In this issue Charles E. Witherell's self portrait continues and Captain
David Casteel's starts. Both will continue in issue 68 and some of the
details of the planned three manual Schober, which the captain provided,
will hopefully also find space. Pete Stark is hoping to find some
time to restart our message board when his teaching duties are curtailed
during summer vacation.
We have been very pleased with the sound of the Schober Recital organ,
and have managed to keep it playing these 33 years. Of course, there have
been prolonged periods of a few months during these years when some difficulty
kept it from playing, and when my work or other commitments kept me from
giving the organ the attention it needed to keep it in top shape. In the
course of our organ-playing careers (both my wife and I have served as
church organists over the years), we have had the opportunity to play a
fairly large number of other electronic, as well as pipe, organs. For the
expenditure and effort involved in building and maintaining the Schober,
none of the other electronic instruments have had the appeal, versatility
and range of voices, and capability that the Schober has.
When we completed the Schober Recital organ in 1968, I had a couple of Electrovoice 3-way speaker systems/enclosures that we had been using for playing recorded music, and which seemed adequate. We had been using this arrangement for playing the Schober organ for many years. However, in recent years, considering the improvements in speaker technology that have been made, we upgraded our speaker system for taped and CD recorded music to a set of Bose enclosures. Through a switching arrangement, I provided the option of playing either recorded (or FM radio) music or the Schober organ through the Bose system. There was a noticeable improvement in the fidelity of the organ sound and overall depth. For example, there was a distinct difference in tonal quality between stops which had been lost in the old speaker system.
However, the new arrangement with simply feeding the Schober output from the TR-2 amplifier into the Bose speakers was not totally satisfactory. There was a disappointing limit to the sound volume possible with this arrangement. The speakers would tend to buzz and the sound would break up at about half the volume we would have liked on some louder passages. Adjustments to the several potentiometers in the Schober didn't help. I knew the problem did not lie in the new speakers as there was ample volume available when playing recorded or FM music. The limit had to lie within the Schober TR-2 amplifier.
With this in mind, I replaced the power transistors and electrolytic capacitors along with other key components in the TR-2 amplifier, as well as in the PRCS-2 Schober power supply. It did not provide any noticeable improvement in attainable volume. As an experiment, I substituted a new 250 watt Radio Shack PA amplifier I had been using in a church with a new Roland XP-30 keyboard and this did provide very good volume response. Similarly, a Fender (Model BXR-300C) 300 watt speaker/amplifier used for guitar work (and its output paired to either the Bose system or one of the original Electrovoice 3-way speakers) provided satisfactory sound output.
At the same time, frequency response seemed improved along with the
tonal range and better stop-to-stop discrimination in playing the Schober.
My impression is that this more recent technology and higher-powered amplification
provides an all-around better sound from the Schober organ than any previous
arrangement we have used. This merely affirms what Schober had, in their
literature, been saying right along. Accordingly, in hindsight, our well-intentioned
attempts to make-do with existing sound equipment may not have been the
best or wisest choice (despite the fact that we did use Schober's TR-2
power amplifier, with its admittedly 1960s technology).
Of incidental interest, that I plan to pursue as time permits, is the fact that the pedalboard of the 65-year-old Moller pipe organ we have is apparently fitted with very robust springs (apparently of a leaf-type) but located at the back end of the pedal bars, and show no signs of problems with breakage - at least so far. At that end of the pedal, cantilevered stresses in the springs would be higher but spring motion (extension with each movement) would be less than for springs located at the other end. Perhaps the Schober pedalboard could be retrofitted with this arrangement and relieve the pedal spring breakage problem once and for all. One of these days I will get serious about looking into it.
(Continued Next issue: "Poor Electrical Contacts)
*See ON66 for spring specifications.
I am not really an expert on organs, by any means. Even as a small boy, I always preferred classical music to whatever genre was currently popular--music-wise, the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s just did not exist for me--and a very large portion of that style of music involved the organ. I have also always been interested in the mechanics of things--not as a mechanic, but more as a tinkerer and puzzler--again, pipe organs are a mechanical marvel of sorts, so I found them fascinating. You might say I have a large amount of knowledge at the level of a dilettante, kind of shallow.
When I was about 12 years old I decided I wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. My first choice was the flute, because I have always loved the pure, sweet sounds it makes. My mother advised me to forget it--my dad would never agree to let me learn a sissy instrument like the flute (that's not what she said, but it is what she meant, and I knew it). My dad was a wonderful man, but his son was not going to be a sissy (he was, anyway) and, especially, would not do obviously sissy things. So I decided on the piano, which was at least an acceptable choice all around. I took lessons for about a year and a half from a neighborhood lady and learned to play well enough to entertain myself and my mother (mothers are easily pleased by what their children do, you know, and this is not necessarily an indication of any degree of excellence). I didn't like to practice so when it appeared I had reached a plateau of ability we stopped the lessons. We did not have a lot of money and couldn't afford to spend it if there would be no real improvement realized.
I had bought my own piano with money I saved using U.S. Savings Stamps and the bonds bought with them, by the way. This was in the late 1940s and I think my first piano cost only $50--it was a big, heavy upright made of solid cherry wood, which needed refinishing and had a beautiful tone. It got moved once but when I left to enter the Air Force in 1960 it stayed in the house in Detroit and was sold with the house a few years later when my parents moved (back) to Arizona. I am a native Arizonan, by the way--when I was born my dad was working on the crew building Bartlett Dam northeast of Phoenix on the Verde River--he was a concrete worker. I was premature and they did not have time to get from the dam site to the nearest hospital in Scottsdale, about 50 miles away, so I was born in the small dispensary there at the dam. I tell people that I was by a dam site ("damn sight") born in a dam ("damn") hospital! I attended and graduated from Samuel C. Mumford High School in Detroit, Michigan in 1955. This is the school made famous in the "Beverly Hills Cop" movies with Eddie Murphy. In my graduating class of 487 students there were at least 3 who have made a name for themselves nationally: George Zweig, one of the 3 co-founders of the "quark" theory of matter; Ruth (Meckler) Laredo, the concert pianist and Ivan Boesky, of junk-bond fame.
I attended Wayne State University there in Detroit for 4.5 years and graduated with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, immediately being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force and went on active duty at a little radar site on the coast of Oregon--Mount Hebo Air Force Station. However, while at WSU, I trained myself to have sort of an "organ" keyboard touch by playing on a pump organ in the Wesley Foundation on campus. I was hooked! I had to have an organ of my own someday. I even worked to rebuild one while stationed at Mount Hebo, but it was base property and was only used for special worship occasions. I had enough interest, though, to notice the Schober ads in the various music magazines (I subscribed to 2) in the early 1960s and gradually became convinced that I could do it and WOULD do it. To this end, I told all my friends that I intended to do it, thereby forcing me to eventually take action.
In 1964, I was reassigned to a radar site in Labrador, Canada, and stopped by the Schober factory and showroom as I was traveling to that assignment. I made my commitment to buying and building a Recital Organ at that time, subject to confirmation that I would be able to receive shipment of the console (no kit for it then) at my duty station in Labrador. We did have heavy shipping available 6 months of the year at Cartwright, Labrador, so I went ahead with my plans, paid the money, and began receiving the kits for the organ. For about 6 months I used much of my spare time (I worked a lot, too) building the electronics kits, etc.
One of the keyboards, which came by regular Parcel Post, was damaged so I received instructions to return it to Pratt Read for repair--in the meantime, I installed the good keyboard in the console, which had arrived in good order and played the organ with only one keyboard for a while. I had the repaired keyboard sent to my parents in Arizona as I was about to be rotated to a new assignment at Vandenberg AFB on the California coast. The supply officer found he could declare my organ as "recreational equipment" (since I had spent so much leisure time building it) and the Air Force did ship it from Labrador to California for me. At Vandenberg, I installed the repaired keyboard and had an intact organ for the first time. What a joy that was! From then on, the organ accompanied me on all subsequent service moves, going from Vandenberg AFB to an apartment in Torrance, California, while I earned my M.S. in Industrial Engineering at USC, then on to Teheran, Iran, where I spend 18 months as a Radar Advisor to the Imperial Iranian Air Force (while the Shah was in power). During this time Paul Havenstein, a young organist who was also stationed there, played my Recital Organ at Rudaki Hall (the Royal Opera House). Later he collaborated with me in producing the suggested stop list we sent to Schober (at Schober's request) for their 3 manual organ that they planned to field in the mid 1970's*. After Iran, back to Shaw AFB, South Carolina (near Sumter). I spent 4 years at Shaw AFB, during which time I failed the promotion to Major too many times and was discharged. I resigned my Regular commission and enlisted as a "Buck" Sergeant (E-4) at Scott AFB, Illinois for the purpose of maintaining eligibility for my USAF pension. My Recital Model accompanied me to Belleville, Illinois, at that time, then about 2 years later was shipped with me to Ramstein AB, Germany, where I spend the last 3 years of my career. I had changed specialties for my enlisted service--COBOL computer programmer, now. After final discharge as a Tech Sergeant (E-6), I retired the next day as a Captain (O-3) and eventually found my way to Dallas, Texas, where I hired in at Texas Instruments, Incorporated as a mainframe systems troubleshooter (using my COBOL skills). I have recently completed 20 years at TI as a COBOL programmer and expect to serve them for several more before retiring again. ("Part II" continued next issue)
*More about the Schober 3 manual in the next issue of ON