The Church Organ: A History


The church organ is one of the oldest instruments still played by modern musicians. The first organ recorded was in Greece in the 3rd century: The word “organ” originates from the Greek word organon meaning “instrument” or “tool.” Ctesibius of Alexandria invented the organ, then called a hydraulis, which was operated through water pressure that created the needed wind pressure.

The organ continued to be a part of many of the prominent cultures throughout history, including the Persian empire with its version of the organ, urghun, as well as the Roman and Byzantine Empire with its own variation. In 757, Pepin the Short King of the Franks was the first in Western Europe to receive an organ.

Medieval Europe

Portable organs were popular during the Medieval era of Europe. The Medieval instrument had keyboards with balanced keys, and the organ installed permanently in Halberstadt, Germany in 1361 was the first church organ to have the chromatic key layout. These instruments though, to be played, had to be operated by more than just one player: Ten men operated the bellows while one man played the instrument. Because of the incredible wind pressure needed to operate the organ, the player had to use his full strength just to press one key. Church organs continued to evolve, eventually equipped with stops in mid-1400s.

Renaissance and Baroque Eras: The Golden Age

The Baroque era is considered the “golden age” for the organ. Not only during this time was the organ’s tonal variety and quality improved, but the organs that were constructed were masterpieces due to their sound quality and their overall appearance. Large permanent church organs were referred to as “the king of instruments” because of their sheer size and impressive and imposing appearance. Organ makers across Europe began to refine the organ and expand its capabilities.

The Romantic Period and Beyond

During the Romantic Period, Cavaille-Coll solved the problem of the strength needed to press a key versus the wind pressure needed to create a note. Because of this innovation, organ playing became easier, offering more variation in the music composed for the organ. The Organ Reform Movement occurred in the mid-1900s: Church organ makers constructed Baroque era-inspired organs with voicing that reflected that era. Through the ages, the organ continued to change with the times. Electronic organs made their appearance during the 20th century, with other makers incorporating digital elements in the construction of their traditional organs.

The Modern Organ and Viscount Church Organs

The church organ has continued to evolve with the times to be one of the oldest instruments still played and enjoyed by audiences worldwide. If you are looking for a church organ for your organization or personal enjoyment, look no further! Viscount organs has a variety of church organ styles available, all constructed with the purpose of creating an instrument that not only is beautiful to look at, but also an instrument that creates beautiful, full sound. Check out Viscount organs on our website!

The Unico series is a line of classic organs developed with Physis® physical modeling technology, entirely designed and patented by Viscount’s Italian research facilities. With this new approach, based on physical modeling of the pipe organ, you will enjoy the most faithful and malleable sound on the market today.

Thanks to accurate audio reproduction and powerful reverberation effects, Viscount has transferred the magnificence of a large pipe organ into the convenience of a compact instrument.

The Unico series has a rich library of customizable settings and parameters which allows you to select, assign and store hundreds of additional registers. Features are easy to access through a discrete backlit main control display.

The SONUS series is a line of classical organs developed with exclusive Physis® technology - designed and patented by Viscount’s laboratories. Based on modeling the physical phenomena involved in pipe organ sound generation, the sound generated is incredibly authentic.

On top of Physis® sound generation technology, we have designed a revolutionary new audio system called RAR (Real Audio Rendering). Thanks to RAR technology, you can totally manage the impression of three-dimensional space in which the instrument is placed – from the smallest room, all the way up to a large cathedral setting. The new Viscount RAR (Real Audio Rendering) technology represents a significant step forward in terms of definition, spatiality and body of the sound, which is the most authentic way yet to create that magical effect of the most important organ stop – ‘the ambience’. Sitting at the console of the new Viscount Sonus, you will experience the most realistic impression of the instrument and its setting available from any digital organ you may care to play.

The OUVERTURE is an organ with 3 keyboards, complete pedalboard and 55 registers - each of which can select hundreds of organ and orchestra voices. There is also an orchestra register for every section of the organ which can be selected from the numerous options available.

The organ comes with 8 organ styles (4 fixed and 4 programmable) that allow the organist to create and store an infinite number of combinations, either in the 128 internal memory locations or externally via USB memory. The parameter settings are easily accessible through the graphic display on the front panel. The “Tracker Action” style keyboard accurately detects touch by obtaining the speed of actuation of the keys, making it possible to feel a "Tracker Touch" effect, i.e .the correlation between the "touch" of the organist and the transient attack of each virtual pipe.

Developed with the award-winning and patented Physis® physical modeling technology, which reproduces the physical phenomena involved in the sound generation of the pipe organ, the Ouverture is capable of generating the highest-fidelity, most authentic church organ sound.

Chorum instruments faithfully reproduce the sounds of a pipe organ with proprietary ARTEM technology (Advanced Real TEchnology Music) designed by Viscount's Research and Development labs in Italy.

The richness and beauty of stops are enhanced by an accurate reverberation system, able to recreate a great variety of acoustic environments, from a small chapel to the largest cathedral.

Chorum organs are highly functional, yet simple to use; you can store a large selection of memories and recall your stop combinations.

Unico Collection

Our flagship Viscount organ line powered by our patented Physis® (Physical Modeling) Technology.

Sonus Collection

Physis® Technology & the most powerful self-contained audio system available.

Chorum Collection

Our sampled-sound based Viscount organ that beats all others in price & value for the money.

Physis® Pianos

The most advanced digital piano on the planet using Physis® Technology.