Uh-oh: Organ ciphers!

cipher, cypher [ˈsaɪfə]

(Music / Instruments) A defect in an organ resulting in the continuous sounding of a pipe, the key of which has not been depressed

Yikes! When I came to teach an organ lesson on the Beckerath both last week and this, we were plagued with ciphers on at least six different notes. “It’s because of the humidity,” I explained to my students. We didn’t even have to depress the notes to make them sound — as soon as I pulled out the stop knob, we got the cipher.

Organists always have to be faced with the possibility that when they get to the church something will be wrong with the instrument. Remember my post about having a Plan B? I wrote:

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.

When something on the organ doesn't work, you need a Plan B.

When something on the organ doesn’t work, you need a Plan B.

As for ciphers, one solution that has worked in the past is to repeatedly press the note which is sounding, and hope that it goes away. Unfortunately this trick did not succeed this time, and because all the notes that were ciphering were from the Great division, we simply used stops on the Swell manual. According to an organ forum: The obvious temporary solution is—just don’t use that stop

I asked Pastor Jeff whether there were any ciphers on Sunday morning, and he said ‘no.’ That is because Sunday is one of the days the air conditioning is turned on, and magically everything is fine.

In the days that the organ was new (1975), Carl Crosier had to tune the reeds every Sunday! But after three years, the organ had gotten used to the drastic change between hot and humid during the week and “meat locker cold” on Sunday mornings. During the week the organ is horribly out of tune — but magically when the A/C gets turned on, the pipes “remember” what being in tune is.

Thank God for air conditioning! (Yes, for all you readers on the mainland, we use air conditioning every Sunday in Hawaii, even in January!)

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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One Response to Uh-oh: Organ ciphers!

  1. Village Organist says:

    Really helpful comment about pressing the key. I will try it next time.
    It happens over here in England when it has been raining a great deal. I once had to play a funeral on the piano because of the noise coming out of the great when it was deployed.

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