplified speakers are quite good. I have one of those myself that I sometimes use with a keyboard.

                Are you wanting to get a "real" digital organ to replace the keyboards and stuff?

                John
                It would be nice for that to happen, however, based on history that is unlikely to happen. Right now, people need to donate more each week so that the two churches are not using fundraising money for general expenses. Asking for people to donate to a "digital church organ fund" would not likely get too many donations, at this time. The other church organist thought that the keyboard set-up sounded better than the old Hammond C2 organ. Since the Ensoniq keyboards, the Ensoniq rack modules, and the MIDI pedal board are used, I have less invested in the set-up than the cost of a new Yamaha 61 key Tyros keyboard. The Yamaha Tyros keyboards have more polyphony. The Ensoniq ASR10 sampler keyboard is capable of sampling the real pipe organ sounds. I would need to become proficient with multi sampling, however..

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                • #10
                  Originally posted by Havoc View Post
                  One of our most respected organ builders already has so much restoration work to do that he has to expand in orde to build new organs. He recently moved to a new and larger workshop.
                  Most pipe organ manufacturers do rebuilds, repair/tuning as well as new installations. Then there are the independent regional builders that make their living tuning/voicing and repairing as well as rebuilding. One such regional builder is rebuilding and adding 12 ranks to the existing 9 in my former church and constructing a new 3 manual console.

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                  • #11
                    Here in the UK there are several pipe organ companies, both large and small, with order books full for the next few years, Harrisons and Walkers amongst the well established firms, together with smaller enterprises such as Henry Groves who are tackling some quite large projects (32' reed scale) This is most encouraging. I agree with everything which has been said about digital instruments but would like to throw in the life-expectancy argument. On this side of the Pond many churches are still thinking of the long term investment, again encouraging to the pipe organ builders. I remain hopeful!

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Originally posted by Hohl Flute View Post
                      Here in the UK there are several pipe organ companies, both large and small, with order books full for the next few years, Harrisons and Walkers amongst the well established firms, together with smaller enterprises such as Henry Groves who are tackling some quite large projects (32' reed scale) This is most encouraging. I agree with everything which has been said about digital instruments but would like to throw in the life-expectancy argument. On this side of the Pond many churches are still thinking of the long term investment, again encouraging to the pipe organ builders. I remain hopeful!
                      Indeed, organ builders still seem to be flourishing in the UK. Yes, Harrisons, but also Mander and Nicholson, and lots of others as you say.

                      I don't think Walkers are doing much now after the sad death of Andrew Pennels, or are they?

                      I think the problem in the future may be that the younger organ builders are more interested in building new organs than the daily round of tuning

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                      • #13
                        I know that this may sound over ambitious but I feel that it has reached the point where I think we need to start thinking more about creating a life for the pipe organ outside of the church not just through using the organ as a concert instrument.

                        A few weeks ago I posted about a proposal for a modular pipe organ called the Organ of Variable Structure designed by Jean Guillou. The reason why this proposal came about is because (as Jean Guillou explains in the interview below) he wanted to explore new possibilities and bring the organ closer to the audience.



                        The problem of course is would this be possible or even practical, which to me the answer is maybe? One major problem is that very few organ builders would know how or would be up to the challenge of designing and building a big concert organ that can be set up and packed away in a couple of hours, which is why I feel that it may be best to start off with something more practical. But I can't say for certain as there is very little information available on OSV project.

                        One of the people involved Jean Baptiste Monnot has built a small transportable organ called Orgue du Voyage. Which although it's not exactly a grand concert organ I do however think that it is still a pretty versatile instrument.



                        I understand that what I have just said is completely nuts which I understand; I guess I can be a bit optimistic.

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                        • #14
                          You make some excellent points, F Kalbrenner. I believe that the reason many people have an aversion to the organ, is because of its close association with the church. Something that has always intrigued me is the appreciation that many Dutch people seem to have for the organ--even people who are not religious. I remember seeing a small pipe organ in a city hall that was used for weddings.

                          A number of years ago the church where I was Director of Music replaced an aging electronic organ with a rebuilt pipe organ. As it was being installed I remember people from the surrounding area coming into the church because, as one man said, "I heard you are getting a pipe organ." I doubt there would have been the same interest if the church installed an electronic organ, no matter how wonderful it might be. There is something that really intrigues people about the engineering feat that is the pipe organ and I don't think it is promoted as much as it could be.

                          Bill

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

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                          • #15
                            So many thoughts come flooding into my mind as I read this digression from the original post. Touring organs, pipe and electronic, are not new. And groups of MIDI-driven instruments have gone on tour. They were conceived and built to engage a wider audience than that found in churches and concert halls. Here are some that come to mind:

                            C. Sharpe Minor (his stage name; born Charles Sulzer Sharp Minor) took a Link 3-manual 8-rank theater pipe organ on tour as a demonstrator for the Link Organ Company. It was a sales tool intended to create more demand for live music during the silent film era. Eventually that organ was permanently installed in the State Theater in Ithaca, NY, where I came across it as a college student.

                            Reginald Foort had Moller build a touring theater organ for him. Quoting from Wikipedia:

                            "Weighing 30 short tons (27 t), Foort's specially commissioned Möller organ had five manuals (keyboards), 27 ranks of pipes, 259 stops, over 100 pistons and controls, and percussion instruments. It was transported in sections, by a fleet of five lorries and thirteen staff; during World War II fuel rationing it was transported by train. During Foort's travels from 1938 onwards the organ was set up 167 times at 118 different locations. Since 1979 it has been installed at Pasadena Civic Auditorium, California, where Foort attended its 23 April 1980 inaugural performance.

                            Straying from pipes to electronic instruments, multiple artists, including Virgil Fox, Ted Allen Worth, Carlo Curly, Cameron Carpenter and others commissioned instruments to be taken on tour. Again the intent was to engage a wider audience for organ music.

                            There's a long but rather interesting previous discussion on the Forum from 2014 that touched on these instruments.

                            https://organforum.com/forums/forum/...ive-idea/page5

                            Aeolian-Skinner built a modular pipe organ for a venue that allowed it to be stowed back stage when not in use. As one might expect, there were problems when delicate things are handled by people who were not organ professionals.

                            While not in the realm of pipe organs, the Orchestrion Project by Pat Metheny comes to mind as an attempt to spread out the musical instruments controlled by his guitar to create a more immersive musical experience for the audience.

                            http://www.patmetheny.com/orchestrioninfo/index.cfm

                            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evHVh4bqaOQ

                            As I see it, the biggest problem with a pipe organ set up with different modules placed in different locations around different acoustic spaces is the voicing. That may be a much bigger issue than the transport, setup and tuning. Depending on where you are in the room, how do you balance the sound so all audience members have an equally enjoyable musical experience? That sounds like a very labor intensive job costing a lot of money and being hard on the pipes; perhaps not even practical to do.

                            How do I tie this digression back to the original post? Engaging people in listening to live music performances other than rock concerts can lead to better participation in listening to live organ music in non-traditional venues. With a bit of a stretch, that can possibly lead to more appreciation for organ music, support for pipe organs and more work for their builders, no matter the location of the installation.
                            Last edited by AllenAnalog; 03-10-2019, 12:56 PM.
                            Larry is my name; Allen is an organ brand. Allen RMWTHEA.3 with RMI Electra-Piano; Allen 423-C+Gyro; Britson Opus OEM38; Steinway AR Duo-Art 7' grand piano, Mills Violano Virtuoso with MIDI; Hammond 9812H with roll player; Roland E-200; Mason&Hamlin AR Ampico grand piano, Allen ADC-5300-D with MIDI, Allen MADC-2110.

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