Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Driving on Sundays

After a December service at Morningside Presbyterian that featured the choir and our Opus 1, the musical director of a local professional symphony orchestra commented, "The choir was wonderful and the organ sounds like a Rolls-Royce."

How would you like to drive a Rolls-Royce every Sunday morning? We can help make that happen for you and your church. Call us today to find out how!!


Monday, November 30, 2009

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Gainesville, FL Version 2.0

We were fortunate to again work with Organist/Choirmaster Dr. John Lowe and John Pritchard Organbuilder to clean the Visser-Rowland organ at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Florida.

After the restoration of the Christ window at the church, the organ was severely inundated with a fine layer of dirt. In our work all the pipes of the organ were thoroughly cleaned and checked for proper speech.

While the pipes were removed, service lights were installed in this twenty year old organ to allow for proper service and tuning. Prior to the installation of these lights, there were many pipes that were simply impossible to see, and therefore rarely tuned.

Through close consultation with Dr Lowe and Mr Pritchard, we set forth to redesign the various manual division mixtures. In this work, we silenced the highest pitched ranks in part or in total depending on the given mixture. We also completely revoiced the pedal 16' Prestant. After revoicing, what had been a very mild 16' open stop (equal in volume to the 16' Gedeckt), this stop now functions as a proper 16' Principal voice for the organ.

With this work, the organ now achieves a tonal balance it never had before. The manual mixtures still compliment each other, but no longer grate on the the ears of the musician or congregants. With the fuller and richer 16' Prestant, the previously ineffective 32' Subbass now actually tells under the full ensemble. The stronger, richer sounds of the 16' reinforce the harmonics of the 32'.

It is important to note, for those concerned with our alteration of an instrument by another builder, to date none of our work has been performed in a manner that could not be easily reversed if so desired.

The first Sunday the organ was used in this newest form, numerous parishioners mentioned the warmer, richer sound of the instrument. It was again a pleasure to work with these two fine musicians to continue to make this instrument more versatile and useful for their needs.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

First Presbyterian Atlanta

We were honored to be invited by Charles Whittaker, Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church to perform a thorough inspection of the 105 rank Moller/Zimmer pipe organ. We have been caring for the small Klop organ in the chapel since its installation in 2006. While we found the main sanctuary organ to be in good mechanical condition, recent construction on the premises introduced large amounts of dirt and dust into the pipe organ. Following a full tuning of the instrument in March of 2009, numerous reed pipes fell silent or went off speech due to excessive dirt within the pipes.

Upon our proposal, we were contracted by the church to perform a thorough cleaning of the entire 105 rank, eight division instrument. In this work we will remove all pipes, with the reed pipes being sent to the Coulter Organbuilders shop for dismantling and cleaning of all resonators, eschallots and tongues. All flue pipes would be thoroughly cleaned on premises to remove dirt that can interfere with proper pipe speech.

With all the pipes removed, the wind chests will be vacuumed to remove loose dirt and then wiped clean to more extensively remove the dirt. The pipes would then be replaced and would then receive a thorough tuning and regulation of the reed pipes. During this work, substantial portions of the organ will be available for service use, with either the entire front or entire gallery organ being playable in addition to other divisions. We will coordinate closely with the music staff to ensure divisions they would need for any given service will be playable.

It is indeed an honor to work closely with Charles and Diane Whittaker, as well as the entire First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta to ensure this fine pipe organ continues to serve this historic congregation for many years to come.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Saint Luke's Presbyterian Church

Schantz Organ Company; 1967

II - 3 1/2 ranks

In April of 2009, we were honored to be invited by Clair Maxwell, Director of Music at Saint Luke's Presbyterian to inspect the Schantz organ in storage at the church for installation in their new chapel.

This instrument originally constructed as a home practice instrument in 1967. The instrument served that purpose to two different owners until 2004. At that time the owner decided to move into a smaller residence and not take the instrument. The organ was then donated to Saint Luke's Presbyterian as a nucleolus for a larger chapel organ.

As so often happens, plans and funding changed and the instrument sat in storage for many years. Finally the desire emerged in the church to install the organ it is current state in hopes of through its use it would elicit greater interest into expanding the instrument into a more suitable chapel instrument.

It is an honor to assist Saint Luke's Presbyterian in the care and enhancement of this fine pipe organ.

Saint Luke's Presbyterian Church - Dunwoody, Georgia
Schantz Organ Company - 1967

Manual I
8' Rohrflute
4' Principal
2' Flute
II Mixture

Manual II
8' Quintaton
4' Rohrflute
2 2/3' Nasat
2' Principal

16' Gedecktbass
8' Rohrflute
4' Principal
2' Octave

Monday, May 11, 2009

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church; Gainesville, Florida

Visser - Rowland & Associates; 1994

III -49

In May of 2009, we were honored to enter into a collaboration with John Pritchard Organbuilder to begin a phased tonal redesign and revoicing of the Visser - Rowland organ at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Florida.

This instrument was installed in 1994 after a devastating fire destroyed the sanctuary. This organ is very much in the Dutch tradition of most Visser - Rowland instruments.

Through working with organist/choirmaster John Lowe, he and Mr Pritchard devised the first steps in making this instrument more easily meet the Anglican traditions of the music ministry at Holy Trinity.

We were brought to Gainesville to participate in the voicing, tonal finishing, and to provide further insight for future steps in this phased process. Among the first items addressed was the substitution of the Hoofdwerk (Great) 2' Woudfluit (Waldflute) with the Zwelwerk (Swell) 2' Octaff (Octave). The Rugwerk (Positiv) 8' Kromhoorn (Krumhorn) was also significantly softened to serve as a more useful solo stop. The Zwelwerk V Sherp (Scharf) was regulated, tuned, and had some of the highest pitched ranks muted to better blend with the Zwelwerk Chorus and reeds.

It is an honor to assist Holy Trinity in the care and enhancement of this fine pipe organ.

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church - Gainesville, Florida
Visser - Rowland & Associates organ, 1994

Hoofdwek (Great) Organ
16' Bourdon (1-17 ped)
8' Praestant (facade)
8' Roerfluit
4' Octaaf
4' Nachthoorn
2-2/3' Kwint
2' Octaaf
II Sesquialter
V Mixtuur
8' Trompet

Rugwerk (Positiv) Organ
8' Praestant (facade)
8' Gedekt
4' Octaaf
4' Spitsfluit
2-2/3' Nasard
2' Superoctaaf
1-3/5' Terts
III Kleinmixtuur
8' Kromhoorn
Tremulant (manuals)

Zwelwerk (Swell) Organ
8' Gemshorn
8' Holpijp
8' Salicionaal
8' Celeste (gems)
4' Praestant
4' Koppelfluit
2' Woudfluit
V Scherp
16' Fagot
8' Trompette
4' Klaroen
Tremulant (manuals)

Pedaal Organ
32' Subbas (ext Ged)
16' Praestant (wood)
16' Gedektbas
8' Ockaafbas
8' Gedekt (ext)
4' Koraalbas
IV Mixtuur
16' Bazuin (wood)
8' Trompet
4' Schalmei

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Saint Mark's Episcopal Church - LaGrange, Georgia

In 2009, we were contracted by the vestry of Saint Mark's Episcopal Church to revoice and generate a new tonal design for the pipe organ.

Originally, the organ was built in 1976 by the Schantz organ company. The instrument was of electro-pneumatic action with two manuals and 14 ranks of pipes. As was the style at the time, the scales and wind pressures in this organ were light, granting the lean sound that was in fashion at the time. Additionally, there were peculiarities in the stop list that are a definite reflection of the times.

With the hiring of Bill Elliot, as organist, a new desire came from the bench to address the inadequacies of the instrument. Through close collaboration with Mr. Elliot, we were able to devise certain changes to the organ that would allow him to better serve the congregation in a manner he felt best suited the services.

In this work, certain ranks will be relocated, with others removed altogether in favor of more colorful stops. Additionally, and perhaps of greatest importance, the Great 8' Principal will be completely rescaled and revoiced to fit our tonal philosophies.

We believe the Great 8' Principal should be strong enough of tone to gracefully fill the empty church with sound. But of equal importance is the color and breadth of tone. Simply put, a loud stop is not musicial, a full voiced stop with a rich, even tone is the very definition of a musical sound. We are not beholden to any preconceived notions about scaling or the mechanics of pipe voicing, but rather allow the pipe, the room and the church musician to give our actions. For it is only when pipe, room, musician and builder come together that musical sounds are created.

Saint Mark's Episcopal Church - LaGrange, Georgia
Schantz Organ, 1976
Tonal Revisions by Robert I. Coulter - Organbuilder, 2009

Great Organ
8' Principal (revoiced)
8' Bordun (wood)
4' Octave
2' Super Octave (from Swell)
III Mixture
8' Basson (Swell)

Swell Organ
8' Quintadena (new)
8' Gemshorn (tenor C)
4' Nachthorn
2 2/3' Nazard (1 1/3' rescaled & repitched)
2' Blockflute (from Great)
8' Trompette (new)
8' Basson

Pedal Organ
16' Gedeckt
8' Octave (Great)
8' Gedeckt (ext)
8' Gedeckt - Swell
4' Choralbass (ext)
16' Contre Trompette (Swell)
8' Basson (Swell)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Arguement for the Swell 8' Principal

There has been a reemergence in recent years of 8' Principal stops in Swell organs. In the opinion of this writer, this is the single best development in pipe organ specifications in the past 25 years. Historically, 8' Principals were found in nearly every division, with the exception of Brustwerk organs.

The organs Bach knew and preferred had numerous 8' Principal stops. As the Principal tone is the single voice that is unique to the organ, and the 8' pitch the unison, the presence of 8' Principals seems logical.

Yet during the 'Organ Reform' movement, 8' Principals began to disappear from divisions other than the Great and Pedal. In many three manual organs designed by Ernest White for the Moller company, the only 8' Principal to be found at all would be a small scale 8' Spitz Principal for the Pedal. Imagine an organ of 40 ranks, with two Great mixtures and no 8' Principal tone!!

First Presbyterian Church - Anderson, South Carolina
M. P. Moller organ, 1958 - Opus 9225

Great Organ
16' Quintaton
8' Gemshorn
8' Rohrflute
4' Principal
2' Waldflote
IV Fourniture

Choir Organ
8' Quintflote
8' Erzahler
8' Erzahler Celeste
4' Koppelflote
2' Prinzipal
1 1/3' Larigot
8' Hautbois

Swell Organ
16' Gedeckt
8' Gedeckt - extension
8' Gambe
8' Gambe Celeste
4' Nachthorn
III Plein Jeu
8' Trompette

Pedal Organ
32' Resultant
16' Sous Basse
16' Gedeckt - Swell
8' Spitzprinzipal
8' Rohrflote
8' Gedeckt - Swell
4' Spitzprinzipal - extension
4' Rohrflote - extension
2' Rohrflote - extension
III Mixture
16' Posaune - extension Swell

The theory forwarded by Mr. White was this. In a Swell organ, an 8' Principal like tone could be created by combining a large scale 8' string with a small scale 8' stopped flute. This theory fails for a number of reasons:

It is a compromise at best. A large scale 8' string on the relatively low wind pressures of the era, looses its stringy character, and becomes neither string nor principal. The same is true for the stopped flute. If it is too small, the richness and fundamental are lost along with its inherent sweetness.

It creates an imbalance. Most organists prefer a Swell organ with 4' Principal, perhaps a 2' Principal and a mixture. A division such as this sounds top heavy and lacking proper foundation for the upper work. Many organists get around this problem by using the unison off and Swell to Swell 16' coupler, again a compromise.

1 + 1 = 3.

In a Swell organ of 8' String and 8' Stopped Flute, there are three possible combinations of 8' unison tone.

8' String alone
8' Stopped flute alone
8' String & 8' Flute

With the addition of an 8' Principal, the flute can be voiced more richly, the string more keenly and then 1 + 1 + 1 = 7!!

8' Principal alone
8' String alone
8' Flute alone
8' Principal & String
8' Principal & Flute
8' String & Flute
8' Principal, 8' String & 8' Flute

With these three stops, if they are properly voiced of nearly equal volume and fiercely independent character, more than double the possible combination of stops are possible.

During the 1970's & 1980's, a secondary 8' Principal could be found in some organs, often in the Choir and called 'English Diapason'. While better than nothing, this also missed the point in my opinion. Unless the Choir organ were extensive, there would typically not be another 8' open stop or any volume, leaving the 8' English Diapason alone to function as string and principal without excelling at either.

The French have the Jeu de Fonds concept of 8' Montre, 8' Bourdon, 8' Flute Harmonique and in large instruments 8' Salicional. This concept should be looked to for inspiration in the design of any swell organ. Three stops, each of unique character, but which blend together to produce a wonderful, rich effect that greater than the sum of its parts.

There is a similar concept in French classic cooking called the mirepoix, a combination of three aeromatic vegetables, onion, celery and carrot. For the creole, it is called 'Le Trinitie' and is made up of; onion, celery and bell pepper instead of carrot. These three ingredients are the common building blocks upon which two entire cuisines are based. The musical combination of Principal, String, and Flute, while not sustaining for life as gumbo, can still be just as satisfying to the musical soul.

Bon Appetit!

Robert Coulter

Monday, February 2, 2009

Converse College

In the fall of 2008, we were pleased to be contracted by Converse College to return one of the Holtkamp organs to functioning status. The instrument was built in the 1970's, and is seven ranks over two manuals.

Upon our first inspection, we found this instrument to be in overall fine condition. There were a number of blown pneumatics that related to the control of the stops. We were able to recover some of these pneumatics during our most recent service visit to the college.

With a rapidly growing organ program, we are honored to be able to assist the college and Dr. Leon Couch III in the care of the four fine pipe organs on their campus.

Holtkamp organ

Manual I
8' Gedeckt
4' Principal
2' Gemshorn
III - Mixture
8' Krummhorn

Manual II
8' Gemshorn
4' Gedeckt
2' Principal
1 1/3' Gemshorn

16' Gedecktbass
8' Gemshorn
8' Gedeckt
4' Principal
16' Krummhorn (en chamade!)
4' Krummhorn

Robert Coulter