Monday, September 27, 2004

Trompette and Contra Hautbois

One of the more time-consuming tasks in last night's update of the St. Michael's website was the redesign of the St. Michael's music page. Church organist and choir director Jane Haman sent me updated information about the church's Aeolian-Skinner organ, including something called a "stop list."  Basically this is a list of the different pipes and other organ parts, but the whole thing is wonderfully obscure, even to someone like me who took music classes all though high school. Check out, for example, the names of the "swells":

pipe organ console at St. Michael'sContra Violone
Viola Pomposa
Viola Celeste
Harmonic Flute
III-IV Scharff
Contra Hautbois
Unison off

I suspect that the "Swell/Swell Unison off Tremulant" part is all one thing, a reference to pipes this organ doesn't have but could have. So why list them? I have no idea.

Another intruiging part is the variation in the multilingual names of the kinds of pipes. In different categories of pipes, you can find Trompet (Great), Trompette (Swell and Choir), and the more familiar Trumpet (Antiphonal, enclosed). Why does it take three different spellings?  What are the origins of such fascinating names as Wood Gedeckt, Gemshorn, Chimney Flute, Fifteenth, IV-V Mixture, Viola Pomposa, Rohrflote, Sesquialtera, III-IV Scharff and Contra Hautbois? Don't ask me. I only formatted the HTML table until 3 AM. I don't know what any of it means!

I'm very fond of this organ, though. Aside from its impressive range and beautiful sound, it has a very personal connection for me. Early in the Book of Pipes fundraising campaign, I sponsored one of the pipes in honor of Dan Cheney, my high school boyfriend who was killed by a drunk driver in 1978. And in December, 2002, Jane Haman played my mom's song The Ending of Desire on the organ at Mom's funeral, after just forty minutes of preparation with the 35-year-old pencilled sheet music.


1 comment:

ryanagi said...

Sponsored a pipe...that's so cool! That's the kind of memorial I would love to have when I am gone (some day in the far distant future, I hope). I don't want a grave in some cemetary that will be grown over and forgotten. I want to be cremated and have a nice bench in a pretty park, or a tile in a new church or something that will be around for a long time and enjoyed by many many people. LOL A bit morbid, I suppose, but that's what I would like. :-)