I have always been interested in the organ. I always dreamed of acquiring a real pipe organ, but I never found one that was suitable. In truth, pipe organs do not sound good in small rooms with dead acoustics, and so I resigned myself to getting an electronic organ. I became interested in digital sound technology, and many years ago now, I developed a system to use Soundfonts and Soundblaster soundcards to create a fairly realistic classical pipe organ on a Windows computer. But much better technology came along in the form of the commercial program Hauptwerk and its open-
After owning several organs, including a Yamaha Electone and two Schober Recital kit organs, I was very lucky to find a wonderful console desperately in need of a good home. I paid only $500 for it, including delivery! (Which was probably worth another $500.) It was originally installed in St. Paul’s Catholic Cathedral in San Diego as a temporary console. It seems to be a mixture of Klann and Moller components.
The organ runs on the grandorgue open-
This is the organ. (I will find a better picture.) It has eighty drawknobs, three manuals, and a 32-
It has a complete digital combination action, and a fully programmable crescendo pedal, implemented in Grandorgue. It did have a very limited and clumsy setterboard combination action, but I removed it and substituted the digital system.
I play the organ through Sony MDR-
I am currently refinishing the oak woodwork. Some of it is solid wood, some veneered plywood, but it is very solid and incredibly heavy!
I purchased the organ from Bob Knight, an organ technician in San Diego. He desperately wanted to get rid of it, but did not want to see it junked. His asking price was $1500, but to my surprise he accepted my starting offer of $500. He even delivered it for no extra cost!
The organ, which dates from the sixties and seventies, came with a Conn 904 tone generator, which had been re-
I spent a long time getting the 904 electronics to work, but I was not satisfied with the results. Apparently these organs were very expensive, but were full of compromises. I gave the box to a friend of mine, but I don’t think he ever did anything with it.
The keying voltage was a terrifying 65 volts, which created quite a big spark from the magnet coils. The contacts in the console were badly burned but I cleaned them all up. The whole thing used masses of current, and I swear my house lights dimmed when I turned it on! I didn’t keep this beast for long, and progressed to MIDI and computer technology.
The console that replaced the original Conn, and is the one that I bought, is an interesting affair. It was apparently installed in St. Paul’s Catholic Cathedral in San Diego, while a new console was being built for their Moller (or Skinner?) organ. This was confirmed by the music director of the Cathedral, and the stoplist coincides.
The keydesk and stop jambs match, but do not exactly match the main console. However it fits together fine, and you wouldn’t know there is anything amiss from the outside. The internal wiring varies in quality from the immaculate work of the original, to some positively dreadful work done by whoever hooked it up to the Conn box, and then there is my work, which is quite reasonable.
It is reminiscent of a tracker organ, with couplers on white-
There are eighty drawknobs, including the couplers. There are six general pistons, and four divisionals for each of the three manuals, floating Echo, and pedal. Also setter (formerly Sforz) and General Cancel pistons. Generals, Gt-
Using one of the spare SAMs, I have implemented an “organ ready” indicator that signals (visually and audibly) that the organ software is loaded and ready to play. Also there is a crescendo indicator that lights when the crescendo pedal is active. Through the grandorgue software there are infinite combinations available, and also many extra couplers including Bass and Melody couplers. I have just acquired a vintage (1927) Moller Crescendo Pedal Position Indicator that I plan to install.
The Electronics and Computer
The organ uses a Devtronix MIDI encoder for the keys and stops, and DST MIDI driver boards for the SAMs. An Edirol UA-
I listen to the organ on Sony MDR-
I have quite a few sample sets, mostly free from Grandorgue. I have an Andreas Silbermann set from Joseph Basquin (my favorite) and the St George’s Casavant set from Ken Bales. I also have a Barton Theater Organ, and a Blanchet Harpsichord. It is not overly difficult to create ODF’s (Organ Definition Files) in Grandorgue to make any kind of organ you like. I have made an ODF that represents the console exactly, for development and maintenance use.
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