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St. Romanos Continuo Project

Building organ consoles for use with Hauptwerk, adding MIDI to existing consoles, obtaining parts, ...
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Romanos

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St. Romanos Continuo Project

PostMon Apr 26, 2021 8:46 am

Greetings all,
I thought I would start a new thread to create a new home for my project as I'm sure it will be of interest to some of you. I'm dubbing it the "St. Romanos Continuo". (St. Romanos is a male counterpart to St. Cecelia; he is the other unknown patron saint of music.) I've alluded to this project in other threads however I will use this as the place to share significant updates and photos about what's going on as things progress.

The backstory: for years I've longed to build some sort of continuo rig but it has always just been a pipe dream in the back of my mind. This past year Richard McVeigh shared a video of a rig he constructed and it really brought that desire back to the forefront of my mind. Funnily enough, I don't have a pressing "need" for such an instrument as I do not regularly play with baroque ensembles, for instance. That said, my church has a 51 year old analogue organ ("Oh Lord, please let it die in... pieces. And the sooner the better!") and whenever we attempt special works of particular flavors, I end up setting up a little portable HW rig that I've cobbled together, just to help us get by. We sang a piece by Handel last year, for instance, and I just couldn't stomach the idea of doing it with the piano (or the old Rodgers which I affectionately refur to as "the turd"). That said, this little rig that I set up—while admirable from a sonic perspective—sure looks like crap: a laptop off to the side, modern keyboard with synth pads on a keyboard stand, orphaned speakers just sitting out, etc. etc. Fortunately, it's up in our loft no one but the choir sees it, but still. It's embarrassing to say the least. Since this is happening more and more, I thought it was time to move on the idea.

Fast forward: I was on ebay not too long ago and some "new old stock" OSI keyboards popped up. I was able to get them for $600 for the pair (plus shipping) which I thought a steal, considering they are full-length wood keyboards (18") and are pre-wired with contact rail installed; I have a decent guess for what they would cost if I ordered them new because I used to work in a pipe organ shop. I suspect I would pay more than double that price for just for one. They did not come with any keycheeks or scanner boards, however, as they were intended for installation in a PO console, so there's still a little work left to do.

At any rate, this is where the inimitable Drew of Greenwood UMC fame steps into the picture. We got into contact almost by accident when I made an off handed comment to him and he invited me to visit the instrument once he realized I wasn't all that far away (about 3 hours drive). We got to talking and I asked him to take accept the challenge of designing custom keycheeks and mounting the keyboards for me. I was delighted when he accepted, and a few weeks ago I went down for a visit and brought the keyboards with me, still in their original OSI packaging. Drew is a bit of a mad scientist type, (if you hadn't figured that out already)—and I say that wholly to his credit!—and he didn't waste any time.

As it will be necessary for this project to happen in phases for financial and time reasons, my goal for the first phase was to get a self-contained keyboard stack that could function and travel safely. In Richard's video he showed how his keyboard could slide out for safety when moving the rest of the box, I thought this rather clever and desire something similar for my box once built, so it seemed prudent to include top and bottom covers. This also allows me to extract just the keyboards and take them with a laptop as a particularly paired down setup and still have it look presentable. It looks much better than two loose keyboards that just have keycheeks attached but bare wires in the back, for instance.

The keycheeks are of maple, and then the top and bottom are maple plywood with a veneer around the edges. As you can see, Drew did a most excellent job. For the time being, I do not have any pistons, however if you study the pictures of the underside of the keycheeks, you can see Drew routed out a little bit of extra space to allow room for wires to eventually pass along the sides back to midi driver boards. At the moment, you still see raw lumber, however I will treat the wood soon. Considering the long, all-wood nature of both the keyboards and enclosure, this stack is HEAVY. Not to be moved on a whim and better with the help of a friend. What follows are a few of the first pictures.

The keyboards in their raw state:
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You can imagine my excitement when he sent me this photo; the first set cut in maple after a test run in pine.
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Side profile as seen from inside:
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Then stacked:
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Extra routing around the sides to allow for eventual piston cabling: (you can see also that the mouting brackets in wood installed by OSI allow for cabling to run through the back of them too; this is also visible in the "side profile as seen from inside" photo above)
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Plenty of space in the back to tuck the wires and driver boards:
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With the solid maple back panel installed (Drew cleverly routed around the edge of the inside of the back panel so that it creates a ledge that helps support the top and bottom panels to prevent them from flexing in the middle.)
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Finally with the top and bottom installed, as well as piston rails also of hard maple:
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Lastly, and this tickled me pink: Drew and I were shooting the breeze when I came to pick them up yesterday and I mentioned that I've been looking for some little 2' or 4' flute pipes because I intend to make a little faux façade to elevate the realism of the illusion. As it so happened, he had an incomplete set of little wooden flutes (about 25 pipes or so) that he had received as part of a barter deal for some other organ components for a different project. He graciously gave them to me since he had no use for them. The longest is probably about 22" or so, including the foot/toe; the actual largest pipe body is about 14" or so, thus they are the perfect scale.
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I'm aiming to eventually craft a box that has neo-gothic accents to it; possibly a painted case since I won't be able to afford particularly nice wood (nor do I have the requisite woodworking skills to craft it carefully). I've found a few cnc/pre-fabricated wooden accents that would be perfect in this respect, allowing for a simpler frame to be built and merely augmented by affixing these other elements. I currently have 6 eris E5 monitors which I intend to repurpose from my main organ in my house to this project. They aren't great for reproducing large samplesets, but whenever I play the sonus paradisis clavierorganum I find them rather satisfactory, and this is the sampleset that I intend to base this system on.

As I said above, I'll keep you all posted and post more pictures as things develop.
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larason2

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Re: St. Romanos Continuo Project

PostMon Apr 26, 2021 2:29 pm

Lovely! Keep up the good work!
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dw154515

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Re: St. Romanos Continuo Project

PostMon Apr 26, 2021 8:54 pm

Romanos wrote:the inimitable Drew of Greenwood UMC


I think I'll adopt that as my official title. "Director of Music" is so cliche. :lol:
Drew A. Worthen
Master of Music in Composition - Butler University
http://www.drewworthen.com
Director of Music & Website Admin - Greenwood UMC
http://www.greenwoodumc.org
Field Engineer - Diversified (Formerly Sensory Technologies)
http://www.sensorytechnologies.com
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engrssc

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Re: St. Romanos Continuo Project

PostMon Apr 26, 2021 11:07 pm

Many smiles and congrats all around. :) :lol:

Rgds,
Ed
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scottherbert

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Re: St. Romanos Continuo Project

PostWed Apr 28, 2021 12:14 pm

Hi Romanos, cool project!

With regards to your "gothic" element console, have you considered repurposing an old pump organ? I see tons of them here on craigslist from free to a few hundred bucks. They often have very ornat and beautiful woodwork that is a shame to waste. Could save a bundle on labor and (outrageously expensive) lumber.
"Life is just a dream, it is in death that we truly awaken!"
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magnaton

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Re: St. Romanos Continuo Project

PostWed Apr 28, 2021 3:21 pm

scottherbert wrote:I see tons of them here on craigslist from free to a few hundred bucks. They often have very ornat and beautiful woodwork that is a shame to waste.

Same here in my area. A few I've seen have ornate carrying handles on the sides! What a great idea to have suggested this.

Danny B.

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