I realize that when I wrote the last post, I didn’t clarify some of the details about the continuo organ at LCH at the first service I ever played here. It was the OTHER continuo organ, also called a positiv or positive, which the church purchased as an interim instrument when they decided to replace the aging and ciphering Aeolian organ. Yes, that’s right, instead of buying an electronic organ, they bought a real but small pipe organ from the firm of Rudolf von Beckerath to serve as an interim instrument while the larger organ was being built. It is larger than the church’s present continuo organ because it has more ranks of pipes (8 versus 3) and has a pedalboard. For you organ types, the specification can be viewed by clicking here.
You’ll hear small organs sometimes referred to as portative but this probably refers to organs which you can put on your lap, with one hand pumping the bellows and the other playing a small keyboard. There is a famous painting of a woman playing a portative from the St. Bartholomew altarpiece (c. 1473-1480, 1510).
Anyway, back to the Beckerath positive organ — for a period of two years, the church enjoyed having the two organs on opposite sides of the nave, and it was great fun playing double organ concertos and alternating stanzas on the hymns. [Note: Since 2000, the church again has two organs.] Because the positiv organ had been used in a church in Sweden and had been pitched at A=444, it was decided to pitch the large organ also at A=444. Normally standard pitch is considered a=440. Apparently the higher pitch was more stable in the colder environment.
The present organist of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church is Clayton Logue who comes over from Maui about once a month for a lesson with me. A feature of that organ (as well as that of the present LCH continuo organ) is that it has a split keyboard. That means it is possible to program (register) the bass and treble sections of the keyboard with different stops, to create a melody and accompaniment effect. Clay is really using his imagination to play a wide variety of repertoire on this organ! Some people could consider a one-manual organ limiting but one thing is certain, it forces one to become a better musician.