First Lutheran’s Organ

First Lutheran Church's Chancel Organ

First Lutheran Church's Chancel Organ

I love pipe organs.  They’re really cool from a physics / technology standpoint and they sound exceedingly impressive, even when played poorly.  I am not an organist.  I can play next to nothing on keyboard instruments.  I know some music theory but not a lot.  I just love pipe organs.  So I’m doing a post on my favorite pipe organ ever:  The 1951-53-56 M.P. Möller Opus 10101 two-manual 18-rank organ at First Lutheran Church in West Allis, WI.

The Gedeckt 4 and Octavin 2 ranks of the Chancel Organ

The Gedeckt 8, Gedeckt 4, and Octavin 2 ranks of the Chancel Organ

The pipes in the back with black bands near the tops are the Gedeckt 8 rank.  The smaller, lighter-colored pipes in the lower left of the windchest are the Octavin 2 rank.  The short pipes with black bands near the tops in the lower right are the Gedeckt 4 rank.

The Spitz Prinzipal 4 rank with 2' extension

The Spitz Prinzipal 4 rank with 2' extension

The 2′ extension cannot be selected by itself; it is part of the Spitz Prinzipal 4 stop.

First Lutheran Church's Chancel Organ

First Lutheran Church's Chancel Organ

The Wind Channel for the Choir Organ

The Wind Channel for the Choir Organ

The blower motor for the Chancel Organ is directly under the windchest for the Sptiz Prinzipal 4 rank.  The blower motors for the Choir Organ are in the basement of the church.  The wind travels vertically up this channel in the narthex and into the swell box in the choir loft.

The Swell Box of the Choir Organ

The Swell Box of the Choir Organ

All of the ranks of the Choir Organ are contained in the swell box.  There are separate windchests for the Pedal, Great, and Swell divisions.  The louvers are controlled by a balanced swell pedal and a crescendo pedal on the console.  Yes, one of the louvers is broken and doesn’t move.  It is on the list to get fixed.  You can see a few pipes in there but the brass objects in the lower left view are the chimes.

The Organ Console

The Organ Console

Even if the actual mechanics and acoustics of an M.P. Möller organ aren’t reusable, the consoles are very hot resale items, especially smaller ones like this one.  The console is fully electronic but the windchest action is electropneumatic.

The Pedals

The Pedals

Part of what makes an organ so versatile and rich-sounding is the ability to use feet as well as hands to play notes.  This also makes it a pain in the ass for piano players to learn organ.  The three controls above the pedalboard are the balanced swell pedal (left), crescendo pedal (center), and Great to Pedal coupler (right).  The white button under the keyboard in the top of the frame is yet another Great to Pedal coupler, this time in piston form.

The Manuals

The Manuals

The lower keyboard is the Great manual.  The upper is the Swell manual.  The white buttons are the whole-organ combination pistons.  These buttons allow the organist to program certain registrations (combinations of stops) for quick and easy access during a performance.  They’re operated with the thumb of the hand playing the Swell manual.

The dial on the far left (above the tape dispenser) is the chime bank selector, which allows the organist to choose which bank of chimes will sound when the Chimes stop is selected.  To the right of the chimes selector is the stop tablet bar.  It has five groupings of vertical tilting stop tablets.  These work opposite a lightswitch:  up is off, down is on.  They allow the organist to select which pipes will sound when a given key is pressed.

Air Pump Controls

Air Pump Controls

The white “OFF” button is part of the louver controls that allow the organist to control the choir loft and nave louvers independently with the balanced swell pedal and crescendo pedal.  The two rotary switches with the old-fashioned red panic lights above them are the air pump controls.  The left switch controls the two blower motors that feed air to the Choir Organ.  The right switch controls the single motor that feeds air to the Chancel Organ.  They work just like a car ignition switch:  They must be turned to the “Start” position and held there for a second or so in order to start the motor.  This is because the blower motors are ~7.5 HP three-phase AC synchronous motors with squirrel-cage windings.  In “start” mode, in addition to the three-phase current fed to the primary coil, single-phase current is fed to the induction coil which induces a large standing magnetic field.  The switch can be released once the shaft has begun turning since the rotating phased field will sustain the motor.

Stoplist

Pedal

  • BOURDON 16
  • GEIGEN PRINZIPAL 8
  • ROHRFLÖTE 8 (Borrowed from Swell)
  • GEIGEN OCTAVE 4
  • DOUBLE TRUMPET 16
  • TROMPETTE 4 (Extension of Swell)
  • GREAT TO PEDAL
  • SWELL TO PEDAL
  • CHANCEL TO PEDAL

Swell

  • ROHRFLÖTE 8
  • GEMSHORN 8
  • NACHTHORN 4
  • FLAUTINO 2
  • LARIGOT 1 1/3
  • TROMPETTE 8
  • TRICHTER REGAL 4
  • SWELL UNISON OFF
  • CHANCEL TO SWELL
  • SWELL 16
  • SWELL 4

Great

  • PRINCIPAL 8
  • ROHRFLÖTE 8 (Borrowed from Swell)
  • GEMSHORN 8 (Borrowed from Swell)
  • OCTAVE 4
  • MIXTURE III
  • TREMOLO
  • CHIMES
  • SWELL TO GREAT
  • CHANCEL TO GREAT
  • GREAT 4
  • SWELL TO GREAT 16
  • SWELL TO GREAT 4

Chancel

  • GEDECKT 8
  • SPITZ PRINZIPAL 4
  • GEDECKT 4
  • OCTAVIN 2
  • CHANCEL ORGAN OFF

When I took the pictures, the registration was set from the last time the organist played.  Almost the whole organ was speaking in this setup:

16′ Bourdon, 8′ Geigen Prinzipal, 4′ Geigen Octave, 16′ Double Trumpet, 8′ Rohrflöte, 8′ Gemshorn, 4′ Nachthorn, 2′ Flautino, 8′ Trompette, 8′ Principal, 4′ Octave, 8′ Gedeckt, 4′ Spitz Prinzipal, 4′ Gedeckt, and 2′ Octavin.  The couplers were thus:  Chancel to Great, Swell to Great 4 (meaning the 8′ keys on the Swell manual would also play the 4′ notes on the Great manual), Swell to Great, Swell to Pedal, Great to Pedal.

I do have to say that I LOVE the sound of the 16′ Double Trumpets!  They sound like they speak at 32′ because of how resonant they are.

BTW, the 4′ Trichter Regal rank is the most expensive to maintain.

Regal pipe

Regal pipe

It is a very expressive and powerful stop at 4′.  Interestingly, the only examples of this shape at 4′ are on M.P. Möller organs, and could be found as late as 1990.  The vast majority of Trichterregal ranks are 8′.  All are on German-style organs.

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  1. #1 by Joshua on July 10, 2010 - 8:54 AM

    Of note is the Larigot, a 1 1/3′ mutation flute. This rank is native to French organs and almost never found on German-style organs and even rarer still to be found in the Swell division: On a French organ, it’s a Grand Orgue stop.

  2. #2 by Joshua on July 10, 2010 - 8:57 AM

    To clarify, the Double Trumpet 16 sounds two pipes for each note – one tuned to a 3rd semitone of the natural frequency. This gives it a deep resonance that mimics a much lower-speaking pipe.

  3. #3 by Joshua on September 7, 2010 - 4:42 PM

    It was pointed out to me that in fact, the 4′ pipes I had labeled as the Gedeckt 4 are in fact the Gedeckt 8. The Gedeckt is a stopped flue and therefore the pipes are physically half as long as the equivalent note on an open flue. Hence, a 4′ Gedeckt pipe speaks at a pitch equivalent to an 8′ principal pipe. So the tall black-banded pipes are the Gedeckt 8 and the short black-banded pipes are the Gedeckt 4. The other short pipes are the Octavin 2.

  4. #4 by Joshua on September 7, 2010 - 4:47 PM

    The Organ Historian informed me that the organ itself has an Opus number of 10101 (1953), despite the console having a tag of 1956. The chimes (four banks) are not native to the organ. They are, in fact, from a theater organ maker that’s now defunct.

    • #5 by Joshua on November 9, 2010 - 10:54 AM

      To clarify, the chime controls are of Fabry make, the chime actuators are from said theater organ maker, and the chime tubes themselves are Deagans.

    • #6 by Joshua on November 9, 2010 - 10:57 AM

      There are four ranks, each spanning one octave. Only one rank of chimes may be played at a time and (barring couplers) only on the Great manual at the unison range for an 8′ principal.

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