Gotta Plan B?


The organ, be it either pipe or electronic, is quite possibly the most complex of any musical instrument. And so the odds that something might go wrong are always a possibility. In the post about Yuri McCoy’s wedding last week, I told you about the cipher in the trumpet stop for the recessional. That means the “A” was continually sounding throughout the whole piece. And poor John Renke couldn’t do a thing about it except be grateful the note was in the “right” key.

Today when I went to warm-up on the organ at Iolani School for chapel I started to play through the first hymn, and no sooner had I gotten to the end of the 2nd measure when all of a sudden I noticed something was terribly wrong. All the stops on the main manual (Great) “cancelled” themselves! At first I couldn’t believe what happened, so I pushed the piston and started again at the beginning of the hymn. At precisely the same point (the seventh chord of the piece), the same thing happened again! I tried it once more, and when all the stops pushed themselves in, all by themselves, I thought–wait a minute, am I on Candid Camera?

Obviously something was wrong. I tried playing the hymn on a different set of stops but they too would not stay out past the first few notes or so. I thought maybe it was because I used the pistons to draw out the stop knobs, but I even tried pulling them out by hand and got the same sorry result. I guess this is what happens when you have to deal with old electronics!

Organists have to be flexible, that’s for sure. I remember once when I was engaged to play a dedication concert on a refurbished organ. For the opening piece I selected the “Trumpet Voluntary” by John Stanley which is in the key of D major. When I got to the church to warm up, to my horror, I discovered the trumpet “D” key was dead! All the other notes were okay, but the D had no sound! So I weighed my options: either find another solo stop or transpose the whole piece down to D-flat! With minutes to spare, I chose another solo stop but it meant I played the Trumpet Voluntary without a Trumpet! This scenario happens more frequently than we’d like to, I’m afraid. Either a note is dead or stuck or so badly out of tune we find we have to switch to plan B.

Guess what saved me this morning at chapel? The crescendo pedal! For you non-organists, this is a pedal which when depressed, brings on more and more stops without having to pull out the individual knobs. I also coupled the Swell Manual to the Choir and played on the latter. The sound wasn’t as big as usual, it had to do.

Meanwhile, we need to call the organ repair man.

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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2 Responses to Gotta Plan B?

  1. Florence says:

    ah, yes…the things we organists have to deal with…it’s wonderful, isn’t it!

    thanks for sharing. love your posts.

  2. Roger Barton says:

    I’ve never experienced that particular problem. Now that I know it can happen, it will lurk in the background of my mind. On the other hand, I don’t think any of us would quite be willing to give up our combination actions and go back to all-mechanical drawknobs with hitch-down couplers, would we?

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