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Consoles at the side of the case

Started by Gwas_Bach, May 27, 2013, 09:28:25 PM

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I have heard of mechanical-action organs where the console is at the side of the case, rather than at the front. For a tracker-action instrument with such a console, what is the layout of the action?


Could you be a bit more specific please?  ???


This rather depends on the layout of the soundboards within the case.  If lengthways they run from East to West as they did at on the pre Downes organ at Gloucester Cathedral (they recon the old organ sounded best in the South Transept) then a conventional mechanical action will suffice because keyboards and soundboards run parallel with each other.  If they run North to South then a 90 degree turn is required within the action.  This can be done by putting squares in the action, or specially designed roller boards eg Christchurch Priory and Southwell Minster, but is not thought of as the best practice for mechanical actions where the simplest straightforward approach is generally the best. 
The idea is not new in the UK as early mechanical pedal actions went through 90 degrees when the pedal pipes were placed on either side of the organ within the case.  However as they were generally under the bellows they proved difficult to mantain and were often replaced with pneumatic action.

David Drinkell

turning the action through 90 degrees does complicate matters somewhat, but it need not be a vast problem with British-type backfall action.  One example that comes to mind is the superb Miller (Cambridge) organ at Great Bardfield, Essex, with its gorgeous early Gothic Revival case, which faces north with the console on the west end.  Holdich's console at Finedon is also on the side of the case if my memory serves me correctly.  There are some extremely weird examples around - Monkland, Herefordshire, has a fine little 2 manual Walker, designed by Ouseley for Sir Henry Baker of Hymns A&M fame, who was the Rector.  The console is on the west side and the organist, having walked round the instrument to get to it, can see nothing except by opening panels.  NPOR quotes 'The Ecclesiologist':

"The Organist sits in the vestry and at the west end of the organ, and his
immediate communication with the choir is by means of shutters which open at
the side - a very convenient arrangement where (as is so often the case in
the country) the organist must be a woman;"


Thank you very much for your informative replies. Are there any diagrams of such actions available in the public domain?


The most informative publication available in the UK for technical information such as pipe scalings and sectional drawings of organs, including in some cases action runs , is "The Organbuilder" which subsequently became "Organ Building", an annual publication which includes an annual review of Organ Builder's work written by Paul Hale from member input.  If you join the Institute of British Organ Building as an interested member it comes free with membership.  I think copies may be available for non members to purchase but whether any library holds back copies I do not know.  Contact with them may resolve this point and also whether they have an index of articles.



Organ Building is available to non-members - I try and get a copy each year.  I guess back-numbers are available from the IBO web site.  Much of the contents are taken up with detailed reports of recent work.  The rebuild at Christchurch Priory a few years back included a tracker action console at the end of the case - IIRC there are diagrams contained in the article.  There is also an electric-action console, which is mainly used.  The tracker console was at the insistence of the organ advisor (I've been told) - and a friend who played it for an extended period suffered from RSI for a while afterwards!

Turning an action through 90 degrees is commonly done - especially for the pedal department.  The ultimate (unless you know better) was the Nave department on the now destroyed organ in the former St James, Edgbaston.  I quote from my description on NPOR:-

"Nave organ on tracker action (very heavy); action ran from coupler
backfalls beneath great and choir keys vertically down to squares just
above the reservoir, then turned 90 degrees across top of reservoir,
turned another 90 deg. to RHS of chancel case, then vertically upward
to another set of squares, taking action horizontally, through and
archway, to a roller board beneath the Nave windchest!;"

that's 6 90 degree turns (including the pull-downs from roller-board at the windchest end).  There were 2 sets of backfalls - one from the Choir manual and the other from the Great.

Every Blessing