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'Horn' Organ Stop

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  • 'Horn' Organ Stop

    I have an interest in English organs, especially ones in the many beautiful cathedrals and churches throughout the UK. I like to tune in to the various online services and organ recitals that many of these cathedrals and churches offer. I also like to take a look at the specifications for the different organs, and one stop I have seen rather frequently is the 8' Horn, usually located on the Swell. I have never encountered an organ here in America with such a stop - and I was even organ scholar at an Anglican cathedral with a large English pipe organ...Has anyone ever played an organ with such a stop? What is it like? I often see it right in between the 8' Cornopean and the 8' Oboe, so I was wondering if it might sound like something in between a Cornopean and an Oboe.

    I checked the Encyclopedia of Organ Stops, but they only have articles on the French Horn and Bassett Horn, and I don't think this is either of those stops. I know Southwark Cathedral has an 8' Horn on the Swell, and so does Downside Abbey in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, but I can't think of anywhere else.

  • #2
    There are so many 'horns' that it seems the name needs qualification.

    Nonetheless there is this from page 35 of An Explanation of the Organ Stops published in 1888, and linked below:

    Horn. An 8-ft. reed, intonated between Bassoon and Trumpet (Sydney), frequently resembling the English Horn (q.v.)​
    Last edited by myorgan; 10-10-2022, 05:22 AM.

    Hammond M-102 #21000.
    Leslie 147 #F7453.
    Hammond S-6 #72421


    • #3
      I agree with you it's a lovely stop, and infrequently located on organs. It seems to be a Georgian holdover on large English organs, and appears to have been frequently removed when they were getting their Victorian makeovers. The only Hauptwerk instrument that has one that I'm aware of is the Georgian series by Silver Octopus. I agree it is intonated as above, however, how it is made is a mystery to me, patricularly since a Bassoon stop typically has half length cylindrical resonators, and the Trumpet full length conical resonators. From the sound though, I suspect they use full length cylindrical resonators, but that's pure speculation on my part. It also sounds like they used cylindrical shallots and unleaded tongues, though more modern examples may well have used conical shallots. The horn is actually a very useful stop, and can replace a trumpet in a lot of registrations on the swell, but has a very characterful sound distinct from the trumpet. I actually love a lot of the Georgian reeds, and it's too bad we don't see much of them anymore. The Basset Horn is another one I'd like to see more of.

      Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
      Former: Yamaha E3R


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jesse View Post
        I checked the Encyclopedia of Organ Stops, but they only have articles on the French Horn and Bassett Horn, and I don't think this is either of those stops.
        I also checked the Encyclopedia and found these Horn or Horn-related stops:
        • French Horn
        • English Horn
        • Basset Horn
        • Double Basset Horn
        • Octave Basset Horn
        • Oboe Horn
        • Flugelhorn
        • Tuba Horn
        • Closed Horn
        • Echo Horn
        • Egyptian Horn
        • English Post Horn
        • Muted Horn
        • Ballad Horn
        • Diaphonic Horn
        • Bass Horn
        • Krummhorn
        • Stentor Horn
        • Hunting Horn
        • Corno d’Amore
        • Clarion Horn
        • Cor d'Harmonie
        • Stenthorn​
        That the builder doesn't list anything other than "8' Horn" either means the stop could be any of the above-listed horns, that there was a well-defined meaning of "Horn" amongst builders at the time, or that the builder was just lazy and didn't want to define the stop–either because (s)he didn't know what the stop was, or didn't want to nail down the sound to a particular type of "Horn."

        My best guess is that because the organ is English, it is probably related to a Hunting Horn or French Horn in character. It would not be unusual for a stop to imitate what the Lords and Ladies were familiar with hearing. It also might not be far from a Bugle sound used in fox hunts.

        Just my 2¢ worth.

        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


        • #5
          Ok, I've done a bit more research. The word horn comes from proto-Indo-European, “Kern,” which became Horn in German and English, Kerato in Greek, and through Cornu in Latin, Cor in French, Corno in Italian, and Cuerno in Spanish. Since both English and German have the same word, there have been examples of imitative stops that use that name in both countries. However, to fully trace how these stops arose, you need to consider stops that use other translations of the same root, particularly in France and Italy (respectively, Cor and Corno).

          In Germany, starting in the Renaissance/Baroque or before, Gemshorn (sheep’s horn) became imitative flue stops, though I think there are some old examples of that stop that are reeds. In the Baroque period, there were also examples in German of the Angle Horn, which became Cor Anglais in France, and later English Horn (though I think the name comes from the fact they were bent, not anything to do with England!). There is also the Nachthorn, which was a breathy stopped or open German flute in the Baroque period, which became the French Cor de Nuit under Cavaille-Coll. In the Baroque period, there were also Krummhorns/Cromorne (with a lot of variations in spelling!) developed either in Germany or France, with plenty of examples on both sides, which are typically a half length resonator reed stop resembling a clarinet, but louder (and this is the possible source of English word “Cremona”. This is also the root of the French word “Cornet” and the Spanish “Corneta,” which are usually synthetic reeds made from a 2’, 2 2/3’, and 1 3/5’ set of mutations, sometimes also adding the 4’ and 8’ unison. However, even since the Baroque, the Cornet may also be a high pitched reed rank at unison, particularly in the pedal. The Italians also had some Cornetti or Cornetto ranks, I believe beginning in the Baroque, possibly more common in the North, but I don’t know their history as well. On the French Horn page, it suggests that “Horn” or “Hoorn” was a Cornet like mixture in the Netherlands in the Renaissance, and the “Horn” page lists that this also appears to be the case in some places in Germany and Switzerland.

          That’s pretty much all of the Baroque examples that I’m aware of, and all of the Baroque examples on Michael’s list. These formed the basis of all future “horn” like organ stops though, and in the Romantic era and later, there was an explosion of stops based on these. But I think based on my subsequent research that when “Horn” is used by itself in the disposition of an organ, it is referring to what the Organ Encyclopedia refers to as a “French Horn.” However, this appears to be different depending on where you see it! It first appears to have been used in England as just “Horn,” or "French Horn" and used by Georgian era builders such as Renatus Harris. They inherited the German style of reed building, and came up with a large number of imitative reeds based on instruments, some of them modern (like the Basset Horn). The Horns from the Georgian period look like they had narrow inverted conical resonators of full length with a big flare at the end. Over time though, they fell out of favour because the big flare required a lot of wind chest space, and it appears that some examples were built with a cap or disc (particularly after French horn players started using their hand to mute the bell). This stop transferred over to the US though, along with a lot of other English organ building features, and can be seen in some Classical American organs, such as one mentioned in the organ stop encyclopedia by Hook and Hastings. Its final form seems to appear in the hands of E.M. Skinner, as a narrow scale inverted conical resonator with a sort of cap on the end. He seems to have usually called this a "French Horn" though.

          Michael is right though that it is possible that some builders may have used “Horn” for some other horn that should be more accurately described by a different name, such as Waldhorn or Basset horn. I’m not aware of any examples of this having happened though - pretty much all the examples I’ve seen adhere to what the encyclopedia calls the French Horn, either in the early English form or the later English and also American form.​ Where used alone, it appears to be the main or only chorus reed on the Swell. Starting in the Georgian period though, but more often in the Victorian period, this stop would be a Cornopean instead (which fulfills the roles of a chorus reed, but also a solo reed).

          Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
          Former: Yamaha E3R