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Mander Organ Builders Forum


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    Organ building construction techniques, restoring pneumatic actions where appropriate, selection of materials to withstand humidity extremes, romantic voicing and the physics of it.
    Other interests: the usual steam engines, model railways, Victorian engineering and cycling everywhere to keep fit so I can still squeeze in narrow passage boards to tune.

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  1. I'm not expecting anyone to go to jail, I just want the pipes back please. The 'misappropriation' appears to have happened around the time the local Newspaper ran a story about the organ being moved to Italy. Perhaps some locals were not happy with foreigners getting their hands on one of their, albeit abandoned, organ. Of course the Newspaper conveniently forgot to mention that the person coordinating the transfer to the Anglican Church in Florence was British, which might have been enough to quell the zenophobia - if indeed this was what drove the pipe remover to somehow convince the Methodists to let him have a key to the closed church. The police refused to investigate the incident as there was no sign of a break-in. I believe most art thefts, such as that of the Mona Lisa, also did not involve any smashed-in doors or broken windows, but because the value was a tad higher than 246 old organ pipes, they usually investigate art theft. Money talks, to hell with the definition of theft. For what it's worth if the person who took our pipes is reading this or hears about it from one of you, please let them know that I will not be wanting them thrown in jail (whatever happened to good old British gaol?), just all our pipes back nicely packed in several transporting crates and with the necessary funds to ship them to Florence. Just as a footnote, the loss adjuster suggested I might have hidden all the pipes before telling one of the church members that they were all missing. I was met by one of the Methodists even before I'd taken my coat off and had just looked in the Swell to check all was ok. As I'd stupidly left my phone in Switzerland, I borrowed said Methodist's phone to photograph the empty pipe racks and the large clods of dried mud the culprit had left on the Oboe top board. Even in the photo you can see that the mud is dry, so that does tend to rule me out as a suspect. The loss adjuster, Ian, was asked to visit the church and we delayed dismantling for half a day before he finally said that photos of before and after would suffice and he wouldn't need to visit. Well clearly that was not true. He also said he would telephone me to ask questions, but he has not done that either. I do hope his boss is reading this, I certainly will not be recommending their services to any of the churches I'm organ consultant for. So if any of you have your organ insured, you really ought to check up on it just before your tuner leaves, and if you can't manage that, simply make sure the vestry window is smashed.
  2. On 29th August I arrived at Chynhale Methodist Church in Cornwall ready to start dismantling and packing the unused 1880 Sweetland organ to be relocated to St. Mark's Anglican Church in Florence. To my horror I found that all the pipes in the Swell were missing along with the Great Dulciana. There was no sign of a break-in at the church. All doors and windows were securely locked. Most of the pipes on the Great were still in place and the culprit had been reasonably careful to replace certain pipes you need to move in order to open the Swell door that swings out over the Great. The rack board and stays to the Swell Oboe were also taken, so this suggests they were removed by an organ builder, or someone with aspirations to build their own organ. Metal thieves would simply have taken the many metal pipes on the Great. Other than the Sunday services, where no access to the organ gallery is possible, the last person to have had a key was the local organ tuner sometime at the start of 2022. The organ ceased playing due to a burnt out motor in December 2017. The local organ tuner had been asked to check up on the state of preservation and to estimate the organ's value. His report did not mention that anything was missing and he confirmed this over the phone last week. He had carefully looked after the organ for 40 years. The police have been informed and discussions are underway with the insurance company, but they are being very unhelpful. I suppose they don't understand that a Church would naturally trust their organ tuner with a key, particularly after his 40 years of loyal service. Anyway, in case any of you organ sleuths out there have heard anything about 6 ranks of Sweetland pipes becoming available over the last 18 months, please let me or the Helston police know. The local organ tuner was asked on 1st September if he could help us source some replacement second-hand pipes, but so far no reply. Another organ builder replied within 12 hours and has been very helpful. There is hope that St. Mark's will eventually get a full organ. I leave for Florence tomorrow to start erecting.
  3. I recently replaced the 'taschen laden' pipe valves on a 1916 Goll organ and found that the two 16' basses were derived from the same Bourdon. Each pipe had two valves, only one opened when the Echo Bourdon was selected. Both valves were fed from the same wind supply, so the pipe was just being played with a different volume of wind to create the Echo version.
  4. The original news about carpeting being a solution to saving energy is typical, as Colin mentions, of the limited scientific knowledge of your average church council. As I'm a churchwarden at the moment, I speak from direct experience. However, once the topic has been well presented, the council are able to make the right sort of decisions. The major issue for organs in the carpet and cushion 'solution', would be the loss of reverberation making the organ sound dull and in some cases unpleasant. Insulation really ought to be on the outside of the building, this is because if you try to insulate the inside, the actual building remains much colder than is 'healthy' for it, encouraging condensation etc. However with many older church buildings there is no need to insulate the walls - see later. An ideal solution to church heating is to use underfloor heating, a good opportunity to install decent large tiles preferably black to maximise the heat radiating from the floor in addition to the warm air rising from it. Of course during the installation the ground is insulated to prevent heat loss downwards.This system places the heat where it is needed, rather than warm air rising from wall mounted 'radiators' that need to heat all the air in the building, storing it near the roof first, before the congregation eventually feel the benefit. With underfloor heating the pews will also be far warmer and so no need for cushions. As much of the heat energy is transmitted by radiation in such a system, the actual air temperature need only be around 15°C for it to feel as if it is 18°C and, most importantly with far fewer draughts. The heating takes longer and it is usual to only let the midweek air temp drop to around 10°/12° before starting to ramp up on Friday. The organ tuning will be more stable as well. Pianos do need troughs of water placed on the floor underneath and benefit from having a generous cover over them to help maintain a slightly higher humidity. Most often in old churches the walls are so thick and the relative area of window compared to the walls so small, that extra insulation is not required except in the roof. if stained glass is double glazed, there should be small gaps at the top and bottom (on the inside) to prevent condensation. This under floor heating not only does not destroy the buildings acoustics it actually enhances it. If the heat source is a ground based heat pump, along with solar cells to help counter the electricity used to power the heat pump, then the church can start to talk about being sustainable rather than just making really rather silly suggestions about carpets. If money is a major issue then people need to start wearing thicker clothes before they carpet the whole place. The Victorians did not turn up to Church in T-shirts etc. And of course if anyone complains of the cold, you only need to offer them a cassock. If someone would like to publish this in their newspaper, or parish magazine, perhaps we could begin to make a difference to climate change without destroying the incredible sound the organ can produce.
  5. Partially correct. The organ was originally built by Nicholson of Bradford in 1886 for the Rosse Street Baptist Chapel in Shipley (W. Yorks). It was enlarged and a solo division added by H&H between 1889 and 1900. A major reason for it sounding so good is down to the acoustics of the cathedral.
  6. My first thoughts were exactly the same as Tony's. It does sound as if the expression lever is permanently on. So please have a look to see if there is indeed an 'expression' stop. Without being able to see inside the thing, any advice from the forum is going to be guess work.
  7. The article by Huw Edwards highlights an important issue, but Martin Renshaw's suggestion that having an organ listed along with the building will protect the organ is demonstrably not true. In the last 10 years in Cornwall alone, it is hard to find any organ that has survived once a listed building has closed. The listing more often than not means that the organ must stay in the building. It is almost impossible to find a viable future for the building with an organ in situ and so it remains closed and unheated. With no income for maintenance, inevitably the organ is damaged beyond repair by a combination of leaking roofs, vandals and metal thieves. It is clear from this sorry state of affairs that if a new home for the organ in a closed church has been offered then it should be allowed to leave the building. In this way both building and organ may find new viable futures without losing their history. Historic England might claim success for the large Methodist Church which was purchased by a well know chain of restaurants, as the architect was able to incorporate the organ in the final scheme to the satisfaction of Historic England's conservation officers. But in fact the only structure that was retained from the original Sweetland Organ of 1886 was the console in a corner and the facade pipes used as a backdrop to the bar. All the organ's interior was destroyed. https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N02386 I have written a letter to the Times to request an urgent reassessment of Historic England's policy towards organs.
  8. And the LEDs use low voltage, hence the transformer, usually at the plug-in end, so if you need to use metal as a shade there won't be a risk of shock.
  9. Perhaps my TV's sound system is better than others - or was it the generous volume I always require for the last night of the proms - but I felt that the organ was sounding as good as ever. This year I made a special effort to sing along with all the old favourites, particularly given the last minute U-turn of the BBC. Weirdly the main thing I missed was the raucous cacophony of car horns and klaxons during the horn pipe.
  10. Out of respect for physics, I'm sure you'll allow me to rephrase Maurice Grant's justification of low pressure wind.. Both liquids and gases are fluids. A high pressure gas is more like a liquid (molecules closer together), however, the lower the pressure the more fluid it is, so yes low pressure wind would pass more easily through any aperture. Once it arrived at the pipe though it would have less energy than high pressure wind and so there would be hardly any audible upper harmonics. Early organs for this reason employed mixtures to make up for this. Hand or foot blowing meant that higher pressures were not easy to produce even if you had a football team on hand to man the bellows. You were also limited to the number of stops you could have per pallet before the touch became too heavy. Gambe and similar string tone pipes were being introduced within Bach's lifetime by builders such as Wagner, but they were quite slow to speak and a low pressure gambe is a tricky thing to voice. And low pressure reeds do tend to wander out of tune - without which I would not earn quite as much from tuning! With the advent of higher wind pressures and assisted action, more energy was available to create a rich string tone and a full chorus sound was achieved with mainly 8' pipes and the odd 4'. The advantage of this system was that fewer ranks were required. Robert Hope-Jones took this art to new heights. From a voicing point of view, having more available pressure at the foot allows a wider variety of tone to be produced and coupled with the beard or frein harmonique, a string tone pipe can be made to speak relatively promptly. In addition, you don't have to resort to altering the windway in order to change the volume which risks moving or disturbing the wind stream. With higher pressures, as was mentioned, you may close the toe hole to create a sound that a lower pressure wind would produce, but with an organ with only low pressure there is a limit to the volume and certainly the variety of tone you can produce.
  11. I feel that all your questions were answered by Colin most specifically, but perhaps you might accept a little more acoustics relating to how the lantern at Southwell manages to 'swallow' sound. As sound radiates in all directions, only that travelling in a direction through the relatively low arch on the other side of the crossing will be heard in the nave. The sound that hits the wall either side and above the arch will be reflected both into the east and west transepts and up into the lantern. As the dimensions of the crossing are both low and narrow, the sound will make several reflections before just possibly finding a direct path back into the nave and have lost most of its energy.
  12. And just to add even more to Colin's accurate description of why a candle would not be extinguished at the top of a flue pipe: the sound wave in the pipe is a stationary wave. The air particles are moving backwards and forwards in the direction of the pipe length but are not flowing far enough to extinguish a candle flame. in other words, air is not constantly blowing out of the top of the flue pipe (in a reed it is, but that's probably going to be Stanley's next question!). Another way to think of sound waves is as slight increases and decreases of air density. The sound waves then travel away from the top and mouth of the pipe in all directions there is air, but the air is not flowing towards the listener, your ear just detects the changes in air density. It is hoped that the original experiment was performed with a pipe placed horizontally with its mouth facing to the side, so the candle flame would always be at right angles to both the direction of flow of air at the mouth and the direction of the sound wave's amplitude at the open end of the pipe. I'm glad somebody mentioned the obvious sound absorbing properties of wood, particularly lanterns. There are two main material properties that govern sound reflection: 1. The rigidity - so that as little energy is lost from the sound wave in moving the wood/plaster panel or window as it reflects. 2. The surface roughness - this has the effect of sending some of the sound waves off in different directions resulting in destructive interference. Then of course there is the shape and size of every possible part of the building, fixed and moving which effects how far different sound frequencies travel. This just highlights the overriding importance of the building on the sound of any organ. But still so many churches just love their thick wall-to-wall carpet - hence we make the tubas even louder!
  13. Making the pipes in sections would increase their strength and they would be far less likely to warp and split the longitudinal joints, which in today's constantly heated cathedrals is an important consideration. It is also likely that the cost of several shorter planks of wood is less than one long one and putting them through the planing machine would be a lot easier. As the sound is generated by alternating compression and rarefaction of the air at both ends of an open pipe, a few minor changes in density or flexibility at any lateral glue bond would not make any difference to the sound produced. Any vibration of the body of the pipe is not moving anywhere near as much air as that going in and out of the mouth. I suspect the reason there may be more 'composite' pipes recently is also linked to PVA glue being tougher than traditional hot glues which are not terribly strong in tension. (When not 'doing organs' I'm a materials physicist)
  14. At the turn of the 19/20 century the Cavaillé-Coll company would regularly order reeds in from Merklin. Perhaps this explains why the Vox humana from Keighley did not look like an early Cavaillé-Coll reed. In this period the CC company were producing so many organs for export that out-sourcing was very often used. Concerning metal v. wood prices in 19th C Britain, assuming that the 32' metal pipes were made from zinc rather than tin which has always been more expensive than pine/spruce: After Napoleon blockaded the Baltic wood trade before 1815, prices rose until Canada's exports become cost effective and by 1860 soft wood prices were relatively low and stayed low until WWI. Zinc prices were much more volatile rising sharply during the 1850s as the industrial revolution took off, peaking in 1857. Then the US civil war spread panic and prices fell. The price struggled to rise but had a brief high during 1866 when the Austro-Prussian war closed zinc mines in Silesia. Prices recovered by 1870, peaking in 1875 which put pressure on countries to find their own supply, thus prices fell again. The German producers didn't like this and formed a Cartel in 1879 along with other European countries in 1882 in an attempt to keep the price high. Their attempts failed and the price had fallen by 1885. The Cartel acted again managing to push prices up to a peak in 1890. Again this forced other producers to come on line and the price dropped slightly, but then rose steadily until WWI helped by the Spelter Convention of 1909. After the war prices rose slowly until a peak in 1920 during the economic boom, but fell during the crash and didn't recover until after WWII. The source for this data is Martin Stuermer, Dept. of Economics, University of Bonn. However, without knowing the costs per ton and just how much material is used in making a 32' pipe, the above is of little use. What I can say is that the production of a 32' zinc pipe is not quite as easy as some think. For a start zinc is produced in rolls but the width of the roll is not 32' ! So either the sheet has to be unrolled and then rolled at 90° to make a tube or the pipe made in several short sections. The equipment needed to roll such large sheets of zinc is expensive and takes up space. Unlike lead/tin alloys, zinc is not easily beaten around a mandrel. For most builders as the call for a 32' facade was quite rare, it was easier to make the pipes from wood and hide them at the back laid horizontally if necessary. It is not advisable to place a 32' zinc pipe on its side as it will rattle, deform, or worse still, roll away taking out half the choir! So I tend to think the choice would be for visual effect rather than for reasons of cost, particularly as one of the zinc price peaks coincides with Willis's 32' zinc pipes at Carlisle.
  15. However, many 2 rank celestes do have both ranks quite close and function perfectly well. My celeste is separated by just one rank (bourdon 8'). If the two undulating ranks are placed too far apart, then any temperature difference (caused by winter heating etc.) might noticeably slow or speed up the undulation. I've read of the idea that pipes playing close together tend to pull one against the other, but I've yet to hear a physics-based explanation unless their mouths are close and facing each other. The C /C# pipe planting has more to do with weight and space distribution on the soundboard than sound - though I hope to illicit some interesting comments to the contrary. Chromatic soundboards seem to sound the same to my ears.
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