Choosing a digital organ
In December 2015, we were asked to bring an organ across the water to allow St Joseph’s Church to evaluate the merits of our ‘physical modelling’ solution for digital organ voices. The journey itself was quite a challenge as we only had a few weeks’ notice. The organ and 22 speaker cabinets were beyond the capacity of one vehicle so we had to ship speakers in advance and the organ travelled in a vehicle to Holyhead from where a 6 hour ferry trip ended up in Dublin before dawn broke. From there it was about a 90 minute drive to the church where we arrived well before doors opened.
We were joined in the venture by our partner retailer Jeffers Music of Bandon and with their help the temporary installation was set up by early afternoon. We also flew staff into Dublin and hired a car to join in with the work so it was a full hands on and dare I say it well planned effort.
The console was set up near the chancel steps on the south side. Amplifiers were 40 meters away near the west end gallery where 22 speaker cabinets were set up. This would have been a challenge in itself but our visit coincided with the hire of a leading competitor’s digital instrument for the television broadcast Christmas Night and Christmas Day Masses. While this made the working space more than a little congested it did allow direct comparison of the two contending instruments for this potential order.
I am not sure what your experience of judging sound quality is like but I think most people will agree that it is very difficult indeed to carry accurate aural memory. So having the 2 instruments in the building together was a great benefit to the customer and a rare opportunity for us as well to hear our instrument side by side with another leading brand. You will imagine our great pleasure when we learnt that the church had decided to use our instrument for the broadcast service and not the one hired in for the job. At this point we were fairly confident we had a good chance of getting the order but of course at this stage no information on pricing had been supplied.
Configuring and Installing the Regent Classic Organ
In March of 2016 we had confirmation that we were selected and so the more detailed discussion on design got underway. Organist Trevor Clarke was immensely involved with this. Of crucial importance was the height of the console as he also directs the choir and needed a good line of sight to the choir standing directly behind the console on the rearranged gallery. This height restriction limited the number of stops we could fit in the classic ‘English’ twin column jamb layout and we could not get quite enough to meet the desired specification.
We got over this by eliminating from the design a roll top and used the height this would normally add to slightly raise the jamb height allowing the fitting of an extra 4 stops. Losing the roll top was not an issue as the console is on the locked gallery and so the console is far away from fiddling fingers of any visitor.
We also spent a lot of time preparing colour rendered visuals of the console to help Trevor decide on the selection of veneers and choice of drawknob. From the start Trevor knew he wanted to use Kimber Allen stop knobs and the solenoids that allowed a ferrule to provide a contrasting white ring where the solenoid shaft passes through the jamb.
After a number of iterations which included plain black jambs Trevor settled for a much lighter option. The jambs, music desk and piston rails are in a burr oak veneer that provides a lovely warm colour contrast to the much lighter oak of the console main structure. Interestingly for a relatively expensive instrument Trevor chose wood filled Fatar keyboards preferring the feel of these to the more expensive German UHT option we offer.
We enjoyed ourselves a little as well, adding stringing to the key cheeks and a first for us stringing to the expression pedals as well! To listen to this organ being played in Concert by Dr Joseph Nolan please CLICK HERE
Speaker installations and voicing
The plan was to deliver in July but the major alterations to the gallery and removal of the pipe organ were running later than planned. This was one of the rare installations that allowed us to design the ideal speaker installation as the gallery work included the building of this and the installation of a complete pipe façade using the display pipes from the old organ. This was constructed much higher on the West End wall than the pipe organ had ever reached. This had two advantages.
The sound source was much higher in the building so the powerful stops would not seem as loud in the gallery as before, but still have power in the nave. Secondly the sound source for all stops were much further away from the choir so they would no longer be blasted by the organ in a way that was unavoidable when they stood right between the 2 pipe chambers with the swell shutters opening right at head height to their side. The revised gallery layout and speaker locations can be seen on this drawing.
The pipe organ was removed in late summer and part of the agreement with St Joseph’s included the provision of a temporary instrument while the gallery reconstruction was carried out. The instrument was provided by Jeffers Music, an Envoy 350 Deluxe hire and demonstration model.
And so finally in December of 2016 the church was ready for the new organ. With building work continuing on the roof right above the gallery and the paint inside not yet dry we arrived to find the church unusually cold, the heating having been turned off so conditions for the job were a little challenging.
We were joined for this work by David Jeffers our partner retailer from Bandon Co Cork and by about 8 that evening we had all speakers installed and the organ was speaking. The following day Trevor and I carried out some basic voicing as the noise from the roof work made it near impossible to listen in detail. A full voicing session was not possible until well into January when we could be guaranteed a quiet church, this work being carried out by Jeremy.
Organist Trevor however is very technically competent, in his day job he captains flights for Easy Jet. So Trevor also has a full editor suite allowing him to carry out all the voicing that is more usually left to us. I believe that Trevor’s wife did not see him much over the next few weeks. Rumour has it he was spending a lot of time on the gallery with a warm coat, sandwiches and a thermos flask. The sacrifices we make for the love of the organ and its music knows no bounds!
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Regent Classic Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.