HARPSICHORD

Musical Instruments
 
 
 

 

The Eric Herz Harpsichord, Opus No. 423, Fecit 1985

 

The Bruton Parish harpsichord was purchased in honor of James Darling, Choirmaster/Organist Emeritus, upon his retirement in 2006. It replaces a William Dowd instrument, which was on a generous loan from Colonial Williamsburg. Eric Hertz, a late Bostonian builder, completed the current instrument in 1985 in the style of 18th-century English harpsichords. It has two manuals, with one 4’ and two 8’ stops, and the keyboards play either at modern or baroque pitch. The unusual lute stop, similar to the French nasale, is available on the upper keyboard, and the more traditional harp buffing stop can be engaged on either manual.
 

NEW WREN CHAPEL ORGAN PICTURE

Wren Chapel Organ, Unknown Builder, c.1740
Old English organs were not as large, nor were they voiced as brilliantly as their counterparts on the European continent. The English seemed to have preferred a gentler sound with accents on flute stops, which might be termed rococo.
 

The Wren Chapel organ has a single keyboard, with “skunk-tail” sharps, so called because of the strips of ivory on what we think of as black notes. The keyboard extends down to G, omitting G sharp, four notes lower than manuals today. The stop list reads as follows from bottom to top: 

RIGHT SIDE                            LEFT SIDE

8 Stopped Diapason               4 Principal

4 Flute                                   2 2/3 Twelfth

8 Open Diapason                   2 Fifteenth

The divided stops make it possible to accompany a melody in one hand, with a lighter registration in the other, all on a single keyboard, a device which composers often used. Although characteristically lacking a pedal keyboard, a single mechanical pedal for the foot cancels the left side stops to produce the echo passages, so frequent in the music, without the necessity of making changes by hand. The organ is on loan to the College from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

BECKIES ORGAN PICTURE
New Bruton Organ, built by Dobson Organ Builders
 
Since its 1974 founding by Lynn Dobson in Lake City, Iowa, the goal of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders has been to create instruments that not only look completely at home in their surroundings but also sound completely at home, supporting and encouraging varied and vibrant church music.
 
This organ, the 96th new instrument our workshop of 23 people has created, takes its visual cues from the altar, recreated in the 1939-40 restoration of the church, extending its design upward in a way that honors the older material without copying it. The 75% tin front pipes are drawn from the Great Principal 8’ and the Pedal Octave 8’, and are covered with 22-karat gold leaf. The movable organ console, like the pulpit, is constructed of black walnut. Most walnut sold commercially today is steamed to even out its color, a process that trades richness for consistency. Instead, we obtained locally-grown lumber from a sawmill in Albert City, Iowa that was dried in the traditional way; its varied colors are complemented by the Carpathian elm burl that enriches the console interior.
 
An organ of the size of Op. 96 is anachronistic in a Colonial building, as most instruments from that era were modest chamber organs. We sought to accommodate an instrument of the size expected for present-day church music by placing as much of it as possible in a traditional, line-of-sight relationship with the nave. Thus, the Great, Positive, and part of the Pedal are located in the new case. The Swell and largest Pedal pipes are in the attic directly above and speak through grilles. This was the situation for the old organ, but much heavier walls have been constructed around the Swell for better reflection of sound into the church. Equally important, a dedicated HVAC system for the attic organ area keeps the temperature there comparable to that around the pipes in the case, giving a stability of tuning that was never possible before.
 
Each of the four divisions of the organ are built around traditional Principal choruses. These are augmented by colorful flutes, those in the Great and Positive being more classical in nature, while those of harmonic construction in the Swell recall romantic examples. Each division is rounded out by characteristic reed stops. The pipes standing in the visible case are voiced on a wind pressure of 3½”, the Swell is voiced on 5”, and the larger Pedal stops on 4½". Because the organ so often accompanies historic instruments that are tuned one half step below modern pitch, there is a transposer to allow the organ to play at A-415 as well as the normal A-440. Four Positive stops have additional bass pipes so that low C will play when the transposer is in use. Though smaller in number of pipes than the previous organ, Op. 96’s simple layout and straightforward placement allow it to speak with greater presence and authority in the church, and makes tuning and maintenance much easier than before.
 
Click here to read the specifications of the new organ.