November 3, 2019
November 3, 2019
Organ Building and Restorations in the Netherlands
- You have returned for several projects recently to the ancient process of casting pipe metal on sand. Your experience with this has been formative for our pipemaking and voicing at the Fritts shop and we appreciate very much your enthusiastic sharing of information about this practice. What have you found to be the advantages of this laborious process?
- I remember having quite a bit of skepticism when I first read about sand-casting, but I decided to go to Göteborg and find out for myself. When I heard the organ in Göteborg for the first time, I heard something I had never heard in a new organ before — a very pleasant resonance in the sound. It made me wonder if it was related to the sandcasting. Very soon after that we were commissioned to do the reconstruction of the Katharinen in Hamburg, where sand-casting was one of the requirements. The information about this method made available in the publications of the Göteborg Organ Art Center (GOArt) was certainly helpful, but there was much more to be found out before we were able to produce good sheets of metal on a sand bed. Through perseverance we were able to overcome several moments of despair. I very often compare it to learning how to ice-skate. The first time you stand on the ice, you don’t believe that you will ever be able to make it around the rink. After many bumps and scratches you learn how to do it, and afterwards you don’t understand why it was so difficult in the beginning.
I still remember the moment we had the first stop finished. It was the Octave 4’ (100% lead) of the Rückpositive. All my doubts vanished like snow in the sun when I started voicing. The voicing process was so much more effective. The pipes wanted to sound. The speech issues and unmusical hissing were so much less prominent than with pipes cast on cloth. I had the same experience when I voiced the Principal 8’ (89% tin). When these two stops were sounding in the workshop (not an ideal acoustical situation!), it was already so convincing. I never heard this in a new organ before. In general, it has been my experience that pipes made of sand-cast material are easier to voice and they seem to produce a more vibrant sound. Since Hamburg we built two more organs, St. Florian in Austria and the Royal College of Music in London, with sand-cast pipes and have had the same experience.
This casting method is much more expensive because it is more labor-intensive, but is absolutely worthwhile. It is certainly not true that you cannot make an organ sound good with pipes made of material that is cast on cloth. There are many historic examples of organbuilders who did not cast on sand. But, to me there is certainly a positive difference in favor of sand-casting.