The new organ: 2017

The present instrument is the work of Cayatano Estadella. The organ builder completed the first stage of the building of the case, the console of four manuals,the wall unit and two of the keyboards, leaving 23 registers and 1,236 pipes in operation.

Different vicissitudes, such as the death of the builder in 1944 and the difficulties of the postwar, were the cause that this organ never achieved to develop all the possibilities intended in the original project.

There have been several attempts made to finish this organ, as by the organ builder and Estadella’s brother-in-law, Pau Xuclà or the latest commissioned to the Dutchman, E Ottes who around the year 2000 built a new console of 3 keyboards and installed a mechanical transmission without concluding the work, therefore leaving an unfinished and chaotic instrument.

The organ presents a certain state of neglect in a good part of its elements: case, mechanisms, air supply with lots of leaks, sound harmonization …. It displays affectations of woodworm, the leather decorations in the bellows and the mechanisms of the registers are really degraded and there other pieces which are deteriorated, like the mechanism case in danger of fire.

At a functional level the major deficiency is the hardness of the keys, with values that exceed 500 grams (double the maximum values admissible) and which makes it impossible for the organist to play with a minimum of comfort.

In this state the liturgical accompaniment is very difficult and it is impossible to use for concerts. For some years now The Brotherhood of the Virgin of la Merced has begun a series of studies and consultations to make the most suitable decision as regards to the restoration of the organ.

Thanks to God, and especially to the efforts and determination of both the members of the board and, in particular, its chairman Sr.Ignasi Riera, a contract was signed with the Master organ builder, Gerhard Grenzing on 9th November, 2016, to build a new organ, which could be used for the first time in 2018, within the 800th Centenary of the foundation of the order of la Merced.

GERHARD GRENZING, MASTER ORGAN BUILDER as in the same way, as centuries ago, there have been masters who have come from the north of Europe, Gerhard Grenzing settled here 46 years ago to take care of the cultural legacy of organs in Catalan territory, a task started in Majorca.

Together with the trust of his team, after creating more than 150 new instruments in three continents, it is his desire to contribute his vast experience and new values for the enrichment of the organ culture of the country.

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

Few European cities can relish a title of “international city of organs” as Barcelona does. Other models would be, although with limitations, Paris and Brussels. Since the 14th century Barcelona has been the meeting place of masters from Germany, Flanders, France and Switzerland who have exchanged their knowledge with the local organ builders.

The result of this melting pot has been the Catalan organ school with its exceptional works in size and greatly developed musical resources since the 16th century. As an example one can cite Johann Spinn von Neurern’s instrument in the basilica of Santa María del Mar in Barcelona around 1480.

The front of the organ of the cathedral of Barcelona and even its preserved huge pipes date from 1539, the work of the master Pere Bordons (1547) and his colleagues Peris Arrabasa and Fermin Granollers.

It is also the case of the Basilica of la Merced: the instrument that was lost in the Civil War was created at the end of the 18th century by Jean-Pierre Cavaillé, founder of the Cavaillé-Coll dynasty, and later an example and reference for romantic organs of the XIX century on a worldwide scale.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE WORK

Influenced by the Catalan school and developed from the XIV century to the beginning of the XX century. We must bear in mind that the building of the instrument must not be focused as a replica of an historical instrument, but as a reflection of the evolution of centuries in the history of organs and at the same time, closely linked to the tradition of local organists. Yet today the presence of the organ in Catalan “vox populi” is expressed with many sayings in spite of the fact that these instruments no longer exist in many places. One of the most important artistic losses in Catalonia during the Civil War was the organs.

The recovery of this immense treasure has been very slow besides the recovery of its surrounding musical atmosphere. One must take into account the fact that the long reverberations force an exquisite harmonization since the wind has to be alive to favour a warm sound, and the same high quality harmonization is necessary to be able to fill a large space, although this is completely occupied.

The instrument is projected under the outlook of personal experiences and innovations. The present tendency in organ building of this category is to incorporate the achievements, technical and aesthetic gains of former centuries in an updated design and material. For instance, this is the case of the direct and suspended mechanics, not exceeded in its sensitive tact or the supply alive with air by means of classical bellows, avoiding the extremes between a stiff wind and another that would be unstable.

STYLE

An organ should be thoroughly versatile in a stylistic sense and, at the same time have its own personality, that is not only defined by its names and amount of projected registers: the organ as a work of art has to be just one unit and every detail and element is significant, from the Philosophy of its mission and setting to its mechanisms, wind power and moreover all the calculations, the craft elaboration, the harmonization and the voice of its pipes. In this case an instrument of three keyboards and pedal that make up four classical music bodies is suggested. This project gathers a wide aspect of interpretative possibilities. The draft of the building of the Organ of the Basilica of la Merced considers the recovery of an ancient tradition in Catalonia in order to obtain an instrument of worship, in the solemn liturgical services and for culture, with the opportunities of holding concerts of a high level.


IMPLEMENTATION

The proposal considers carrying out the proceedings that, respecting the configuration of the piece of furniture, contribute to aesthetic and musical improvements. Essentially it involves converting the present expressive lattices into “castles of singing pipes.”

The composition of the piece of furniture is based on five “castles”; the layout of the pipes of the lateral towers and the central tower is repeated placing the largest pipe in the middle. These three towers stand out because of their mouldings and the decoration that crowns them, giving the unit slenderness and grandeur.

The Baroque carvings that decorate the front part of the unit joins the five towers in one line only.
We must point out that the largest pipe at the front is a G# of the Flautado 16’, this means we are talking about an organ we can catalogue in the group of large instruments, since it is the largest pipe at the front which establishes the measurements of the organs.

Here they give an impressive and majestic aspect that enriches the aesthetics which will be matched at the same time by its sound. They also propose to carry out some little improvements on the aesthetics of the seat, essentially to rebuild the round towers. A slight modification that will also facilitate the display of the rose window from the middle of the temple.

BUILDING SECRETS.

The secrets serán los tradicionales de corredoras y tapa. Las corredoras ajustarán con arandelas de cachemir o un sistema similar. The valves will be made of cedar wood lined in leather and lead. 

 

CONSOLE.

The console will be made of oak. The measurements will uphold the European regulations, with the following aspects, characteristic of our home:- the keyboards will be assembled horizontally, without any inclination.
- The Sharps will be parallel. – The normal Connections will be mechanical. There will be a switch with a key for the fans, connecting at the same time the illumination of the pedal as control, as well as the illumination of the music scores.
The keys will be ebony-veneered or similar and the sharps of boxwood or similar wood. The oak wood pedal will be of a parallel shape, situación de re# bajo re# de los teclados and will have a seat made of oak wood.

MECHANICS:

The mechanics will be hanging directly and the transmission of maximum sensitivity. The rods will be of cedar wood with adjustments in the console. The reductions will be steel mills, with suitable sections to avoid twisting, and steel arms welded on the extremes and the bearings made of wood, the shafts made of brass with automatic adjustment, avoiding grazing and noises. PIPES: It is necessary to conduct a detailed study of the existing pipes of the organ, its quality, its condition of preservation and for its musical performance the possibility of integrating it in the new instrument. It is possible that the most interesting registers like the one of the Catalan Flute than the present instrument can be incorporated into the new instrument. The pipes must be restored. The dents, cracks, holes and other damage that they have suffered will be restored. The new pipes will be partially built in our own work shop. The alloys will be: -86% for tubes of the front part and of principal nature, - 46% for Flutes, of a principal nature just as wood for the “bajos”.

MECHANISM OF THE DRAWKNOBS:

The stop Knobs will be of a traditional style, wooden Knobs with the name of the stop knob engraved. The performance will be electronic and at the same time, there will be a computer available with a minimum of 3,000 free combinations for the stop knobs to make the organist’s task easier.

SUPPLY OF WIND:

This will be carried out by a silent motor-ventilador and several fuelles reguladores bellows situated inside the piece of furniture, of a classical concept for a “live supply of the pipes”
 

MATERIALS IN GENERAL:

These materials will be chosen of high quality. The wood will be partially seasoned naturally. We reserve the possibility of substituting the material mentioned above for other similar ones. Harmonization: The pipes will be cut precisely starting at 1 1/3’. The tuning will be from 440Hz to 20ºC. The definite decision on the point of tuning and “temperament” will be communicated at the beginning of the harmonization.

The harmonization will be clear, warm and of maximum quality in all details so that the sound will always turn out attractive and alive. All the pipes will be well balanced, the different sound lay outs well attenuated and the reed will strike quickly. All the sound structure of the instrument and each one of the pipes will be adapted to the acoustics of the building.








To achieve this goal the elaboration of high quality pipes, rich alloys, painstaking calculations and tests of the measurements, and finally a generous and energetic artistic harmonization (that has nothing to do with “simply strong” or in any case “forced”) are essential, based on the multiple rehearsals and previous experiences through many long years of research on the Catalan masters and their schools. (All these descriptions are taken from the project that is the copyright of Gerhard Grenzing S.A)

In order to conclude the building of this new organ we rely on the generous subsidisation of social work expected from the Generalit and the Fundación Bancaria Caja de Ahorros y Pensiones de Barcelona, “la Caixa”.

The board of the Brotherhood of the Virgin of la Merced has set up a committee to pursue this issue, who will keep us informed of the progress of its building together with other aspects and campaigns expected to make this magnificent project succeed.