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Westminster Organ Works Custom Organs

Custom Virtual Pipe Organs

The astonishing ability of the Hauptwerk Virtual Pipe Organ to present realistic representations of the many great organs of the world that have been sampled for the system presents a unique opportunity to offer custom instruments based on those samples. Many of the sample sets available allow reconfiguring of the organ (the organ definition file St. Georgenkirche, Rötha, G Silbermann organor ODF in Hauptwerk terms). This enables  the organ to be  tailored more appropriately to a given situation.  One example of such customization might be the scaling back of the overall number of stops to achieve a specification that might more plausibly be represented by pipe resources in the particular venue.

Somewhat different considerations obtain when considering a studio instrument on one hand, or an organ conceived for use in live performance in a particular acoustical environment on the other. The object of the studio organ is to give a taste of the various organ styles in their typical environments. In the latter case it's necessary to work for the most part within the realities of the room in question. A large Cavaillé-Coll sampled from an acoustical  setting with five seconds or so of reverberation would not be an appropriate choice for  a well padded room seating 150 or so. The result would be dismissed by the most non-discerning ear as no more than sham. Slightly more than the actual ambiance of the room might be considered, but must not be significantly more than that coloring the performance of live voices, for example. Again, the listener's ear will dismiss the result as being implausible. Such are some of the considerations that will go into a successful installation.

The Westminster Organ Works team will be pleased to work with you in developing  a solution appropriate to your particular needs and circumstances. Besides the different acoustical environments encountered, different worship styles and traditions may favor  one approach over another. We are pleased to suggest for your consideration several currently available sample sets in various styles. These will demonstrate some of the many options open to you.
The English Parish Church Organ
Much of the church music of our American churches has evolved and been adapted from that of the English cathedrals and parishes. The multicultural influences that have shaped this tradition have resulted in a school of organbuilding that, while sometimes Old Independent Church, Haverhill, Suffolk, Binns organconsidered to be rather diffuse, tends to lend itself quite well to the realization of the repertoire of a wide variety of cultures. In the opinion of many, no other school of organbuilding is as adept at meeting the needs of a practical service playing instrument.

An excellent example is the organ by James Jepson Binns in the Old Independent Church, Haverhill, Suffolk. The light, fairly dry acoustical ambiance of the church makes this sample set particularly adaptable to a wide variety of situations. In addition to the original voices of the organ a fine Trumpet en chamade by Hill, Norman and Beard was added to the organ in a 1992 rebuild by them. The excellent sample set by Lavender Audio has been expanded by them to include a number of voices designed to enhance the versatility of the instrument. Among these is a Tuba stop which can only be characterized as absolutely spectacular!

Information on The Old Independent Church and the Binns organ
The extended sample set by Lavender Audio
Lavender Audio demos of the Haverhill sample sets
YouTube improvisation (full set)
The French Romantic Organ
It's safe to say that no other organbuilder in history has played such a prominent role in the development of a distinctive repertoire as Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. César Franck, Charles Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, Marcel Dupré, Maurice Duruflé and Olivier Messiaen represent but the tip of the iceberg of the list of composers to have written for the fruits Notre Dame de Metz, Cavaill?Coll organof M. Cavaillé-Coll's labors. Many other composers of this school are finding a renewed appreciation in modern times, and today our French colleagues continue to compose for these very special tone colors.

In considering the work of Cavaillé-Coll as the basis for an installation it's imperative to keep in mind the special role that the acoustical environment plays in the presentation of this builder's work. It's often been said that the most important stop of an organ is the acoustics of the room. Far be it from us to disagree. In the case of the French romantic (and post-romantic) repertoire one must keep firmly in mind that not only the music, but the instrument itself, has been conceived under the influence of the very weighty acoustics of the typical French church.

Should this approach be found to be appropriate, it's hard to imagine a finer model than Milan Digital Audio's superb sampling of the Cavaillé-Coll/Mutin organ in Notre Dame de Metz. This organ was inaugurated by Widor and has been a favorite of French organists since. The Metz organ sample set is available in an extended version offering the more extensive registrational resources of its larger brethren.

The Milan Digital Audio Sample Set of the Notre Dame de Metz organ
Original and extended specifications of the Milan Digital Audio Sample Sets
Milan Digital Audio demos of the Metz Cavaillé-Coll sample sets
The German Baroque Organ
In much the same way that we tend to equate organ music of the romantic era with the instruments of Cavaillé-Coll, so, too, does mention of the baroque era evoke auditory images of central Europe. Hardly surprising given the considerable stature of the enormous body of repertoire gifted to us by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Petrikirche, Freiberg, G. Silbermann organA good bit of local variation is present in these instruments as they encompass a geographical area ranging from the edges of eastern Europe to the French border, then northerly to Holland, North Germany and Scandinavia.

Perhaps this genre of the art of organbuilding is best epitomized by the work of the godfather of J. S. Bach's son Carl Philip Emmanuel, Gottfried Silbermann. A splendid example is his instrument at the Petrikirche, Freiberg. Sample sets of this organ have been produced by Sonus Paradisi, a Czechoslovak firm.

Some of the cautionary language vis-ŕ-vis acoustical propriety of the previous section on the French organ needs to be applied equally to many of the sample sets of German baroque instruments as well. Many of these sets are well suited to home and studio use but would be difficult to adapt to other spaces.

Additionally, it must be noted that many of these sample sets carry extremely restrictive license terms. Private and teaching use is generally permitted, recording frequently not. In many cases, particularly that of Organ Art Media, installation in churches is strictly prohibited. This policy has often been a requirement by the various churches involved in granting permission for the sampling of their instruments.

There follow links to a number of different sample sets, many subject to the restrictions just cited. For brevity and clarity only the main page is linked for this group.

Sonus Paradisi sample set, Petrikirche, Freiberg, G. Silbermann organ
Sonus Paradisi sample set, Prague baroque organ
Milan Digital Audio sample set, Bovenkerk, Kampen, Hinsz organ
Milan Digital Audio sample set, St. Georgenkirche, Rötha, G. Silbermann organ
Organ Art Media sample set, Stadtkirche, Waltershausen, Trost organ
Other Organ Art Media - several very interesting projects in process!
Sonus Paradisi sample set, Grote Kerk (St. Michael), Zwolle, A. & F. C. Schnitger organ

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