The Rathgeb Memorial Phelps-Casavant Organ at the Deer Park United Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
CASAVANT ORGAN Opus #3095 built 1970, 3 Manuals, 48 Stops, 74 Ranks, 3557 Pipes
In 2009, this organ was moved from Deer Park United Church to the Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto.
Mr. Phelps' notes about this project follow after the specification section.
- Key action: mechanical
- Stop action: electric
- Hauptwerk to Pedal
- Schwellwerk to Pedal
- Oberwerk to Pedal
- Schwellwerk to Hauptwerk
- Oberwerk to Hauptwerk
Adjustable Combination Action
- Five on each division plus generals
In developing a tonal scheme for the performance of either the German or French Classical literature, the location of the traditional stops within the scheme is as important as the actual choice of stops. In other words, “where” becomes as important as “what”.
The organ is essentially a polyphonic keyboard instrument. Therefore, the requirements of the North German polyphonic literature must be of primary concern in shaping the tonal resources of any instrument. Of course, the foundation of the design is a well developed principal chorus on each of two or three manual divisions with an equally well developed pedal division. Each of the several choruses, with its complement of flute and reed stops, must be complete enough to stand alone with integrity in the scheme, and the contrast between the various divisions must be well established in respect to pitch, tonal color and dynamic level. This is best accomplished by the method known as the “Werkprinzip” which emerged in North Europe in the work of the Master builders of the 17th century. Each division of the organ thus has a different basic pitch, Hauptwerk 16' or 8', Positiv an octave higher, and the third division an octave higher than the Positiv, etc., and the tonal composition of the instrument is reflected in its physical arrangement and clearly visible in the visual design.
Compromise with traditional placement of the stops and divisions should be made with great caution if the requirements of the literature are to be met effectively. For example, a secondary chorus placed under expression is not really an adequate substitute for a proper Positiv in filling the expectations of the polyphonic repertoire.
Once the polyphonic requirements have been fully realized in the tonal structure, those special features demanded by the French Classical literature can be considered. It is in designing for this important body of organ music that the location of the various timbres becomes especially important, in order that the overall scale, perspective and shape of these works be preserved in present day performances. It is impossible to begin to create anything like the tonal perspective required for the French literature with the only Cornet or Trompette located in the swell box, or when the only Cornet effect must be obtained from the Positiv mutations, as is so common in North American instruments. Therefore, when it is required to do justice to this extraordinarily colorful music, I place all of the basic stops of the French tradition in the positions this tradition requires. When this has been worked out, and incorporated into the basic Werkprinzip design, we need only work out suitable compositions for the mixtures, resolve to use classical voicing techniques for all flue and reed stops, and to keep the wind pressure as low as possible, short of being ineffective; the clarity and transparency of texture required for the German polyphonic music, plus the timbres and disposition essential to the French school, is then guaranteed. Once an instrument has been built in this manner, one need only select his registration according to the traditions dictated by choice of music, and the organ does the rest.
Two interesting secondary effects result from this way of working. Instruments of this type do not suffer so much in a reasonably dry acoustical environment, although they cannot survive in a really dead situation any better than any other organ. And, this type of tonal design and scaling produces an ensemble that serves most of the major romantic works so well that, when listening to this music played on it, we are likely to forget the essentially classical inspiration of the instrument,”
Concerning the general nature of this organ, Mr. Phelps has this to say:
During the meetings with Mr. Charles Rathgeb which I was privileged to have during the early stages of planning the new Deer Park United Church instrument, I was impressed with his frequently emphasised concern that this organ should be not only a fitting memorial to his wife, Eileen, and a useful and beautiful adornment of his church, but also a contribution to and enrichment of the musical life of the City of Toronto.
His interest in his munificent gift by no means ended with the expression of it; rather, he had taken great pains before the final decision was made, to acquaint himself intimately with the modern organ, to listen to a considerable number of different Instruments, and generally to seek to make his decision on as well-informed basis as was possible.
It was his express wish, for example, that the organ be a mechanical-action instrument, and he was well aware of the completeness of the tradition which he was adopting in stipulating this - its encasement, its effective placement and so on - and the enormously varied possibilities for music- making of the highest and most diverse order, of which an organ of this concept is capable.
His forward looking attitude made collaboration with him a privilege and doubly a pleasure, and it is my hope that the instrument will in fact be used in as many ways as this generous-hearted and far-seeing man so much wanted.
For my part, I have made every effort to produce an organ which, reflecting Mr. Rathgeb's own achievements, as well as his hopes concerning this particular project, represents the highest “state of the art” at this time.
Our new instrument for Toronto is actually a new type of organ, being one of a series that will be culminated in a 73-stop instrument to be completed in about 18 months in a large church in Southern New England. Because it really makes no attempt to imitate anything from a former period but the effectiveness of the old instruments in accomplishing their purpose, it should not be compared with previous instruments except in the actual performance of music. Nevertheless, because the existing literature and registrational traditions require that the stops and the divisions of the organ be named and composed according to certain time-honored standards, comparing the composition of this instrument with older and historical instruments and practices is probably inevitable. So, the use of German nomenclature in this organ will trigger a predictable series of reactions. Careful scrutiny of the Hauptwerk, Oberwerk and Pedal will reveal that, so far as the stoplist is concerned, the compromises with the North German “Werkprinzip” brought about by accommodating to the requirements of good French practice are minor. For example, the Sesquialtera is placed in the Schwellwerk and the Positiv (Oberwerk) has a full complement of independent mutations. The Schwellwerk combines to some extent the typical offices of the German Brustwerk and the French Classical Recit. A minor compromise with classical practice is the addition of a pair of string stops - an essential element in the romantic Recit and the English Swell. The classical Recit and Brustwerk were mainly solo sections and the Schwellwerk certainly preserves this tradition. The choice of reeds is perhaps a little unconventional. The “expressive shutters” with which the Schwellwerk is fitted are truly a romantic concession if they are used for the usual so called expressive effects, but when used either fully opened or fully closed, they enable this division to serve a dual role, substituting also as a completely enclosed Echo - a cherished French Classical feature. The French Echo was a solo division like the Recit and often duplicated the sounds of the Recit. Thus, even this feature, normally thought of as a romantic device, serves to broaden the classical scope of this instrument.