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Contrabombarde

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Everything posted by Contrabombarde

  1. Interesting vision for a concert hall though I'm not sure I'd want to be sitting on the floor in the stalls section during a performance! What's the point of having a mechanical action organ with second electric console on the stage? Why not save some money and design challenges and have the one electric action console? I've seen and played a number of large concert hall (and church) organs with dual consoles but in every case I've only ever experienced (as in, played myself or seen used in a performance) the electric action moveable console, which to my mind begs the question why go to all the trouble of having a mechanical action organ and console that you never actually use? Wouldn't a detached electric action console be a lot simpler to build, maintain and afford?
  2. There's a description of the still-functioning console at the Aula Magna ("Grand Hall") of the Central University of Venezuela is located within the University City of Caracas, here: http://www.magmouse.co.uk/research/light-console/aula-magna-caracas/
  3. The justification given for removing the organ according to the Council meeting appears to be that by virtue of there being asbestos in the building from the time it was built it had to be assumed that the organ pipes must have become contaminated unless proven otherwise. That's a rather unnerving precedent to set: how often is anything removed and relocated from a building which was known to have had asbestos used in its construction? Is it routine for organbuilders to be required to test every pipe for asbestos if removing an organ from a building known to have been built with asbestos (but with no evidence that the organ was any more contaminated than the people who visited the building)? Is mesothelioma a known occupational risk and frequent cause of death amongst organ builders who must from time to time install, tune? and repair organs in buildings that contain asbestos? On a happier note, it was good to be reminded of Compton's other ingenious ideas and whilst I have posted pictures before of his theatre lighting control systems (hands up if you knew he built theatre lighting controls) I'll happily link to them again here. Of course when you see them you will appreciate that only an organbuilder could have come up with such an idea.
  4. It would be perfectly straightforward to request a copy of the asbestos consultants' report, or minutes of any meetings in which the scrapping of the organ was discussed, as a Freedom of Information request from the city council. Regarding the instrument's value however, realistically how many people, organisations, churches or concert halls would have been queuing up to buy a large four manual Compton/Wurlitzer pipe organ as a going concern had that option been on the table? Where else could it have been installed that would have had the space to house it and the budget to pay for its relocation and any associated restoration (including, possibly asbestos decontamination)? And how many organ builders would be willing to take the risk of removing and storing it, potentially for years, given that even if a potential buyer came forward to express interest, they might well decide subsequently that the organ wasn't suitable or the relocation was unaffordable, which would leave the organ builder with a storage nightmare. I suspect the unfortunate reality is that besides Wolverhampton's civic hall, there wouldn't be any suitable alternative venue for this instrument. At which point the bean counting comes in and it's cheaper to send it to landfill.
  5. Without wishing to wade into political debate, I work for a local authority and therefore can comment directly on some aspects of the financial challenges facing many councils. Local authorities have a legal obligation to "break even"; therefore far from "losing sleep" at the prospect of the bottom line turning red, senior officers could potentially go to prison for financial mismanagement of a council so not sticking to budget is not an option. Furthermore councils have statutory responsibilities such as providing care to elderly people or children in care and the cost of doing so is rising rapidly for a variety of reasons (more people living longer in frail health, affordability of paying a living wage , fewer foreign workers available to work in low-paid jobs. Much council funding comes mainly from three sources - council tax, business rates and government grants. A further sting is that the government grant is in the process of being phased out whilst councils are only allowed to increase council tax by a few percent per year unless they hold a referendum of their residents to authorise a higher increase - and I'm not aware of any council ever going down that route as the result would be a foregone conclusion. A legal obligation not to overspend the budget, combined with shrinking income and growing social care needs, is at the heart of the dilemma facing councils when asked to find millions of pounds for something like restoring a pipe organ that will be very expensive and highly unlikely to turn any profit (and difficult to demonstrate how it might turn any profit), even though one might see how restoring a run-down civic hall into a function suite for instance could eventually turn a profit. That is why many councils appear so uninterested in saving their organ heritage - there simply is not the money in the public purse and under such circumstances restorations will need to funded through alternative means. The National Lottery appears to have shown no interest. Maybe they didn't consider a Compton to be as worthy a musical instrument as perhaps a Schulze or Father Willis. Perhaps the removal (in 1939) of the Wolverhampton organ's Melatone and the addition 20 years ago of several ranks of Wurlitzer tibias (which I would have thought could have commanded a high price) meant it wasn't in a sufifciently original condition. The point of making these comments is neither to have a dig at Wolverhampton council or the Government that is reducing councils' funding so much as to point out why an organ like this hasn't been able to be rescued. What can organ lovers do about it, in terms of overcoming the problems mentioned? (i) what can we do to stimulate enough interest in pipe organs to make new and restored installations pay for themselves in demand from concert-goers or other music lovers? (ii) rather than hoping the local council or National Lottery will pay for a new or restored organ, what other sources of funding for major projects can we turn to? Realistically where else could funding have come from to have saved (either in situ or through transplantation) this organ, especially given its size and the fact that it is somewhat unique being a hybrid classical-theatre organ? (iii) organbuilding is a vital and highly skilled profession, but if it is in danger of becoming unaffordable for all but a few organisations to be able to commission a major new organ or major restoration, how can the profession adapt to make organ building and restoration more affordable so that unachievably huge sums of money do not have to be raised to commission or save an organ?
  6. To be fair to Wolverhampton Council, when you are having to make savings of £45 million next year compared to this year, and when you are around £1 billion in debt, nothing short of a cast-iron guarantee that spending £2 million restoring their civic organ would more than pay for itself through additional ticket sales at organ recitals and other events where it was being used would have been a strong enough reason to have saved the instrument. How many of us would have been able to provide such assurance? Furthermore, the difficulties confronting Warrington and Manchester councils who know they have gold plated organ treasures (two large Cavaille-Coll organs) yet both are in a precarious position financially and are struggling to know how to preserve their organs, should be a warning that something of arguably less historic value - a giant, modified Compton organ that is trying to be both theatre organ and classical organ - is unlikely to be considered worthy of salvaging by the accountants. If Wolverhampton Council had decided that on its merits it should be sold as a going concern, what prospect would there be that someone would come along, offer a reasonable price for it, pay for the dismantling, and re-erect it elsewhere? Just how much demand would there be for such an instrument, what would a reasonable offer look like to the Council for the pipework, and what would it cost to relocate? The answers to that might also explain its unfortunate demise.
  7. https://www.tccoc.co.uk/news/ Wolverhampton Civic Hall Compton Scrapped - 05/02/2019 It is with sadness that it was confirmed today that the 4/57 Compton Concert organ which was originally installed and still housed in the Wolverhampton Civic Hall has been scrapped. Due to "possible asbestos contamination" of the organ, the largest of its kind built by John Compton company has already been scrapped as contaminated waste. At over 6200 pipes this must be surely one of Compton's biggest instruments? Its future had been uncertain for some time as the Civic Hall is being refurbished. With no prospect of National Lottery funding to cover the £2 million required to remove and restore the instrument it seems its demise was sealed when the ceiling was stripped of asbestos whilst the organ was left in situ last month. As a result the pipes were hopelessly contaminated and have had to be disposed of as toxic waste. Realistically though what possible future could have been offered to such an instrument? Certainly there is no appetite for local government funding in the current austerity climate - amongst their many legal obligations, councils have to balance their books, not increase council tax beyond a certain amount each year, and must provide statutory services to vulnerable children, adults and older people. If they are lucky there's enough left over after that to empty the bins once a fortnight. £2 million organ restorations don't stand a chance.
  8. My mother left the church to Widor when she was married and was most insistent that she should leave the same church to the Widor when she died. A professional concert organist very kindly played for the funeral, thus taking my mind off the thought of having to play such a challenging piece myself on such an occasion, though on second thoughts had I played it at the pace Widor was recorded as playing it (and what a magnificent recording it is too) I could have probably managed it note perfect.
  9. Following this thread with interest having been an organ scholar myself first under Ernie Warrell then subsequently David Trendle and many fond memories from that wonderful Byzantian style chapel. Somehow I managed to combine that with medical studies too.
  10. I'm leading a service of nine lessons and carols next Sunday afternoon in my church. So far so good you say....but almost all the musicians are children from the church ranging from 5 to 18 years old, some singing, some playing instruments. All the readings and even the bidding prayer are to be read by our younger members. I'm sure someone once said about never doing anything with children or animals on live television, I'm beginning to understand why! But it's going to be fantastic regardless.
  11. Bit of both really. I'm not seriously suggesting that someone should try to beat a £1 million repair estimate with an offer to do the job for £10,000 as that would inevitably result in a disaster. However, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask how organs could be built (or rebuilt) in a more resilient and affordably repairable manner. At one church I used to play at was a Norman and Beard which would have been magnificent if it could actually get wind to the pipes. Unfortunately the reservoirs were actually part of the building frame so the only way they could be releathered would have been to have totally dismantled the organ. The pneumatic action motors were equally inaccessible, and whilst not all needed replacing, they couldn't be done in situ meaning everything would have had to be done at the same time before putting the thing back together again as there would be no point replacing only the ones that had already failed whilst the others were accessible. A church in my neck of the woods has a quite respectable large four manual organ built almost entirely by members of the congregation and is often played in concerts, which demonstrates that it is possible (though rare) to build and maintain a large and perfectly decent organ on a shoestring. I know of at least four people who have built or relocated pipe organs of three or even more manuals in their homes. Those however are exceptions rather than the norm. My question - perhaps better addressed on the organ building part of this forum - is about whether we can encourage more cost-effective and innovative organ building, and whether there are innovative ways of maintaining quality without the need for spending such colossal sums rebuilding organs. If actions could be better protected, more easily accessed and modular, so that parts could be simpler and less expensive to replace individually when they failed rather than having to replace the entire action, if reservoirs could be releathered without having to dismantle the entire organ perhaps.... ....perhaps we would have more organs in good working order, more interest in playing them, if the cost of ownership could fall. And if the cost of ownership could fall, would that lead in turn to a resurgence of business for the organ building trade?
  12. The reality is that local councils have a number of statutory legal duties such as providing care to elderly people and vulnerable children. Central government funding to local authorities has been reduced so much in recent years that some are at the point where even if they spent their entire budget on the things they have a legal obligation to provide for they would no longer be able to afford to meet all their obligations. Consequently the non-statutory functions like litter collections in parks, weekly dustbin rounds, keeping libraries open and tuning the organ in the town hall are not so much low priority as no priority since they will point out, "if we spend money on organ repairs and an old person comes to harm because we haveen't spent enough on elderly care we could be taken to court". Some more fortunate councils have access to income streams, historic reserve savings and sources of funding not available to other areas, hence the extent to which non-statutory services are deprioritised varies. Perhaps Leeds with its reputation and piano competition and sponsorship deals etc can generate a big enough income to keep the hall's organ in concert-worthy condition, but there are only so many such venues in the country that can do so. Those of us who are organ lovers need to recognise that in the present climate, if we want organs to be preserved, then increasingly it's our pockets or our fundraising skills that need to contribute to tuning, maintenance, repairs and rebuilds as noone else is going to pay. Unless we pay directly ourselves or manage to raise funds through channels such as the Lottery fund, we cannot expect every church and other building with a historic organ in need of restoration to somehow find the money themselves. The only other option to keep organs going is for organbuilders to radically reduce the costs of maintaining and restoring organs without compromising their quality or playability, though that debate is perhaps important enough to be continued through on the organ building part of this forum. After all, if the Manchester Town Hall organ could be reinstated and fully restored for say £10,000 then even a cash strapped council might just about manage that. At £1 million plus, it's almost a guarenteed non-starter with council funds.
  13. How long would a brand new organ typically be warranted for? If I had commissioned one I'd be sorely miffed if it couldn't give a decade and a half of near-faultless service without the need for a full mechanical rebuild. On the other hand the microclimates at different height levels of the same church can have a mind of their own and expecting a hugely complex instrument to survive several hours of daily use for several decades might be overly optimistic. If you offer say a ten year warranty and during that time it turns out that it needs significant rebuilding, who bears the cost? The original builder or the owner?
  14. Ah yes, Star Wars. I was once asked to play the theme from the Throne Room as the final march. The bride entered to Parry's "I was glad", accompanied by organ, choir and orchestra (the groom happened to be a well known cathedral organist with impeccable musical taste). Another time I played Stevie Wonder's Ebony and Ivory (on pipe organ, not Hammond) by special request as the bride (Caucasian) and groom (African) left. For my own wedding my wife to-be entered to Liszt's D flat Consolation and we left to War March of the Priests (written in the German, Kriegsmarsch der Priester, in the order of service to avoid too many eyebrows being raised - her father is a minister.) Both were accompanied on the piano as the venue didn't actually have an organ.
  15. That's right - you can buy a copy of the organ at Chester Cathedral for just £225. The only catch is that being made of Lego bricks, it probably doesn't sound as good as the original. Still, what better Christmas present for the Lego-mad organ enthusiast child? https://chestercathedral.com/shop/lego-model/
  16. it would appear that Jardine's website needs updating, as the former St Peters/St Brides organ is now installed and playable (well, some of it at least) in St Katherine's Cathedral, Lincoln. The local newspaper has a video of it being played in 2017 at https://thelincolnite.co.uk/2017/02/musical-opportunities-await-visitors-to-lincolns-secret-second-cathedral/ It's lacking any case in the photos but the church is apparently fitting the case of the redundant Wadsworth in St Edmund's Whalley Range (Manchester) around it. That was my parish church as a child, though the church had been closed due to roof problems long before I started to attend and I only ever went into the church building once, services being held in the hall, where they continue to this day. (The church building was later tastefully converted into flats.) The organ had an attractive case but was in a chamber in the south side of the choir, so I'm not sure how the case will blend with the organ as distributed across the west balcony of its new home, if and when it gets fitted if it hasn't already been installed.
  17. This has just been uploaded to Youtube by the Scott brothers: Considering it would appear to have been virtually unplayable for the past couple of decades it actually sounds remarkably in tune and most of the notes seem to be sounding! The Town Hall is about to be closed for the next six years whilst a £330 million (yes you read that correctly) restoration project gets under way. Apparently the organ is to be dismantled and put into storage during this process. A recent city council report advises that funding for its restoration should be raised privately rather than as part of the town hall refurbishment which seems a little unfair given that all other fittings and fitments are to be fully restored. I wonder who will be dismantling and storing it, and what will happen to it if the fundraising doesn't hit the required target?
  18. Here's a few more quite flamboyant and probably lesser known pieces, which are reasonably playable and whose scores are available on imslp: Otto Dienel (1839-1905) Concert-fuge in C minor, opus 1 William Ralph Driffill (1870-1922) Allegro Vivace from Suite No.2 in E minor Driffill also wrote a fine F minor toccata which appears more frequently on Youtube. Another fine toccata is that by Jules Grison, which has a motif loosely based on the fugue subject of BWV565 and demands the full resources of the organ over its meandering course:
  19. I love these threads, not least for the opportunity to go off at tangents. For example St Michaels Tenbury has always been a four manual instrument despite multiple rebuilds over the years. But the current 32 foot Bourdon was previously a 32 ft Open Diapason. But the original specification by Benjamen FLight in 1856 sported a 32 foot Pyramidon! Returning to beautiful cases with painted pipes, how about this:
  20. Quite agree with all the above sentiments. I'd be surprised if anyone reading this would know more than a small percentage of the hymns in the average Victorian hymn book and similarly the better worship songs of today will be around many years from now, the majority of them won't survive into the next reprint. Provided it is in tune with other instruments, the organ can blend very well when used at appropriate moments and appropriate registrations. Some songs naturally work better when led by piano, others by guitar. There are worship songs (more like hymns indeed) that work very well on the organ as a solo instrument - Stuart Townend's prolific contribution to the repertoire spring to mind. And then there are worship songs whose words can fit traditional tunes. Again thinking of Stuart Townend, the words to In Christ alone are I think some of the most profound of any song or hymn in the past 100 years but the Celtic-like tune isn't best suited to the organ. However, it can still be effectively played on the organ - to Parry's "Jerusalem". Just try it!
  21. Just looked at the Leon Cathedral Klais. Goodness me what a bland ugly case - reminded me of a very similar case but about 150 years earlier in Salisbury Cathedral with a sublime Willis sound (tongue therefore very firmly in cheek!). No - some combinations of case and building just seem to work despite the odds and the Collins didn't look out of place to me either in Turner Sims or in Orford though I haven't been to either building.
  22. How utterly mesmerizing. I can't figure out how to get onto the balcony from the nave however, does anyone know where the stairs to the organ loft are at Beverley? Regarding other cathedrals, I can't figure out how to get down from the dome into the nave at St Paul's Cathedral, though you can walk around the Whispering Gallery, from which you get a fine view of the Dome Organ. But surely the weirdest Google Street view of organ pipes has to be on the outside wall of the Morrisons superstore in Wednesbury, West Midlands. I think the sculpture was supposed to represent examples of local historic industry, though the only organbuilders I was aware of in the local area, Nicholson and Lord, had their workshop three miles away in central Walsall. It's now a carpet warehouse.
  23. At least the music scores still exist and an increasing amount can be listened to through media such as Youtube even if the quality is somewhat variable (I defy any recording company to successfully market a boxed set of "The complete organ works of William Faulkes" - all 500 of them!). I have lately been drawn to some exceptionally fine works by forgotten German composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries such as Ludwig Finzenhagen, Hugo Kaun or Hans Fahrmann. Forgotten either because their scores were wiped out in Allied bombing or because that period of German history was intentionally overwritten after the second World War. Thankfully the internet and release of online scores means that what little remains can be archived and searched for with increasing ease and it is well worth the hunt.
  24. My personal record was about two bars of the Widor (on an electronic played through the church sound system) before the person on the sound desk decided to turn me down to almost nothing. Who needs swell pedals when you can have a sound desk?
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