Wednesday, October 1, 2008

1730 Cahman Organ

While in Uppsala, we took a field trip to see the historic 1730 pipe organ by Johan Cahman in the Kristine Kyrka (Church) Lovstabruk, Sweden.

The town of Lovstabruk was a 'company town', built by an industry owner to house the workers and families of his iron works. The organ was built by the Swedish builder and completed in 1730. The sounds are quite remarkable, and each of the 4 mixtures in this two manual organ has a tierce rank, giving the organ its bright, powerful sound. This is a historic gem, and the largest preserved baroque organ in Sweden.

Robert Coulter

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

more Uppsala

More pictures from in and around Uppsala, including pictures from inside the towers..... really amazing views from 100 meters above the ground!

Robert Coulter

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More Uppsala pics

my street

my house

Honda Civic (not type R or anything, standard Civic..... why can't we have cool looking civics like that?)

Civic again (teasing me)

Robert Coulter

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fish or Pasta

Work continues at a fever pitch here. We've finished the voicing on the 14 ranks of flues in the Great organ. It really does make quite a sound. We are now totally entrenched in the Solo, Viole d'Orchestre (3 total) and all, including a Walcker labial clarinet.... Amazing sound....

I have to admit, I have always thought of myself as not quite just an American. I am very loyal to my country and vote regularly, but had just believed I could fit in anywhere in the the world quite easily. A citizen of the world if you will without ever having seen the world. Damn if I wasn't wrong.

These past 10 days have been more of a culture shock that I could have ever expected. Granted in my nearly 32 years I've yet to truly master the English language, but you don't really appreciate it until the only time you hear it is in your own head. Luckily, most Swedes speak English at least as well as I, and the three Italians I'm working with have English skills that range from fluent to just enough to convey a point. Still, there is a nobility and subtle grandeur in our language most of us neither produce, nor appreciate.

On appreciating things, I am a fan of fish. That comes quite honestly from my Mother. (she's a fiend for seafood, will knock other old ladies down for shrimp on the seafood buffet bar) Ok, I made that last part up just because I knew she would be reading. But I do love fish, or at least did.

Since my arrival, there have been 20 non-breakfast meals. There have been, to this point, three meals that have not involved fish, pasta or both! It's been very nice eating so well, with all healthy food and terrifically fresh ingredients, but I fear this is too much like some strange detox program for fans of red meat and sweet tea. (red meat is rare to find here, and sweet tea? forget it.... like some odd fat camp for southerners)

It is not nearly as bad as I make. Francesco both loves to cook as well as excelling at it. All the boys have so far been a joy to work with, even if I rarely know what they are saying. My only fear is they are trying to put me in an early grave from the sheer quantity of food they consume, but that is another matter.

Enough for now, next time I'll talk about the drinking problem in Sweden.... Not enough, and I only mean that partially the way you think..... Now the only reason you are here.... More pictures.....

Robert Coulter

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Uppsala, Sweden

As promised, this is my first post from Sweden so my friends can keep up with me while here. My internet access has been limited until now, but I should be able to post more regularly now.

Uppsala is a very charming town, not at all large but quite full of people. The cathedral is a truely stunning place, and I truly feel honored to be working there with the Ruffatti firm.


new Ruffatti pipe organ

1876 pipe organ by Akerman (quite wonderful)

As promised, this is my first post from Sweden so my friends can keep up with me while here. My internet access has been limited until now, but I should be able to post more regularly now.

Uppsala is a very charming town, not at all large but quite full of people. The cathedral is a truely stunning place, and I truly feel honored to be working there with the Ruffatti firm.

So far the Swedish people have been really very friendly, if not all that outgoing. Once you have spoken to them they are nice and helpful, but under almost no circumstance will they speak to you first.

I now, for the first time in my life, know what it means to be different. There is no way to hide my being an American. 6'1", brown hair, new beard (yeah...), I stick out like a cat in hen house. It's not a big deal, other than the constant stares at me take a little getting used to. It has also happened three times now that I walk in to a place and as soon as I say hello, someone says, "Oh you're from the states?"

I have to make one further commentary about the people. The people here are incredibly beautiful, period. It is nothing short of staggering. Your senses are constantly assulted by the torrent of remarkable faces passing by. I must say that unfortunately, these people do not appear to age as well as others. 25 seems to be the magic age and it is unfortunately a rather quick slide then to the late 30's.

So, so far this has been nice. The working conditions are nice, and other than the 4am-3pm schedule, I can't complain. In the next post I'll mention more about the town and the cathedral, and the super cool British couple I met last night. Her = student here; Him = British Army (FUN)

Robert Coulter

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sam Jones United Methodist Church

Finally, after challenges from all fronts, our organ at Sam Jones United Methodist Church is finished. I am personally thrilled with the way this organ has turned out. The organ at Morningside is big, grand, noble, English and thrilling! This organ in Cartersville, Georgia is much more subtle, and is a better reflection of how I want my organs to be.

The Great principals are rich and noble, and yet gentle and unforced. Even the mixture, which is bold, is not strident and simply adds a brilliance without shrieking in the church. The Great 4' Spire Flute has a wonderful 'pop' (as a dear colleague said) to the tone, much like a large 2' blockflute but an octave lower. When paired with the 8' Bourdon, they bind together to almost grant a 8' Harmonic Flute color to the division.

The four 8' stops in the Swell, (Geigen, Salicional, Voix Celeste, Gedeckt), are all fiercely independent with the tone of the slotted Salicional having the most presence. And yet, these stops are of equal volume and color each other in a manner that means 1+1+1=5!
The Great Tromba/Pedal Trombone speaks with plenty of power to function as a solo stop, but still blends into the Principal chorus of the Great and the trombone is dark enough to be usable under smaller combinations.

What brings a smile to my face the quickest though, is the cumulative effect of playing the 7 manual 8' stops together. There is a richness in that sound that is to be expected, but what is surprising is the ability to hear each of those 7 stops clearly within the ensemble. I've often asked Don to simply play a hymn on those stops and I sit there in the beautiful church stunned by the richness and brightness found in those stops.

So, the organ is done and the name plate is on. There were times during the past year when I felt the mountain was too steep, and the challenges too numerous. It is through the dogged resilience and support of Reggie, Don, Mat, David, JP, Mr Ross, Thomas, Randy, and Josh that this organ, an instrument I feel exceptionally proud of is now complete. For as proud as I am of this organ, I know it would not have turned out so wonderfully without these great men, and they have my thanks.

Robert Coulter

Sunday, August 24, 2008


This is the my first post to the new Coulter-Organbuilder blog. My immediate plans are to use this blog to keep my friends, family and supporters informed of my work while working in Uppsala, Sweden.

For the long term, I would love to have this blog show insight into the challenges and rewards involved in:
Pipe organ building
Pipe organ service & maintenance
Small business ownership
Starting and growing a business

This will probably end up being more cathartic for me than anything else, but if others enjoy it, even better. If it helps organists or other interested individuals understand all that goes into the construction and maintenance of fine pipe organs, then all the better.

Robert Coulter