Call me a heretic, but I really don't see why we should all rush out and order consoles with the fashionable Cavaille-Coll terraces.
I suppose they look nice, and they keep the height of the console down.... on the other hand.....
short of angling the stop fronts or a completely semicircular layout qua Ste/Sulpice, can one actually read the stops names at a glance from a playing pistion.
I think not.
How about the (very desirable) convenience of a natural arm movement, even if one can read the names? Ones arms naturally attach to the body, therefore, a natural arm movement is from stretched out and then back in a line to the centre of the body. A terraced stop draws on a completely different line.
Surely nothing (however trendy) should add to the challenge to the player who should be devoting his or her energy to reading ad interpreting a score.
Or am I in a total minority on this?
What will the next trend in organ consoles be?
We have had (in the last twenty or so years)
* interchangeable pedalboards (if you're lucky) and non-standard ones if you're not
* recording systems (at great expsne that are hardly ever used)
* second consoles on mechanical action to please the purist (but arfe rarely seen in use)
* hitch-down pedals brought back in strict restorations
* a regression to previously restricted compasses
Mechanical action vs. electro=-pneumatic aside, the 20th century gave us the mosts comfoirtable and easy to use consoles that have ever been designed. I recently sat at one (University of Hull) where player discomort quite takes over from tone quality as the players main concern. Stops are on the wrong sides, all you have to steer by are a few compositions pedals and the pedals, manuals and bench are placed in a spetial relationship quite different from what any of us have come to expect. This in a pretty new organ.
Who asks for these things?
I agree, Paul.
Personally, I have never met a more comfortable console than that which was conceived by Harry and Arthur Harrison - with some by Walker (Bristol Cathedral) and Hill following closely.
Bristol Cathedral I find very comfortable; however, for me, the epitome of comfort is the H&H console of the organ at Exeter Cathedral - or, for that matter, Coventry Cathedral. Everything is where one expects to find it and the design is so elegant and un-cluttered that I find it difficult to see how it could be improved.
I particularly dislike the current trend for some builders to use very blond wood for stop jambs, often with dark strips of inlay as a contrast. The light wood affords little contrast with the draw-stops, thus making them less easy to read, particularly in bad light. Tickell consoles are a particular offender in this respect. The new console at Sherborne Abbey has this feature and (in addition to being rather uncomfortable) has a very 'boxy' feel to the visual layout.
I also prefer the H&H practice of grouping the couplers at the bases of the jambs of the divisions which they augment. I am afraid that I cannot agree with Roger Fisher, who prefers his couplers all on one jamb (ideally on the left) in the 'Hill' fashion (although Walkers also occasionally adopted this layout). Whilst he says that he finds it easier to draw Swell to Great, Swell to Choir and Swell to Pedal together, for example, it does mean that on a large four-clavier instrument one can waste time searching for couplers in a bank of fourteen or more stops.
Well, call me biased but as an organ builder trained by HNB I think that the 1950 to 1980 drawstop consoles - designed by Herbert Norman - that they turned out to be the most comfortable. Eventually the square pistons were ditched, because they were hand made and just too expensive. The KA round jobbies are good and easily replaced.
Paul, you mention in your last twenty or so list that the recording systems are rarely used and expensive. HNB pioneered this with the Christie Music Transmission System, which was the first Multiplexing system used in an organ in the UK. The basic recorder was one that only remembered while the organ was on - but actually only cost about £250 to produce. This was why it was thrown in as a freebie when the new multiplex system was fitted. Most organists used it to begin with as a gimmic and then forgot about it, but one or two find it very useful. Norwich Cathedral has this system and visiting organists are encouraged to record themselves so that they can go into the main body of the building and actually hear what they sound like, because you can be sure as hell that what you hear at the console bears no resemblance to what is heard downstairs! Not many people asked for it, but were grateful for it.
There are other ways of keeping the console height down rather than having to resort to the terraced fad. Luton Parish Church has a large 3 manual HNB console, with the stops in 3s so that the organist is able to see and conduct over the top....... well he used to, before they went clappy and sacked the choir. I now wade through drum kits to gain access to the pipes and that organist has moved away.