Apparently, the organ needed a break


Last weekend started off normal on the organ. I played a brief prelude, played the opening hymn (the Gloria was then chanted), and got started on the psalm. I had played the refrain on the Great manual (which is the loudest), and had switched back to the Choir manual (for cantored verses), but there was a problem.

This isn’t what happened to my organ, but look, I needed a picture of an organ with broken parts.

I was not playing the Great manual, but something on it was still playing. It was loud, and even though it was one note, it wasn’t matching the key I was playing in. It sounded very, very bad.

I quickly killed all the Great stops, which killed the noise. Good. Sometimes, doing so doesn’t kill the noise, and it unsticks whatever was stuck. The cantor sang the first verse of the psalm, and I turned on my stops to do the refrain again.

Crap. The noise was back. And there was two more verses on the psalm to get through. So I had to repeat the same process twice, killing the noise for the psalm and turning it back on for the refrain.

After an agonizing two minutes of this, we finished the psalm and I reset all the stops to off. Unsure which note it was, I played every note on the Great manual in hopes of unsticking whatever might have been stuck (no noise should come out since all the stops were off). All this during the second reading, so I had to hope I didn’t inadvertently set off a note while the lector was reading.

OK, is the problem fixed? Unfortunately, there’s only one way to find out — play the organ again. Mid-Mass. The Alleluia was next, so I put on my settings except for the Great manual, which I would turn on when I needed it.

The cantor introduced the Alleluia, so I turned on my stops for the Great.


Stupid note was still on. I got through the Alleluia, shut down the organ, and that was that. The piano is downstairs in front and the organ is in the loft in back, so with the choir also in the loft, the rest of the Mass had to be a cappella.

Ugh. It’s not fun. It’s on my list of organist nightmares. After Mass, I turned the organ on to try to figure out what note it was, but then I couldn’t, of course, replicate what had happened. I turned on every stop, but the sound didn’t return. Annoyed, I ran out, grabbed dinner, and decided to bring some stuff to practice to see if I could set off the problem again.

I’m practicing one piece for my sister’s wedding, and it’s one that requires a full organ, so I hit the Sforzando button to turn everything on–THERE’S THAT SOUND AGAIN WHAT THE HECK. Cleared everything. Hit it again NO NOT AGAIN. So I started hitting levers until something happened again AHA FOUND IT.

It was a coupler. Son of a gun. Couplers allow you to play one manual but elicit sound from multiple manuals. The offender was the Great-to-Pedal coupler, which adds oomph to the Pedal manual when I play it. But if I’d realized it was the coupler, I could have completed the Mass without it, because it wasn’t a stuck key or pipe.

So the good news is that I can work around it until it’s fixed. The bad news is that my main parish is poor and doesn’t have a lot of money to fix these things. So it might be a while.

One response to “Apparently, the organ needed a break

  1. Pingback: Everything falls apart; you can count on that | Pull Out All the Stops

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