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New Pipes for the Church Organ

A church organist felt particularly blessed when the parish where he served agreed to add a unique extension to their pipe organ. Known as a trompette en chamade, it was a rank of pipes mounted high over the entry door of the church. Such installations often feature horizontal pipes jutting out like a rank of trumpets ready for a royal fanfare. They have a very a very bright and dramatic sound.

The happy organist told all his friends about the project; indeed he kept them posted week after week describing each detail of progress, as the pipes were mounted, the surrounding cabinetry finished, connections to the console made, and, finally, the auxilliary blower installed.

A note about that blower: all pipe organs operate by air being forced through the pipes from one or more powerful blowers. These large fans make a noise; not a particularly loud or offensive noise, but you can hear it nonetheless. Often it is a deep rumble, with perhaps a slight “whoosh” of forced air. The new trompette en chamade had its own blower, with a switch on the organ console which allowed the organist to turn it on and off as required. In this way, the congregation would not have the ambient noise of a motor and a rush of air behind behind them when the trompette was not in use.

Eventually work finished, and a Sunday came when the new pipes would be played for the first time in an actual church service. The organist was very excited, and planned certain verses of the hymns when he would use them.

The first hymn began. Just before the last verse, he hit the button on his console and started the blower. There was a barely audible ‘whoosh’ as the air pressure built up, and then the trompette rang out brightly, marvellously, filling the entire church with its triumphant sound. The hymn ended, the organist switched off the blower, and the service continued.

Later, another opportunity to use the brilliant new stop came along. It, too, was a hymn, and as the final verse approached the organist once more hit the button to start the blower.

The faint rumble and ‘whoosh’ began, and, in the pause between verses a voice from the back of the church was heard: “Holy Mother of God! Here it comes again!”

(The organist faithfully reported all this to the same friends with whom he had shared the building of the new rank of pipes. I, in turn, heard it from one of them. Tony)