Description of the Organ

From the manuscript, “Organs in Maine, 1847-1866
By George Bozeman, Jr.

The Bangor Great is a truly magnificent ensemble. It is founded on a noble Open Diapason 8′. The largest common metal pipe is marked “extra Open”, probably referring to its unusually large scale. In spite of its size it nevertheless has a wonderful color and refinement. The upper work is beautifully capped by a fine mixture of three ranks, which in spite of its name, does not contain a Tierce. The Tierce rank probably disappeared from the Great chorus by the 1860’s because of the introduction of equal temperament, which makes for a decided clash between the tempered, quite wide thirds of the musical scale against the pure thirds in the Tierce. An equally fine Clarion crowns the usual fine Hook Trumpet. The chorus is underpinned by a clear Bourdon 16′. The 4′ Flute is a smaller-scaled Melodia.

The Swell is equally well developed. It has its own Bourdon and even the low octave is in the Swell box. A curious thing about the Bangor organ is the lack of any divided stops, particularly noteworthy in the case of the Swell Bourdon. The bottom octave of the Bourdon was usually available on a bass knob so that it could be coupled to the Pedal for the softest possible 16′ bass while using the tenor C Hautboy as a solo stop above it. Furthermore, the Swell Open Diapason 8′ still has, and the Viol di Gamba formerly had no pipes below tenor C, yet there was never a Stopped Diapason Bass to serve them. The Harmonic Flute 4′ was a new development at this time for America, and this is an extremely fine example. The 2′ Fifteenth had been removed in favor of a Vox Humana of indifferent quality; when we restored the organ in 1981 we copied the pipes of this stop from Woburn to replace it, and thus are quite certain that its effect is authentic. The Dulciana Cornet is a very useful stop, forming a fine crown for the Swell chorus. It does have a Tierce rank, of course, and this plus the slightly lighter character of the Swell chorus scaling gives the effect of an earlier Great chorus. Perhaps this was an intentional thing, to provide the “old” chorus contrasted against the “modern” tierceless Great ensemble. The Dulciana Cornet is also very effective for playing Cornet Voluntaries. The parity of the Swell with the Great is obscured at the keydesk; the Great pipes are immediately above the keyboards and are quite clear to the player whereas the Swell division is high above and the sound soars out freely to the nave but bypasses the organist somewhat. Coupling the Swell to the Great is more telling than it seems at the console.

The Choir is fascinatingly devised. It is somewhat less powerful than the other manuals, very refined in its effects, yet quite clear and effective. The Open Diapason is the mellowest of the three. The Stopped Diapason is of wood (whereas the Swell Stopped Diapason is a Chimney Flute). There are three Dulcianas forming a chorus, Eolina 16′, Dulciana 8′, and Celestina 4′. A wonderful three-fold echo effect is possible by playing a passage on Great Diapasons 8′, 4′, and 2′, echoing this with the same combination on the Swell, once again with the Swell box closed, and finally on the Choir Dulciana played an octave higher. The timbre remains constant throughout. The Viola d’Amour is a bell Gamba, with pipes of Gemshorn construction surmounted by an inverted bell, which increases the power and incisiveness of the keen tone without losing a prompt speech. The Celestina 4′ works surprisingly well as a 4′ Principal above the Open or Stopped Diapason. The Flute 4′ is a very delicate little Chimney Flute, even though the Hooks apparently never could quite get the French spelling right! The Piccolo is a large-scaled, open Nachthorn; it would be hard to find a nicer 2′ flute. The Cremona is very nearly a Clarinet, and is an unusual example of one with a complete bottom octave. The lowest pipes have rather curious shallots, which imbue it with a wonderful dark color in the lowest notes.

The Pedal is decidedly the most deficient division. It originally had only 25 notes, perhaps on the assumption that backwoods Maine organists of the day were not very demanding. The Double Open Diapason is grand in the usual Hook fashion, although the lowest three pipes didn’t fit on the windchest and have never had sufficient winding. The Double Dulciana is exactly the same gargantuan scale, but has a lower cut-up and lighter winding to produce a very useful softer bass. It is on a separate chest, which had a spare slider. When we restored the organ in 1981 we had to decide whether this was intended for an 8′ Violoncello or Principal, or a 16′ Trombone; we chose the latter and copied the Grande Posaune at Woburn.

The couplers deserve some attention also. There are the normal three unison manual couplers to the Pedal and the Swell to Great and Swell to Choir. But the Choir to Great coupler is 16′. This produces several interesting effects. If the Choir 16′ Eolina is drawn and coupled to the Great chorus it provides a beautifully balanced manual 32′ effect from middle c. For an even grander effect the Swell chorus can be coupled to the Great at unison in the usual way and augmented by coupling it to the Choir, and the Choir to the Great, in effect thus coupling the Swell to Great at 16′. However the action becomes so stiff that one would hardly use it for long or with rapid notes.

With this organ’s limpid voices sounding in the exceptionally fine acoustics of Saint John’s, one has an ideal vehicle for all of the romantic organ repertory at least up to 1860. Yet it still retains a firm classical basis that is very rewarding for Bach and other 18th century German composers. With some imaginative manipulation one can also do considerable justice to French Classic works. Much of the later repertory is also very effective. The principal lack of the instrument is any celestes and other features of the early twentieth century American organs.