The Village Church OrganOur organ is a combination of the 21 ranks of our original organ, 9 new ranks of pipes, and the Allen Q-465C digital organ, all controlled by a new four-manual console.

The original organ had 1533 pipes in its 21 ranks. The 10 new ranks add 690 pipes for a total of 2223 pipes in six divisions. The pipes range in length from 16 feet to less than 1 inch. The console has 4 manuals or keyboards, a pedal keyboard and over 100 different stops. Terms which may be new to you, such as ranks, stops and divisions, will be defined later in this article. More technical aspects will be found in appendices.

The Allen Q-465C digital organ can replicate 87 ranks (stops) of “pipes” and 321 voices. This organ uses  Allen's own Acoustic Portrait™, which  brings the science of sampling to acoustics!

Acoustic Portrait begins with a sampling process using impulse responses that measure an actual room's acoustic properties. These measurements are then stored in the organ's computer memory. Through an advanced real-time mathematical process called convolution, the acoustics of the sampled room actually become an integral part of the organ's sound, producing a noticeably smoother, more natural result than synthetic reverberation. Allen engineers have recorded the acoustics of cathedrals and other acoustically desirable buildings throughout the world. With advanced digital signal processors (DSPs) and low-latency convolution algorithms, Acoustic Portrait reproduces the true acoustic response of each original room with stunning realism! Each Quantum Organ features 10 different Acoustic Portraits, ranging from intimate rooms to cavernous cathedrals. The Allen organ can be set at the console for 4 different styles : American Classic, English Cathedral, French Romantic, or Neo-Baroque.

The digital component of the Village Church organ uses 26 speakers situated at different places in the sanctuary. The two largest speakers are 44 inches x 27inches.

In summary, at the heart of our organ there is a chorus of rich singing Principal stops, voiced to effortlessly fill the sanctuary while encouraging and enriching congregational singing. Added to this core of pipe sound are the realism, detail and flexibility of the Renaissance Quantum™ digital voices. The result is a seamless tonal diversity that supports varying styles of worship, choral accompaniment and organ literature.

Definition of Terms

Ranks: A rank of pipes is a set of pipes of a similar type or sound quality. Most organ keyboards have 61 keys, representing the C two octaves below middle C to the C three octaves above middle C. So a typical rank of pipes will contain 61 pipes, each connected to the corresponding key on the keyboard.

The Village Church Organ Ranks

If the tallest pipe in this rank is 8 feet tall, it will have the frequency of about 64 Hz (cycles/second), corresponding to Low C on the piano. The pipe for the Tenor C (about 128 Hz) will be half as tall, at 4'. The pipe for Middle C (about 256 Hz) will be 2' tall and the pipe for High C (2,048 Hz) will be about 3 inches tall.

If the tallest pipe in the rank is 16' tall, the frequencies will be cut in half, or the key will play a note an octave lower. If the tallest pipe is 4' tall, the frequencies will double, or the corresponding key will play a note an octave higher.

Organ ranks are named according to the type of sound they produce. Each rank will also have a number associated with it, the height of the tallest pipe in the rank. Thus ranks will have names like 16 Montre or 8 Diapason or 4 Harmonic Flute. The sounds of the Montre and the Diapason (sometimes called the Principal) are unique to the pipe organ and is the sound which comes to mind in the context of traditional church music, such as hymns.

the village church organ divisionsthe village church organ divisionsStops: In the Village Church organ, there are 30 ranks of pipes. Obviously, the organist will not want all the ranks to be played at the same time.  The organist will control which ranks will be used by means of stop knobs on the console. For example, there is a stop knob labeled 16 Bourdon and another the 4 Flute. When a particular stop knob is pulled out, the rank associated with it will be available to be played. In the right photo, the rightmost two stop knobs are open.

Putting everything together

We can demonstrate the use of ranks, keyboards and stops with this simple schematic, showing an organ with 6 ranks, with the drawings at the left illustrating different types of pipes. Each row of the matrix contains 8 pipes of a single rank. These 8 pipes are shown in this diagram with lines drawn to the 8 white keys of an octave on the keyboard which correspond to them.  At the right end there are drawings of 6 stops which allow only the pipes in that rank to be played. This diagram shows two open stops.

the village church organ keyboard

Each column contains all six pipes which play the same note. (As noted above, some of the ranks may be playing a note an octave higher or lower.) When the G key is depressed, the two pipes in the open ranks (or stops) will have air pumped into them and therefore will sound the G in the voices of those two ranks.

Keyboards and Divisions

The four manuals are used to control different divisions of the organ pipes. Several ranks together are referred to as a "division." The pipes in a division are usually controlled by a single keyboard. Our organ will have a Great division, a Swell division, a Choir division, a String division, a Solo division and a Pedal division.

  1. The Great (or Great Organ) division usually contains the instrument's most important and widely used stops. This division will be controlled by the second keyboard from the bottom of the four keyboards. Exact specifications of the divisions can be found at the end of this article.

    Our exposed Great division will contain the following:
    16 Bourdon with 97 pipes i
    8 Diapason with 61 pipes
    4 Octave with 61 pipes
    4 Harmonic Flute with 61 pipes
    2 2/3 Twelfth t.c. with 49 pipes (it uses 12 pipes from the 4 Octave) ii
    2 Fifteenth with 61 pipes iii
    1 1/3 Mixture II with 183 pipes iv

    Out of sight in the Great Division will be other ranks such as the 8 Viola de Gambe, the 16 Trompette and the 8 Trompette for a total of 16 ranks, some of which will be also used in other divisions. Exact specifications of the divisions can be found in Appendix C. Our organ also can replicate 17 ranks in the digital component to complement the pipes in the Great division.

  2. The pipes in the Swell  division, controlled by the third keyboard from the bottom,  are encased behind wooden shutters, which the organist can open and close. This makes the music get louder or quieter (crescendo or diminuendo). The organist operates the swell box with a pedal just above the pedal board. There are 17 ranks of pipes in our Swell division. Our organ also can replicate 18  ranks in the digital component to complement the pipes in the Swell  division.

  3. The Pedal division will use many of the ranks in the Great Division, especially the 16 Bourdon for the lower notes. The Pedal division also lists a 32 Resultant, which is unusual in that it is not really a rank with tallest pipe of 32 feet. This is done by having two pipes, one pipe of the note being played, and its fifth being sounded at the same time. The result is heard as a pitch of one octave lower than the actual note being played. This application is useful especially in the lowest ranks of the pipe organ where cost or space could prohibit having such a rank. Our organ also can replicate 20 ranks in the digital component to complement the pipes in the Pedal  division.

  4. The Choir division  contains soft stops which are suitable for accompanying the choir and is controlled by the bottom manual. Our organ has 12 ranks of pipes in the Choir division, complemented by 13 ranks  in the digital component.

  5. The fourth manual is called the Solo because the stops on this manual are often used to play out the tune as a solo. The manual for this division is the top of the four manuals.  The Solo division has stops with voices like the French horn, the clarinet, the flute and  a  loud stop  called the 16 Tuba Mirablis. Our organ has no pipes in this division, but is implemented only in the digital component.

i The 16 Bourdon rank has 97 pipes because it would have the normal 61 pipes of a rank, with 12 shorter pipes added, allowing the next octave, making it the equivalent of an 8 foot Bourdon. Another 24 pipes allows still 2 more octaves, allowing the rank to also be used as 4 foot and 2 foot Bourdons. The 61 pipes + 12 + 24 equals 97 pipes for this rank.

ii The 2 2/3 Twelfth plays the third harmonic (or overtone). For example if C is played on the keyboard, the G pipe  in the next octave is used. This G is an octave plus a fifth, or 12 keys higher.

iii The 2 Fifteenth is the fourth harmonic or overtone, two octaves above the fundamental, since the interval between the fundamental and the overtone is called a fifteenth.

Note: the fifth harmonic is two octaves plus a third higher. The low C key will play the E pipe two octaves higher. This is done in  the 1 3/5 Tierce t.c. rank in the Swell division

iv The 1 1/3 Mixture III plays the sixth harmonic. If the low C is played, the G two octaves higher is played. This G is two octaves plus a fifth higher. The III means that a mixture of 3 pipes will be used with each note. Therefore the rank will require 61x3 or 183 pipes.


“Among the musical instruments that have a place in church, the organ rightly holds the principal position, since it is especially fitted for the sacred chants and sacred rites. It adds a wonderful splendor and a special magnificence to the ceremonies of the Church. It moves the souls of the faithful by the grandeur and sweetness of its tones. It gives minds an almost heavenly joy and it lifts them up powerfully to God and to higher things.” (Pius XII, 1955) Appendix A. Pipes

the village church organ flute

Organ pipes are of two forms, flue pipes and reed pipes. Flue pipes may be made either of wood or metal. The diagram on the left pictures a wood pipe and the right a metal pipe, usually made of tin and lead.

When a constant supply of compressed air is delivered from the toe to the mouth of the pipe, the speaking length of each pipe acts as an air resonator that develops standing waves in the column of air contained in each pipe. The oscillating air pressure is radiated as sound to the ambient air from the two openings of the flue pipe: 1) at the top end of the resonator, and 2) at the mouth of the pipe. Some flue pipes produce sounds unique to the pipe organ which come to mind in the context of traditional church music. Others may sound like flutes or even strings.

the village church organ flute

The reed pipe is similar to a single reed orchestral instrument. The wind flowing through the pipe vibrates a metal tongue, a strip of flat metal, against an open-faced shallot. This is not visible from the outside because these parts are contained in the boot, the bottom part of the pipe which rests on the wind chest. The sound is amplified by the resonator, the top, flared part of the pipe. Pitch is determined by the length of the tongue, not by the length of the resonator of the pipe.

The longer the resonator, the bolder and more penetrating the sound produced. The volume – and in this reed pipes do resemble flue pipes – depends on the air pressure as well. The higher the air pressure the louder the sound.

Reed pipes are tuned with the tuning wire that controls how much of the tongue is allowed to vibrate. In order to make tuning easier and quicker the tuning wire is made to stick out of the block so that it be easily raised or lowered to adjust the pitch.

Reed pipes have a strong, penetrating tone and are used to produce the sound of trumpets and oboes, as well as many other voices.

Organ Pipe Physics

An organ pipe is the simplest form of a wind instrument. Figure (a) shows the longitudinal section of an organ pipe whose one end is closed and figure (b) shows an organ pipe, both ends of which are open. It consists of a hollow tube BD in which air can be blown through a pipe A (also called the mouthpiece).

the village church organ physics


The air moves through a narrow slit B and strikes against the sharp edge C, called the lip. This lip vibrates and sets up vibration in the air column enclosed in the pipe. These vibrations travel to the other end of the pipe and get reflected. Due to superposition of the incident wave and the reflected wave, longitudinal stationary waves are formed. The frequency of the note produced, depends mainly on the length of the pipe and the type of the pipe, i.e., whether it is closed or open.

Modes of vibration in an open pipe

the village church organ harmonics

In the simplest or the fundamental mode of vibration in an open pipe, the air column vibrates in the pattern shown to the left. This represents only 1/2 of the wavelength of that particular sound.

In an open pipe, when a compressed wave reaches the far end, the air at that point is, for an instant, at a pressure greater than the atmospheric pressure. Being an open end, the air there can vibrate with maximum freedom and so, it suddenly expands into the surrounding air. Thus, the pressure diminishes so quickly that it becomes lesser than the pressure of the surrounding air, which causes a sudden rarefaction at the end of the pipe. This sets up a rarefied wave which passes back along the pipe. Within the tube, the reflected pulses meet the direct ones and the result is the formation of the standing waves of length 2L, where L is the length of the pipe.

Frequency of the sound (in Hz, or cycles/second) is equal to the velocity of sound (1125 feet/sec) divided by the wavelength or f=V/Wavelength or f=V/2L. Thus the fundamental frequency of an 8' open pipe would be 1125/16 which is about 70 Hz, close to the 64 Hz we have been using for the low C of an 8' open pipe.

If the pipe were closed at the end, the formula would be f=V/4L so an 8' closed pipe would generate a sound of about 35 Hz.


Along with the fundamental wave briefly described above, harmonics or overtones  are also formed in the organ pipe. Thus in an open pipe, we observe the second harmonic whose frequency f=V/L. In the case of an 8' pipe we would get the 64 Hz fundamental plus a second harmonic of frequency 128 Hz. Similarly third and higher order harmonics all add to the richness of the sound.

As a general rule of thumb, the narrower the pipe, the more harmonics it will have, and the wider the pipe, the fewer harmonics it will have. Straight pipes also have more harmonics than tapered pipes. So an organ builder has plenty of things to change to make different sounds: tube shape (straight, tapered), whether is it stopped or not, and pipe material composition.

Appendix B. Air Chest -more later.

Appendix C. Organ Divisions for the Village Church Organ

Allen R-465 Digital

64        Resultant
32        Centre Bourdon
32        Contra Violone
16        Diapason
16        Bourdon
16        Bourdon Doux (Sw)
16        Violone
16        Contra Gamba (Sw)
8          Octave
8          Gedacktflote
8          Gamba (So)
4          Choralbass
4          Flute
IV         Mixture
32        Centre Bombarde
32        Contra Double Trumpet (Gt)
16        Bombarde
16        Double Trumpet (Gt)
8          Trompette
4          Clarion

16       Double Diapason
16       Bourdon
8         Diapason
8        Harmonic Flute
8         Bourdon
8         Gamba
4         Octave
4         Spitz Flute
2 2/3   Twelfth
2        Fifteenth
2         Waldflute
IV       Mixture
III       Sharp Mixture
16       Double Trumpet
8        Tromba

16        Bourdon Doux
8         Geigen Diapason
8         Bourdon
8         Flute Celeste H
8         Salicional
8         Voix Celeste
4         Geigen Octave
4         Traverse Flute
2 2/3   Nazard
2         Piccolo
1 3/5    Tierce
IV        Fourniture
16        Contre Trompette
8         Trompette
8         Hautbois
8         Vox Humana
4         Clarion

16        Contre Viole
8         Holzgedackt
8         Viole
8         Viole Celeste
4         Prinzipal
4         Koppelflote
4         Violes n
2         Oktav
1 1/3   Quintflote
III         Cymbale
16        Rankett
8         Cromorne

16       Gamba Celeste II
8        Flauto Mirabilis
8         Solo Gamba
8        Gamba Celeste
4         Gambette Celeste II
16       Tuba Mirabilis
8        Tuba Mirabilis
8        French Horn
8        Corno di Bassetto
8        Cor Anglais
4        Octave Mirabilis

8        Viole
8        Viole Celeste
8        Gamba
8         Gamba Celeste
8         Dulcet
8         Dulcet Celeste
8         Vox Angelica
8        Vox Humana


new exposed Great - old pipes reconfigured

32       Resultant
16       Montre
16       Bourdon
16       Flute Bouchee

16       Violee de Gambe
 8         Diapason
 8         Bourdon 

 4 Diapason
 4 Bourdon
 derived from 4 Octave 

16       Trompette

 8        Trompette
 4        Trompette



16        Montre (Swell)
16        Bourdon
8         Diapason
8         Harmonic Flute (Bourdon bass)
8         Bourdon
8         Viole de Gambe (Choir)
4         Octave
4         Harmonic Flute
2 2/3   Twelfth
2         Fifteenth
2         Bourdon
1 1/3  Mixture III
1/2      Mixture III
16        Trompette (Swell)
8         Trompette (Swell)


16       Flute Bouchee
8         Montre
8         Flute a Cheminee
8         Flute Conique/Flute Celeste
8         Viole Conique
8         Voix Celeste
4         Prestant
4         Flute Bouchee

2 2/3 Nazard
2         Flute a Cheminee
1 3/5   Tierce t.c.
Ill         Mixture
16        Trompette
8         Trompette
8         Hautbois
8         Voix Humaine
4         Trompette

16        Viole de Gambe
8         Cor de Chamois
8         Viole de Gambe
8        Viole Celeste
4        Viole de Gambe
4         Bourdon
4        Viole de Gambe/Voix Celeste
2         Viole de Gambe
1 1/3   Bourdon
16        Cromhorne t.c.
8        Cromhorne

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