The Swell Organ
The name of the Swell division refers to a pipe organ technology dating from the mid-19th century that encloses pipes within a chamber with louvres (somewhat like a Venetian Blind) that can be opened and closed by a pedal operated by the organist. Pipes treated in this way are able to ‘Swell’ louder and softer to make music more expressive than it could by simply adding and subtracting stops, and are said to be ‘under expression’ – and the Swell division is not the only one to be built this way (we have a total of five at TEMC, the others being the Choir, Solo, Bombarde and Echo divisions).
On most organs having a ‘Swell’, it is played from the manual (keyboard) immediately above the Great (at TEMC this is the third from the bottom). Swells are characterised by enclosing both loud and soft stops, giving them (usually) the widest volume range and greatest versatility of function on the organ. The Swell is a mainstay of accompanying choirs, voices and instruments, a key tool to colour the unenclosed stops of the Great through ‘coupling’ (a device allowing more than one division to be played on a single keyboard at the same time), and perhaps most importantly the organist’s most immediate and intuitive means of shaping musical phrases, and managing music’s louds and softs.