At the risk of over-simplifying, a baroque organ (perhaps more accurately, a “baroque-style organ”) differs from a “modern” organ in several key areas. First of all, it is all mechanical, with the exception that nowadays electric blowers replace hand bellows. No electric relays or fancy electronics. Secondly, it is constructed with lots of wood components: there is no plastic and metal is relegated to the pipes and small pivots and connectors. Indeed, they are often assembled using wood pegs, rather than screws. Why does this matter? Wood has many desirable properties, including acoustic, but it also is sensitive to changes in humidity—just like other acoustic instruments. Finally, the air pressure used to blow the pipes is lower.
Geoff Graham, the organist at All Souls', is like a proud father of this organ, and rightfully so. His enthusiasm for the features and nuances is infectious. I returned home with a copy of “The Organ Handbook,” by Hans Klotz at Geoff’s insistence. The details of the organ have always eluded me. Even worse, it abounds with terms of obscure German origin: Hauptwerk, Rückpositiv, Brustpedal, etc. Not to mention the huge list of stops: Rauschpfeife, Quintade, Gedackt, Rohrflöte, Sifflöte, etc., etc. I’ve looked on Wikipedia in the past to make light of this, with little success. Klotz’s book is a step in the right direction.
|Maude Gratton at the organ|
Be sure to visit All Souls’ sometime to hear the real deal and decide for yourself. Better yet, hear it played by French virtuoso Maude Gratton Friday night. As Maude told me, it is the best instrument she has played in her American tour. Tickets can be purchased at the door. For details, see sdems.org.