Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wanamaker Organ Day 2017 (Also, I'm Back!)

Hey everyone! I know it's been about a year and a half since I've posted anything, and I'm sorry. School, hunting for internships, and all other parts of life have taken away my energy and time, and I have plenty of old content I have not posted yet. This summer I'm working on catching up on posts I've been meaning to make since the blog has been inactive, and I figured I would start out with the most exciting news first.

This past June, I took a week-long trip to Philadelphia, where I had the opportunity to hear some of the largest and greatest organs in the world. Of course, there are some very notable instruments that I was not able to hear, but that always leaves me with the excuse to go back to the city, right?

While I was in Philly, I took advantage not only of the organs in Philadelphia proper, but also of a couple of instruments outside the city, namely at Longwood Gardens, and the world's largest pipe organ (by number of pipes), the famous Midmer-Losh organ in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. I'll talk about these in a separate post. For now, I'll just concentrate on one organ in particular.

This organ is, of course, the world famous Wanamaker Organ, the world's largest fully functioning pipe organ. It is also the world's largest pipe organ by number of ranks, while the organ in Atlantic City is the largest by number of pipes. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit on Wanamaker Organ Day 2017, and enjoy all the associated concerts and festivities. The only thing I missed were the chamber tours that morning, since my flight was delayed about two hours, and I barely made it to the first concert at 11am.

The Wanamaker Organ can produce a richness of sound that is unrivaled by other instruments. Where else can you find a 7-stop Vox Humana Chorus or a string division that has not only string mutations, but CELESTES of the mutation stops, and many stops that have both a sharp and a flat celeste? The effects you can get from this instrument are absolutely breathtaking. I think they would be the most breathtaking from the 2nd or 3rd floor of the Grand Court, as the sound is much more direct. Sitting on the ground where we did for the concerts, you don't really get quite the directness or clarity of the sound that you could if you were sitting more directly in front of the pipework. It is, however, still thoroughly amazing.

Here's the view of the main facade from where I was sitting for the Grand Evening Concert. You can see that I am indeed quite far below the pipework, as the lowest speaking pipework is behind the first level of the golden facade.

I also noticed a couple of things about the architecture. First of all, the floor just in front of the organ (which is where visiting choirs perform) is not finished. I imagine this is probably a cost consideration, but it seemed a bit odd to me, as everything else in the entire room is exquisitely appointed. Second, there is a winged, golden angel at the top center of the facade, who is playing two trumpets. It reminded me a bit of the Angel Moroni often found atop LDS Temples, which I thought was pretty cool. If the angel is a Woman, I honestly couldn't tell, the shiny gold made it difficult to make out the details of the figure. Both of these (floor and angel) are shown in photos below:

There were many pieces played over the course of the day, everything from our National Anthem, to Handel, to Franck, to Sousa, to the classic song "Tea for Two". Nothing else--save perhaps the Midmer-Losh, once its restoration is finished--is closer to a one-man orchestra than this organ, it is simply stunning. My favorite piece played the entire day was Dr. Steven Ball's arrangement of Debussy's "La Cathedrale Engloutie" ("The Sunken Cathedral" in English), which he played during the Grand Evening Concert. He used the organ's sustain function to great effect, and his transcription was most artful. Dr. Ball was probably my favorite performer of the day, and that's saying something when you're joined at the console by such accomplished musicians as Peter Richard Conte and Todd Wilson, whose performances were also outstanding. By the end of the day I was so tired, having been awake for over 24 hours, but it was well worth it.

I took a few more photos, but they're basically just the same images you'll see anywhere else on the Internet, except worse, because they were taken with a temperamental smartphone camera rather than professional equipment. So, here are a couple of selfies, with the facade and console of the Wanamaker. The image with the facade behind me was taken at the console. It is on the 2nd floor protected by an ornate wooden fence, which they had open for the special occasion, so anyone, such as a twenty-something from Utah, could come and take a closer look.

Here are my selfies:

I will also add that I attended the best silent movie I have ever attended, Harold Lloyd's Safety Last, accompanied by the aforementioned Dr. Ball on the Wurlitzer in the Greek Hall in the Wanamaker building. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time! I encourage you, if you ever have the chance to attend a silent movie with organ accompaniment, DO IT! It's so much fun!

Here are a couple of photos of Greek Hall and its organ. I believe this is an 8- or 9-rank organ (don't quote me on that!), and the pipework is behind the movie screen on the right. There was originally an organ at the opposite end of the room, and there were other themed halls in the building (e.g. Egyptian) that had their own organs. I'm not sure what has become of the amazing rooms, but the organs are long gone. The organ in the photos is an original Wurlitzer that was moved from its original installation.

Anyway, how's that for an update? I hope it was worth the wait! I'll make a couple more posts about my trip over the next few weeks, then a few more from things I've done before that. Thanks for your patience with my delays, and have a fantastic day!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Some Fun Recordings!

Hey Guys!

I just wanted to share a couple of cool recordings with you. The first is probably the most entertaining organ solo you'll ever encounter, performed by Richard Elliott at the LDS Conference Center for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's 2014 Christmas Concert. He plays "The Twelve Days of Christmas," using a different piece mixed with the main melody of the song to theme each "day" in the song. He is accompanied by Count Von Count of the Sesame Street Muppets, who helps Elliott count the days and offers his own comedic twist on the piece. This one is fun no matter who you are!

The other is just a recording, not a video, but this is a piece I'm newly obsessed with. I've been working on it for a couple weeks, and it's pretty difficult, but, surprisingly, not as difficult to learn as I thought it would be. The piece is Paul Manz's setting of "God of Grace and God of Glory" to the tune CWM RHONDDA, which we know in the LDS church as "Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah." The piece mixes the hymn tune played on a Tuba or Trompette En Chamade with Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" from "Messiah" played on a principal chorus, ending at full organ. Here's a recording of Richard Elliott playing it. (By the way, this came off of a CD which I got for Christmas, and I highly recommend it! Someone else posted the video though.) Enjoy!

Enjoy guys! Have a wonderful holiday weekend and stay joyful!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Holiday Greetings - And More Organ Visits!

I say Holiday because I refer to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year! I hope you have all had a wonderful holiday season.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I would like to thank all of you who are reading my writing and looking at my photos. I have received many nice messages through the contact form, and I assure you, I do read all of them, but it sometimes takes me a little while to respond. I assure you, I will be responding to your messages soon. Thank you for your kind words, input, and support!

I recently had the opportunity to visit a couple of wonderful little organs. One in American Fork, UT (thanks to my good friend Bryce for getting me in!) and another in Kaysville, UT, where a friend of mine was speaking for his missionary farewell. (For those not familiar with this term, young single LDS adults often serve a mission for 18 months or two years. It is tradition that before leaving to his or her assigned area, the missionary will deliver a speech in the main church meeting the Sunday before. This is the "missionary farewell.")

Let's start with the organ in American Fork. This organ was built by the Schantz Organ Company in 1993. This organ is a slightly modified version of the same model of organ that is installed in the Oak Hills Stake Center and the Grove Creek Stake Center, respectively, but with a different facade design, and in an older building. Here's a photo of the facade:

In playing and listening, Bryce and I determined that most of the facade belongs to the bottom octave of the 8' Principal, but we didn't take the time to figure out to which stop the remaining pipes belong, if any. This is probably my favorite design of the three Schantz organs I've seen and played. It's just so majestic, as you can see in the wider view in this selfie:

The thing that makes this organ different from the other two is that this one has a stop that is prepared for. The stop is not actually installed, but the stop tab, wiring, and possibly the wind chest are in place to enable easy installation of the stop, in this case, a 16' Contre Trompette. Knowing how much I love Schantz organs and especially their consoles (see the two posts linked above if you want me to wax lyrical about it), and I was thrilled to find that we have another beautiful instrument of this type in Utah Valley. This one is also unique because it's in an older building. The LDS Church uses standardized floor plans for its buildings, and these plans have changed over time. This particular plan was used in the 1960s-1970s, and I have had great luck finding beautiful organs in buildings of this plan, including the Cascade 1st and 2nd Wards, the Provo Stake, and even the famed Provo Central Stake.

I'll finish with a photo of this nice carving of an oak leaf on the side of the console:

The organ is very well-voiced and well cared-for, it is clear the stake loves it. As far as I understand, Dr. Parley Belnap, one of the more prolific organists in the LDS church and a former BYU organ professor, was very involved in the installation of this organ. I imagine he was quite satisfied with it. It is a pleasure to play, and fills the room very well. 

Next is the organ of the Kaysville Utah East Stake. It's not marked with a builder, but I can tell by the design of the pedals (and through the Organ Historical Society's database) that is was made by the Reuter company. I only got to play it for a few minutes after the sacrament meeting, but I quite like the facade on it:

The building is of a very unique design, and confusing if you've never been there before. The back of the chapel has a solid wall, rather than the more common curtain in LDS chapels, even though the gymnasium is adjacent to the chapel. The facade is also interesting because the 4' Koppel Flute is included in the facade on the right side. 

The interesting thing is that my friend who I went to visit plays a little, and has been up inside this organ many times. He even said he tunes some of the pipes upon occasion, when the organ needs it. The trompette, apparently, goes out of tune quite often, which does not surprise me in the least. The organ chamber is accessed through a door visible near the right of the photo. The tuner must climb beneath the rostrum, after which he will find himself inside the steeple of the building, which has a ladder inside it leading up to the chamber. I imagine it is a bit of a hassle to tune, and that's probably part of why this building plan doesn't exist anywhere else (at least to my knowledge).

Well, that's it for now. I start classes again at BYU on Monday, so I imagine I probably won't be posting too much for a while. I had the chance a couple of months ago to play for a stake conference and a special fireside with Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder L. Whitney Clayton as speakers, and these were both played in large public spaces in Provo, where conferences are often held. I plan on posting some tips to play effectively in these locations, though both utilize digital organs.

Happy New Year, and have a wonderful day!

LDS American Fork East Stake:
Built By: Schantz Organ Company
Opus Number (if indicated):
Year: 1993
Manuals: 2
Ranks: 9
Location: 825 E 500 N, American Fork, UT

LDS Kaysville Utah East Stake:*
Built By: Reuter Organ Company
Opus Number (if indicated): 950
Year: 1951
Manuals: 2
Ranks: 15
Location: 201 South 600 East Kaysville, UT

*OHS lists two organs in Kaysville. Both are Reuter organs, and both are in LDS chapels. I have looked at the names of the LDS wards for the building that specifies them, and that building appears to be newer (1970s) which coincides with one of the OHS entries. The building I visited felt older, and the other OHS organ was built in the 1950s, which is before LDS church floor plans were widely standardized, so that leads me to believe that this is the 15-rank organ, not the 11-rank instrument. It makes sense with the instrument specification. (Contact me if interested) I did not have the chance to check if ranks were unified, I simply played the instrument and enjoyed it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Late Update: The Importance of Tuning and Maintenance

Hey Everyone! I've been really busy with my classes in the Information Systems program at BYU, so I haven't been able to post since I started school. I've attended a couple of different church music workshops, and had the chance to play for my Stake Conference a couple of weeks ago, which was exciting and successful!

This post will be about a couple of organs I played several months ago. The first one is in an LDS chapel in Salt Lake City. I was at this chapel for a mission reunion. I only got to play this instrument for a few minutes after the reunion was over. I was one of the last people to leave. It was a typical small Wicks, with a decent Trompette and a nice Erzahler, sadly without a corresponding celeste.

Here's a photo of that instrument:

It looks quite a bit larger than it actually is. The wings on the two sides contain no pipes, but rather the pipework is all contained within the visible facade and the swell box just behind the center portion of the instrument. 

I enjoyed playing this organ, but it wasn't much to write home about. I'm including it here to document it, and to make a point later in the post.

On to the next organ, at the Provo 5th and 8th Wards Chapel. I have friends who attend church in this building, and they alerted me to the presence of this instrument. Unfortunately, at the time I visited, the phone I was using to take the pictures did not respond at all well to the lighting in the building, and the contents of the photos are barely visible. Here's a link to some good photos of the building and chapel taken by another blogger.

What I can tell you is that no pipework is visible. Not everything is enclosed, but it is behind a screen at the front of the room. You can see this in the photos on the other blog.

This instrument had no maker's mark or opus number anywhere on the console, but several characteristics lead me to believe it is a Reuter organ. These are: 1) The design of the console and 2) the specification of the instrument. The Springville 1st and 3rd Wards building has a Reuter that has a console with the same carvings as this one, and the stoplist is very similar (though the facade is much more impressive on the Springville instrument).

The unfortunate thing about both the Salt Lake City organ and the Provo 5th and 8th Wards Organ is that when I went to play them, I wasn't able to get an accurate impression of either instrument because both were severely out of tune at the time I visited. On the Salt Lake instrument, the principal rank is unified, and if you play higher than the C above middle C or attempt to use the 2' principal, it sounded like a giant calliope, except not musical at all. On the Provo instrument, most of the individual stops sounded fine, but they were out of tune in relation to each other, causing a celeste-like sound, except in an exaggerated and unpleasant manner, and with nearly every stop. 

The point is, if you or your congregation has or decides to obtain a pipe organ, PLEASE take good care of it! I know that maintenance is expensive, but it is worth the trouble! A well-maintained pipe organ can bless the lives of people for generations, but if you let it dwindle into disrepair, it will become a nuisance, and in many cases, you will lose a treasure of an instrument.

Neither of these organs had anything broken on them, but an organ being out of tune significantly limits its usability. Here are some tips on keeping your organ in tune:

  • ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS leave the swell box(es) open when you shut the organ off!!! This causes the organ to maintain constant tuning between divisions that are enclosed(such as the Swell) and divisions that are unenclosed (such as the Great), and allows them to be used together, even if the organ as a whole is no longer tuned to A-440. This is so easy, yet so many people forget it! Many modern organs default to opening the swell shades automatically upon turning off the instrument, but you should open the shades just to be safe.
  • Try to maintain a consistent temperature in the room year-round. This is easy in a home, but can be more difficult in a church building. Many LDS buildings have thermostats that shut off automatically after three hours. Since this will not maintain a constant temperature in the building always, try and make sure that the room is the same temperature (or close to it) when the organ will be played. Come in 30-60 minutes early to start the thermostat before the meetings start. You can even use this time to practice! That way as the pipework detunes, it will be tuned back to its proper pitch when at the correct temperature, at least for the duration of the meeting.
Well, I hope you all have a wonderful week, and that you keep enjoying all the Bach, Franck and Widor you can! 

Here are your organ details:

LDS Wards:
Built By: Wicks Organ Company
Opus Number (if indicated):
Year: 1965
Manuals: 2
Ranks: 7
Location: 3051 S 2900 E Salt Lake City, UT

LDS Provo 5th and 8th  Wards:
Built By: Reuter Organ Company?
Opus Number (if indicated):
Year: Unknown
Manuals: 2
Ranks: 6-7 (approx.)
Location: 502 E 200 N Provo, UT

Friday, July 31, 2015

Tabernacle Day Trip

Hey everyone!

This week I had the chance to take a day trip to Ogden and Logan to play the organs in the LDS tabernacles in those cities. Bear with me, this post is going to be long!

I also tried to play the organs at Utah State University's Kent Concert Hall, and at the University of Utah's Libby Gardner Concert Hall, but was unable to do so. USU's concert hall is under renovation, and most of the organ has been removed to prevent damage, even though the organ was just restored in 2012! The University of Utah's concert hall was not under renovation, it was just locked.

I'll start where I started my day: at the Ogden Tabernacle. This is my new favorite organ, at least my favorite that I have had significant time with. I was let in by the Facilities Maintenance and Security team when I turned the knob on their office door at the rear of the tabernacle. Nobody was scheduled to practice on the day I was there, so I was given plenty of time alone in the tabernacle. It is a beautiful building, and it's very unique. It was just renovated this past year along with the Ogden Temple, and that includes the organ.

The organ was originally installed in the tabernacle by Balcom & Vaughan Organ Builders in 1956, shortly after the Tabernacle was completed. Recently, it was renovated and added to by H. Ronald Poll & Associates Organ Builders of Salt Lake City, UT. Michael Poll, President of Poll & Associates, confirmed in April 2015 that tonal work was still being finished on the organ, and a dedication concert was planned featuring Rulon Christiansen, an Ogden area organist. When I arrived, the memory unit was set to the organist "Rulon C," so I take it that the dedication concert had already taken place. (Note: I later found out the organ was finished, but the concert was scheduled for Sept. 20, 2015. I attended, and it was wonderful). The man who let me in told me that Clay Christiansen, one of the Temple Square Organists, had been there the day before to play the instrument. And from what I could tell, everything was finished and sounded wonderful. (Clay also performed at the dedication, along with other musicians from the local interfaith council.)

Here are some pictures of the facade. This is one of my favorites, if not my favorite organ facade. I think it looks fantastic! It's elegant and interesting without being too flashy or distracting from the worship that takes place in the building. The casework near the top of the facade and just below the tubas mimics patterns found in the stone on the outside of the building, which resemble Mayan writing. Very cool!

The console is very large and has many stops. There is no rolltop on it, and it's hard to see anything over the top of it. The accidentals (black notes) on the keyboards are made of wood. The organ feels very well put together and is a pleasure to play. The chamber in which most of the pipes sit is directly behind the facade, and is very open into the room. This provides some nice effects with the quieter stops, as some really sound distant, with the sound floating out from behind the facade, whereas others are closer and speak more directly into the space. It allows for great contrast of sound for doing call-and-response type pieces, both on the soft and the louder stops. My favorite soft stops are the Dulciana with Celeste in the Choir division. They're just stringy enough, and very warm, and they make a great soft prelude registration. I'd probably add a flute with them, or use them as an accompaniment for the Harmonic Flute on the Great.

Surprisingly, this organ has a Zimbelstern, operated via a drawknob in the Great division. It also has real chimes (not digital ones, as far as I know) and an 8' Harp and 4' Celesta which sound acoustic as well. This is a very fun organ to play. (note: all percussion stops are digital except the chimes).

Here's my selfie, taken near the console:

Notice what's above my head: The horizontal trumpets! These are not a traditional Trompette en Chamade, but rather a Tuba en Chamade, which gives a fuller, warmer trumpet sound, rather than the harsh, piercing tone of a French Trompette. It is a beautiful solo voice, available on Great, Choir, and Pedal at the 8' and 4' pitches. It can be soloed out over a full principal chorus with mixture, even if I have the Swell principal chorus coupled in with the Great and a trumpet in the pedal, and it sounds great on its own as well, with a decent reverberation time in the room as well. I used the Horizontal Tuba to play the fanfare from Wagner's Also Sprach Zarathustra (also known as the theme music to 2001: A Space Odyssey) and it sounded absolutely AMAZING. 

Here are a couple more unique things: The Vox Humana on the Swell doesn't have its own tremulant, so you can hear what the Vox Humana actually sounds like without the "rwah-rwah-rwah" that usually comes with it. To use it with a tremulant, you must draw the Swell Tremulant, at which point it sounds like a regular Vox Humana. Click here for my favorite joke about the Vox Humana.

As you can see below, this organ has the elusive and myserious Pedal on Great Coupler. I tried it, and it does indeed play the pedal ranks on the Great, though they end at the G above middle C. I guess it's an alternative version of a bass coupler? (note: also used for playing duets, when one organist is already using the pedals)

There is so much to love about this organ. It's in perfect condition, it has a wide variety of tone colors, and everything I put my hands on felt very well-built and solid. I can't see someone ever needing more organ than this to play a piece, unless it's written for more than 3 manuals or you need an Antiphonal division. I am grateful to have the chance to get to know this instrument, it is quite a beauty, and I hope I get the chance to play it again!

Now on to the last organ I played: The Logan Tabernacle. The church authorities in charge of this building have a strict policy that nobody plays the organ unless they're practicing for or playing in a conference or concert. Fortunately for me, the man in charge of the organ itself was there, and since he saw that I have my own organ shoes and am clearly a serious organist--not some kid who just wants to derp around and bang on the keys to make noise--he allowed me to play for five minutes or so. I didn't get really good pictures since I wasn't alone, but I did get to hear the organ for quite a while, since I came during someone's scheduled practice time. The sister who was practicing asked my advice about stops that had been set, and requested some tips to improve her playing. I gladly obliged, since service is why I play the organ. I then talked to the members in charge of tours about the history of the tabernacle for a good while, while listening to this fine sister play.

Sadly, because I didn't have a lot of time to experience this organ on my own, I don't have a very comprehensive impression of the instrument. I do know that it is a hybrid organ, and I got a good feel for the power it has, since I registered my own piece. What I did notice is that the instrument is extremely well-maintained, extremely loved, and extremely beautiful. I would love to have the chance to return some day and give a concert.

A few notes: most of the facade pipes are fake. Only a few on the left side are speaking pipes. The console is also wonderful to play at since the top is so low. You can see the choir director perfectly and without intrusion. This would be a wonderful place to accompany a choir. The instrument also has a beautiful Dulciana with Celeste, similar to that on the Ogden Tabernacle's organ. The two are quite similar in their tonal design.

I don't have a lot of information about this organ, but what I have is below. More is available through the Organ Historical Society's database and through other websites.

Here's the obligatory selfie:

Here are your organ specifications. Since these are outside Utah Valley, I am not providing stoplists. These (as well as more photos) can be found in the Organ Historical Society's Database.

LDS Ogden Tabernacle:
Built By: Balcom & Vaughan, H. Ronald Poll & Associates
Opus Number (if indicated): 34 (Poll)
Year: 1956 (B&V), 2015 (Poll)
Manuals: 3
Ranks: 51 + Digital (32' extensions and percussion stops)
Location: 350 South 22nd St. Ogden, UT

LDS Logan Tabernacle:
Built By: Henry Pilcher's Sons, LDS Church Organ Maintenance Department, H. Ronald Poll & Associates
Opus Number (if indicated):
Year: 1908 (Pilcher), 1953 (LDS Church), 1987 and 2009 (Poll)
Manuals: 3
Ranks: 66 (44 Pipe, 22 Digital)
Location: 50 North Main St. Logan, UT

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pipe Organs of the Rich and Famous: LDS Edition

Hey everyone! Sorry it's been a while since I posted. I took an intense class for Spring term, and I just finished my application to the Information Systems Program at BYU. I've been pretty busy studying, but I've also been busy composing (recordings to come soon!) and discovering new pieces.

I've played a few different organs over the past few months, and I'm grouping them into a couple of different posts. This one will outline a couple of organs I really, really enjoyed playing. A later post will outline a couple more I enjoyed, but that could have used a good tuning.

I call this post "Pipe Organs of the Rich and Famous: LDS Edition" because the two organs I will discuss were influenced in their design and building by two of the most famous LDS organists to live in the past few decades.

The first of these is a tracker action pipe organ built by Kenneth Jones in BYU's Harris Fine Arts Center. This organ is not in a large performance space, but rather in a professor's office. The office in question used to belong to the late Douglas Bush, a world famous LDS organist and arranger who also had a hand in the construction of the Provo Central Stake's Organ. The current occupant of this office is Brian Mathias, a BYU organ professor.

Here is a photo of the entire organ:

As you can see, the console is attached at one end (right edge of the picture) and the facade speaks out into a small space. You can see the corner of the ornate rug and the back of a harpsichord near the left of the photo. Basically, I want an office like this. 

The fantastic thing about this organ is that it's not in a big huge space, and it wasn't designed for one. While enjoying this organ, I pulled the Trumpet on the well and it was a trumpet sound, but just right for the room size. A friend and I took turns and both of us played full organ on this instrument with the other standing in front of the facade. The noise was loud and glorious, but not overwhelming in such a small space as one would expect a pipe organ to be.

Here's the console:

This organ has a nice tracker action, and some great tone colors as well. The salicional with celeste is rich, warm, and absolutely beautiful. The oboe is a fantastic sound, and the cornet is very nice as well. The stop knobs feel like they have mechanical action, but there is a combination action with motors that operate the knobs, even though they are large and ornate, requiring a long draw to pull them out.

Here's a closer photo of the center of the facade. Notice the beehive in the carving.

I forgot to get a selfie with this one, probably because I was so excited to play it. I knew about this organ, but I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to play in this office. I stayed after our Utah Valley AGO Super Saturday to play it. We had just finished a class in the room and I jumped at the chance to play the instrument, and boy am I glad I did!

On to the next organ! This next organ was orginally built in the 1970s by the Wicks Organ Company, and renovated last year by R. M. Ballantyne Pipe Organs under the direction of James Kasen, another famous LDS organ composer. He has written arrangements of many popular LDS hymns, and every one I have heard is absolutely beautiful!

(Edit: When I first played this organ, it was not finished. I played it later in September when it was finished and several changes had been made. The stoplist has been updated.)

Here's a photo of the organ facade. This organ is also located in Provo, UT.

I knew this organ would be nice, but when I first saw it, Wow! This is one of the better open-pipe facades I have seen. It is symmetrical and interesting, and I rather like it! (There is now a visible Gemshorn rank that changes the look slightly, but the visual change is subtle.)

This organ has two manuals and Wicks' Direct Electric Action. I would guess that by number of stops, this is one of the larger organs I have found in an LDS church building, though I have played others with more ranks. The way it is configured, the organ makes very good use of  its 15 1/2 ranks, and it is versatile, making it easy to create effective and interesting registrations.

Here's a wider view of the space:

The organ projects very well into the space. Tone is clear, crisp, and powerful. Even when all the curtains are open to the overflow, I imagine that this instrument is very well-suited to congregational accompaniment.

Here's the console:

On the left side, some of the stop knobs are sort of hidden behind the key cheeks, but they can still be pulled out fully, or operated via the combination action. This organ is blessed with three different types of flutes, oboe and trumpet ranks available at 8' and 4' pitches, and a beautiful Gemshorn that extends all the way down to 16'.

This organ was fun to play. It feels more buttoned down than most Wicks instruments of the era, and it is absolutely beautiful. (Note: a 2-rank String stop was added on the Great, and it's a wonderful addition. There are also separate strings on the Swell now.)

Overall, I had a lot of fun playing these instruments. Specs and stoplist links are below. Now that I have more free time, expect a few more posts about new organs and about new pieces of music that I have discovered.

Have a great day!

BYU Teaching Studio:
Built By: Kenneth Jones & Associates
Opus Number (if indicated):
Year: 1999
Manuals: 3
Ranks: 22
Location: E-208 HFAC, BYU, Provo, UT

LDS Provo Stake:
Built By: Wicks Organ Company, R. M. Ballantyne Pipe Organs
Opus Number (if indicated):
Year: 1974, 2015
Manuals: 2
Ranks: 15.5 (originally 12)
Location: 1315 East 900 South, Provo, UT

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Pleasant Grove - A Nice Little Schantz

Hey guys! Sorry it's been a while again. I'm now done with school for the summer (except for one class) so I'm out and about looking for organs again! It's a wonderful feeling!
I've only been out once or twice so far, but I have some photos from last year that I still need to post.

The organ in question is the 9-rank Schantz in the LDS Grove Creek Stake Center in Pleasant Grove, UT. It's the same model as the Schantz in the Oak Hills Stake Center in Provo, which I played even longer ago. The Pleasant Grove organ is two years newer, and playing it gave me a different perspective on the instrument, for a couple of reasons: 1. The PG organ is in better condition than the Provo one, and 2. I had several months more experience by the time I played the second one, so I was able to notice more details that I hadn't before.

The facade is a little different from the Oak Hills organ. The PG organ looks like this:

It's a little more unique than the Provo organ, though the Provo organ is more striking to my eye. I do, however, love the wood in this building, and on the organ. It's lovely to see dark, rich wood like this, and I think it should be used more often.

Here's a wider shot, where you can better see the wood paneling in the room and the organ facade:

And here's the console:

I think every organ should be this comfortable to play. The backrest on the bench is a common Schantz feature, and it's great, especially for long meetings when you have to sit on the bench for an hour or more. Schantz also has a way of making their instruments to comfortable to play. The keys always feel very solid and precise, and at just the right height, and nothing ever seems too far away. On smaller organs like this, they use the large rocker tabs you can see, which are extremely easy to change without removing your entire hand from the keyboard. If I were to make my dream organ, the console would probably be a Schantz.

In addition to being a pleasure to play, this organ is also a pleasure to listen to. It has some great and useful sounds, and is versatile for such a small organ. My personal favorite is the replacement of the 2' principal in the Great principal chorus with a 2' Gemshorn. It adds just the right touch of softness and stringiness to the chorus and is absolutely beautiful. The swell gemshorn celeste is also nice, as is the mixture. Everything on this organ seems to be manufactured to a very high standard of quality, and all the stops produce a sweet, beautiful tone.

Overall, I would be extremely pleased to play this instrument, be it for a recital, for church, or just for fun. I have been told that even though the sound is not overwhelming in the chapel, it is robust enough to support congregational singing, even when all the overflows are opened.

And I can't forget the selfie!

I hope you enjoyed reading about this organ as much as I enjoyed playing it. I have some newer photos that will be posted soon, but these ones have been itching to get onto the blog for months now. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

LDS Grove Creek Stake Center:
Built By: Schantz Organ Company
Opus Number (if indicated):
Year: 1994
Manuals: 2
Ranks: 9
Location: 1176 N 730 E Pleasant Grove, UT