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Mailbag: “Specifying Ranks and Stop”

August 5, 2008

Dear Michael,

A couple of things here, I’ve been looking for Specs for the organ that’s in All Saints Episcopal Church, in Fort Worth Texas. Having heard this instrument on a friend’s podcast, it sounds to me as a if it’s a fairly sizeable instrument, and I’d like to get an idea of what it has available on it. I’ve looked all over the web, and put in various things into google, and no luck. Maybe you’ve got a resource for finding organ specifications that I haven’t been able to find in my searching? When people talk about an organ, they’ll often give the number of stops, and sometimes the number of ranks as well. I find that those numbers differ, usually the number of stops is higher than the number of ranks. My assumption, was that a rank, meant the pipes available for that stop? Am I right in saying that the number of stops is different, due to stops that may be borrowed from an instrument’s manuals? That was my thought as to why the number of stops and number of ranks aren’t the same, although I might be way off here. Just trying to get a better understanding, so when I hear things like, that instrument has 65 ranks, trying to get an understanding of how big an instrument that would be. Thanks for your time, and I totally loved the latest pipedreams show that was posted on my favourite of organists, Virgil Fox!!




Generally, the number of ranks of pipes is the best indicator of the ‘size’ of an instrument. As you may know, the duplexing/unification/extension’ possibilities of the electric chest actions invented by Robert Hope-Jones allow a single rank of pipes to appear at various pitch levels (and in various divisions) of an organ. Thus, a huge four-manual Wurltzer with more than 200 ‘stops’ might have only 26 or 36 ranks of pipes. This holds true in classical/church instruments, too (though the practice is generally applied more conservatively).





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