Sunday, July 5, 2009

The New Organ

July is my month to play organ in church. And man, the organ and I just don't jive together yet. The manual professes it to be the newest, most bestest Allen organ. Except they said it different and used some different descriptions.

So you push the button and it turns on. It goes through its starting up process and menu. Then you can pick which "set" you want to recall. #1 is preset. #11 is mine. There's a dial that lets you select which set. There's a few other buttons that I don't know what they're used for. And there's a transpose button somewhere there.

Then you have your stops. Some of them have secondary sounds on them. There's a bass coupler and a melody coupler. There are also toe pedal stops in addition to the regular pedal stops.

So I'm playing around with my different options and trying some of the regular presets. And my ears start hurting. You know where there's just this.... almost hidden or low sound that just hurts right behind your ear? That's what it was. I couldn't tell if it was a combination of stops or the acoustics of the room (or both). The acoustics, by the way, aren't great.

So I finally decide on some different stops for my songs. Except there was still some problem. The most musical member of the bishopric called it 'reverb'. "The reverb is nice, makes me feel like we're the MoTab, but is there a way to turn it off?" Not to my knowledge! I couldn't figure it out. I don't know if it's the same problem, but to me, the sound lingered on after you stopped playing the note. Which... isn't usual for organs so I don't know how to deal with that.

Jared said it sounded big. Like we should have been in a cathedral instead. Someone else said it had kind of an echo. For me, it hurt my ears and made playing the hymns more difficult because I couldn't figure it out and it's not the way it should work.

Unfotunately, the Stake didn't see fit to have the ward organists attend the demonstration by the people who set up our organ. Luckily, our stake president's wife is one of my ward's organists with me. She talked about how you could make it sound like you were playing a grand march or whatever in a cathedral or you could keep it small or you could do this or that or the other with it. Somehow, I capitalized on the cathedral today. Except I used just normal stops! Ones that I used 7 years ago in Scioto Ward and again a few years later in Athens Branch. Our pipe organ only had 6 options for each keyboard so there wasn't much there.

Meh.... I need help. And more time.


  1. It might help if you join the Allen owners forum. Google Allen organ and click "owners club."

  2. Hmm.. it sounds like this organ has some sort of sound setting that's hard to find. You know, like you can set it to Hall, or Room, or Cathedral. Like a sound system. Annoying. I hate playing an organ when something is broken or not sounding right.

  3. Please don't blame the organ for the fact that you don't know how to operate it. On most Allen organs, you can easily turn the digital reverb off if you don't like it. Look for a switch labeled "Virtual Acoustics" or "Sound Portrait". By all means check into the Allen Organ owners group in Yahoo Groups. We are a friendly bunch.

  4. Do you know how old the organ is, or what the model number is?

  5. 1) I'll take Jim and Valerie over WalterGreenwood.

    2) I'm pretty certain that what I was saying was that I couldn't figure out the organ and that I wasn't being a sulky child blaming the organ for my lack of knowledge.

    3) I'm not stupid. There was no digival reverb button, no virtual acoustics button, no sound portrait button. Although I looked for all of the above plus more. Just about anything that would cause such such (like Valerie mentioned, a sound system type setting).

    4) Our church was just built and I'm pretty certain they put a new organ in. I don't know the model number since it's not in front of me.

  6. Hey babes, don't jump all over Greenwood. He's a fan...of the organ. And doesn't know you. And maybe missed your major frustration, pain, and hormones. Sounds like it could be a good group to check in to. #1 rule. Don't take it personally. Read what's there. Take away what's helpful, and let the rest go. I'm reminding myself that right now as well, because your dad just pissed me off big time.

  7. If he is going to go on a stranger's blog, he should make sure his comments are consistent with what the blogger posted.

    In this case, he should not say anything about me blaming the organ, because I never did. Nor should he disregard my entire post which said I couldn't figure out which setting was the problem nor the part where it's obvious this wasn't the first time I touched an organ.

    There were plenty of other ways he could have stated his willingness to help me without insulting me.

    I really don't know how he could have missed my frustration at not finding the setting I was looking for since that is pretty much what my entire post was about.

    It's good advice and maybe if I read his comments 10 minutes later than I did, I wouldn't be so upset and bothered by his way of communication. But then again, he would have more credibility with me if he didn't start by blantently stating something that was never said.

  8. Ouch. I was just trying to help. I didn't mean to offend you, and I certainly didn't call anyone stupid. I am sorry if you took it that way. One of the respondents said "I hate playing an organ when something is broken or not sounding right." This, to me, sounds like blaming the organ when, in fact, the organ is behaving just fine. My first sentence was in response to that comment.

    Many organists who are used to large reverberant spaces like the reverb turned on and all the way up. However, some people find that effect unappealing, or even painful. I suspect that yours is set to the "Large Cathedral" setting, which emulates the acoustics of a huge stone space like St. Sulpice or Notre Dame. If I can help you figure out how to adjust it more to your liking, perhaps you will find yourself able to forgive me for my clumsy language.

    As for my credibility, let me introduce myself. I performed in the Salt Lake and Ogden Tabernacles and Pittsburgh's Carnegie Hall when I was 14 (pictures on my Facebook page), and was an engineer for the Allen Organ Company in the 1980s. I have been playing professionally on Allen Organs and pipe organs for most of the past 40 years. I am not familiar with any of Allen's current LDS organs, but if you can ascertain the model number of your instrument, I know people who can answer your questions.

  9. Hi WalterGreenwood

    Such a very nice, diplomatic answer!

    I'll have to check out your organ info. Anywhere other than facebook? I'm the pokey puppy in our family and haven't ventured there yet.

    Val, BTW, is Suki's older sister. She has had experience on organs not working well because they were actually broken. Our branch building organ (which she no longer has to deal with) has......character.


  10. Bukes. I was going to comment on your comment, but I think I'll keep that for a private communication. Or you could just put my voice into your head and let it rip. I bet you could come close all by yourself. Remember those little hormones are flying. You are not sounding your usual sweet (ick. I used the word) self.

  11. I'm tired, crabby, frustrated, and pregnant. And right now ready to cry (check that, am crying) for absolutely no reason. OF COURSE, I'm not my usual self. I'm a very testy version of myself.

    WalterGreenwood, thank you for responding--and in particular the introduction--and clearing up the matter. Right now I'll take you over my mother... :)

    I don't think I'll be able to get back to the organ until Sunday. I don't have access into the building and hitting an evening where the building's open is quite unreliable in the summer months. I will let you know what I find though.

    Now I'm wondering if last months organist had the same trouble. I don't remember hearing anything except for thinking that she had it really really quiet.

  12. That smile meant I love ya, Mom!

  13. Back at ya babe.

    I told dad you would know exactly who was talking to you. He's always worried, when I don't make it clear, that somehow all ya'all will think he became articulate. :-)

    Oh, and I just noticed that right now I'm Kimmi. I bet I fooled you, huh.

  14. Y'all type different (which I've discussed with Dad, I believe) so not usually any confusion.

  15. Mom said that I should check back on this blog post as I have missed all of the excitement :) I would take a real pipe organ over a digital one any day. I hardly had any problems in Galbreath Chapel and all sorts of problems in Athens and in Scioto.

  16. Whoa! Is mom on facebook, too?

  17. Nope.

    "Anywhere other than facebook? I'm the pokey puppy in our family and haven't ventured there yet." -Mom

  18. Facebook is teh bad. Scary-making.

    RYN: So I tried to call you to get an email so I could send yurt and niece pictures, but the number Val gave me no workie.