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The organ

The organ of Christ Church, Lausanne, is actually composed of two organs built at different dates. The older, in the north transept, was built for the church in 1878 by the firm of E.F. Walcker of Ludwigsburg, initially as a one manual, eight stop instrument which was extended with a set of bourdon pipes a few years later. A large addition was made to this original organ in 1924 by the firm of Tschanun under the guidance of Alexander John Sainsbury, organist of the church and professor of piano at the Lausanne Conservatoire.

organ pipesorgan

front of the organ
organ

Thanks to the hard work of a parishioner, David Elliott, whose grandfather was an organ builder in Yorkshire, the original pneumatic action (over 2,000 leather parts) was replaced during 1995 and the 1’763 pipes cleaned and tuned as part of an on-going sympathetic restoration.

A brief history of the organ in Christ Church Lausanne

There have been four main periods of work on the Organ: 1878, 1882?, 1924-25 and 1994.

1878: E. F.Walcker of Ludwigsburg in Germany installed an eight-stop, one manual and pedal organ with tracker action to a cone-valve chest, opus 353, according to the brief details found on Walcker’s web site. If the information written in pencil on the sides of the wind chest is to be believed, this Organ had the following specification:

Principal 8′, Bourdon 16′, Gambe 8′, Bourdon 8′, Oboe 8′, Prestant 4′, Mixture III, with a Sousbasse 16′ on the pedal.

The only tuning access at this time was by removing the side panels, which explains why the reed stop was not at the end. It is clear from inspection of the construction of the Organ case that the passage board next to the present Oboe was added at a later date, probably by Tschanun in 1924.

1882?: Walcker were asked to enlarge the Organ, most likely to be ready for the visit of Queen Victoria’s grandsons. We have no details of this work, however, there are more Walcker stops in the present organ than could be accommodated on the seven or eight stop Walcker chest, so perhaps the original Bourdon 16′ was replaced with the 8′ and 4′ Weiner Flutes and the Bourdon 8′ replaced with a Salicional 8′. There is a photograph (held at the Organ Museum in Roche) that shows two manuals, so the specification might have been:

First Manual: Principal 8′, Gambe 8′, Flute 8′, Flute 4′,
Second Manual: Salicional 8′, Oboe 8′, Prestant 4′, Mixture III.
Pedal: Sousbasse 16′.

or alternatively:

First Manual: Principal 8′, Prestant 4′, Mixture III
Second Manual: Salicional 8′, Gambe 8′, Flute 8′, Flute 4′, Oboe 8′
Pedal: Sousbasse 16′

1924-25: The Geneva-based Organ Builders Tschanun were given the task of enlarging the organ. Evidently funds were limited, as full use was to be made of the existing Walcker stops and the chests would be the cheaper cone-valve type (as opposed to Tschanun’s preferred slider and pallet chests), almost identical to the Walcker chest which was to be re-used but with a Barker action operating the trackers to the original mechanical action. However, there was no expense spared in the construction of the visible parts of the organ and thus the console is particularly attractive.

The principal 8′ was moved to the new Grand or Great Organ, and the three rank mixture was most probably moved to the new Récit or Swell Organ. The Walcker Prestant 4′ would then have been moved to occupy the vacant 8′ stop with a new first octave of wooden pipes made by Tschanun. Seven of the top octave of pipes would be used as the compass of the manuals was to be enlarged from 54 to 61 notes. The scale of this rank is smaller than the Principal 8′ in the Grand Organ and it has more ‘string’ tone (more harmonics).

A new Bourdon 16′ was made and the two flute stops moved to the place where the Salicional and Oboe had been. With the extension of the Organ case (or Swell box), the Oboe 8′ could now go on the last chest for ease of tuning, previously occupied by the mixture. A new top board was made for this, which explains why it overhangs the original chest. The Salicional 8′ was moved to the chest originally occupied by the Prestant 4′.

Three extra pipes were made to increase the compass of the pedal Sousbasse to 32 notes.

The electric motor would have been installed by Tschanun, but the main double rise reservoir does look very different from the others, the paper covering is green and not blue for instance, so it is possible that it was part of the original hand-blown Walcker system. There are some parts of it that have been blocked up and the current entry point of the wind from the motor is evidently not part of the original design. Of course the reservoir may have been a second-hand one from another church that Tschanun re-used.

1960-70’s: Various small repairs were carried out by local organ tuners to keep the organ functioning. Many of these repairs were obviously done in a hurry and most had failed ten years later.

1994: All the leather action was replaced with puffer membranes from Laukhuff and split skin skiver from England. The lack of adequate funds forced the use of a modern equivalent to cover the 15 or so registration motors. All the reservoirs and wind trunking were cleaned and the numerous leaks tracked down and repaired. The oxidised parts of the lead-tin compo tubing were cut out and replaced with very durable thick-walled polymer tubing. These sections were usually at the point where the tubing enters the wood blocks, which support the leather pneumatics and were never more than a few centimetres in length. They are flexible and so will help prevent further stress-induced fatigue and oxidation as they absorb the strain that tuners and other visitors cause as they brush past them. The wind chests were checked for splits and some repairs made. The coupler membranes were nearly all working, but three or four in each block needed to be replaced with new zephyr (made from pigs’ stomach!). The pipe work was cleaned and one or two repairs made, but in general it was all in very good condition. All this work was carried out by David Elliott, whose Organ restoration company “Diapason” has restored and maintains several organs in Switzerland and Italy.

1995: One of the trumpets had a new tongue fitted by M. Paul Cartier who helped tune the organ ready for a concert to celebrate the first stage of the restoration.

2000: The reed pipes (3 ranks) were restored by M. Jean-Marie Tricoteaux. None of the reed tongues were replaced, but new leather was applied to the bass shallots and the corroding blocks of the Walker oboe were lacquered.

2003/4: While David Elliott was away working with Henry Willis & Sons in Liverpool, the oldest part of the organ suffered damage because of the heating being left on full day and night for at least two weeks. The humidifiers were also not used. The metre long splits to the wind chests were repaired by David Elliott on his return to Lausanne.

All the following work was also carried out by David Elliott:

2006-8: The man-made materials, used for the registration bellows during the 1995 work, were replaced with leather. The console leather boursettes were replaced on the manual and pedal touch boxes as well as the Barker lever of the Walcker.

The Piccolo, Nasard and Tierce were regulated, as over the years certain pipes had become either too loud or too soft. The leather joints of the south reservoir were replaced where they had begun to split.

2013: The weights used on the main reservoir to the Great and Swell as well as the principal reservoir were clearly a mixture of the original bricks plus a random selection of stones and concrete blocks, suggesting that the pressure was increased in 1985 after the space behind the organ into which the pedal pipes played was blocked off by the construction of a kitchen! As the church had a new tile floor installed in 2013 it was decided to experiment by removing all but the original bricks. This brought the wind pressure down from 90 mm (water column) to 75 mm, a figure which is more typical of Tschanun’s organs. The sound was found to be more harmonious, particularly for the flute stops.

2015: Large scale humidifiers were installed, one within the south organ case and one in the sacristy that houses the blower and communicates directly with the Walcker and Echo Organs in the north transept. This has reduced the number of small regulations and repairs that are required from time to time and the tuning is also more stable as the sound boards and rack boards don’t move.

2018: A small valve came unstuck from its leather button in the control of one of the ranks in the voix celeste. This very simple fault to rectify took two days work as it required a large amount of the organ to be dismantled to gain access.

The organ specifications

The Organ has five divisions, the Great on the first manual, the Recit and Echo both on the second or Swell manual, the Choir (mainly Walcker pipes) on the third or top manual, and the pedal division. The Great, Recit and most of the Pedal are in the south transept (on the opposite side from the console) and the Choir, Echo and sub bass of the Pedal are in the north transept. The Echo is above and behind the Choir but sound is able to reach the nave over the top of the choir casework and through a porthole in the wall.

The key action is tubular pneumatic to cone valve chests on the manual divisions and Roosevelt action to the Pedal divisions. The registration is also pneumatic.

Couplers: Great to Pedal, Swell to Pedal, Choir to Pedal, Choir to Swell, Swell to Great, Swell sub octave to Great, Swell super octave to Great, Swell super octave to Pedal, Choir to Great, Choir sub octave to Great, Choir super octave to Great.

There are four general pistons, P, MP, MF, F. a crescendo pedal, one preset combination and various ventils.

There are 1763 pipes, 29 stops and 29 ranks.

Choir, Top manual, under expression:

  • Bourdon 16′
  • Principal 8′
  • Gambe 8′
  • Salicional 8′
  • Flute 8′
  • Flute 4′
  • Oboe 8′ (free reed)

Echo, middle manual (Swell):

  • Bourdon 8′ (metal from tenor c)
  • Voix Humaine 8′
  • Voix Celeste II 8′
  • Nasard 2 2/3′
  • Piccolo 2′
  • Tierce 1 3/5′

Recit, middle manual (Swell):

  • Flute Harmonique 8′
  • Gambette 4′
  • Plein Jeu III 2′
  • Trompette 8′
  • Bassoon 16′

Great, lowest manual:

  • Contre Salicional 16′
  • Salicional 8′ (extension from 16′)
  • Bourdon 8′ (wood)
  • Open Diapason 8′
  • Principal 8′
  • Principal 4′
  • Flute 4′

Pedal

  • Sousbass 16′
  • Basse Ouvert 16′
  • Basse 8′ (extension of 16′)
  • Bassoon 16′ (from Recit)

Please see here the collection of pipe organs looked after by David Elliott.