After a particularly impressive effort at work or on the playing field, or at the most climactic point in a film, you might have heard someone mention that “they pulled out all of the stops.” In common use, it’s considered high praise, but for church organ players, the phrase has a very different meaning. Viscount Organs will explore the origins of this common phrase in our latest blog post.
The History Of The Phrase
Today, this phrase is used in a variety of contexts and professions, not just music. Pulling out all the stops means to give a task or event your all. When you commit to something entirely, you’re pulling out all the stops. In other cases, pulling out all the stops might refer to a night of drunken debauchery where you’re undoing stoppers from many bottles of champagne.
This popular phrase was first used in 1865. Writer Matthew Arnold first used this phrase, comparing a person to the church organ. Arnold coined the phrase when he wrote “…knowing how unpopular a task one is undertaking when one tries to pull out a few more stops in that … somewhat narrow-toned organ, the modern Englishman.”
Understand Organ Stops
Now that we know how this phrase entered our common parlance, we can now explore the object that inspired them. For church organ players, the inspiration is obvious. Stops are used on church organs and can be pushed and pulled to create different sounds. The stops are responsible for changing the flow of pressurized air into the organ’s pipes. Often, sheet music for the organ will indicate which stops need to be pulled to create the needed effect, but in other cases, the organist can use them at their own discretion.
The stops can be used sparingly, or in many different combinations with other stops to create an eclectic array of sounds and tones that are not possible using just the keys and pedals alone. By changing what stops are being used, the organist can create dynamic changes in the sound of the organ. Some stops create a deep, rumbling, brassy tone, while other stops can help the organ sound light and hollow. Organists select the stops they need based on the sounds they wish to create.
So with this in mind, pulling out all the stops then is to quite literally pull all of the stops on the organ console. This lets the most amount of air to flow through the pipes, creating the loudest, fullest, and deepest tones the organ is capable of. So when your next piece of music calls for you to pull out all the stops, it’s time to let your church organ sing loud and proud!
If you’re looking to add a new layer of depth and range to your existing church organs, then reach out to Viscount Organs and ask about our Hybrid Organs. Utilizing Physis® technology and the pipes on your organ, you’ll love the amazing sounds that will come from your church organ.
Find a dealer near you and order your new Viscount Organ today!