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August 31, 2008

A mechanical nightmare ....

Arrived at the Abbey last evening to take the Office and found the place in turmoil - the Mighty Milton was misbehaving badly! Something had jammed and the result was that only one of its four manuals could be played - and none of the couplers were working ......... And only half an hour to the service and a visiting choir and organist to boot.

A quick look inside the beast at the back of the console revealed the problem - or part of it. Somehow five keys had become jammed. Middle C on the Pedal and the Pedal "piston" coupler for the Swell to Great seemed to have got themselves interlocked. Inexplicably so had Middle C, C#, D and D# on the Solo Organ! These linkages are quite delicate, so having established that they could not be freed easily I had the Organ Builder/Tuner called out. He duly arrived at 1900 and it took almost forty five minutes for him to find out what was causing the problem and then to get at the problems and unjam them. It seems that the four keys on the Solo had managed to "jump" their restraining nuts, while the Pedal had somehow been trapped by the Coupler. Now the mystery is how it happened!

The Milton Organ's Console. With 4,611 speaking pipes arranged on 84 Speaking Stops it can be a beast, yet it isn't as heavy an action as might be thought. The Action is a "Tracker" mechanism with the keys on each of the five "Manuals" linked to the pipe valves by levers. THe Uppermost Manual is the Solo and Apse Organ, beneath it is the Swell, and then the Great Organ with the Choir Organ the lowest of the Manuals played with the hands. The Fifth Manual is the Pedal Organ played with the feet.

The "Tracker" linkages at the back of the manuals console. The jammed notes were in the middle of this interesting collection ....

In case you thought access was easy - the pipes on the left are part of the Swell Organ's "Clarina" - a "reed" stop, and there is only ten inches between them and the "Tracker" rack. Bumping one or moving it can throw the entire rank out of tune or render it unplayable.

Just in case you were wondering - the Pedal "Manual" contains forty-eight keys and the feet are also used to operate the array of "pistons" which couple and uncouple the different sections of the organ and change the "Stops". The three large pedals control shutters on parts of the organ which allow some sections to be quietened or made louder.

At least, once everything was restored to normal, a quick test run (Neither I nor the Organ Builder can play the thing!) simply playing scales on each "Manual" in turn showed that everything is functioning again as it should. Until we encounter the next challenge. I await the complaints on the absence of the Loop for hearing aids. We have everything else back at work - just the Loop defies explanation.

And this morning we were treated to a Virtuoso performance by Carleton, as usual making it look so easy as he thundered his way through a complicated suite by Vidor. How I wish I could actually play any musical instrument - but the organ most of all. Sadly I am musically illiterate when it comes to reading music and have absolutely no musical talent at all for any instrument. All I can do is sit back and listen - and just occassionally, have a hand in fixing the instrument so that the music can flow. I guess my reward was in listening to Carleton as he played this magnificent instrument. Guess I'll just have to be content with that.

Well, no one can ever say the job of Church Warden is a dull one.....

Posted by The Gray Monk at August 31, 2008 03:28 PM

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