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Robert Bowles

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About Robert Bowles

  • Birthday 24/07/1949

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    Clapham, London

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  1. I had some involvement at RAH during the final stages of planning the re-build around 20 years ago. Ian Bell asked me to look at the front pipes and the their distorted feet with my Structural Engineer's hat on. My recollection is that at first I really couldn't understand why they had not collapsed completely. If I'd been tasked with designing a component that was guaranteed to have structural problems, I would probably have suggested a tall, thin, soft metal tube with an inverted cone at its base! Access inside the instrument was not easy, but I found enough nooks and crannies from which to get a reasonable impression of what was going on, and that made me feel better. Some of the feet had clearly been renewed in thicker metal than the original. The pipes had multiple restraints on their inside faces, all based on the standard lateral restraint detail, comprising a small diameter vertical tube soldered to the surface of the pipe and fitted over a vertical pin that was fixed to the timber frame. That detail is normally involves just one pin per pipe, and is intended just to provide lateral restraint. In this case there were multiple small diameter tubes which were fitted right down at the base of the pins, gaining vertical support from the frame. The style and workmanship varied, suggesting that there had been multiple attempts at mitigation by different people, and the locations were somewhat ad-hoc, based on where there were sturdy bits of frame to connect to. I recall suggesting that this arrangement appeared to be working, but that it defied structural analysis. A greater margin of safety could be achieved by increasing the number of restraints and adding support points to the frame. I called this "Structural Velcro!" I had no further involvement, but it sounds as if that suggestion was taken up, and that it's come in handy with this recent damage.
  2. Thank you, Rowland, for your kind words. I wouldn't go so far as to class myself as an "expert" on Hunter, but I do have experience. As far as I know the Hunter company records have not survived, but there is correspondence in Willis's archives relating to the financial arrangements surrounding their absorption into Willis in 1937. I have a couple of unpublished Opus lists (which are not the same!!) but neither of these includes Brownhill Baptist Church. However I can see from the NPOR photos that the Brownhill instrument is typical of what they were producing between, say 1905 and 1925, so it definitely is a Hunter. Somewhere inside someone will have written the name of the church it was built for, but that might be anywhere!! I have worked on several of these, and I can see that under the leadership of Robert Hunter (Alfred's son) they developed some fairly standard ways of doing things. I suspect that they batch-produced some components. For example, their chests and under- actions usually have 62 pallets/motors, presumably so the decision as to which would be the C side could be made late in the process. They produced stop mechanisms that always had an even number of stops, so where an odd number was required, there will be a "spare" hiding behind the jamb. Their pneumatic actions were standard. Their pipe-rack fronts were made up of pipes from the 16ft and 8ft Open Diapasons, slotted at the back to allow the tops of the pipes to follow symmetrical lines - no casework or shades were anticipated. They often did not use the bottom 5 or 6 16ft pipes in the display, but placed them inside on a short sliderless chest. I see that's what happened at Brownhill - though it seems they finished up borrowing from the Bourdon and not installing the bottom metal pipes The Brownhill instrument is described as "unplayable" and I wonder what that means. Hunters used good quality materials and had a skilled workforce. It is normally decay in the leatherwork that causes them to become unplayable - either in the primary reservoirs (no wind) or in the motors for individual notes in the under-actions. They can also suffer from lead tubes falling out. All those problems can be dealt with quite straightforwardly by re-leathering and the judicious application of hot-glue. If the soundboards themselves are split, that's a different kettle of fish.... A key factor in determining what is involved in getting one of these worthy instruments going again is access for removing components that need releathering. On some instruments this is easy. Timber panelling is removable, and then you just have to work out how to wriggle into the interior and remove parts. Others can be a nightmare, with everything squeezed into sold brick chambers. Peter - if you would like me to come and have a look - out of interest - do send me a private message. I don't live far away!
  3. I am nearing the end of a project to complete a 100 year old Hunter organ, using genuine Hunter material of appropriate scale etc. Over the years I have accumulated a lot of material which either I had to take to get what else I wanted, or which turned out not to be quite the right thing. The time has come to start disposing of that. I have about 15 ivory stop knobs, and 2 x 61 note manuals with the white keys faced with ivory - both produced in Hunter's workshop about 100 years ago. I acquired these before the latest Ivory Legislation came into force. I realise that I cannot sell them - but can I give them away - e.g. as thank-you presents to individuals who have helped this project to happen over the years? I can't find anything on the internet about giving things away!!! Does anyone have any suggestions as to where I should be looking?
  4. Yes - and I still remember an occasion when my assistant (it was all about delegation) produced the wrong one and I made a mad dash up the stairs to get the right one, with minutes to spare.
  5. Wood's Eb Services are a nightmare for Music Boys and Choir Librarians. He chose 2 different publishers, neither of whom admits to the existence of the other, so there are no numbers on either! They have to be added by hand - or by a John Bull Printing rubber stamp....
  6. Corpus does indeed have a 3-manual Mander, installed in 1968, and dedicated during my first term as an undergraduate there. It has EP action because the physical proportions of the organ gallery were such that it was deemed impossible to fit a three-manual tracker instrument in. The organ was funded by a single large bequest from an alumnus, who stipulated that it had to be spent on the Chapel. The Chapel didn't "need" much spent on it, being well maintained and fit-for-purpose, but the organ was second rate, and the decision was made to replace it with the Mander. Money was not an issue - except to the extent that it proved difficult to spend all that was available! The answer to that was pure tin front pipes, a handsome new organ case, and..a zimbelstern. The principal organ consultant was John Dykes Bower (a former organ scholar), whose brother Stephen designed the case.
  7. I found this quotation easier to understand when taken in its full context. Below the main body of the advert are two sentences : "Applications are particularly encouraged from female, UKME and disabled candidates who are under-represented in the Cathedral and Chapter". followed by "Previous Cathedral experience is not essential".
  8. Thank you Owen. What a fascinating idea. And it offers the prospect of an entirely new and fully auditable basis for calculating organists' fees - by the note....?
  9. Thanks, Contrabombarde. I reckon all that can be worked around, given that the pedal board itself, and everything else, has 32 notes.
  10. Thank you, Owen. Because it was incomplete, the instrument is not widely known about, and we haven't tried to "market" it, but that may change soon. The current organist/ DoM is an ex-Oxbridge Organ scholar, there is a competent choir, and the congregation appreciate the music which those resources can provide, along with the contribution from the 3-second reverberation period provided by the building. We were fortunate to persuade the late John Scott to give a re-opening recital when the re-leathering was complete (but not the instrument) 20 years ago. His programme was fairly straightforward, but he told me afterwards that if he'd known what the instrument was like in advance, he'd have been more adventurous...That was encouraging..
  11. Thank you, Classic car man. The chest is indeed by Hunter, and the organ it came from is contemporary with the one I'm dealing with. I think I'll go with your suggestion, though I do have part of a Hunter Cornopean with the relevant pipes, which could be modified to match the scale of the trombone, and a Hunter mini - chest from somewhere which was originally designed to extend a 56 note manual to 61 notes that could be adapted.... "Integrity" has been a key principle behind all the work. That's not just because I appreciate the need for it (my day job is in the engineering aspects of conserving historic buildings) but because it was also a condition of the Heritage Lottery Fund. We were fortunate enough to secure one of the first HLF grants for organs almost 25 years ago, and all the leatherwork was renewed. Key factors were that, although incomplete at that time, the instrument had escaped the classical revival. Also the organ chamber is of such generous proportions that the components had been laid out so that access for "maintenance" (i.e. getting to that piece of lead tubing the has fallen out of its hole) is a doddle if you are reasonably agile. It's more like a box from Amazon than a sardine tin. A condition of the HLF grant was that any future modifications should be approved by them, or they would want their money back. Fair enough. I asked the HLF if there might be a further grant for completing the instrument, but they said "no". They explained that's because their remit was for the support of "existing" heritage" not the acquisition of "new" heritage (an interesting term!!). However, they said they would not object provided that any alterations or additions were in line with the original intention, and that they were made using second hand material know to be by Hunter, or new material copied exactly from known Hunter material. The latter approach would have been prohibitively expensive, since Hunter never used a 1" piece of wood when 2" would do, and didn't use zinc resonators when spotted metal would do, so I set out into the world of redundant instruments or parts. The "original intention" condition was easily met, because we have a copy of the original contract, signed by the Vicar and Robert Hunter over a penny postage stamp! This set out the whole scheme in detail, and then listed the parts that would be installed initially. Eventually we have managed to find everything, with full documentation to prove the pedigree of everything. We also avoided using material from instruments that had not already lost their integrity (in other ranks). As a result every addition (including the woodscrews!) has originated in Hunter's workshop, apart from a few basic members in the supporting structures. So I think we have complied with the integrity requirement!
  12. Thank you DHM. I think we'd be ok for the Durufle and the Thalben-Ball because the pedal board and all the other pedal ranks go up to g, and to get anything other than 16 or 8 ft one would have to couple a manual.
  13. An interesting suggestion, but the action is pressure pneumatic, so it would be quite a simple job to add a two-note chest with two new pipes. Hunter's "preparation" was complete at the console, but he didn't supply chest - that came with the trombone that I've found. I'm just fascinated to know whether those pipes would ever get used!
  14. I'm on the last lap of a 30-year project to first restore, and then complete, a 1921 Hunter, using redundant material which is known to have been produced by Hunter. Having finally hunted down and acquired the most elusive missing ranks - a Swell Contra Fagotto and a pedal Trombone (arguably Hunter's most prepared-for stop!) - I noticed that the excellent trombone I've got has 30 pipes, and the organ it's going into has 32. I was considering getting two additional pipes made but then I thought - would they ever be used? I can't think of any pieces that require them. My knowledge is limited - and I wonder if there is anyone out there who can say what problems I'd be creating if I (quietly) left them out. The other five pedal stops all have 32 pipes, so the question only relates to fff situations!
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