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John Pike Mander

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  1. I, of course, knew Sam Clutton well and worked with him on occasion, a few times directly, but mostly indirectly on jobs that were being done mainly by my father and Ian Bell. I attended the first recital on his house organ after its completion. I had some run-ins with him as well. He was the consultant for the Pembroke College Cambridge reconstruction and we nearly came to blows over some aspects of that work. Some battles I won, but mostly he won, largely supported by my father and probably Ian Bell as well. But to give you some idea of how the project developed from his initial ideas to the realisation, his original vision was to build a three manual organ with an English Great Organ and German Rückpositiv and a French Récit. To his credit he did accept the argument that here was an instance where an attempt could be made to recreate a large late 17th century organ for a church. The result has flaws, many of them of my making, but it was the first attempt and I think it has stood the test of time to some degree. As I said at the time, my hope was that we might be able to place a marker buoy from which to sail and there was no claim that we had reached the harbour. He was of course of strong character, to quite some degree self-opinionated; how many of us are not? But he could be made to listen on occasion and did so attentively. He listened to Christopher Dearnley during the St Paul's rebuild and I happen to think that this collaborative effort involving the two of them as well as my father and Ian Bell has stood the test of time, dare I say rather better than a number of other similar projects of about the same time. It is so easy to dismiss his influences and contributions to English organs and organ building with the benefit of hindsight. It is equally easy to forget his generosity of knowledge (and by no means only in the field of organs). But in spite of the fact we crossed swords, and occasionally quite bitterly, I am boundlessly thankful that I knew the man as well as I did and that I met him as often as I did. He was without doubt somebody who one could learn from. All you needed to do was to apply some discreet panning and ordering to allow the nuggets to reveal themselves in the swirling water of the pan and you had something to refer to and treasure for the rest of your life. He was a larger than life character, generous to a fault, entertaining beyond measure (and remains so for those who can be bothered to read his contributions The Organ and other publications). One might question his influences now, but you who do so now so vociferously, I would suggest you look carefully at your own contributions to the British Organ. Very few of us (me included!) could or can offer such a wide and entertaining contribution to Britain as did he, and the world would have been the poorer then and now without him. JPM
  2. Alpirsbach in the Black Forest is a charming old town with any number of half-timbered and other elegant houses, but most impressive is the former monastery, with its impressive Romanesque church and fascinating history. The monastery was established by three noblemen for the Benedictines in 1095. The new monastery was established with monks from the abbey at Sankt Blasien, some 90km south of Aplirsbach. Its small church, the tower of which survives was consecrated in 1099. The imposing Abbey Church was consecrated in 1128 and remains largely unchanged in its structure to the present day. Being in Württemberg, the Protestant Reformation was imposed on Alpirsbach in 1535 and ultimately dissolved in 1806. A full description of the interesting history of the Abbey can be read here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpirsbach_Abbey. Alpirsbach is also famous for its beer. The Abbey Church contains an interesting organ by Claudius Winterhalter, one of his Organ Sculptures. Designed in cooperation with Armin Göhringer, who modelled the organic horizontal slots in the casework with a chain saw, the casework forms an impressive picture, with the 16ft pipes in each corner leaning outwards slightly, so the top of the case is wider and deeper than its base. Even more impressive is that this 15 tonne structure is moveable having been fitted with air casters, so that it can be moved from its home in the south transept to the middle of the crossing to face down the church, or to a midway point, when it is positioned at a 45° angle. The organ was slated to be moved for a concert today, the 13th of September, so we went to observe this spectacle and to then attend the concert. Unfortunately, coronavirus restrictions prevented the organ from being moved, it takes a number of people to move it, even though it is on air casters, and they need to be huffing and puffing in close proximity to one another, which was felt to be irresponsible at the present time. More on the organ can be read here: https://www.orgelbau-winterhalter.de/die-orgel-skulptur-klosterkirche-alpirsbach/. Nonetheless, the concert was interesting, being given on the organ and a singing saw. Those of us who have used a panel saw know that one can make it sing by bending and tapping it, if the steel is of good quality. It can also be made to sound using a violin bow and it surfaces occasionally in jazz and other music but being used with an organ was new to me. The sawer (if that is what one might call him) was Ralph Stövesandt and the organist was that of the church, Carmen Jauch. The concert started with Bach’s Toccata in F BWV 540, unfortunately played too quickly for the wonderful acoustic of the church. Why is it so difficult for organists and other musicians to learn to adjust the tempo and style to the acoustic of the building? It is not rocket science. Big acoustic, slower and more staccato so that the notes don’t all wash into each other. Less acoustic, more tempo and more legato. The person announcing the concert was no better, speaking into the microphone at a normal speed in the mistaken belief that the microphone and amplifier would make everything clear Then followed one of the most moving renditions of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel in Spiegel I have ever heard, with the singing saw taking the part of a stringed instrument. One’s partner found it repetitive, her first introduction to the work. I need to do some convincing. I rarely listen to Spiegel on the stereo without hitting replay at least once to hear it again. There followed Schubert’s Ave Maria, where the singing saw made an interesting alternative for the melody, likewise a rendering of The Swan from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of Animals. Following an appropriate reading regarding the power of music, a piece by Julia Rosenberger originally written for harp and organ, which worked well with the singing saw. The next piece was another highlight, where the E-saw percussive, was introduced. The saw was used largely in various percussive manners (as the name suggests) largely feeding into an electronic loop, which the player controlled. More interesting, indeed fascinating that the description conveys. That was followed by Guillou’s Toccata opus 9, which suited the organ and its bright, even slightly steely character to a T and was very well played by Carmen Jauch, a memorable performance. Then followed Smile from Charlie Chaplin, Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla, not a composer I had heard of before and O, My Beloved Father by Puccini. Bach’s Air from Suite 3 BWV 1068 concluded the concert but didn’t really gain anything from the melody being played on the singing saw. We concluded the visit with a fascinating tour of the rest of the monastery. If you find yourself in the Black Forest area, undoubtedly one of the many wonderful places to visit. JPM
  3. I sincerely hope the website and forum can be preserved! John
  4. I was there on that occasion and remember it well. That must be 50 years ago now. A great deal has happened in the intervening period and I think you will agree that quite a bit was achieved in the 35 years I had the privilege of heading up the company. John
  5. Hmm, not entirely sure why I have been classified as a newbie on the discussion board as I thought I had founded it!
  6. It gives me great pleasure to announce that Stephen Bayley of Brownes of Canterbury has acquired the name Mander Organs from the receivers and I believe his intention is to acquire the Mander Organs website and discussion board as well, provided there is no reason he can't. This is very good news following so much bad news . Stephen worked for Mander Organs for a number of years, having started as a tuner's assistant. He then took over Brownes of Canterbury and turned that company round. In the meantime he engaged the services of another ex-employee of Mander Organs and after the demise of the firm, he engaged a third member of the firm. I have committed to assist him in any way he wishes to ensure that this new chapter of the firm has a secure future. The positive response for this news can be seen by looking at my FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/john.p.mander/ I feel sure you will all join me in wishing him and his team every success in ensuring the future for the firm, John
  7. I am afraid this is so. There seems no chance of saving the company as things have gone too far for that to be possible. The workforce is in total shock, having had very little indication (if any) of the way things were going. In time, I am sure lessons will be learned by others from this experience. As to the discussion board, my hope is that another host will be found, but I suspect that is something for others to sort out. I am pretty sure that most, if not all of my erstwhile colleagues will find employment with other builders, I certainly hope so. I have no idea if the directors have any intention of offering support for previous clients. Let me say here that if there were any who wanted support, virtual or practical, that they were not able to find from the late directors, I would be prepared to step up to the plate as long as I am able, wherever in the world that might be necessary. Enough people know how to get in touch with me and you can communicate that to each other privately. I would prefer not to broadcast that here for obvious reasons. Very sad outcome indeed. My thoughts are with old and recent clients, obviously, but even more so with my old colleagues. To me they are family. We have been through so much together and done so many fun things together that it saddens me that the family will now be split up, at least as far as work is concerned. However, I have a suspicion that they will all stay in touch with each other and with me. I certainly hope so. John
  8. Last weekend we attended the marathon inauguration of the Muhleisen (Eschau) organ for the Zaryadye Hall in Moscow. And it was a marathon. Starting at midnight on Friday/Saturday, 24 organists from around the world played for an hour each, ending with an improvisation by Olivier Latry at midnight on Saturday/Sunday. A few of us, members and friends of the Muhleisen firm mainly, were granted access as and when we wanted to seating in the gallery (my fiancée works for the firm). So we were in and out at odd times and for most of Saturday evening up till the end, taking in Thomas Trotter and Olivier Latry, amongst others. There was some fine playing and the organ is quite remarkable too. They dreamed up a novel idea to raise awareness of the organ. Rather than selling tickets for seating, people bought a ticket for a time slot of around 20 minutes to walk around the stage along a path marked out by sheets and sheets of organ music taped to the stage, whilst the organists were playing. The hall is claiming that no less than 20,000 people passed through during the marathon event. There is even a little bit of Bethnal Green in the organ in the form of a Tuba 16/8/4 unit which got the occasional airing, including a grand outing played by Olivier Latry and Shin-Young Lee. You can see a video of the event here: Moscow ZARYADYE-HALL: Inauguration of concert organ / Орган московского концертного зала ЗАРЯДЬЕ John
  9. This was a repeat of what happened when the Town Hall was built. The Open Wood 32' pipes for that were delivered by canal barge. Those were the pipes which HW4 cut up with a chain saw for some inexplicable reason, leaving parts of the sawn up pipes in the organ. I tried to persuade Ian Bell to do a delivery by barge when we did the rebuild in 1983, but as it was not his idea, he didn't want to do it. I had friends at the time who had an old barge themselves, but more importantly, knew people who had barges which could still be used for transport. I was not aware that Klais actually reproduced the original delivery. John
  10. As I have now retired from Mander Organs, my account has been taken over by Geoff McMahon, the new managing director. I suspect all my previous posts will appear as if sent by Geoff McMahon and I have a new registration. John
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