We now have over 30 instruments in our range of organs. Adding a new smaller 3 manual organ to our range might have been the last thing you thought we needed.
In recent years there have been increasing pressures for organ advisers to restrict the number of stops a digital organ provides, to a number similar to what would have been provided by a pipe organ builder.
The cost / size relationship for a Pipe Organ
Pipe organ builders too are limited by their client’s budgets, but they also have a limit that does not enter into the digital world. That of course is space. However much money a church might have available to spend on its pipe organ the instrument will eventually be limited by the space that can be taken up. Consequently we see a fairly linear relationship between the size of the building and the size of the pipe organ within it.
There is also a fairly linear relationship between the size of a pipe organ and its cost, each additional stop adding in the region of £18,000 to the final bill. This does not apply to digital organs where the cost increase with size is far less dramatic. So it is possible for a digital organ to be far larger and much less expensive for any particular church than its pipe organ equivalent. This leads to the question of what is a matter of good taste in determining the size of digital instrument a church might choose to acquire.
Guidelines for number of stops on a Pipe Organ
In my now 14 years of involvement as an owner of the Viscount business and 16 years before that as a player of digital home practice organs, I have yet to meet a musician that does not hanker for more stops on their instrument. After all stops offer the musical ‘colour’ equivalent the paints artists exploit in their work. There are very few musicians that would want to work in the musical equivalent of monochrome if the full pallet of the rainbow was to hand. But where to draw the line?
The line has always been drawn, perhaps not particularly consistently, by organ advisers working across the UK. Additionally now the Church Building Council are getting involved and looking to establish some guidelines. I have heard for example that ‘divide the number of available seats by 10’ may set a stop limit, so a church seating 100 would expect a 10 stop limit and one seating 500 a 50 stop limit.
I have reached an age in life when I react badly to the thought of such guidelines starting to rule our lives. When you try from afar by edict to set out what can and can’t be done it inevitably tramples on the ability for the individual circumstances of each case to be properly weighed up.
But I do agree that too large an organ in too small a building can jar the ears, especially when a 32 ft pedal pipe or massive solo Tuba rings out from a space that clearly could never accommodate the pipe work. I am sure there digital are examples of this all over the country. But I should be disappointed if ‘rules’ rather than trust in a musician’s skill should come to dominate how our churches are allowed to decide on the organ they would ideally want to support their liturgy.
A small 3 manual organ – the Viscount Regent 338
Anyway reacting to this change we agreed that as all our standard 3 manual choices are instruments of 50 stops there was a good case to offer a smaller 3 manual organ. So the Regent 338 instrument came to be, with just 38 speaking stops.
The first of this smaller Regent 338 organs sold was to St Mary’s in Kintbury. Actually this organ was reduced even further to just 28 stops. Being a drawstop layout it is much easier to remove individual stops than is the case for a rocker tab organ where a gap in the layout would be as noticeable as a missing front tooth!
This is also for the time being the only organ in our range that has no internal speaker system, designed as it is specifically to meet church demand.
Home practice customers will I suspect for ever be content that the sound of an organ in their dining room or lounge need not be limited to what a pipe organ builder might have been able to fit in.
Visit the Viscount Regent 338 organ product page to find out more about the features, stop list and technical details.