Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

New Organs In Britain Since 1980


Recommended Posts

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.

 

I disagree most strongly, and all because of one word - craft.

 

The examples you cite (and indeed virtually any example you could possibly cite) are no more than products; there is virtually no scope for individuality, and the longevity is incomparable.

 

If you want to make an action which feels (and lasts) a certain way, then you have to design and make it yourself, not buy in a standard chassis. If you want soundboards, ditto. Even small action components like leather buttons and squares and backfalls are self-evidently better made in-house, because you then have control over quality, life-span and delivery, and are not dependent (neither for your next stage payment, nor for future warranty claims) on the late delivery or premature failure of bought-in parts, whether major or minor ones.

 

This is to a great extent what sorts the sheep from the goats.

 

Ironically, one exception to this is the most important thing of all - pipework, because here you are purchasing from other craftsmen (hopefully) and can have absolute control over everything from scaling and metal composition to where and how the inscriptions are made and how big the ears are. The way they actually sound is down to you as the builder to exercise your art.

 

Screwing together bits from a catalogue is just that. I think to justify the use of the word "craftsmanship" you have to go a lot further into the realms of a commitment of personality, care, time, aesthetic and historical consideration than can be allowed by the assembly of ordered-in bits whose design values and performance - absolutely critical to the achievement of these objectives - are completely beyond your control.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 61
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I've been holding back on this because I don't want to seem to be blowing my own krummhorn but the 2006 Spath organ in St Peter's Cardiff has been very well received by those who have been to see/play it.

 

Peter

Link to post
Share on other sites
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 surprise might be tempered by the news that this is indeed a two-way relationship, with several items having found their way from England to Courtefontaine (and other places). Collaboration/co-operation is a wonderful thing!

Link to post
Share on other sites
I disagree most strongly, and all because of one word - craft.

 

The examples you cite (and indeed virtually any example you could possibly cite) are no more than products; there is virtually no scope for individuality, and the longevity is incomparable.

 

If you want to make an action which feels (and lasts) a certain way, then you have to design and make it yourself, not buy in a standard chassis. If you want soundboards, ditto. Even small action components like leather buttons and squares and backfalls are self-evidently better made in-house, because you then have control over quality, life-span and delivery, and are not dependent (neither for your next stage payment, nor for future warranty claims) on the late delivery or premature failure of bought-in parts, whether major or minor ones.

 

This is to a great extent what sorts the sheep from the goats.

 

Ironically, one exception to this is the most important thing of all - pipework, because here you are purchasing from other craftsmen (hopefully) and can have absolute control over everything from scaling and metal composition to where and how the inscriptions are made and how big the ears are. The way they actually sound is down to you as the builder to exercise your art.

 

Screwing together bits from a catalogue is just that. I think to justify the use of the word "craftsmanship" you have to go a lot further into the realms of a commitment of personality, care, time, aesthetic and historical consideration than can be allowed by the assembly of ordered-in bits whose design values and performance - absolutely critical to the achievement of these objectives - are completely beyond your control.

 

 

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

 

 

I think you have to decide what craftsmanship actually is, because what it isn't is hand-crafting for the sake of it.

 

For a start, in modern organ-building, there are dozens and dozens of component parts which are not made by the organ-builder........solenoids, electric stop-machines, setter/combination capture systems, hall generators/sensors, blowers, springs, cable, leather, felt, computer systems, contacts, and an awful lot of other things, including the blower.

 

Good craftsmanship really comes down to knowledge of materials, the ability to assess quality, the necessary clout to design it all in the first place and the ability to screw it all together.

 

It is perfectly possible to be a master craftsman and never leave the office-chair, because problems associated with quality should have been anticipated at the design-stage and through experience.

 

Now, if you take a company like John Compton, they went a long way down the path of standardisation and semi mass-production, due largely to the type of market which they were then serving. John Compton recognised that an organ was only a machine as far as the pipe-feet, and in modern terms, quite a crude machine at that. I do not find any evidence to support the idea that Compton was a purely "commercial" builder: quite the contrary in fact. The robust excellence of the workmanship still has the power to astound many to-day, because he (and others) took the trouble to work out what they wanted to achieve, and how best to achieve it in the most economical way. The reliability of Compton components would put many to shame to-day.

 

If I were an organ-builder, which of course I am not, I would positively relish to opportunity of working out effective and rapid production methods, using whatever degree of standardisation I could muster, and if people could not supply me with what I wanted, I would farm the work out to cottage industries who could.

 

David mentions the humble square, but no hand-made square could ever be as accurate or as robust as a precision-moulded sintered metal casting, or perhaps a moulded carbon-fibre one, yet organ-builders will swear by hand-crafted wooden ones.

 

I'm not for one moment suggesting that David is getting it wrong, for it may well be that some organ components manufacturers are better or worse than others: I don't actually know, not being in the trade.

 

However, it seems perfectly logical to me, that if major manufacturers are capable of designing and assembling very complex pieces of equipment from quality components made by others, doing the same thing for the organ is NOT evidence of a lack of craftsmanship, but in fact, a demonstration of organ-building mastery, for the simple reason that if the end result works and works well, over a lengthy period of time, this is all that the punter wants and expects.

 

It's interesting, but I have crawled around a new Goetze & Gwynne instrument, and I have marvelled at the quality of the craftmanship and the attention to detail, but equally, I have crawled around a few Compton instruments, and found myself marvelling at the elegance of the design-details.

 

On the basis that old Rolls-Royce cars were utter rubbish compared to the vehicle they make to-day, I tend to favour technology over craftsmanship, but then I am reminded of Concorde, which was designed and built by true craftsmen, without the aid of computers.

 

There are merits to both approaches, but there is no reason whatsoever why quality should not be associated with outside suppliers. If it isn't, then find others who can do it for you better; to your own design.

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
There are merits to both approaches, but there is no reason whatsoever why quality should not be associated with outside suppliers. If it isn't, then find others who can do it for you better; to your own design.

 

MM

 

I Agree, but it's an opinion not allowed being expressed here in Holland; craftsmanshift for it's own sake has almost become a religion (and pricing transcendant).

Link to post
Share on other sites
============================

For a start, in modern organ-building, there are dozens and dozens of component parts which are not made by the organ-builder........solenoids, electric stop-machines, setter/combination capture systems, hall generators/sensors, blowers, springs, cable, leather, felt, computer systems, contacts, and an awful lot of other things, including the blower.

 

Well, what a list. Leather and felt are raw materials so don't count. Blowers are a given. The rest are not really things I experience a great deal, which is why I hadn't thought of them before. Obviously that's where the difference between us lies - I was thinking purely of mechanical organs.

 

Here's a heartbreaking example of what I mean. I once opened up a really lovely sounding 2m 1860's organ thinking what a beautiful and wonderful thing it was, to find it had been provided with a yellow plastic and aluminium tracker action "kit", full of grub screws and cut-to-length everything and... UGH!!! It just looks horrible, is noisy and rattly, the gearing of squares etc is not ideal for that application, lumps have had to be carved out of the kneeboard to accomodate the pedal rollerboard. It has been done this way to accomodate the RCO pedalboard, which naturally has necessitated taking a saw to the case in order to get it in. How any firm that did this within the last 10 years or so could sit back and proudly polish their craftsmen's certificate in the evenings is beyond me. Naturally, the next thing to happen is to completely question the values and integrity of all the other work that was done to this organ at the same time (which, naturally, involves lots of Kopex and pozidrive screws and silicone and other well-known 1860's materials, and that's before we get to the elastic bands pinned to the soundboard compensating for the excess friction in the new action). Aagh!

 

 

Good craftsmanship really comes down to knowledge of materials, the ability to assess quality, the necessary clout to design it all in the first place and the ability to screw it all together.

 

No, that's competence you're thinking of. Craftsmen tend to have mastered more tools than just the screwdriver. Within your definition fall a great many people who ought not to be called craftsmen at all - some may say ought not to be called organ buidlers. We all have a pet list of 'great artists' I'm sure.

 

Designing is not from experimenting with new combinations of catalogue bits. It is coming up with innovative answers to unusual situations. Take a close look at St John's Oxford when it arrives for an absolutely perfect illustration of originality and ingenuity executed brilliantly. I bet also that its lovingly hand-built coupler and action chassis will be in better shape in 100 years time than a machine-stamped catalogue thing, as well as working better in the meantime. If you're content to work all your life in the realm of the standard design tolerance, and content for all your work to feel and look identical to everyone else's, then welcome to Toyotaland. Craftsmen and artists are revered for being exceptional.

 

It is perfectly possible to be a master craftsman and never leave the office-chair, because problems associated with quality should have been anticipated at the design-stage and through experience.

 

So long as the people doing the work are equally as motivated by quality and accuracy as you are. It's to do with what is rewarding over a long period, and in the long (often tedious) period of making an organ something has to be there to keep the motivation up. This tends to be easier to achieve in my experience (and it's still experience, even if it's only a very few years, so I make no apology for the term) when there is more detail work involving the brain, and less assembly of boxed bits. If you really feel you could maintain motivation, care and pride in a small team of people over an 18-24 month period without leaving your office chair and providing nothing more challenging in the way of tasks than lining up components on bits of wood, I'd very much like to see you try!

 

How usual is it to have a tremulant to each division? I confess I have never seen a tremulant on a pedal organ before. Any others?

 

Peter

 

New College has one (for its amazing Nachthorn); Greyfriars Church (Drake) has multiple tremulants, one marked Manuals and one Pedals.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I Agree, but it's an opinion not allowed being expressed here in Holland; craftsmanshift for it's own sake has almost become a religion (and pricing transcendant).

 

I don't like this idea of craftsmanship "for its own sake". I don't think there is any such thing. There is always a point to these things, even if it something as seemingly minor as maintaining an aesthetic value. It is better to look back on a job knowing that you made it as perfectly as possible, with all the conviction you could muster, and believed totally in what you were producing.

 

I suggest that with these elements in place it is much easier to maintain the drive, vision, determination and passion you need in order to sustain yourself through the many months of seemingly tedious operations necessary before a single note is sounded. When compromises creep in these things are deflated, as they would be if we found out that Delia Smith had been using Supercook Cake Mix all these years. The ingredients may be roughly the same, but the results always taste different, and that is because of the amount of care that is taken at ALL stages, not just the final realisation.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't like this idea of craftsmanship "for its own sake". I don't think there is any such thing. There is always a point to these things, even if it something as seemingly minor as maintaining an aesthetic value. It is better to look back on a job knowing that you made it as perfectly as possible, with all the conviction you could muster, and believed totally in what you were producing.

 

I suggest that with these elements in place it is much easier to maintain the drive, vision, determination and passion you need in order to sustain yourself through the many months of seemingly tedious operations necessary before a single note is sounded. When compromises creep in these things are deflated, as they would be if we found out that Delia Smith had been using Supercook Cake Mix all these years. The ingredients may be roughly the same, but the results always taste different, and that is because of the amount of care that is taken at ALL stages, not just the final realisation.

 

 

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

 

 

Perhaps I shall tell you the tale of the dinner party, Delia Smith and my vegetables sometime.

 

However, the food analogy is quite apt. Good food is good for you, smells/tastes good and the Yorkshire Pudding doesn't collapse.

 

If an organ (a ) looks good (b ) feels good (c ) sounds good and (d ) doesn't fall down, it really doesn't matter if it arrives as a kit of parts each week in a magazine; though I would personally baulk at picking them up from the printers!

 

I certainly would not regard computer-design, planing machines, electric soldering-irons and blower-motors as "compromise," unless they were obtained at Q & B and delivered by a white-van man playing CD's of

the "Red Hot Chilli Peppers."

 

Please don't misunderstand what I am saying. I can wax lyrical with the best of them: a small tear of admiration trickling from the right eye (it's always my right eye), as I lovingly take pleasure in caressing a hand-made stop once drawn by Mozart. I could derive similar pleasure from having a Bugatti sitting on the drive, but I'm afraid that when it comes to praticality, effectiveness and long-term reliability, I would want a Honda or Toyota in the garage, which BY DESIGN are better examples of automotive craftsmanship AT AN AFFORDABLE PRICE.

 

So when it comes to craft industry, I am quite prepared to accept anything which contributes to value for money and/or the solvency of the organ-builder, because "craftsmanship for its' own sake" is really a form of self-indulgence if it serves no practical purpose.

 

Changing the subject ever so slightly, are all organ component manufacturers so bad that they deserve litigation proceedings or just a well-planned attack by a master arsonist?

 

MM

 

 

 

 

 

.......if we found out that Delia Smith had been using Supercook Cake Mix all these years.

 

 

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

 

My recipe for Lettuce Soup:-

 

Take one lettuce.

 

Remove 3 lettuce leaves.

 

Shred the said leaves finely.

 

Add one can of Baxter's Pea Soup and bring to boil.

 

Sit back and await admiring comments such as "Ooooh! Lettuce soup. How clever you are!"

 

:wacko:

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
==============================

So when it comes to craft industry, I am quite prepared to accept anything which contributes to value for money and/or the solvency of the organ-builder, because "craftsmanship for its' own sake" is really a form of self-indulgence if it serves no practical purpose.

 

I have tried to demonstrate that making your own product does serve practical purposes, and eminently sensible ones, as well as giving the people making it some impetus to sustain the level of mental involvement required to make the project convincing and successful.

 

You keep changing the goal posts however - first it was components, then it was materials, and now it's tools. Of course everyone uses power tools, and of course everyone uses electric blowers. That's just daft.

 

The car analogy only goes so far. Cars are mass produced; organs are not. It is sensible for Toyota to order 15,000,000 indicator stalks; they can specify the n'th degree of detail and have the buying power to kick up a huge fuss if there's a problem.

 

With organs, the justification works in reverse - even a larger firm in the UK turns out no more than probably 2 or 3 new organs a year. Most of those smaller firms engaged in new work produce about half an organ a year. On what grounds is it sensible to risk your reputation and livelihood by bringing in a major product which is essentially untested, unknown, only as good as the person operating the machine in the factory banging it together, and whose performance and longevity cannot be controlled or monitored? Why then let it get bumped around in the back of a van for a bit? Why pay someone else a profit margin for the privelege of losing all control over a major part of your job? There is no logical sense in NOT making as much as possible yourself, given that it actually doesn't take much time and the material content is fairly insignificant, which in most cases is true, from soundboards and chassis down to cloth washers and leather buttons (which are incredibly quick, easy and cost-effective to make, and if you start with good leather they don't crumble like paper after four or five years, as do some that are available commercially).

 

If you can show me any single factory produced box-of-bits organ anywhere in the world which is demonstrably better and even one pound cheaper than the quality hand-made organ of comparable size I nominate in return, I will eat my hat. And don't tell me it's in Poland - you're paying travel!

Link to post
Share on other sites
You keep changing the goal posts however - first it was components, then it was materials, and now it's tools. Of course everyone uses power tools, and of course everyone uses electric blowers. That's just daft.

 

(snip)

 

The car analogy only goes so far. Cars are mass produced; organs are not. It is sensible for Toyota to order 15,000,000 indicator stalks; they can specify the n'th degree of detail and have the buying power to kick up a huge fuss if there's a problem.

 

(snip)

 

If you can show me any single factory produced box-of-bits organ anywhere in the world which is demonstrably better and even one pound cheaper than the quality hand-made organ of comparable size I nominate in return, I will eat my hat. And don't tell me it's in Poland - you're paying travel!

 

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

 

I think David is missing the point slightly, and I quite understand where he is coming from, but "good design" has nothing to do with poor-quality, and good design can only come from a complete understanding of the materials, the use of production tools and requisite skills of the person(s) making a particular component.

 

Mass prdouction 'per se', is not the cause of inferior quality, which only arises when there is a lack of quality control and/or inadequate design. Porsche cars are almost mass-produced, but the quality doesn't come any better. TVR's were hand made, and often fell apart within weeks.

 

Back to basics for a moment. My original post was about production capacity and the costs associated with the peaks and troughs of business activity, which may or may not require additional resources and out-sourcing. The problems faced by extremely busy organ-builders probably do not apply so much these days, but in the days of Cavaille-Coll, Henry Willis, Brindley & Foster, John Compton (et al), effective production techniques were critical to the long-term financial survival of companies.

 

In a way, mass-production is the RESULT of demand; even though supply and demand can be manipulated and marketed.

 

The reason for standardised components and/or out-sourcing is entirely concerned with financial matters, and it really comes down to the fact that it is better to get a 5% nett profit on £1,000,000 than it is to get a nett profit of 10% on just £200,000. (Car manufacturers make about 4% nett, unless they happen to be Chrysler, who haven't made money for 30+ years)

 

I'm sorry to drone on so, but I suspect that David has misunderstood my original answer, which was not really about "supply houses" as much as "out sourcing," which has always been around in the organ-trade. Commercially, I am not really concerned about the detail, but more about the methods used in skinning the cat in the first place.

 

If David ever finds himself in the enviable position of having three orders for new organs in one year, then he would have to contemplate losing some degree of total-control, and he may even need to go cap in hand

to other craftsmen in the trade who could act as sub-contractors. That is not a sin, and it is happening right now as we speak.

 

Unfortunately, organ-building is not just a vocational hobby, it is also a business, and whether we like it or not, business requires financial discipline and good accounting. The fact that many fine organ-builders have ceased business, tends to suggest that the pre-requisite business skills have not been fully absorbed by a number of them in the past: not that there is any great artistic shame in that. Unfortunately, enthusiasm and excellence do not make good business partners, when the man holding the purse-strings is a bald-headed, guitar-strumming psychopath sat in a leather-chair and wearing a gold Rolex.

 

Anyway, to prove a point rather than score a point, I would just refer David to John Compton's work, which came from possibly the ONLY real organ "production-plant" in UK organ-building history. The quality was absolutely first-class, and in organ after organ, you will find the same stops, the same pistons, the same action components etc etc etc.

 

Perhaps it's best to end with a question.

 

Was John Compton an artist, an organ-builder, a scientist, an innovator, a production-engineer, a tonal expert, a salesman or a businessman?

 

He was, of course, all those things, and additionally, he was an absolute perfectionist.

 

MM

 

PS: I know absolutely nothing about Polish organ-builders, save for the fact that they, unlike many British ones, actually are doing.

Link to post
Share on other sites
How usual is it to have a tremulant to each division? I confess I have never seen a tremulant on a pedal organ before. Any others?

 

Peter

 

Hi

 

It's not common, but far from a lone example. Usually included for use in pedal solos (chorale preludes, etc.)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...