Johannus builds prestigious hybrid organ in Bangkok

Een kerkorgel waarvan je de pijpen ziet en het orgel zelf met 4 lagen toetsen en alle registers

In the Assumption Cathedral in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, Johannus and Italian pipe organ builder, Consoli Pipe Organs have together completed the construction of a prestigious hybrid organ.

According to Vincent van Os, Johannus project manager, the Ecclesia D-570 digital church organ was already installed in the Thai cathedral last year. He visited Bangkok recently together with Consoli’s organ builders to finalise its integration with the pipe organ.

With four keyboards, 80 stops, 18 full-range loudspeakers and three subwoofers, the church was already blessed with an extremely advanced instrument, but in recent weeks, the hybrid organ has been completed.

The Italian organ builder Consoli assembled the pipes and the organ fronts, while Vincent van Os focused mainly on the electronics and software. “A prestigious project,” he says. “The Assumption Cathedral is a very famous cathedral in Bangkok, and is considered a major tourist attraction. And yes, it’s pretty big.”

Most important church of Archbishop

The Roman Catholic cathedral is the most important church in the Bangkok Archbishop. It’s not for nothing that Pope John Paul II was certain to be found in this cathedral during his visit to Thailand in 1984. King Rama II ordered the construction of the place of worship in 1821, and building materials were imported from places such as Italy. The fact that Italian organ builder Consoli has now contributed to the new organ is therefore a noteworthy detail.

According to Van Os, building a hybrid organ of this size has a great impact. The software of the digital component requires a lot of modification. One important modification, for example, is the inclusion of a temperature sensor, he explains. “If the temperature in the room changes, this causes changes in the tuning of the pipes. This is naturally not a problem for a digital organ, but because a hybrid organ is a mix of digital and pipe organ, these must always be optimally tuned to each other: actually, the digital organ has to follow the tuning of the pipe organ. The sensor measures temperature change very precisely. The software automatically converts this to a pitch adjustment, ensuring that both organs are precisely attuned to each other.”

Switching between organs

Another important addition by Van Os is the possibility of switching between pipe organ and digital organ, or playing both organs at once. “To do this, I built in a number of switches. The Consoli pipe organ has 24 authentic stops, which is already quite decent. But the Ecclesia’s 80 stops provide an enormous number of additional possibilities for the organist, who now has 104 stops at his or her disposal. During our collaboration with Consoli, we worked on the intonation for as long as it took to really merge the two organs together, while still allowing them both to retain their own identity. This doesn’t mean that the organist always has to play the whole hybrid organ. Anyone wishing to play a certain piece of music exclusively on the pipe organ, or wanting to use just the digital organ, has only to flick a single switch.”

Hand over your mouth

The loudspeakers in the hybrid organ are located behind the fronts in the pipe organ. Because the fronts cause a degree of damping of the sound, Van Os and Consoli worked together to carefully tune the intonation. “Imagine you’re talking with your hand a little over your mouth. That’s about the effect you’ll have on the loudspeakers by putting them inside an organ cabinet. However, that can easily be compensated for by fine-tuning the whole organ again.”

Cardinal had final say

How did the Bangkok diocese actually come into contact with Johannus? Van Os: “The church organist knew our dealer, and that got the ball rolling. In the end, the cardinal of the diocese made the decision. He felt that a cathedral of this size required at least four keyboards. The organ had to be larger than the ones in the other churches in the diocese.”

They have recently started using the hybrid organ, and is being used since then for liturgical purposes.

What is a hybrid organ?

When churches want to combine the qualities of a digital organ and a pipe organ, the Johannus Hybrid Organ Solutions are the answer. With this hybrid organ solution, Johannus fuses the romantic atmosphere of the pipe organ with the technological capabilities of the digital organ.

This fusion can be achieved in a number of ways. For example, a digital console can be integrated into a pipe organ, digital stops can be added to a pipe organ, or Johannes can work together with a renowned pipe organ builder to develop a new hybrid pipe organ. The Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok chose this last variety.

More and more churches are opting for a hybrid organ, and for good reason. There are a number of advantages to hybrid organs. For example, digital stops stay truer to tone and are unaffected by fluctuating temperatures in the church building. If desired, a hybrid organ can also be enriched by adding such stops as a piano, trumpet or orchestral stops. A digital console eliminates the need for expensive maintenance and tune-ups in the long run. Digital components in the pipe organ are also easy to update and can be replaced at relatively reasonable rates. A hybrid organ is also much cheaper to purchase: adding a digital console and digital stops costs less than the traditional restoration or expansion of a pipe organ.