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date: 29 March 2020

Composition pedallocked

  • Peter Williams
  • , revised by Nicholas Thistlethwaite


The name given to the foot-operated lever of an organ that takes off or brings on predetermined stops, usually by operating on the draw-stop rods. J.C. Bishop was the inventor, though a counter-claim by his former master, Benjamin Flight, was dismissed by the Society of Arts in 1809. The composition pedal replaced the earlier ‘shifting movement’ which had comprised a foot-lever operating directly on the ends of the sliders in such a way that on depression the stop was taken off, and on release a spring returned the slider to the playing position. According to the builder Jordan’s trade-card of about 1720, its purpose was to put stops ‘off and on by the feet, simply or together, at the master’s discretion, and as quick as thought, without taking the hands off the keys’. Hopkins, in The Organ (1855), used the term ‘single-action’ to describe the composition pedal that ‘either draws out or thrusts in a given number of sliders’ or draw-stops, and ‘double-action’ for the pedal that did both. Such accessories were as popular by the late 1820s (John Abbey’s small organ for the Paris Exhibition of ...

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