In 1982, while at Harvard, we received one of the fastest computers for the time, a Nicolet 1280 with an 800 ns cycle time (1.25 MHz!). I wrote a program to input the notes and to play them. Each of the 4 voices (trumpet, flute1, flute2, organ) was defined by three 256-entry tables for attack, sustain, decay. The input program was relatively easy, the playing program was more complex: it ran under interrupts at 10 kHz thus giving a bandwidth of 5 kHz (the trebles were not very good). The first piece I transcribed was JS Bach BWV-147 “Jesus, bleibet meine Freude”. Remember, that was 40 years ago: sound cards did not exist. The only way to output a sound was a single 12-bit digital-to-analog converter! Here it is:
At that time, I had just acquired a kit from Castlewood Busker Organ (Western Australia) when, looking at ebay, a small pipe organ was being sold for $1,000 with 8 minutes to go in the auction. I got it and on December 25, 2000 we left for Smithfield, Virginia. The organ was located at the Church of the Good Shepherd.
With the help of the local pipe organ person, we loaded the 600 pipes, windchests and blower (minus the keyboard) in the Volkswagen.
Having never touched a pipe organ, I was a little bit worried about how to put it back together. I discovered the pipe organ people are very methodical and that everything has a specific mark, which made things easier. On December 30, the whole thing was re-assembled in our house and pipes were able to speak…
November 2005, we moved to our new house which had a space reserved for the pipe organ. We had first to move the pipes from the old house to the new house next door: “Party of 50: your table is ready”. The pipes were moved in 2 hours, plenty of food and wine after that.
In the meantime, I was given a set of Deagan Chimes for service rendered at South Main Baptist Church. I was planning to install them at the back and had already built the support. Pascal and I were drinking some nice white wine (Chateau Carbonnieux) and one of us (?) got the idea. Install them in front of the other pipes. That’s what I did.
It was time to install a keyboard and to write some software to drive the whole thing. Windows XP was the only choice and I got some very sophisticated boardsto drive the pipes. The programs are written in Visual Basic 6. I had found a dual keyboard (very bouncy !) and a pedal board. A touch screen display was used to select the stops and the score (Pdf file) appeared on the central screen. The legs of both the console and the bench came from Ikea! Only 18 stops, but that was a start.
The first concert took place on October 26, 2007 with Pierre Pincemaille at the keyboard, whom I had met through my friend Pascal Boissonnet. The first piece that was played was the famous Toccata and Fugue BWV565 bi J.S. Bach. The improvisation was based on the D3-E3-C3-C4-G3 theme from “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”. About 35 people were present. It was a success.
And here, I want to thank Pascal Boissonnet for voicing and tuning the organ in a fabulous way. Without him, the organ would have just been a bunch of pipes. He converted it into a (small?) cathedral organ.