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The Organ

part one -- The Console

part two -- The Pipe Room

part three -- how to register a Complaint


If you didn't have a tree house as a child, the pipe room almost makes up for it. At Faith Community Church in Baltimore the pipe room is divided into three rooms, one of which is on the first floor behind the wall of the sanctuary behind the organ console. The other two rooms are on the second story and you would have to climb a very tall and very narrow ladder to get to them. Let's take a look...

As you climb the ladder you will pass rows of pipes belonging to the bottom manual of the organ, the CHOIR. There is quite an assortment of odd-looking pipes waiting for us before we have even reached the second floor. At the far left of the picture, in the shadows, is a pipe which is so long it will greet us again when we get there.

 

Some of the pipes for this organ reach lengths of 16 feet, which is absolutely necessary if you want those wonderfully rumbling bass notes (some organs even have pipes that are 32 feet long for the octave even below that!) Unfortunately, space doesn't always permit pipes that long so they have to be bent, or mitered, as the ones at right. Bending them like this doesn't have a noticeable effect on their sound, and it means that some of the larger pipes don't have to start in the basement!

 

   
Once we get to the top, we are surrounded by banks of pipes all connected to the middle keyboard, the GREAT. The small bench on the left is the only safe place to stand since the floor is completely covered with pipes on either side of the narrow walkway.
   

 

In some places, the pipes are recessed about four feet below the level of our walkway. Some are square; others are made of wood. The ones at left appear to have become twisted somehow.
  The string stops are only available on the SWELL on this organ. To get to those pipes we have to enter the second room. The way can be treacherous. Sometimes there is no floor at all between ranks of pipes, and when there is one it is covered by lots of delicate and expensive pipes.

Our only view out is through the slats at left.  These can be opened  or closed gradually by the loud pedals on the console. This is how to make the organ gradually louder or softer. If you look through the curtains you can see the lamps hanging from the ceiling of the sanctuary. We are about fifteen feet above the sanctuary floor.

 

 

Plenty of things can go wrong with an organ. Here one of the pipes is leaning. It might still play, but I suspect it has come out of its socket. The organ's blower (giant fan) pumps air through the bottom of the pipes, which are then activated mechanically when you press a key, allowing air to rush through the entire length of the pipe. If the pipe isn't settled into its socket properly, it can sound pretty weird.

Pipes are usually made of a tin and lead alloy. When the mixture is 50% of each, the pipes appear to have spots on them, like some of the pipes below. Others can be closed at the top which makes each note sound one octave lower than it would sound if the pipe was open.

   

 

 

 

 

Pipe organs need regular maintenance. Since I am not an organ-builder myself, I have no idea what that oil can is for or why it has been left there. Given the number of metal parts in the pipe-room, though, it doesn't really seem that out of place. What worries me more is the shredded tissue I found in the other room. I hope that doesn't mean Orville* is thinking about taking up residence in the pipe room! He might think twice about it after Sunday's prelude!

 

*Orville is our resident church mouse.

on to Part three: How to Register a Complaint

 

michael@pianonoise.com