Monday, March 23, 2009

Church tour - the organ

Since we've had communion at the altar rail since the beginning of Advent, many of you have had the opportunity to walk by the organ while I've been playing. I've especially noticed some of our youngest members peeking around the corner at all the buttons. Today, I want to share some of the basic facts about our instrument.

At Bethany English Lutheran, our organ is officially titled Austin Organ Company's Opus 1649, originally installed in 1929 and extensively rebuilt in 1981. It has two manuals (keyboards) of 61 keys each, a pedal keyboard with 32 pedals, and an electro-pneumatic action.

The organ has 13 ranks of pipes. That essentially means that there are 13 distinct sounds that can be made by pulling out the stops, based on the shape, size, and characteristics of the pipes. Each rank requires one pipe for every key, which means there are around 700 pipes in the wall behind the organ (on the pulpit side of the church).

Additionally, the church has a set of Ahlborn "electronic pipes" that are controlled by the black box you can see sitting on top of the organ. The speakers for these sounds are on the lectern side of the church, so you can likely tell when I'm adding these sounds to the pipe organ, based on where the sound is coming from. (The big bass sound for the closing hymn this past Sunday was from the electronic pipes, where our best 16' and 32' sounds come from.)

I don't want to bore my readers with too much technical writing about the instrument (hopefully I haven't already), but there's a decent summary about pipe organs in general at this link, if you'd like to read more. I also encourage you to satisfy your curiosity by coming up between services or anytime you see me in church. I'm always happy to demonstrate the instrument and talk about the music at Bethany!


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  2. very informative - I didn't know all of this about our organ. As a little kid if I would have peeked around the corner at you on the organ I totally would have tried to help you play :)