King of Instruments: Church Organ


Founder of Istanbul Church Organs Team in this month's issue Tarkan Şendal We will include it in our conversation with you. Istanbul Church Organs With their establishment, they are doing a very enjoyable and at the same time an effort that remains behind the scenes. One of the new generation members of a hidden culture. Dear Tarkan will share their work in this field with you, our esteemed readers.

As the Church Organ Team, what do you do?

  As the Istanbul Church Organs Team, we carried out 2019 historical organ restorations in 3 and subsequently organized 3 organ concerts. In our isolation times during the pandemic process, we worked on how we can keep our country's organ culture more alive with the ease of these times. As of July 2020, we got the fruits of our work with the church organ workshops we organized once a month. In July, St. Esprit Cathedral's Austro-Hungarian organ and style, the English organ and style of the Crimean Church in August, and St. We introduced the rare Italian organ and style of the Pierre church. Among all these efforts, we took videos and photos to promote our heritage and presented them to curious music lovers on our social accounts, and uploaded a part of our archive to information bank websites in order to present how rich we are to people who have no idea about the existence of this culture in our country in the international arena.

How will the existence of such a team continue its work?

We started to organize organ lessons in order to train musicians who know and perform the church organ instrument in our country. We are also trying to introduce the organ terminology to our language and we are working on writing a comprehensive book on this subject. As the Istanbul Church Organs Team, our sole goal is to bring this rich heritage back to life, to sustain it, to promote it and to provide world-class service.

When we say church organs, of course, classical names come to mind. What was the importance of the organ for these artists? What did they say about the organ? ?

          At first, Mozart saw the organ as the king of instruments, so why? When we look at the school and educational background of good composers, why do we see the church organ? Mendelssohn “the only instrument that can correct a composer's mistakes…” By that, why did he mean the organ and not count the piano or the harpsichord, or a violin or a flute? Chopin also played the organ in the church during his time at the conservatory. Beethoven also played, but he preferred orchestral writing in his multi-instrumental works rather than the organs of his age. Liszt also played the organ. It is even rumored that he played the organ for the ritual in a church in Yeniköy, Sarıyer, during his visit to Istanbul. Mozart also played the organ and loved it very much, because this instrument was very suitable for his ethereal beauty. Brahms also played, and he also has good organ compositions. Many more examples could be cited. In other words, we observe that the organ took place in the lives of well-known and good composers for a while.

So what makes the church organ so special? What is this church organ, which we sometimes hear with its terrifying sound in movies or concert videos, and which fills our eyes with its size?

           Before coming to this subject, let's briefly talk about how sound works in nature and how we hear it. Vibrations in our ears… Some regular, some irregular… Some musical sounds, some noise…

            Sounds with regular vibrations sound satisfying, according to scientific data. The sound waves created by a regular shaped wire vibrating 440 times per second (a sine wave with a frequency of 440 Hz) resonate with our ears as today's la sound. But the sound of an irregularly oscillating wave sounds dissatisfied to our ears, like a squeaky screen sound. As the vibration of a regular sound, that is, its frequency increases, the sound is heard thin, and as the vibration decreases, the sound is heard thick. The human ear can hear between 20 and 20.000 vibrations. The la key, which has the thickest string of the piano, has a frequency of 27.5 Hz today.

            But there is a difference that makes an instrument an instrument. In a digital environment, like oscillator generator applications, if you create and listen to a 440 Hz sound, it sounds very flat, dry, and characterless. But if you vibrate the la string on a violin or press the la4 key on a piano, you'll hear a fuller and more characterful sound. This wealth difference lies in the beauty of nature. A vibrating string creates a structure in which its multiples resonate, in addition to the main frequency, depending on the part to which it is vibrated. That is, when a string resonates at 440 Hz, the sounds of 880 Hz, 1320 Hz, 1760 Hz, etc., in addition and very low in intensity, vibrate and can be heard and analyzed by really trained sensitive ears or quality microphones. We call the sounds that exist with the permission of nature at these higher frequencies innate or harmonic. The term harmonic comes from the English word Harmony, which means "harmony".

            The teachers probably showed the existence of these sounds to the students studying at the conservatory or the piano department in fine arts with a few scenarios. First of all, let's admit that it may not be possible for the average or untrained ears to hear harmonic sounds, there are laws of the brain and perceptions as well as the laws of nature. The brain focuses on the phenomenon in which it receives a high signal. You can say, “When I press the la4 button, I only hear la4 sound” and this does not mean that there is something wrong. The most acceptable scenario for understanding the existence of this phenomenon is simply as follows:

            In this case, the harmonics cannot be heard directly or heard by the listener, but their existence can still be proven.i can we say

Of course, we can say that the piano is a very suitable instrument for this. Before pressing a thick key, we open the muffler felt by inserting the key, which is its upper octave, in softly. In other words, if the do1 key is to be pressed hard, we will open the muffler of the do2 key. Then we touch do1 nicely and let go. The result reveals the mystery and beauty of nature, do2 resonates with itself. The same result can be obtained for sol2 and do3 or even mi4 sounds. Because these sounds are the upper harmonic sounds of do1 and they resonate because they are in perfect harmony with it as a sound wave.

            Does the same phenomenon exist in string and string instruments?

They are all like different limbs of the same order. If you watch a trembling violin string in very slow motion, you will see it vibrate in a strange pattern, the same is true for a trembling piano string. As a result, the sound does not come with a single frequency, but with other phonemes, and these additional sounds add character to the main frequency. While playing instruments such as piano and violin, our mind concentrates on the main sound and we produce a beautiful performance without noticing the harmonics phenomenon.

            So what distinguishes the church organ from other instruments at this point?
Let's start with the name of the instrument first. As far as we have researched, his name is in Greek. "organum" We see that the word comes from. The word organum simply means tool. So a screwdriver is also an organum. After all, this instrument for making music is an organ. to english "Pipe Organ" or "Church Organ" in French "Orgue" as past. In our opinion, the closest version to its use in Turkish should be the pronunciation of French, "organ". We call it church organ because we usually see it in churches.

            In the most general framework, church organs work in a way that collects compressed air into the box (chest) of a selected sound group, brings it under a pipe by means of a keyboard key and blows it, thus making a sound. One advantage of the sound coming from the pipes is that there are no inharmonicity issues such as the physics of the string, which would be a problem when tuning other keyboard instruments. The sound of air vibrating purely in a column comes to our ears. When you press a button, the whole mechanism works to open the flaps on the organ's chest. If you have researched the instrument before, you may have noticed that there are several keyboards in the organs. I will also talk about the reasons for this.

If we try to make an imaginary organ, I think we will see its difference from other instruments better?

            The main purpose of the church organ is to perform the musical art, that is basically the sound phenomenon, which the creator has bestowed on human beings perfectly, back to the creator perfectly, that is, as a gratitude and thanksgiving. The church organ has to be perfect in all respects. For now, we'll just imagine a 56-key single-keyboard organ. Music lovers who have done research before have seen in the visuals that there are various buttons on the left and right above the keyboards of the organs. In the videos, the player changes these structures by pushing, pulling or pressing. These buttons are the sound characters of the organ. These buttons are also in terminology. “register” or "stop" is called. They are different tones that are shaped according to the geometry of the pipe inside and many other factors. These different timbres can be grouped into 4 main groups. A family of principal tones, a family of flute tones, a family of string tones, and a family of reed tones. We will also include them in our imaginary organ. For example, a register with the name Principal or Diapason. Principal literally means "main". In other words, it is the main voice that will give our organ its character. One Flute Let's add. Let this be one of the wide-bodied pipes that will give our organ a flute color. One Gamba Let us find that this is a narrow body pipe set that will give our organ the character of a stringed instrument. One too oboe register Let's add, let this be the color of a reed instrument that will give us an oboe-like sound. With just these 4 registers, I can make 24 combinations and get different timbres.
    But no, it's not enough! The Creator's music and the laws of nature deserve better. If you look closely at those register names, you'll see that they also write some numbers. Like Principal 8′, Flauto 4′, Quint 2 2/3. Let's explain it like this: Now, let's place 4 of our imaginary sound families on this imaginary organ.
Let's say our first 4 main pipe sets were the ones with the longest pipe 12m long, now let's add 6m, 4m and 3m respectively. And these should be tuned so nicely that they are tuned from the 12m set to the 3m set by slightly lowering their volume. Now for the really impressive comparison, if I press the do3 key on the piano, my average ear will only hear the do3 sound. In our imaginary organ, if I press the do3 key, do3 + sol4 + do4 sounds will be heard with decreasing volumes along with do5, and they will all work to characterize and strengthen the do3 sound. Moreover, when adjusting the sounds of these different pipes, a perfect sound work is done and each pipe is adjusted in itself according to the type of timbre and harmonic sound it will serve, even the attack of the first moment when the air hits the pipe is taken into account. How beautifully even a very simple chord connection can sound on the piano, while every sound is amplified with its harmonics as nature bestowed upon them.

Tell us that all the laws of the one who created the sensation combined with different instrument timbres and every created instrument was presented as a result of great respect and effort. Well, this exciting organ mechanism definitely has its own laws, can you talk about them?

            Our imaginary organ; A simple instrument consisting of 56 keys, a single keyboard and 896 pipes if necessary calculations are made. We thought and designed this organ completely independent of the laws of construction, and despite this, even the dream of the voice's service to its own nature excited us. Now let's add a summary of the organ construction laws on this idea.

            We have hundreds of register types with different timbres and harmonic frequencies. So let our beautiful organ have several keyboards with different characters, as well as a 30-note pedal keyboard that I can play with my feet. In fact, let's put all the pipes of a keyboard in a box with snap-on lids so we can do some nuance. One keyboard is the main keyboard, the other keyboard is the nuance keyboard, and the pedal keyboard is the bass keyboard with bass frequencies. Let different registers be placed in each section according to its character. You can speak to the Creator with such an instrument, with the most elegant chord accompaniment to the most elegant melody and the most elegant bass sounds in the background that fill the structure. The organ shows the performer and the listener both heaven and hell, if your heart is open to the world of sounds. Once you enter such a world; technique, metronome, speed, knuckled finger, hand opening exercises, technical boring melodies, hours spent etudes and a group of worldly troubles begin to seem meaningless to you. The organ instrument serves the hereafter and immortal beauty from its first column whose wood was cut to its first horn.

           The organ, which fascinates people with its gigantic size and splendor, has a secret life, what does the organ live from day to night?

            The organ in all its glory can wait hundreds of years. As long as their wood remains intact, their metal does not succumb to gravity, and their skin does not open, they will try to talk to you if you breathe air into their lungs. When he can't speak correctly, you can understand his problems in the direction of what you hear and get a small surgery. Being coy and naive also lies in the nature of wood and metal, which is the sensitivity to heat. In a day, the temperature changes constantly, if we set a metal pipe to 440 Hz right now, it can take on a different frequency in ten minutes. The organ is the most active of all instruments. After 100 years, you take a screw out of it, and that screw is no longer the first screw inserted, nor is it the first gouge in the wood. At night, it turns into itself, regains its voice with the warm day, and all the metal and wooden pipes and all the parts together obey the laws of nature. If we wanted to keep an organ at the same frequency all the time, we would either have to put it in an environment where the temperature does not change, or tune it constantly.

            Well, after all this, let's think about it, why do good composers play the organ?

            These composers used to compose their compositions according to the deep musical teachings they learned from their teachers. There are various restrictions in these teachings, depending on the period. The organ player fully understands and hears the nature of the vibrating sounds at the same time, makes sense of why chord connections that should not be made in harmony are considered objectionable, listens with admiration the depth of the timbre he hears while playing the bass harmonization he has made on paper with his feet on the pedal and his hands on the keyboards. The organ instrument becomes a teacher over time for the person who starts playing the organ, and the student asks him questions, he gets the answer with a direct tone. The most beautiful melodies become playable with the most beautiful timbres.

            So, where is our country in terms of the existence of this instrument and the activities carried out?

Turkey and its Organs

            The organ of a church has always been a source of praise for that church. The value of displaying an organ from the 1400s in a church in Italy, and even the regular maintenance and playing of it, cannot be expressed in words. The history of the organ will be out of the scope of this article, but we know that in the 7th and 8th centuries, one or two organs were made and sent to France from the Byzantine lands, which is today Istanbul, and that a master named Cafer was among those who made it. After this art passed to Germany, France and Italy from these lands, it took on perfect forms and gained a school. Today, you can tell a French organ from a German one just by listening. You can get an idea of ​​its style just by looking at it, and you can recognize a classic Italian organ just from the keyboard area.

            In our geography with Islamic culture, a rich organ heritage is not expected at first glance. However, there is one detail that was skipped. Our lands have always served as a bridge and have been instrumental in bringing many different Christian sects and cultures to these lands. So what has this Christian diversity brought us?

            If you go to Italy, there are predominantly Italian organ production companies, and a church in Italy naturally goes to one of these companies and owns an organ in this school. The same is true in countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands. Each country first procures organ from companies located in its own territory and making organs with that school.

            But an Italian community came to our land in the past and they ordered organ from Italy to their church. The French ensemble came, they ordered their organs from France, the German ensemble came and ordered their organs from Germany. This paradise homeland is also a paradise, with different organ styles and a diversity of results from different musical cultures. Each of our organs, which number approximately 26 in Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara, is individually valuable, different and has stylistic significance. Some of them are in usable condition, and some of them can be reused.

            When we look at our organ archive, the ones that came to the present day, including the ones that came in time but are not available now, show us a monument of richness. Wonders of craftsmanship, many from well-known makers, many of which have stood for over 100 years.

            What is being done on behalf of organ culture in our country?

            Artisan Organization Istanbul, under the art directorship of Mehmet Mestçi for two years, st. Esprit Cathedralin the organ that was maintained and tuned by our team. Opus Amadeus International Istanbul Organ Festival'and world-renowned artists came to perform elegant works on this rare organ. We look forward to the continuation with great enthusiasm.


            The number of music lovers who see and appreciate the richness of our country in this field is increasing day by day. This culture and heritage belong to all of us and we hope that we will keep these instruments and this culture alive with the efforts and support of all of us. We remind you that the doors of dear Tarkan Şendal and his team are open to every music lover who wants to support them, and we hope to see you at a nice concert soon. As the Parter Magazine team, we would like to thank you for your efforts over the limited organs in the few churches of our country.

If you want to learn more about church organs and stay up to date with the events, to the Istanbul Church Organs team, You can find it on Instagram and Facebook pages.


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