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St Pauls' S Cathedral Restoration Of Organ


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I see from looking on the St Pauls cathedral website today that news of the organ refurbishment has commenced. I understand the work will be done in stages. Nevertheless this must be a nightmare for the Director of Music and Organist in choosing music they could use and register while stops of the division is off. Mind u the Willis on wheels is incredibly powerful. I heard it last Summer for the morning eucharist in the Kodalys Organ Mass and was blown away by the sonorous beauty of this instrument and Choir.

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Guest Lee Blick

I thought this organ was last restored in 1977. Thirty years seems to be a relatively short length of time for another one to take place. What hasn't lasted out or get done on the previous occasion?

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I thought this organ was last restored in 1977. Thirty years seems to be a relatively short length of time for another one to take place. What hasn't lasted out or get done on the previous occasion?

 

Well, for a start, Lee - what domestic electrical appliances do you have in your home which have been used a few million times, and which still work perfectly? Each note on the electric action (which may have been Solid-State in 1977, but could have been partly electro-mechanical, I cannot presently recall) will have worked several million times, by now.

 

Then, how about the dessicating effect of modern heating systems on the soundboards and the wooden pipe-work? Even with new soundboards built in such a way as to be better able to withstand the vagaries of church heating, there is still likely to be some shrinkage or a few small splits after thirty years.

 

Then there are the reeds which will need careful attention on a voicing machine. After thirty years' regular tuning* some tongues will have suffered damage, some will need to have their correct curvature re-instated. Wedges will need to be adjusted in some cases and some tuning springs may need replacing - particularly if they were not replaced with those made from phosphor-bronze. (This assumes that they were originally of steel.)

 

There is also wear and tear on the console. The pedal board may need to be dismantled and worn notes re-pieced. The claviers may need attention, though God help them if the GO ivories are particularly worn....

 

Other points to consider: reservoirs may need re-leathering, particularly along edges or at corner joints. Wind trunks may need to have joints re-set and glued (or re-taped). Wooden (stopped) pipes will probably need to have the stoppers re-packed (with new leather, if necessary).

 

Another major consideration: just how dusty would the inside of your house be, if you had not either hoovered or dusted for thirty years?

 

Several years ago, the IBO (or a similar body) published literature giving guidance on the cleaning of organs. For London and other major cities, a period not exceeding fifteen years was the recommended time-span between cleanings and restoration.

 

 

 

 

* Some cathedral organs are tuned on two evenings once a fortnight.

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I've got an LP recording of the choir accompanied by Christopher Dearnley made during the last rebuild when large parts of the organ were out of action. I think it was probably called "Music for a Great Cathedral" (I'm in the office at the moment and can't check the details). Anyway it includes at least one organ-only piece on it to stupendous effect.

 

Can't listen to it of course - haven't had a record deck for some years now.

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Another major consideration: just how dusty would the inside of your house be, if you had not either hoovered or dusted for thirty years?

 

All this applies especially in dirty London air, on an instrument which probably runs for 3 or 4 hours a day minimum pumping sooty air around itself, and is required to be in fairly tip-top order at all times.

 

I have recently done some readings on humidity at various points in the Romsey organ, and was quite startled at the readings I was getting when the blower had been running for a while.

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I have recently done some readings on humidity at various points in the Romsey organ, and was quite startled at the readings I was getting when the blower had been running for a while.

More details, please! (As this is an issue for my own situation...)

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All this applies especially in dirty London air, on an instrument which probably runs for 3 or 4 hours a day minimum pumping sooty air around itself, and is required to be in fairly tip-top order at all times.

 

I have recently done some readings on humidity at various points in the Romsey organ, and was quite startled at the readings I was getting when the blower had been running for a while.

I understand the St P's organ is used for up to sixty hours a week - if it averages 30/week it would have been used for more hours than most instruments clock up in 100 years.

 

I'm also interested in the humidty changes - how low did it get??

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Guest Roffensis
I've got an LP recording of the choir accompanied by Christopher Dearnley made during the last rebuild when large parts of the organ were out of action. I think it was probably called "Music for a Great Cathedral" (I'm in the office at the moment and can't check the details). Anyway it includes at least one organ-only piece on it to stupendous effect.

 

Can't listen to it of course - haven't had a record deck for some years now.

 

 

Neil, this was reissued on CD.

 

R

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