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Two Obscure Organ Builders


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Can anyone give me the history of 2 organ builders who were active in the midlands during the 70's and 80's.

The first is L J Snell who rebuilt amongst other organs Rack Worcs, a 3 manual Father Willis which was electrified and moved under the tower, now unplayable and replaced by a toaster. Ombersley, this organs restoration is still an on going issue, its playable but supplemented by a toaster in the chancel.

The second is Robin Wynn who rebuilt organs in the Coesley area, I have only played one of his and there were many pipes not inserted and the cable runs to the console are very amusing.

Can I ask for information on these please, who did they train with to become organ builders and any thing else of interest.

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Can anyone give me the history of 2 organ builders who were active in the midlands during the 70's and 80's.

The first is L J Snell who rebuilt amongst other organs Rack Worcs, a 3 manual Father Willis which was electrified and moved under the tower, now unplayable and replaced by a toaster. Ombersley, this organs restoration is still an on going issue, its playable but supplemented by a toaster in the chancel.

The second is Robin Wynn who rebuilt organs in the Coesley area, I have only played one of his and there were many pipes not inserted and the cable runs to the console are very amusing.

Can I ask for information on these please, who did they train with to become organ builders and any thing else of interest.

 

Robin Winn is still around in the Bath area - 'suggest you PM David Coram - he might know more.

 

AJJ

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No need!

 

Mr Winn was active in the Bath area throughout much of the 80's and early 90's. He also did quite a lot in the Norwich area or so I am given to understand by Richard Bower, who 'discovered' a 2-rank extension organ which had one blower per rank. Apparently when both switched on they hummed at slightly different frequencies causing a sound like an aircraft carrier coming in to land. After a time he was unable to find any work in the Bath/Salisbury diocese through the C of E as the local DOA's did everything in their power to stop him. I believe he is still doing a certain amount in the catholic and free churches and a quick NPOR search for Winn brings up a few interesting things - one in particular in a quasi-New College case made of MDF whose contours call to mind the work of Salvador Dali.

 

If you would like to see a tracker action made from garden cane and 99p shelf brackets, operated by keys where the tops of the sharps are screwed to the rest of the key and playing stops whose mis-spelt labels have been Evo-Stik'd over the top of the old ones (sitting proud, wonky and with glue running down the edges), you might pay a visit to Sutton Veny in Wiltshire - an otherwise immaculate G&D in a Pearson-designed case (and church). John Budgen has now removed the most offensive ranks from this instrument but sadly some things (a really lovely Bell Gamba on the Gt, relieved of its last 6' and now a 2' Gemshorn) are irreplaceable.

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Can anyone give me the history of 2 organ builders who were active in the midlands during the 70's and 80's.

The first is L J Snell who rebuilt amongst other organs Rack Worcs, a 3 manual Father Willis which was electrified and moved under the tower, now unplayable and replaced by a toaster. Ombersley, this organs restoration is still an on going issue, its playable but supplemented by a toaster in the chancel.

The second is Robin Wynn who rebuilt organs in the Coesley area, I have only played one of his and there were many pipes not inserted and the cable runs to the console are very amusing.

Can I ask for information on these please, who did they train with to become organ builders and any thing else of interest.

 

I have never come accross L.J.Snell, but Robin Winn (who moved to the Bath area) is still 'on the go'. I understand he originally started with S Taylor & Sons of Leicester in the early 1950's. If you search his name under 'Organbuilder' on the NPOR site there are several organs listed on which he has worked. I understand he has recently added several ranks of pipes to the organ in St Ives Parish Church, Huntingdon. I have experience of Mr Winn's work in this area, some of which is quite interesting.

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The only example of Lawrence Snell's work I have come across was here and I only played it briefly in the '80s. It was fairly unoffensive as far as I remember and has now been replaced in it's use by a digital.

 

AJJ

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Guest Barry Williams

"Can I ask for information on these please, who did they train with to become organ builders"

 

This is a vital question to ask about any organ builder, but most especially the 'one-man bands', of which there are quite a few. Some of these people have never undertaken a full and proper apprenticeship, yet hold themselves out as qualified organ builders, occasionally with disastrous results.

 

Was a one man band 'organ builder' featured on Miss Rantzen's programme many years ago - or am I thinking of someone else?

 

Barry Williams

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You are quite right, Barry. Tom Robbins featured in an edition of 'That's Life' but in some ways the programme emphasised the wrong aspects of Tom's nature.

The true story would not have made for such colourful and mischievous storytelling. Miss Rantzen even playfully mispronounced Henry Willis's name (Mr Willies...)

 

Tom was certainly eccentric in some respects. He was, however, a painstaking craftsman. He had worked for Willis, spending some time under Mr Strutt in the drawing office, whom he regarded as an absolute martinette. Tom was ever frustrated at Willis's insistence on using scale rods for pipework and soundboards that were not compatible, which led to many pipes being stood off soundboards because they wouldn't fit ! For a time he also worked for Kingsgate Davidson but clearly found their work not to his taste and struck out on his own.

 

Tom and his family lived in a windmill, and he had a taste for fine old furntiure and anything generally well-made and pleasing to the eye. He cared deeply for small mechanical action organs and lavished great care and attention on them. He had some fiery comments for organs that had been badly rebuilt or modified unneccesarily. Sometimes referred to as 'top-note Tom', he was a skilful tuner, with great awareness of how 8ft stops should be carefully tempered (I didn't say 'equally'!). Tom died in 1990 and is buried in the churchyard at Kingsnorth, Kent, where he built a small single manual tracker organ, which he regarded as his best work.

 

Whatever his faults, I wouldn't like to think of him being lumped in with the likes of some already mentioned in this thread. I have the pleasure of tuning a few of the instruments formerly in his care and they are a living testament to a man of considerable ability.

 

H

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"Can I ask for information on these please, who did they train with to become organ builders"

 

This is a vital question to ask about any organ builder, but most especially the 'one-man bands', of which there are quite a few. Some of these people have never undertaken a full and proper apprenticeship, yet hold themselves out as qualified organ builders, occasionally with disastrous results.

 

Barry Williams

 

An extremely valid point but one which requires a proper solution rather than merely talking about it or setting up an organization which then pretends to seperate the Sheep from the Goats, while constantly covering over the cracks in the Goats' work for the sake of keeping the membership numbers up.

 

It would not be difficult to cause considerable shuffling on seats by asking if that very same question has or should be asked of some of those who occupy the ivorine towers (without surface joints, of course!) of "Advisers"; Consultants, DOA's etc.. Admittedly, some are paid ond others not, but the question of 'validity of orders' remains....

 

DW

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Tom was ever frustrated at Willis's insistence on using scale rods for pipework and soundboards that were not compatible, which led to many pipes being stood off soundboards because they wouldn't fit !H

 

Not compatible? - How so??

 

I have only ever seen one instrument where ALL of the Great pipework was 'on', as it were: even then only by having a single, full-length 8ft bass, passed around the several 8ft stops. It is (or at least was) usual to have the larger pipes stood off - usually in the fronts.

 

Strutty was a martinette - I see his papers every day and we still use many of his calculations and drawings on a regyular basis but I suspect that old Robbins was making his own mileage in some of those opinions and comments.

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Guest Barry Williams
An extremely valid point but one which requires a proper solution rather than merely talking about it or setting up an organization which then pretends to seperate the Sheep from the Goats, while constantly covering over the cracks in the Goats' work for the sake of keeping the membership numbers up.

 

It would not be difficult to cause considerable shuffling on seats to ask if that very same question has or should be applied to those who occupy the ivorine towers (without surface joints, of course!) of "Advisers"; Diocesan Organ Advisers, Consultants etc.. Admittedly, some are paid ond others not, but the question of 'validity of orders' remains....

 

DW

 

 

Yes, I agree, but what is the solution?

 

Should all organ builders be registered with one organisation, as are 'Corgi' for gas installers? There are superb organ builders registered with no-one. Bill Drake is an example. There are registered organ builders that are terrible. Others have been 'struck off' for reasons that are nothing to do with the standard of their organ building. Could a single registration system be enforced. The General Medical Council fails dreadfully, though I suppose it would not claim to 'police' medical practitioners, any more than other professional organisations.

 

Who should 'police' Diocesan and other Organ Advisers? I once heard it said that everyone should be trained by BIOS, an organisation that does much good but does not always advise on the basis required by the C of E law - it does not have to, of course. At least no-one is forced to take the Diocesan Organ Adviser's (strictly speaking, the DAC's) view. The Council for the Care of Churches normally only gets involved at the request of a DAC, or in specific cases.

 

Faculties are granted by the Consistory Court, so there is no requirement to have the DAC's support for a petition for work to an organ in the Church of England. Indeed, there are many cases where faculties have been granted in direct opposition to the recommendations of DACs, including work to organs, some of it regrettable. Also, parishes are at liberty to seek independent advice as they wish. Some do and pay large sums of money for it, with varying results. That givers a measure of freedom to those who seek to have work done to their organ.

 

The late Mr Noel Mander wrote a superb paper on 'Organ Advisers' about thirty five years ago. He distinguished between 'musical advisers' and organ builders. If I find a copy I will post it here)

 

The main advantage of using an organ builder registered with either IBO or ISOB (there may be other organisastions but I cannot think of any at the moment,) is the arbitration service and, possibly, the ulitmate sanction of the loss of membership for poor work. But the ISOB only registers individuals and is therefore of little value except with the one-man band. And some not very good organ builders do sterling work maintaing organs that the bigger companies are not interested in or would charge more than the parish is willing to pay. (Parishes do not often see work to organs in the same way as maintenance to heating apparatus or the roof!)

 

The 'system' is far from satisfactory, but I cannot see a simple alternative. Does anyone know what other countries do please?

 

Barry Williams

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Not compatible? - How so??

 

I have only ever seen one instrument where ALL of the Great pipework was 'on', as it were: even then only by having a single, full-length 8ft bass, passed around the several 8ft stops. It is (or at least was) usual to have the larger pipes stood off - usually in the fronts.

 

Tom was referring to jobs where even the bass of the Gt 4ft Principal wouldn't plant ! 8ft basses in the case or stood off - fair enough.

 

H

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Guest spottedmetal
It would not be difficult to cause considerable shuffling on seats by asking if that very same question has or should be asked of some of those who occupy the ivorine towers (without surface joints, of course!) of "Advisers"; Consultants, DOA's etc.. Admittedly, some are paid ond others not, but the question of 'validity of orders' remains....

In the long-lost days of my youth, I was appalled in the course of assisting my late mother as Redundant Church Furnishings Officer to find a sweet little Positive Organ Company instrument in a country parish church condemmed for the reason that mice had been at the pneumatics. There was a neat pile of droppings under the left key-cheek to prove it, :mellow: but not one ounce of leather eaten when inspected. :angry: The case was curious as the builder was an eminent name, although after all these years I couldn't possibly remember who it was, and we referred the parish to a young builder (now an eminent name) who was then very happy to maintain sweet little organs.

 

Choosing builders is a matter of horses for courses, and some enjoy maintaining and preserving and others building anew.

 

Noel Mander's distinction between musical advisers and organ builders was very wise. Perhaps the mouse-droppings builder thought he was doing the parish a favour in trying to persuade them to build a sweet little neo-baroque instrument but after the past fashion of builders bastardising instruments to fit the flavour of the day, I'm sure that there are now musical advisers around who seem to have spent their formative years in that very period of neo-baroque ruination of organs with ambitions to play little later than Bach without appreciation of the genre of inter-war 20C music and the majesty of associated organs now being cherished on the Continent but now so much under threat in England. (Sorry for the mouthful of that sentence - those mouse droppings were much too painful to swallow! ) :) Yes - I know that generalisation is terrible, but one must see a threat to a wonderful Arthur Harrison instrument in its right context in a light that does little favours for one's respect for such musical advisers.

 

In contrast to those who appear unqualified and do terrible things, as well as those who appear eminently qualified and do other things, B) an example of an unkown dark-horse coming in and doing wonderfully was the builder of the Sydney Opera House organ. As we find in other walks of life in which everyone now has to be "certificated", were this to have been extended to organ building then, Ronald Sharp would never have had the opportunity to create an instrument so wildly seemingly impossible and achieving it so successfully.

 

Of those at the cutting edge, and indeed of a demonstration of practical pragmatism, I'm not at all sure that the sheep/goats controversy over the Trönö organ in Sweden was at all deserved.

 

Long live the freedom of discernment, the freedom to make mistakes, and to create successes! :D

 

The key to this is also education: education is not just about the 3Rs, but history, heritage and the making of practical things, the ability to make things in a workshop and a command of electricity and basic electronics. Most of the young generation nowadays seem oblivious even of simple practicalities of, for instance, the unsuitability of a 3 amp fused extension lead for the purpose of feeding a 3 kW electric fire.

 

Were people to have a better grasp of the world around them, they'd be able to recognise when things were going wrong and unprofessional so-called professionals were not going about a job properly and call a stop to a job going badly before it got any worse.

 

Best wishes,

 

Spot

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Yes, I agree, but what is the solution?

 

Should all organ builders be registered with one organisation, as are 'Corgi' for gas installers? There are superb organ builders registered with no-one.

 

cut...

 

Who should 'police' Diocesan and other Organ Advisers?

 

I once heard it said that everyone should be trained by BIOS,

 

cut...

 

a measure of freedom to those who seek to have work done to their organ.

 

cut...

 

And some not very good organ builders do sterling work maintaing organs that the bigger companies are not interested in or would charge more than the parish is willing to pay. (Parishes do not often see work to organs in the same way as maintenance to heating apparatus or the roof!)

 

Barry Williams

 

And there M'lud, I believe you have it.

 

Policing organbuilders and advisers isn't really the point: there is a real need to try to prevent the same thing from happening everywhere, time after time after time - namely, that the church will usually take between three to ten estimates ranging from larger firms to one-man-and-his-dog and then, guess what? One firm sends a thirty-page report and an estimate of £100,000 while Mr. Bloggins (that nice man down the road who knows Mrs. Sproggit in the Choir) says he can do all of the same stuff for £1-10-6d so we'll get him to do it. Sometimes, Mr. Bloggins also helps out the local 'organ expert' (to whom everyone goes for advice) not charging him anything for the odd rank of stuff for the old house organ etc., - oh, yes, it looks like that'll be OK then! The result is the sort of thing to which Paul Morley referred earlier, with copious quantities of Blutack and the like.

 

The answer as to what is done in other countries is relatively simple - there, organs don't belong to the 'Parish', they beong to the Town, City, State etc., and therefore nothing can be done by the Mr. Bloggins's of this world (or their supporters) which will wreck them.

 

The artistry has gone out of commonplace organbuilding - not because organ builders have no enthusiasm for it, but because (initially) in an effort to ensure that the botchit merchant down the road didn't take the church for a ride, they had to get an adviser: this adviser's job SHOULD have been to assure the parish that what they got was well-done and worth the cost but that situation has now mutated to the point where some Advisers dictate the work to be done (even though there have been occasions when this is shewn to be widely off the mark) and then proceed to interfere in the method -even though without any practical experience at all.

 

Unfortunately, a bad situation which brought in the requirement for 'overseers' has resulted in a worse one.

 

The 'corgi' reference above is not really appropriate as that is based on safety standards issues and little to do with anything else.

 

DW

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Guest Barry Williams

Please tell us about the 'Chartered Engineers' system. (Is the term 'Chartered Engineer' patented in law, as is the term 'Architect'?)

 

Nothing can be done in the Church of England to transfer the ownership of organs away from the parishes. There are particular legal reasons for this, mainly, as you might guess, to do with spending money.

 

Some historic organs in state ownership have fared badly at the hands of organ builders working to 'consultants', as some new organs designed by 'consultants' in secular venues have been a spectacular flop. Some organs languish, rotting, outside the faculty system, as well as loads more within it. There has been, I gather, a move by BIOS members to try and get organs listed. Understandably, the administration would be unwilling to do this, again for reasons of money, as much as lack of interest - though the way it was attempted to acheive that result was not, perhaps, the best.

 

David's comments about quotations are pertinent. They are expensive to produce, yet time and time again we hear of churches seeking many to no end. One brochure I saw proudly proclaimed that the church (Anglican) had obtained fifteen (!) quotations and paid for none. I have suggested elsewhere that the minimum payment should be £275 + VAT. This is not sufficient to cover the costs, but is at least a contribution towards what is often two or more days' work. I have heard of one 'consultant' who has been known to seek several reports, all sent to the consultant and not the parish. A compilation is then prepared and sent to other organ builders as a technical report to which they must quote. The parish only sees the latter quotations. I was told that a well known musical institution invited all the organ builders on one professional list to quote for a new organ for its new headquarters, only to change its mind and not need an organ at all.

 

A method that has been considered in Church of England cases is for BIOS or the Victorian Society (two names, merely as examples,) to enter objection to a petition before the consistory court as an 'amentiy society', having a general interest and thus enabling participation in the proceedings. The difficulty in this is that, as the Victorian Society has found out, costs can be awarded and these can be considerable.

 

Even before organs are considered, I would like to see a stop put to spoiling churches for the 'purpose of liturgical reform'. So many of our fine buildings have been wrecked by irrevocable change merely for the sake of fashion. By all means make the change, but let it be reversible, so that future generations can restore it.

 

So it is with organs. We have all come across cases where a stop or three has been added sympathetically, in the style and thus enhancing the instrument. Equally, there have been many 'restorations' that have followed fashion and still do. There are organ builders who even now are adding upperwork to Choir Organs in the nineteen sixties style.

 

Whilst I accept David's general point about the 'Corgi' issue, it reminds us that many of our lofts are not safe for organ builders. Perhaps it is time there was a real blitz on health & safety in the organ loft. What do you do when health & safety meet historic concerns? I had that with an instrument that had no passage board. The Swell was tuned by taking the front pipes out and leaning across the Great whilst standing on the tip board of the case, a singularly dangerous procedure. I insisted that a passage board was put in, with proper ladders. A well-known organisation will be inspecting the work for the purposes of considering the organ builder for 'Historic Restoration' accreditation. Accreditation ought not to be refused solely on the grounds of the alterations made to comply with the law. (It remains to be seen what the outcome will be!) I know of an organ (William Hill) that had some simple modifications made to enable the organist to play it - he is disabled and uses a wheelchair. All 'historic' grants were refused because it was not quite in its original state with these very slight and wholly reversible changes made to facilitate his playing. The organ had already had siginificant alterations made forty years before. I think the ON Fund helped with a grant. ( Does anyone know the origins of that fund?)

 

Finally reverting to David's point in an earlier post about sheep and goats, I recall the case of a country church that enjoyed the loan of a very nice goat as a lawnmower - these creatures do not cause the damage to stones and table tombs that strimmers do. The PCC were concerned that a goat was a pagan symbol, but eventually decided to build a small shed for the animal, so that it could reside there in the winter. The Rector wrote to the Archdeacon to enquire about the correct procedure - faculty, etc. The Archdeacon sent it on to the Bishop for comment and got a short reply " I deal in sheep not goats" - true story.

 

Barry Williams

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Please tell us qbout the 'Chartered Engineers' system. (Is the term 'Chartered Engineer' patented in law, as is the term 'Architect'?)

 

The wikipedia link is fairly informative and contains some links:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartered_Engineer_%28UK%29

 

To summarise, the 'Chartered Engineer' title is protected by Civil Law, and "for registration, it is necessary for candidates to demonstrate that they are professionally competent through education, training and professional practice".

 

I wonder how this compares to the German 'Master Organ Builder' qualification?

 

David.

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Not compatible? - How so??

 

I have only ever seen one instrument where ALL of the Great pipework was 'on', as it were: even then only by having a single, full-length 8ft bass, passed around the several 8ft stops. It is (or at least was) usual to have the larger pipes stood off - usually in the fronts.

 

Just for interest.......

 

This organ http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D06587 unusually has a full length (Open to CC) 8' Hohl Flute on the Great soundboard. It is also unusual also in that it was at one time rebuilt by Ingram/Hope Jones as a 4 manual. http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N18681. Later on, it was rebuilt by Willis, and was most successful, given the appalling acoustic in the church.

 

It can reasonably be deduced that the Hohl Flute is an original Ingram Hope Jones stop; it also takes up a huge amount of room!

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Guest Patrick Coleman

Forgive me for suggesting that there may be both good and poor workmanship on every level. Even the greatest practitioner or the most exacting perfectionist fails to perform at some time or other. There are and have been 'local' organ builders and repairers who have carried out work often for little or no reward and have kept instruments alive that otherwise might have been replaced by toasters. The perfectionists on this forum may well not have noticed their efforts at all if successful, while obviously if the efforts are poor then there's a horror story to be told.

 

In an ideal world all workpeople would be perfectly trained and carry out a perfect job for the large remuneration they undoubtedly deserve. Where PCCs are wealthy and mean, by all means criticise them, but there are PCCs in 'low rent' areas like this one which genuinely have to choose between organ maintenance and keeping the building weathertight, and without a bit of vision to make the organ into a priority they will choose to go down the obvious path at the organ's expense.

 

When the fine organ here is either rebuilt or replaced with an even finer redundant instrument, we will be celebrating the local amateurs who have kept the organ alive for the past fifty years so that today we can even think about making sure there is a fine instrument here for the next hundred.

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Forgive me for suggesting that there may be both good and poor workmanship on every level. Even the greatest practitioner or the most exacting perfectionist fails to perform at some time or other. There are and have been 'local' organ builders and repairers who have carried out work often for little or no reward and have kept instruments alive that otherwise might have been replaced by toasters. The perfectionists on this forum may well not have noticed their efforts at all if successful, while obviously if the efforts are poor then there's a horror story to be told.

 

In an ideal world all workpeople would be perfectly trained and carry out a perfect job for the large remuneration they undoubtedly deserve. Where PCCs are wealthy and mean, by all means criticise them, but there are PCCs in 'low rent' areas like this one which genuinely have to choose between organ maintenance and keeping the building weathertight, and without a bit of vision to make the organ into a priority they will choose to go down the obvious path at the organ's expense.

 

When the fine organ here is either rebuilt or replaced with an even finer redundant instrument, we will be celebrating the local amateurs who have kept the organ alive for the past fifty years so that today we can even think about making sure there is a fine instrument here for the next hundred.

 

It has always worried me that the `Outside Rep' i.e. tuner was always regarded as the dregs by the factory staff.

Some were highly skilled and knowledgeable men, who knew how to set a scale, did not have (or need) electronic tuners and knew the skill of tuning was to make the organ sound in tune, not necessarily slavish tune it to theory.

 

FF

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It has always worried me that the `Outside Rep' i.e. tuner was always regarded as the dregs by the factory staff.

Some were highly skilled and knowledgeable men, who knew how to set a scale, did not have (or need) electronic tuners and knew the skill of tuning was to make the organ sound in tune, not necessarily slavish tune it to theory.

 

FF

 

But there are those (naming no names) who do absolutely the bare minimum and then proclaim that the organ has "received our best attention today". I cite an example of an organist freind of mine who, when suspecting that the organ in his care was not receiving the best attention at all times, hid in the church at around the time when the tuner was due to call.

 

This tuner opened the organ, switched on the blower and removed the access door to the instrument. He then proceed to enter the organ, and lit up a cigarette :o After 10 minutes he emerged from the instrument, closed it up, packed up his bag and was about to leave when my friend popped out of the shadows, and asked him whether he was actually going to do any work to the organ that day!

 

Although both the organ company and the (so called) tuner are no more, in this example, there are still some tuners which I have come across which are content with the barest minimum standard of work, and really have to be encouraged to do anything even moderately difficult or challenging.

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Guest Barry Williams

I recall the appalling tuning of a local three manual instrument, undertaken on sub-contract for Percy Daniel & Co Ltd. The churchwarden let the tuners in and noted that the keys were put through her door one hour and twenty minutes after - not enough time to deal with seven reeds, let alone lay a scale, which many tuners seem unable to do nowadays.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest spottedmetal
I recall the appalling tuning of a local three manual instrument, undertaken on sub-contract for Percy Daniel & Co Ltd.
It was with the greatest of regret that I encouraged a friend to rescue some redundant pipework: without a further murmur he commissioned PD&Co to produce an extension instrument based on 4 ranks and a mixture, and I've always hated the result - a screaming brash thing.

 

However, I have heard people rave the organ at Edenbridge in Kent by them -

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D07748

- it looks an interesting and adventurous Chancel and West End combination. Will have to keep an eye open for a recital there!

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

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Although both the organ company and the (so called) tuner are no more, in this example, there are still some tuners which I have come across which are content with the barest minimum standard of work, and really have to be encouraged to do anything even moderately difficult or challenging.

While I would wholeheartedly join in condoning lazy and inattentive work, there is also the danger of doing too much.

 

I know of a couple of organists, who insist their organ is "tuned right through" at every visit. I spoke with the tuners of the organs - neither of them seemed to garner much respect from their tuners. A variety of 4 letter words were used to describe them. As most of you know, over zealous tuning can cause damage to the pipes (especially if they are coned tuned), all sorts of other side effects and doesn't help the organ maintain stable tuning between visit.

 

Once the bearings have been set and the tuning has settled down, I would far rather correct the odd pipe that goes noticeably out of tune rather than go through everything in painstaking detail.

 

I remember a visit to the Waalse Kerk in Amsterdam. Someone asked Jacques van Oortmersson how often he had the organ tuned "right through".

 

Jacques peered at him through his small horn rimmed spectacles.

 

"We don't. I think we had one pipe adjusted in the positif last april. We had been thinking about it for the last 4 months."

 

That's the sort of level you want to aim for on tuning visits.

 

It's a little bit the same on pianos. My tuner on his first visit just checked the bearings through, tweaked the odd string here and there, checked everything through (I was very interested to hear how adjusting one string affected the tone of the note - he took all this into account, along with the slightly sharp octaves other fascinating tricks). However, the intervention was minimal. He then fixed one or two small faults I'd pointed out and we chatted about pitches and temperaments.

 

For those of you who feel that A440 is vital for all new (and old) organs, did you know that all Steinways leave the Hamburg factory tuned to A444 and have done for many years? Did you know most continental Oboe makers make their oboes to A444? They only make A440 Oboes for the English speaking world. I learnt that most of the Steinways in concert halls in England hover around the A442 mark and it takes a lot of effort and time to bring one down to A440 and keep it stable. They're rarely brought down for a concerto unless people insist. As A440 wasn't adopted as an international standard till 1958 and quite a few orchestras already don't use it (especially on the Continent and occasionally in the US), one wonders whether it is really necessary to bring an old organ "in line" with A440.

 

The history of A440 is given here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concert_pitch...n_Western_music

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