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Friday, December 13. 2013
I encountered something I had never seen before, at a Christmas party last Saturday night - a home pipe organ.
Our host's two-manual organ console was built into the wall of their roughly 24X24' foyer, with the array of pipes located under the curved staircase on the other side of the foyer. The organ had been installed when the gracious but unpretentious home was built, 1926.
I had not known that pipe organs had been a hot item for prosperous home entertainment. But if funeral parlors had them, why not? The organ in question had a player feature, and our host had boxes of player rolls for it.
Naturally, they had hired an organist to play Christmas carols with all joining in and filling the east and west hallways with merriment, projecting the words on the walls for those with dementia. This organ was manufactured by Skinner Organ Co., Boston.
This good fun prompted me to learn a little more about pipe organs. Until the invention of the telephone switchoard, the pipe organ was the most complex manufactured product. Here's a wiki history of the pipe organ. Like most things, it goes back to the Greeks, who cleverly aligned pipes with a hydraulic bellows.
Electricity made it possible to distance the pipes and their complex inner workings from the console, and to provide a steady supply of wind (fans) for the pipes without people pumping on the bellows in a closet
To my delight, I found a home pipe organ for sale on the internet. Even if I could afford it, I doubt I could afford to have it installed. Also, I can't play a keyboard worth a darn. It is called "lack of talent," and lacks of talents suck if I may say so. I know: I lack many of them
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The James J. Hill House in St. Paul has a 2-manual organ as well in the Art Gallery. Per Wiki, built by George Hutchings and Co. of Boston. They have regular concerts and will let you play it during tours if you have the knack.
I greatly enjoy pipe organ music. Prolly because it tends to be Baroque music.
I REALLY like video of a pipe organ being played. As an amateur musician, I'm awestruck by organists: five keyboards plus foot pedals, and as many as a jillion stops that act how, exactly? I believe that an early Albert Einstein created the first pipe organ, and no simple human has ever learned how to manage the beast.
Interesting, B.D. E. Power Biggs was a giant!
Here's one of the organ forums; scroll down to the Pipe Organ section:
And here's a guy who does have some talent with these instruments, playing the Mormon Tabernacle organ (2:02): http://youtu.be/m_HdrywerGE
One more (Good King Wenceslas): http://youtu.be/U8EYtirfF4I
Finally, the beast (console Hammond, many models, usually all called B-3!) Barbara Dennerlein channeling Charlie Parker: http://youtu.be/Xh1oekmUZTM She gets over to the States once in a while.
For more on the Hammond, Google/Yootoob Jimmy Smith, Tony Monaco, Groove Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, Winston Walls, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, Rhoda Scott, Billy Preston . . .
Here in New Haven, CT, we're fortunate to have a few nice organs. One of the nicest is the Newberry organ in Woolsey Hall at Yale U. You see a few of the larger pipes in the hall, but most of them are behind walls and in the basement: http://www.yale.edu/ism/events/NewberryGiving.html Mr. Skinner rebuilt this organ in 1927, BTW.
Barbara Dennerlein was kicking out the jams...that was sick.
Yeah; that's not actually a B3, but obviously meant to emulate it. The first B3's came out in the 1930's IIRC and they were pretty hefty & hard to move around. Plus they came with a giant "Leslie" rotating speaker in a separate cabinet that sounded awesome but, again, cumbersome.
There used to be a used music instrument and gear shop in Atlanta that had a 1950's B3 as a seemingly permanent feature; I got to fool around with it & loved toying with the stops & settings. The thing was packed with good old fashioned tubes for power, amplification, etc.
Incidentally, I think Jimi Hendrix used the Leslie speaker from a B3 set up in studio as a guitar amp / effect.
She is something else - she can make that B3 sing. Those old drawbar organs are getting rare too - in particular with the Leslie combination. What is interesting is that she was heavily influenced by Charlie "Bird" Parker. You can tell from the phrasing and choice of register as she played.
Great stuff - love it.
I've never seen on in a house, but our church back in CT (Pomfret) has one of these small pipe organs that was just rebuilt. Wonderful sound.
The movie "Female" has sets in a house with an organ about half-way up the wall, likely 15-20' up--with no obvious way for the organist to get up there. I was just amazed to see that. Talk about your special "sound system"!
Supposed to be set in Detroit, but the house (exterior shots) is a Frank Lloyd Wright, and I believe it's in L.A.
I have to hand it to you Birddog, you have very interesting friends.
I wish I could play the organ (or piano, for that matter). How cool would it be to have your own pipe organ - and even cooler to be able to afford to maintain it!
Should we have a fight over who was better - E. Power Biggs or Virgil Fox??? Na, I didn't think so. :-)
A college buddy of mine retired (I am SO jealous!) near Birmingham, Alabama and volunteers to help maintain the Mighty Wurlitzer in the Alabama Theater. He gave Mrs. Mudbug and me a tour though the bowels of it. It was fascinating and easily takes up more room than I have in my house. It also sounds great. We saw a German silent movie while the organist played - just like in the old days. He was amazing. He played for the entire movie and didn't have more than a page or two of music!
Saint-Saëns Symphony num 3
Camille Saint-Saëns Symphony Num. 3 ("Organ")
My all time favorite. Fell in love with this about 45 years ago. This music accompanies the 180 degree movie tour of France at the French pavilion in at Epcot in Orlando. I try to get there every few months just for this.
Another movement of the same work with more organ.
We built a pipe organ in high school for a wealthy physics/music teacher, which wound up in his living room.
Tracker organs are nicer (the question is whether the valves open mechanically or electrically), eg. Flentrop organs, since you can voice them as you play.
Two home reed organs wound up in garbage collections (unless somebody decided to save them, which often happens with trash put out) recently.
Um.....not to gain say you, but no.
Don Leslie invented the Leslie Rotating speaker in 1941. While it is closely associated with the Hammond B3, they were not sold as a unit - they were sold separately. Originally, the Leslie wasn't all that popular up until the late '50's - early '60s when Jimmy Smith used the sound and rock 'n roll was never the same.
There were (still are I think) two series versions of the Leslie Vibratone speaker - the 30A which is the size of a refrigerator and the 21 series for smaller venues.
With regard to it being a B3 - it most definitely is a B3 - it maybe a redesigned cabinet, but that is a B3 - look on the left side of the keyboard to the presets - its a B3.
Hah! Small refrigerator, indeed! The 21H was favored by many early jazz players, and that series led to the 122 which became a mainstay for many years.
Here's a FAQ with a guide to the different Hammond and Leslie models.
These are now made by Hammond-Suzuki, and although the instruments no longer have the tonewheel generator, the newer ones sound remarkably good. The newer models won't be in the FAQ; for that you need to go to the manufacturer's site.
BTW, Barbara Dennerlein plays a chopped (Taken out of the original case to make it more roadworthy and transportable) A-100 or B-3 or C-3, which has been modified with MIDI contacts on each note so she can control pianos, synths, etc. Her bass pedal sounds are sampled, not the normal Hammond sounds.
There are many fine players in the States and England, but don't ignore Asia or eastern Europe for classical, blues or jazz. The is the Blue Rabbit band from Budapest:
Mat pieced his instrument together from several organs, and upgraded all the electrical components himself. Plus he and his band can flat-out play.
Would that be Boomeria?
You can spend hours at this site -- very deep and fun.
My high school physics teacher built one in school, or actually we kids built it.
This mosty involved soldering the wires from keyboard to jack and jack to pipe valves.
A tracker organ would have been nicer since you can voice the attack.
I have the record of Virgil Fox playing Komm' Susser Tod (Come sweet death) by J. S. Bach on the Wanamaker organ. It is a stunning performance.