Phoenix Organ Installation Diary at Streetsville United
At a special congregational meeting held December 15, 2002 the congregation of Streetsville United Church approved the purchase and installation of a Phoenix PD-351 Digital Organ to replace its current Keates Pipe Organ with some components dating back to 1920. This diary logged the progress of the organ’s construction and installation during the spring of 2003.
|Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Two Organist Visits
This week we had visits from two of Canada’s more highly recognized organists. In both cases they spent a few minutes exploring the organ, trying out some tunes and made some initial positive comments on the (tonal) quality of the music. Then I spent a few minutes showing the other features (as best a non-keyboard instrumentalist can) and how to change many of the parameters, including the overall voicing specification.
But then they spent the remainder of their visits taking up the challenge of how they could best express themselves musically using the many features of the organ. For instance, one ended up playing Bach’s Air on a G string using the orchestral strings instrumentation, an instrumental flute stop and, for a bass, a Principal stop on the Pedal division. It was a stellar performance. Switching from the English to Baroque voicing, reviewing the use of memories to create unique stop combinations for the thumb and toe pistons, invoking the instrumentation stops and even the variation of parameters such as volume, reverberation level and temperament were amongst the many variables they tried out.
Both went away, not discussing whether it had a genuine pipe organ sound (that was a given from the first few minutes of playing), but rather how could they creatively express themselves in new ways through this instrument.
Posted 6/25/2003 11:34:23 PM
Sunday, May 25, 2003
Organ Dedication Sunday
With our donor’s family present, today we dedicated the organ to our worship and to the Glory of God. The service featured well know hymns, a Healy Willan anthem and preludes and postludes that demonstrated the versatility and presence of the organ. Also in attendance was a former Music Director, Al Johnson. For the first time I sat in the center of the lower sanctuary; what a difference in the “presence” of organ sound in an area where the former organ’s sound used to die.
At the dedication, we acknowledged the vision and leadership of Gord Lessard in initiating and executing on his vision to replace all the accompaniment instrumentation within the church, mentioning that we had pianos that could not hold a tune and an organ that often could only hold a whistle. Thanks were also expressed to the Tolton family; Alma Tolton is shown in the picture. From my post-dedication commentary:
“Today we have a concert quality piano and the most modern of church organs; the latter being one that takes advantage of the same technologies that bring us many of todays modern miracles as diverse as magnetic resonance imaging and CT scanners, enhanced neurological diagnostic techniques, complete collections of music on a single MP3 CD, personal computer multimedia capabilities and smoother riding, quieter vehicles. For over thirty years I have had the personal pleasure of being involved in these technologies and watching them develop. The design and architecture of our organ brings together many aspects of these technologies incorporated into an instrument that will not only support our current music ministry but also serve to challenge our musicians and this music ministry going forward.
“One could say that the development of church organs has been the worlds longest ongoing technology development program, with Greek roots going back to 300 B.C. You can find out more of this history, including a chance to listen to a reconstruction of the original wind-driven keyboard pipe instrument, from some links placed on the Installation Diary website.”
We acknowledged the leaders at Phoenix Organs North America: Don and Jim Anderson, who provided the organ not only on schedule but also slightly below budget. “Don, as Chief Organist, can only be described as an organ geek. Not only is he a fully trained and experienced church organist, but also an electronic music engineer who puts his heart into delivering a quality instrument. Jim ensures that everything comes together, including the console with especially selected high quality woods and finishes. As the delivery date approached they found a couple of small deficiencies that needed addressing before shipment they stayed up until 3 a.m. the day of delivery to replace a defective roll top cover. We all have to agree that not only is it delivering an authentic pipe organ sound but also enhances the décor at the front of our sanctuary.”
We also expressed thanks to all those, named elsewhere in this Installation Diary, who assisted with the installation over the past two months. Following the service, presentations were made to the four members who provided leadership in various renovation projects associated with the installation: Rob Butterworth, Gary Clipperton, Les Cunningham and Peter Mara. Our post-service event was climaxed by the virtual Don Anderson of Phoenix playing Gordon Young’s Prelude in Classic Style using the sequencer with yours truly pushing the master thumb pistons (about as far as he will ever get towards actually playing this instrument). Don’s “performance” was greeted with sustained applause as it demonstrated the power and versatility of the organ. A most moving and successful day at Streetsville United!
(At right, the author along with our organist Robin Dalgliesh following the service)
Posted 5/25/2003 05:05:33 PM
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Just what is all this voicing…
Today Don spent another day voicing the second (Baroque) and third (English with Orchestral Instruments) specifications. It was also an opportunity to learn some background to some of the stops and how they fit into the overall picture. For instance, we have a Piccolo Trumpet stop especially for use with Handel’s “The Trumpet Will Sound” of The Messiah oratorio. An orchestral brass combines tuba, trombone, trumpet, French Horn into one orchestral ensemble.
So, what is voicing? Effectively it is the process of tuning the instrument and then making appropriate adjustments to the sanctuary acoustics. With a traditional pipe organ this can be a very long tedious task. Remember that organ in Lausanne? — it will take about eight (8) months to completely voice each note (pipe) of its 6900 pipes. With a ‘digital pipe’ organ, such as ours, this task is simplified by the use of a computer program which can readily scale the volume relationships of the various pipes. In addition to calibrating the volume relationships, voicing of this type of organ includes making additional adjustments for wind (the rise and fall within the playing of a note) as well as reverberation. In the latter case, with the ‘dry acoustic’ of our sanctuary (due to the presence of a carpeted floor covering), the reverberation is severely inhibited.
In the course of this voicing, Don also reassigned some stops to different “instruments” with the result that, for instance, the cathedral choir can be played on both the Swell and Choir for an interesting “stereo” effect (remember each of these divisions is in one of the gallery pipe chambers facing each other). Some stops have been reassigned to match the desirability of playing two of them simultaneously via different keyboards.
Posted 5/21/2003 10:52:38 PM
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Installing the Plaques
“This Phoenix Organ and its music are dedicated to our worship and to the Glory of God. The Streetsville United congregation is most grateful to Bill and Alma Tolton for their generous financial gift which made its purchase and installation possible.”
Posted 5/15/2003 09:44:15 PM
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Mother’s Day 2003
Organ Dedication Sunday will be in two weeks: Sunday, May 25, at which time we expect to be able to personally express our gratitude to members of the Tolton family as well as acknowledge the efforts of all those who have contributed to this successful installation.
Posted 5/11/2003 08:13:42 PM
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Completing the Organ Loft
Today Don Anderson returned to spend a couple of hours doing further voicing on the English specification. John Shillingberg, our Music Director, arrived early for Choir practice as he was designated organist for our Mother’s Day service. This provided Don with an opportunity to sit in the sanctuary and actually listen to his handiwork in action; John obliged with a Bach piece and a variation on Praise to the Lord. John gets more enthused with the potential for the organ every time he has an opportunity to practice or play.
Posted 5/7/2003 08:30:38 PM
Sunday, May 04, 2003
“I didn’t realize it was not a pipe organ…”
Don Anderson from Phoenix spent Friday doing the final voicing on the English tonal specification as well as getting the reverberation feature working. And today I listened to many complements from those who noticed a difference. I arrived about an hour before this morning’s service to fill Robin in on Friday’s activities and had the chance to listen to her practice a prelude piece. Wow! It was agreed by the few who heard it that we had an organ music experience that had never previously occurred in our sanctuary.
The final complement came from our visiting speaker, who has spent a lifetime involved in church music. He mentioned after the service that he did not realize that it was not a pipe organ. His wife, with 43 years experience as an organist, received a “tour” of the organ.
Posted 5/4/2003 06:03:13 PM
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
And now for a literally Hot organ technology …..
One common characteristic of all three categories of organs when purchased today — they include a computer interface called a MIDI interface. Using it we can record, say, hymns for replay on those Sundays when our organist is absent. (OK, this is only for emergencies; we really do need the spontaneity and versatility of having a live organist.)
However, man’s imagination and creative genius always comes up with another twist. We are all familiar with mobile “entertainment” organs that might be found at community fairs, restaurants and other entertainment venues. This week I learned about a new type of organ that has been traveling to some recent fairs in Germany: the Large Hot Pipe Organ — propane powered and guaranteed to light a spark. It comes complete with a MIDI interface; theoretically our organ could be used to play its limited number of notes. You can even hear samples if you have a Windows Media Player or Real Player. Warning … not suitable for works by Bach … Enjoy!
Posted 4/30/2003 05:52:29 PM
Saturday, April 26, 2003
Another Installation Log
Posted 4/26/2003 11:40:43 AM
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Posted 4/24/2003 10:29:16 PM
From the Discovery Channel