Expression and Crescendo pedals with pedalboar...

Image via Wikipedia

An unusual instrument

In previous church jobs and during lessons, I have played modern pipe organs, those with tracker action, and an electronic or two.  The organ at my new church job is entirely different from all of these.

This instrument has tubular-pneumatic action, probably built in the late 1800’s.  What that means to me is a very noticeable delay in the sound.  And the pedals sound late quite a bit.  Part of the reason for the sound delay is the placement of the pipes across the room from the console.  But a large amount of the delay must be attributed to the action as well.

I am happy to be playing an instrument with lighter action than a tracker, though.

16th notes

Last week I practiced a Buxtehude Toccata which includes some 16th-note passages.  The 16ths sounded behind, uneven, sloppy…  the piece may not be possible on this organ.


And then there is the pedal board.  The American Guild of Organists accepted a standard for this country in 1903.  These pedals are not standardized.

The width of the pedals and the placement of the “black keys” is normal, and the slant at the ends is most welcome.  The difference is that from “B” to “C” and “E” to “F,” there is an extra space, as if there should be a “black key.”  (Look at the pic at the top of this post.  See the space between the 2 pedals above the 1st “i” in “Wikipedia?”)

Crescendo pedal

There is also a “crescendo pedal,” which looks more or less like a car  accelerator.  When opened gradually, the sound typically stays the same but becomes louder.  On this instrument, something completely different happens.  Let’s say you start with a flute stop.  Hold down a key, then open the crescendo pedal a little bit at a time.  Every inch or so, an additional stop plays!

Oh, and even with all stops “off,” the entire organ has sound when the crescendo pedal is slightly open.

I have yet to master this.  The changes are sudden.  You could be hearing a flute sound, then an oboe is added, making the total sound 4 times louder.  So using the crescendo pedal for dynamics is not going to work.

With luck, it should be possible to find the pedal level for various registrations each level creates.  We’ll see!

The plan

Here we have a learning experience.  It may be an advantage that I have not played organ for 8  years.  Now I can accustom myself to this instrument and its quirks at the same time, with few expectations of instant ability to play extremely fast, for instance.

Upcoming blog posts

Look for future posts about working with the choir and the congregation!  I love this position!

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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