Last update: 4/24/97


A Voice for All Seasons

As the reform of worship envisioned by the Second Vatican Council continues to unfold and deepen, many churches have begun to appreciate anew the value of the pipe organ as a leader in the people's singing. Churches that have suitable organs are renovating them, while others have started down the long, hard road of funding and planning a new instrument. With all that groundwork required to start fresh, we can be grateful for this instrument, one aspect of a fine legacy left by our Annunciation worship space's planners.


Unfortunately, this instrument and its player are almost invisible here at Annunciation, because of older ideas of the place of music and musicians. In the pre-Vatican II liturgy, nothing was to "distract" from the actions of Eucharist, which were seen mostly as the priest offering a Mass sacrifice on our behalf.

Thus, the organ's 29 ranks of pipes, and the console (keyboards and stop knobs) that plays it, are all hidden behind the grillework behind the altar. Originally, the choir also sang only from this space as well, in the days when the organ and choir were (usually) the only music leaders envisioned.

This placement was really quite progressive for its day: the era's best attempt to get the musicians closer to the action, while not "officially" being in the sanctuary! Otherwise, musicians would be placed in a rear gallery, even more isolated from the people, altar, and action.

This would not be the case today: musicians and the instruments they use are part of the many ministries that are integral to the celebration. So, just as a reader of Scripture would not be hidden behind a screen or placed in a rear balcony, so today a musician would expect to be in contact with the assembly being served.


Today's liturgical music might better be called "eclectic" than "contemporary." In many places, you will not see Masses broken down by "musical style" profile, but an attempt will be made to include appropriate music of many styles. Even Marty Haugen, often stereotyped as a "contemporary" composer, puts the pipe organ and the way it leads singing as a model for how any other instrumental group should do its job. David Haas, another "contemporary" composer, even gave a benefit concert for a pipe organ fund at a metro-area parish!

These are but two signs of a spirit of dynamic co-operation between contemporary and traditional music making. Many places don't hesitate to use the organ, piano, guitars, synthesizers, wind instruments, or what have you all together when appropriate. The reason is that the organ can provide a kind of sustained, singing support in a way that no other instrument can. If only one keyboard leader is available, the organ is often a good choice for the instrumental leadership; at other times it might be the piano alone. When more leaders are available, interesting combinations are possible. Like the political borders of the world, musical boundaries are becoming fluid and easy to cross, sometimes disappearing altogether!


The 1962 Wicks pipe organ at Annunciation is a small but colorful instrument that gives a very satisfying effect in music of many periods, By some standards today, it is not particularly loud, but the acoustic resonance of the church keeps the sound sufficiently rich and lively for a variety of music.

It has 29 ranks of pipes, 1713 individual pipes, 3 manual keyboards and a pedal keyboard.

GREAT (middle manual)
8'      Diapason                61 pipes
8'      Gamba (enclosed)        61
8'      Hohl Flute (enclosed)   61
8'      Spitz Flute             (Choir)
8'      Spitz Celeste           (Choir)
4'      Octave                  61
4'      Flute (from Hohl Flute) 12
2-2/3'  Octave Quinte           61
2'      Super Octave            61
    Great to Great 16', 4' Great Unison Off
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'
    Choir to Great 16', 8', 4'

CHOIR (lower manual; enclosed)
8'      English Diapason        61
8'      Concert Flute           61
8'      Spitz Flute             61
8'      Spitz Celeste (tenor C) 49
4'      Koppel Floete           61
2-2/3'  Nazard                  61
2'      Block Floete            61
8'      Clarinet                61
    Choir to Choir 16', 4'; Choir Unison Off
    Swell to Choir 16', 8', 4'

SWELL (top manual, enclosed)
16'     Lieblich Gedeckt        61
8'      Geigen Diapason         61
8'      Rohr Flute              61
8'      Salicional              61
8'      Celeste (Tenor C)       49
4'      Geigen Octave           61
4'      Flauto Traverso         61
2'      Harmonic Piccolo 
        (from Flauto Traverso)  12
III     Mixture                 183
8'      Trompette               61
4'      Rohr Schalmei           61
    Swell to Swell 16', 4'; Swell Unison Off
    MIDI Channel 1 or 2 (originally "All Swells to Swell")

16'     Principal               32
16'     Bourdon (in Choir box)  32
16'     Violone (in Choir box)  32
16'     Lieblich Gedeckt        (Swell)
8'      Principal (from 16')    12
8'      Bourdon (from 16')      12
8'      Rohr Flute  (Swell)
        MIDI to Pedal (originally 5-1/3' Twelfth from Principal)
4'      Choral Bass (from Principal)    12
4'      Block Flute (from Bourdon)      12
III     Mixture                 (Swell)
16'     Trombone (in Swell box) 32
8'      Trompette               (Swell)
4'      Schalmei                (Swell)
    Great to Pedal 8', 4'
    Choir to Pedal 8', 4'
    Swell to Pedal 8', 4'

Three balanced swell pedals for enclosed divisions
Six General combinations, thumb and toe stud
Five combinations for each manual and pedal, with division cancel
Reversibles (toe stud):  Great to Pedal, Swell to Pedal, Choir to Pedal; Sforzando
General Cancel


With such an arsenal of sound available, who could need any more? Well, the organ does have some limitations: its sound does not die away when a key is pressed like a piano, nor can it change volume and tone color as easily as other instruments. These limitations, and the way different musical styles operate, often make one wish for some help. When other players are availble, the piano or guitar can add some of the missing qualities for some styles. But what about all those times when others are not available?

Annunciation's Music Director John Seboldt, an eclectic liturgical keyboardist with a classical organ background, has in the past several years experimented with effective ways to use the synthesizer with the organ. The synthesizer effectively and inexpensively enlarges the sonic palette available to a single player.

For conventional organ sound, the synth can add certain effects found only in larger organs, such as low-pitched 32-foot sounds and large, spectacular trumpet-like reed sounds. In addition, the new technology offers electronic sounds emulating natural acoustic instruments, or combining natural and electronic timbres in a uniquely expressive manner. The synthesizer is played as another "manual" of the organ from its own fully-expressive keyboard, and also from an inexpensive (but less expressive) MIDI interface John recently built and installed within the organ console.

This blend of newer and traditional technologies provides immense possibilities, some of which Annunciation concert-goers have heard at our "Dueling Keyboards" programs of past years. The possibilities are immense, as are the possibilities for offense! Therefore, for the most part, the "Annunciation sound" at worship is most often colored by "simple but elegant" synth sounds, such as strings, harp, and bass tones.

This eclectic combination of newer and traditional technologies provides immense possibilities for keeping the organ as a significant force in liturgical and concert music-making for the twenty-first century. The richness of the organ's sound and repertoire can speak to the depths of the human spirit for those who become acquainted with its language. At the same time, the synthesizer component is capable of echoing the sounds and textures of contemporary Western popular culture and that of many ethnic traditions around the world, and can be a drawing card for those with a negative, "churchy" impression of the organ (which, it must be admitted, has all too often been justified!).


The organ, synthesizers, or whatever, in the hands of leaders dedicated to the good of a community's worship, are part of a toolbox of techniques to enliven, support, lead, or get out of the way of an assembly's singing. Not every tool is to every individual's immediate liking, just as each individual has different experiences and tastes that shape perceptions. But in the gathered community, we bring all our diverse gifts together, and rejoice in what brings joy to as many as possible.

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