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by Frederik Magle


In Jørlunde church, an 11th century church close to Copenhagen, Denmark, a new pipe organ was inaugurated in October 2009. The organ is built by Th. Frobenius & Sons and voiced by Ole Høyer. Architects are Inger & Johannes Exner. The church's organist, Gunnar Svensson, and I were appointed as consultants for the Church Council.

My task was to create the stop-list and - working closely together with Frobenius' chief-voicer Ole Høyer during the voicing process - the plan and direction for the tonal design (the way the voices should sound individually and combined, rather than simply a list of stops which cannot convey the actual sound except on the most basic level), so the overall vision for the instrument was realized.

This instrument realizes many of my ideas and wishes for the tonal character of a general purpose pipe organ - within the size limits of the instrument itself and of course the room in which it stands. In this essay I will give a basic introduction to some of those ideas and the instrument overall.

The organ in Jørlunde church
The front of the organ. Architects: Inger and Johannes Exner.

The acoustics of Jørlunde church are generally excellent for music and the reverberation period is almost 3 seconds (when empty) - quite long for a small church. However, when the church is full the reverberation becomes less than 1 second, so both scenarios had to be considered in the planning and not least the voicing process. Obviously the organ sounds its very best when the church is empty, or less than half full, but even with the church filled to the last seat, the sound is carried through the entire church, without the tone itself being diminished. Only in the pauses after, say, a large chord is the lack of reverberation noticed.

A limit of 19 voices (plus a few extensions/duplicates) was set from the start, and within that limit the goal was to create an instrument that could fulfill all the liturgic requirements as well as function as a concert instrument.


Until 2004 the church had a very small organ with 7 stops from 1967, built in the most radical style of the so called "organbewegung", and thus very limited in actual usability. In 2004 the organ was taken down and placed in a storage hotel while the church was undergoing various renovations. Unfortunately (or perhaps not so unfortunate, from a strictly musical perspective) the storage hotel burned down - luckily no one was hurt - and with it most of the 1967 organ.

In it's place an even smaller organ was installed as a temporary measure. However, this was an old organ built by the Danish organ builder Johan Andreas Demant in 1876, and it's tone was very different from the 1967 organ, making it much more usable, not lest in accompanying hymns (one of the main liturgical functions), despite it's diminutive size.

When I was hired as "organ consultant", or "adviser to the church council", the Demant organ had just been installed, and spending a lot of time in the church getting accustomed to the acoustics, and playing the Demant organ I quickly fell in love with this charming instrument. The organist Gunnar Svensson was also delighted by that instrument, and then the idea came to me to use the 4 original Demant voices (the instrument had 5 voices, but the 5th had been replaced in the 1960s and was not musically interesting) as the foundation for the new organ.

Due to historical preservation concerns we were not allowed to use the actual Demant pipes, but decided instead that four of the stops in the new organ should be voiced as tonal copies of the old Demant organ pipes. The rest of the organ would not be a copy, but still built and voiced to match the "old" pipes. The result is not a historical copy or pastiche in any way. It's a modern timeless organ, simply inspired by the exceptional beauty of tone found in organs in Denmark (and Germany) from the second half of the 19th century.

Organ Console.
A detail of the console.

Almost 5 months was spend on voicing after the pipes had been installed in the church, with two voicers - Ole Høyer and his assistant - working full time five - sometimes six - days a week exclusively on this organ. The attention to detail is uncompromising. Only the best materials has been used in the construction from inside to outside. For example, the white keys are all made of 10,000+ years old mammoth tooth found in Siberia!

In the following sections I will go through the individual stops, describing their character and some of the ideas behind them:

List of Stops:

Manual I, Great Organ

Mixtur IV



(1876 Demant-copy*)
(1876 Demant-copy*)
(1876 Demant-copy*)

C: 1 1/3' + 1' + 2/3' + 1/2'
c: 2' + 1 1/3' + 1' + 2/3'
c': 2 2/3' + 2' + 1 1/3' + 1'
c'': 4' + 2 2/3' + 2' + 1 1/3'
c''': 4' + 4' + 2 2/3' + 2'

Manual II, Swell Organ

Vox Angelica
Aetheria-Cornet IV

1 1/3'


(1876 Demant-copy*)
from c

C: 4' + 2 2/3' + 2' + 1 3/5'
c''': 4' + 3 1/5' + 2 2/3' + 2'

Variable (speed and amplitude)

Pedal Organ


(from Great organ)
(C-f from Subbas 16')
(from Great organ)
(from Great organ)

(C-f from Basun 16')

Couplers: HV + SV | P + HV | P + SV

Demant-copy* = Built and voiced as tonal copies of similar stops in a Demant-organ from 1876

Mechanical "tracker" key-action, mechanical action couplers, electric stop action (prepared for the addition of an electronic combination system).

Tuned in equal temperament. A' = 440Hz at 19 degrees C.

Manual Compass = 56 notes: C to g''' (CC to g)
Pedal Compass = 30 notes: C to f' (CC to f).

21 voices (19 voices excluding pedal extensions), 24 stops, 25 ranks, 1,360 pipes.

Inaugurated: October 25th, 2009
Organ builders: Th. Frobenius and Sons
Chief-voicer: Ole Høyer
Architects: Inger and Johannes Exner
Advisers to the church council: Gunnar Svensson and Frederik Magle
List of stops and tonal design created by Frederik Magle

The Great Organ

Three of the voices in the Great organ are "Demant-like"; the Tectus 8', the Oktav 4', and the Fløjte 4'. Tectus is another name (as used by Demant) for Bourdon or Stopped Diapason. Its tone is dark and beautiful, but never muffled. In fact all voices in the organ has been built and voiced to always retain clarity, no-matter how soft or "romantic" they may otherwise sound. The combination of clarity with gentleness and warmness of tone is a key to the whole tonal character.

Gedakt 16' is a relatively narrow-scaled (though not a Quintaton in any way), clear and delicately voiced Bourdon made of wood. It's built and voiced to match the Tectus 8' and Flute 4', and at the same time being able to provide gravity to large registrations, without ever being "muddy" or dominating.

The Diapason chorus, Principal 8', Oktav 4', and Oktav 2' has a warm and singing tone, a precise attack with a delicately balanced amount of "chiff" and, again, clarity. On top of them the 4-rank Mixture provides brilliance, but never hardness or unpleasant sharpness. That despite the fact it is placed in the very front row of the organ. This comes down to the masterly voicing by Ole Høyer from Frobenius. After having worked with him I am confident that many times even what is thought impossible can be done. Voicing is truly an art form.

The Traversfløjte 8' is an open harmonic flute (harmonic from middle f), with many uses both as a solo flute but also in strengthening the foundation. It blends well with both the Principal and the Tectus. Its scale is relatively slim (though definitely flute scale) - avoiding the "boo" sound, and in the treble the chiff is quite expressive and alive, without being distracting.

Finally the Trumpet 8' - a a versatile voice, with a brilliant but rich tone. useful both as a solo voice and of course in full work registrations. It can be heard solo in the excerpt from "Like a Flame" above.

Tracker action
A look inside the tracker action of the console.
(Click on the picture to view in high resolution).

The Swell Organ

Overall the Swell organ has a delicate and mild sound, with emphasis on beauty of tone, yet not without intensity. Despite only having 8 voices, it is capable of producing a very full and rich tone. One of the reasons for this is the dedication to "harmonic balance", which I will describe later in the following section.

The Swell organ box is placed behind the Great organ, with swells pointing both forwards bu also backwards towards the backwall of the tower wall. The two sets of swell shutters can be operated individually by seperate swell pedals (placed together for easy operation of both together as well), allowing a great control over their effect on the tone. When the forward swell is closed, and only the backward is used, the Swell organ feels a little like an "Echo organ", however, with the front swell opened the sound is opened up as well.

The foundation of the Swell organ is laid with the Rørfløjte 8' (Chimney-flute), a soft voice with a slightly piquant tone due to the emphasis on the third in the harmonic spectrum, a result of the "chimney". That way it both contrasts and compliments the Great organ's Tectus, while also serving similar functions in providing foundation. It blends very well with the Fugara 8', which is a soft "string/flute"-voice, and the fourth and last stop built and voiced directly after a similar Demant voice. The voice can perhaps in some ways be compared with a Violin Diapason, but softer and more gentle, without the hardness sometimes found in the Diapason voice.

The Vox Angelica is a very mild, relatively slowly pulsating celeste stop, tuned slightly low, and voiced to match the Fugara 8'. Its scale is slightly slimmer than the Fugara emphasizing the string-tone a little more. In a relatively small and intimate room such as Jørlunde church, a mild and relatively slow celeste such as the Vox Angelica is to be preferred over generally more "intense" stops such as the french "Voix Céleste". The Vox Angelica is very easy on the ear which suits the organ as well as the acoustics well.

Next up is the Gemshorn 4'. A conical flute voiced. This voice is also very soft and gentle, and the Swell organ as a whole would be lacking strength in the 4-feet pitch, if not for the fact that the Aetheria-Cornet includes a 4-feet rank in its full range, and the Nasat 1 1/3', a harmonic which strengthens the 4'. In fact the harmonic balance of the Swell organ (and indeed the entire organ) is very deliberate:

Swell Organ Pipes

A look inside the Swell Organ. The Oboe (on the left) is capped.
The Aetheria-Cornet is mounted above the rest of the voices.

Excluding the Vox Angelica 8' (which is not meant to be used in full organ registrations), the Swell organ has four flue ranks strengthening the 8-feet pitch; Rørfløjte 8', Fugara 8', and 2 2/3' and 1 3/5' in the Aetheria-Cornet. Three ranks strengthens the 4-feet pitch; Gemshorn 4', Nasat 1 1/3', and the 4' rank from the Aetheria Cornet. Two ranks strengthens 2-feet; Schweizerfløjte 2' and the 2'-rank in the Aetheria-Cornet. Finally, the Oboe blends perfectly together with the harmonic spectrum of the flue voices. Carefully voiced, the result is an almost perfect balance, and a richness in tone giving the impression of a much larger instrument.

The Schweizerfløjte (Swiss Flute) is an inverted conical flute, with a most delightful tone. It works very well both alone and together with the rest of the Swell organ flutes. Nasat 1 1/3', is a conical flute, and provides a delicate top to the Swell. It can of course also be used as a 2 2/3' for soloist purposes if played an octave lower.


The Aetheria-Cornet is a unique voice. It is in fact - to my knowledge - a new invention, or perhaps more properly a new "development". It's a 4-rank hybrid voice scaled and voiced as a Harmonia Aetheria in the bass and a regular Cornet in the treble. The switch between the two is flowing, and thus the voice "morphs" from one kind to another without an exact division. Though from around middle f the voice is definitely a Cornet, and from the f below the middle c and below it's definitely a Harmonia Aetheria. Throughout the octave in between the voice morphs and cannot be clearly defined as either.

The result is a very versatile voice with much wider uses than one Harmonia Aerheria or Cornet would have alone. A harmonia Aetheria can be described as a "string-cornet" (of string scale). It's function is not to be soloist like the Cornet, but rather to work as a gentle string-mixture providing an "ethereal" sound. In the bass of the Jørlunde organ this is exactly what it does. In contrast a "Cornet" has normally very little use in the bass, and often it simply starts from f or g below middle c, or sometimes at middle c itself. By making the bass as a Harmonia Aetheria, that part of the compass becomes useful, and the "Aetheria-Cornet" provides the best of both worlds so to speak.

The last voice in the Swell organ is the Oboe 8', which is constructed as a "capped" oboe, to provide a softer tone, better melting together with the flue-work. Yet, it still works very well as a beautiful solo voice.

The Tremulant can be adjusted for both speed and amplitude, within a very wide range, allowing for some strange effects when used in its extreme positions (This effect is explored in the works titled; "Fleeting Glimpses", "Odditorium", and "End of the Circle", on my upcoming album
"Like a Flame")

Voicer Ole Høyer next to the Basun 16 Full length Trombone 16.
Chief-voicer Ole Høyer from Frobenius next to the pedal Trombone 16'
The longest pipe is 5 meters (16 feet) tall. It's the largest organ pipes ever installed in a Danish village church. Behind the Trombone a few Subbas 16' pipes can be seen.

The Pedal Organ

The largest pipes in the organ belongs to the Basun 16' - a full length 16-feet Trombone stop. This voice provides a magnificent strength to match and "lift" the sound of the full organ. By being full length (up to approx. 16 feet / 5 meter tall pipes) it sounds fuller, and much better matches the tone of the rest of the organ than could a, say, half length reed. This again helps to make the overall organ sound rich and complete (you can play the video with "Origin" above to hear the full organ). An extension of the Basun 16' into a Trumpet 8' provides more possibilities in registration, as well as ensuring that the pedal balances well with the rest of the organ despite it only containing two "true" voices (but for all pratical purposes the Trumpet 8' will feel like an individual voice in use).

The Subbas 16' is stopped and made of wood, providing the natural foundation for the organ. Its tone is strong, yet very clear.

Finally the Pedal organ includes three stops borrowed from the Great organ to provde more registration-options independently of the manuals.

The only "compromise" in the organ is the Principalbas 8' not being independent, but rather derived from Great. However, due to the limit of 19 voices which could not be exceeded, and also to avoid the organ being crowded, we decided to prioritize an open flute (The Traversfløjte) in the Great. Had the pedal had its own Diapason, the Great organ would have had to do without an open flute. It was a hard choice to make, but after careful consideration of what would be most useful in daily use, also considering how often any overlap between the manuals and the pedal would occur and actually be heard, the choice was clear.

The Basun (Trombone) 16' being installed:

Organist Gunnar Svensson next to the Trombone:

Final Thoughts

The end result is a musical instrument on which an organist can perform a surprisingly wide range of repertoire. From baroque to modern music. The core inspiration for the organ lies in the Danish/German tradition of tracker organs from the second half of the 19th century; romantic and somewhat "symphonic" though not "orchestral organs". It actually lends itself surprisingly well to baroque music due to the exceptional clarity in voicing, yet the clarity never gets in the way of the more romantic qualities.

Words can only desribe the tone of a musical instrument in a limited way. Listen to the audio examples I have uploaded (more will be added along the way), or better yet visit the pipe organ in Jørlunde yourself. It's worth a trip to Denmark.

Music Examples

Below are some audio and video excerpts from my double album, "Like a Flame", recorded in Jørlunde church on December 22-23, 2009. The album consists of free improvisations, each recorded in one take and presented unedited

During the 5-month voicing process of the organ-construction I would come to the church most days and improvise on the newly voiced pipes. Sometimes a whole voice, sometimes just a few pipes. The voicer, and often also the organist, would be present, listening, and when I had improvised for a while we would then discuss the sound in detail and finally agree on what changes to the sound of the pipes, if any, should be made. We would then repeat the process the next day and so forth.

The improvisations on Like a Flame represents the consequence and culmination, so to speak, of the improvisations that had a role in the shaping of the organ's sound.

The music range from the very melodic ("Dreams of Childhood Dreams", "Lament", "Destiny") to the almost fully atonal ("Fleeting Glimpses", "Truth") and everything in-between. The 12 excerpts below represents a sample of the 23 pieces - two hours and twelve minutes of music - on the album:

flash music player
Information about Like a Flame (album) | Buy Like a Flame

MP3/Lossless downloads and information about "Origin".

MP3/Lossless downloads and information about "Through The Mist".

MP3/Lossless downloads and information about "Towards Truth" and "Destiny".

MP3/Lossless downloads and information about "Awakening".

MP3/Lossless downloads and information about "Like a Flame).

MP3/Lossless downloads and information about "Lament".

• Click here to download an MP3 excerpt from "Fleeting Glimpses"

• Click here to download an MP3 excerpt from "Crossing Borders"

• Click here to download an MP3 excerpt from "Dreams of Childhood Dreams"

• Click here to download an MP3 excerpt from "To Become"

• Click here to download an MP3 excerpt from "Truth"

Sources and More Information

For verification of the content of this article as well as further information on Jørlunde church and the organ:

Copyright/Creative Commons License

Text, music, pictures and videos © Frederik Magle 2010

All pictures of the pipe organ, or parts thereof (including the high resolution (large) pictures linked from the smaller pictures), may be distributed freely under the following license:

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Revision 1.0 (March 1st, 2010)
Revision 1.1 Slightly rewritten introduction (March 10th, 2010)
Revision 1.2 Added additional music examples (July 1st, 2010)
Revision 1.3 Adding contact information (April 7th, 2011)

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