The organ is divided into several divisions:
The Great Organ
The Great Organ is the primary manual division, containing lots of foundation stops, and is the division primarily heard during hymns. Most of the pipes visible on the left side of the chancel are from this division; some are also from the Pedal Organ. At present there are nine speaking stops on the Great, controlling 13 ranks of pipes, including the Trompette en Chamade, which is the horizontal rank of pipes above the right side of the chancel. We digitally addied a large Flute stop, as well as Chimes and a Zimbelstern (literally, bell-star) to the Great. The Zimbelstern will most often be heard around Christmas, where it adds a delightful tinkle to Baroque organ works. Two stops from the Pedal organ are now playable on the Great, and, to get real techie, the en Chamade plays at three octaves: 16’, 8’, and 4’. The Great, therefore, grew from the present 10 stop knobs to a new total of 21, plus three blanks for future additions.
The organ also became MIDI capable, which means that, with the addition of a sound module, literally hundreds of new and different sounds will be available to the organist. As church music continues to change and evolve, this will enable Calvary’s future musicians to keep up with current trends. The organ is one of the few musical instruments that have proven capable of evolving, for well over 1,000 years. Most other instruments have either changed or become extinct.
The Swell Organ
The Swell Organ division is located on the left side of the chancel, in a louvered box behind the visible Great pipes, and is played from the third manual (counting up from the bottom.) The vertical louvers open and close, controlled by the organist using a foot pedal, to provide dynamics to the pipes contained in the box. This is the only method an organist has of controlling the volume of a given stop. The name of the division comes from the fact that the sound can “swell,” or get louder. The former organ had two divisions “under expression;” the new console controls three.
The Swell is the primary “color” division of the organ, used to accompany choral and solo singing, and to add richness and weight to the sound. There are several reed stops: two trumpets (brass in the orchestra, reeds on the organ) and a bassoon, which on the organ is actually imitative of an oboe. Formerly there were two ranks of strings, another example of imitative stops. With the new console we added a second, larger set. String stops are most commonly used in Romantic and Contemporary music. Organists usually refer to them as the “slush” stops, with great fondness!
Formerly, there were 12 ranks of pipes on the Swell, controlled by 16 stop knobs. The new console added extensions to three of these ranks, extending them an octave lower for more sonority and versatility. We also added three digital ranks, the strings and a soft reed stop, all of which increase versatility for service playing and choral accompanying. The Swell grew grow from 16 stop knobs to 21.
The Choir and The Positiv
This article covers the controls on the lowest, or first, manual of the console. On our organ, this comprises two divisions, the Choir and the Positiv. These divisions are both located above the right side of the chancel. The Positiv is an exposed division, visible in the front of the chamber. The smallest, therefore highest pitched, pipes in the organ are contained in the Positiv. This division is imitative of an organ of the Baroque period. At least, in the 1960s this is what they thought a Baroque organ sounded like. Thoughts have greatly changed since then.
It is extremely bright sounding, even to the point of shrillness at times. The pipes speak with a pronounced consonant, known as a “chiff.” This gives a certain clarity to the speech, much as consonants do in human speech. In the original specs of this organ, the Positiv was called a “floating” division, which meant that the organist would have had to operate a tab stop to assign the Positiv to a specific manual whenever it was to be used. Fortunately, the builders decided to give it a home, making it a bit easier to find!
Behind the Positiv is the Choir division, which, like the Swell division on the other side of the chancel, is under expression (behind shutters.) In England, the Choir is sometimes called the “Chair,” since it used to sit on the rail of the rear gallery, somewhat like a chair. The softest stops on the organ are here, including a “flute celeste” which can be closed down to become almost inaudible. In the funny little world of organists, stops like these are known as “Communion stops,” for obvious reasons. Some of the most colorful stops on the organ are also in this division, all of them rather quiet. On the old console, these combined divisions consisted of 17 ranks of pipes, controlled by 22 stop knobs. We added a pair of string stops to the Choir, as well as a harp and celesta (!), all digital stops. These new divisions now consist of 33 stop knobs.
The Pedal and The Solo Division
Many people are surprised when they realize that an organ console has a set of pedals down at the bottom, but didn’t realize that it actually is a 2 1/2 –octave keyboard. What we now call “full pedalboards” became popular in the Germanic countries in the 17th and 18th centuries. They have become standardized at 32 notes, and on most modern organs consist of their own large selection of stops, many of which are “borrowed” from some of the manual stops, and some of which extend certain manual stops downward an octave or two to provide a bass line for the music.
The pedal division consisted of 18 stops controlling 3 specific pipe ranks and 3 electronic ranks. The rest of the stops are borrowed and extended from the manuals. The new console has 32 stops, which include 4 32’ stops and many more borrowings (even including chimes), for much more versatility. The 32’ stops are the lowest stops commonly found on an organ, although there are a very few 64’ stops in the world. The nomenclature refers to the fact that the lowest pipe of a 32’ stop is approximately 32 feet long. We simply don’t have enough height in the chambers for pipes that long, so it is much cheaper and virtually as realistic to reproduce them electronically.
The totally new division on the organ is completely digital electronic, consisting of 26 stops. This division is called the “Solo,” and as its name implies, provides stops that are suitable for soloing out a line of music.The most prominent solo stop is the Trumpet en chamade, those horizontal pipes in the right-hand chamber given several years ago in memory of Howard Vogel. This rank is playable from the Solo manual, (Manual IV) and also plays from the pedal and the other three manuals. Other solo stops are a large flute, a set of strings, French horn, English horn, and a Fanfare Trumpet. There also is a harp, chimes and a celesta, also playable from one or more of the other manuals. Like the Swell and Choir, this division is under expression, although done electronically rather than being placed behind shutters.