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Tabernacle vs. Conference Center organs

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  • Tabernacle vs. Conference Center organs

    Earlier this week, I had the wonderful opportunity of playing both of the five manual instruments at Temple Square, and it surprised me which one I preferred. While everyone raves about the acoustic in the Tabernacle, and it even though it feels amazing to release a tutti chord in that space, I felt like it muddies the sound too much to be worth it. When I put on the trumpets or the mixtures in the Tabernacle, I didn't feel like it added as much "umph" as I wanted and was expecting. Maybe this is a good thing for building up a smooth crescendo, but I'm used to a small organ where every knob pulled makes a noticeable difference in the sound. In the Conference Center, on the other hand, the console (which I think is the most beautiful that I know of) was situated further from the pipes, so there was a slight delay in sound that threw me off in fast passages. But that's something I could get used to. Those of you who have played these magnificent organs, which do you prefer?

  • #2

    What a rare pleasure! I have never been as far north as SLC, but that's on my bucket list sometime.

    I don't doubt the Tabernacle organ was a bit disappointing when adding stops from the console. I am a bit unique in that I play my organs (the same ones) in differing environments. I've noticed that at home in the garage where the walls are closer, each stop has more effect, while even in a moderately larger auditorium (one is 600 seat and the other is 1600 seats-by the same architect), when the same stop is added (i.e. Trumpet or Mixture) it has a lesser effect from the console. That said, when I listen in both spaces from an audience perspective (a rare opportunity), the organ sounds like more is added with the same changes and it is an appropriate change. That tells me that my preparation in the smaller space is still beneficial, including registration changes.

    This topic came up in another thread, regarding how organists get used to a new space with different acoustics. In larger spaces, there is more blending of the individual stops because each has a lesser effect in filling the space, whereas in a smaller space, one stop can make quite a difference. Also in a larger space, bass holds its own, whereas the higher frequencies tend to get lost and need more reinforcement.

    Thank you for sharing your assessment of these two instruments. You had a coveted opportunity some can only dream of. Your comparison of the two instruments is nice to hear.

    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


    • #3
      That is an interesting observation. In about 1958 I lived in SLC. Our school put on a Christmas concert in the Tabernacle. I distinctly remember our conductor calling for more volume from the organist so it cold be heard along with the 5th graders singing. The highlight was when we were given a tour "backstage" among all the pipes. Quite a thrill for a 10 year old.
      I was back in Salt Lake on business in about 1979 and went to one of Schreiner's afternoon recitals and was shocked by the hundreds of theater lights hanging above the choir area. A few people entered late while Schreiner was playing and he tore into them which really spoiled the occasion.
      Servicing electronic organs since 1969.


      • #4
        FYI, SLC isn't very far north--it's right on I-80.

        I personally prefer the sound of the Tabernacle organ, though I haven't played it. Generally, though,,y personal preference is for organs of only small to moderate size. There is a 20 rank Fritz organ at the University of Washingon that is quite marvelous in its sound. It's a very warm sounding organ for a Northern Germanic style of organ.


        • #5
          From what I've read and been told, they are different styles of organ. The Tabernacle organ is an American Classic and the conference center organ is an American Symphonic. Nothing is supposed to stick out on the Tabernacle organ. The reeds are louder but not significantly so. The reeds on the conference center organ are more prominent and there's supposed to be a lot more variety of tone color despite there being a lot fewer ranks.

          My teacher has told me a few times that Alexander Schreiner liked to demonstrate that the crescendo sequence on the Tabernacle organ was so smooth that you could adequately register an entire piece with only the crescendo pedal.

          Stravinsky416, I'm a bit envious. I only live a half hour away and while I've heard them both live several times I haven't gotten the chance to play them yet. I'm also not sure I would know what to do with so many stops (except I would definitely try out the partial 64' pedal stops) on the conference center organ. There's also the Cathedral of the Madeline a couple of blocks away that has a very fine organ and sounds amazing. BYU hosts an organ workshop that I want to attend. One of the options is a tour of the organs with a chance to play them.
          Last edited by samibe; 08-24-2019, 11:26 PM.
          Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
          Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.


          • #6
            From personal experience, the worst spot for hearing the Tabernacle organ is sitting at the console. Most of the magnificent sound goes right over the organists head. I assure you that every stop added makes a big difference if you are sitting about mid-way center inside the Tabernacle!