The software program Hauptwerk (www.hauptwerk.com) makes it possible to play an electronic keyboard and produce the authentic sound of a pipe organ. These pipe organ sounds are using collections of sound files that were recorded from the original instrument in high quality: one pipe at the time. The characteristics of the room (reverbation) is often included.
This capturing of the sound of an organ is an electronic documentation of the sound. In case of historic instruments this can be valuable, especially in cases of dissaster when an instrument is destroyed. Technically it could be possible to reconstruct an instrument, but it is impossible to reconstruct the original instruments sound, because aging of the materials can’t be reconstructed. Therefore this digital catalogue of the sounds of an organ is unique.
I am testing the software, using the free (limited) version of Hauptwerk with free (limited) organ sets. I tried the free Brindley & Foster (English), fully functional organ that is included with Hauptwerk, the Cavaille-Coll organ from Caen (France), and the Dutch romantic Batz organ, from Utrecht, the Netherlands.
It is this last instrument that brought back some memories. In the specification all stops were included, even if they didn’t produce any sound. This results in a true historic representation of this instrument.
Let me explain…
The stop KALKANTEKLOK does not activate any pipe ranks. In some other organs this stop is called CALCANT. Pulling this stop results in a tingling sound of a tiny bell. This tiny bell is located behind the organ, where the bellows are located.
Instead of a motor, the air was provided by people that were pumping air into the bellows. With this tiny bell the organist would indicate that the pumper(s) should start working. Very nice that this real organ-’stop’ is included.
Related to this, there are stops called “Afsluiting” (Closure). There are four of these type of stops, one for each manual and one for the pedal. Every manual has its own bellow and the pumper has to pump hard to keep all bellows filled. A kind organist will use one or two manuals and close the other bellows. That makes it easier for the pumper, especially on a warm Sunday the the summer.
Organ playing was teamwork and good communication was needed between the organist in the front, and his helper(s) behind the organ.
By the way, after a long sermon the pumper may have fallen asleep, and the congregation would not hear the organ play right away, but an agitated little bell, trying to wake up the organ pumper…
Sometimes the organ was sounding out of tune, which meant that there was not enough air. The organist could be very enthusiastic and pull out all the stops, or the organ pumper was did not keep an eye on the level of the bellows…
Interesting that a software program brings back these memories.
For an impression of Hauptwerk, see the video below. Recorded at the organist’s home, we hear the Bovenkerk in Kampen, The Netherlands.