Zounds! the zimbelstern

When Carl Crosier retired as Cantor from the Lutheran Church of Honolulu after 38 years, he decided that his first Christmas out of church music would be spent with our family on the mainland — which meant that I would need to find a substitute organist for the Christmas services. Thankfully, my former organ student Joey Fala will be coming home from college and will be subbing for me for the two Christmas Eve services (5:00 pm and 10:30 pm) and the Sunday morning Christmas Day service.

The 5:00 pm Christmas Eve service is traditionally presented by our Sunday School children — and my student Jordan McCreary will be playing the postlude, while other organ students will be playing during communion.

I only use the Zimbelstern at Christmas and Easter.

I only use the Zimbelstern at Christmas and Easter.

I reminded both Joey and Jordan, “Don’t forget to turn on the zimbelstern!” And for you non-organists, let me explain what a zimbelstern is. It means “cymbal-star” in German and is a circular piece of wood with bells mounted on it. On the Beckerath, we have slots for up to eight bells, but we found that eight bells are way too raucous, so we only have four bells mounted currently. When I push a special toe stud, the wood turns round and round and causes the bells to ring in a random fashion. The front side of the zimbelstern looks like a star and is mounted right in the center of the prospect pipes. The effect is very festive and celebratory and almost sounds like an additional high-pitched mixture stop.

All these years I have taken care to only ring the zimbelstern on very special occasions, like Christmas and Easter. I guess this has been my personal decision because I didn’t want you guys to get too spoiled by this magical sound! By the way, my sister (who is not an organist) forgot the name of this device and called it a Zinfandel by mistake. Something to be savored, just the same!

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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4 Responses to Zounds! the zimbelstern

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  3. Keith Lilley says:

    Twice in one year is not enough to bring “Joy” to the congregants attending church to hear the beauty of the Zimbelstern! It is definitely something not to be overused, however after building one for a previous church I attended, specifying two for two Lutheran Churches and putting a Thumb and Toe Piston on the Custom Built Hauptwerk I am donating to my church that will turn on a manual Zimbelstern I hope that they will indeed be used more than twice!!!
    Examples: From Heaven Above, Fairest Lord Jesus (the twinkling star), Bachs/ In Dulci Jubilo, A Mighty Fortress, Lift High the Cross (on the interlude and last verse) Buxtehude How Lovely Shines the Morning Star!, Bach “In Thee Is Gladness”

    I’m including something I found on the internet that duplicates and more than doubles the possibilities of using the Zimbelstern by Gary Foxe! It discusses which verses or stanzas or hymns that mention stars/twinkling stars etc.
    Der Zimbelstern
    The Zimbelstern for Creative Church Music
    W240 N6532 Ash Street Sussex, WI 53089-3016 1-877-240-8233

    Zimbelsterns – Creative Ideas

    Last updated on March 2, 2010

    This list of ideas on how to creatively use a Zimbelstern is not all inclusive, nor could it be, since there are new hymns, liturgies, and organ arrangements constantly being created. Think of using the Zimbelstern as you would another special stop on the organ. You may wish to use it several times in one service; you may not want to use it at all in some other services. Normally I would not use the Zimbelstern during Lent, but save it for Easter and all of the other seasons of the church year.

    The references below for Zimbelstern use indicating the volume and speed (The start up delay can be set according to your own situation.) are based on the models available from Der Zimbelstern at the address above. Your ideas and additions to this list are always welcome and could be included in later updated listings. Please send them to derzimbelstern@yahoo.com and be as complete as possible in your description, including publisher name and item number if possible, so it’s easy for other people to understand what you’re describing, how to do it and where to get the music. Come back often to DerZimbelstern.com and click on Creative Ideas to see and print out updates.

    You may find that you need to adapt some of the suggestions described herein based on your particular instrument and registration available. In general, it very often works well to use a slower speed with a softer volume (and an organ registration that is more “transparent,” such as 8’ + 2’ or 1 1/3” or 1’, etc.) and at other times to use a faster speed (about “3:00” or so) and more volume with a louder registration so more sound is created. Particular organ registrations will not be listed unless necessary. It is assumed that organ registrations appropriate to the Zimbelstern volume will be used.

    Some collections might be out of print, but maybe you could borrow them from a friend, bought at a used music sale, or available in other ways. The listings might be an encouragement to look for similar pieces and other pieces by certain composers.

    The suggested musical pieces are grouped according to the categories below:
    Organ compositions not based on hymn tunes
    Liturgical Ideas
    Choral Ideas
    Hymn Tunes, arrangements, etc. – listed by hymn tune names due to multiple texts, translations, etc.

    ORGAN COMPOSITIONS NOT BASED ON HYMN TUNES (alphabetically by composer)

    Bach, J.S. – Jig Fugue, Z soft and slow, from measure 47, beat 3 until measure 52, beat 1 (corresponding to main subject); then later on Z loud and fast, measure 77, beat 3 until the end.

    LITURGICAL IDEAS (texts may vary)

    If you use a joyful setting of the “Gloria in Excelsis,” you may wish to add the Zimbelstern loud and fast starting at “For You only are holy…etc.” to the end, or just starting at the last phrase, “…in the glory of God the Father. Amen!”

    If you use a setting of “This is the Feast of Victory for our God,” you can add the Z loud and fast for the last refrain or for just the ending Alleluias.

    If you use an uplifting setting of the “Sanctus” (“Holy, Holy, Holy”), the Z could be used loud and fast throughout the piece, or just on the last phrase.


    “Come, Let us Eat” – arr. Craig Carnahan, AMSI #385, 2-part or SATB, with some hand percussion. Very appropriate before or during communion. Text and tune is found in more and more hymnals.

    “Have Done, Dull Care” – Eccard, manuscript, SATB, an Easter anthem. Add Z at medium volume, medium speed, on refrain after second stanza.


    A most appropriate use is with a doxological stanza at the end of a hymn, or with stanzas of certain hymns of praise, so not all hymn tunes may be listed here. Some organists start the Zimbelstern during an interlude before a concluding doxological stanza and have used this also as an indication for the congregation to stand for the singing of such a special stanza. Another use would be when there is a stanza or phrase of a stanza referring to bells, ringing, stars, or similar ‘sparkling’ effect, such as in “Away in a Manger,” – ‘the stars in the sky look down where He lay.’ You can set the start up delay as appropriate to the tempo and the time when you need the Zimbelstern to play so you can start the Zimbelstern counting off its delay while you are still holding the chord of the previous stanza or an interlude, or when there is a phrase ending or a hand or foot available to turn it on before a certain phrase is sung. You can selectively use the Zimbelstern not on repeats of certain pieces, or only when the tune is played or only when certain thematic accompaniment parts are played. Almost all of the following hymn tunes can have the Zimbelstern on an intonation of an appropriate style and sometimes on all or part of a concluding stanza.

    ADESTE FIDELES – “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful”
    Especially on last verse when the last “Oh, Come…” phrase of the refrain, Z loud and fast

    ALL HER UND LOB – “Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid” – also other texts

    ALLEIN GOTT IN DER HOH – “All Glory Be to God on High”
    80 Chorale Preludes, p.8, Walther, Z soft and slow, maybe not on repeat

    ANTIOCH – “Joy to the World”

    AUF, AUF, MEIN HERZ – “Awake, My Heart, with Gladness”
    Six Preludes on Easter Hymns, Wilbur Held, p.12, Concordia Publishing House, 97-5330, Z soft and slow

    AUS MEINES HERZENS GRUNDE – “Arise, O Christian People” – also other texts

    AWAY IN A MANGER – st. 1, 3rd phrase, “the stars in the sky looked down where He lay,” add Z soft and slow

    CHESTERFIELD – “Hark the Glad Sound”

    CHRIST IST ERSTANDEN – “Christ is Arisen” – and with ‘long’ version with plainsong verses, “Christians, to the Paschal Victim,’ VICTIMAE PASCHALI, on stanza 3 add Z loud and medium to fast speed for entire stanza or just from “Now let our joy rise full and free…” to the end.

    CHRISTMAS SONG – tune is “Easter Song” by Anne Herring. Upon request I can provide you with my Christmas lyrics to this song. See EASTER SONG for how to use bells.

    CWM RHONDDA – “God of Grace and God of Glory”
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Paul Manz, Set 5, p.4, Z loud and fast, just the last 2 measures

    DEN STORE HVIDE FLOK – st. 3, Z various volumes or speeds, starting at “The myriad angels…” to the end.

    DIADEMATA – “Crown Him with Many Crowns”

    DIX – “As with Gladness Men Of Old”

    DUKE STREET – “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”
    Five Festive Preludes on Easter Hymns, Jan Bender, p.23, Concordia Publishing House, 97-5495, Z loud and fast starting p.27, last 9 measures.

    EARTH AND ALL STARS – “Earth and All Stars”
    If Z not used on an intonation, use it on first stanza, you can always use it on the refrain of last stanza, loud and fast.

    EASTER SONG – by Anne Herring – Let Z fade up from silent to an appropriate volume for whatever introduction is used. Have Z ring through first part of song. No Z during “The angels…” Add Z again from “Joy to the world…” to the end.

    ES IST DAS HEIL – “Salvation Unto Us Has Come”
    J.S. Bach, Orgelbuchlein, #39, Z various volumes and speeds depending on interpretation and registration.

    ES IST EIN ROS – “A Great and Might Wonder” and other texts
    Last stanza “To God on high be glory…”, Z loud and medium to fast speed.

    GELOBET SEI GOTT – “O Sons and Daughters,” “Good Christian Friends”
    Last stanza, Z loud and fast for entire stanza or just ending Alleluias.
    Preludes for Hymns in Worship Supplement, Vol. 2, p.20, Paul Kickstat, Concordia Publishing House, 97-5035, Z could be done almost 3 different ways, soft & slow, medium & medium, loud & fast, with appropriate organ registrations depending on how you’re using it in the service.

    GLORIA – “Angels We Have Heard on High”
    Use hymn setting or other ‘simple’ two part or trio intonation/improvisation; Z medium or soft volume, medium or slow speed, or fade up Z from silent to a certain volume and fade out at the end as though the angels were coming and then went away.
    Parish Organist, Vol. 6, p.32, Gehrke, Z soft volume, slow speed.
    Preludes for Hymns in Worship Supplement, Vol. 1, p.22, Arnatt, Concordia Publishing House, 97-4960, Z soft and slow, let Z ring for a few seconds before starting the piece, or start Z at second ending. Could let Z fade out at the end.

    GOD REST YOU MERRY – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”
    Six Carol Settings, Wilbur Held, p. 44, Concordia Publishing House, 97-4985, Z loud and fast last 11 measures


    HANOVER – “Oh, Worship the King”
    Parish Organist, Vol. 11, p.32, Mudde, Z loud & fast, last 4 measures.
    20 Hymn-Tune Preludes, C.S. Lang, Set 2, p.15, Z soft and slow against just a clear 4’ flute OR various volumes and speeds depending on your registration.

    IN DIR IST FREUDE – “In Thee is Gladness”
    St. 2, Z loud and fast, starting at “We shout for gladness…” to the end.

    IN DULCI JUBILO – “Good Christian Men Rejoice”
    J.S. Bach, Orgelbuchlein, #10, Z soft and slow or other ways also.
    Parish Organist, Vol. 6, p.17, J.S. Bach, Z soft and slow; use all the way through, or just measures 1-33 and last six measures.
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Paul Manz, Set 3, p.25, Z soft and slow, measures 1-8 and last 5 or 8 measures.
    Variations on IDJ, Theodore Beck, Concordia Publishing House, 97-5664, 7 movements in which you can selectively use Z at various volumes and speeds depending on your registration.
    Five Preludes for the Church Year, Werner Grams, p.4, Augsburg Publishing House, 11-6041, Z soft volume, slow speed, use on entire piece, or just intro. and ending, or just during one variation with the tune.
    80 Chorale Preludes, p.76, Zachau, Z soft and slow.

    JESUS, MEINE ZUVERSICHT – “Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense”
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Paul Manz, Set 5, p.16, Z loud and fast for last 9 measures.

    KIRKEN DEN ER ET – “Built on the Rock”
    St. 1, Z soft to medium volume and speed, starting phrase 3 to end of verse. St. 5, Z medium to loud volume, medium to fast speed, entire stanza or just first 4 phrases.

    LASST UNS ERFREUEN – “All Creatures of Our God and King”
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Paul Manz, Set 6, p.15, Z loud and fast, last 9 measures.

    LAUDES DOMINI – “When Morning Gilds the Skies”
    St. 6, Z medium to loud volume, medium to fast speed.

    LOBE DEN HERREN – “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”
    Parish Organist, Vol. 12, p.5, Zipp, Z soft to medium, slow to medium speed.

    LOBE DEN HERREN, O MEINE SEELE – “Praise the Almighty, My Soul, Adore Him”

    LOBET DEN HERRN, IHR – “All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above”

    LOBT GOTT, IHR CHRISTEN, ALLZUGLEICH – “Praise God the Lord Ye Sons of Men”
    80 Chorale Preludes, p.86, Walther, Z medium to loud volume, medium to fast speed.

    MIT FREUDEN ZART – “With High Delight”

    MORNING STAR – “Brightest and Best of the sons of the Morning”
    Parish Organist, Vol. 11, p.66, Bender, Z soft and slow, but play the piece on a well-tuned piano, up an octave.

    NUN DANKET ALLE GOTT – “Now Thank We All Our God”
    Parish Organist, Vol. 2, p.60, Kaufmann, Z various volumes, various speeds, on first 9 measures, not on repeat, start Z again on last 5 measures, OR….>
    80 Chorale Preludes, p.94, Kaufmann, Z soft and slow on first 12 measures or introduction, no Z on next 9 measures, then Z loud and fast on repeat of those 9 measures, then no Z, then add Z loud and fast for last 6 ½ measures.
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Manz, Set 2, p.11, Z loud and fast, last four measures.
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Manz, Set 8, p.22, Z loud and fast, last 3 1/3 measures.

    O DASS ICH TAUSEND ZUNGEN HATTE (Koenig) – “O That I Had a Thousand Voices”
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Paul Manz, Set 3, p.22, Z loud and fast, last 4 measures.

    O HEILAND, REISS DIE HIMMEL AUF – “O Savior, Rend the Heavens Wide”
    Preludes for Hymns in Worship Supplement, Vol. 1, p.14, Zipp, Concordia Publishing House, 97-4960, Z soft and slow.

    O JESU CHRIST, MEIN’S – “O Christ, Our True and Only Light”

    OLD HUNDREDTH – “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Paul Manz, Set 4, p.9, Z loud and fast, on repeat of entire piece, or Z starts on measure 3, or else just the last 2 measures.

    ORIENTIS PARTIBUS – “Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today”
    Parish Organist, Vol. 3, p.32, Markworth, Z various volumes and speeds, use either or both settings with various registrations and various Z settings.

    PUER NOBIS – “To Shepherds as They Watched by Night”

    ST. ANNE – “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”
    Partita on St. Anne, Paul Manz, I. Theme, p.4, Z loud and fast.

    ST. COLUMBA – “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

    ST. DENIO – “Immortal, Invisible”

    SHEPHERDING – “From Shepherding of Stars”

    SONNE DER GERIECHTIGKEIT – “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing”
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Paul Manz, Set 6, p.10, Z loud and fast, last four measures.
    11 Compositions for Organ, Charles Ore, Set 2, Concordia Publishing House, 97-5385, p.16, Z soft and slow.

    SUSSEX CAROL – “On Christmas Night All Christians Sing”
    Variations on Sussex Carol, Raymond Haan, Concordia Publishing House, 97-5871, 5 movements in which you can selectiveloy use Z at various volumes and speeds.

    THE ASH GROVE – “Sent Forth By God’s Blessings”


    VOM HIMMEL HOCH – “From Heav’n Above to Earth I Come”
    Six Carol Settings, Wilbur Held, p.9, Concordia Publishing House, 97-4985, Z medium to loud volume, medium to fast speed, last 3 measures.
    80 Chorale Preludes, p.108, Zachau, Z soft and slow.

    VRUECHTEN – “This Joyful Eastertide”
    Preludes for Hymns in the Worship Supplement, Vol. 2, p.34, Bouman, Concordia Publishing House, 97-5035, Z soft and slow.
    Five Festive Preludes on Easter Hymns, Jan Bender, p.6, Concordia Publishing House, 97-5495, Z loud and fast starting p.10 last measure through to end, or justs on repeat of last 8 measures.

    WACHET AUF – “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying”

    WALTHER – “He’s Risen, He’s Risen”

    WERDE MUNTER – “Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens”
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Paul Manz, Set 4, p.10, Z soft and slow, measures 1-4, 9-12, and last measures, or the entire piece.

    WIE LIEBLICH IS DER MAIEN – “Sing to the Lord of Harvest”
    Preludes for Hymns in Worship Supplement, Vol. 4, p.35, Jan Bender, Z soft volume, slow to medium speed, through entire piece or on entire repeat.

    WIE SCHOEN LEUCHTET – “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star”
    Ten Chorale Improvisations, Paul Manz, Set 6, p.26, Z loud and fast, last 3 or 4 measures.
    Especially if your hymn text has “sing out, ring out…” OR “singing, ringing…”

    Der Zimbelstern
    Gary W. Foxe, W240 N6532 Ash Street, Sussex, WI 53089-3016
    Toll free, 1-877-240-8233; cell, 262-565-8233.

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