I started this page with a view to putting this system under the 'for sale' category here. My thoughts have however evolved into something a bit deeper; that of digital technology, when to use it and when not to use it. Those that know me will know I have done a few hybrid schemes in the past. I know there are some that object to the notion, and on principle I agree. However, to my mind there is sometimes a place for digital.
I believe hire is one of these circumstances; so often a couple books a church for a wedding based perhaps on the opportunities for photos, or maybe proximity to a hotel.......and then find the organ is either sub-standard or doesn't exist. Then there was the occasion I have had a Welsh male voice choir hire this organ for their concert at a venue that contained no organ at all....or other situations where the in-house organ is in the wrong place (eg a gallery location, but where accompaniment is required elsewhere)......etc.....
I'm a pipe organbuilder and have been for 37 years now, so perhaps I should have nothing to do with digital at all? It is a plain fact that digital organs are being sold. Meanwhile, as an organist I have so many times been expected to perform on a cheap, inadequate and unmusical instrument. I would therefore contend that a good digital organ is far preferable to either a bad pipe or digital organ, and in Ireland plenty of these latter categories exist. It is for this reason I am happy to get involved at the high-end quality-wise, perhaps especially when technical difficulties require bespoke solutions.
This organ was originally built, assembled and fitted for Maynooth College Gunn Chapel for use between summer 2011 and summer 2013. It was relieved of its duties once Fratelli Ruffatti fitted the new pipe organ in summer 2013. (I now maintain this for them, as well as Longford Cathedral and soon to be Cobh.)
It was no easy task. We were required to make a system specific to the specification of the Maynooth console, and have it fitted and usable within 2 weeks. That's a big ask, and so my friends in Musicom came to the rescue. Their excellent electrical engineering skills and musical knowledge came to the fore, so thank you Doug and Howard.
The voicing is by Dr. Graham Blyth, well known and most respected in the audio world. He built two small reed stops and a Cymbel II on the Positive organ in place of two stops that were less than useful in the pipe organ spec.. He did this from scratch at a whim on site without a 2nd thought; amazing to witness.
So....the purpose of the organ changed from a semi-permanent thing to a mobile situation, and again Doug and Howard kindly facilitated this. This high-quality system is now currently played from a mobile 2-manual console (the Positive is treated as a floating division, playable from either Swell, Great or Pedal) and can be heard in a church in Dublin at the moment (Nov 2017 on), as it's on medium-term hire.
On board is a simple user-friendly stepper system that will navigate through general pistons. I put the read-out right in the middle so it's easy to see and use. There's a lot to manage, more than usual thanks to the floating Positive. So I usually advise basic general piston settings be used, then all one has to worry about is the memory level and last piston pressed numbers, which are in different colours for clarity.
Also on board is a transposer and MIDI compatibility. Pitch is locked at 440Hz, but I can adjust it internally as required.
And, it has the most lovely tremulants (hear the 2nd track below).
The stool, not shown, like everything else is light. There are 4 height adjustments.
General dimensions are near the agreed ISOB (International Society of Organ Builders) norms. The main difference is my console is a little lower for compactness reasons.
As stated, it's built to be portable, with wheels on as many things as possible, and the console as light as possible, weighing just 40kg. This fares favourably when compared to the 130kg+ of an 'ordinary' console. As such it makes this organ quite versatile indeed, making it possible to lift over a gallery rail for instance. (More often than not the stairs leading up to a gallery would make that route impossible.)
I started with the keyboards, sourced from David Jeffers: http://www.jeffersmusic.ie/ They are exceptionally light in weight. This was followed by Musicom illuminated tabs and a fold-able Laukhuff pedalboard: the core ingredients sourced with lightness and portability in mind.
Basically it consists of 8 components: console, pedalboard, stool, one trolley of electrical equipment, 2 sets of Tannoy speakers (8 in total) and 2 sub-woofers. The subs can be wired in mono (if space is at a premium) at little cost to quality.
The two sets of Tannoy speakers are best located some distance apart and preferably directed to somewhere bounce will occur to create good spread of sound.....(sound behaves differently to light - it's more sporadic and so this way we achieve an intrinsic sense of reality). I don't just point them directly at the listener. This is usually easy to arrange.
As you can imagine from the photo, power is not an issue. This set-up has amply filled any space I have tried to date. In Maynooth for instance the outputs were set to a relaxed 55%.....better that way, because never does it get near its own limitations. 55% is the highest level I have had to run this system at to date. 45% is typical for a comfortable but fulfilling result.
I feel this level of thought and attention to detail is worth it.
Connecting the console to the rest of the equipment is a small cable the diameter of a pencil. This cable can be run up to virtually any distance. I have 2 cables, I think one at 50' and the other at 150'.....they can of course be joined allowing the console to be operated as far away as 200' from the rest of the equipment.
Here's a photo of it under construction/testing, showing Musicom's useful diagnostic LEDs lighting inside as required:
And this is what's inside (rather a lot!):
The organ can be supplied with a new console, or can be piggy-backed onto virtually any other existing keyboards, depending on detail.
I'm now toying with making another, only this time with lightness and portability entered into the equation from conception.
Here's what it sounded like when residing in Maynooth College Gunn Chapel:
Apologies.......you can hear the clattering of the worn-out keyboards of the old organ in this track as the recorder was nearby.
There's another track on the homepage entitled Trumpet Minuet.
UPDATE - OCT 2019
Apropos what I say in the 3rd chapter above, just yesterday I bumped into a case in point - a pipe organ that, frankly, wasn’t fit for the purpose. Built by a reputable builder 40 years ago, it was its anniversary year, and this concert was sort of in its honour. It was a lovely concert, very capable choir numbering 30 people, excellent soloists, extremely good conductor…….everything was right. Except………
The theme was French music. This organ wouldn’t know what a croissant is! The bigger of the 2 manual divisions was entitled Swell, and the smaller division Choir. Meanwhile the church is of cathedral dimensions. Ummm……. :-/
To be fair, the organ’s main task was/is to accompany vespers etc., so it probably ticks that box ok.
I was assured, because of the importance of the occasion, that the organ was going to be tuned especially. It wasn’t.
Impossible to successfully perform French music on such a specific (baroque orientated) organ.
The tremulant didn’t work. I’d really have preferred it did - I played a Serenade by Widor and it really demanded a tremulant.
The bigger of the two manual divisions was playable from the upper keyboard. Combined with the fact that the seat was very slippy, and I was wearing my good trousers along with a slightly restrictive suit jacket (that I wish I had taken off prior to starting to play), it made operating unduly difficult.
I was required to accompany Faure’s Requiem:
(a) The Eb’s on the Swell were intolerably out of tune. See p. 22 of the Novello edition!
(b) There was a very noticeable buzz from a panel on bottom Eb on the Ped Bourdon - see p. 23 of Novello.
(c) The blend of the Swell Mixture was……well…….it just wasn’t/isn’t/didn’t! Playing on 8,8,4,2, then adding the mixture - it was like oil on water.
(d) Adding any stops of the Swell with even a hint of vigour/speed/enthusiasm resulted in a very audible bang as the stop-action backfalls hit the rear panel of the console. Given the generous acoustics of the church, the noise carried all over. This was most unhelpful as I approached the end of bar 5, again on p. 22 (of Novello)!
Throughout, the organ lacked choice. And it lacked fundamental tone and sweetness. With the difficulties I ended up making a dreadful mistake on bar 4 of p. 4 (again, Novello). I’m not going to admit what the mistake was here……suffice to say it was pretty bad!
And so - it’s just a good case in point. On this occasion I would have been 50 times better off using my trusty Viscount Cantorum. It’d have done a better job and I’d have been able to place the speakers closer to the choir thereby supporting them better and ridding us of the time-lag issues we suffered from (the organ and console were approx 100ft from the choir, and the acoustics were generous).
I have a recording of the concert if anyone doubts me.