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"Hidden" Divisional Cancels

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  • "Hidden" Divisional Cancels

    We are in the process of updating a four manual Casavant console from electropneumatic to solid state. Since divisional cancels on the piston rails are rather useless, in my opinion, I suggested putting them behind the division nameplates above the stops. The organist had never heard of this, but I remember reading about this somewhere. But I can't recall where. Can someone point me to an organ that has this and what are your views on this?
    I built the switches which have a travel of less than one millimetre and respond with a subtle tactile click. The nameplates would be screwed on just loose enough to allow for this tiny bit of travel.
    It strikes me that if I want to change the stops on one division only, it is easier to reach up and touch the nameplate than to "swat" all the drawknobs that are on.
    John

  • #2
    John,

    I saw it on a customized Allen console for a pipe/digital hybrid. Check their videos on YT, and I'll look for it as well.

    Personally, I'm not a fan of divisional cancels, and fail to see a practical application for them unless you're using a registrant. For me, the piston is much closer than the division label. It might just be something I haven't thought of yet.

    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


    • #3
      I first saw the nameplate divisional cancels on a 4-Manual Allen MOS organ.

      Comment


      • #4
        I found the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD-Gj-gkB8k. What I was looking for is at 3:00. You will have to fast-forward past the guy who talks a lot to get there. He says the other guy is there to tell us about the organ, then proceeds to continue talking forever. I think the quiet guy is the one with most of the knowledge and the answers, but we never get to hear from him.X-(

        Maybe I need to step off my podium now!:embarrassed:

        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


        • Organkeys Jones
          Organkeys Jones commented
          Editing a comment
          Where is that organ from the video installed? I didn't see it mentioned in the comments.

        • you795a
          you795a commented
          Editing a comment
          I don't recall where it went. I seem to remember that it was in the United States though. I remember helping to work on it.

        • Organkeys Jones
          Organkeys Jones commented
          Editing a comment
          you795a Somewhere in the United States? That narrows it down! ha ha! I sold Allens from 1987-2005, were you working there during that time?

      • #5
        Yes, you are correct, Allen did do that on several custom organs. It was by special order.

        Comment


        • myorgan
          myorgan commented
          Editing a comment
          Have you seen a practical need for such divisional cancels that would place that feature above pistons under the manuals? Other than what I stated above, I can't think of one.

          Michael

        • you795a
          you795a commented
          Editing a comment
          No, I haven't.
          Last edited by you795a; 07-30-2020, 06:51 PM.

      • #6
        A lot of Baldwin classical organs were built with divisional cancels, and AFAIK it was always done by touching the division's nameplate. On the old "silent touch" models these nameplates were applied over a membrane switch and required a good tap to cancel the stops. On the very fine D400 series organs (Baldwin's only US-built digital organ series), each division's nameplate has a black plastic frame around it, almost imperceptibly higher than the plate itself. The plastic frame conceals an LED and a photo-transistor. Placing a finger on the nameplate interrupts the beam and instantly cancels that division. Cool and elegant!

        As to "why" one would want such a feature -- that's harder to answer. I suppose there might be an instance when you'd need to instantly cancel whatever is on in a single division and turn on just one stop on the fly. But then, that's what divisional pistons are for, right? Maybe it's just a nice trinket.
        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


        • myorgan
          myorgan commented
          Editing a comment
          Originally posted by jbird604
          I suppose there might be an instance when you'd need to instantly cancel whatever is on in a single division and turn on just one stop on the fly.
          I'd definitely use the Pedal divisional cancel on a drawknob organ when I need to get up and quickly switch to the piano. I have this bad habit, you know!;-)

          Michael

      • #7
        Two thoughts:

        1) If the idea of a nameplate divisional cancel is so obscure that people are having trouble offering comments, I wouldn't bother. It is too unconventional, meaning that it would only be used by the one or two people 'in the know.' A waste of money in my opinion. I'm used to pistons looking like pistons. Once you start to make them look like something else, especially something that normally has no function other than labeling, people won't even know that it exists.

        I'd rather add a piston in the row of divisionals and label it "0." ALTERNATELY, however many divisionals you have, you can always choose to make one of them a 'cancel' by registering nothing on it. I once saw an organ that had no 'General Cancel.' The resident organist simply made either the first or last piston in the row of generals 'empty' so that it functioned as a 'general 'cancel.'

        2) Sensitive pistons - I played an organ once where the pistons were so sensitive that if you moved your hand too close to the pistons while playing anything, the registration could change, even when you didn't want it to. What you have in mind might not be that sensitive. Still, a bit of resistance isn't that bad. I do know that on that organ with sensitive pistons, all the resident organists learned to swear very quietly.

        Comment


        • #8
          The Austin company had nameplate divisional cancels on a number of their consoles.

          Comment


          • #9
            Well, that was interesting. I know that the organist is not convinced of the usefulness of nameplate divisional cancels, but I thought I might get a few, "What a great idea, John," or "I wish I had them on my organ." But I get a general "thumbs down" feeling from the comments.
            All kidding aside, let me make my case:

            This organ is in an Anglican Church and the music is very much in the British Anglican cathedral tradition. What the organist explained to me is how the use of the combination action in the British tradition is quite different from its use in the North American tradition. The following website perfectly describes the difference:

            http://www.contrebombarde.com/concer...ified/limit/10

            The gist of this is that in North America the generals are used most often and the divisionals serve no particular purpose. Hence leading, I think, to the disdain for divisionals and divisional cancels. In British cathedral organs, the pistons for each division are normally set up, in numerical order, to give a rising crescendo from pp to ff. Now this is clever. For example, with 8 divisionals each on the swell and great, coupled together, you could create a 16 step crescendo just by using the divisional pistons. And in principle, you could create 8 x 8 = 64 different combinations, although not all would be useful. This gives the organist great flexibility to create "on the fly" combinations during service playing. The generals are usually reserved for prepared pieces. In fact the organist has requested that I provide separate memory level controls for the generals and divisionals, which I understand is the custom in newer British organs. This makes perfect sense if the divisionals are used in the fashion just described. You just don't want the divisionals to change every time the general memory level changes. In this conversion to solid state, with a very limited budget, we are using a combination action from a console that has been scrapped. So to meet the organist's request, I'm devising a simple circuit, using analog switches, that switches from a 64 level electronic controller, for the generals, to a 12 level rotary controller, for the divisionals. The organist assures me that 12 is more than enough. The 12 level unit is normally in control, until a general piston push is detected and control is briefly ceded to the 64 level controller while the stop change is made.

            The salvaged combination action had no sequencer so the organist asked whether I could provide a European (stepper) style sequencer. Those of you who have followed my posts on Arduino applications in organs will not be surprised that I programmed an Arduino microcontroller to do just that. The general pistons are connected to the Arduino as well as "forward" and "reverse" toe pistons. A two digit display at all times shows the last general piston which was activated. So the program keeps track of the last general and activates the next general in the sequence when the "forward" piston is pushed. When the end of the 15 generals is reached, it bumps up the memory level by one and goes back to general one.This is how I can detect when a general piston has been "pushed" and use the Arduino to briefly trigger the change to the 64 level electronic memory controller.

            Because the divisional pistons receive so much use in the British tradition, it seemed to me that divisional cancels would also be useful when making "on the fly" changes. And since the hand is already moving in the direction of the stop jamb, where the stops are located for that division, a brief stop pushing the label above that division would be more convenient than reaching under a keyboard to push a cancel button on a piston rail. Yes, you can "swat" off the pistons on a division before pulling the stops you want, but there is always the risk of missing that trumpet in the upper right corner. Also, and this has not been mentioned, a divisional cancel will also turn off the couplers to any divisions coupled to that manual. They would be tricky to turn off "on the fly" as one would have to reach up to the coupler rail. I rest my case.

            But I will go ahead and install them anyway since I'm using switches salvaged from a Korg synthesizer with the perfect tactile response. These are real switches unlike the rubber buttons used on almost all synthesizers. All I need to do is drill a 1/4" hole behind the nameplate and screw in the switches. The cost is nil and the time, minimal. Call it an experiment.
            John

            BTW, I forgot to mention: The organist felt it is extremely important that we provide the all important switch that connects the great divisional pistons to the pedal divisional pistons. We will do so, since that is the key to the way the divisionals are used in the British tradition.
            Last edited by Coenraads; 07-31-2020, 06:43 PM.

            Comment


            • regeron
              regeron commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks for the link. That basically outlines the practices that I was taught and continue to follow. It works very well. Once you learn how to accommodate exceptions to the rule, you're set for just about anything.

          • #10
            Coenraads,

            That was quite an interesting article you linked. However, as I'll state below, I have a few questions that have arisen after perusing the article provided.

            Originally posted by Coenraads View Post
            The gist of this is that in North America the generals are used most often and the divisionals serve no particular purpose. Hence leading, I think, to the disdain for divisionals and divisional cancels. In British cathedral organs, the pistons for each division are normally set up, in numerical order, to give a rising crescendo from pp to ff. Now this is clever.
            First, however, let me reinforce the 2nd to last sentence of the quote. I was taught to ALWAYS program my generals from pp to ff, so that just reinforces what I've already learned. However, I must disagree that in North America the generals are used most often and the divisionals serve no particular purpose. I have always used the divisionals in my music, and continue to do so. But that leads me to my question for you about the article.

            In your post, you talk about how the divisionals are used to build a crescendo. Further, in the article examples are given for the actual registrations of a particular organ with 8 divisionals per manual. However, I noticed there were absolutely no "color" combinations (i.e. Cornet, 8'+2', or 8'+1-1/3', Reed Solo, etc.). In the setting scheme provided, is there any room for solo combinations along with companion accompaniment registrations? For me, the generals are used for the buildup of ensemble, and I use the divisionals for "color" or solo combinations along with their relative accompaniment.

            There is one "feature" described in the article I really liked. When the divisional cancel is used, so are the couplers related to that division. I can't tell how many times I've changed a piston on the fly, only to discover a manual>pedal or manual>manual coupler was left on because the divisional didn't affect it. That's my only gripe with American divisional behavior.

            Thanks for your follow-up post after your initial question. Interesting subject.

            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


            • #11
              Interesting points.

              In the Assistant Organist position that taught me the most about registration, they sang a lot of British cathedral music and did it very well. Divisionals and Generals were both put to good use.

              Yes, one or two generals were always reserved for a postlude or a tricky registration change in an anthem. Otherwise, Divisionals and Generals were mostly graded in volume. We never changed the divisionals except in unusual circumstances. The organ had 3 manuals, so it wasn't that difficult to hit either one General or 4 divisionals. Both the organist and I were experienced enough that we could manage either of those options, as well as hand registering.

              The organist's copy of each anthem had the registrations marked. Divisionals were indicated just by number, since we didn't change them. When Generals were used, their full registration was given. Often, at the end of the anthem, there was a note to "return General X to ........." if we had done something unusual with it for the anthem.

              I would ask, "Why, if you're going to the trouble of including a divisional cancel (and I have no trouble with that), would you not just put a "Sw Cancel" piston at one end of the piston rail rather than try to disguise it?" If I were visiting and there hadn't been a chance for you to explain things to me, a labelled piston would make me think "Cool! What an interesting idea!" whereas a divisional label that doubles as a divisional cancel is something I wouldn't even be aware of. Sorry, I guess I said that before, but I'm still not convinced that doing non-conventional things, no matter how beneficial they might be, unless they are truly intuitive, end up not being used.

              I put that kind of thing in the same boat as square, push-button, light up, on/off stops, rather than stop tabs or stop knobs. Yes, it looks nifty and it still looks novel even after so many years, but part of my training is to deal with knobs and tabs. The unconventionality of the push-buttons makes them less easy for me to use. There is also the problem that if the light behind the push-button burns out, you have no idea if the stop is on or off. I had that experience on a Baldwin (?) electronic once in the 80s. The Gt 4' Principal light was burned out. If you were getting ready to do flutes and strings for a nice quiet offertory, you didn't know if the Gt 4' Pr was on until you started to play. Unless you ALWAYS pressed General Cancel just before to make sure it was off. What a pain.

              Something else that's somewhat related. The 3-manual organ where I was Assistant - Sw and Ch drawknobs were on the left stop jamb. Pedal pistons were on the left side (I think just below the Sw keyboard). For accompanying, that meant that you could play RH and Pedal, leaving the LH free to push pistons OR to hand register Sw, Ch (via drawknobs) or Pedal (via pistons.) For choral accompaniments, the Gt was usually too big, so it was primarily used as a coupling manual.

              Divisional pistons - on that same organ, Gt, Sw and Ped were graded in volume. Ch had the solo stops of Clarinet, Cornet and Solo Trumpet, so a couple divisionals followed volume gradations, while the rest were used for these solo registrations.

              Comment


              • #12
                My last church had an organ with divisional pistons (I miss that organ). I had the pistons set up much like Michael stated above. I set the generals from quiet flutes to nearly full organ (with only the quieter reeds at the top end). Then I set the divisional pistons to also be graduated in volume but have more interesting registrations (gap registrations, louder solo reeds, chimes, and for the pedal, adding the 32ft stops).

                I've never played an organ with divisional cancel pistons. I'd probably figure out how to use them if I regularly played an organ that had them. I just don't have the experience to know what I might be missing.
                Sam
                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.

                Comment


                • PghBear210
                  PghBear210 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I set my generals and divisionals like you just described.. The only thing I wish my Allen had were reversible toe-pistons for the pedal couplers.

              • #13
                In the past, the approach to using divisional pistons described above was more important because on older organs "what you see, is what you get." In other words, imagine a 3 manual organ with 4 pistons for each division (total of 16) and 8 generals, you are limited to using those 24 piston changes. However, an organ with say 10 pistons and 264 memory levels (or whatever number) is very different. In the past I used pistons differently because of those limited number of options. Now, I just keep using another general even if I am only changing stops on one division.

                Bill

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

                Comment


                • myorgan
                  myorgan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Bill,

                  I guess that's the luxury we have with modern organs-we can choose how to use the many pistons available, and as long as it works for us, good! In reality, it only means issues for the organist as (s)he moves from organ to organ. Not only do they need to know the music, they also need to discover how to use the organs' resources to their best advantage on short notice.

                  The same is true of substitute organists, or those who practice on various instruments. Having your own memory level is a luxury. Having no memories or pistons at all, is hard work, if not a handicap!

                  Michael

              • #14
                First, an apology for my misunderstanding. Even though you were talking about 'the nameplate above the stops', my brain read 'the nameplate above the keyboards.' Duh! At least, my curiousity on this subject caused me to re-read more carefully.

                In light of that correction to my understanding, I have moved toward the "I agree" end of the spectrum, though my traditional background causes me to remain somewhat unconvinced. I can see how either the organist or a registrant could use that feature to make significant registration changes quickly, especially if you are going from a lot of stops to just a few stops, and if that change is not merely removing stops, but both removing and adding stops.

                In the past, if I had to do something like that, I would choreograph the -'s and the +'s, possibly with the aid of a divisional piston. I CAN see how such a divisional piston would be helpful for certain registration changes.

                I assume that this feature only really has benefit once the organ reaches a certain size. Many of us do not have opportunity to play truly large instruments, so probably can't fully comprehend the advantages of such a device.

                One new danger I see is that of the page turner/registrant placing a hand at the top of the stop jamb to allow them to lean in to turn a page or change a coupler. If their thumb came over the edge enough, there is a fear of them activating the divisional cancel at the top of the stop jamb, though it seems to protrude forward of the stop jamb enough that it may not be a problem. I recall the story of an organist whose female page turner was amply built. Whenever she leaned in to turn a page, "she pushed the Gr Trumpet off." :-)

                Comment


                • jbird604
                  jbird604 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Now I can't un-see that!

                • myorgan
                  myorgan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Reminds me of a story I heard Alfred Smith tell one time (hymnologist-https://hymnary.org/person/Smith_Alfred?tab=tunes). He visited a church for a concert and the organist (Mrs. Peabody) wanted to do something extra for the occasion, so she worked especially hard on the offertory. After she played, the congregation and pastor were so amazed, the pastor couldn't remain silent. So he rose to his feet and said, "I know I speak for all of us when I extend our thanks to Mrs. Playbody for the way she peed on the organ." True story (unless Alfred Smith made it up).

                  Michael

              • #15
                Originally posted by Coenraads View Post
                Can someone point me to an organ that has this and what are your views on this?
                I have absolutely no clue as to an organ with this setup. My personal opinion would be that it would be pointless to move the divisional cancels. I also don't think they're very useful but I think they would be even more unhelpful in this new setup. It's nice to keep pistons right next to your fingertips for quick changes. Moving your arm all the way to the stops can be awkward and time-consuming. Just my two cents.

                "I play the notes as they are written (well, I try), but it is God who makes the music." - Johann Sebastian Bach
                Organs I Play:
                - Home: VPO Compiled from Allen 2110 parts
                - Church: M.P. Moller 1951 (Relocated 2015) 3 manual, 56 stop, 38 ranks (Opus 8152)

                Comment


                • Philip Powell
                  Philip Powell commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Just thought of something: it could be theoretically helpful if using registrants.
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