A large and very harmonious musical instrument, of considerable antiquity. They were first introduced into this country about the fourteenth century, although instruments of a similar nature, but of a less refined construction, were in use long prior in some of the cities of the southern and western parts of Europe. During the civil wars they were removed from the churches in England, and so generally reprobated that there could scarcely be found either organists or organ-builders; but after the Restoration, owing to the deficiency of workmen and musicians, liberal encouragement was offered for the introduction of foreign talent, and the re-establishment, at home, of our native emigrants. The most conspicuous of those who, in consequence, came over to minister to the public taste, were Bernard Schmidt (afterwards distinguished by the name of Father Smith) and Renatus Harris; and, it appears, these two individuals were so nearly matched in ability, that several public trials were made to determine whose instrument was entitled to superior estimation, which was finally adjudged to Father Smith. In the Universal Magazine for 1778, a quaint account is given of this controversy from the pen of an anonymous correspondent.
This occurred during the reign of Charles II.; and of the organs that were constructed at that period by Harris, several fine ones are said to be remaining in London; namely, that of St. Bride, St. Lawrence, and St. Mary Axe. Of those constructed by Father Smith, may be enumerated that for St. Paul's, St. Mary Woolnoth, the Temple Church (where the contest took place), St. Mary, Oxford, and Trinity College, Cambridge; all of which have been highly celebrated for their tone and the variety of their powers, embracing the vox humana stop, the cremona, the flute, and many others. It is, indeed, considered by many reputed judges, that these old instruments far surpass in tone any of more modern construction notwithstanding the great improvemerits in the mechanism of organs by Byfield, Snetzler, Green, Gray, Flight, and others.
The modern organ is a very complicated and ingenious piece of mechanism. Although it is spoken of as one instrument, yet, strictly speaking, it is a collection of instruments, all brought under the fingers of one performer; and so contrived, that he has it in his power to play on any one singly, or to combine several, or all, according to his taste, in order to produce variety of effect: it consists, even in its simplest form, of a number of sets of pipes, each producing the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, and comprising several octaves, according to the usual key-board. The magnitude and grandeur of these instruments chiefly depend on the number and variety of the stops and sizes of the pipes, so that the difference of effect which it is in the power of an able organist to produce is almost endless. To give a particular detail of the construction of organs, would scarcely accord with our prescribed limits, and would, in a great measure, be a repetition of many of the parts described under the head of Apollonicon; we shall, therefore, close the subject in this place, by referring the reader to our account of the latter instrument, and to the article Organ, in the Oxford Ency-rfopeedia, which contains much interesting information on this subject, with several engravings, explanatory of the mechanism of the several kinds of organs.