Are you researching a new organ for your church (whether pipe or digital) at the moment? I’m sure you will agree that it is a privilege which can be as daunting as it is exciting and interesting.
Is your current instrument a pipe organ or a digital church organ?
Your task will be less of a challenge if you already have an older electronic church organ – since you will probably be wanting to replace it with a new digital church organ. It is also likely that you will already have a stop list which will be broadly in common with many of today’s digital church organs.
If, however, you are at the point where your pipe organ faces a substantial repair bill, and you are exploring the more economical option of a digital organ, you probably have a bigger challenge on your hands. The majority of pipe organs in churches are much smaller in terms of the number of stops than digital organs are, so it can be difficult to find a (direct) replacement with a similar stop list – unless you are happy to explore a bespoke option. And that, paradoxically, would mean that a smaller instrument would cost you more!
Happily, this is not a factor that should burden your investigation as most organists will never complain about having more stops than they had before. What everybody does want though is a musical instrument that will allow appropriate support of the liturgy and do justice to those occasions when the church is full for weddings and funerals.
Size of the building will play a role in your decision
Another important consideration for your decision-making is the size of the building itself. While a new digital organ allows for an expanded stop list, it needs to be kept within general proportion to the size of the building.
Many independent organ consultants warn against the common mistake of installing an instrument which is far too large, or which has a specification which would be inappropriate for the church in question. For example: say a local village church trying to have a pedal division with a 32’ Double Open Wood, as you would have in a cathedral – where clearly there is not enough space to build one!
Which Viscount organ would suit the need of a church?
With all these aspects in mind, which of the near 40 instruments across our four ranges should you be looking at?
If you are looking for an organ for your church, we suggest that you ignore our Sonus organ range. These are strictly home practice instruments with enhanced audio facilities built in to give the best sound experience for the organist sat at the bench and not necessarily for others to listen to. Neither are they ideal instruments to be played in large spaces without additional external speakers.
Also read our blog post – Ten important points when buying a digital organ.
Envoy and Regent Ranges are perfect as church organs
For our church organ customers, we focus on the Regent and Envoy ranges as they offer substantial ‘on-site’ voicing facilities. It is this ability to ‘fit’ the sound of the instrument to the individual space that transforms a good digital organ into a really great one. This is the same process that a pipe organ builder uses when installing a new pipe organ, making every organ unique.
Envoy Organs for Churches
The smallest Envoy organ, the Envoy 23-S, has 2 manuals and 23 speaking stops while the largest 3-manual organ, the Envoy 350 Deluxe, has 50 speaking stops. All these digital organs can utilise up to 12 independent audio channels to provide the best projection of sound, and it is, of course, the design and location of the speaker system that is the critical factor in the success of any digital instrument.
Regent Organs an exclusive range for churches
Our more expensive Regent organs include the option of moving draw stops, providing the traditional means of console management, though actually doing nothing for sound quality. Regent digital organs also allow use of up to 20 independent audio channels which is more often necessary in a large church building. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the external audio system the more impressive the result will be.
All bar one of our instruments also have internal speaker systems for use in a home practice role. Note that the prices on our website are for the basic console with this audio facility, plus of course pedalboard and fixed-height bench.
Chorum organs for churches on a budget
Our Envoy and Regent ranges of organs are some of the very best digital church organs available. They don’t, however, suit every situation. If your church is on a tight budget, you may wish to explore our Chorum range of organs which, on a like-for-like basis, is about half the price of its nearest Envoy equivalent.
Chorum organs use sampling technology which, by its nature, only allows a basic voicing facility. Also, when using external speaker cabinets, just three independent audio channels are available, allowing a maximum of five speakers. It is for this reason, and for this lack of flexibility in on-site ‘tonal finishing’, that we usually recommend the Envoy or Regent instruments to our church customers.
The Chorum organs offer a very good alternative to a pipe organ for the lowest possible price. The smallest 2 manual Chorum organ, the Chorum 20, has 31 speaking stops which is significantly more that the smallest Envoy model.
External audio installation for church organs
Installations in any public space such as a church, school or hall, will usually require some external audio equipment. The number and location of speakers and the type of audio will be different for every building, which is why we always recommend a site survey to determine the best solution in each individual case.
The site visit enables one of our experienced consultants—who are themselves organists—to meet with the resident organist and any colleagues or church committee to talk through your specific requirements and examine the building. This will help us propose and cost an instrument and audio system best suited to the particular circumstances. The proposal will include details of the optimal speaker location and cable runs, etc., which is particularly important for a church requiring a faculty or other permissions for the installation of an organ.
Small churches may find that the sound from the console speakers alone is sufficient for almost all service requirements. Occasionally, when the church is full, the organist may have to turn up the volume but, as long as that is just an occasional requirement, it may be possible to save the expense of adding speakers. In any event, if the organist does find it a problem, external speakers can always be added later – subject to appropriate faculty approval or permissions.
We can help to choose the best church organ for you
We hope the above has been of some help in guiding you through the considerable choice of organs presented to you. If you would like some further advice and to arrange a site visit or you would like to try out some of the organs at our Bicester showroom, please call our office on +44 (0)1869 247 333. Alternatively, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have also created a virtual experience of our showroom in Bicester, UK. There you can explore several of the instruments currently sold on the website, including videos of the organs.
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Viscount Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.