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He Who Pays The Piper


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The recent discussion about T C Lewis, and the relationship that he enjoyed with John M Courage of the brewing family, prompted me to consider the importance of patronage and charitable gifts, as well as the very real contribution this made to the musical/religious life of the UK.


It was one thing for the great cities to have resplendent halls, in which they had built great roaring organs of impressive power, but I suspect that such undertakings were a matter of borough prestige and not a little political and social manoeuvring. It is easy to understand how anxious the brewing and distilling companies were to be seen bringing benefit to local communities, when there was such an abundance of gin-mothers, gin palaces, brothels, gambling-dens and colourful socialites such as ‘Jack the Ripper’ stalking amidst the poverty, deprivation, squalor and disease of the larger cities.


However, there were other examples of patrons and benefactors who had a quite different motivation; usually quite genuinely philanthropic by nature. There were social pioneers such as the Cadburys and Sir Titus Salts of this world, who put their money where their mouths were, and built whole model villages in order to give workers decent living-conditions. Some were Quakers, some were Unitarian, many were of a self-enlightened liberal disposition (often Congregationalists), whilst others embraced more traditional Anglicanism or the new revival of Roman Catholicism.


When it came to building organs, it seems that the patrons were falling over themselves, and although I do not have direct evidence, I would think that a majority of organs built in the 19th century were either outright or shared gifts of patronage. This is the reason why I find the deliberate destruction of organs so utterly offensive, because those who are quite willing to get rid of an organ, would seldom dream of hurling bricks through stained-glass windows or be found carving their names on the altar.


I find myself smiling as I write this, thinking about that utterly inspired film starring Michael Palin, entitled “The Missionary.”


“We have to give to those who are less fortunate than ourselves”


The aristocrat replies, “Well in our case, that’s almost everybody.” :angry:


There is no doubt that patronage gave us some of our finest instruments; the Armley Schulze being a classic example. There is the celebrated story of Roy Massey, which I have no reason to doubt. Eager to have the organ of Hereford Cathedral re-built, the Dean told him it would be quite possible if he, as the organist, could raise the money. My understanding is, that after a visit to the Bulmer’s Cider factory, Mr Massey presented their cheque for the full amount, within a few days, to the cathedral authorities.


In recent years, there has been to great enthusiasm and generosity on the part of a certain South Korean businessman, who has donated very large amounts of money to the organ at Liverpool Cathedral.


So the story goes on well into the present day, and I would suggest that without that sort of patronage, and without some of the bigger municipal, publicly funded projects, organ-building would be very much the poorer.


At a lesser level, there are things like “Sponsor a pipe.” I quite like the idea of people being represented by organ-pipes.


“This is Ethel; tall, big-scale, thick lips and of deep intonation. This one is Maude; small and thin, with a squeaky voice. This here is the Tuba Mirabilus rank, donated by Wilf, who’s as deaf as a post.”


Is patronage a good thing and is it something to be encouraged, like the Porsche organ? :blink:


It isn't the only system of funding by any means, as a look at the opus list of Rieger-Kloss during the communist years will reveal. I don't know the exact breakdown, but a high proportion of the 3,500 organs built or rebuilt by them, must have been done within the time-span of the communist era.


What chance of serious patronage when money is now in the hands of faceless, multi-national corporations?


Were it not for the patronage of brewers and distillers, that would be a sobering thought. :(




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I know of a situation (which for proprierty's sake I will keep vague in its description) where quite a lot of money was available (from a single source) to rebuild a small 3 manual 'parish' organ in a meduim sized church. What they got was a huge console complete with every mod con on the planet - mobile of course - connected to an over inflated collection of pipes from various sources over 3 manuals and pedal complete with all the 'goodies' one could ask for. (Rather the sort of thing that has happened more recently when for instance a smallish parish church has taken delivery of an over large digital). If I go any further folks will try and work out where I am talking about but let's just say that anything the local (ish) cathedral could do this place could then do better - just! The then organist loved it - he had previously been in a church with an instrument with these resources and the church loved it because for a while they attracted recitalists of stature to play in their recital series. It seemed to me, however that too much money had been spent because what they actually got was not really what it appeared to be - maybe they were not advised effectively, maybe they had spent the money on the wrong things but all in all lurking underneath was the same rather mediocre parish machine that they started off with. Maybe the solution should have been to use the money to buy something new and splendid with it's own identity fit for it's space - who knows. They were lucky to have had the money but maybe it went to their heads a little too much - so to speak.



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