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I spend many happy hours visiting organs here and abroad and see a huge variety of console arrangements both tidy and otherwise. At my church we have eight or more people using the organs regularly each week. These situations give me an interest in how to keep the console tidy. The basic message here is ‘leave it how you want to find it’ - that should be enough, but, like the Golden Rule, Fac alteri ut tibi vis, (do unto others...) it only works if a standard is set as we don’t share the same standards; so here’s a list that will help you keep the home organist happy:
1. Put everything back where it was found: pencils, music stands, chairs, hymnals. Spend some time at the end of a practice session or service checking that you’ve done your part.
2. If you change pistons, return them to the original setting, unless you’ve been given a specific memory level. I often make a note of the original settings before I start altering any (with my cell phone camera), so that it is easy to return them to the ‘home’ position.
3. If you alter anything - such as the height of the music rack or the position or height of the bench - then return them to the original position. There’s an argument that adjustable pistons and benches, etc., were made to be altered for the convenience of the person playing the organ, but it is just good etiquette to allow the home organist to be able to return to the console with everything in the usual position.
4. Leave the expression shoes in the open position so that the tuning remains stable. There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s a good habit even if you’re playing a digital organ to leave them open.
5. Leave the crescendo shoe closed - it prevents nasty shocks for organist and congregation!
6. Turn off all lights (check them...)
7. Once you’ve driven 5 miles from the church, stop to think if you remembered to switch off the blower. An older blower left on overnight can easily cause a disastrous fire in a church. Heat from overheated motor bearings may set grease alight which spreads to the tinder-dry wood of the organ and the whole lot goes up in flames, taking the church roof with it. Insurance rarely covers the replacement value of the losses. By the way, have you checked the replacement value of your organ with the church authorities recently?
8. If you have sweaty hands, wipe down the keys before you leave.
9. When erasing pencil marks, do it away from the music rack and keyboards as it’s unpleasant to play with that waste material on the keys. It’s also said that the bits of rubber get in the key contacts and can cause dead notes.
10. Finally, if you are the incumbent organist, please do allow visitors to try the organ. It’s frequently said that visiting organists should not be allowed to play as they could damage the instrument, but I’ve never heard of this actually happening. I’ve heard of damage being done by malicious people, but not by my colleagues. Have you?
Simon C. Berry
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