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Extending slightly the thread then - I wonder where there actually is a decent concet hall organ in the UK from more recent years - certainly on here they all seem to have as many detractors as admirers. Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester have all figured in these threads - the RFH and Bristol are older of course and there is the Walker in Bolton which seems not to have been mentioned. Apart from Bristol I have played none of them - the only other one I have heard live is the RFH.

 

AJJ

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Guest Cynic
Extending slightly the thread then - I wonder where there actually is a decent concet hall organ in the UK from more recent years - certainly on here they all seem to have as many detractors as admirers. Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester have all figured in these threads - the RFH and Bristol are older of course and there is the Walker in Bolton which seems not to have been mentioned. Apart from Bristol I have played none of them - the only other one I have heard live is the RFH.

 

AJJ

 

 

Deliberately ignoring your 'date' requirement :

 

Excellent T.H.Organs [iMHO] can be found at

Rochdale TH

Albert Hall Nottingham

Oxford TH (though it can be temperamental)

Reading TH (if you don't want to play alongside an orchestra - though I gather a local one has been formed for the purpose of tuning sharp specially!!)

Huddersfield TH

Hull City Hall

Brangwyn Hall, Swansea

Kidderminster TH

 

If any of the above have weaknesses they are

1. Old organs simply restored can be difficult to steer!

2. All town hall organs are, almost by definition, regularly over-heated

3. Some are very much 'in your face' and can be over-loud if the player is not selective

 

Some (not mentioned here) though equally worthy are well past their best.

I think TH organs are very valuable, and most series (where anyone bothers to run them) seem to be well-attended.

 

 

The two that most deserve thorough renovation (again, IMVHO) are Manchester TH and Newcastle City Hall.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Is this still likely to happen - anyone know? - if so it will be impressive to say the least!

 

Abergavenny

 

AJJ

 

The Saint Mary's Abergavenny project stalled for all sorts of reasons, including competition from other projects (as can be gathered from the website projected completion date of 2004!) The Vicar tells me that there is to be some new impetus this year.

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Deliberately ignoring your 'date' requirement :

 

Excellent T.H.Organs [iMHO] can be found at

Rochdale TH

Albert Hall Nottingham

Oxford TH (though it can be temperamental)

Reading TH (if you don't want to play alongside an orchestra - though I gather a local one has been formed for the purpose of tuning sharp specially!!)

Huddersfield TH

Hull City Hall

Brangwyn Hall, Swansea

Kidderminster TH

 

If any of the above have weaknesses they are

1. Old organs simply restored can be difficult to steer!

2. All town hall organs are, almost by definition, regularly over-heated

3. Some are very much 'in your face' and can be over-loud if the player is not selective

 

Some (not mentioned here) though equally worthy are well past their best.

I think TH organs are very valuable, and most series (where anyone bothers to run them) seem to be well-attended.

The two that most deserve thorough renovation (again, IMVHO) are Manchester TH and Newcastle City Hall.

 

=====================

 

 

 

Don't overlook the newest.

 

The Stockport Town Hall Wurlitzer is in fine fettle.

 

MM

 

Extending slightly the thread then - I wonder where there actually is a decent concet hall organ in the UK from more recent years - certainly on here they all seem to have as many detractors as admirers. Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester have all figured in these threads - the RFH and Bristol are older of course and there is the Walker in Bolton which seems not to have been mentioned. Apart from Bristol I have played none of them - the only other one I have heard live is the RFH.

 

AJJ

 

 

=================================

 

 

Never a very inspiring instrument, the organ of St.George's Hall, Bradford, has been silent for years, but it doesn't matter.

 

The hall was once famous for the most superb acoustic, and music-lovers would swarm to the orchestral and choral events regularly held there; not to mention concerts by the celebrated "Black Dyke Mills" band.

 

Then the bright sparks in the Metro decided to "refurbish" the hall, which now has thick-pile carpets, lovely curtains and the sort of acoustic associated with a bingo-hall.

 

It's great for pop-music of course.

 

MM

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There is so much generalisation here that I don't know where to start, but suffice it to say (in no particular reference to the point numbers above):

 

1) Seamless crescendos and scaling have far more to do with what objectives you are trying to meet. Most of your points generally seem to presume all organs should be either Victorian or at least all alike.

 

2) Your organ is by no means beyond reproach (as no instrument is) for irregularity in voicing; last time I played, there was one very raucous and loud note (50% louder at least) on the Gt Bourdon, and the treble of the Sw Open and Principal sounded like many of the pipes came from different ranks, as did several notes on the Twelfth and elsewhere (one of which in particular was hardly speaking at all). I mention this not because I wish to slag it off, because it's by no means a bad job, but because I am surprised you were prepared to accept that amount of irregularity given your knowledge and passion on the subject.

 

3) Not making any excuses for anyone, but I know of only two UK organ builders who make all their own pipework. (Indeed, today I heard of one firm who for a prestigious job have ordered front pipes from a very good firm, and inside pipes from a rather less expensive firm. How much of a shortcut is that!). It is generally the case that pipework bought in has the cutups already started, certainly in the trebles, and it is frequently the case that these are too high to begin with. The difficulty is what to do then. A few will send the job back to be re-done and allow the schedules to slip back six weeks; most will try to blend it in and make the best musical job of it.

 

4) Then, there is the consideration of time spent on site. Anyone working in a voicing room has to make certain decisions - perhaps guesses is not too strong a word - about the result, based on experience and gut instinct. It is perhaps presumptious, but a fact nonetheless, that a great many voicers did their formative training in the days of open toes, no nicking, experimental soundboards, Schwimmer winding and great extremes of tone quality. The generation that taught them how to work like this was also feeling its way in the dark, having been trained on leathered open diapasons and strings you could cut steel with. Is it any surprise the resulting muddle will take a couple of generations to sort out?

 

The situation is no different on the continent - several instruments we saw in France (none of Aubertin's, btw) had been wildly misjudged in the voicing room then compromised on site to allow something approximating the volume of the sound the person wanted to hear, with an obvious effect on the quality of the tone. One instrument in particular sticks out as being absolutely beautifully made down to the last detail, but hugely lacking in its 842 chorus which had been tamed to the point of flutiness and an inability to sustain anything else going on around it. Others overcame similar difficulties by being monstrously loud.

 

Back to the point - my turn to generalise grossly - I know of very few instances where a builder has spent an appropriate amount of time doing the voicing on site (in the case I am thinking of, 4 months for 20 or so stops), having done little more in the voicing room than get the things visually and audibly consistent (visually is important starting point - if it doesn't look like its neighbour, how can they be expected to sound and speak alike?).

 

What it all perhaps comes down to is whether it is possible to recognise "post-neo-classical" as a style; I don't feel it is. Most instruments seem to be built with some model, aim or historical objective in mind, used in some cases as a starting point for creativity and in some cases as a complete blueprint to create a historic experience. The canon of music is so broad and methods of playing and teaching so varied (just ask Ian Tracey and John Wellingham to give a joint masterclass and see what happens) that no one instrument can ever hope to serve it. That's not to say we shouldn't try, but hopefully we've got beyond 3 manual organs with Great, Recit and Ruckpositiv to do it; actually, in many cases we haven't, but there are certainly some cases (Aberdeen, St John's Oxford) where the builder's musical intuition and vision is in tune with something which is exciting and useful for the player rather than trying to be something it's not and can never be.

 

I'll conceed that my argument is built upon generalisations upon generalisations but I'm talking about trends I've experienced rather than specific examples. It's not a water-tight argument and neither is it intended to be so and I know it can be picked to bits. But I've always been big picture rather than small details...

 

I'm not sure how you have picked up on underlying assumption that I feel all organs ought to be English Romantic. I don't have that in my head but I think certainly in many of our Victorian parish churches, the Victorian parish organ fits rather well where many other schools of organ are a bit out of place and don't quite do what the church musicians want them to do...

 

I agree with you strongly about time spent on site finishing an organ - my experience of it is that it requires great patience and time to get it right and this shouldn't be squeezed by company directors looking at the profit margin (which it certainly wasn't at Twyford). However, I think time spent on site needs to be tempered with an element of pragmatism over dimishing returns, otherwise a feeling of the emporer's new clothes must come in after the 4th month of voicing a 20 stop organ, especially if it's been sounding about right since the end of month 2...

 

And yes, is "Post-Neo-Classical" really a style? I don't feel it is, either - I've just used it as a term to categorise a group of instruments. Sorry. I think the great majority of organs built since the 1980s are compromises between providing an organ that does what the customers want and the remains of the last strong stylistic identity to hit this country, with enough of a nod towards traditions on paper to keep people happy. I think this has created many organs which, while capable of doing the job, lack conviction.

 

From the shoots I've seen sprouting, I think the way forward is for organbuilders to allow themselves more personal identity with the organs they build (very few can be successful chamelions like H&H), the trend to improve quality needs to continue (there are still some very wobbly new organs out there with bits that fall off) and there needs to be a greater understanding and expression of beauty in what is created. But I think with sufficient funds, opportunities and understanding customers, this is quite possible...

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From the shoots I've seen sprouting, I think the way forward is for organbuilders to allow themselves more personal identity with the organs they build (very few can be successful chamelions like H&H), the trend to improve quality needs to continue (there are still some very wobbly new organs out there with bits that fall off) and there needs to be a greater understanding and expression of beauty in what is created. But I think with sufficient funds, opportunities and understanding customers, this is quite possible...

 

In that case, we're pretty much agreed.

 

Next time you have a spare afternoon, let's meet up at Twyford and I can show you what I mean.

 

Emperor's new clothes - it takes time to make something as perfect as it can be, and it should always be done in one go. On a return visit, you simply won't have the same conviction and drive as you do when first bringing everything together tonally because you are no longer immersed in it. The example I was thinking of took a total of four months to get up on site working flat out, probably about 7-9 weeks of which were exclusively on tonal finishing (about 1 day per stop plus near-constant playing and listening).

 

Paragraph above - I wonder if the concept of personal identity isn't alien to a lot of firms here and abroad, who seem to subordinate (prostitute?) themselves entirely to what the customer wants. One well-known German organ builder was heard to remark (on the fairly recent opening of a very loud organ) "Ah, yes, we like to voice our organs as loud as we can, so the customer feels they are getting value for money." Artistic understanding and expressions of beauty (or even creation) seem to be a long way from that.

 

The question of quality is rather like hymn tunes in that there will always be crap and people will always pay for it, but it won't survive.

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I'm not sure how you have picked up on underlying assumption that I feel all organs ought to be English Romantic. I don't have that in my head but I think certainly in many of our Victorian parish churches, the Victorian parish organ fits rather well where many other schools of organ are a bit out of place and don't quite do what the church musicians want them to do...

 

And yes, is "Post-Neo-Classical" really a style? I don't feel it is, either - I've just used it as a term to categorise a group of instruments. Sorry. I think the great majority of organs built since the 1980s are compromises between providing an organ that does what the customers want and the remains of the last strong stylistic identity to hit this country, with enough of a nod towards traditions on paper to keep people happy. I think this has created many organs which, while capable of doing the job, lack conviction.

 

From the shoots I've seen sprouting, I think the way forward is for organbuilders to allow themselves more personal identity

 

 

======================================

 

Would someone please enlighten me?

 

What exactly IS a "Victorian parish-church organ?"

 

Of all eras, this was the one which spawned a flood of organ-builders of variable quality, supply houses of dubious ability, organ-consultants who didn't know the first thing about proper organ-music and voicers who just got the pipes to speak more or less evenly, and then left.

 

On the other hand, it was an age of remarkable carpenters, french-polishers and carvers.

 

Very few organ-builders came up to the standards of Father Willis, and even he hit on a formula and stuck to it. William Hill was forever experimenting, but at least he had musical integrity. Thomas Harrison was tonally competent, but nothing really special. Binns was predictable and competent, but never particularly creative.

J W Walker were good, but often unmemorable. So the list goes on........

 

In fact, it wasn't until Schulze came along, that British organ-builders learned of other methods, and that was a remarkable (and often disastrous) turning point. T C Lewis was by far the best organ-builder of the age, but other simply made their organs too loud and added one monstrous 8ft Diapason as a nod in the direction of Schulze.

 

Frankly, I don't think British organists were ever aware of anything beyond Mendelssohn, and organ-builders would probably have made better cabinet-makers.

 

 

MM

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

One instrument that often gets unfortunately overlooked is that found in Saint Paul's Hall in Huddersfield. Those folk who were at the IAO conference back in the 1980's were jolted from their seats by the verve and musical worth of this beautifully positioned organ. It was the catalyst in making ISOC be founded the following year - and what happy years we all enjoyed in that town and surrounding areas. Woods of Huddersfield were just around the corner and the exacting standards of Keith Jarvis (The Polytechnic/University Organist) bore considerable fruit. It was a notable partnership and should be always remembered so. Piet Kee and Ewald Kooiman thought most highly of it and for Piet, he was particularly fond of his teaching times there.

 

On another thought (which I have just read after aqua-planing from Stansted Airport this afternoon!) is the trickle of Romantic redundant British organs that found their way to Holland. What was probably an ordinary, but well made instrument by Nicholsons from heaven knows which year, found its way to the resonant RC church in Schagen (I think). Jos van der Kooy's wife was the organist there when my choir sang a Mass. What a transformation a good, open and sensible position makes to a British organ. How exciting. What an uplift for the singers it all was. One begins to comprehend why the UK organ from the 19th cent. has such a following abroad when they hear and play such examples.

 

This wonderful position in the Apse and facing the raised seating in Huddersfield - all in a converted neo-Gothic church - one begins to see that position (New College, too) is totally paramount for laying the foundations of providing a building with the best possible musical instrument.

 

Just a thought.

 

All best wishes,

Nigel

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One instrument that often gets unfortunately overlooked is that found in Saint Paul's Hall in Huddersfield. Those folk who were at the IAO conference back in the 1980's were jolted from their seats by the verve and musical worth of this beautifully positioned organ. It was the catalyst in making ISOC be founded the following year - and what happy years we all enjoyed in that town and surrounding areas. Woods of Huddersfield were just around the corner and the exacting standards of Keith Jarvis (The Polytechnic/University Organist) bore considerable fruit. It was a notable partnership and should be always remembered so. Piet Kee and Ewald Kooiman thought most highly of it and for Piet, he was particularly fond of his teaching times there.

 

 

==================================

 

How absolutely fascinating Nigel's response is, because I have a great deal of admiration for this organ, yet I can't quite say why this should be.

 

I knew the organ as first installed, when Philip Wood took on the responsibility of building it. I forget who did the voicing, but I think it was Mr.Booth, but when it first opened, I recall that it didn't exactly overwhelm.

It was never bad, but somehow, the Mixtures seemed coarse, the Great Organ seemed peculiarly English romantic with added glitter, and the reeds were a bit hotch-potch across the entire instrument.

 

It's quite a few years since I heard it, but lo and behold, the recitalist was a certain Piet Kee.

 

What a wonderful trasformation the organ had undergone, with splendid choruses, some fine flutes and solo voices; not to mention the most wonderfully sonorous pedal reeds (wooden resonators?).

 

What I like about this organ, is the fact that it doesn't ape anything especially French or German, yet is entirely suited to the music of each. I have heard Reger played to memorable effect on this instrument by Nicholas Kynaston, and whilst versatile, it is still very much a sort of highly individual "English classical; " rather like the equally unmistakable character of a G Donald-Harrison "American Classic."

 

It is an instrument with real personality, and I know of nothing else quite like it anywhere.

 

I have always thought of it as an instrument which has much to say and much to demonstrate musically: gently breaking the predictable mould of the Anglo/French eclectic-organ

 

A good organ in a good hall.

 

What a terrible shame that the organ which it replaced, when the building was St.Paul's Church, was almost certainly the equal of the highly regarded and sadly neglected Abbot & Smith at All Soul's, Blackman Lane, Leeds. What happened to it, I cannot say, but it was a magnificent instrument in every respect.

 

MM

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
==================================

 

 

 

What a wonderful trasformation the organ had undergone, with splendid choruses, some fine flutes and solo voices; not to mention the most wonderfully sonorous pedal reeds (wooden resonators?).

A good organ in a good hall.

 

 

MM

 

 

How charming to read all this first thing. Many thanks. I think that the transformation came about through the dedicated voicing of 'Father' Wood (Philip) and Son, David. Meticulous workers shot through with complete dedication and common sense. However, the proximity of their workshop to the St Paul's Hall and the telephone in Keith Jarvis's office often constantly connected to it, perhaps was a bonus for the organ but a set back for other clients wanting their expertise!

 

best wishes,

Nigel

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One instrument that often gets unfortunately overlooked is that found in Saint Paul's Hall in Huddersfield.

I was looking for the details, but for some reason I can't locate this instrument on NPOR. I've probably entered something incorrectly. Can anyone help please?

 

JC

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I was looking for the details, but for some reason I can't locate this instrument on NPOR. I've probably entered something incorrectly. Can anyone help please?

 

JC

 

====================

 

 

It comes under "University of Huddersfield"...just search first under "Address," then "Huddersfield" and scroll down the list.

 

MM

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Is the II to I coupler a misprint for III to I, or is it really like that?

 

Indeed it is III to I.

 

Vox - henceforth you shall be called Toothcomb.

 

N

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Further suggestions (in no particular order) for what will inevitably be a fast-growing list:

 

What qualifies them as truly great IMHO is that all are outstandingly effective for their size (no wasted stops) and the tone remains musical at all volume levels.

 

How fine a comment is this. I find that if I can teach some hours on an organ and I am not wanting to jump off the top of the tower at the end of that time (I am not talking about the playing!) I can pop such an instrument into this list. Some I have recitalled on, and sometimes you are not best placed to give a considered opinion, for builders must build for the people and the room. The lowly player can at times only imagine....

 

I can give an enormous list of 'beasts' but, it is Monday and I am still filled with French spirit from my weekend!

 

Fine and fun and musical (and in no particular order) which gives/gave pleasure:

 

Magdalen College, Oxford (Mander '85/6)

University College School, Hampstead (Walker 1980)

St Peter Mancroft (Collins 1984)

Christ's College, Cambridge (rebuilt in sympathetic old style, Bishop 1983)

St Andrew's & St George, Edinburgh (Wells-Kennedy)

Aberdeen University (Aubertin 2004)

 

All the best,

Nigel

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
One interesting thing about this thread is how relatively few organs by continental builders have been cited. Clearly prophets do have a certain amount of honour in their own country.

Ha! I agree, but sometimes continental builders have not produced (for some reason) their finest creations for these shores. There are some noted exceptions and sometimes some outstanding single registers, but the cohesive whole is not apparent. It might be said that when some organs were built the £ did not go very far when purchasing abroad - and thus stretched to provide as much as possible for as little as possible (generally). Unlike the countries where those builders enjoyed enviable state involvement in the provision of instruments in churches, the UK has to find finance normally from the pew. Even in France some finance can come from the public purse.

I give an example. My village in France required a new organ to go into two old cases (therefore not budgeted for by the builder). So, in 1992 for a 4 manual and pedal French Baroque organ (45 stops) with about one rank of old pipes needing restoration, this was the cost breakdown (I have converted into £'s at that time).

 

State (Monument Historique) £15,000

State Direction de la Musique £36,500

Regional Funds (Rhone-Alpes) £30,000

General Council (Isère) £41,500

Foundation Crédit Agricole £30,000

Friends of the Abbey/donations £17,600

The Village Council (from local taxes) & Parish £44,140

(600 people of all ages live in the village)

 

This will stir a hornet's nest no doubt, but it goes to show how derisory funding for instruments is in the UK and why it is so dreary a prospect to propose new or restoration projects in a parish. Successive governments have tried to suggest that they have given money to the people in tax cuts so that they can spend it as they wish. Alas, we have now bred a greater part of society that does not now know its own heritage - and that is insidious and dangerous for posterity I suggest. Greed and Self seem to go hand in hand. Just imagine if a Cathedral organist went cap-in-hand to his city council and the county (let alone the Arts Council etc) for the lion's share of an organ project, how many civic memorial services would (s)he have to play for once the heart attacks ceased? Art needs patronage.

Patronage surely is with those who have the money. In past centuries it was with Guilds and individuals/royalty. Then it went to industry. Now it is with ........?

 

As you can read, the French spirit has gradually worn off and I am back to normal. Sorry!

 

All the best,

Nigel

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Guest Barry Williams

I was under the impression that this instrument was largely built from parts by Pennells and Sharp, possibly via Walkers. I recall much discussion about this at the time. What did Woods actually build?

 

Barry Williams

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I was under the impression that this instrument was largely built from parts by Pennells and Sharp, possibly via Walkers. I recall much discussion about this at the time. What did Woods actually build?

 

Barry Williams

 

=======================

 

 

I don't know the exact details, but I'm sure this is probably quite correct.

 

Is this really a problem, considering how many pipes are bought from outside suppliers (even Schulze did that), how many components, keyboards, pedal-boards and organ-blowers?

 

It is a fact of life that only a very few organ-builders have ever done everything "in house;" one of them being John Compton.

 

At the present time, I know of a small organ-builder who is assisting in the building of a new organ by another, and doing quite a lot of the work in his own workshops. The same organ-builder has been involved in at least one notable cathedral project in recent years, but the console does not make reference to this.

 

In some ways, this is a perfectly good way to survive in the competitive world, because static expenses are so enormous in the UK, and by sub-contracting work to others, an organ-builder isn't obliged to HAVE premises the size of the old Compton factory in North Acton.

 

It happens in many trades, but the important thing is the finished result.

 

In this respect, the Wood organ at Huddersfield is very much their own, and unless I am mistaken, the pipes and voicing were very much of Yorkshire origin, so far as I am aware.

 

The way in which the instrument has shaped-up and developed since those early, experimental days, is quite remarkable, and were it situated at a university other than Huddersfield, I suspect that it would be regarded very highly and recorded upon frequently.

 

I think I'm right in suggesting that, when it was built, it was the largest new mechanical-action instrument in the country.

 

A organ of similarly unique and "English Classic" character, is the superb-sounding instrument in Great St Mary's, Cambridge, by Kenneth Jones and whoever his associates were.

 

Perhaps each of these organs actually say something quite important musically, because they have much more "body" and tonal felxibility than many of their imported counterparts.

 

MM

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One interesting thing about this thread is how relatively few organs by continental builders have been cited. Clearly prophets do have a certain amount of honour in their own country.

 

 

============================

 

There are quite a lot of them of course, but I do rather like St.Giles, Edinburgh (Rieger), St Mary's, Clifton, Notts (Marcussen), Clifton Cathedral (Reieger). St Mary's PC, Nottingham (Marcussen), and the much earlier organ by THOMAS Frobenius (I mistakenly stated Jaques previously) at Queen's, Oxford.

 

It's quite interesting, that often the least effective and least inspiring are those continental organ in the many Oxbridge colleges, those in your "typical parish church" and (speaking personally) that war-horse in the Symphony Hall, Birmigham (Klais). Others are half-destroyed by the concert-halls into which they have been placed, and I wouldn't even start to blame the organ-builders.

 

I'm sure there are many other very fine continental organs in the UK, but I haven't heard that many of them, to be honest.

 

Perhaps the $6m question has to be, are many or any of these organs actually better than some of the best British organs, by G,D &B (eg:Oxford), Great St Mary, Cambridge (Kenneth Jones) or, as discussed elsewhere, Huddersfield University (Wood)?

 

I also like and respect a number of Mander organs, and have always liked that lively little job in the Merchant Taylor's Hall, London, and used to admire St Andrew's Holborn, when I lived in London.

 

The problem we all have, is actually travelling to hear these new organs specifically, because they are a bit thin on the ground and scattered far and wide across the land.

 

MM

 

 

MM

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
=======================

 

Is this really a problem, considering how many pipes are bought from outside suppliers (even Schulze did that), how many components, keyboards, pedal-boards and organ-blowers?

 

It is a fact of life that only a very few organ-builders have ever done everything "in house;" one of them being John Compton.

 

At the present time, I know of a small organ-builder who is assisting in the building of a new organ by another, and doing quite a lot of the work in his own workshops. MM

 

Cavaillé-Coll was legion for having sub-contractors for his instruments. Perhaps it was one reason why he was often on the rocks financially. And it might come as a surprise to know that Bernard Aubertin has and still is (because I saw them in the workshop last week), producing specialist reed stops for arguably one of the UK's leading organ firm of builders and restorers!

'Allo 'Allo

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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Cavaillé-Coll was legion for having sub-contractors for his instruments. Perhaps it was one reason why he was often on the rocks financially. And it might come as a surprise to know that Bernard Aubertin has and still is (because I saw them in the workshop last week), producing specialist reed stops for arguably one of the UK's leading organ firm of builders and restorers!

'Allo 'Allo

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

 

================================

 

The great problem which ALL organ-builders faced and still face, with the notable exception of Wurlitzer and Compton (because of theatre organ production in the UK), is the fact that organ-building tends to be a "feast or famine" occupation.

 

We'd better not discuss the Mander business on their own forum, but taking a broad-brush, it is perfectly easy to see the natural peaks and troughs of the organ-building business cycle, when there are times that work is limited, and other times when really big jobs are undertaken, such as the RAH organ or St.Paul's.

 

From a production point of view, the really big jobs require a large workshop ideally, a lot of machinery, a great deal of storage space, a sudden increase in labour demands and a sudden peak in all things, including administration and transport.

 

When a company like Compton needed to be financially propped up, in spite of an enormous order-list and a backlog of cinema organs (where much of the work weas contracted out to J W Walker and others in the inter-war years), it demonstrates that craft-industries have had specific problems, and continue to do so.

 

Even from the purely financial point of view, and allowing for stage-payments from the client, it only needs a few hold-ups and other glitches, for the cash-flow situation to reach a critical point: such is the cost of materials, labour and components. If they then go cap in hand to the banks, it is extremely costly to cover the outgoings whilst waiting for money from the client. It becomes especially critical when outside suppliers, or sub-contractors, require payment within specific terms.

 

In many respects, organ-builders were among the first (if not THE first), to utilise what many would regard as a Japanese method of making things, which we now call J.I.T. procurement. ("Just in time")

 

Obviously, organ-building cannot work like a mass-production operation, even though John Compton cleverely predicted that standarsised production-methods and components were a matter of critical survival, and a way forward. In this, he was absolutely right, but of course, what John Compton could never anticipate was the almost overnight collapse of cinema-organ building, and the virtual halt in organ-building during World War II.

 

Make no mistake, business is a demanding and ruthless environment, and I can think of at least 3 very large companies, who buy things from the far-east for peanuts, re-sell at western-prices, and STILL show a loss at the year-end! When everything you buy-in is expensive, exotic and made-to-order, and where every piece of production is a one-off, the ball-game changes into one of financial survival against very difficult odds, and in a business environment more geared towards consumerism, mass-production and retailing, the banks just do not really WANT to understand slower, more specialised types of business.

 

The "Just in time" method is where component parts are ordered literally "Just in time," with the component-suppliers entering into some degree of shared risk with the prinicpal party. In effect, the main- contractor is using the supplier as external labour and storage, and if components arrive a few days before they are needed, it reduces the amount of labour, storage-space and cash investment; thus reducing undue reliance on the banks and eliminating much of the cost associated with works premises, which would otherwise be too large and costly for the more normal patterns of business activity.

 

So, I would suggest that ANY craft-industry of any size, NEEDS the component industry and supply-houses AS A MATTER OF SURVIVAL, and to suggest that this is somehow a reflection on inferior craftmanship is really quite unfair and quite wrong. It is used by ALL successful businesses, whether that be Toyota Cars, Tesco Supermarkets or the Boeing Corporation.

 

Of course, on the down-side, each craft industry has to chip-in to make the supply companies viable and profitable, but is that any worse than paying huge amounts of dead-money to financial institutions?

 

In fact, it is a whole lot better, because the money is staying within the trade, and sustaining it, rather than being creamed off by disinterested investors and speculators, who really wouldn't care less if the RFH organ went up in flames, so long as it wasn't insured through them.

 

Cavaille-Coll was probably doing exactly the right thing, under the circumstances.

 

MM (Wearing business hat for a change)

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