Berkshire Bach Quiz # 3 – “Organ Challenge”

  1. How does a pipe organ create sound?
  2. What is a nickname for the organ and when did it originate?
  3. What common phrase related to the pipe organ means to make every effort and what does it mean musically?
  4. What particular musical skill did J.S. Bach possess that impressed Frederick the Great? 
  5. Before electricity, how did pipe organs generate wind for the pipes?

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ANSWERS

The Berkshire Bach Quiz No.3  —  February 2018

  1. How does a pipe organ create sound?

The organ creates sound through vibrating a column of air in a pipe.

  1. What is a nickname for the organ and when did it originate?

According to some scholars, Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377) is credited with first calling the organ the King of Instruments, probably describing the first installation of a large, permanent pipe organ, in Halberstadt, Germany, in 1361.

  1. What common phrase related to the pipe organ means to make every effort and what does it mean musically?

The phrase is “to pull out all the stops”.  Pipe organs use a mechanism called a stop to control the flow of wind through the pipes, and thereby the sound produced.  Pulling out all the stops of an organ creates a thrilling volume of sound that resonates in the performance space and is the loudest dynamic possible.

  1. What particular musical skill did J.S. Bach possess that impressed Frederick the Great?

Bach performed on the pipe organ in Kassel just using the pedals, so impressing Prince Frederick that he gave Bach a ring with a precious stone from his finger, almost before the reverberations died away.

  1. Before electricity, how did pipe organs generate wind for the pipes?

Wind for the pipes could be generated using water pressure (hydraulics) or bellows.  For a large, Baroque bellows-driven pipe organ, as many as 10 men might be required to work the bellows, creating wind pressure so strong that the organist required the full strength of his arm to depress the keys.