IMMANUEL CHURCH ORGAN
Many of you will be aware that Roy Whittaker, son Dan and myself have been working on our church organ. As a result of this work David our Vicar has asked if we would write a small article to let people know about the workings of the this wonderful musical machine.
First a little of the History of our organ’s heritage. It is thought that Ernest Wadsworth Ltd in the area of Leeds originally built the organ about 1899 and the instrument was installed in a chapel sized church. The larger ‘mother’ churches of the day would have had much larger organs to support the choir and service. Some 50 years later the organ was removed from a church (unknown) and rebuilt in Immanuel. At this stage in the organ’s life, it was operated by what is known as a ‘tracker system’, this being all the voices (pipes) are activated directly from the keyboard (manuals) by a system of metal rods and chords. About 1956 the organ was modified by Jardine and Co of Manchester who it is thought modified some of the pipe arrays, moved the console (keys and Stops) to the present position at the altar end of or Church. To interpret the organist renditions, the mechanism in the organ loft had to be electrified. At the time of the work solid state electronics only existed in research laboratories, so each musical element was hard wired form the manual to small magnet air valves which in turn through a series of positive and negative logic sequences produce a note corresponding to the organist’s wishes. The pneumatic logic sequence is quite a masterstroke of thinking as speed of operation is vital to the acoustics of a church. Even though this process is slow compared to the state of the art electronics (working at mega hertz speed) it was fast ‘for the day’. In the late 1980s, the organ underwent a major modification. The cotton insulated wiring (plastic or rubber insulation would have been too bulky for the number of wires involved) installed by Jardines had come to the end of its life and short circuits had resulted in many problems. The PCC decided that that an upgrade was essential and that our Organ was a part of our heritage and so the upgrade should keep the mechanism that had served so well but be fitted with the latest electronic system. The Diocese was approached for a faculty to undertake the work and Immanuel PCC took their advice. The electronic system would be by Makins Organ Builders and it should be installed by Sixsmiths of Mosely. This concludes the brief history as I understand it and today we have a marriage of old and new technologies that has served us well.
As you are aware, the organ is driven by air at constant pressure and it is this pressure that enables an organ pipe to sustain a note. Many people have asked about the pipes that are visible, “What notes do they play?” – the Answer is not a ‘tweet’. The pipes you see are only a façade and hide the real tone generators from view.
Some little time back in 2012, an Organ repairer was asked to solve a problem and quoted a significant sum of money for the repair, which was not affordable. The printed circuit board was returned to our church and through the Wardens and Vicar, Roy Whittaker was approached to see if he could ‘mend it’. For £10 and a few hours work, restoration was complete and it was at this time that Roy, Dan and I became the Thursday night ‘fix- it’ team. For more than 12 months, we have, systematically hunted down faults and repaired them on Thursday night after the last service. The cost to our Church has now reached the ‘heady’ sum of £142-00. The last item being a ‘Great Swell’ control board costing £130-00. With a little research and understanding it has been possible to rectify many of the problems. I have listed the problems below, however we have no answers to why, only to what we have found.
Damage from mouse urine causing corrosion. The ‘fix it team’ thought it was the residue of spilt coffee. This environmental by-product has taken its toll. We are pleased to say that most of the problems are now past. The photo shows corrosion in and around the delicate switch mechanism
The small magnetic air valves (magnets in organ parlance) were passing air causing tones to be generated when not called for by the organist. A little if not laborious adjustment cleared the pallets, and control was restored.
Pipe not seated on the sound board and in some cases in the wrong position on the musical scale.
Rectification of the ‘Great Swell’. The swell control is a form of volume control as organ pipes are ON or OFF, no in-between. After some searching and phone calls, a MAKIN UP65 drive card was located and functionality restored. This board was the last piece in the jig-saw of how things work. After a few mechanical re-adjustment of linkages all is functional. This was how we found the electronic control (motherboard only). It is now restored with the correct ‘daughter board’ plugged into the motherboard
The next big hurdle if this piece of heritage musical instrument is to be retained is the replacement of the leathers to the primary motors (little piston). Due to the quantity of these motors, many are now in need of repair or will be shortly I feel we should tender the works to established specialists. I hope you have enjoyed this verbal tour of Our Organ and the photos will help you understand a little more. There are no secrets to organs just understanding the minds of the clever organ builders.
Roy and Dan Whittaker and Peter Hodkinson