This organ lesson continues illustrating the issues of our ailing organ.
This severely limits the available support and color of the sounds. We have stops that are completely unusable due to all of the missing pipes. With other stops, we experience non-speaking pipes intermittently, and then after a change in the humidity level they return. This Spring, all but one stop on the swell division was non-speaking on Bass C. This affects the organist by requiring last minute registration changes. The lack of these stops is quite problematic when considered with the next issue of tuning.
Sometimes, tuning issues are due to changes in humidity, but in our case, it is due to the fact that the original Casavant wind chests were replaced with devices which do not provide steady wind pressure. Our organ is atypical in that the wind pressure changes every time the organ is turned on. For example, two very-important stops used for accompanying the choir have been virtually unusable for the past two years. Just prior to last Holy Week, Ed and I spent several hours tuning these two stops so that we could use them for Holy Week and Easter. Two days later, these stops were completely out of tune again. When one considers all of the non-speaking stops in the swell mentioned above, one can see that we are running out of options. This Spring, there was a long period of time when we had only two usable stops on the Great division, which is essential to accompany the congregation. The organ tuning has been more stable over the summer due to more consistent temperature (with the air conditioning running) and higher humidity levels. The oncoming cold weather will bring lower humidity and extreme temperatures--both of which wreak havoc on the tuning of the organ.
When a pianist or organist plays a keyboard, there is an expectation that the key will attack and rebound in a certain way that makes it responsive to the musicians touch. It has been revealed that our console (the "cockpit" of the organ which contains the keyboards, stop--sounds, pedalboard, and combination action) is not original and that the Century organ company repurposed the console of an old electronic organ to go with our pipe organ. The life of an organ console is 35-50 years on average. This means that when this console was repurposed here, it already had many years of mileage. There is a sluggishness in the key action due to deteriorating magnetic key contacts under the key-bed. The key action is so unresponsive
that we have had to stop playing certain repertoire. It is becoming increasingly difficult to play with clarity, and certain rhythmic passages just cannot be executed without the organist tripping over her/his fingers. Repertoire that absolutely can not be avoided (i.e. certain wedding repertoire) requires the organist to force the desired musical result by over-compensation and inefficiency in motion. Over a long period of time, this over-working of muscles and joints is very dangerous and can cause permanent damage for an instrumentalist. In order to maintain necessary hours of practice in preparation for the choral year and serious organ repertoire, I have had to seek out practice time at other churches in efforts to keep healthy technique.
Our organ has some very serious engineering including some concerns over weight distribution. Parishioners can read the details of these problems in the full evaluation submitted by Jeff Weiler on our parish website. Ed and I continue to attempt to work around all of these issues in efforts to make music that is worthy, beautiful, and will not detract from the worship experience.