A few days ago when I was at the concert in Vilnius Cathedral listening an organist Jonathan Embry from the US play this Neo-Baroque Alexander Schuke organ, my colleague came up to me afterwards at the restaurant where we were celebrating and asked if I could look at her positiv organ at the Reformed church in Vilnius which needed tuning and a bit of regulating.
She said it has a few stops and their church received it as a donation from Germany recently. Being not an organ builder I reluctantly agreed and this morning I came to her church.
In the Soviet times it was converted into a movie theater called "Victory" ("Pergale" in Lithuanian). But when Lithuania became independent the building was given back to the Reformed community.
She met me outside of the building at led me through the construction workers into the church and showed me the organ in the back of the nave. Actually two organs - the one on the left is a two manual Viscount digital organ and on the right - our little positive organ. Sometimes it's called Continuo organ because often such instruments are used to play keyboard continuo parts in the orchestral works of the Baroque period.
It has only one keyboard or as we call it one manual, handles on the sides for moving and a few rows of pipes or stops. In fact it has Gedackt 8', Rohrflote 4', Principal 2' and two divided stops - Quinte 1 1/3' and Super Octave 1'. Those divided stops can be played in the bass or the treble range. They can be useful when bringing out the melody in the right hand or the left hand.
I took the panels out so that I could reach the pipes and checked the tuning. Most of the stops were OK but the Gedact 8' needed some tuning in the upper range as well as two keys were stuck. So I had some work to do in finding out which way the regulation screws to turn. With the little help of trial and error I discovered I needed to turn the screws clockwise.
When I tuned some of these pipes the most difficult thing was locating them and putting them back into place. I kept losing my view of those pipes the minute I turned my eyes away to the keyboard. In order to tune the Gedackt pipe I had to push in or out the roof of the pipe. When you push it in, the pitch becomes higher, when you push it out - the pitch becomes lower.
The roof of one particular pipe had stuck too deep for my fingers to catch it. I needed some tools to get it out. So I went to my church to get the pliers while my colleague practiced on the organ for her upcoming recital.
Unfortunately, I left the keys from the organ at home but fortunately security guard had a pair of scissors and while one of us held the pipe, the other moved its roof out. I thanked him and went back to the Reformed church and put the pipe back into the organ.
Then my colleague turned my attention to the wooden ceiling which is preserved and is very valuable historically. We have a similar ceiling in the recently reconstructed palace of Grand Dukes but this one of course is the original.
Then I asked my colleague to play the organ a little bit while I went to the front of the nave to listen to how it sounds. I was amazed how the organ sound filled the room. Despite of its small size (only 5 stops) this little positiv organ came alive in this acoustical environment.
The only thing I regret from today is that I forgot to make a video demonstrating how this organ sounds. Maybe next time when they need me some other time. I hope they will use this organ for congregation singing and for concerts more often because it sounds really well in this space. Plus it will be really good for its mechanics to be used regularly.
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Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.